What is a Beliefmap?

This article explains the concept of a Beliefmap.

We live in the grid. It is all around us, and it is inside us. We are often unaware of it. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote about a layer of beliefs which influence and shape everything that we see, hear and experience. Wittgenstein wrote that, ‘these underlying webs of belief serve as the axis, riverbed, scaffolding, and hinges of the way that we understand the world.’ Bernard Williams noted the effect of an unseen layer when he said that, ‘we are all under the influence of thinkers that we do not read.’

If one tries to deny that such a layer of underlying assumptions and beliefs exists, then GK Chesterton is ready to counter with the observation that, ‘There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic.’ So even if we are not terribly aware of our underlying beliefs, they may well still be there. His observation is also on point. Those who believe that they are neutral or open minded are often holding the biggest claims.

The economist J.M. Keynes held that these unseen, underlying ideas were highly influential,

The ideas of economist and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood.  Indeed, the world is ruled by little else.  Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.

There are systems of ideas, beliefs and assumptions that reside under the surface of the way that we normally think and feel about the world. Some call these schemas or worldviews, we call them Beliefmaps. Beliefmaps are a way to talk about and bring clarity to what we each believe, and the ideas that we carry under the surface. It helps us to see the presuppositions, assumptions and the underlying beliefs that we bring to the way that we see the world and the way that we respond to questions about purpose, happiness and truth.

Every single person has a worldview or Beliefmap – a way that they see the world. It is like a pair of lenses over our eyes and it shapes everything that we see, and everything that we look at. It has an amazingly powerful effect on the way that we that we see the world.  It is like a tinted lens over our eyes but it is made of ideas and it is over our minds.  It is like a grid or a web of ideas and beliefs that welook at the world through. This powerfully affects the way that we see the world. The way that we see other people, and the way that we see ourselves.

All political movements, religions, non-religious movements, philosophies, psychologies, and ways of living are ways of responding to the world. It is interesting how frequently human beings expressed our beliefs to each other in a set of core creeds, statements, claims or memes.

William Halverson says that, ’At the centre of every worldview is what might be called the “touchstone proposition” of that worldview, a proposition that is held to be the fundamental truth about reality and serves as a criterion to determine which other propositions may or may not count as candidates for belief.’

A Beliefmap brings these touchstone propositions into real clarity. It brings some structure to the way that we think about things. This allows us to understand and see what someone believes, which can sometimes be a surprise to them too.