Re: virus: Re: Definition of belief

David McFadzean (
Mon, 15 Apr 1996 15:11:30 -0600

At 12:52 PM 15/04/96 -0500, ken sartor wrote:

>Many beliefs do not have tangible actions associated with them.
>For instance, perhaps you believe in life on other planets.
>Still your actions may not reflect this either because there is
>nothing to be done or negative consequences follow if you act
>on them (i.e., ridicule, appointment to a nasa position ;-)

This example is not inconsistent with my proposed definition.
If you believe X (there is life on other planets) and you also
believe Y (expressing X publically will invite ridicule) then
you may very well keep it to yourself.

Also I didn't want to restrict the definition to only tangible
or overt actions. A belief in life on other planets may lead you
to think about what that life might be like. I would consider this
an action even though no-one else could know about it.

One possible difficulty with the definition (to hold a belief X is
to act as if X is true) is that sometimes we act as if something is
true in order to deceive or play a joke or play devil's advocate.
It seems any particular action is actually the consequence of a
myriad of beliefs. My elegant definition really starts to lose it
if I try to take this into account: To hold a belief X is to answer
"yes" if asked "Do you believe X?" and you understand the question
and you have no reason to lie. For one thing this excludes most animals
which seem to have beliefs (at least I act as if animals had beliefs :-).

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Merak Projects