Agere Sequiter Credere?

I’ve always loved this Latin phrase, which means “Action follows belief”.

It aligns with the Misesian understanding of human action, my own experience of life, and what seems logical.

But there are things that seem to throw a wrench in it. There are many beliefs that only seem possible after action. The belief that you can ride a bike, or get in shape, or be transformed through religious practice; these beliefs are almost impossible to have before you take the action, but instead result from it.

I don’t think this poses a problem for the logic of our phrase. Purposeful action does follow belief – must follow belief – but not necessarily the belief most directly connected to it. A child may hop on the bike one more time disbelieving it will result in learning to ride. But they hop on the bike because they believe doing so is preferable to not doing so, even if only to avoid parental chiding.

You take communion without understanding and fully believing in its spiritual power, but you do believe something sufficient to motivate you to action. Maybe it’s just that, all else equal, it seems better to try than not.

The beautiful thing about belief is that it doesn’t have to be grand, or based on a full understanding to motivate action, and the action itself has a way of forming stronger, deeper beliefs.

So yes, action follows belief. But you don’t need to get the beliefs perfect before you act. Act on the tiniest, flimsiest belief, and let the action do the rest of the work.