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Title: How we ascribe beliefs to others
Author: Jones, Gary
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis aims to provide a semantic account of belief ascriptions of the form 'A believes that S'. It begins with a detailed discussion of Saul Kripke's famous 'Puzzle about Belief' and tries to unearth a fundamental but rarely explicitly articulated assumption that gives the steps of the derivation of Kripke's Puzzle their intuitive plausibility. The assumption can be roughly stated as follows: belief ascriptions report on some single ontologically prior mental state which grounds the truth of a true ascription. A response to one form of Kripke's Puzzle is suggested at the end of this discussion. Several apparently diverse kinds of response to Kripke's Puzzle are critically evaluated and are found to be unsatisfactory. Many of the problems with these responses are traced to the fact that they are built upon the assumption that I suggest is at the heart of Kripke's Puzzle. The beginnings of a positive account of the semantics of belief ascriptions are given. The account gives a central role to the fact that the truth-value of a belief ascription depends on elements of the conversational setting in which it occurs. It is suggested that belief ascriptions are essentially answers to questions asked by an audience who has specific interests and makes specific assumptions about the agent and the setting of the ascription. The interests of the audience and the background assumptions that she makes are two- distinct sources of the context-sensitivity of belief ascriptions. The account makes no appeal to any kind of inner mental representations, but instead says that the truth of an ascription depends in a complex way on the agent's dispositions and capacities to do, say, think, and feel certain things. The thesis ends with a discussion of the de dicto/ de re distinction, and suggests that the distinction does not provide the most useful way of understanding belief ascription. It is argued that truly de re ascriptions are probably very rare, and that this does not therefore mean that most ascriptions are de dicto.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available