Saturday, February 5, 2011
What is it to be confident?
It's easy to fall into a bad way of thinking about our psychological concepts. We tend to think that we can know, through introspection, whether a psychological concept can be properly applied to us. We think that we just know what it feels like to, say, believe something or trust someone and that we simply can't be wrong in claiming to so believe or trust on the basis of these feelings.
"I know when I'm sad!"
"Don't tell me what I believe. I know what I believe!"
"What do you mean I want you to fail? I assure you that's not what I want."
One of the most profound lessons Black Socrates has learned in his days of philosophizing is that this way of thinking is deeply flawed. One can be wrong about whether one is sad or angry or believes that something is the case. One can feel that one believes something-or believes in something-, yet not believe (or, better, that someone believes something is not a matter of how one feels). (And if you want an argument for this claim, check out Wittgenstein on private language).
If believing, trusting and being confident in is not a matter of how one feels, what, then, is it a matter of?
It is a matter of how we've come to use our psychological concepts and which behaviors are taken to be criterion for applying those concepts.
If you say that you believe that Black Socrates didn't cheat on you, but act as if you don't believe (say, by checking my email, constantly calling to find out where Black Socrates is...when he'll be home...who he's with) then, if fact, you do not believe that I didn't cheat, no matter how you feel.
So, back to the opening question: What is it to be confident?
We see now that being confident isn't a matter of feeling confident. Being confident is a matter of acting in a way that would make it appropriate to apply the label "confident" to one.
So, ask yourself, if I saw someone who acted like me would I say that that person was confident? (and include speech, dress, posture, etc, under the label of "acting").
You may discover that you're more (or less) confident than you take yourself to be.
Posted by Brandon Hogan at 2:41 PM