Does Knowledge Require Belief?

Traditionally, it was assumed that a correct analysis of knowledge would have to start with the notion of true belief and then proceed by adding various additional conditions. But is it actually true that knowledge requires belief?

In a very striking new paper, Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel argue that the answer might be no. They provide a series of experimental results indicating that there are cases in which people are happy to say that a person knows that p even though that person does not believe that p.

Here is one of the central examples from their paper:

Ben receives an email informing him of a bridge closure on his normal route to work.  He becomes mildly annoyed and says to himself, “Now I’ll have to turn on Russell Street and go all the way down to Langdon Avenue.”

So, the next morning, Ben wakes up early and quickly gets ready for work.  He makes it out of the house with plenty of time to make the drive.  Pleased with the success of his early departure, he decides to listen to one of his favorite albums and enjoy the long drive.  By the time Ben is approaching Russell Street, where he should turn, he is enthusiastically tapping his fingers to the music, not paying much attention to where he is going, and he drives right past Russell Street, continuing on his normal route to work.  Thus it’s only a matter of time before Ben will reach the closed bridge and have to drive all the way back to Russell Street.  Nevertheless, Ben just keeps on tapping his fingers to the music and continues to drive towards the closed bridge.

In a series of cases like this one, Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel find that only a minority of participants (35%) say that the epistemic subject believes that the bridge is closed but that a majority (75%) say that he knows that the bridge is closed. So participants here seem to be happy to ascribe knowledge even in the absence of belief.

[For related experimental results, see Myers-Schulz’s original study.]


Does Knowledge Require Belief? — 34 Comments

  1. Josh – the word “believe” is polysemous between a dispositional and an occurrent sense. It’s obvious that if you are asking someone about whether S believes that p, when what is at issue is what states are guiding S’s action at a time, they are going to be thinking about the occurrent sense of “believe” rather than the dispositional sense. And I’m not aware of any philosopher in long history of epistemology who has defended the view that knowledge entails belief, in the occurrent sense of “believe”.

    It’s not as common for professional philosophers to talk of an occurrent sense of “know”. These results seem to show that the folk talk just as the professionals – i.e. they operate with a robust occurrent sense of “believe”, but generally with only a dispositional sense of “know”.

  2. I’ll second Jason’s comment. It’s not like there’s a consensus among advocates of the philosophical tradition about exactly what the word “belief” in JTB is supposed to pick out. The consensus is that there is some truth-aiming cognitive pro-attitude that is required for one to know something. In all the cases in the paper it is plausible that some such attitude is present (with the possible exception of the history exam case, which itself is a version of Radford’s counterexample and so whose force was already discussed in the literature).

    Proper cases would involve clear absence of any relevant cognitive pro-attitude. But even those cases would be problematic. Presumably such cases would require the subject to lack anything like belief that p but while having some significantly strong positive epistemic support for p and there would be some difficulty making experimental subjects viscerally accept that belief is absent in that case.

  3. Jason and Jeremy, thanks for the comments! Yes, the dispositional-occurrent distinction is one of the concerns we’ve had while pursuing this project. And I consent that, at least for scenarios (1.), (2.), and (4.), the ‘occurrent belief’ possibility seems consistent with the data. But I think this possibility is less likely for scenario (3.); i.e., ‘The prejudiced professor’ scenario. It reads as follows:

    Juliet is a university professor. Unfortunately, she is also prejudiced against student athletes. In her classes, she calls more often on non-athletes than athletes, and she interprets the comments of the former more charitably. When two soccer players, Brett and Bernard, come to visit her in office hours, she treats them patronizingly, explaining the basic concepts of the course in a very rudimentary manner, failing to recognize the sophistication and intelligence behind their questions. They leave, and shortly after, two students with no involvement in school sports enter. Juliet immediately launches into a high-level discussion, generously assuming the students’ command of the elementary material. When Bernard writes the best essay in the course, revealing the intelligence that a neutral observer would have recognized in his previous remarks, Juliet is surprised. All of this is typical of her.
    However, Juliet also repudiates all forms of prejudice. She openly affirms that students involved in athletics are just as capable as non-athletes. In fact, she has it on excellent authority that this is the case: Her chair just completed a study showing that the two groups perform equally well in their philosophy classes. Intrigued by this study, Juliet even reviews her own records and finds that, on average, the athletic students had actually performed better than the other students. But, in spite of all this, Juliet’s prejudice remains. She continues to treat her athletic students as if they are less intelligent than her other students.
    Does Juliet believe that her athletic students are as capable as her other students?

