Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why Do We Believe What We Believe?

III. Environment and Upbringing
   Our experiences happen in a given environment. Aldous Huxley writes of "social heredity-the sum of cultural and linguistic influences, to which an individual has been predestined by the mere fact of having been born here rather than there, at this time rather than that." (Where Do You Live?) Most people simply believe what they are taught to believe, but everybody is deeply influenced by "social heredity." For example, I was born into a middle class family in the American Midwest in the late 20th Century. That fact alone determines how I view the world in such a significant manner that I doubt I could ever get to the bottom of it (How am I a product of my social heredity? Let me count the ways...) I have only the slightest resemblance (psychologically) to, say, an ancient Indian or a 10th Century Aztec.
   The time and place of our birth only accounts for so much. The way we are raised contributes strongly to how we see the world. As I mentioned above, the probability is very high that an individual will believe very similarly to those who raised him or her. While this is less true in our changing culture, the fact remains that we derive our beliefs from what we are taught-it's just that there are a wider array of influences and more tolerance for "dissent"
   Beside what we are taught, or what we imbibe, there are the things we experience. An untold number of events influence what we become and how we believe. Looking back, we see that changes in how our lives played out could've affected us deeply and changed our whole perspective. As extreme examples, consider the possibility of a car accident that severely impairs one's mental or physical capabilities, or think of how a product of abuse could've been different given a loving, safe environment. Returning to myself as an example, I was raised in a safe, secure home with relative wealth where education was highly valued. I was encouraged to read; I attended quality schools and was supported in attending college. Perhaps my parents got more than they bargained for when they embroiled me in the world of scholarship and literature; nevertheless, these factors-and a multitude of others that we don't have time to consider-contributed to how I see the world, as manifested in the very blog.

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