A wide-ranging study of the central concepts in epistemology - belief, truth and knowledge. Professor Armstrong offers a dispositional account of general beliefs and of knowledge of general propositions. Belief about particular matters of fact are described as structures in the mind of the believer which represent or 'map' reality, while general beliefs are dispositions to extend the 'map' or introduce casual relations between portions of the map according to general rules. 'Knowledge' denotes the reliability of such beliefs (...) as representations of reality. Within this framework Professor Armstrong offers a distinctive account of many of the main questions in general epistemology - the relations between beliefs and language, the notions of proposition, concept and idea, the analysis of truth, the varieties of knowledge, and the way in which beleifs and knowledge are supported by reasons. The book as a whole if offered as a contribution to a naturalistic account of man. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the relationship between belief and credence is a central question in epistemology. This is because the belief-credence relationship has significant implications for a number of current epistemological issues. I focus on five controversies: permissivism, disagreement, pragmatic encroachment, doxastic voluntarism, and the relationship between doxastic attitudes and prudential rationality. I argue that each debate is constrained in particular ways, depending on whether the relevant attitude is belief or credence. This means that epistemologists (...) should pay attention to whether they are framing questions in terms of belief or in terms of credence and the success or failure of a reductionist project in the belief-credence realm has significant implications for epistemology generally. (shrink)
I explore how rational belief and rational credence relate to evidence. I begin by looking at three cases where rational belief and credence seem to respond differently to evidence: cases of naked statistical evidence, lotteries, and hedged assertions. I consider an explanation for these cases, namely, that one ought not form beliefs on the basis of statistical evidence alone, and raise worries for this view. Then, I suggest another view that explains how belief and credence relate to (...) evidence. My view focuses on the possibilities that the evidence makes salient. I argue that this makes better sense of the difference between rational credence and rational belief than other accounts. (shrink)
Belief-credence dualism is the view that we have both beliefs and credences and neither attitude is reducible to the other. Pragmatic encroachment is the view that stakes alone can affect the epistemic rationality of states like knowledge or justified belief. In this paper, I argue that dualism offers a unique explanation of pragmatic encroachment cases. First, I explain pragmatic encroachment and what motivates it. Then, I explain dualism and outline a particular argument for dualism. Finally, I show how (...) dualism can explain the intuitions that underlie pragmatic encroachment. My basic proposal is that in high-stake cases, it is not that one cannot rationally believe that p; instead, one ought not to rely on one's belief that p. One should rather rely on one's credence in p. I conclude that we need not commit ourselves to pragmatic encroachment in order to explain the intuitiveness of the cases that motivate it. (shrink)
There are currently two robust traditions in philosophy dealing with doxastic attitudes: the tradition that is concerned primarily with all-or-nothing belief, and the tradition that is concerned primarily with degree of belief or credence. This paper concerns the relationship between belief and credence for a rational agent, and is directed at those who may have hoped that the notion of belief can either be reduced to credence or eliminated altogether when characterizing the norms governing ideally rational (...) agents. It presents a puzzle which lends support to two theses. First, that there is no formal reduction of a rational agent’s beliefs to her credences, because belief and credence are each responsive to different features of a body of evidence. Second, that if our traditional understanding of our practices of holding each other responsible is correct, then belief has a distinctive role to play, even for ideally rational agents, that cannot be played by credence. The question of which avenues remain for the credence-only theorist is considered. (shrink)
Michael Ridge presents an original expressivist theory of normative judgments--Ecumenical Expressivism--which offers distinctive treatments of key problems in metaethics, semantics, and practical reasoning. He argues that normative judgments are hybrid states partly constituted by ordinary beliefs and partly constituted by desire-like states.
In this article, I argue that faith’s going beyond the evidence need not compromise faith’s epistemic rationality. First, I explain how some of the recent literature on belief and credence points to a distinction between what I call B-evidence and C-evidence. Then, I apply this distinction to rational faith. I argue that if faith is more sensitive to B-evidence than to C-evidence, faith can go beyond the evidence and still be epistemically rational.
A compact, coherent introduction to the study of rational belief, this text provides points of entry to such areas of philosophy as theory of knowledge, methodology of science, and philosophy of language. The book is accessible to all undergraduates and presupposes no philosophical training.
