Philosophy

What I Believe – My Three Philosophical Pillars

A while back I decided to write out my beliefs. I ended up limiting myself to three philosophical categories: 1) my ethical philosophy, 2) my epistemic philosophy, and 3) my political philosophy. So, here they are!

[My views are constantly being refined, and do not represent absolute beliefs which will necessarily remain static. I pride myself on being open to ideas, and any beliefs I have are merely a reflection of my current mindset. That being said, I wrote this about three months ago, and found it to still be an accurate representation of my views. It seems I have come to a place of moderate stability in my intellectual development since my deconversion.]

Ethical Philosophy: Secular Humanism

I believe that all actions should be taken primarily for the benefit of human beings, with consideration given to animals and the environment.

Supernatural beliefs play no role in my ethical decisionmaking and religious concepts are only valued insofar as they enforce humanistic values. I do not oppose supernatural beliefs, but I do oppose harmful consequences of those beliefs (e.g. teaching creationism in public schools; persecution of LGBTQ individuals, etc.)

I consider myself an atheist and a naturalist, but I do not seek to force those beliefs on others. I believe that people should be aware of humanism and the benefits of living a secular life so they can decide if it’s a worldview they could accept.

I respect intellectual and religious diversity, although I do not think any belief should be above appropriate criticism and scrutiny. I believe that robust and respectful discussion and debate of important issues is beneficial and necessary. Every person should be encouraged to form their own conclusions about the world and pursue truth wherever it leads.

Epistemic Philosophy: Empiricism

I believe that the foundation of knowledge is sensory experience and that the scientific method is the most effective way to gain reliable knowledge about the world.

I believe that the unfalsifiable testimonies of intuition, personal anecdote, emotion, and hypothetical entities or senses (e.g. sensus divinatus or testimony of the Holy Spirit) are not enough to support a truth claim in the absence of relevant objective evidence. These may or may not be sufficient justifications for personal belief, but they do not meet the minimum requirements of proof in an interpersonal discussion. The reason being that if these were allowed as legitimate evidence to establish truth, any hypothesis could be considered true on the testimony of personal belief; with the corollary that every belief must therefore be true.

I believe that public discussion and debate should center around identifying common values, and using reason, logic, supported by  relevant, objective evidence to determine the best course of action to take.

Political Philosophy: Progressivism

I believe that we should seek to improve the conditions of life for all people, rather than resting on the accomplishments of the past. There is still work to be done to improve our nation and world, and applying a critical approach to the issues we face and suggesting possible solutions is an act of patriotism.

I believe that cultural traditions can and should undergo a constant process of re-evaluation in light of advancements in science, education, and moral attitudes. No pre-existing belief is beyond scrutiny and revision in accordance with our expanding knowledge of the world.

I believe that tolerance of others’ beliefs and practices insofar as they do not cause direct harm or infringe on the rights of others is a virtue. I believe in justice and liberty.

Democracy, human rights, and the pursuit of a reasonably egalitarian culture of prosperity, security, health, and psychological well-being are the foundational elements of my political philosophy.


Thank you for considering my perspective. Your opinion matters to me, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


The contents of this article may be used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Credit should be given to thefreethinkinghuman.wordpress.com.

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16 thoughts on “What I Believe – My Three Philosophical Pillars

  1. “”I respect intellectual and religious diversity, although I do not think any belief should be above appropriate criticism and scrutiny. I believe that robust and respectful discussion and debate of important issues is beneficial and necessary. Every person should be encouraged to form their own conclusions about the world and pursue truth wherever it leads.
    Epistemic Philosophy: Empiricism
    I believe that the foundation of knowledge is sensory experience and that the scientific method is the most effective way to gain reliable knowledge about the world.

    I believe that the unfalsifiable testimonies of intuition, personal anecdote, emotion, and hypothetical entities or senses (e.g. sensus divinatus or testimony of the Holy Spirit) are not enough to support a truth claim in the absence of relevant objective evidence. These may or may not be sufficient justifications for personal belief, but they do not meet the minimum requirements of proof in an interpersonal discussion. The reason being that if these were allowed as legitimate evidence to establish truth, any hypothesis could be considered true on the testimony of personal belief; with the corollary that every belief must therefore be true.””

    I agree with this. I never thought it was possible to just accept any claim as true when certain claims would falsify others if they were proven true. Like you said, personal testimonies are unfalsifiable because there is no way to test them. This is even more important in a world where people lie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Chandler.

      I agree. The distinction I feel is relevant, and which avoids more elusive ontological debates, is that for the sake of interpersonal discussion and decisionmaking there is no room for unfalsifiable claims to be treated as relevant, much less true. This is why it’s impossible to talk politics with a dyed-in-the-wool fundamentalist, since they reject objective epistemologies. Those of that view must either defeat those who disagree with them or be defeated, since rational discussion is nearly impossible.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. I believe I am done discussing any serious issues with people who do not hold to the same standard of truth. Generally it becomes difficult to discuss the “how and why” we disagree and work on resolving it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Travis!

      Of course, you always ask good questions.

