Re: virus: Definition of Belief

Reed Konsler (
Sat, 20 Apr 1996 11:07:17 -0400

Friday Apr 19, 11:24am David McFadzean wrote:
I think you are conflating epistemological statements with metaphysical
statements here (or maybe I misunderstand your intent). I agree that you
can't *know* about someone else's belief if it doesn't lead to any observable
behavior but that doesn't say anything about whether the belief exists or not.
In the example above, if someone thinks "I believe in Martians" do they have
that belief, even if no-one else perceives any behavior?

I guess, I'm saying that if you and I were having a discussion about this third
person who supposedly "believes in Martians". My response would be: how do you
know? This gets complicated, because from "outside" the question one has more
information than "inside" ...similar to the hypotheitical Atlantis I talked
about earlier.

Certianly, as the question is put the person MUST "believe in Martians" because
you have told me so as a given in the situation.

However, let me resopond to the question with a counter-question: How does one
test for the characteristic "Belief in Martians"? My point is that for an
observer to logically conclude than an individual A believes in a statement X
one must observe A behavining in some what that allows the observer to infer
belief in X.

There are, of course, many things people have yet to observe. This incomplete
knowledge will, in the end, lead us to spurious conclusions. I depends on what
you want. If you are looking for what is absolutlely and unargueable true then
you are suffering from delusions of grandure; God doesn't exist and none of us
are likely to achieve omnicience and time soon.

But a logical process will lead you to the most accurate model of the world
possible. You're right to point out that "that doesn't say anything about
whether the belief exists or not". How is that arguement different from the TV
shows I've see where they say "Alien's might have abducted people BECAUSE THE
HYPOTHESIS CANNOT BE DISPROVEN" ? Such arguements make me absolutley sick to
my stomach (no offense to anyone intended).

Just beacause something cannot be disproven doesn't make it true. Occam's
razor dictates we should use the simplest model requiring the fewest
assumptions when explaining the world. Therefore to invoke the concept of a
"belief" we MUST have some evidence to support this new generalization.
Otherwise the concept itself is a needless burden.

I admit that I don't know exactly what you mean by "conflating epistemological
statements with metaphysical statements". Maybe you could elaborate on that?

Reed Konsler