In everyday discourse groups or collectives are often said to believe this or that. The author has previously developed an account of the phenomenon to which such collective belief statements refer. According to this account, in terms that are explained, a group believes that p if its members are jointly committed to believe that p as a body. Those who fulfill these conditions are referred to here as collectively believing* that p. Some philosophers – here labeled rejectionists – have (...) argued that collective belief* is not belief but rather acceptance. This paper presents several arguments against rejectionism. One has to do with the proper methodology for arriving at an account of belief. Two address rejectionist claims to the effect that collective beliefs* lack key features of belief in general, the features in question being “aiming at truth” and having a particular relation to the will. A fourth notes that there is a phenomenon more apt for the label of “collective acceptance” than is the phenomenon of collective belief*. (shrink)
A commonly-discussed feature of perceptual experience is that it has ‘assertoric’ or ‘phenomenal’ force. We will start by discussing various descriptions of the assertoricity of perceptual experience. We will then adopt a minimal characterization of assertoricity: a perceptual experience has assertoric force just in case it inclines the perceiver to believe its content. Adducing cases that show that visual experience is not always assertoric, we will argue that what renders these visual experiences non-assertoric is that they are penetrated by (...) class='Hi'>belief-like imaginings. Lastly, we will explain why it is that when belief-like imaginings—as opposed to beliefs (and other cognitive states)—penetrate visual experience, they render visual experiences non-assertoric. (shrink)
I argue that we should solve the Lottery Paradox by denying that rational belief is closed under classical logic. To reach this conclusion, I build on my previous result that (a slight variant of) McGee’s election scenario is a lottery scenario (see Lissia 2019). Indeed, this result implies that the sensible ways to deal with McGee’s scenario are the same as the sensible ways to deal with the lottery scenario: we should either reject the Lockean Thesis or Belief (...) Closure. After recalling my argument to this conclusion, I demonstrate that a McGee-like example (which is just, in fact, Carroll’s barbershop paradox) can be provided in which the Lockean Thesis plays no role: this proves that denying Belief Closure is the right way to deal with both McGee’s scenario and the Lottery Paradox. A straightforward consequence of my approach is that Carroll’s puzzle is solved, too. (shrink)
Sometimes epistemologists theorize about belief, a tripartite attitude on which one can believe, withhold belief, or disbelieve a proposition. In other cases, epistemologists theorize about credence, a fine-grained attitude that represents one’s subjective probability or confidence level toward a proposition. How do these two attitudes relate to each other? This article explores the relationship between belief and credence in two categories: descriptive and normative. It then explains the broader significance of the belief-credence connection and concludes with (...) general lessons from the debate thus far. (shrink)
Does belief have an aim? According to the claim of exclusivity, non-truth-directed considerations cannot motivate belief within doxastic deliberation. This claim has been used to argue that, far from aiming at truth, belief is not aim-directed at all, because the regulation of belief fails to exhibit a kind of interaction among aims that is characteristic of ordinary aim-directed behaviour. The most prominent reply to this objection has been offered by Steglich-Petersen (Philos Stud 145:395–405, 2009), who claims (...) that exclusivity is in fact compatible with belief’s genuinely having an aim. I argue, based on consideration of what is involved in pursuing an aim, that Steglich-Petersen’s reply fails. I suggest that the defender of the idea that belief has an aim should instead reject the claim of exclusivity, and I sketch how this can be done. (shrink)
Deliberation about what to do in any context requires reasoning about what will or would happen in various alternative situations, including situations that the agent knows will never in fact be realized. In contexts that involve two or more agents who have to take account of each others' deliberation, the counterfactual reasoning may become quite complex. When I deliberate, I have to consider not only what the causal effects would be of alternative choices that I might make, but also what (...) other agents might believe about the potential effects of my choices, and how their alternative possible actions might affect my beliefs. Counterfactual possibilities are implicit in the models that game theorists and decision theorists have developed – in the alternative branches in the trees that model extensive form games and the different cells of the matrices of strategic form representations – but much of the reasoning about those possibilities remains in the informal commentary on and motivation for the models developed. Puzzlement is sometimes expressed by game theorists about the relevance of what happens in a game ‘off the equilibrium path’: of what would happen if what is both true and known by the players to be true were instead false. (shrink)
