• sime
    690
    Beliefs and other propositional attitudes don't objectively exist.

    For example, I notice a person standing at a bus stop. Unless I subjectively empathise with the person who is doing the standing, I cannot form the proposition that the person is waiting for a bus . Objectively speaking, I can at most hypothesize a causal explanation as to their standing behaviour, an explanation that refers only to their past behavioural conditioning and makes no reference to belief-states or to future-contingent phenomena such as whether or not a bus comes and the person gets on it.

    I am more than willing to interpret the person as waiting for a bus, via an instinctive act of empathy, but in doing so I am mixing together my own beliefs regarding the person with my concept of their beliefs.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    1.1k
    that belief is the cat meowing and leading you to the food bowl and feeling hungry and getting under your feetBanno

    And Banno's belief that he's making a decisive point is Banno's typing on his keyboard and his feeling triumphant and his clicking 'post comment'?

    I don't think so.


    Skinnerian reductionism - while inordinately effective for intervention vis-a-vis ASDs - should keep its nose out of philosophy.
  • Banno
    15.7k
    If there are beliefs that cannot be presented in propositional form, give us an example.
    It's that simple.
  • fdrake
    5k
    If there are beliefs that cannot be presented in propositional form, give us an example.Banno

    Normally when there's an all and some statement, 'for every belief there exists a statement such that...' someone argues for it, no?
  • Banno
    15.7k

    The point being made is the relatively simple one that we use the term belief to talk about a particular attitude towards a proposition. It's not an all-and-some.

    The general structure of beliefs is of the form "φ believes that p" where "φ" is the name of the believer(s) and "p" is some proposition.

    A proposition here is (at least) a statement that is either true or false.

    Now I will go so far as to say that there is no philosopher who disagrees with this account.

    And yet this topic arrises again and yet again. The only place this account is doubted in in pop forums such as this.

    And as you might notice if you read through the comments, it's not about belief, it's about neophytes learning how to think.
  • fdrake
    5k
    It's not an all-and-some.Banno

    Seems to be. 'Every belief can be put into propositional form' = 'For every belief there exists a statement such that that statement expresses the belief'.
  • fdrake
    5k


    And for context, you don't need to look far to find that at least the linguistic framing of the issue is contentious, see this bit from SEP article on belief:

    A number of philosophers have argued that our cognitive representations have, or can have, a map-like rather than a linguistic structure (Lewis 1994; Braddon-Mitchell and Jackson 1996; Camp 2007, 2018; Rescorla 2009; though see Blumson 2012 and Johnson 2015 for concerns about whether map-like and language-like structures are importantly distinct). Map-like representational systems are both productive and systematic: By recombination and repetition of its elements, a map can represent indefinitely many potential states of affairs; and a map-like system that has the capacity, for example, to represent the river as north of the mountain will normally also have the capacity to represent, by a re-arrangement of its parts, the mountain as north of the river. Although maps may sometimes involve words or symbols, nothing linguistic seems to be essential to the nature of map-like representation: Some maps are purely pictorial or combine pictorial elements with symbolic elements, like coloration to represent altitude, that we don’t ordinarily think of as linguistic. — SEP, Belief
  • Banno
    15.7k
    Oh, of course. The network, connectionist notion goes even further, and was discussed previously, at length, with @Isaac.

    But the point remains that both accounts enable beliefs to be rendered as propositional attitudes.

    If they did not, they would not be about beliefs.
  • Banno
    15.7k
    All that claim amounts to is the common explanation of action in terms of belief and desire.
  • creativesoul
    10k
    In this context I used the term “concept” as equivalent to “notion” so not in theoretically loaded terms as to categorize the type of referents of those notions. And therefore I see this use in this context as philosophically neutral and harmless.neomac

    Understood. Good to know. So many terms are loaded and around here, it's far too easy to get distracted by futile arguing over semantics/definitions, despite such great methods available for deciding which conceptual scheme/linguistic framework is best. There's a bit of that going on in the debate as well. Unfortunately, this time around, after re-reading the debate I was disappointed in myself for several reasons.

    If there are any questions you have for me about the position I argue for/from, I'd be happy to answer. It could be quite helpful for you to re-read my posts only. That's the only way to avoid taking on the misunderstandings that Banno was arguing against.

