Hello to everyone,
I would like to start this thread and hopefully have some lively conversations regarding this topic. I am not sure if this topic has seen the light of day fully in other threads. I have seen this particular phrase used and perhaps discussed with regards to a particular thread elsewhere. I am calling this “BELIEF SYSTEMS” although I am sure there are many other systems of human kind that can be discussed. Just to name a few, POLITICAL SYSTEMS, KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS. SCIENCE SYSTEMS AND ETC. These all can be discussed as they surely do fit into human kind as we know it today. I would say that these systems have been around for along time.
In all my readings, research and searching I have seen these thoughts of one system or another in all peoples. Religious and Political systems appear to be the most widely known beliefs along with faith based feelings and thoughts. Certainly I would say that all of these have contentions simply because of individual thought and each human thinks differently. Now when one man or such manages to convince others to join his one thought then we see the group mentality form and with that, start’s the worship of the one and control over others or other things. The religious belief systems have widely varying degrees and certainly there are many, many different beliefs all started by a single human or perhaps a few. So to get this started I will post at least the definitions of a Belief system as I have found. There may be other definitions but I think that they all may a common read.
WHAT ARE BELIEF SYSTEMS?
J.L. Usó-Doménech and J. Nescolarde-Selva
Department of Applied Mathematics. University of Alicante. Alicante. Spain.
In beliefs we live, we move and we are […] the beliefs constitute the base of our life, the land on which
we live […] All our conduct, including the intellectual life, depends on the system of our authentic beliefs.
In them […] lies latent, as implications of whatever specifically we do or we think […] the man, at heart,
is believing or, which is equal, the deepest stratum of our life, the spirit that maintains and carries all the
others, is formed by beliefs…(Ortega y Gasset)
We know that the human being is a social animal. This is a common fact. Moreover, the
human being is defined as a rational being. It is clear and nobody can deny that human
creations include logic, mathematics, philosophy, science, and jurisprudence. These are
all products of rationality or abstract thought. Nevertheless, human sociability goes
further that the sociability of an animal herd. Societies were founded, cohere, develop,
degenerate and die based on their belief systems. Reason cannot prove the beliefs it is
based upon. Beliefs arise through experience. Experience need previous beliefs and
reason to be assimilated, and reason needs experience to be formed, as beliefs need
reason as well. Beliefs, reason and experience, are based upon each other. Context is
dynamic, and formed upon beliefs, reason and experience. This where relative
understanding lies. As relative understanding is independent of our context, it is also
dependent on our beliefs, reasoning, and experiences. Contexts are dynamic because
they are changing constantly as we have new experiences and change our beliefs and
our ways of reasoning.
The use of the term "belief system" can be highly confusing. Psychologists, political
scientists and anthropologists tend to use the term in rather different senses. There is
some network of interrelated concepts and propositions at varying levels of generality,
and there are some processes by which a human or a computer accesses and manipulates
that knowledge under current activating circumstances and/or in the service of particular
current purposes. Belief systems are structures of norms that are interrelated and that
vary mainly in the degree in which they are systemic. What is systemic in the Belief
system is the interrelation between several beliefs. What features warrant calling this
stored body of concepts a belief system? Belief systems are the stories we tell ourselves
to define our personal sense of Reality. Every human being has a belief system that
they utilize, and it is through this mechanism that we individually, "make sense" of the
world around us. Perceived Reality is constructed by means of systems of signs, being
affected and being changed by means of Belief systems. A subject cannot understand a
sign without talking about to a system that is learned socially and that allows him to
make sense of perception. In the same way, the classification of signs in closed
typologies can be deceptive, since the status of the sign depends strongly on the form in
which the sign is used within the Belief system. A significant can nevertheless be iconic
in a belief context and, to be symbolic in another context. From these we can see that
people are capable of constructing all manner of individual beliefs by which they tell
stories about how the world works. As humans, we tend to use all these belief systems
to varying degrees to cope with events in our lives. Ultimately we need the world to
make sense at some level. Therefore, those areas where that "sense of reality" is most
challenged will tend to be the areas in which the most controversies exist.
2 Moreover, these signs are not rational. The species Homo sapiens developed so-called
belief systems. These are sets of beliefs reinforced by culture, theology, and experience
and training as to how the world works cultural values, stereotypes, political viewpoints,
etc. Beliefs are often considered as convictions or as religious beliefs, but as scientists,
there are also philosophical beliefs relating to the sphere of daily life. If a stimulus is
received, it may be interpreted through the belief system to be whatever the belief
system might lead the recipient to rationalize. A belief system need have no basis in
reality so long as it consistently provides adequate explanations. It takes us to define a
human being like Homo religious.
1. CHARACTERISTICS OF BELIEF SYSTEMS
Belief system has the appropriate properties, and through them social significance.
