Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why Suspend Judgment?

Richard wonders "Why Suspend Judgment?"

First I'll note that in general I don't believe in suspending judgment all the time - If there is a 51 percent chance of something being true it is OK to proceed under that assumption. in fact if there are three options one with .33 chance of being true one with .35 and one with .32 it is OK to proceed as if the .35 option is true - I use that sort of principle all the time when playing poker. However like with poker there is a second thing on the table - that is the benefit of being right/cost of being wrong.

Now in what situations would I suspend doubt?

well first lets consider the costs - taking a position costs in the following ways

1) any conclusions I make as a result of a flawed assumption are flawed, they may be a complete waste of time or only somewhat a waste of time. Now psychology being complex these assumptions will creep into all sorts of vaguely related decisions.

2) to some degree, as a human with normalish psychology, if I take a position I will become in part committed to it - i.e. my subjective creedance will be raised. No issue if it is already the most likely answer - but it is an issue in marginal cases.

An example is a person who was brought up in a very strict Christian upbringing. I
t is highly unlikely that they can purge the principles they were taught from their behavior and their philosophy. they can remove certain ideas, maybe even core ideas, but they will never have time to remove every assumption that was at one stage a conclusion from their Christian principles.

3) I might agree as part of a social contract to present as having exactly as much confidence as I do have in a theory. this allows others to take that level of creedance into account - baysian logic.

4) sometimes we just can't be bothered weighing up all the evidence or acknowledge that our input would be overestimated (eg if it is of negligible value).

On the other hand

A) often we need to come to a conclusion in a fixed length of time, for example I dont want to suspend belief on what I should do over my life time for my whole lifetime - that would defeat the point.


B) having an answer might be more valuable than not having one - as in theBuridan's ass situation

the above provide a reasonably well defined set of criteria against which to decide if one should suspend judgment or not even if in practice one i uncertain about how exactly to weight the considerations.

I expect that Richard ignores 1 and 2 because he doesn't consider psychology to be relevant to philosophical questions. If so what he is saying is "why should idealized being suspend judgement" which seems a pretty boring question (and one that should be spelled out so that others can understand) compared to "why should real people suspend judgement". 3 is not an issue because he isn't much into baysianism (damned if I know why - thats like not being into logic) and 4 because he is visualizing those situations where you really do care and investigate the truth deeply and with expertise. I guess he must also assume A and B are true - ie it is urgent that he knows the answer and better to have a strongly held potentially wrong opinion than no opinion.


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