    In this scenario, it seems far more plausible (to me at least) that subjects are interpreting “believe” in the dispositional sense. Do you agree?

  4. Yes, I’d agree that the dispositional sense is what’s at issue in this case. But it’s not obvious that there’s any single dispositional notion of belief.

    Juliet believes that athletic students are as capable as other students in the sense that she’s disposed to judge it, to assert it, and so on. However, she doesn’t believe it in the sense that she’s disposed to act as if it’s true.

    If Juliet knows that athlectic students are as capable as other students, then knowledge does not require belief in every sense, e.g. knowing p does not require believing p in the sense of being disposed to act as if p is true. But it’s left open that knowing p requires believing p in the sense of being disposed to judge that p is true.

    I take this to be in sympathy with Jeremy’s remarks above, i.e. if there’s any consensus, it’s that there is some belief-like attitude that is necessary for knowledge, although there’s no very clear consensus about the nature of that attitude. Perhaps these cases provide a good starting point for making progress on this issue. (I must admit, I don’t see why we need to get the folk involved here, but perhaps that’s another issue…)

  5. Hmm I woke up this morning intending to write a comment replying to Blake’s, and found that Declan had already written it.

  6. Hi Blake,

    I think the Juliet case is pretty similar to the others — you have someone who is engaged in odd behavior, and your question about the mental state invites the subjects to say why — i.e. to supply a belief/desire explanation, where the relevant belief will be the occurrent one explaining that action. Where you have a series of similar actions, you’ll be looking at a series of similar occurrent judgments. Your last sentence before the question “she continues to treat…” really foregrounds the odd behavior that needs explaining (and there’s a similar pattern of directing attention to the odd behavior near the end of all the scenarios). When Juliet treats athletes badly, she is not having the occurrent belief that they are as good as other students (in fact she may be acting on the basis of an occurrent belief to the contrary).

    You might try asking your subjects whether Juliet has conflicting beliefs about whether her athletic students are as capable as her other students — I expect they’d say yes.

  7. Thanks for the continuing comments, folks!

    Declan (and Jason): Are you suggesting that “believe” is polysemous? I’d be more inclined to interpret the term as vague and squishy, with variation of usage between people and contexts; but I suppose there are formal semantic tests that could address that. We wouldn’t deny that some broadly belief-ish attitude is necessary for knowledge. It’s another question — two questions, I suppose — whether belief in the folk sense is necessary for knowledge, and whether on the most philosophically desirable approach to belief and to knowledge the first is necessary for the second. Our overall strategy is to use doubts of the first sort to raise doubts of the second sort.

    Jennifer: If Juliet has conflicting beliefs, as you seem to be suggesting, then it should be the case that she believes that all the races are intellectually equal (as well as believing that black students are inferior), so shouldn’t respondents say that Juliet does believe? I would be hesitant to explicitly pose the question you ask at the end because it seems too much like a vague and tempting compromise. However it might be interesting to ask both: “Does she believe P?” and “Does she believe not-P?”

    Broader issue: It seems that most of the commenters here are suggesting that in our cases S knows P, S dispositionally believes P, and S does not occurrently believe P. The subjects are interpreting the questions about belief as questions about occurrent rather than dispositional belief and they are interpreting the questions about knowledge as questions about dispositional knowledge because there is no such thing as occurrent knowledge — or at least no readily folk-available concept of occurrent knowledge. But that raises the question of what’s behind this asymmetry in folk usage. And why think that there must be some dispositional belief that P in all these cases despite the protagonists’ mixed behavior and despite the apparent intuition that some of us have to the contrary? In our questionnaire, we ask about belief simpliciter. Is there some way we could ask specifically about dispositional belief, on the view proposed, that doesn’t objectionably tilt the playing field? (That’s not a rhetorical question. If anyone has a good suggestion here, we might run it.)