Some characteristics of belief systems are:
1) Personal commitment is one of most observable and interesting features of an
ideology. If it were not for the fact of personal commitment, belief systems
could not have strong social consequences, and it has not interesting the study
of social systems.
2) Belief systems have an existence that is independent of the believers who
experienced the commitment. The believers do not contain the belief system; in
fact, he is unlikely to be aware of more than a small part of it and, knowingly or
unknowingly, he must take the rest of the belief system on faith.
3) Psychological mechanisms such as cognitive congruence may help explain
individual commitment, but they do not necessarily explain the connectedness
of a belief system in human society.
4) The life span of a belief system is potentially longer than the life span of
5) Belief systems vary almost infinitely in substantive content.
6) The boundaries of a belief system are generally, although not always,
undefined. Collections of beliefs do not generally have neat boundaries unless.
7) The elements (concepts, propositions, rules, etc.) of a belief system are not
consensual. That is, the elements of one system might be quite different from
those of a second in the same content domain. And a third system different from
both. Individual differences of this kind do not generally characterize ordinary
knowledge systems, except insofar as one might want to represent differences in
capability or complexity. Belief systems may also vary in complexity, but the
most distinctive variation is conceptual variation at a roughly comparable level
of complexity. An interesting sidelight on the consensuality question is whether
a belief system is "aware," in some sense, that alternative constructions are
possible. For cognitive science, the point of this little discussion is that
nonconsensuality should somehow be exploited if belief systems are to be
interesting in their own right as opposed to knowledge systems. Belief systems
often appear to have clear boundaries when the separation is really between
8) Belief systems are in part concerned with the existence or nonexistence of
certain conceptual entities. God, motherland, witches, and assassination
conspiracies are examples of such entities. This feature of belief systems is
essentially a special case of the nonconsensuality feature. To insist that some
entity exists implies an awareness of others who believe it does not exist.
Moreover, these entities are usually central organizing categories in the belief
system, and as such, they may play an unusual role which is not typically to be
found in the concepts of straight knowledge systems.
9) Belief systems often include representations of alternative worlds, typically the
world as it is and the world as it should be. Revolutionary or Utopian belief
systems especially have this character. The world must be changed in order to
achieve an idealized state, and discussions of such change must elaborate how
present reality operates deficiently, and what political, economic, social (etc.)
factors must be manipulated in order to eliminate the deficiencies.
10) Belief systems rely heavily on evaluative and affective components. There are
two aspects-to this, one 'cognitive; "the other "motivational." Belief system
typically has large categories of concepts defined in one way or another as
themselves "good" or "bad," or as leading to good or bad. These polarities,
which exert a strong organizing influence on other concepts within the system,
may have a very dense network of connections rare in ordinary knowledge
systems. From a formal point of view, however, the concepts of "good" and
"bad" might for all intents and purposes be treated as cold cognitive categories
just like any other categories of a knowledge system.
11) Belief systems are likely to include a substantial amount of episodic material
from either personal experience or (for cultural belief systems) from folklore or
(for political doctrines) from propaganda.
12) The content set to be included in a belief system is usually highly "open." That
is, it is unclear where to draw a boundary around the belief system, excluding as
irrelevant concepts lying outside. This is especially true if personal episodic
material is important in the system. Consider, for example, a parental belief
system about the irresponsibility and ingratitude of the modem generation of
youth. Suppose, as might very well be the case, that central to this system is a
series of hurtful episodes involving the believer's own children. For these
episodes to be intelligible, it would be necessary for the system to contain
information about these particular children, about their habits, their
development, their friends, where the family lived at the time, and so on. And
one would have to have similar conceptual amplification about the "self" of the
13) Beliefs can be held with varying degrees of certitude. The believer can be
passionately committed to a point of view, or at the other extreme could regard
a state of affairs as more probable than not. This dimension of variation is
absent from knowledge systems. One would not say that one knew a fact
strongly. There exist some examples of attempts to model variable credences or
"'confidence weights" of beliefs and how these change as a function of new
information. A distinction should be made between the certitude attaching to a
single belief and the strength of attachment to a large system of beliefs.
2. ELEMENTS OF BELIEF SYSTEMS
The following elements are listed in the order that would be logically required for the
understanding a first approach of a belief system. This does not imply priority in value
or in causal or historical sense.
1) Values. Implicitly or explicitly, belief systems define what is good or valuable.
Ideal values tend to be abstract summaries of the behavioral attributes which
social system rewards, formulated after the fact. Social groups think of
themselves, however, as setting out to various things in order to implement their
values. Values are perceived as a priori, when they are in fact a posteriori to
action. Having abstracted an ideal value from social experience, a social group
may then reverse the process by deriving a new course of action from the
principle. At the collective level of social structure, this is analogous to the
capacity for abstract thought in individual subjects and allows great (or not)
flexibility in adapting to events. Concrete belief systems often substitute
observable social events for the immeasurable abstract ideal values to give the
values in fact immediate social utility.
