The Place of Implicit Belief in Models of our Doxastic Agency
Schaffer, David W
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I argue that our concept of belief is ambiguous between two kinds of psychological phenomena. Active beliefs, as Mathew Boyle has coined them, are ascribed from a first-person perspective primarily in order to make sense of the subject’s grasp of the available evidence, but also in order to prescribe which proposition they ought to avow. They are inherently normative, unique to humans, and the holding of them is best construed as an activity rather than the possession of a mental state. Our other concept of belief is, in contrast, typically ascribed from a third-person perspective in order to describe an overarching pattern in someone’s behavior in terms of a dispositional state. I call them passive beliefs, because they are often realized in habits, associations, and other similarly “judgment-insensitive” psychological mechanisms, which we share with nonrational animals. One of the central issues I seek to address with this distinction is the question of how best to model our doxastic agency or those capacities in virtue of which we are able to “make up our minds” about what to believe. Closely related to this issue, however, are apparent failures of our doxastic agency in which a belief-like pattern of behavior persists, say, to treat not-P as if it were true, despite having decided or judged that P is actually true. I argue that the best account of these sorts of cases is in terms of a conflict between the belief the subject actively holds and one they only passively have. I object, therefore, to a variety of alternative accounts that presuppose only a single kind belief, like Eric Schwitzgebel’s in terms of in-between beliefs, as well as Tamar Gendler’s, even though it is supplemented with a kind quasi-belief she calls alief.