concepts section: copyright Robert Ellis 2009


Confidence is the emotional quality associated with integration of belief, whereby provisional beliefs can be posited, applied and tested without dogmatic attachment to those beliefs. It is a quality acquired gradually in mutual dependency with integration of belief. Insofar as a belief is integrated, it does not need to be asserted against contrary beliefs that may be implicitly present in the psyche. This helps to develop confidence, where beliefs are neither over-asserted nor under-asserted, but rather asserted in a robust and flexible way. To the extent that someone holds a belief with confidence, they are not threatened by possible counter-evidence, and do not have to deny  or block that counter-evidence, but on the other hand they do not hold a belief so weakly as not to be able to see its implications or apply and test it vigorously.

Confidence is a crucial aspect of the Middle Way, because it describes the psychological state that is required to make balanced judgements, avoiding both positive and negative metaphysics. We cannot just make ourselves have balanced judgement without addressing the psychological conditions involved to produce the mental state of confidence. Nevertheless, confidence is a matter of degree, and a little confidence can support a little more objectivity of judgement, which creates the conditions for further confidence, and so on.

Confidence avoids its opposite, doubt, where beliefs have to be asserted against much potential opposition within the psyche. Struggling to assert itself, the doubting ego engages either in brittle over-assertion to defend its position, or starts to identify itself with the contrary position and is under-assertive.

Confidence in the specific sense it is used in Middle Way philosophy should not be confused with the common use of the word "confidence", which does not clearly distinguish between brittle or aggressive over-assertion and justifiable provisional assertion. This specific use of the word confidence is related to the Buddhist term saddha, except that saddha in the Buddhist tradition confuses confidence in provisional theories with faith in the Buddhist tradition (see The Way of Trust for more information on this). For the distinction between confidence and faith in general, also see the green faith page.

The concept of confidence is also closely related to that of trust, which could be described as confidence in others.


Further Discussion

Doubt and confidence in thesis (scroll down to d. ii & iii)

The Way of Trust  (also by Robert Ellis, but hosted on FWBO discussion website)

Faith and the Middle Way


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