Belief storage is often modeled as having the structure of a single, unified web. This model of belief storage is attractive and widely assumed because it appears to provide an explanation of the flexibility of cognition and the complicated dynamics of belief revision. However, when one scrutinizes human cognition, one finds strong evidence against a unified web of belief and for a fragmented model of belief storage. Using the best available evidence from cognitive science, we (...) develop this fragmented model into a nascent theory of the cognitive architecture of belief storage. (shrink)
In this paper, I solve a puzzle generated by three conflicting claims about the relationship between faith, belief, and control: according to the Identity Thesis, faith is a type of belief, and according to Fideistic Voluntarism, we sometimes have control over whether or not we have faith, but according to Doxastic Involuntarism, we never have control over what we believe. To solve the puzzle, I argue that the Identity Thesis is true, but that either Fideistic Voluntarism or Doxastic (...) Voluntarism is false, depending on how we understand "control." I distinguish two notions of control: direct intention-based control and indirect reflective control. I argue that though we have direct intention-based control over neither belief nor faith, we have indirect reflective control over each of them. Moreover, indirect reflective control helps explain how we can be held accountable for each. (shrink)
This is a unique collection of new and recently-published articles which debate the merits of virtue-theoretic approaches to the core epistemological issues of knowledge and justified belief. The readings all contribute to our understanding of the relative importance, for a theory of justified belief, of the reliability of our cognitive faculties and of the individuals responsibility in gathering and weighing evidence. Highlights of the readings include direct exchanges between leading exponents of this approach and their critics.
Can a person ever occurrently believe p and yet have the simultaneous, occurrent belief q that this very belief that p is false? Surely not, most would say: that description of a person’s epistemic economy seems to misunderstand the very concept of belief. In this paper I question this orthodox assumption. There are, I suggest, cases where we have a first-order mental state m that involves taking the world to be a certain way, yet although we ourselves (...) acknowledge that we are in m, we reflectively disavow m’s propositional content. If such an epistemic stance is possible, does this irrationally persistent first-order state m really deserve the title of belief, or should it instead be classified under some other, less doxastic appellation? I argue in this paper that the belief terminology is warranted, and thus, that we can be correctly described as having the second-order belief that a specific first-order belief that we nonetheless continue to hold is false. In such cases, our first-order state is what I refer to as a naughty belief. Like naughty toddlers, naughty beliefs are recalcitrant in the face of epistemic authority. (shrink)
We propose a dynamic hyperintensional logic of belief revision for non-omniscient agents, reducing the logical omniscience phenomena affecting standard doxastic/epistemic logic as well as AGM belief revision theory. Our agents don’t know all a priori truths; their belief states are not closed under classical logical consequence; and their belief update policies are such that logically or necessarily equivalent contents can lead to different revisions. We model both plain and conditional belief, then focus on dynamic (...) class='Hi'>belief revision. The key idea we exploit to achieve non-omniscience focuses on topic- or subject matter-sensitivity: a feature of belief states which is gaining growing attention in the recent literature. (shrink)
