Topic: beliefs and propositional attitudes

topics > philosophy > Group: meaning and truth

natural language

meaning without reference
meaning vs. reference
natural language as action or problem solving
natural language as communication
philosophy of mind
problem of other minds
semantic truth; s iff p


Statements about beliefs cause problems for meaning. The statement is a referentially opaque context, so one can not substitute like for like. Since someone can believe almost anything it's hard to tell the truth of such statements. Davidson's solution is to emphasize the structure of a belief sentence, so that the belief itself carries no semantic content.

Quine distinguishes de re beliefs about specific things and de dicto beliefs about things in general. These cause difficulties because they need quantification but the context is referentially opaque. Quine solves this taking de dicto beliefs to actually be between the object, attribute, and person having the belief. He also notes that intentions are important for beliefs. Ackerman argues that we have a de re attitude towards integers

Burge argues that the meaning of beliefs arises from their social context. (cbb 5/94)

Subtopic: belief statements up

Quote: a theory of belief sentences must distinguish between the form of a sentence and the meaning of individual words or expressions; e.g., "good" [»daviD_1967]
Quote: in "Galileo said that ___" need semantically significant structure for content-sentences but the lack of consequences suggests semantic inertness [»daviD_1968]
Quote: in 'Copernicus believed that ...' the nominata of the clause and its words are indirect and not truth-values; the clause acts as a noun [»fregG_1892]
Quote: the content-sentence of indirect discourse is independent of the sentence itself; the one announces the other [»daviD_1968]
Quote: the content-sentence of indirect discourse is no different than a regular sentence [»daviD_1968]
Note: an adequate theory of truth (s iff p) is necessary/sufficient for communication; but which consequence, naive understandings, and beliefs [»daviD_1967, OK]
Quote: names mean more than reference in identity statements, existential statements, and statements about intentional states [»searJR_1983]

Subtopic: propositional attitudes up

Quote: "Ralph believes that someone is a spy" could be either "There is someone whom Ralph believes is a spy" or "Ralph believes there are spies" [»quinWV_1956]
Quote: consider a man whom Ralph believes is a spy; unknown to Ralph, he is the same person (Ortcutt) that Ralph believes is not a spy; does Ralph believe Ortcutt is a spy? [»quinWV_1956]
Quote: "There is someone whom Raliph believes is a spy" is a triadic relation between Ralph, spyhood, and the someone [»quinWV_1956]
Quote: propositions are "that"-clauses without free variables; e.g., "Ralph believes that Ortcutt is a spy"
Quote: attributes are intensions of a single free variable; e.g., spyhood is z(z is a spy)
Quote: since belief contexts are referentially opaque, how does one quantify into them; e.g., "There is someone whom Ralph believes is a spy?" [»quinWV_1956]
Quote: can not quantify into propositional-attitudes ("believes that ..."); can quantify into a triadic belief construct, e.g., about spyhood [»quinWV_1956]
Quote: can not drop intensions (attributes) from propositional attitudes; otherwise "w is hunting unicorns" and "w is hunting griffins" are the same [»quinWV_1956]

Subtopic: de re belief up

Quote: de re belief if believe of something vs. de dicto belief that something exists
Note: de re beliefs hold for a specific object while de dicto beliefs hold for all objects
Quote: if believe that 5 is the smallest perfect number than believe it de re; different than an existence predicate [»ackeD_1979]
Quote: a number is such that J believes 'n is F' de re iff J believes at least one member of the set of propositions for 'n is F' [»ackeD_1979]

Subtopic: notions up

Quote: a 'notion' is an element of the content of a person's attitude given by a that-clause; a that-clause 'ascribes' 'attributions' (attitudes and notions) [»burgT_1979]
Quote: an oblique occurrence is an expression (like 'water') in a content clause that is not freely exchangeable with all extensionally equivalent expressions
Quote: thought experiment for social basis of mental contents; a misunderstood, oblique occurrence of 'arthritis' may be correct in a counterfactual situation [»burgT_1979]
Quote: take natural discourse literally unless clear reasons not to; used in thought experiment for social basis of mental contents [»burgT_1979]
Quote: an attribution to someone of a true belief that he is eating brisket does not change when it is learned that subject misunderstands "brisket" [»burgT_1979]
Quote: individualistic approaches to the mental may treat mental events as infallible seeing; neglects social features of the mind [»burgT_1979]
Quote: despite a misunderstood notion in a held belief, a person usually expects words to have their normal meaning; willing to ask an authority [»burgT_1979]
Quote: translation can't distinguish between wrong translations and speakers with weird beliefs [»daviD_1968]
Quote: we can always imagine a doubt; e.g., of someone who believes an abyss may open up, but the doubt is not held by most

Related Topics up

Group: natural language   (16 topics, 539 quotes)

Topic: meaning without reference (31 items)
Topic: meaning vs. reference (49 items)
Topic: natural language as action or problem solving (29 items)
Topic: natural language as communication (34 items)
Topic: philosophy of mind (78 items)
Topic: problem of other minds (11 items)
Topic: semantic truth; s iff p
(34 items)

Updated barberCB 4/04
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