Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Spero: Question 2

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.
Rather than ‘believe’, we ought to say either :

“The application of reason to the evidence available to me suggests that such-a-thing may be true true”, or

“I hope such-a-thing is true”.

I ‘believe’ in the ideas contained in this document in that I hope that they are true and I attempt to behave in the way I would behave if I had empirical evidence that these ideas were true.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Sounds fair to me.

Obviously my "I hope" statements have less to do with the nature of God and the Universe, and more to do with what the future holds for my wretchedly insignificant species (and more pertinently, the individual members of that species with whom I have a personal connection).

I have what I lazily think of as Beliefs, but secretly I acknowledge these to be shakily conceived and held and subject to substantial or complete revision at the slightest assault by superior reasoning, evidence or instance of novelty.