According to a widely held view of assertion and belief, they are each governed by a tacitly acknowledged epistemic norm, and the norm on assertion and norm on belief are so related that believing p is epistemically permissible only if asserting it is. I call it the Same Norm View. A very common type of utterance raises a puzzle for this view, viz. utterances in which we say ‘I believe p' to convey somehow guarded affirmation of the proposition (...) that p. For example, one might respond to a query for directions to the station by saying ‘I believe it is down the first street on your left.' Often, when we reply in this way, it would have been pragmatically preferable simply to assert that p, had we been epistemically warranted in doing so. One's guarded reply thus suggests one is not so warranted. Nevertheless, if one believes what one, at face value, says one believes, one believes p. Contrary to what might seem to be suggested by the Same Norm View, one does not seem to portray oneself as irrational or epistemically beyond the pale in replying in this way. The paper develops this puzzle in detail, and examines a variety of options for a resolving it consistently with the Same Norm view. The most promising of these options, I argue, is to see ‘I believe' guarded affirmations as a form merely approximately correct speech. They would, though, be a form of such speech that interestingly differs from paradigm cases of loose use or conventional hyperbole in that speakers would be comparatively unaware of engaging in approximation. I conclude ‘I believe’—guarded affirmations either show the Same Norm View to be false or must be recognised as such an interestingly distinctive form of merely approximately correct speech. (shrink)
McFetridge (in Logical necessity and other essays . London: Blackwell, 1990 ) suggests that to treat a proposition as logically necessary—to believe a proposition logically necessary, and to manifest that belief—is a matter of preparedness to deploy that proposition as a premise in reasoning from any supposition. We consider whether a suggestion in that spirit can be generalized to cover all cases of absolute necessity, both logical and non-logical, and we conclude that it can. In Sect. 2, we explain (...) the significance that such an account of manifestation of belief in absolute necessity has for the prospects of a non-realist theory of modality. In Sect. 3, we offer a sympathetic articulation of the detail that underlies the McFetridge conception of belief in logical necessity. In Sects. 4 and 5, we show that the conception so articulated will not generalize to encompass all cases of belief in absolute necessity and proceed to offer a remedy. Our proposal is based upon a distinction between two kinds of suppositional act: A-supposing and C-supposing (Sect. 6). In Sect. 7, we then explain and defend our central thesis: (roughly) that (manifestation of) belief in absolute necessity is a matter of preparedness to deploy as a premise in reasoning under any C-supposition. Finally, we indicate that there is some promise in the parallel thesis that manifestation of the treatment of a proposition as a priori is a matter of preparedness to deploy as a premise in reasoning under any A-supposition (Sect. 8). (shrink)
This book offers solutions to two persistent and I believe closely related problems in epistemology. The first problem is that of drawing a principled distinction between perception and inference: what is the difference between seeing that something is the case and merely believing it on the basis of what we do see? The second problem is that of specifying which beliefs are epistemologically basic (i.e., directly, or noninferentially, justified) and which are not. I argue that what makes a belief (...) a perceptual belief, or a basic belief, is not any introspectible feature of the belief but rather the nature of the cognitive system, or "module", that is causally responsible for the belief. Thus, even zombies, who in the philosophical literature lack conscious experiences altogether, can have basic, justified, perceptual beliefs. -/- The theories of perceptual and basic beliefs developed in the monograph are embedded in a larger reliabilist epistemology. I use this theory of basic beliefs to develop a detailed reliabilist theory: Inferentialist Reliabilism, which offers a reliabilist theory of inferential justification and which solves some longstanding problems for other reliabilist views by demanding inferential support for some—but not all—beliefs. The book is an instance of a thoroughgoingly naturalistic approach to epistemology. Many of my arguments have an empirical basis, and the view that I endorse reserves a central role for the cognitive sciences—in particular, cognitive neuroscience—in filling in the details of an applied epistemological theory. (shrink)
I propose to analyze the concept of basing beliefs on reasons. The concept is an important one in understanamg the so-called "inferential" or "indirect" knowledge. After briefly stating the causal analyses of this concept given by D.M. Armstrong and Marshall Swain I will present two cases which show these analyses to be too strong and too weak. Finally, I will propose an analysis which avoids these twin difficulties.