    I too find this topic and all that underwrites it very intriguing, and of utmost importance to proper understanding.
  • creativesoul
    10k
    If there are beliefs that cannot be presented in propositional form, give us an example.Banno

    But why demand this? Who is arguing otherwise? It does not follow from this that the content of all belief is propositional. It follows that the presentation of all beliefs is, but even that hinges upon what counts as a belief being presented. Jack does not present his beliefs to you in propositional form. Be all that as it may, it's an aside, relevant but an aside.

    The gist here is that we take account of belief using propositions. I totally agree. That's not the matter in contention. The matter in contention is what belief content is, what belief consists of, language less belief in particular.
  • creativesoul
    10k
    The general structure of beliefs is of the form "φ believes that p" where "φ" is the name of the believer(s) and "p" is some proposition.Banno

    That's the general structure used to describe, report upon, take an account of, and/or make some statement about anothers' belief.

    Do you not draw a distinction between the cat's belief and our reports thereof in terms of content? They are not the same things. Clearly.
  • creativesoul
    10k


    I am still quite content with the first three posts in the debate. If you'd like to discuss these, I'd be happy to oblige and grateful to have piqued a genuine interest.

    :smile:
  • creativesoul
    10k
    Some folk hold that all belief amounts to an attitude towards a proposition. This seems to be the basis of Banno's arguments as well. I've already levied arguments against that position in the opening argument and first three posts of the debate this thread is discussing.

    I'll condense what I see as the main issues...

    If all belief are propositional attitudes, then...

    All belief are about propositions.
    All belief are existentially dependent upon propositions.
    Either there are language less propositions or there are no language less belief.
  • Banno
    15.7k
    Either there are language less propositionscreativesoul

    There are unspoken propositions.

    But no, I've had enough of this.
  • creativesoul
    10k


    Unspoken is not language less in the relevant sense. Language less means that they exist in their entirety prior to language. Propositions that somehow exist completely independent of language. All unspoken propositions belong to linguistic creatures. Creatures with language are not language less. Creatures without language are. Jack does not have unspoken propositions 'going through his mind', so to speak...
  • Banno
    15.7k
    If there are beliefs that cannot be presented in propositional form, give us an example.Banno
  • creativesoul
    10k


    Addressed six posts back.
  • Banno
    15.7k
    The content of a belief is the thing believed, which in every case can be put into the form of a proposition.

    If that is not so, present a belief that cannot be presented in propositional form.
  • Janus
    11.7k
    Is your disagreement with @Banno only that you take him to be claiming that all beliefs are in propositional form, as opposed to claiming that all beliefs can be rendered in propositional form? Because I imagine you would agree that all beliefs can be rendered in propositional form. If this is so, then I can't see what you two could be disagreeing about.
  • sime
    690
    A proposition is usually taken to be the intentional object of a belief, by definition of both "proposition" and "belief". By this understanding, they are internally related on a conceptual level and neither concept can be understood without the other, as opposed to each concept existing independently and being contingently related through external happenstance.

    Part of the confusion might stem from the fact that in logic, propositions are expressed using a formally recognizable linguistic structure in the form of composable predicates, terms and quantifiers, leading to the paradox of the unity of the proposition, which indicates that the meaning of propositions isn't syntactically decomposable into reusable terms and predicates in the way that logical analysis appears to suggest.

    The mutually dependent definitions of belief and proposition also invites scepticism regarding the existence or utility of belief concepts. For example, in Wittgenstein's remarks concerning what turns an arrow sign into a pointer, he comments to the effect that the a priori phenomena that we might associate with the propositional attitude of an observer of the arrow (e.g feeling that the arrow is pointy), is only partially relevant, if at all, to the observer's eventual use of the arrow.

    Likewise, Bertrand Russell identified the intentional object of a state of hunger to be whatever food is eventually used to satisfy the hunger, as opposed identifying the intentional object with the imagined food that a hungry person thinks about before eating.
  • john27
    661


    Wouldn't "I agree", be a belief and not a proposition?
  • frank
    9.6k
    The content of a belief is the thing believed, which in every case can be put into the form of a proposition.Banno

    That seems to be a step back from:

    The general structure of beliefs is of the form "φ believes that p" where "φ" is the name of the believer(s) and "p" is some proposition.Banno

    The structure is now "φ believes that p" where "φ" is the name of the believer(s) and "p" can be expressed in propositional form.

    Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I would just like to see more argument than "because otherwise we aren't talking about beliefs." If you just want to define belief as a relationship to propositional content, that's fine.
  • creativesoul
    10k


    Rendering the content of something into propositional form warrants neither concluding that the content is propositional nor that the thing is an attitude towards a proposition.

    The content of my fridge can be rendered in propositional form. The content of my fridge is not propositional, and my fridge is not an attitude towards a proposition.
  • neomac
    51
    @creativesoul

    I read your three posts, and I’m inclined to agree on all points. Still the comments of @Banno to them look pretty messy to me both in addressing your points and in providing a consistent account on his own terms.
    Since you abundantly discussed the former issue already I would like to take a closer look at his own view. I would appreciate if you could give me your feedback on my remarks (notes are quotations of his statements).

    - If proposition is a “more abstract entity” [1] supposed to be “common between certain statements”, then proposition are not statements, and they are not interchangeable with statements, yet he prefers to talk in terms of propositions as “statements that can be either true or false”. Well if they are statements then they can not at the same time be intrinsic truth bearers and the content of our beliefs, why? Because believing that “the cup is on the shelf” is true, doesn’t equate to believing that "la taza está en el estante" is true, yet “the cup is on the shelf” and "la taza está en el estante" have the same truth value.
    - Commands and desires are also considered propositional attitudes but they have satisfaction conditions not truth conditions as beliefs. And as long as beliefs and desires can express different attitudes toward the same propositions, propositions themselves are not intrinsically truth bearers by themselves [2], but only dependently on the direction-of-fit conferred by the intentional attitude.
    - The manifest inconsistency of claiming that beliefs about statements are exactly the same as beliefs about the way things are [3] has been already spotted by you. But his other formulations elsewhere [4] turned out to be even more preposterous because claiming that beliefs are about how we think things are is exactly like saying beliefs are about how we believe things are (kind of intrinsically reflexive beliefs).
    - He claims that both beliefs [5] and state of affaires [6] can be put in the form of a proposition, but if the possibility of putting in propositional form a belief is enough to claim that belief have propositional content, then it should be also enough to claim that state of affaires have propositional content. And since propositions are sentences that can be true or false [7], then also state of affaires can be true or false as much as beliefs can be, thanks to their propositional content.
    - Implicit beliefs [8] can’t be verified until properly expressed (e.g. stated): “holding a belief true” can have both a dispositional and a non-dispositional account. In any case, considerations about truth-functional implications or equivalences based on propositional contents are fallible ways for belief attribution, because there are also irrational beliefs, conceptual indeterminacies and background knowledge that affect doxastic dispositions.
    - The actual propositional content of a belief seems to be identified with the possibility of being put in propositional form [9][10][11], and that sounds like claiming that the actual content of a glass is water because one can pour water into the glass.
    - If belief is a way to explain action [12][13] and cats do not show human linguistic skills, how could one possibly explain Lilly’s behavior by attributing to her a belief that a certain sentence about her environment is true? However this sounds too preposterous and it’s probably not what he means, what he more probably means is instead that the human capacity of rendering Lilly’s beliefs through sentences that can be true or false is what explains Lilly’s behavior. Which sounds as preposterous, doesn’t it?


    [1] Propositions are a more abstract entity, being supposed as what is common between certain statements. So "the cup is on the shelf", "la taza está en el estante" and "bikarinn er í hillunni", I am told, are all different sentences in distinct languages that all express the same proposition.

    [2] My preference would be to talk in terms of propositions as statements that can be either true or false, with the understanding that to a large extent the words statement and proposition are interchangeable

    [3] To believe that the mouse ran behind the tree is exactly to believe that "the mouse ran behind the tree" is true; to deny this is to deny that our statements are about the way things are.

    [4] Saying that beliefs have propositional content is nothing more than saying that beliefs are about how we think things are.

    [5] that every belief has propositional content does not imply that every belief has indeed been put in propositional form.

    [6] It should be clear from the preceding discussion that while it is not the case that every proposition has been stated, every possible state of affairs can be put in the form of a proposition.

    [7] Statements are combinations of nouns and verbs and such like; Some statements are either true or false, and we can call these propositions. So, "The present King of France is bald" is a statement, but not a proposition. Since there is no present King of France, he can be neither bald nor hirsute. "The present king of France is bald" is not the sort of sentence that can be true or false.

