• creativesoul
    2.6k
    I've arrived at the conclusion that belief is not existentially dependent upon our awareness of it. It is not existentially dependent upon language. Rather, it exists in a simplistic and yet wholly complete form long prior to our ever becoming aware of it. It is formed and held long before humans ever begin to use language as a means to express it. This sort of non linguistic belief is the product of a basic elemental constituency that remains at the core of even the most complex linguistic constructs, conceptions, notions, and/or and utterances. Thus, as is the case with everything else that is not existentially dependent upon our awareness, it is possible to get it wrong. Our knowing this much, our becoming aware that we have belief is dependent upon language. Much of the belief we become aware of is not. Our knowledge has it's own existential criterion. What our knowledge is of can have it's own existential criterion, and that need not include our knowledge. Rudimentary belief is one such thing.
  • creativesoul
    2.6k
    This topic is of particular interest to me. I hope to convey my thoughts on the matter affectively. Discourse about belief is the most important philosophical conversation. This heightened value is placed upon the topic for the following reasons. Everything ever spoken and/or written throughout human history consists of and/or is based upon belief. There are no examples to the contrary. As such this consideration has very serious and far-reaching implications.

    If we get belief wrong, then we've gotten something wrong about everything ever written and/or spoken. I can think of no broader scope of consequence and application. There is no stronger justificatory ground for doing everything we can to get it right.

    Here the reasonable skeptic may question what getting belief wrong would even look like. That's a fair question. There is no single answer, for there are all sorts of ways to get it wrong. Perhaps the skeptic would want to know how one could even come to know that this or that notion of belief is wrong as compared/contrasted to not, and would ask what counts as either. Again, a fair question. Perhaps the skeptic may point out that in order to know that we have gotten belief wrong, there would need to be a way to know that; a dependable means of comparing wrong notions of belief with right ones(assuming one can be right). Presumably whatever one uses to determine that a specific notion is right wouldn't - couldn't - be just another notion. Rather, there would have to be something that is entirely existentially independent of language and thus of all notions of "belief" by which to compare and thus evaluate our notions. That's quite the justificatory burden, and again a fair criticism. These are all valid concerns and are given due attention.

    Seeing how our attention to the subject, and my own knowledge of the matter comes exclusively via complex language, it is imperative to consider different notions and/or accepted uses of the term "belief". Banno and the the thread have been helpful here, but it's been an inadequate discussion in several ways. For one, a crucial distinction between belief and reports thereof has been left sorely neglected. Adequate understanding of belief can only be had by virtue of doing so, and thus we must. A distinction that sheds much needed light on an otherwise darkened understanding is worthy of being drawn and maintained. This is one such distinction. The earlier failure to draw and maintain it led to a plurality of absurdities.

    There has also been a lack of effort to isolate all the different uses of "belief" as a means to establish what they all have in common in terms of existential dependency and elemental constituency. There's much to be discussed. So beginning here by targeting belief reports and continuing in the vein of looking for common denominators, the following question is apt...

    What do all belief statements have in common with all other kinds of belief?

    One could loosely think of the methodology in the following way...

    Apple pies consist of apples, flour, cinnamon, sugar, etc. Some of these ingredients can be removed and what's left remains a pie. Others, not so much. I put it to you, the reader, that we can perform much the same kind of analysis concerning belief, and we can do so with a warranted measure of confidence. In the end, we arrive at everything necessary to say that we have an example of belief.

    Is there a set of individual elements - complete things all on their own - which, when combined, offer us all of the necessary 'ingredients' to have an example of belief? I can imagine such a group of necessary elemental constituents. If there is not such a set, we're wasting time. However, if there is such a group of elements then it will be the case that each will be found as necessary and the combination of them all will be sufficient. That is to say that a set of individual elemental constituents will provide everything needed for belief to be formed and/or held. Belief is emergent. It is also worth noting that their discovery alone provides more than adequate a negation against any previous and/or subsequent denial of their existence.