Double dissociations between perceivable colors and physical properties of colored objects have led many philosophers to endorse relationalist accounts of color. I argue that there are analogous double dissociations between *attitudes* of belief—the beliefs that people attribute to each other in everyday life—and intrinsic *cognitive states* of belief—the beliefs that some cognitive scientists posit as cogs in cognitive systems—pitched at every level of psychological explanation. These dissociations provide good reason to refrain from conflating attitudes of belief with (...) intrinsic cognitive states of belief. I suggest that interpretivism provides an attractive account of the former (insofar as they are not conflated with the latter). Like colors, attitudes of belief evolved to be ecological signifiers, not cogs in cognitive systems. (shrink)
It is standardly assumed that a religious commitment needs to be based upon religious belief, if it is to be rationally acceptable. In this thesis, that assumption is rejected. I argue for the feasibility of belief-less religion, with a focus on the approach commonly known as “non-doxasticism”. According to non-doxasticism, a religious life might be properly based on some cognitive attitude weaker than belief, like hope, acceptance or belief-less assumption. It provides a way of being religious (...) open exclusively to the agnostic. This thesis consists of an introductory essay and five independent papers. The aim of the introductory essay is to provide a general background and set the stage for the discussion in the papers. Its first major part is about the rationality of religious belief. I assess three major ways of providing rational justification for religious belief: natural theology, the reformed epistemology of A. Plantinga and W. Alston, and voluntarism as advocated by B. Pascal and W. James. I highlight some of the most serious problems associated with these approaches, and argue that these problems are enough to warrant an exploration of belief-less alternatives. The second major part of the introductory essayintroduces belief-less religion and its two main forms: fictionalism and non-doxasticism. Both approaches are presented in some detail, including important accounts and current developments. While I would not deny thatboth approaches can be defended as intellectually feasible and rationally acceptable ways of being religious, I also explain why I think non-doxasticism is to be preferred over fictionalism. Paper I and II concerns the account of non-doxastic religion offered by J. L. Schellenberg. Paper I raises some problems for Schellenberg’s analysis of propositional faith, and presents a way of handling these problems by making faith occasional. Paper II argues that non-doxasticism should be focused on traditional religion rathar than Schellenberg’s simple ultimism. Paper III and IV concerns non-doxasticism on a more general level. Paper III argues for the superiority of non-doxasticism over fictionalism. It contains the argument for exclusive availability, according to which only non-doxasticism is rationally available to the pro-religious agnostic. Paper IV explores the notion of rational, non-doxastic faith, and argues for three desiderata any such faith must meet. Unlike the other papers, Paper V is primarily connected to the first part of the introductory essay, and it concerns the scope and limit of natural theology. It is tentatively argued that perfect being theism lies outside the scope of natural theology, and that its most prominent arguments at best support some kind of deism. (shrink)
Aaron Zimmerman presents a new pragmatist account of belief, in terms of information poised to guide our more attentive, controlled actions. And he explores the consequences of this account for our understanding of the relation between psychology and philosophy, the mind and brain, the nature of delusion, faith, pretence, racism, and more.
Let propositionalism be the thesis that all mental attitudes are propositional. Anti-propositionalists typically point at apparently non-propositional attitudes, such as fearing a dog and loving a spouse, and play defense against attempts at propositional analysis of such attitudes. Here I explore the anti-propositionalist’s prospects for going on the offensive, trying to show that some apparently propositional attitudes, notably belief and judgment, can be given non-propositional analysis. Although the notion that belief is a non-propositional attitude may seem ludicrous at (...) first, it is admirably defended by Franz Brentano, whose analysis I propose to expound, update, and deepen here. The basic strategy can be thought of as follows. First, although the grammar of belief-that reports clearly suggests a propositional attitude, the grammar of belief-in reports suggests instead an ‘objectual’ attitude. Second, with some ingenuity all belief-that reports can be paraphrased into belief-in reports. Third, given certain general considerations, this paraphraseability recommends the view that the psychological reality of belief states is objectual rather than propositional. Nonetheless, I will argue, there are two very real costs associated with this non-propositional analysis of belie. (shrink)
Philosophers commonly say that beliefs come in degrees. Drawing from the literature, I make precise three arguments for this claim: an argument from degrees of confidence, an argument from degrees of firmness, and an argument from natural language. I show that they all fail. I also advance three arguments that beliefs do not come in degrees: an argument from natural language, an argument from intuition, and an argument from the metaphysics of degrees. On the basis of these arguments, I conclude (...) that beliefs do not come in degrees. (shrink)
