Levels of belief

October 12, 2016 (Kampala):

Sometimes people ask about one’s beliefs, but usually ‘belief’ is taken to mean a concrete certainty. Philip Clayton offers, instead, a typology of belief:

S = subject    P = proposition   RCE = relevant community of experts

1) S believes P and believes P is endorsed by the RCE.

2) S believes P but does not believe P is or would be endorsed by the RCE. But S believes the RCE is mistaken and thinks she knows why and what it would take to correct them.

3) S believes P but does not believe P to be endorsed by the RCE. But S cannot point out the specific mistake the RCE is making. S believes P is controversial but still rational to believe for someone in her position.

4) S believes P…[same as 3 above] but now believes P is ambiguous, and that while it may not be totally rational to believe P, she believes it is still permissible to do so.

5) S is attracted to P and hopes it will turn out to be true. Sometimes she believes P, sometimes she does not. She is a ‘seeker’, open to the possibility that P may turn out to be true.

6) S does not believe P, or believes P is false if understood literally and therefore does not hope that P is true. But she does regard P as a valuable metaphor for propositions she does regard as true. She may suspend disbelief while participating in religious practices.

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