InconsistencySeptember 5th, 2009 by ftobia
Why do people place so much value on consistent systems of beliefs?
In a formal system, sure, you want consistency. If a formal system is inconsistent then you can use it to prove anything — it’s effectively useless. But our minds are not formal systems. Humans don’t exist simply to prove things (unless you’re a mathematician I guess).
Let’s say you believe two contradictory axioms. What’s to stop you from voluntarily relaxing one or the other as the situation demands? I suppose then you aren’t being “principled”. Your choice may seem arbitrary, and lead to arbitrary results. But it could be that you don’t know what you should believe, until you’re faced with a difficult situation that stretches your belief system. Life is full of gray areas. Sometimes you just do what you think is best, and reform your belief system later to compensate.
Many consider hypocrisy a vice. I used to feel the same way, until I questioned that assumption and couldn’t provide a good justification. Let’s say I get mad at a house mate for not cleaning up his dishes, and then I go ahead and leave my dirty dishes in the sink. He has every right to get mad at me, assuming he doesn’t like dirty dishes left in the sink. But should it be any worse that I’m violating my own rules, in addition to his? I am not so certain.
I’m very willing to hear counter arguments, though.