Habilitated-Beliefs #2

One usually becomes a member of a group which is empowered to give expression to an idea in a quasi-official manner through happenstance, not by making carefully considered deliberate choices. By stating or declaring that one is for example a physicist does not entitle one to declare what statements about the world, particularly what explanations of its phenomena, are to be taken as authentic!

The emphasis is on “authentic”, which requires the explicit consent of others. It is often difficult to attain. There are exceptions, as when someone converts from one religious group to another, which involves an overt switch between highly differentiated social groups — each of which may hold strong and competing views about about specific areas of a common world.

At present the health field is a good example of this. Here disagreements about the curative effects of herbs and pharmaceuticals have become quite strident, yet the data on its belief-base are not. At least, so it seems. An equally contentious area is the role and the effects of therapeutic procedures on the so-called mental health of individuals. The old debates about the effectiveness of psycho-therapeutic procedures versus those that solely involve “physical interventions” continues.

How are such conflicts to be resolved? There is an end point, namely, whether a patient has improved in accordance with agreed standards. A similar issue concerns the truth about global warming, what to do about such trends, and what are its likely long-term effects. There have been major disagreements within the ranks of scientific pundits about what conclusions can be reached on the basis of current evidence (and methods of inquiry) and what would tilt the case in one direction or another. These issues are not resolved by a popular vote, by employing questionable and contentious polling procedures (such as opinion-polls based on a representative sample of all graduates holding a first level science-degree!). Issues need first to be resolved at the most basic level within the previously mentioned empowered group, the existing group of acknowledged experts in the field.

This is where the concept of *habilitation* becomes useful. Habilitation specifically refers to a process of generating agreement among people who accept each other as qualified to express opinions about the status of specific issues. It does not mean that this is sufficient to elevate any conclusion reached as being indisputable, but it explicitly states that conclusions are the best at the present time. It may be necessary to state under what conditions such conclusion could be challenged or reversed.

In short, any issue or matter habilitated can also be challenged in future, and therefore it could ultimately be de-habilitated. This requires several steps. What does not follow is that whenever a position is de-habilitated it also automatically returns all former positions from whence these came, or that such a change in status automatically re-adjusts other positions. There is no predictable radiating ripple effect, but there usually follows a series of adjustments in several cognate areas whereby all matters are viewable as part of a compatible world: incompatibilities need to be fine-tuned! Compatibility furthermore means that in the final analysis contradictions have been eliminated!

One thought on “Habilitated-Beliefs #2

  1. Habilitation still leaves open the possibility of competing groups of experts, each of which elevates their own version of the truth. Habilitation thus leads inexorably to disputation… because acknowledgement of expertise is often circular in the sense that I tend to call people experts if they share my particular expert opinions. Habilitation thus becomes a social phenomenon grounded in shared meaning rather than expertise. This is particularly true in contentious areas such as climate and global warming, or on evolution.

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