Why evidence won't change your convictions

Learning to separate ego and truth

Convictions are integral to our identity, which is why they so rarely change. We should all beware of mistaking our tribal values for reasoned beliefs, warns philosopher Michael P. Lynch.

There are times, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once noted, when reasons run out, when our “spade is turned on bedrock.” When that happens, evidence for or against our beliefs seems beside the point. All that is left, he suggests, is the deed.

Those of us living through the polarized politics of 2020 can sympathize. In the United States in particular, it certainly seems like people have dug in all the way to bedrock. Donald Trump famously suggested four years ago that he could shoot someone and his supporters would still back him. This struck some as darkly funny then, but no one is laughing now.  It seems that for some people--and not just on the Right—nothing will change their minds.

All of which begs a simple but difficult question: why is it so ha

Continue reading

Enjoy unlimited access to the world's leading thinkers.

Start by exploring our subscription options or joining our mailing list today.

Start Free Trial

Already a subscriber? Log in

Join the conversation

Peter Hall 15 October 2020

This is directly relevant to the political climate at the moment. In most conversations with younger people I see them emotionally defending their sense of self, not thinking about the arguments. I also think that people are so overwhelmed with information that any extra uncertainty - questioning a belief, for example - causes them to break down.