    [8] I take it that you believe that you have more than one eyelash. But I suppose that up until now, you had not given this much consideration. If that example does not suit, perhaps you might consider if you believe that you have more than five eyelashes, or less than 12,678. Or you might bring to mind some other belief about something which you had up until now never considered …
    The point is that we each have innumerable beliefs that we have never articulated, indeed which we never will articulate, but which nevertheless we do hold to be true. All this to make the point that there are unstated beliefs…

    [9] What we take to be true is what forms the content of a belief. What we take to be true can be expressed in a proposition. Hence, the content of our beliefs is propositional.

    [10] beliefs are always about what can be put in propositional form. And this can be rephrased as that the content of a belief is propositional.

    [11] My contention is that the content of beliefs are propositional. What is believed can be stated, and is held to be true.

    [12] Lilly apparently believed that there was something objectionable out the window, and that her hissing and spitting were imperative in order to drive whatever it was away. This is at least part of what belief is about: that our actions follow from our beliefs, that what we do, we do in the light of what we hold to be true.

    [13] My own inclination is more towards beliefs being a way of talking about, and hence explaining, our actions; that is, that they are not things stored so much as interpretations of what we do.
  • creativesoul
    10k


    I'd be honored to offer my feedback to such a carefully well-crafted post.

    Due to personal time constraints, ease of reading, the desire to offer subsequent long overdue attention to this topic in particular, I think it best to address each set of remarks in their own respective posts. As a show of appreciation for the effort, it may take a couple of days to address all five. Luckily enough, I've a quite a bit of 'spare' time for the next week. I would consider it time well spent. After that, I will not be visiting the site daily. However, I would be more than happy to continue when I do. I'd like to help foster a long term respectful and productive discussion about the subject matter itself, after the critique. Thank you again. I was pleasantly surprised by the genuine interest.


    Regarding the set of remarks and relevant footnote(again kudos for this!) copied below...

    - If proposition is a “more abstract entity” [1] supposed to be “common between certain statements”, then proposition are not statements, and they are not interchangeable with statements, yet he prefers to talk in terms of propositions as “statements that can be either true or false”. Well if they are statements then they can not at the same time be intrinsic truth bearers and the content of our beliefs, why? Because believing that “the cup is on the shelf” is true, doesn’t equate to believing that "la taza está en el estante" is true, yet “the cup is on the shelf” and "la taza está en el estante" have the same truth value.


    [1] Propositions are a more abstract entity, being supposed as what is common between certain statements. So "the cup is on the shelf", "la taza está en el estante" and "bikarinn er í hillunni", I am told, are all different sentences in distinct languages that all express the same proposition.
    neomac

    On pains of coherency alone, I would concur that if propositions are supposed to be what is common between certain statements, then they are not statements, cannot be statements, and thus cannot serve as substitutes thereof(salva veritate).

    I agree that believing that “the cup is on the shelf” is true, doesn’t equate to believing that "la taza está en el estante" is true. Although those two statements are in completely different languages, they do have the same truth conditions; both are true if the cup is on the shelf. Banno has used Tarski to talk about this situation with "Snow is white" and the German equivalent.

    If we have two individual believers, each from a community that uses one of the two respective languages, we would have two individuals that had the same meaningful belief in two different languages. What they believe is not so much that the statements are true(even though if asked they would say as much), but rather they both believe that things are a certain way(that the cup is on the shelf). The two statements make the same claim, say the same thing, express the same proposition, and both are about the spatiotemporal relationship between the cup and the shelf, and not themselves(their own truthfulness). The content of such belief is the cup, the shelf, and the relationship between them.
  • creativesoul
    10k
    - Commands and desires are also considered propositional attitudes but they have satisfaction conditions not truth conditions as beliefs. And as long as beliefs and desires can express different attitudes toward the same propositions, propositions themselves are not intrinsically truth bearers by themselves [2], but only dependently on the direction-of-fit conferred by the intentional attitude.


