The prescriptivity of conscious belief

  • Author / Creator
    Buleandra, Andrei
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Philosophy
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Morton, Adam (Philosophy)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Wilson, Rob (Philosophy)
    • Elio, Renee (Computing Science)
    • Brigandt, Ingo (Philosophy)
    • Jackman, Henry (Philosophy, York University)