Thought question for Thursday:
Most philosophers agree that it is possible to choose to do (or not do) something, such as get out of bed or order a pizza, and, as consequence, do that thing. This is not the claim that such actions are free as opposed to determined, but simply the claim that our actions do often arise from our choices.
Far fewer philosophers agree that it is possible to choose to believe (or not believe) something. We often say "I choose to believe ___," but this does not appear to be a realistic description of the phenomenology of belief. For example, if you currently believe that Guyana is in Africa, and then you notice on a map that it is actually in South America, you do not choose to change your previous belief. It just happens.
- Question 1: Produce a counterexample to the claim that you cannot choose to believe something.
- Question 2: Do you think it is possible to choose to have a particular thought? e.g., Can you choose to think about bacon?
- Question 3: You will now perform a task. Your task is to choose not to think about bacon for as long as possible. Imagine that as soon as you think about bacon you will receive a very painful shock to a sensitive area. Clear your mind and begin in 15 seconds. Write down how long you lasted, and any subsequent thoughts that you have about your performance or bacon.