The ABCs of Belief (guest post by Willie Costello)


Philosophers are used to talking and thinking about beliefs. Nowadays, thanks to the pioneering work of Tamar Gendler, most of us are comfortable talking about aliefs. But that was just the start of the alphabet…

The following is a guest post* by Willie Costello, a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Philosophy Department at Stanford University.


[paper alphabet by Sonya Dyakova of Phaidon Press]

The ABCs of Belief
by Willie Costello

be·lief   /bəˈlēf/
noun
1. the generic mental attitude or state of mind of taking to be the case or regarding as true

Philosophers are used to talking and thinking about beliefs. Nowadays, thanks to the pioneering work of Tamar Gendler, most of us are comfortable talking about aliefs. But that was just the start of the alphabet. In the years since Gendler’s article, epistemologists and philosophers of mind have identified a number of new kinds of beliefs and belief-like states. It can all be a bit much to keep up with. What follows is a compendium of the latest terminology in the literature, as a reference guide for the rest of us.

 

aliefs                    automatic or habitual belief-like attitudes, esp. ones that are in tension with one’s (explicitly held) beliefs[1]

beliefs                 (see above)

celiefs                  visual beliefs (also seeliefs)

deliefs                 what besires should have been called[2]

e-liefs                  those things that robots think

ehliefs                 those things that Canadians think, y’know?

heliefs                 those things that that guy who’s always mansplaining to you is thinking

Iliefs                     first-personal beliefs (e.g., ‘Cogito’, ‘Sum’)

meliefs                first-personal beliefs, when one does not know that one is speaking of oneself[3]

oliefs                    beliefs that take a while to come to but eventually finally click (also ooohliefs)

pliefs                   a conditional belief’s antecedent

qliefs                    a conditional belief’s consequent

reliefs                  beliefs that you always feared were false but, phew, turned out to be true

tealiefs                prophetic beliefs about one’s future

uliefs                   second-personal beliefs (e.g., ‘Cogitas’; ‘Es’)

vliefs                    disjunctive beliefs (cf. &liefs)

weeliefs              those things that children think

xliefs                    beliefs that you previously held and are no longer on good terms with

yliefs                    beliefs expressing one’s existential angst, nihilism, or general Weltschmerz (also whyliefs)

zliefs                    beliefs that are behaviorally indistinguishable from ordinary beliefs but lacking in any phenomenological content

There is, of course, no reason to suppose that the above list is complete. Future additions and discoveries can sent to Willie Costello.


[1] Gendler, T. S. (2008). ‘Alief and belief.’ Journal of Philosophy 105: 634–663.
[2] Pace Altham, J. (1986). ‘The legacy of emotivism.’ In L. MacDonald and C. Wright (eds.), Fact, Science and Morality, 275–288. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
[3] See Anscombe, G. E. M. (1975). ‘The first person’. In S. Guttenplan (ed.), Mind and Language, 45–65. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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