Minds and Machines

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 55–73 | Cite as

The many uses of ‘belief’ in AI

  • Robert F. Hadley
General Article


Within AI and the cognitively related disciplines, there exist a multiplicity of uses of ‘belief’. On the face of it, these differing uses reflect differing views about the nature of an objective phenomenon called ‘belief’. In this paper I distinguish six distinct ways in which ‘belief’ is used in AI. I shall argue that not all these uses reflect a difference of opinion about an objective feature of reality. Rather, in some cases, the differing uses reflect differing concerns with special AI applications. In other cases, however, genuine differences exist about the nature of what we pre-theoretically call belief. To an extent the multiplicity of opinions about, and uses of ‘belief’, echoes the discrepant motivations of AI researchers. The relevance of this discussion for cognitive scientists and philosophers arises from the fact that (a) many regard theoretical research within AI as a branch of cognitive science, and (b) even if theoretical AI is not cognitive science, trends within AI influence theories developed within cognitive science. It should be beneficial, therefore, to unravel the distinct uses and motivations surrounding ‘belief’, in order to discover which usages merely reflect differing pragmatic concerns, and which usages genuinely reflect divergent views about reality.

Key words

Belief syntax propositions meaning information tractability degrees of confidence dispositions 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert F. Hadley
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Computing ScienceSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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