Why Having Ideals Is Essential to Learning About Life

The takeaway is that to live a better life, one that is fuller and more richly human, we need not rely on having concrete reasons for our behavior but rather ideals which inspire our decisions.

Having ideals is an essential part of acquiring knowledge, i.e. learning, suggests a fascinating new study out of the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Led by associate dean of liberal arts and professor of philosophy Dr. Andrew Cling, the study examines how difficult it is to give a concrete reason for everything you believe to be true.


This sharply contrasts our assumption that what we believe to be true derives from reasons that are equally true. But skepticism quickly breaks down that assumption, demonstrating how even our most assured statements rely on unsubstantiated belief. 

As Dan Ariely explains in his Big Think interview, the irrational faith required by religion may be justified if it helps us live more valuable lives:

To take a more concrete example, you may "know" that you'll never beat Usain Bolt in a footrace. I persist in asking you how you "know" this, however, it will become clear you simply have an unsubstantiated belief. There is no foundational reason that prevents you from becoming the fastest person alive. And trying to outrun Usain Bolt—by running daily, eating right, etc.—will yield dividends in your life. 

The takeaway is that to live a better life, one that is fuller and more richly human, we need not rely on having concrete reasons for our behavior but rather ideals which inspire our decisions.

Read more at Science Daily

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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