    What's important here is to look for common denominators within all belief reports as a means for ascertaining common denominators in all belief, including reports thereof. If it is the case that all belief reports share a common basic core with all other belief, then that common core will be present in the belief statements. We have easy access to those. They are germane. So, we set out what belief reports are existentially dependent upon along with what they consist of first. Then we can compare this to other kinds of belief in order to establish if other belief is existentially dependent upon the same things, and if other belief consist of the same things. If we can rightfully say that they are and they do, then we can confidently conclude that that elemental constituency and/or that existential dependency is common to all belief. To the contrary, if belief statements are existentially dependent upon something that other belief is not, then not all belief are existentially dependent upon the same things. If all belief reports consist of the same thing, but other belief does not, then not all belief consist of the same thing.

    Many throughout history have noted that all belief reports consist entirely of meaningful predication. There are no known examples to the contrary. It is rightfully granted. All belief reports consist entirely of common language. There are no known examples to the contrary. This is also readily granted. We look at the following consequence.

    If all belief is existentially dependent upon common language and/or any other form of meaningful predication, then it only follows that non linguistic creatures cannot form and/or hold belief. So here one must choose between two contrary positions, lest incoherency results. Either non linguistic creatures can form and hold belief, or all belief is existentially dependent upon common language and meaningful predication. If we choose the latter, this exercise is complete. The consequence is that we cannot admit that non linguistic creatures believe anything at all. However, if we deny that all belief is existentially dependent upon meaningful predication and common language, then we can accept that non linguistic creatures have belief, but this has it's own serious consequence.

    If non-linguistic creatures are capable of having belief, then it only follows that neither meaningful predication nor common language is necessary for all belief. Thus, non linguistic belief must consist of something other than meaningful predication and common language. In addition, meaningful predication and common language must also consist of the same thing that non linguistic belief does, otherwise we wouldn't be able to rightfully conclude the commonality. This should not be of surprise to us. Remember, that at conception we are void of all belief and belief grows in it's complexity. So, predication and common language are inadequate. We must look for other commonalities.

    It ought be fairly uncontroversial that all belief presupposes it's own truth. That is also a commonality between belief reports. All belief must also be meaningful to the creature forming and/or holding it. Again, this is also common to all belief reports. So, upon further consideration, if we choose to deny that all belief is existentially dependent upon meaningful predication and common language, but we agree that all belief presupposes truth and is meaningful to the believing creature, then we must be able to provide adequate explanation of how non linguistic creatures' belief can presuppose truth and be meaningful to the creature themselves. That's yet another heavy justificatory burden.

    Brute physiological sensory perception combined with spatiotemporal distinction and the ability to draw correlations(connections, associations, etc.) between objects of physiological sensory perception and/or the creature itself. Those are the basic conditions and/or elements required for the emergence of meaningful thought and belief, replete with the presupposition of truth(as correspondence no less!). It's a minimalist criterion with maximum impact.

    Those are adequate for non linguistic belief, and remain at the very core of all other thought and belief.
  • creativesoul
    2.6k


    So, I've worked out the answer to your earlier question of why all correlation constitues being belief. All belief consists of it. It presupposes truth. It attributes meaning, and thus is meaningful to the creature drawing the correlations.

    Do you find fault?
  • creativesoul
    2.6k
    Edited out a mistake...
  • Sapientia
    5.6k
    Are there? Again, that's the issue.Banno

    Yes, there are. There is no issue, except your repeated failure to present reasonable grounds for doubting what we know. I have no more reason to doubt that there are beliefs than that there is knowledge or thought or eyesight or...
  • creativesoul
    2.6k
    Propositional attitude is one's belief(or lack thereof) about whether or not a proposition is true. That would be belief about the truth of a statement. Here one can be uncertain. "I'm not sure if 'X' is true" is equivalent to "I do not believe that 'X' is true". One can also be certain. "I'm sure that 'X' is true" is equivalent to "I believe that 'X' is true". Let 'X' be "The keys are in the kitchen". So, while certainty is indicative of belief regarding the keys' location as well as belief that 'X' is true, uncertainty is indicative of a lack thereof. One shows belief. The other does not. Both are propositional attitudes.

    Belief is not equivalent to propositional attitude.
  • Cabbage Farmer
    165
    And what is certainty? Is it logical: deductive certainty or psychological:feeling certain; or is there some other kind of certainty?Janus
    An important issue for our conversation.

    As you suggest, we may distinguish formal (deductive, logico-mathematical) certainty from psychological certainty. I would also call out a sort of methodological, procedural, or practical certainty, for instance the certainty of the quality assurance manager. Perhaps this third is the most useful sort.