    The move proposed seems to me a bit like a move to save a theory; maybe that’s not fair to say? But in any case, what motivates the theory? Why is it best to think of belief such that what is sufficient for knowledge is necessarily also sufficient for (dispositional, not occurrent) belief? Let me restate what Blake and I take to be the force of our conclusion. We do not think that we have shown that knowledge is possible without belief. Rather, we think that we have found that people have conflicting intuitions about the cases such that it should not be regarded as the obviously intuitive default position that knowledge requires belief. Thus we hope to force advocates of the necessity of belief for knowledge to show us an argument for that position that goes beyond the usual wait-for-counterexamples strategy.

  8. Hi Eric. You say,

    “We wouldn’t deny that some broadly belief-ish attitude is necessary for knowledge.”


    “it should not be regarded as the obviously intuitive default position that knowledge requires belief.”

    But the intuitive default position is just that some broadly belief-ish attitude is necessary for knowledge. That’s the one that’s supposed to be just obvious and counterexample-proof, though it can be motivated by considering cases in which there is clearly no broadly belief-ish attitude. Usually, when this default position is stated explicitly, especially to intro students or non-philosophers, there are some provisos stated immediately afterward (e.g., the belief-ish attitude need not be occurrent; it’s different from the kind of “belief” involved, say, in religious faith; it need not be held irrationally or be unproven; etc.). So there are some additional traits that, by consensus, are characteristic of the broadly belief-ish attitude. But it doesn’t seem to be philosophical consensus that the (presumably multiple) things the folk use the word “belief” to pick out, depending on context and degree of confusion, are all required for knowledge.

    Epistemologists looking to work on this particular condition on knowledge will presumably seek to flesh out the kind of belief-ish attitude involved. But the fleshed out view of belief is usually not just taken for granted. It’s defended by argument and against counterexamples.

  9. Jeremy, let me pull apart two issues here: first, what epistemologists assume in presenting the material to students, and second, how philosophers use the terms among themselves. On the first point, my guess is that epistemologists vary. Certainly there are some who are pretty clear that the belief condition is really only a belief-*ish* condition; this is especially clear among those epistemologists (Cohen, later Lehrer) who say that acceptance, not belief, is what is really required. However, my guess is that most epistemologists say and mean “belief”, not “belief-ish” or “something like belief” and take their clarificatory remarks to sweep away students’ uses or senses of “belief” that are not philosophically standard.

    The second issue, usage among philosophers: My sense is that most philosophers (except those like Lehrer and Cohen) say “belief” in presenting their take on the JTB theory, and in doing so take themselves to mean the term in the standard sense used also by philosophers of mind and philosophers of action. Would you disagree?

  10. A further thought on “occurrent belief”. Let me be clear: I think “believe” is not used by the folk in an occurrent sense but only in a dispositional sense. And I think philosophers should follow that usage. My reasons for the latter I express in “Acting Contrary to Our Professed Beliefs” (available on my website and forthcoming in PPQ) but I want to focus on the former here.

    The following seems to me a pretty good test of occurrent vs. dispositional usage in English: whether the present progressive or the simple present is used to talk about the ongoing case.

    So, for example, there is an occurrent sense of “read” and a dispositional sense of “read” which come apart nicely in the present tense: Jamie is reading the Bible (occurrent) vs. Jamie reads the Bible (dispositional). There is an occurrent sense of “run” and a dispositional sense of “run” which come apart nicely in the present tense: Corina is running a six-minute mile (occurrent) vs. Corina runs a six-minute mile (dispositional). However, there seems to be no present progressive use of “believe”: We don’t say that Kate “is believing” that Queen Elizabeth died in 1603.

    Furthermore, when an occurrence ends, it is customary to say that the event ceased. Corina ceased running but still runs (dispositionally); Jamie ceased reading but still reads (dispositionally). However, we do not say that Kate ceased believing when she turned her mind to other things; we only say that she ceased to believe if she changed her mind or forgot, so that she no longer dispositionally believes.

  11. I’ll agree that most or a lot of epistemologists who say that knowledge requires “belief” also think that the belief-ish thing knowledge requires is also some central thing picked out by some folk uses of “belief” or even the thing that the folk should be reserving “belief” for. I’m guessing — but it’s only a guess — that it’s an open question for most epistemologists whether the thing getting theorized by philosophers of mind and action will end up being the thing they think is required for knowledge. I can see them saying, after the philosophers of mind have done their thing, “Well, I never said that knowledge required _that_.”

