Belief is weak

  • Type: Journal Article
  • Author: Hawthorne, John; Rothschild, Daniel; Spectre, Levi
  • Journal: Philosophical Studies
    • Volume: 173
    • Issue: 5
    • Pages: 1393-1404
  • Year: 2016
  • DOI: 10.1007/s11098-015-0553-7


It is tempting to posit an intimate relationship between belief and assertion. The speech act of assertion seems like a way of transferring the speaker’s belief to his or her audience. If this is right, then you might think that the evidential warrant required for asserting a proposition is just the same as the warrant for believing it. We call this thesis entitlement equality. We argue here that entitlement equality is false, because our everyday notion of belief is unambiguously a weak one. Believing something is true, we argue, is compatible with having relatively little confidence in it. Asserting something requires something closer to complete confidence. Specifically, we argue that believing a proposition merely requires thinking it likely, but that thinking that a proposition is likely does not entitle one to assert it. This conclusion conflict with a standard view that ‘full belief’ is the central commonsense non-factive attitude.

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