Believing is an action, but we act on the basis of our beliefs. We work because we believe that it will net us money, which will net us food, which will in turn prevent hunger, which is pain, which is detriment. Similarly we believe, for example, in a concept of “down” (even one which we know to be somewhat misleading), because we are convinced, if subconsciously, that possessing such a concept will allow us to better react to the world around us. It will help us to avoid our harm and seek our good: this is itself a belief, and an action. Therefore we believe on the basis of our preexisting beliefs. What starts the cycle? The unconditional act of believing without any other belief. And as all other beliefs are derived from this unconditional action, they serve as extensions of it- their participation in it makes them unconditional themselves. What is this belief? It seems to be somewhat expressed in statements like “human reason is fundamentally valid” and “effects follow from causes in a predictable manner,” and indeed “I must seek my good and avoid my harm,” each of which acts like a first statement from which everything else is to follow. But even if our beliefs were ultimately circular, there would still be one unconditional belief- namely, that the entire cycle as it exists as a single unified statement about reality is true, rather than false.
The specter of the proof has created a sort of widespread inauthenticity around believing. All belief is without evidence because all belief is unconditional, and evidence is a prior belief which serves as a condition for a new belief. Yet we do bother to make the claim that our beliefs are actually true, to deny that fact would be to do unjustifiable violence to the perceived experience of believing. The consequence is that believing turns out to be audacious. It is an action taken in ignorance, and not even as an irresistible response to a self expressing reality, but as a realization of the inner will to believe. We claim that there is a truth, even though we cannot see one, every time we believe. But, in spite of our position, the spirit in which we hold our beliefs has of late become the very opposite of audacity- it has been replaced by a conviction that the objects of our beliefs are certain and impressed upon us by reality, and that we have no other choice but to believe them; in short, by a lack of ownership for our own actions. To audaciously claim that there is a truth even though you cannot see one, but do this only to say that that truth is that your actions are not audacious and you can see just fine, is disappointing. We were almost interesting- now we are just depressing.
What then is all of this? This reasoning that I am doing, full of assertions and claims? I am doing it because unlike the straw postmodernists and theological liberals of the world, I am not in the slightest opposed to the act of claiming. On the contrary, I admire claiming as bold, and despise the refusal to claim. But I insist that claims admit that they are claims, and, having done so, claim on, rather than masquerading as proofs.