Values and Intentions: A Study in Value-Theory and Philosophy of Mind

By J. N. Findlay | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE MODES OF BELIEF

(1) GENERAL CHARACTERIZATION OF BELIEF

We have so far dwelt exclusively on states of mind as being of this or of that, or of being of something as such and such, etc., without considering the further property, obviously present in many states of mind, of in some manner incorporating a 'built-in' endorsement (not necessarily a valid one), of being conscious of objects, not merely as objects, but as in some unqualified sense 'real' or 'existent', and in being conscious, not merely of particular circumstances, but of them as being really or truly or actually the case. We have, in the terminology of Brentano, considered only the 'ideas', the Vorstellungen or Presentations, in which things are diversely present to mind, without considering what it is that erects some of these into acts of believing, or, in more considered, verbalized and publicly oriented contexts, explicitly entertained opinions or judgements. To this difference, which presents almost insuperable problems for philosophical description, we now address ourselves.

The difficulties are great since, while we can assert without hesitation, and often without fear of question or controversion, that we believe this or that, and while others can often assert this of us and we of them, there does not appear to be any seizable trait or feature common to all the cases we want to cover, and there are moreover strong arguments tending to show that any particular manifest sign or outward or inward evidence of belief cannot be of its essence. Feelings, urges, practical preparations, verbal pronouncements, associative linkages and evidential bindings, all obviously play their part in belief, yet are obviously absent from many cases of it, and we can almost always imagine cases in which they are present without belief being there at all. This situation can be met by saying with Mill, Stout, Brentano and others, that belief is ultimate and unanalysable, a solution which is no solution, since it leaves quite mysterious why this simple something should have all the connections with feeling, action, assertion, evidence, etc., which it has and must have.

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