    I'm not sure psychological certainty should be accounted for primarily in terms of affect. For one speaker might treat a strong feeling of certainty as merely a strong feeling of certainty, and still leave room for doubt, while another speaker might respond to the same feeling as a feeling of absolute certainty, and leave no room for doubt. It seems the difference is in general best construed as conceptual and practical, not affective. What matters here is how we've learned to think about, to speak and act in light of, such feelings.

    I'm inclined to suggest that ordinarily, one who takes a strong feeling of certainty for a state of perfect indubitability and infallibility is epistemologically naive and less reasonable than one who leaves room for doubt even in the presence of such feelings. One always has recourse to a context of doubt.


    If you know how to do something is it a coherent question to ask yourself whether you are certain that you know how to do it?Janus
    My know-how and my belief that I know how are two different things.

    Moreover: this doing, my memory of similar past doings, my experience of presently doing, my conceptualization of such doings, my linguistic descriptions and communication with others about the doings… Each is distinguishable from the others. There's plenty of room to wonder about the adequacy and correlation of such items and to insert hypothetical counterexamples and grounds for doubt into each case.


    Or is it an appropriate question to ask yourself whether you believe that you know how to do it?Janus
    In some cases it may be appropriate, albeit cumbersome. A more direct approach would be to inquire: Do I (really) know how to do it? For my answer to this question informs us about the relevant belief.


    Or that you know that you know how to do it?Janus
    I'm wary of this kind of recursive use of verbs like "to know".

    If in fact I know how, and believe that I know how, and have good reason to believe that I know how… then we say I know that I know how.

    What might it mean to question whether "I really know that I know how…"? Depends what we're asking: We could be asking about the know-how, does it really exist. We could be asking about the belief that I know how, is it clearly conceptualized, is it adequately grounded, is it overruled by urgent doubts? We could be asking about the characterization of the belief, does it count as "knowledge"?

    Whether such questions are appropriate depends on particulars of each case. For instance, how uncertain is the agent in his own ability? How credible is the evidence of his past performance? How urgent is the need for action? How dire the consequences of poor performance?


    Are these all not just conceptual elaborations upon that which is obvious, rendering that which was obvious to be no longer obvious, or even uncontroversially believable?Janus
    How do you mean?

    I might say most good philosophy involves conceptual elaboration of what's obvious.

    It's obvious to me that I'm sitting in a chair. I believe I'm sitting in a chair, I believe I know that I'm sitting in a chair, and I am practically certain that I am sitting in a chair.

    It seems to me I have today about the same practical certainty in such matters that I did before I lost my epistemological innocence. The difference is that I have learned to locate this practical certainty in a broader theoretical context. I understand that my practical certainty is compatible with theoretical doubt and hypothetical counterexamples, that even in such obvious cases my judgment is fallible in principle, my view of the evidence is fallible in principle.
  • Cabbage Farmer
    165
    Yes - I agree. Certainty, however, entails belief. Knowledge - well, in the end, that's one of the results of belief; and if one accepts JBT, knowledge entails belief.Banno
    I'm not sure I'd characterize the relation among these terms quite that way.

    For instance, I might prefer at least in some cases to say that "belief is one of the results of knowledge", and in some cases to say "doubt is one of the results of knowledge". And I find myself inclined to deny that certainty (of every sort) entails belief.

    Using two senses of "certainty" like those Janus pointed out above, I suppose "psychological" certainty entails belief but does not entail justification or truth, whereas "formal" certainty does not entail psychological certainty and in this respect may always be doubted in principle.

    I suppose, moreover, that in at least many cases "formal" certainty may be theoretically reframed so as to make formal room for doubt.

    I'll allow that at least some sort of JTB counts as knowledge. It seems there are other sorts of knowledge (acquaintance, know-how), and it's not immediately clear how to account for them in terms of the propositional knowledge that JTB models tend to take for granted. Accordingly, one might agree that at least some sorts of JTB entail knowledge, while denying that knowledge in general entails JTB.


    What might be interesting to discuss is whether certainty entails knowledge. If Moore's "here is a hand" does not present a justification for believing in an external reality, but instead shows a certainty in an external reality, then belief in an external reality is certain and yet not known.Banno
    I'm never sure what "internal" and "external" are supposed to mean in such contexts, and I prefer to avoid the whole distinction. Or let Moore clarify the matter till we have a clear idea what's at stake in his demonstrations.

