Imagination is a way that limitless ideas could develop but sometimes these ideas are restricted by our beliefs and experiences. This leads to the idea of “Suspension of Disbelief”. First of all, what is Suspension of Disbelief (SoD)? It’s a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable. Though in theatre, where it is an essential feature, it is the sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. But what is really meant by “essential feature”? It could mean: absolutely necessary or fundamental to the nature of something (essence of something). Thus, leading to the knowledge question: To what extent is suspension of disbelief essential to the acquisition of knowledge in the natural sciences and history? Suspension of disbelief is not limited to the arts, it is an essential feature of other AOKs like the natural sciences and history which can be explored using WOK such as reason, imagination, emotion and memory.
Although some would argue that suspension of disbelief is not essential and allows for imagination to take over reasoning which might limit the acquisition of knowledge. Suspension of disbelief is an essential feature of the arts like theatre. We ask ourselves why does fiction affect our emotions even when we know they are not real. Why is it that people can cry when a fictional character dies, isn’t this irrational, to get upset about something that is not real? In theatre, suspension of disbelief is essential because when the audience suspends their beliefs, they can enjoy the play and appreciate the meaning behind it. Like “Star Wars” fans, they suspend their disbelief of all these improbable events. Shakespeare’s King Lear, for instance.
One must suspend their disbelief and believe in the lack of rationality in order to experience the true art and nature of the play. If we experience things as objects, we do not truly know them in their essence. Therefore, it can be concluded that it is an essential feature to help the audience gain knowledge through the arts, even if it is fictional.Suspension of disbelief could be considered as a way to help reduce our biases (by suspending your beliefs from experience) and allow our imagination to grow in the natural sciences, which ultimately helps us acquire more knowledge. Here, essential would mean central to the nature of something. As it is not “necessary” but fundamental in the gaining of knowledge.
We sometimes ask in what ways does the acquisition of knowledge require suspension of disbelief in the natural sciences? When we suspend our disbelief, we can gain knowledge because it is based on reason. When we become too rational in how we view scientific results we become biased to possible theories because they do not fit our beliefs or because they are not probable. This reduces possible knowledge we could gain. For example, the Higgs Boson particle was discovered based on imagination. Now the explanation for all physical forces is described as being “The only particle predicted by the standard model of physics that hasn’t yet been observed” (Hank Green).
Even before a proof was discovered, people believed in its existence. This proves that if we use reason to ignore possibilities just because they are from our imagination and not yet proven, we could limit possible theories that could lead to other discoveries. The essence of scientific advancement is that ideas are presented and theorized before being proven. If we ever want to advance past current ideas, SoD is neededin order to find something new. We have to believe in its plausibility, with no certainty in its truth. Every theory and discovery is accompanied by the word “if”, proving the necessary presence of SoD. A counter claim would be that there are situations where suspending our logic and everything we believe in to accept a different perspective, is not helpful. SoD helps our imagination grow but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it always helps our gain of knowledge.
For example, in movies when the fiction is so “out” there, it becomes harder for the audience to really suspend their disbelief and believe all the fictional events. Like a movie called “The Core”. It was too out there and many found it hard to “believe” and enjoy the movie. There are situations when there has to be a limit to our imagination and the suspension of our rationality and emotion to get rid of our biases and accept new knowledge. This limit can be identified when the theory suggested is too fictional and improbable. Like a mathematician trying to solve a problem. If they think of improbable ways to solve it, they will never think of the probable and solve the problem.
Another example is when a scientist is trying to make a new discovery. If he keeps allowing his imagination to flow with no limit then he will never decide on an idea and will never move forward with knowledge. There needs to be a limit, we need to be focused in what we want and need in order to move forward. Science doesn’t mean to suspend our disbelief but to question the world around us and reason our way through claims. In conclusion, it is possible to argue that as much as suspension of disbelief is essential in the natural sciences to help limit our biases and all our imagination to grow to possible theories, it is not always good as it could work against us and limit our knowledge, instead of increasing it. It could affect our reasoning and decision making, leading to indecisiveness. This ultimately limits our further in depth research in a topic.
We sometimes need to have faith in one of the possibilities and go with it. Suspension of disbelief helps limit our biases in history, stopping rationality from stopping us, which ultimately helps us acquire more knowledge. History is another AOK where if we suspend our disbelief new knowledge and perspective could be gained. In history our emotion affects us. Sometimes having emotions when recording an event is not helpful in gaining new perspective. For example, Napoleon invading Egypt.
I heard this story from two different perspectives, from the perspective of a french historian and from the perspective of an egyptian historian. Both described the same historical event in a completely different manner. From one perspective Napoleon seemed like a hero and from another Napoleon seemed like an invader who was destroying a culture. Both perspectives are full of emotion but being completely affected by our emotions because of our experiences, culture, and the way we were raised, sometimes acts like a barrier limiting our knowledge and the perspectives that we could gain.
It’s like resolving conflicts between two parties. Both parties will never see eye to eye until they both suspend their disbelief, learn to see a situation from multiple perspectives not just one side of the story. When they suspend their disbelief, a compromise could be reached. Furthermore, memory could affect the way we perceive situations. We sometimes are biased or very rational in situations just because our memory of a similar position had a negative effect. Though, this just ends up limiting us to one corner with the same knowledge, not exploring the world around us with an open mind and perspective. Same in history, sometimes historians should suspend their disbelief and look at an event from different views of different people and cultures. There is an incredible amount of knowledge that could be gained just by doing so because historical events are like puzzle pieces, the more views, the more pieces of information you gain, the more context you have on a subject.
A counter claim, would be that in some cases, a historian needs to make a decision and reasoning is a way to help do so. SoD is not always good since too many perspectives, limits the power of an author’s message to a group of people. Being focused and with a specific direction sometimes is very important. Furthermore, emotions to a situation should not be seen as a barrier, we should embrace it, and accept our view but know that is not the only truth. In conclusion, one should be decisive yet open minded. SoD allows us to believe the unbelievable which makes us more open minded thinkers. Although one should remember to be focused because imagination could run wild into a never ending spiral of possibilities. It’s our role to use reasoning from there and reason out what we need to move on in our knowledge journey and move on.
We need to remember to be directional not indecisive. In conclusion, suspension of disbelief is essential in different AOKs, it limits biases that may arise from our WOKs like reason, emotion and memory. It helps our imagination grow and believe in things that might not be probable. Believing in things we imagine makes our mind capable of making it a reality. Like Einstein’s gravitational waves, it was not proven at first, it was just imagination but now it’s no longer fiction. Though there are situations where SoD is not necessary and could limit our knowledge. In the end, we sometimes need to believe in the unbelievable and be open minded to other possibilities. We need to find a balance between belief and disbelief.
SoD cannot eliminate all of our biases. If we hold on tightly to our beliefs, we create stereotypes in our decisions to the point where we aren’t open minded which ultimately limits the different possibilities of knowledge. We can not stay our whole life bind to one corner because of our biases and previous knowledge. We sometimes need to suspend our disbelief, look at other possibilities even if they seem impossible.