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The sole purpose of the "English Kinda Thing" is to document my attempts to correct my own mistakes in standard English usage and to share the resources I find. In no way do I attempt to teach nobody English through these blurbs--just as I intend not to teach nobody to be a neurotic and psychotic handicap in Ratology Reloaded or Down with Meds! :-)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Russell (1921). Belief

This chapter is the main reason why I landed on Bertrand Russell's book.  Unfortunately, in lack of time and can only jot some of the quotes down.

If you are interested, instead of reading these quotes, you can read the book online.

Russell, B. (1921). Belief The Analysis of Mind (pp. 231-252). London: G. Allen & Unwin.

"Just as words are characterized by meaning, so beliefs are characterized by truth or falsehood. And just as meaning consists in relation to the object meant, so truth and falsehood consist in relation to something that lies outside the belief." (p. 231)
"What makes a belief true or false I call a "fact." The particular fact that makes a given belief true or false I call its "objective," and the relation of the belief to its objective I call the "reference" or the "objective reference" of the belief." (p. 232)
"Bare assent, memory and expectation are forms of belief; all three are different from what is believed, and each has a constant character which is independent of what is believed." (p. 233)
"... our analysis of belief contains three very similar elements, namely the believing, what is believed and the objective. ... believing is an actual experienced feeling, not something postulated like the act." (p. 233)
"What is believed, and the believing, must both consist of present occurrences in the believer, no matter what may be the objective of the belief." (p.233)
"... Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon was an historical physical event, which is distinct from the present contents of every present mind.  What is believed, however true it may be, is not the actual fact that makes the belief true, but a present event related to the fact.  This present event, which is what is believed, I shall call the "content" of the belief.... the content is "this occurred" and the objective is the past event." (p. 234)
"The objective reference of a belief is connected with the fact that all or some of the constituents of its content have meaning." (p. 235)
"The first thing to notice about what is believed, i.e. about the content of a belief, is that it is always complex." (p. 235)
"The content of a belief involves not merely a plurality of constituents, but definite relations between them; it is not determinate when its constituents alone are given." (p. 236)
"It is impossible for a belief to consist of sensations alone, except when, as in the case of words, the sensations have associations which make them signs possessed of meaning.  The reason is that objective reference is one of the essence of belief, and objective reference is derived from meaning." (p. 238)
"It is the meaning of the word "tram," not the actual word, that forms part of the fact which is the objective of your belief." (p. 239)
"First, images do not, as a rule, have that wealth of concrete detail that would make it impossible to express them fully in words.  They are vague and fragmentary: a finite number of words, though perhaps a large number, would exhaust at least their significant features." (p. 240)
"The content of a belief, when expressed in words, is the same thing (or very nearly the same thing) as what in logic is called a "proposition. A proposition is a series of words (or sometimes a single word) expressing the kind of thing that can be asserted or denied." (p. 241)
"Not any series of words is a proposition, but only such series of words as have "meaning," or, in our phraseology, "objective reference." (p. 241)
"We may identify propositions in general with the contents of actual and possible beliefs, and we may say that it is propositions that are true or false. " (p. 241)
Two theories of belief
First view
"a content... images or words are "believed" when they cause bodily movement." (though Russel didn't think it is adequate since the belief that whales are mammals do not result in actions.) (p. 245)
"we must distinguish belief as a mere disposition from actual active belief." (p. 245-246)
"there remains the belief which merely occurs in "thinking... [Although] a belief always may influence action if it becomes relevant to a practical issue, it often exists actively (not as a mere disposition) without producing any voluntary movement whatever."  (p. 246)
"It is clear that a proposition can be either believed or merely considered, and that the content is the same in both cases. We can expect an egg for breakfast, or merely entertain the supposition that there may be an egg for breakfast." (p. 247)
Second view
"The theory which we have now to consider regards belief as belonging to every idea which is entertained, except in so far as some positive counteracting force interferes.  In this view belief is not a positive phenomenon, though doubt and disbelief are so.  What we call belief, according to this hypothesis, involves only the appropriate content, which will have the effects characteristic of belief unless something else operating simultaneously inhibits them." (p. 247-248)
"there must be belief-feelings of the same order as those of doubts or disbelief, although phenomena closely analogous to those of belief can be produced by mere uncontradicted images." (p. 250)
The view Russel wanted to advocate
"It seems to me that there are at least three kinds of belief, namely memory, expectation and bare assent. Each of these I regard as constituted by a certain feeling or complex of sensations, attached to the content believed." (p. 250)
"Supposes I am believing, by means of images, not words, that it will rain.  We have here two interrelated elements, namely the content [e.g., visual appearance of rain] and the expectation." (p. 250)
"Exactly the same content may enter into the memory "it was raining" or the assent "rain occurs."  The difference of the cases from each other and from expectation does not lie in the content.  The difference lies in the nature of the belief-feeling."(p. 250)
"It is not enough that the content and the belief-feeling should co-exist: it is necessary that there should be a specific relation between them, of the sort expressed by saying that the content is what is believed." (p. 250-251)
"The view of belief which I have been advocating contains little that is novel except the distinction of kinds of belief-feeling such as memory and expectation." (p. 252)

I love the closing quote... interesting way of looking at my delusional beliefs.
"the belief-feeling, in abnormal strength, attaches itself, more or less accidentally, to some content which we happen to think of at the appropriate moment. But this is only a speculation, upon which I do not wish to lay too much stress." (p. 252)

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