    It seems to me Moore knows, and has a justified true belief, that he has a hand. It seems doubtful to me that Moore's belief that he has a hand can play the role he's trying to force it into in his strange epistemologist's game.

    We might say Moore's certainty about something called "the external world" is merely psychological, not based on any justification. On the other hand, if his theory leaves no room for an alternative, isn't he in a sense "justified" and "formally certain" in the context of his own thoughts? But we reject his conceptual framework, and thus undermine his justification. If he wants to persuade us, he'll have to do better.

    I expect there's too much slippage between various senses of the term "certainty" in this approach.


    Indeed! Further evidence, perhaps, that using belief to explain an act has a post-hoc character. John ate a sandwich. That he was hungry and believed eating the sandwich would cure his hunger is sufficient to explain why he ate the sandwich, but not to predict that he will act in the same way next time.Banno
    It's never a sufficient causal explanation, whether the event is past or future. It's a sufficient explanation for us, who consider the matter casually at a rough level of description, and take the rest of the circumstances for granted without a refined understanding of them.


    Make it a conjunction of disjunctions. Someone who believes in god is disposed to (go to church on Sunday and say their prayers at night) or (go to a mosque on Friday and give money to charity) or...

    The question then is can any belief be reduced to such a conjunction of actions?
    Banno
    I can't picture it working that way. Unless maybe "actions" includes, or is restricted to, things like "thinking these thoughts" and "asserting these propositions".

    On the other hand, I suppose we could blow it up the other way: Assign a "belief" to each of us, corresponding to the sum total of his actions…. It's not clear what use there is for such constructs.

    Between these two extremes, note that some religious customs make proposals like yours: They define "true" members of their faith as individuals who perform certain prescribed actions. Of course we can pick out various collections of "believer" this way, but this is not the only way to carve up the universe of believers.

    What is gained by this method of categorization?
  • BrianW
    33
    To me, belief is synonymous with understanding. The claim, "I believe in such and such," is just that, a claim or a statement. Usually without proper refernce to the truth behind it.

    Even scientists claim the sky is blue. But, if you question the validity of it, they admit that it's just something which represents 'sense-perception' but not actual reality. That is because the reality of it runs along the lines of, "...ozone diffusing the blue spectrum of light..., etc."
    Suppose, if a thug held a gun to the face of a 'man of faith' and threatened to kill them, would the 'man of faith' proceed nonchalantly with their business because life is God's property or do they beg against it in attempts to gain salvation from that precarious situation? It would not be that the 'man of faith' does not claim to believe in God, but it's more that he knows when the situation calls for a different tactic, something close to what he can actually bring to fruition. This is probably because he knows that try as he might, his prayers may not bring him deliverance; or perhaps he just isn't sure enough to risk it. Is that still faith?

    I think in both cases, the scientist and the 'man of faith' are alike. They use statements to reflect a generalized idea even when it is not the reality they hold in their understanding.

    'Faith without action is dead' => This may actually support the definition of faith as being synonymous with understanding. We always act according to our understanding and that is the truth about our faith even against the statements we claim. If someone attempted to perform something they did not understand, they would fail. Hence, if the performance claimed a faith-relation then the failure would reveal it as a lie.
  • Banno
    2.9k
    we may distinguish formal (deductive, logico-mathematical) certainty from psychological certainty.Cabbage Farmer

    This puzzles me. I am not aware of any system of logic or mathematics that makes use of "certain" or "certainty" as a term.

    Rather, they use "true" and "truth".

    Certainty is not like truth. Being certain of a given proposition is adopting a particular attitude towards it; but things will be true or false regardless of one's attitude.
  • Pattern-chaser
    112
    To me, belief is synonymous with understanding. The claim, "I believe in such and such," is just that, a claim or a statement. Usually without proper reference to the truth behind it.BrianW

    To me, something I believe is something I hold to be true. This carries with it the clear understanding that I may be wrong, and it may not be true. It's just that I believe it to be. I use this understanding often, saying mostly "I believe" to emphasise my own fallibility. Rarely, I say "I know", if/when I feel that I have justified and justifiable knowledge of something. [This doesn't happen often.] Careful use of "believe" and "know" contribute much to clarity of thought, IMO. YMMV. :wink:
  • Banno
    2.9k
    Here is a fact: the cat is on the mat.

