[lit-ideas] Re: Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction

  • From: John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 1 Dec 2013 16:03:45 +0900

What would count as being a rational person with no reason to believe? All
sorts of otherwise sensible seeming folk believe as a matter of religious
faith, while others deny that they have any reason to believe. Who was it
who wrote something along the lines of, ''I believe because it is absurd''?


On Sunday, December 1, 2013, Phil Enns wrote:

> Walter O. wrote:
> "Could a rational person really believe that P while also believing she
> has no good reason for believing that P? ... 'Well then you clearly don't
> believe that P.' Is that a cogent reply?"
> I can imagine offering this reply as part of an argument, that is, trying
> to persuade someone to change their beliefs. Someone makes some sort of
> statement about what they believe and I respond by pointing out an action
> or different statement of theirs which seems to suggest a different belief
> or different beliefs, and then add, 'So, clearly you don't believe that P'.
> It seems to me that, here, I am trying to persuade the person to change
> their mind. The argument is that the person's belief is, in some way,
> inconsistent with either their actions or other beliefs, and that they
> should alter their professed belief.
> I can also imagine offering a reply like, 'He clearly doesn't believe that
> P', accompanied by a list of actions and statements made by the person
> which in some way run counter to believing that P. Again, in this case I am
> not describing what the person does or does not actually believe but rather
> making an argument about what they probably should believe given the other
> things they say and do.
> Additionally, I can also imagine someone saying, 'Given your lack of
> supporting evidence, you should not believe that P'. Here, one would be
> expressing the conviction that there is an ethics of belief that requires
> one to have evidence for beliefs, and, again, arguing that some kind of
> change should be made.
> What I can't make sense of is telling a person that they don't actually
> hold a particular belief where this means that the belief is not present.
> In part, this doesn't make sense to me because I can't imagine a person
> saying something like, 'Oh, you are right, I thought I believed that P but
> I now realize that I can't find any evidence of my believing that P'. In
> short, I can't make sense of how a person could be mistaken about their
> holding a belief.
> Also, it seems to me that there is a difference between a person being
> able to offer good reasons for holding a belief and having confidence that
> there are good reasons for holding a belief. Politics is an excellent
> example. One of the reasons why people identify with political parties is
> that no person has the time or ability to be knowledgeable about the wide
> range of political issues that must be addressed by governments. We may
> have some knowledge about education issues, or healthcare, but who can be
> sufficiently knowledgeable about all political issues? Identifying with a
> party allows people to have a degree of confidence that there are good
> reasons for holding a particular political belief without having to
> actually be aware of those reasons.
> I realize that Walter is dealing with the issue of the possibility of a
> belief that is understood as having no supporting good reasons, but it
> seems to me that the question of whether someone does or does not hold a
> belief is something different.
> Phil Enns
> Always a steppe behind

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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