How Can We Believe Anything?

How Can 2
The question of what we believe, and how we act on our belief, concerns us all. On the one hand, our religious and political terrorists assert their beliefs with indiscriminate violence. On the other hand, our postmodern philosophers tell us we cannot believe anything. Meanwhile, our neuroscientists and geneticists question the very notion of what it is to be human. Many of us no longer know who we are or what to believe – if, indeed, we can believe anything.

It is argued here that to address the problem of belief we must question the status of all our beliefs – to ask anew, what is ‘truth’ and ‘reality’? This book attempts to answer this question at an accessible level in the context of traditional philosophy and from the perspective of recent advances in philosophy, science and social theory. No previous knowledge of philosophy is necessary – but a nodding acquaintance with some philosophical issues would help.

The thesis advanced here is that we can recognise the philosophical basis of a universal system of belief which acknowledges our evolved anthropocentric subjectivism. The possible structure of such a system is described and its potential contents examined.

It is argued that the identification of such a universal belief system provides the only secure basis for the exercise of our individual multicultural faiths and secular narratives. Such a universal belief structure, it is argued, is necessary to enable us as a species to be what we are, and to choose, safely, what it is we are to become.

Jack Grassby’s book offers an approachable account of how a humanist thinks about the big questions. Rather than indulge in polemics, Jack takes time and trouble to explain how we can account for a range of major issues. This makes the book valuable for the general reader and provides a good starting point for all those interested in understanding the world around them.


David Large
Former Chair, Newcastle Philosophy Society


This web site offers the first few paragraphs from each of the chapters from the book, How Can We Believe Anything? by Jack Grassby.