Re: Definition of belief again (was Re: virus:Other Reality)

Bill Godby (
Tue, 14 May 1996 19:42:00 -0400

At 03:46 PM 5/14/96 -0600, David McFadzean wrote:
>At 01:24 AM 14/05/96 -0400, Bill Godby wrote:
>>The issue is not so much whether things can exist even though we haven't
>>seen them but rather what we are able to say about them. There certainly
>>isn't much you can say about postulated planets in other galaxies other than
>>you think that they exist, or possibly you can formulate where they might be
>>and what they might look like. However regarding existence it seems a priori
>>that you must be able to offer something concrete about what it is your
>>speaking about. Give me evidence.
>OK, I agree we can't know something exists without evidence. But we can
>say a great deal about the planets in other galaxies without knowing
>if they exist, e.g. they occur naturally, are roughly spherical, are
>composed of rock and metal, and orbit stars. We know this by definition,
>which includes the essential characteristics of what is being defined,
>and not whether they are observed or detected.

Your right, and I realize that this logic applies to many things, it is
however inductive reasoning to say other unobserved planets will resemble
observed ones. It seems that part of the problem with belief is that it
doesn't always rely upon reason or observation, nor can a belief necessarily
be observed and also it seems that there is no necessary connection that a
belief has with knowledge, since belief can be a feeling or a hunch.

>Maybe we've lost sight of the original goal of this thread which is to figure
>out what is meant by the term "belief". I don't think existence or observation
>should be part of the definition any more than for any other noun in the

I agree since belief isn't contingent upon either.

>Speaking of the dictionary, here is what Webster's has to say about "belief":
>be.lief \b*-'le-f\ n [ME beleave, prob. alter. of OE gele-afa, fr. ge-,
> associa]tive prefix + le-afa; akin to OE ly-fan 1: a state or habit of mind
> in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.

The above definition is basically how Hume defines belief, it is formed by
habits of the mind, a ball drops and bounces, I see it happen 3x so I
believe it will happen the 4th time, but there is nothing there that I'm
getting as information other than repetition, my mind is happy with forming
the belief that it will bounce again, it's knowledge through induction. Hume
goes on about vivacity of belief, basically saying that if it sounds good
enough we'll believe it. Following this line of thought also separates
knowledge from belief.

>For purposes of discussion on this list, I think we should avoid using
>"belief" and "faith" interchangeably, reserving the latter to mean
>holding something above and beyond criticism. Faith is a sin, whereas
>beliefs cannot be avoided.

I agree, belief and faith are not interchangeable, you may believe because
you have faith but you don't have faith because you believe.

>But even if we accept definition #3 from the dictionary, "conviction of the
>truth of some statement or reality of a fact", it still leaves a lot of
>questions. How do beliefs relate to knowledge (which was the original
>question that started this whole discussion, see
> Are all beliefs memes
>or vice versa? What does it mean to hold something as true?

Who the hell knows. Memes are concepts, concepts are memes, beliefs are
memes, memes are beliefs, what's the difference...................and he was
silent for a long timeeeeeeee.
Bill Godby