Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 5, pp 1393–1404 | Cite as

Belief is weak

  • John Hawthorne
  • Daniel Rothschild
  • Levi Spectre


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.


Credence Epistemology Assertion Full belief Neg-raising 



We are grateful to Guillermo Del Pinal, Keith DeRose, Jeremy Goodman, Avishai Margalit, Mike Martin, Peter Pagin, Philippe Schlenker, Amia Srinivasan, Seth Yalcin and an anonymous referee for this journal for comments and discussion. Special thanks to Timothy Williamson for detailed comments on an earlier draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Hawthorne
    • 1
  • Daniel Rothschild
    • 2
  • Levi Spectre
    • 3
  1. 1.OxfordUK
  2. 2.University College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.The Open University of IsraelRa’ananaIsrael

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