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Title: Belief
Author: O'Hear, Anthony
ISNI:       0000 0001 3453 1035
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1970
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This thesis examines the cognitive attitude of belief, taking belief to be the attitude people take to what they think is true. Can this attitude be analysed in terms of mental occurrences or events? The theories of Hume, Ogden and Richards, and Brentano are examined and criticised for faults peculiar to each of them. Occurrence theories are rejected generally for failing to account satisfactorily for implicit and unformulated beliefs. Is belief then a disposition to act? Behaviourism is discussed in the version presented by R. B. Braithwaite and shown to provide neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for the attribution of belief. Behaviourism is criticised for its general tendency to reduce speculative concerns to practical. Belief, along with attitudes such as hope, is shown to differ from occurrent mental events and states, although sharing with such states a degree of epistemological privacy. How is belief to be identified? Belief of individuals is shown to be founded on each individual's acceptance of public criteria for and attitudes to truth. Wayward beliefs are possible only given that the individual shows in other ways that he grasps these criteria and attitudes. This theory brings out the strengths of both associationist and behaviourist accounts. The object of belief is shown to be a proposition rather than the concrete sentences or statements assented to. In this theory, propositions are thought of in terms of the understanding of the believer rather than as timeless, abstract entities. Attempts to give an extensional account of belief-objects fail because of referential opacity; they also have problems in that two people, particularly if they come from different cultural backgrounds, may assent to the same statement and mean different things by it. Moral beliefs and belief in people and things are shown sometimes to include attitudes of emotive commitment and other feelings which can be distinguished from cognitive belief. The relationship between the long term and largely unformulated attitude of belief and explicit acts of judgment or assent is examined. These assents are constitutive of belief, in that a person making an assent thereby forms his belief on the subject. This is because of what we are doing when we actually judge that something is so. Theories which postulate unconscious, as opposed to unformulated beliefs, and theories which suggest that we know what we believe by introspecting our internal states are rejected. The relationship between belief and the will is discussed. Descartes' account of this relationship in his fourth Meditation is partially defended against criticism made by J. L. Evans, on the grounds that it shows us we ought to make ourselves responsible for our assents. In assenting, we accept certain standards for judgment; we should become conscious of this in order to make ourselves responsible for what we believe. The undesirability, but not the impossibility of having logically inconsistent beliefs is demonstrated. Beliefs naturally tend to form themselves into a coherent picture of the world. But we learn to believe through entering such a system. The influence of the context of belief on individual beliefs is examined in examples taken from the history of science and common sense. Belief systems also influence the way evidence is seen and interpreted. But these factors are shown not to lead necessarily to sceptical or relativistic conclusions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B Philosophy (General)