  12. But that the consensus epistemologists will agree that the relevant belief-like state deserves the name “belief” doesn’t seem relevant, here. The important issue is that in reaction to the cases, the consensus epistemologists will presumably say one of three things, none of which are consistent with the folk reactions constituting an important part of an argument against the received view:

    1) the majority of the folk got the intuitions right: intuitively, the subject knows but fails to believe. In this case, as Declan notes, it’s unclear why we had to go to the folk to establish the counterexample.

    2) the sort of attitude held by the subject is included in what was meant by “belief”. In this case, what the folk are denying is present isn’t the sort of belief-like thing that the epistemologists had in mind.

    3) the case is confusing, open to multiple interpretations, and generates conflicting intuitions. In this case, it’s easy to explain how the folk’s intuitions fail to be in accord with the theory.

  13. Jeremy, I’m okay with any of those reactions.

    If (1), then maybe it wasn’t necessary to do a survey, from the point of view of that reader; but lots of things we do in defense of our views won’t seem necessary to particular readers.

    If (2), then hopefully our work has encouraged that reader to clarify in a way that advances the field; as things stand, if (2) is the proper response, then epistemologists seem to be courting danger when they use “believe” as though its meaning were clear.

    If (3), then perhaps that can be follwed by 3*:

    3*) I guess I had better think more carefully about what I mean by “belief” and whether I really want to use that term in laying out the B condition of the JTB theory.

    (Of course there are also versions of reactions (2) and (3) that ascribe the fault wholly to crappy experimental design; I hope that’s not where the blame should go.)

  14. Eric, I’m a bit perplexed by this way of sorting occurrent/dispositional states. To say that someone runs entails that they do this on a bunch of occasions, but to say that Joe dispositionally believes something doesn’t entail that he ever occurrently believes it or has occurrently believed it. So I’ not getting the relevance of the grammatical point.

  15. Hey everyone, thanks for all the helpful comments!

    One of the broader concerns that I have is whether the relevant dispositional state — i.e., the one purported to be required for knowledge — can actually be fleshed out in a manner that will resemble (at least some of) the common ways in which the term “believe” is used.

    Declan, for instance, suggests that “Juliet believes that athletic students are as capable as other students in the sense that she’s disposed to judge it, to assert it, and so on.” And later, he notes that “it’s left open that knowing p requires believing p in the sense of being disposed to judge that p is true.”

    But, regarding an account which maintains that the type of belief required for knowledge is one that interprets “believes that p” to mean “disposed to judge that p”, I’ll certainly grant that this seems to accord with a common usage of “believes that p”. Nevertheless, in the Juliet question, if we changed the phrase “Does Juliet believe” to “Is Juliet disposed to judge”, I would still be inclined to answer the question “no”. Thus, such an account doesn’t seem to help the traditional view. (But perhaps my intuitions are abnormal here.)

    And regarding an account which maintains that the type of belief required for knowledge is one that interprets “believes that p” to mean “disposed to assert that p”, this no longer seems to accord with any common usage of “believes that p”.

    So in short, I just wonder what an account of the relevant dispositional state would look like such that it could accord with (at least some of) the common ways in which people use “believes that p”.

  16. On Eric’s point:

    Eric raises an interesting point. A standard test of whether or not a verb is stative or eventive (“dynamic”) is whether it takes the progressive. The verb “believe” does not take the progressive, and indeed in the literature is often taken as an example of a stative verb.

    It is true that some classic examples of dispositions and their statements of their manifestations are stative/eventive pairs, as in:

    (1) The sugar is soluable.
    (2) The sugar is dissolving.

    On the other hand, a lot of the cognitive verbs have both stative and active counterparts. “Feel”, “smell” are two examples. Even closer to home, “think” has both stative and active counterparts (“I think that Obama would make a good president”, “I am thinking that Obama would make a good president”). “Think” and “believe” are often taken to be synonyms, and “thinking” may seem to express occurrent belief.