      I tend to think that what benefits a human being is a compromise between respecting the liberty of that person, and taking an action that will increase the person’s physical and/or psychological well-being. And since autonomy and freedom to a degree is good psychologically, the two hopefully do not have to conflict much. But the possibility is always there, as we see in politics. And when we consider an irrational agent, such as a child or a mentally disabled adult, personal liberty is necessarily more limited to protect that person’s well-being.

      Ultimately physical and psychological well-being is what I define as “good”.

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      1. Allowing that the means for achieving physical and psychological well-being can vary depending on the person, what do we do if the well-being of a minority group is genuinely diminished by ethical positions which genuinely promote the well-being of the majority? Does the majority win by default?

        I’m not just trying to be difficult. This is a quandary that has been nagging at me for some time and I’m on the lookout for ideas.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, this is the principle objection to forms of utilitarianism, especially as formulated by Bentham. And it’s a strong one.

        I think that when we began to recognize human rights, and in the time spent refining them, we began to see that each individual is valuable. This is actually a non-utilitarian stance to some degree. And I think it sets the boundaries for utilitarian calculation.

        if someone is harmed, their entire reality is changed. That is why I believe any decision which harms a person is immoral. Despite the fact that we cannot avoid it in all scenarios.

        I believe sometimes there are legitimate moral conundrums. The trolley example is representative of that.

        I would say that one useful distinction would be that the majority’s needs should only enfringe those of the minority when there is no better available option, and as long as it does not violate human rights.

        I also think that violence should only be a reaction to harm or probable harm; a self-defense type of view. One danger is when violence is seen as a preventative tool (think pre-emptive wars, like Iraq). That is essentially a violation of justice.

        I hope I answered your question to some degree. A lot of ambiguity has to do with how one defines human rights. And how negotiable they are in wartime scenarios.

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      3. To sum up my answer: the government should not take actions which cause harm to a minority to increase the well-being of the minority. The way we view harm is crucial to understanding what that means.

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  2. I would say that one useful distinction would be that the majority’s needs should only infringe those of the minority when there is no better available option…
    Is “better” measured by the same standard? If so, isn’t this not a distinction?

    … and as long as it does not violate human rights?
    Who gets to decide what the human rights are? They’re often expressed as something unalterable and inherent. Would you agree with that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would define “better option” as one that does not infringe on anyone’s liberty. It’s like the ‘look for a third option’ advice.

      Human rights are a social construct. I am a moral non-realist. The global effort to establish human rights has been a great development, even if imperfect. So I think we should look to the declaration of human rights as a reference.

      I believe human rights are not unalterable or inherent aside from their intuitive origin. I am reading Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind, and he talks about morality as being intuitive, with moral reasoning playi ng a secondary and supporting role.

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      1. I don’t want to drag this out, so I will just note that I’m skeptical that we can avoid a “majority rule” situation in a utilitarian ethical system – even the human rights we hold now are set by the majority. This alone may not be a problem if we can justify it, but it does feel a bit icky.

        I read Haidt’s book a couple months ago and I agree that our moral foundations are largely intuitive rather than reasoned. So while I think there is a sort of innate morality within us, it is also clearly variable between individuals and highly malleable.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree completely. My own philosophy on ethics seems incomplete or inconsistent in areas (the deeper you probe you can probably tell that). One of the troubling things to me is how ethics applies to politics, where decisions have so many consequences.

        That’s one reason why I didn’t go into detail regarding my ethical philosophy, beyond secular humanism, which is essentially a values system. Same with my political philosophy.

        Haidt’s book has been a huge eye opener for me. I think it’s a very important book or society at this stage in history.

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  3. I think it’s important to stick to what feels right and true to you while also being open minded and respectful towards others who might feel differently. So, I like that you said that you “respect intellectual and religious diversity.” A lot of people aren’t like that, people get really offended and tend to take things personally when it comes to two things: religion and politics.

    Just recently I was walking with a friend (I am not sure if we are friends anymore after this) but, I simply made mention of a class I wanted to take at a spiritual center near me. The spiritual center is more or less the least religious place I have been to. It’s very open and more along the lines of spiritual psychology. They’re about positive thinking more or less, it’s like going to a self-help seminar. This is what drew me to go there from time to time (I don’t always go every week).

    Anyway, the moment I made mention that I was simply considering attending a class there, she went OFF. We were walking down the street and she was ranting on and on degrading the idea and degrading the facility. Granted, I am not religious but I like taking classes that help with positive manifestation and etc. I don’t even do it often, but once in a while. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. But, she seemed to be very angry when even getting close to discussing anything that appears religious in any way or spiritual. People were turning around and looking at her, she caused a scene. It wasn’t even a healthy debate. There was nothing respectful or healthy about it. She was down right angry, mean, and hostile as she ranted going on a personal monologue.

    Which leads me back to your original post, I appreciate people who voice their beliefs but those that can do so peacefully and still able to get along with others. It’s great if you can have an adult discussion without feeling triggered to essentially “go off” on someone that merely mentions something you might disagree with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sheesh. That’s insane! I don’t understand that at all. We should be encouraging open mindedness and respect, not dogma. I attend a Unitarian Universalist church, which seems similar to what you are referring to. People there have all sorts of different beliefs, but share a tolerant, and liberal outlook. I have very strong personal opinions, but I don’t assume everyone should think the same.

      Thanks for your comment. =)

      Liked by 2 people

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