    [2] My preference would be to talk in terms of propositions as statements that can be either true or false, with the understanding that to a large extent the words statement and proposition are interchangeable
    neomac

    I may be of little help or interest here, I'm afraid. This seems to be from speech act theorists(Austin, Searle, Ryle???), and I'm not familiar enough to comment much. I will say that I'm fond of Austin's bit on promises(making the world match the words, i.e., direction of fit???). In addition, I'm not at all impressed by what I think I understand about the conventional notion of truth bearers, having perused the SEP on several occasions regarding it. I do not understand the need to posit them, leaning here on methodological naturalisms tenet regarding refrain from unnecessarily multiplying entities. I would be quite interested in reading your thoughts on the notion, if you find it necessary for explaining some aspect that cannot be adequately explained without invoking it.

    In Banno's defense, his qualification above tells me that he already knows that they are not strictly speaking in conventional terms; interchangeable. I strongly suspect that he also knew, and was right, that I would not call him on that, for neither of us are much impressed by the conventional notion of proposition, and talking in terms of statements is easier for the average reader to grasp. We also both strive to speak as plainly as possible without sacrificing any crucial meaning.
  • neomac
    51
    @creativesoul

    Thanks a lot for your feedback and pls take your time in commenting whatever I said you find worth it.

    Just let me add that your understanding of his views seem more charitable and probably more accurate than mine due to your past exchanges with him.
    Yet I’m still reluctant to agree with what you claim in his defense because:
    - I have no reason to indulge in his over-confidence. The content of a belief is what the belief is actually about, while his clearly trying hard to identify the content of a belief based on the ways what a belief is about can be (meta)linguistically rendered or based on its logic implications/equivalences (like if p implies “p” is true or p can be rendered as “p” is true, then the content of believing in p is “p” is true) and based on that explain the related behavior. I find that simply preposterous.
    - If we are not clear on what proposition or propositional form or propositional content are supposed to mean and how they relate to beliefs or state of affairs or behaviors, it’s hard to understand what we agree or disagree on.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.4k
    If there are beliefs that cannot be presented in propositional form, give us an example.
    It's that simple.
    Banno
    I use whatever symbol-system I've learned and that I believe my reader knows so that I might translate my beliefs into a form perceivable to them. My beliefs are not only propositions, but can be symbolized using words.

    If beliefs were only propositions then are you saying that your beliefs are only composed of visual scribbles and spoken sounds? What color are the words that form your belief, and the corresponding background that provides the contrast for you to be able to easily discern the scribbles that are imposed upon it? What font is used to form your belief? Is the type of font and color of the scribbles and background part of the belief? Just so I can better understand the composition of your beliefs, but I don't think that is going to get me anywhere in understanding your belief. What will help me understand your stated belief is what the scribbles on this page refer to, which can't be just scribbles in your head.

    Do propositions exhaust the entirety of your beliefs? In reading your propositions, do I have direct access to your beliefs without missing anything in the translation?
  • creativesoul
    10k
    - The manifest inconsistency of claiming that beliefs about statements are exactly the same as beliefs about they way things are [3] has been already spotted by you. But his other formulations elsewhere [4] turned out to be even more preposterous because claiming that beliefs are about how we think things are is exactly like saying beliefs are about how we believe things are (kind of intrinsically reflexive beliefs).



    [3] To believe that the mouse ran behind the tree is exactly to believe that "the mouse ran behind the tree" is true; to deny this is to deny that our statements are about the way things are.

    [4] Saying that beliefs have propositional content is nothing more than saying that beliefs are about how we think things are.
    neomac

    I agree on the points you make here. The false equivalency, it seems to me, comes as a result of using the belief that approach for a task it's not suited for. Seems to me that it's suited for showing the presupposition of truth inherent belief statements, and lends itself to redundancy(Tarski's T sentence), both of which Banno seems to agree with and rely upon.

    Witt is strong in Banno's view though, particularly so when it comes to metaphysics in general, the importance of language in all human considerations, and any and all philosophical notions which seem to add nothing to our understanding but unnecessary confusion. Last I knew, like Davidson, he rejects the distinction between scheme and world. What you're seeing here could be a result of not quite having consistently rendered all the different aspects of his worldview? Indeed, that may not even matter much to him.

    Banno is excellent at engaging others, and for that the world is a better place. He has certainly been the most influential individual to me personally(regarding philosophy), despite all our disagreements. To put it into my own framework...

    Banno has been a necessary elemental constituent of my own philosophical understanding, without which, I would not have even been able to have. A mentor of sorts, a guidepost of the utmost caliber.
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