I’ve been thinking a bit more about what it is for a belief to be occurrent. For a long time, I’ve been fine with Tom Senor’s definition,
1) “A belief is occurrent at t iff it is conscious at t ” (“Internalistic Foundationalism and the Justification of Memory Belief”, Synthese, pp. 461-462)
Whenever I define in a paper what it is for a belief to be occurrent, I just cite Senor’s quote and then move on. But lately, it’s become less clear to me what it is for a belief to be conscious. First, assume that the relevant notion of consciousness here is Block’s phenomenal consciousness, the “what it is like”-ness of a mental state. With that in mind, I’ll give a try at a more precise definition:
2) S’s belief that p is conscious at t in W iff S believes that p at t in W, and it is impossible that (S does not believe that p at t, and S’s conscious state is exactly the same at t as it is in W at t).
What I’m trying to get at with this definition is this. If a belief is conscious, then if one were to lose this belief, then one’s conscious state would necessarily change. This would not be so for nonoccurrent beliefs, which one could possibly (in the broadly logical sense) lose without any change in conscious state.
But I’m worried about (2). It seems, I think, that no belief turns out to be conscious in this way. Here, I wonder if Certain Doubts readers share the intuition that
3) It is logically possible that, for any (purported) occurrent belief that I have, that a demon could delete that belief and I still be in the same conscious state.
Does (3) seem possible? Contrast belief with a feeling of a pain. The feeling of a pain is clearly conscious. And not even a demon could delete the feeling of the pain while at the same time keeping me in the exact conscious state.
Also, anybody aware of any more literature on this? I think I recently read Andy Clark in the appendix of his “MindWare” book saying that there is no what it is like to have some belief that p. If so, then that would support (3). But that isn’t obvious to me. Any thoughts?