    However, despite my general wish that philosophical distinctions would be reflected in linguistic ones, I don’t think that is what is going on here. I think that when philosophers are making the dispositional/occurrent belief distinction, they are not making the stative/active distinction. I don’t think the stative sense of “think” is the same as dispositional belief. I dispositionally believe propositions that I have never entertained. Someone who has never added 12.34 and 5.23 nevertheless dispositionally believes that 12.34 and 5.23 are 17.57. But I would think it would be slightly odd to say that such a person thinks that 12.34 and 5.23 are 17.57. I suspect that when the folk use “believes” they don’t mean this philosopher’s notion of dispositional belief, but rather something less remote from consciousness and action. But it is nevertheless this sense of belief that is supposed to be the one that knowledge entails, according to traditional epistemology.

  17. Blake,

    Remember the paper has been advertised as refuting thousands of years of epistemology by novel experimental scientific methods. Suppose that the professional epistemologists agree that knowledge entails dispositional belief, in a certain sense of “belief” introduced by professionals. Suppose further that the English word “believes” does not exactly express the notion that epistemologists for thousands of years (before modern English!) have taken to be the cognitive state that is entailed by knowledge. Then the paper is being misadvertised, since the novel scientific methods haven’t been shown to have any bearing whatsoever on what the professionals have been saying for thousands of years.

    I’m not saying that the topics you are discussing aren’t interesting. I think they are. I am really interested in the subtleties of language. I am very much open to the possibility that our ordinary words don’t carve the joints exactly where professionals, using related vocabulary in distinct languages over many centuries, do. However, I worry that the desire to make the paper into an argument whose conclusion is the negation of some basic tenet in philosophy may obscure what is genuinely interesting about what you are doing.

  18. Hi Jason,
    Thanks! That’s helpful.
    But I still have a related concern. Suppose that I grant that the English word “believes” does not exactly express the notion that epistemologists have taken to be the cognitive state that is entailed by knowledge. In that case, I guess I’m not clear on what this cognitive state that is entailed by knowledge is supposed to be.
    I realize that it’s some type of dispositional state. But all the likely candidates that I can think of (e.g., a disposition to act as though P is true, a disposition to judge that P is true) seem subject to the same types of problems as does the English word “believe”: namely, when applied to the scenarios from our paper, such candidates seem prone to elicit similar asymmetric judgments (with respect to knowledge) as those that are elicited by the English word “believe”.

  19. Blake,

    I think what Jeremy and Declan are saying is that at a certain point, the issue doesn’t become one of what the folk mean when you ask them about various technical locutions, but rather it becomes the perhaps less glamorous task of professional epistemology. Many epistemologists say that knowledge entails at least justified true belief. Presumably you already knew that any candidate theory of what philosophers have meant by “justification” turns out to be itself a philosophical topic. And presumably you already knew that any candidate theory of what philosophers have meant by “truth” turns out to be itself a philosophical topic. Now you’ve discovered that any candidate theory of what philosophers mean by “belief” turns out to be itself a philosophical topic.

    Occasionally folk insights help to resolve philosophical disputes. But they never do so simply by *being* folk insights.

  20. Eric, I’d rather say that “believe” is vague and squishy, rather than stick my neck out for a more controversial semantic thesis. As a philosopher, I think it’s ok to stipulate more precise senses of “believe” with a view to asking whether they pick out theoretically important kinds. I quite agree, though, that cases like yours can advance the debate by drawing our attention to different aspects of the functional role for belief, which we might otherwise mush together. (Your work is great on this.)

    Blake, the case stipulates that Juliet openly affirms that athletic students are as capable as the others. Do you want to say she is disposed to affirm it but not to judge it? What’s affirming then? How do you affirm without judging?

  21. Jason: Thanks. Fair enough. If you (or other readers) have any references off-hand, I’d certainly be interested to know of any developed accounts of belief such that, on these accounts, it would be untenable for one to deny belief to the protagonists in our scenarios.

    Declan: From my understanding, to openly affirm that P is just to publically state or assert that P. But to judge that P, it is not necessary to make any public statements or assertions. Rather, to judge that P, one just needs to assent (or form the opinion) that P.

  22. Blake, are you imagining that Juliet is insincere, i.e. she is disposed to affirm that p in public, but not to herself in private? If so, I’d deny that she knows that p, since she doesn’t really have the opinion that p is true; she just puts on an appropriate public display.

    That’s not how I imagine the case at all. I imagine that Juliet is sincere, but conflicted in the sense that her sincerely held opinions are out of sync with her behaviour. In that case, I’d say that Juliet knows that p, but also believes that p in the sense that she’s disposed to judge that p.

