4

Daoism and Buddhism in Eastern philosophies emphasize adaptation and flexibility, and critique rationality. They have different frameworks to understand the same phenomenon, and different goals for our reactions to it, and I understand and like them. However, because of their nature, it is necessary that they have different interpretations in different situations, making even practitioners disagree with each others. They may even claim that there are things that can only be understood by direct experience, and are ineffable or inexpressible, making the philosophy inevitably mystical. How do they make sure that an interpretation is correct and not just confirmation bias?

(Daoism and Buddhism are just examples because they are familiar with me most. I suppose any philosophical schools can have a degree of vagueness, except logical positivism.)


Related: Does following logic necessarily require one to conclude that they are objective and have no bias?

  • 1
    Perhaps the seeking against confirmation bias is itself the confirmation bias of seeking to fit exotic (so to say) outlooks into the conventional western -- "make sure interpretation is correct" -- mold? To be fair great western philosophers -- Kant -- did understand that our knowledge of things can never be divorced from our personal knowing of them. In more modern lingo confirmation bias is wired into individuated existence. Or -- speaking as an oriental -- you should love Truth not lust after it – Rusi Mar 2 at 5:20
  • 1
    They do not make sure that an interpretation is "correct", and this is not unique to Oriental philosophy. Philosophy is not science or mathematics, there is no one "correct" interpretation. There are interpretations that are clearly off, and those more or less traditional, but plurality of interpretations is as much a hallmark of philosophy as it is of art and literature. The art of interpretation is called hermeneutics. – Conifold Mar 2 at 5:20
  • 1
    no, semiotics is the study of signs... "hermeneutics Dictionary result for hermeneutics /ˌhəːmɪˈnjuːtɪks/ noun noun: hermeneutics the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts." semiotics has a use in hermeneutics, in that if we know how a language works then we are better set to understand what is expressed in it – user35983 Mar 2 at 12:37
  • 1
    oh right you mean that semiotics is to interpretation as metaphysics is to physics. maybe! i wouldn't limit that to just 'semiotics' though, it probably isn't even the only relevant science (it probably helps to understand e.g. logic or contemporary physics to study, say, Galileo) – user35983 Mar 2 at 12:39
  • 2
    Confirmation bias does have a huge impact on philosophy. People tend to embrace the philosophical paradigm they prefer, just as they favor certain interpretations of history. It's something we all have to be alert for. I agree with PeterJ when he suggest the solution is "sound logical analysis." Role playing also helps - putting yourself in someone else's shoes and looking at things from different perspectives. – David Blomstrom Mar 2 at 16:57
4

The problem you mention is the same for all philosophy schools and also for the sciences. Around a core of skilled and experienced practitioners and scholars there is a fringe of half-informed folk with a variety of opinions and conjectures, and from the outside it may be difficult to distinguish the facts and the actual teachings from the cloud of dust surrounding them.

If you go to the heart of Buddhism and Taoism you find complete agreement as to the nature of Reality and its correct metaphysical description. This is a notoriously subtle view for which words that are rigorous will seem paradoxical. When Heraclitus states 'We are and are not' or when when a Buddhist says the self both exists and not-exists they speak rigorously. Thus when one Buddhist or Taoist says the self is real and another says it is not they are not necessarily disagreeing, just focusing on different sides of the equation. This leads a lot of people to assume there is controversy where there is none.

Confirmation bias may become a problem for anyone at any time but the practices of the Perennial tradition make it virtually impossible to fall for it. Theorising is not considered a substitute for establishing the facts and conjecture is discouraged. Anticipating what one is going to discover would be an obstacle to progress since it restricts our mental freedom and channel us into our own self-fulfilling prophecy. Reality would outrun our imagination and concepts and thus confirmation bias becomes impossible.

It is worth noting, however, that these traditions explain God as misinterpreted meditative experience, and this misinterpretation must have a lot to do with confirmation bias and an overly hasty interpretation of experience. So among meditators confirmation bias is a well-understood danger.

As long as Taoism and Middle Way Buddhism endorse the same metaphysical doctrine then the majority of debates can be settled by reference to it. As noted, however, many of those who endorse these doctrines hold heterodox or 'fringe' views, and this can create an effective smokescreen of debate and disagreement that will take same work to penetrate.

In general confirmation bias is not a problem in philosophy since sound logical analysis is not vulnerable to it. The real problem is unsound analysis caused by philosophical bias.

  • 1
    there are surely disagreements in, e.g., buddhism. there may be a near unity of meditative practice, but no, it's not possible e.g. theravada buddhists mean the same thing by 'buddha' as most mahayanist buddhists. to suggest that e.g. disagreements about the universality of buddha nature is different sects talking past each other because they define 'buddha' or 'seed' differently seems wrong. however seductive the idea of a universal religion is, it is bad "hermeneutics " to elide differences and entire definitions or discourses so that everything is One. – user35983 Mar 2 at 12:47
  • just my two cents, not rubbishing your answer – user35983 Mar 2 at 14:44
  • You should highlight the last paragraph of your answer in bold text. The rest of your answer is worth reading, but the last paragraph really answers the question succinctly. That's why I up voted your answer. – David Blomstrom Mar 2 at 16:53
  • i downvoted because you've completely misunderstood buddhism! – user35983 Mar 2 at 19:25
  • @confused before getting to the question everybody has "why do you think so?", I think this is the perfect example of different interpretations – Ooker Mar 3 at 3:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.