Belief Justification 

Perception: Awarness of Focus

How do we know what we know? 

How do we adequately justify our beliefs, to be able to decide that our beliefs our true?

What basic assumptions and premises influence our perception?

Experience for most, is processed through personalized filters that interpret experience on the basis of unconscious presuppositions.

Each persons reality is constructed via a subjective process that is influenced by a number of factors, including genetics, upbringing, education, cultural forces and life experiences.

Most individuals equate their personal subjective reality with objective truth, especially those who express at the lower levels of perceptual-emotional-intellectual development. Therefore any change which does not address ones underlying fundamental beliefs (usually adopted or assumed for lower levels of development), will only lead to superficial changes.

To affect an individual and assist them in expanding their level of perception, they must allow higher levels of perception (evidence of proof for assuming beliefs) into their own awareness and possess the cognitive abilities to integrate them into their reality. This must be an active process on the part of the individual who wants to learn and grow, it cannot be forced upon them. 

Children have a difficult time explaining why a belief or truth claim makes sense, and often cannot provide evidence that a claim is true. Many adults also reason in a like fashion, not exclaiming “because” as a child might, but deferring to authorities or rules to absolve themselves of the responsibility or the effort required to deductively defend their assertions or behaviors.

Higher levels of perception and justifications for beliefs vary greatly amongst adults, with few acheieving an understanding of the complimentary strengths and weaknesses of evidence and explanations of highly reasoned arguments. Dialectic (thesis/antithesis) and trialectic reasoning (applying a deeper understanding of the relationship between the facts being argued at a meta-level, beyond dialectic reasoning) can only develop beyond the stages of perceptual-emotional-intellectual development that are attempted in K-12 education. 

Even then only about 5% of the population goes on to approximate dialectic reasoning, with very few approaching trialectic reasoning (as conscious conforming introjections are too limiting, but are the norm today).

The biggest challenge when instructing adults in developing healthy levels of perceptual maturity, are the restrictive influences of the unconscious, and the lack of vulnerability and the reluctance of the vast majority of adults to enter into such a challenging endeavor. Fear, insecurity and a host of defense mechanisms, must be contended with, and the adult must be an active and willing participant in their own growth processes. It’s much easier to appear as though one possesses a strong perceptual reasoning apparatus, it’s quite another to display one.

Our developmental perception level shapes our values, character and our inherent personal qualities of mind to exercise our intellectual skills. Only at its most advanced levels can an individual reason well enough to exercise the intellectual skills requisite to enter into a valid or sound argument.

The basic seven levels of belief justification, listed here in order of development.

At the most immature levels of perception, children cannot imagine that some uncertainty may exist in their beliefs. Certainty, buttressed by a child’s insecurity, lack of identity and lack of intellectual development, helps children cope with their lack of knowledge and inability to synthesize multiple data inputs, as they can only focus on single aspects of objects, situations and challenges. Many adults also reason in this way, as evidenced by those who require specific details on the particulars of single aspects of an argument. This is associated with arrested adult development in the concrete level of intellectual operations, and termed “centration” by Jean Piaget. An individual gets stuck in the details, as they have not developed the ability to conceptualize abstract hypothetical deductive ideations. 

The first three levels of perceptual justification for belief acceptance, are predicated on this immature certainty requirement (as described by King and Kitchener in their scale of “Reflective Judgement”).

1. No justification is required, any belief is assumed by the individual. What they see or hear is true to them.

2. Beliefs are unexamined and unjustified, but deferred to a perceived authority figure for their opinion on the matter.

3. Beliefs are partially justified by the individual, but deferred to an authority figure or justified by random statistics, but not understood by the undividual.

The following two levels of belief justification, are employed by individuals who can conceive that some uncertainty may exist, however these individuals do not possess the perceptual development to nullify their uncertainty on their own.

4. Beliefs are justified relative to an individual’s own personal opinions or values, not intellectual rigor.

5. Beliefs are justified within a particular context, employing the rules of inquiry for that context. If the rule allows for it, then it is true for them.

The last two developmental levels of belief justification, are employed by individuals who know that ones own personal reality is not a given, and that knowledge must be actively constructed and understood relative to the context in which the belief was asserted.

6. Beliefs are justified by comparing evidence and opinion of different sides of an issue, and by ones own personal opinion or values based upon what best serves the individual. Those who reason at this level, cannot effectively deductively reason, but rely upon a professed set of assumed values that provide them a set of rules or maxims to allow their reasoning to appear valid (validity, the weakest form of deductive proof, can only be asserted by a well reasoned deductive argument. Soundness is the highest form of truth that can be attained through deductive reasoning)

7. Beliefs are justified using a well reasoned deductive argument. Arguments include evidence linked to conclusions that are defended based upon the most complete, compelling and plausible explanation available to date. 