2) Substantive beliefs (Sb). They are the more important and basic beliefs of a
belief system. Statements such as: all the power for the people, God exists,
Black is Beautiful, and so on, comprise the actual content of the belief systems
and may take almost any form. For the believers, substantive beliefs are the
focus of interest.
3) Orientation. The believer may assume the existence of a framework of
assumptions around his thought, it may not actually exist. The orientation he
shares with other believers may be illusory. For example, consider almost any
politic and sociologic belief system. Such system evolves highly detailed and
highly systematic doctrines long after they come into existence and that they
came into existence of rather specific substantive beliefs. Believers interact,
share specific consensuses, and give themselves a specific name: Marxism,
socialism, Nazism, etc. Then, professionals of this belief system work out an
orientation, logic, sets of criteria of validity, and so forth.
4) Language. It is the logic of a belief system. Language L of a belief system is the
logical rules which relate one substantive1 belief to another within the belief
system. Language must be inferred from regularities in the way of a set of
substantives beliefs in the way a set of beliefs is used. The language will be
implicit, and it may not be consistently applied. Let Sb be a substantive belief.
We propose the following rules of generation of belief systems:
formula given to follow in edit
Argument is formed by the sum of two characteristics: hypothesis, that is to say,
so that this physical and social reality? And goal: as we want is this society to
reach its "perfection" (utopia).
1 Substantive beliefs constitute the axioms of the system, while many of derived beliefs will constitute
5) Perspective. Perspective of a belief system or their cognitive map is the set of
conceptual tools. Central in most perspectives is some statement of where the
belief system and/or social group that carries it stands in relation to other things,
specially nature, social events or other social groups. Are we equals? Enemies?
Rulers? Friends? Perspective as description of the social environment is a
description of the social group itself, and the place of each individual in it. The
perspective may be stated as a myth. It explains not only who subjects are and
how subjects came to be in cognitive terms, but also why subject exist in terms
of ideal values. Meaning and identification are provided along with cognitive
6) Prescriptions and proscriptions. This includes action alternatives or policy
recommendations as well as deontical norms for behavior. Historical examples
of prescriptions are the Marx’s Communist Manifesto, the Lenin’s What is To Be
Done or the Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Deontical norms represent the cleanest
connection between the abstract idea and the concrete applied belief because
they refer to behavior that is observable. They are the most responsive
conditions in being directly carried by the social group through the mechanisms
of social reward and punishment.
7) Ideological Technology. Every belief system contains associated beliefs
concerning means to attain ideal values. Some such associated beliefs concern
the subjective legitimacy or appropriateness of d-significances, while others
concern only the effectiveness of various d-significances. For example, political
activists and organizational strategy and tactics are properly called technology of
the belief system. Ideological Technology is the associated beliefs and material
tools providing means for the immediate or far (Utopia) goals of a belief system.
Ideological Technology is not used to justify or validated other elements of a
belief system, although the existence of ideological technologies may limit
alternative among substantive beliefs. Ideological Technology commands less
commitment from believers than do the other elements. A change in Ideological
Technology (strategy) may be responsible for changes in logical prior elements
of a belief system. Ideological Technology, like belonging to Structural Base
and having a series of prescriptions concerning doing can influence the life
conditions of believers, thus forcing an adaptation in the belief system itself.
Eurocomunism in Western Europe gives to a good historical example.
Ideological Technology may become symbolic and it can cause of more
fundamental differences between belief systems and, therefore, a source of
conflict. Conflicts between anarchists and Communists in the Spanish Civil War
or the ideas of Trotsky and those of Stalin in the USSR are examples of it. Much
blood has been shed between Muslims and Hindus over the fact that their
religions have different dietary restrictions (deontical prohibitions).
Conflict between two groups, including war, may be defined as a battle between beliefs
Systems. Symbols emerge strongly in such conflicts: they may be revered objects as
stones, writings, buildings, flags or badges; whatever they may be, they may symbolize
the central core of belief system. When people become symbols, the real person may
become obscured behind the projected symbolic image or person. Organizations
develop their own in-house culture and belief system, too, which leads them to act and
behave in ways that might not seem entirely rational to an outsider.
Then: a) Conflicts are not over Ideological Technology but over what symbolizes technological difference.
b) Substantive beliefs are understood only in terms of ideal values, criteria of validity,
language and perspective.
c) Believer is usually better able to verbalize substantive
beliefs than he is values, criteria, logical principles or orientation, which is apt to be the
unquestioned bases from which he proceeds.
d) Ideal values, criteria of validity, language and perspective may have been built up around a substantive belief to give it
significance and justification.