June 25, 2007

A: Why should I be committed to something?
B: What do  you mean?
A: Suppose I had a goal to lose weight. Why should I be committed to losing weight?
B: Why do you have that goal to begin with?
A: I may have numerous reasons. Because at my current weight I am putting my health, and thus my life, at risk. It would be better to lose weight. I suppose that is a moral reason. If I lost weight I would potentially be able to buy less food, cheaper pants (because there is less material), and if by my losing of the weight I became more fit I would be more comfortable traveling by foot or bike and thus reducing my transportation costs. I suppose that is an economic reason. I would also likely be more attractive and more confident to interact in social activities – sports, and so forth. I suppose that is a socially important reason. These all seem to be good reasons for why this goal should be fulfilled.
B: Is that not enough to be committed?
A: I don’t think so. So what if the goal is good. What if the method which I employ to lose weight isn’t good or isn’t effective?
B:  But if that is in doubt, why not doubt the reasons for the goal as well?
A: That’s another problem. Suppose that I’m wrong about both my reasons for the goal and the method that I employ. Surely then I shouldn’t be committed to something if I’m for both those reasons. My commitment would be the thing to blame, in addition to myself, if I was dead set on losing weight only to realize later that I shouldn’t have lost weight and that my method actually made me fatter or made me far too thin.
B: No, surely your reasons for why the goal was favorable and your reasons for why the method was effective are to blame. Instead, you should praise your commitment because without it this entire process wouldn’t have been possible. If you weren’t committed to this goal then you wouldn’t have found out if you were right or were wrong.
A: But how will I be able to know which part I was wrong about? Which assumption did I make that turned out to be false?
B: That’s largely irrelevant as far as commitment goes. You wouldn’t even be brought to ask that question without commitment. So even if you fail commitment still served an important role. Either way, your commitment seems justified. If you failed, commitment allowed to realize such failure.  If you succeeded, commitment allowed your goal to become fulfilled.
A: What about being committed in the face of risk? What, if by my commitment I risked too much for the sake of testing my hypothesis (the goal)? In the face of such risk isn’t commitment then a modification of faith?
B: This risk analysis would be a part of the decision making  for the goal and methods themselves. It would precede whether or not you should be committed.

As for commitment as faith: absolutely not. There is no faith involved. I suppose there is hope but that is mostly an emotional stance rather than an epistemic one. Your reasons for your goal and method should alone convince you that you should and can lose weight. The only thing left is to be committed to that goal for the reasons just defined as well as being committed as a test of those reasons. Otherwise, those reasons are largely useless. Supposing that if you aren’t committed, your goal goes unfulfilled.
A: But as we said before, my reasoning might be faulty or incomplete. I could be wrong. So if I recognize that I could be wrong but become committed anyways, then aren’t I taking a ‘leap of faith’?
B:  I won’t discount that you could use faith in order to become committed so that your goals become fulfilled or challenged but the commitment that I’m referring to can be down without giving up reason for the sake of the effectiveness of faith. All your reasoning tells you that your goal is good and your method is effective. As such commitment must follow in order to be good. If you’ve reasoned your way to a point where your goal is good, commitment is then an obligation in and of itself. However, any reasonable person should at least be open to the possibility that they may be wrong. As such, this possibility puts “commitment as a moral obligation” into doubt – in addition to everything else. However, commitment still stands as a test of this reason. And this reason must be tested – even if you are wrong – in order for it to have worth. This is what scientists do. They produce an hypothesis via reason, then test the hypothesis. If the hypothesis succeeds it is likely their reasoning was accurate. If it fails, back to the drawing board. Either way, progress is made.


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