Belief

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Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a conjecture or premise to be true.[1] Dispositional and occurrent belief concerns the contextual activation of the belief into thoughts (reactive of propositions) or ideas (based on the belief's premise).

Belief, knowledge and epistemology[edit]

The terms belief and knowledge are used differently in philosophy.

Epistemology is the philosophical study of knowledge and belief. The primary problem in epistemology is to understand exactly what is needed in order for us to have knowledge. In a notion derived from Plato's dialogue Theaetetus, philosophy has traditionally defined knowledge as "justified true belief". The relationship between belief and knowledge is that a belief is knowledge if the belief is true, and if the believer has a justification (reasonable and necessarily plausible assertions/evidence/guidance) for believing it is true.

A false belief is not considered to be knowledge, even if it is sincere. A sincere believer in the flat earth theory does not know that the Earth is flat.[citation needed] Later epistemologists, for instance Gettier (1963)[2] and Goldman (1967),[3] have questioned the "justified true belief" definition.

Belief as a psychological theory[edit]

Mainstream psychology and related disciplines have traditionally treated belief as if it were the simplest form of mental representation and therefore one of the building blocks of conscious thought. Philosophers have tended to be more abstract in their analysis, and much of the work examining the viability of the belief concept stems from philosophical analysis.

The concept of belief presumes a subject (the believer) and an object of belief (the proposition). So, like other propositional attitudes, belief implies the existence of mental states and intentionality, both of which are hotly debated topics in the philosophy of mind, whose foundations and relation to brain states are still controversial.

Beliefs are sometimes divided into core beliefs (that are actively thought about) and dispositional beliefs (that may be ascribed to someone who has not thought about the issue). For example, if asked "do you believe tigers wear pink pajamas?" a person might answer that they do not, despite the fact they may never have thought about this situation before.[4]

That a belief is a mental state has been seen by some as contentious. While some[citation needed] have argued that beliefs are represented in the mind as sentence-like constructs, others[citation needed] have gone as far as arguing that there is no consistent or coherent mental representation that underlies our common use of the belief concept and that it is therefore obsolete and should be rejected.

This has important implications for understanding the neuropsychology and neuroscience of belief. If the concept of belief is incoherent, then any attempt to find the underlying neural processes that support it will fail.

Philosopher Lynne Rudder Baker has outlined four main contemporary approaches to belief in her controversial book Saving Belief:[5]

How beliefs are formed[edit]

Psychologists study belief formation and the relationship between beliefs and actions. Beliefs form in a variety of ways:

However, even educated people, well aware of the process by which beliefs form, still strongly cling to their beliefs, and act on those beliefs even against their own self-interest. In Anna Rowley's book, Leadership Therapy, she states "You want your beliefs to change. It's proof that you are keeping your eyes open, living fully, and welcoming everything that the world and people around you can teach you." This means that peoples' beliefs should evolve as they gain new experiences.[11]

Belief-in[edit]

To "believe in" someone or something is a distinct concept from "believe-that." There are two types of belief-in:[12]

Delusional beliefs[edit]

Delusions are defined as beliefs in psychiatric diagnostic criteria[citation needed] (for example in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Psychiatrist and historian G.E. Berrios has challenged the view that delusions are genuine beliefs and instead labels them as "empty speech acts," where affected persons are motivated to express false or bizarre belief statements due to an underlying psychological disturbance. However, the majority of mental health professionals and researchers treat delusions as if they were genuine beliefs.

In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass the White Queen says, "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." This is often quoted in mockery of the common ability of people to entertain beliefs contrary to fact.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Schwitzgebel, Eric (2006), "Belief", in Zalta, Edward, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford, CA: The Metaphysics Research Lab, retrieved 2008-09-19 
  2. ^ Gettier, E. L. (1963). "Is justified true belief knowledge?". Analysis 23 (6): 121–123. JSTOR 3326922. 
  3. ^ Goldman, A. I. (1967). "A causal theory of knowing". The Journal of Philosophy 64 (12): 357–372. JSTOR 2024268. 
  4. ^ Bell, V.; Halligan, P. W.; Ellis, H. D. (2006). "A Cognitive Neuroscience of Belief". In Halligan, Peter W.; Aylward, Mansel. The Power of Belief: Psychological Influence on Illness, Disability, and Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-853010-2. 
  5. ^ Baker, Lynne Rudder (1989). Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-07320-1. 
  6. ^ Gelman, Andrew; Park, David; Shor, Boris; Bafumi, Joseph; Cortina, Jeronimo (2008). Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-13927-2. 
  7. ^ Argyle, Michael (1997). The Psychology of Religious Behaviour, Belief and Experience. London: Routledge. p. 25. ISBN 0-415-12330-5. "Religion, in most cultures, is ascribed, not chosen." 
  8. ^ Hoffer, Eric (2002). The True Believer. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. ISBN 0-06-050591-5. 
  9. ^ Kilbourne, Jane; Pipher, Mary (2000). Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86600-5. 
  10. ^ Rothschild, Babette (2000). The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-70327-4. 
  11. ^ Rowley, Anna (2007). Leadership Therapy: Inside the Mind of Microsoft. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 69. ISBN 1-4039-8403-4. 
  12. ^ MacIntosh, J. J. (1994). "Belief-in Revisited: A Reply to Williams". Religious Studies 30 (4): 487–503. doi:10.1017/S0034412500023131. 
  13. ^ Macintosh, Jack. "Belief-in". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-19-926479-7. 

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