How To Discover When We’re Mistaken

How To Discover When We’re Mistaken June 25, 2016

How to Discover When We're Mistaken

Commenter Ian offered this statement, which is inspired by something that J. S. Mill wrote:

Every reasonable person will admit that some of the things they believe may be false, but nobody knows which things they are (or else they would no longer believe them). It is only through argument with contrary views that we can hope to discover which of our beliefs are mistaken.


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  • John MacDonald

    Not only is revision produced when encountering contrariety, but also in exploring the implications of our positions to the point where we are lead to places that “speak against” (contra dicere “to speak against”) our guiding perspective. Socrates demonstrated both methods.

    • John MacDonald

      So there are “aporias” (blocks in the road) that others confront us with, as well as “aporias” that we encounter on our own.

  • David Evans

    “It is only through argument with contrary views that we can hope to discover which of our beliefs are mistaken.”

    That’s true for particular kinds of belief, the kind for which contrary views are common – theological, philosophical, political for example. There are whole other kinds of belief that can be checked without needing to engage in argument – beliefs about the physical world or about the meanings of words, for example. In the simplest cases you just go and look at the relevant bit of the world, or at a dictionary. I can discover that my belief “Driving along road X will get me from point A to point B” is mistaken without engaging with any other views at all.