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The prescriptivity of conscious belief Open Access


Other title
intentional states
conscious belief
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Buleandra, Andrei
Supervisor and department
Morton, Adam (Philosophy)
Examining committee member and department
Wilson, Rob (Philosophy)
Jackman, Henry (Philosophy, York University)
Elio, Renee (Computing Science)
Brigandt, Ingo (Philosophy)
Department of Philosophy

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
In my dissertation I explain and defend the claim that conscious beliefs are essentially prescriptive. I argue that norms of conscious belief are explained by the fact that consciously believing p involves a commitment to the truth of p, a commitment analogous to the one involved in the act of accepting an assertion in public linguistic practice. Having a conscious belief implies being vulnerable to certain questions and criticisms from other agents. For instance, when asked for reasons for her belief, a person should provide a justification which demonstrates her entitlement to accepting the given proposition as true. Moreover, if a certain belief logically follows from the agent’s beliefs then she should either accept it as a conclusion or revise her initial beliefs. I argue that both deliberative and non-inferential conscious beliefs can be construed as acceptances of assertions and that they carry the same normative import as public acts of accepting claims put forward by others. The intrinsic relation between conscious belief and language-use shows that conscious belief is irreducible to unconscious or lower-level belief, the type of belief which we attribute to non-human animals or small children. Rather than trying to reduce conscious belief to lower-level belief, I suggest that we should offer an account of the emergence of the linguistic practice of assertion in terms of animal belief and then explain the normative features of conscious belief by reference to the norms implicit in assertional practice. In addition, my work proposes a way of formulating the norms of conscious belief which is consistent with the fact that actual human beings do not have perfect logical abilities; that they can only dedicate a limited amount of time and cognitive resources to the task of reasoning.
License granted by Andrei Buleandra ( on 2011-06-13T23:33:08Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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