Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chance -> Events -> [Beliefs -> Emotions -> Actions]

Kids are impressionable. They can be easily tricked. Their minds are developing. They defer their beliefs to authority. Only in adolescence do they start questioning themselves. For example, look at Boko Haram. An army of children led by psychopaths. Kids are convinced they need to shoot at their village members and blow themselves up on demand.

On average, adults are less impressionable than kids. But how does that switch really happen ? Are we perhaps more impressionable that we would like to admit? If so, should we revise the importance we give to how we form beliefs, as well as those which already drive our daily behavior, those beliefs we never question ?

Stoicism is a school of thought from ancient Greece. They put beliefs at the head of the behavior chain.  One of their core tenets is that random events are processed by beliefs, which cause emotions to arise which crystallize into actions. This is rather controversial, since that means emotions can be controlled by reason. This is not evident in daily life, is it ? We just "feel" angry or happy. We don't think : oh yeah, I should suddenly feel happy ? Not only do beliefs precede emotions, but they also precede actions. They are at the root of human behavior. As a thinking animal, we sometimes ask ourselves what is the kind of person do I want to become ? Do I want to be come a great guitar player ? An excellent developer ? A good citizen ?

But think of the Boko Haram case again. That is an example of thoughts leading to behavior. A rather extreme case, but it serves my point.

For my part, I try to refine my understanding of how my own beliefs form. As I get older, I don't trust myself as much as I used to. I make more mistakes, and uncover beliefs I've held for a long time which were just wrong.