These first levels of belief justification, are employed by over 95% of individuals, with those resonating at the lower levels being the most common. One may employ higher or lower levels of belief justification, depending on their subjectivity and unconscious need to believe. As most people have assumed or adopted most of their beliefs from others as they grew up, or ideologies that they prefer as adults, their beliefs are not their own and can be mercurial depending on the motivation of the individual. 

When an individual cannot specifically recite their own fundamental beliefs, or lists out a set of adopted rules or values, they are externally motivated and require external validation before they can decide what is true or not true. An internally directed and intrinsically motivated individual can progress to higher levels of belief justification, as they do not require others to rely upon for their sense of identity, and can therefore effectively decide for themselves what is or what is not true.

Moving beyond these first seven basic levels of belief justification, one can attain much higher depths of objective belief, only when they fully construct their own beliefs through dialectic and trialectic reasoning. 

Further levels of development require a self-directed metacognitive posture by the learner. An internally motivated and active approach to learning and life engagement in general is requisite to acheieving higher levels of development. This includes a strong sense of self, identity and purpose that is palpable when an individual has developed themselves to the point of a strong sense of genuine self-confidence. 

Those with weak identity strength, tend to resist new learning, as new learning requires them to repress or warp their existing comfortable belief systems. As a defense mechanism unique to these folks, these individuals will control their external environment by limiting their exposure to new ideas, experiences and require those who they communicate with to assume a specific hemmed in vernacular so as not to upset them. While their internal organization is completely chaotic, their external one often appears extremely well maintained. Spotless homes, bills paid early, shining cars and meticulously mainten office environments compensate for their neurosis.

An understanding of people, systems, leadership and a strong self-awareness all manifest as an actualizing individual faces their own challenges and finds that they are indeed capable of handling more and more complex challenges than they might have ever imagined. 

Those who do not fully engage in all of life’s realities and who do not proactively assume increasing levels of awareness and control in their lives, tend to hold back from accepting personal responsibility and miss out on the corresponding growth and development. A need for external validation, lack of identity strength and insecurity results. 

The language of those with weak identity strength is obvious, as they can often be heard self-chastising and self-congratulating themselves, almost as if they are talking about another entity. “I’m proud of myself” or “I’m disappointed in myself” and other unconscious admissions of lack of intrinsic self-worth are common verbalizations of their introjected externalized adaptations. 

Blame transference, self-derision, a lack of empathy, lack of adult responsibility taking, projections, poor belief justification and reasoning skills, and judging (with an error of condemnation) are frequently employed strategies of those with externally focused validation needs. 

One must possess the cognitive and emotional development necessary to process nonabsolutely and relativistically, to progress into higher forms of reasoning. Creativity and deeper insights can only truly be realized with forms of higher reasoning beyond deduction (level 7). Much scientific and statistical inquiry, as well as most advanced professionals function at the deductive level, however novel insights require a higher level of reasoning and intuitive thought processes than proving what already exists.

Developed by Plato, dialectic reasoning, includes the actively intellectually developed ability to posit a thesis and an antithesis, when determining the tuth of an argument or contemplating a higher degree of understanding. This is the basis of scientific inquiry, where a hypothesis is posited and a conclusion is determined through the rigor of empirical observation, and the subsequent analysis and peer reviewed critiques of ones results. 

On an individual level, dialectic reasoning, is an internally driven and motivated process. Those who have developed their intellectual-emotional-perceptual ability to reality test their own beliefs, do so because of their intrinsic motivation and higher requirements for truth justification. Internal validation is a requirement of an actualizing individual, whereas “confirmation bias” is most commonly employed by the externally motivated individual. (Confirmation bias is the active process of defending a belief by accumulating external evidence to support ones belief, while excluding any evidence to the contrary).

Dialectic reasoning can be likened to “focusing ones lens”, or an internalized commitment to continual belief tuning, whereby an individual possesses an everpresent awareness of any contradictory evidence that can be used to reason to new higher level of belief and reality comprehension. This is a metacognitive practice, and employed by self-directed, self-guided and self-monitoring autodidacts.

Trialectic reasoning, the highest form of reasoning, includes thesis, antithesis and higher intuitive processes, and is acheieved when an individual has developed both an Intellectual-emotional-perceptual integration and their natural higher intuitive abilities. A strong metacognitive acumen and a corresponding knowledge-base are necessary requirements for effectively employing trialectic reasoning.

The term was originally coined by the eminent German philosopher Georg Hegel in the early 19th century. Hegel developed his idea, based on the morphological and scientific practices as developed by his friend and mentor Johann Goethe. By intuitively synthesizing the whole, rather than analyzing the parts, Goethe was able to conceive of a scientific mode of inquiry that opened the doors for Darwin, Einstein, Tesla, Nietzsche, Jung and many other geniuses to conceive of new truly creative imaginings.

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