Home > Book Reviews, Public Discourse, Religion > The meaning of belief

The meaning of belief

Given my long standing interest in clarifying the public vocabulary of science and highlighting the diversity of scientific practices, I was heartened to see Barbara Herrnstein Smith raise a similar point regarding belief:

We are all aware of the diverse array of ideas and dispositions that we carry around in our own heads (and bodies): creedal statements learned in childhood, emotion-laden memories and habits, academically acquired knowledge, individually worked-out convictions that vary in strength and articulateness from one context to another, vagrant images, transient impulses, and so forth.  In the face of such evidence of the fluidity, variability, and heterogeneity of cognitive states, cognitive processes, and mental content-types, the continued invocation and deployment of static, atomistic, logicist, and dualistic conceptions of belief by philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists is itself a revealing example of the peculiar (and officially irrational) operations of human cognition. (p. 76)

Portraying either science or belief as simplistic monoliths is unhelpful and obscures more than it reveals.

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