This study develops a Science–Technology–Society (STS)-based science ethics education program for high school students majoring in or planning to major in science and engineering. Our education program includes the fields of philosophy, history, sociology and ethics of science and technology, and other STS-related theories. We expected our STS-based science ethics education program to promote students’ epistemological beliefs and moral judgment development. These psychological constructs are needed to properly solve complicated moral and social dilemmas in the fields of science and engineering. (...) We applied this program to a group of Korean high school science students gifted in science and engineering. To measure the effects of this program, we used an essay-based qualitative measurement. The results indicate that there was significant development in both epistemological beliefs and moral judgment. In closing, we briefly discuss the need to develop epistemological beliefs and moral judgment using an STS-based science ethics education program. (shrink)
Is propositional religious faith constituted by belief? Recent debate has focussed on whether faith may be constituted by a positive non-doxastic cognitive state, which can stand in place of belief. This paper sets out and defends the doxastic theory. We consider and reject three arguments commonly used in favour of non-doxastic theories of faith: (1) the argument from religious doubt; (2) the use of ‘faith’ in linguistic utterances; and (3) the possibility of pragmatic faith. We argue that (...) class='Hi'>belief is required to maintain a distinction between genuine faith, pretend faith, and fictionalist faith. (shrink)
What is the relationship between degrees of belief and binary beliefs? Can the latter be expressed as a function of the former—a so-called “belief-binarization rule”—without running into difficulties such as the lottery paradox? We show that this problem can be usefully analyzed from the perspective of judgment-aggregation theory. Although some formal similarities between belief binarization and judgment aggregation have been noted before, the connection between the two problems has not yet been studied in full generality. In this (...) paper, we seek to fill this gap. The paper is organized around a baseline impossibility theorem, which we use to map out the space of possible solutions to the belief-binarization problem. Our theorem shows that, except in limiting cases, there exists no belief-binarization rule satisfying four initially plausible desiderata. Surprisingly, this result is a direct corollary of the judgment-aggregation variant of Arrow’s classic impossibility theorem in social choice theory. (shrink)
My paper characterizes religious beliefs in terms of vagueness. I introduce my topic by providing a general overview of my main claims. In the subsequent section, I develop basic distinctions and terminology for handling the notion of religious tradition and capturing vagueness. In the following sections, I make the case for my claim that religious beliefs are vague by developing a general argument from the interconnection between the referential opacity of religious belief content and the long-term communitarian history of (...) the precisification of what such content means. I start from describing an empirical example in the third section, and then I move to settle the matter in a conceptually argumentative frame in the fourth one. My conclusions in the final section address a few of consequences relevant to debates about religious epistemology and religious diversity. (shrink)
It is plausible that there are epistemic reasons bearing on a distinctively epistemic standard of correctness for belief. It is also plausible that there are a range of practical reasons bearing on what to believe. These theses are often thought to be in tension with each other. Most significantly for our purposes, it is obscure how epistemic reasons and practical reasons might interact in the explanation of what one ought to believe. We draw an analogy with a similar distinction (...) between types of reasons for actions in the context of activities. The analogy motivates a two-level account of the structure of normativity that explains the interaction of correctness-based and other reasons. This account relies upon a distinction between normative reasons and authoritatively normative reasons. Only the latter play the reasons role in explaining what state one ought to be in. All and only practical reasons are authoritative reasons. Hence, in one important sense, all reasons for belief are practical reasons. But this account also preserves the autonomy and importance of epistemic reasons. Given the importance of having true beliefs about the world, our epistemic standard typically plays a key role in many cases in explaining what we ought to believe. In addition to reconciling (versions of) evidentialism and pragmatism, this two-level account has implications for a range of important debates in normative theory, including the interaction of right and wrong reasons for actions and other attitudes, the significance of reasons in understanding normativity and authoritative normativity, the distinction between ‘formal’ and ‘substantive’ normativity, and whether there is a unified source of authoritative normativity. (shrink)
Radical moral encroachment is the view that belief itself is morally evaluable, and that some moral properties of belief itself make a difference to epistemic rationality. To date, almost all proponents of radical moral encroachment hold to an asymmetry thesis: the moral encroaches on rational belief, but not on rational credence. In this paper, we argue against the asymmetry thesis; we show that, insofar as one accepts the most prominent arguments for radical moral encroachment on belief, (...) one should likewise accept radical moral encroachment on credence. We outline and reject potential attempts to establish a basis for asymmetry between the attitude types. Then, we explore the merits and demerits of the two available responses to our symmetry claim: (i) embracing moral encroachment on credence and (ii) denying moral encroachment on belief. (shrink)