    Do you have any views about which interpretation of the case your subjects have in mind?

  23. Blake,

    Oops – I have to apologize about something. I finally read to the end of your paper, in particular the final section on the Capacity – Tendency account. This is interesting, and it alleviates the big picture worry I had that led to comment 17. In particular, you guys are using the data you are gathering to support an alternative account of the nature of belief, one that is quite thought-provoking. You are not really presenting it in the way I suggest in 17, so I’m sorry about that comment. I still think there is complexity in the data, as there always is. But you could well be right about the account of belief you describe (on which view knowledge wouldn’t entail belief).

    Jennifer Lackey has some cases in the literature on the epistemology of testimony that putatively show that asserting that p doesn’t require knowing that p. She considers the case of a high school biology teacher who on religious grounds doesn’t believe in evolution teaching evolution, or an expert court witness who has religious grounds for not believing her testimony nevertheless delivering it, because she knows that is why she was called. I wonder if what is going on there is a similar phenomenon (that is, they do satisfy the knowledge norm for assertion, but aren’t cases of belief). I’ll have to look at Lackey’s discussion again to see what I think.

  24. Blake,

    In particular, the “tendency” account of belief would explain my remark in 16 that “when the folk use “believes” they don’t mean this philosopher’s notion of dispositional belief, but rather something less remote from consciousness and action.” I’m completely open to the possibility that this is what the folk mean by belief, and I agree with Eric that we epistemologists should pay attention to this possibility.

    There is the further question about its overall significance. Maybe it’s right that it doesn’t upset the applecart of fans of the entailment thesis, who could appeal to a technical notion of believing. But even if it doesn’t undermine the entailment thesis (I’m neutral on this), if the data holds up it could nevertheless turn out to be a useful point in many debates – e.g. it could turn out that putative counterexamples to the “assertion requires knowledge” norm are really cases of knowledge without (folk) belief.

  25. What a terrific discussion — thanks everybody! A few thoughts:

    @ Jason: On your comment 17 (and 19), partly withdrawn in 24: I can see why people might interpret our work as an attempted refutation of the entailment thesis based upon folk intuitions. We explicitly caution against this reading several times in the paper, but it is probably going to be people’s default assumption about what we are up to, so it might be good to highlight even more that that is not what we take ourselves to be doing.

    I agree that there is a folk dispositional/occurrent distinction for “think” reflected in the difference between the simple present and present progressive; and I agree that it doesn’t quite match the philosopher’s use of “believe”. In fact, I think the occurrent and dispositional uses of “think” don’t match very well even against each other, since “thinking that P” seems much less endorsement-like than “thinks that P”.

    On the mathematical belief, see my remark to Jon below.

    On the idea that the folk notion of belief is more connected to consciousness and action than the epistemologists’ sense: I’m inclined to agree with that, and I myself endorse the folk notion in this regard rather than the epistemologists’ notion, and I think there are good philosophical reasons to prefer something closer to the folk notion (which is one of the main points of my PPQ paper). I agree that the issue will not be resolved by appeal to folk intuition, but by philosophical argument. So — speaking for myself — my main agenda in Blake’s & my paper is not so much to refute the entailment thesis but rather to defuse the thought that it is crazy and hopelessly unintuitive to use “believe” and “know” in the way that I prefer to, such that the entailment thesis is false.

    @ Jon: I don’t think there is such a thing as occurrent belief, so I will have to reframe your thought. To me, it seems not at all folk-intuitively clear that someone who has never manifested any disposition in the dispositional stereotype for believing that P does in fact believe that P, as opposed perhaps to merely being disposed TO believe it. (See Audi 1994.) This applies to obscure mathematical beliefs, too, like the one Jason mentioned. So if the present perfect only captures habituals and not wholly unmanifested dispositions, that is still harmonious with my view that there is no folk notion of occurrently believing. On my own view, however, having the unmanifested dispositions (as long as one really has the dispositions and not merely the disposition to form the dispositions, to the extent that can be distiguished) is sufficient for P.

