Friday, January 07, 2005

Another FAQ

Does the word ‘believe’ have a meaning?

I recommend the definition of belief that appears in the forward to “Essays in the Philosophy of Science by Charles S. Peirce” (viii, Vincent Tomas)

A belief is a habit, i.e., a readiness or disposition to respond in certain kind of ways on certain kinds of occasions.

It follows that a so-called belief that has no practical consequence for the believer’s behaviour can be nothing more than the readiness or disposition to respond “yes” when asked “do you believe in belief X?” I feel that a great quantity of the things that are argued about are of this kind. Their significance to the believer lies in the fact that they have come bundled together with other beliefs that do make a practical difference to the believer’s behaviour, and have been accepted as necessary corollaries on the recommendation of authority.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

There are exceptions (I believe) to belief being merely a habit. There are areas of study, such as Apologetics, where people have spent much time determining why they believe what they believe. Going back to first principles you might say, determining whether what they believe follows a logical train and whether it can be derailed. Of course, as in mathematics, at some point you have to have a first principle, something assumed to be true - possibly because it cannot be disproved - which must be accepted or assumed, because otherwise there is no possibility of any further thought. The trick is to know on what first principles you base your belief.