Beliefs and Facts

  • Colin Cheyne
Part of the The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 67)


I do not intend to offer a full analysis of belief, but only to make explicit the basic assumptions about beliefs that underlie the arguments I employ. These assumptions should be uncontroversial. In particular, they are compatible with any current theories of mind except for eliminativism and perhaps naive behaviourism. It is widely accepted that behaviourism, whether naïve or sophisticated, has failed, so I shall not argue against it here. I discuss belief eliminativism briefly in Section 2.3.


Causal Power Propositional Attitude Ontological Commitment Causal Theory Atomic Proposition 
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  1. 1.
    What one takes as constituting these states and changes will depend on one’s theory of mind. Those with a taste for austere ontology may regard all belief ascriptions as predications of properties or relations to persons. The claim that people have beliefs is then no more than the claim that people believe.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    My attitude to propositions is similar to that of Goldman (1986, pp. 13–17).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For example, if we cannot analyse the semantic value of beliefs without recourse to propositions and the semantic value of a belief makes a difference to its causal powers, then this would suggest that propositions are not acausal.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The weak/strong distinction is taken from Hale (1987, p. 93). The formulation of (SC) is suggested by Goldman (1967, p. 369).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For an alternative, and more detailed argument for facts as causal relata, see Mellor (1995).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Assume that all of the following propositions are relativised to a specific time or time interval.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Perhaps these are not strictly equivalent. English allows us to make subtle distinctions. ‘The mayor departed’ corresponds to ‘The departure of the mayor’, while ‘The mayor was departing’ corresponds to ‘The mayor’s departing’.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See, for example, Menzies (1989), except that what I call conditions, he calls states of affairs.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Strictly speaking, the class of facts associated with atomic propositions and negations of atomic propositions.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See, for example, Menzies (1989), except that what I call facts, he calls situations. It is clear from the literature that, whatever terminology one adopts, it will clash with someone else’s. Stipulation is the order of the day.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Cheyne
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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