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Belief, reasons, and irrationality

Edwards, SA; (2013) Belief, reasons, and irrationality. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis, we explore the question: What is a belief? We do so by considering the folk psychological concept of belief and attempting to unearth some constitutive features of it. We argue that, according to this concept, there is a significant relationship between belief and reasons: one which reveals that beliefs aim at truth, as Bernard Williams (1973) once famously put it. We argue for a particular interpretation of this claim, according to which it is to be understood as follows: (R): It is constitutive of belief that if it is consciously regulated, it is so-regulated solely for truth; and (C): It is constitutive of belief that it is correct if and only if its contents are true. We maintain that (C) explains why it is that (R) is true. So, belief is at base a normative concept: the question as to why one holds a particular belief can always be raised. We then explore two irrational phenomena – self-deception and delusion – and further unravel what (R) and (C) involve, as well as shedding some light on the phenomena themselves. We argue for a position we call doxastic minimalism about self-deception, according to which, in the paradigm case, the self-deceiver holds neither their undesired belief that p nor their desired belief that ~p. This is because they do not have attitudes to these contents that meet conditions (R) and (C). Similarly, we argue that although cases of delusion vary significantly, in some extreme cases, the subject does not seem to relate to the content of their delusion in a manner that meets (R) and (C), and hence ought not to be attributed a belief in such contents.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Belief, reasons, and irrationality
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Belief, Reasons, Irrationality, Alief, In-between believing, Aim of belief, Norm of belief, Self-deception, Delusion
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1382986
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