What Do We Aim At When We Believe?
Article first published online: 30 JUN 2011
© 2011 The Author. dialectica© 2011 Editorial Board of dialectica
Volume 65, Issue 3, pages 369–392, September 2011
How to Cite
MCHUGH, C. (2011), What Do We Aim At When We Believe?. Dialectica, 65: 369–392. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2011.01270.x
- Issue published online: 19 AUG 2011
- Article first published online: 30 JUN 2011
It is often said that belief aims at truth. I argue that if belief has an aim then that aim is knowledge rather than merely truth. My main argument appeals to the impossibility of forming a belief on the basis of evidence that only weakly favours a proposition. This phenomenon, I argue, is a problem for the truth-aim hypothesis. By contrast, it can be given a simple and satisfying explanation on the knowledge-aim hypothesis. Furthermore, the knowledge-aim hypothesis suggests a very plausible account of what it takes for evidence to be sufficiently good to make belief possible. I offer several further considerations in favour of the knowledge-aim hypothesis, and deal with objections. Although the main point of the paper is not to defend the view that belief has an aim, but to adjudicate between accounts of what that aim is, my argument nevertheless requires some attention to the motivation for attributing an aim to belief in the first place. In particular, I will explain an important advantage that this view has over the view that belief is not aim-directed, but only subject to a constitutive norm.