    @ Declan: My inclinations match yours more than they match Blake’s regarding judgment. I would say that Juliet is disposed to judge that P. However, I would part from you in that I think being disposed to judge neither is (folk intuitively) nor should be regarded as (on philosophical grounds) sufficient for determinately believing that P. (It might still be sufficient to undermine determinate failure to believe that P.)

  26. Jason: Thanks for the clarification and helpful comments. Also, I appreciate the reference to Lackey. I’ll have to check that out.

    Declan: Thanks. That’s a good point. I guess I’ve been thinking that if S is disposed to judge that P (that is, if S *really* holds the opinion that P), then S must also be disposed to act as if P is true. But perhaps this is incorrect. I’ll have to think more about that.

  27. Eric, I agree that there is a distinction between dispositional belief and being merely disposed to believe, but I don’t think it is right, either for the folk, or for more theoretical purposes, to think this carves things in the way you want. Jason’s obscure example is harder than some simpler cases, say those involving mastery of the successor function. I believe, and this is what students I ask each semester say as well, that 1,000,001 + 1 = 1,000,002, and I pick an example each semester that involves something that I’m very confident I’ve never thought of before. But I’ve believed it all along. And there are lots of cases like this: I know my daughter’s car is tan, and have never till now formed the thought that it isn’t magenta. But I’ve believed that all along, too–I am not merely disposed to believe it upon thinking about it.

    So, I should read your paper before saying anything more, but I think one shouldn’t want the division between dispositional beliefs and what one is disposed to believe to carve things so that one doesn’t believe things unless one has formed the occurrent thought at some point in the past.

  28. Jon: I’m not entirely sure about the folk view one way or another on the 1,000,001 + 1 question; you might be right. And if you are right, then if it’s also the case that the simple present / present progressive distinction picks out the habitual / occurrent rather than the dispositional / occurrent distinction, then my linguistic argument has some problems (though maybe I could rework it using the stative / eventive distinction that Jason mentions and better linguistic evidence). In any case, I will have to consider that issue further.

    Forgetting about the folk, though, I am inclined to agree with you. Merely having the right dispositions is sufficient for belief, even if those dispositions have never manifested; and your simple successor-function example seems like a plausible case in which the right dispositions are both present and previously unmanifested. To establish the existence of unmanifested beliefs, your simple successor cases seem to work better than cases where one has to work to figure out what to say, since in that latter sort of case arguably one doesn’t possess the right dispositions before doing that work.

  29. Eric, free drinks on me when we are together next! I’m at a bar, by the way, but this might be an useful experiment: ask the folk whether they think x, and then ask them whether, before being asked, they had ever considered the claim that x.

  30. Thanks, Jon, I might just take you up on that drink! Your experiment sounds good, but I would shift your first question into past somehow, to prevent respondents’ doing the Evans transparency procedure (in which they interpret the question as asking them simply whether X is true). Maybe “Have you always thought that X?” or “Would it have been accurate to say of you, yesterday, that you believed X?” Those questions, though, are perhaps not entirely natural; and I’m not sure what people would say.

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  32. It would seem that the above examples attempt to impose a wedge, what the thread has already settled as “occurrent” and “dispositional” on the counterexamples offered. However, I am wondering if another distinction helps us here, that is, the distinction between reflective and pre-reflective. I’m unsure how to carve up these moments, but certainly, we could say that people immersed in their activities are absorbed in what they’re doing. In the first example, Bill doesn’t notice turning down Russell St. The reason is not that he didn’t believe the bridge was out, but that he is not breaking with his routine. When he gets to the bridge, he will then be “woken” out of his routine pre-reflective awareness and then recall what information he should have remembered. Then, as I think the story might go, he will begrudgingly grit his teeth, turn around and upon the next day, he will force himself to come accustomed to his new route. In this way, the reflective arises out of the pre-reflective awareness at the moment such routine immersions break down. Once that continuity of experience shifts, reflective agency steps in to secure new pathways to act.

  33. Edward, that sounds like a reasonable analysis (apart from that I think Bill/Ben in his unreflective moments is in an in-between state of believing rather than determinate belief). My guess is that the reflective/unreflective distinction will cross-cut the distinction that Blake and I are after. Juliet knows that all the races are intellectually equal because that is what she judges in her reflective moments; but I imagine that there are cases that cut the other way — perhaps some self-deception cases — where what one knows is better revealed through one’s unreflective actions than one’s reflective ones.

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