Although the commonly accepted view is that there are such things as natural talents, more than 20 years of research suggests the opposite. What passes for talented is attributable to a combination of social and environmental factors. If the current research on this topic holds true, then there are implications not only for various theories of distributive justice, but there are also serious implication for real world distributions. In this article I will argue that talent is not innate and that (...) our belief in its innateness has serious theoretical and practical implications for distributive justice. Many of these implications can be seen in the ways resources and opportunities are distributed; particularly in the way they affect distributions to children. (shrink)
We distinguish between two categories of belief—thin belief and thick belief—and provide evidence that they approximate genuinely distinct categories within folk psychology. We use the distinction to make informative predictions about how laypeople view the relationship between knowledge and belief. More specifically, we show that if the distinction is genuine, then we can make sense of otherwise extremely puzzling recent experimental findings on the entailment thesis (i.e. the widely held philosophical thesis that knowledge entails belief). (...) We also suggest that the distinction can be applied to debates in the philosophy of mind and metaethics. (shrink)
It is argued that the intuitively sanctioned distinction between beliefs and non-belief states that play a role in the proximate causal history of beliefs is a distinction worth preserving in cognitive psychology. The intuitive distinction is argued to rest on a pair of features exhibited by beliefs but not by subdoxastic states. These are access to consciousness and inferential integration. Harman's view, which denies the distinction between beliefs and subdoxastic states, is discussed and criticized.
In this paper, I explore the question of whether the expected consequences of holding a belief can affect the rationality of doing so. Special attention is given to various ways in which one might attempt to exert some measure of control over what one believes and the normative status of the beliefs that result from the successful execution of such projects. I argue that the lessons which emerge from thinking about the case ofbelief have important implications for the way (...) we should think about the rationality of a number of other propositional attitudes,such as regret, desire, and fear. Finally,I suggest that a lack of clarity with respect to the relevant issues has given rise to a number of rather serious philosophical mistakes. (shrink)
On many of the idealized models of human cognition and behavior in use by philosophers, agents are represented as having a single corpus of beliefs which (a) is consistent and deductively closed, and (b) guides all of their (rational, deliberate, intentional) actions all the time. In graded-belief frameworks, agents are represented as having a single, coherent distribution of credences, which guides all of their (rational, deliberate, intentional) actions all of the time. It's clear that actual human beings don't live (...) up to this idealization. The systems of belief that we in fact have are fragmented. Rather than having a single system of beliefs that guides all of our behavior all of the time, we have a number of distinct, compartmentalized systems of belief, different ones of which drive different aspects of our behavior in different contexts. It's tempting to think that, while of course people are fragmented, it would be better (from the perspective of rationality) if they weren't, and the only reason why our fragmentation is excusable is that we have limited cognitive resources, which prevents us from holding too much information before our minds at a time. Give us enough additional processing capacity, and there'd be no justification for any continued fragmentation. I argue that this is not so. There are good reasons to be fragmented rather than unified, independent of the limitations on our available processing power. In particular, there are ways our belief-forming mechanisms—including our perceptual systems—could be constructed that would make it better to be fragmented than to be unified. And there are reasons to think that some of our belief-forming mechanisms really are constructed that way. (shrink)
This paper compares two alternative explanations of pragmatic encroachment on knowledge (i.e., the claim that whether an agent knows that p can depend on pragmatic factors). After reviewing the evidence for such pragmatic encroachment, we ask how it is best explained, assuming it obtains. Several authors have recently argued that the best explanation is provided by a particular account of belief, which we call pragmatic credal reductivism. On this view, what it is for an agent to believe a proposition (...) is for her credence in this proposition to be above a certain threshold, a threshold that varies depending on pragmatic factors. We show that while this account of belief can provide an elegant explanation of pragmatic encroachment on knowledge, it is not alone in doing so, for an alternative account of belief, which we call the reasoning disposition account, can do so as well. And the latter account, we argue, is far more plausible than pragmatic credal reductivism, since it accords far better with a number of claims about belief that are very hard to deny. (shrink)