    Here is a statement of that fact: "The cat is on the mat".

    There is a fact that is named in the statement of that fact. Hence the quote marks.

    @creativesoul believes that the cat is on the mat.

    Or is it:

    @creativesoul believes that "the cat is on the mat"?

    Is the belief a thing that has the name "the cat is on the mat"?
  • Banno
    2.9k
    I'm inclined to suggest that ordinarily, one who takes a strong feeling of certainty for a state of perfect indubitability and infallibility is epistemologically naive and less reasonable than one who leaves room for doubt even in the presence of such feelings.Cabbage Farmer

    Back to the old chess example. When playing chess it makes no sense to doubt that the bishop moves diagonally. In plotting one's next move, we do not have to take into account that our opponent might move his bishop from a red square to a black square.

    Doubt has no place here. The possible moves of the Bishop are certain.

    Perhaps philosophers can become too awed by philosophical terms like "certainty". It's not always such a big deal.
  • Banno
    2.9k
    And I find myself inclined to deny that certainty (of every sort) entails belief.Cabbage Farmer

    "I'm certain that the cat is on the mat, but I don't believe it"...
  • Banno
    2.9k
    We might say Moore's certainty about something called "the external world" is merely psychological, not based on any justification. On the other hand, if his theory leaves no room for an alternative, isn't he in a sense "justified" and "formally certain" in the context of his own thoughts? But we reject his conceptual framework, and thus undermine his justification. If he wants to persuade us, he'll have to do better.Cabbage Farmer

    I can explain the rules of chess by stating them; but also there is a way of showing them that is not stating them, but implementing them in the act of playing the game.

    I think we can understand Moore as showing that there is a world, rather than stating it (dropping the problematic "external" form "world").

    If for you bishop does not always stay on the same colour squares, then you have missed something fundamental about chess, and will not be able to proceed to play.

    If you miss that, here is a hand, you have missed something fundamental about how we talk about the world, and will not be able to proceed.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    1.9k
    Why say that he searched the kitchen because he believed the keys were there, rather than he searched the kitchen because the keys were there?Banno

    Because you're ignoring the de dicto/de re distinction that Sapientia isn't:

    That the keys were in fact there is irrelevant to why he was looking for them in that placeSapientia

    Pat doesn't know where the keys are. He searches for them in the kitchen because that is one of the places they could be.Janus

    That has a nice ring to it, but only because it is idiomatically suppressing "he knows". Without that, you'd be claiming that a possible event is causing my actions. But that's not the kind of "because" we mean here. We want the "because" of reasons. Because "know" is factive, we're once again trading on de dicto/de re ambiguity, with a an extra layer of "possibility". Maybe I only believed they might be in the kitchen. If they are actually somewhere else, we have to decide what we would mean by saying, "They are in the living room, but they might be (might have been) in the kitchen."

    And I still say it has to do with our notions of rationality. If I believe my keys are in the kitchen, it is not rational, ceteris peribus, for me not to look for them there. On the other hand, knowing myself fallible, it's rational to glance around on my way to the kitchen just in case my belief is mistaken.
  • frank
    1.1k
    Could all of this be settled with a distinction between non-reflective action and subsequent reflection? Or does the concept of motive defy that scheme?
  • Janus
    5.4k


    I don't think it is "he knows" that is implied by "the keys could be in the kitchen" but "he thinks". As far as he is concerned, if he doesn't know where the keys are, they could be anywhere. On the other hand if he was asked, of course he would say the keys must be somewhere. That the keys are somewhere is taken for granted. He doesn't know where they are, so he searches in places he thinks they might be. I'm not seeing any puzzle in this.
  • Banno
    2.9k
    you're ignoring the de dicto/de re distinction that Sapientia isn't:Srap Tasmaner

    Am I? I did raise it here. Tell me more.
  • Banno
    2.9k
    Why say that he searched the kitchen because he believed the keys were there, rather than he searched the kitchen because the keys were there?Banno

    To be sure, the intent here is to point out that we do not say "He searched the kitchen because the keys were there"; If one knows where the keys are, one has no need to search.
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