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Title: Belief, truth, and biological function
Author: Sullivan-Bissett, Ema
ISNI:       0000 0004 5358 2630
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2014
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In this thesis I argue that there is a link between belief and truth, which is indicated by three features of belief relating to how they are formed. I suggest that these features require an explanation from the belief theorist. The first feature is that when we think about what to believe, we find that we immediately and inescapably attend to what is the case (Transparency). The second feature is that beliefs are not the kinds of thing which are able to be willed, that is, we cannot just believe something, like we can just raise our arms (the Uncontrollability Thesis). The third feature is that beliefs can be correct (when they are true) and incorrect (when they are false), and are also appropriate targets for claims that they are rational, irrational, justified, unjustified, and so on (Epistemic Normativity). These features, which indicate a link between belief and truth, have been thought to be necessary features of belief, that is, features of all beliefs, of all believers, across all possible worlds. This is a claim which I deny. I argue that accounts which have understood the features in this way cannot explain them, and so ought to be rejected. I offer an alternative account of these features by appeal to the biological functions of our mechanisms for belief-production. My account offers explanations of these features which cast them as contingent features of belief, grounded in the biological histories of some believers. Belief then is not to be understood as an attitude which is necessarily linked to truth.
Supervisor: Noordhof, Paul Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available