Arguments attempting to debunk moral beliefs, by showing they are unjustified, have tended to be global, targeting all moral beliefs or a large set of them. Popular debunking arguments point to various factors purportedly influencing moral beliefs, from evolutionary pressures, to automatic and emotionally-driven processes, to framing effects. We show that these sweeping arguments face a debunker’s dilemma: either the relevant factor is not a main basis for belief or it does not render the relevant beliefs unjustified. Empirical debunking (...) arguments in ethics can avoid this predicament, but only if they are refocused on highly selective classes of moral belief. Experimental data can combine with familiar consistency reasoning to reveal that like cases are not being treated alike. Selective debunking arguments are unlikely to yield sweeping sceptical conclusions, but they can lead to rational moral change. (shrink)
A theory of radical interpretation gives the meanings of all sentences of a language, and can be verified by evidence available to someone who does not understand the language. Such evidence cannot include detailed information concerning the beliefs and intentions of speakers, and therefore the theory must simultaneously interpret the utterances of speakers and specify (some of) his beliefs. Analogies and connections with decision theory suggest the kind of theory that will serve for radical interpretation, and how permissible evidence can (...) support it. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend a well-known theory of belief reports from an important objection. The theory is Russellianism, sometimes also called `neo-Russellianism', `Millianism', `the direct reference theory', `the "Fido"-Fido theory', or `the naive theory'. The objection concernssubstitution of co-referring names in belief sentences. Russellianism implies that any two belief sentences, that differ only in containing distinct co-referring names, express the same proposition (in any given context). Since `Hesperus' and `Phosphorus' both refer to the planet Venus, this (...) view implies that all utterances of (1) and.. (shrink)
It is tempting to posit an intimate relationship between belief and assertion. The speech act of assertion seems like a way of transferring the speaker’s belief to his or her audience. If this is right, then you might think that the evidential warrant required for asserting a proposition is just the same as the warrant for believing it. We call this thesis entitlement equality. We argue here that entitlement equality is false, because our everyday notion of belief (...) is unambiguously a weak one. Believing something is true, we argue, is compatible with having relatively little confidence in it. Asserting something requires something closer to complete confidence. Specifically, we argue that believing a proposition merely requires thinking it likely, but that thinking that a proposition is likely does not entitle one to assert it. This conclusion conflict with a standard view that ‘full belief’ is the central commonsense non-factive attitude. (shrink)
This paper argues for two theses: that degrees of belief are context sensitive; that outright belief is belief to degree 1. The latter thesis is rejected quickly in most discussions of the relationship between credence and belief, but the former thesis undermines the usual reasons for doing so. Furthermore, identifying belief with credence 1 allows nice solutions to a number of problems for the most widely-held view of the relationship between credence and belief, the (...) threshold view. I provide a sketch of a formal framework on which both theses are true. This is a modified Bayesian framework; I argue that despite making credences context-sensitive, the framework lets Bayesians hold on to their signature explanatory successes. The sort of context-sensitivity claimed for credences here mirrors the sort of context-sensitivity I have elsewhere claimed for outright belief: one's credences depend, in part, on the space of alternative possibilities one takes seriously in a context. (shrink)
I argue that any account of imagination should satisfy the following three desiderata. First, imaginations induce actions only in conjunction with beliefs about the environment of the imagining subject. Second, there is a continuum between imaginations and beliefs. Recognizing this continuum is crucial to explain the phenomenon of imaginative immersion. Third, the mental states that relate to imaginations in the way that desires relate to beliefs are a special kind of desire, namely desires to make true in fiction. These desires (...) to make true in fiction do not differ from regular desires in kind, but only in content. I argue for these three desiderata in turn by critically discussing several recent accounts of imagination. (shrink)
Most work in Kant’s epistemology focuses on what happens “upstream” from experience, prior to the formation of conscious propositional attitudes. By contrast, this essay focuses on what happens "downstream": the formation of assent (Fuerwahrhalten) in its various modes. The mode of assent that Kant calls "Belief" (Glaube) is the main topic: not only moral Belief but also "pragmatic" and "doctrinal" Belief as well. I argue that Kant’s discussion shows that we should reject standard accounts of the extent (...) to which theoretical reason can provide justified assent about things-in-themselves, in favor of one that is much more liberal. Interpretive benefits are not the only results of the discussion, however. I also hope it will become clear along the way that there is such a thing as Kantian Belief, and that we often have quite a lot of it. -/- . (shrink)
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