I was wondering if it is trivial that when the content of a belief can be given or "determined" by mind independent reality, the belief is "about" mind independent reality.

I think that the content of a belief can be determined by something other than what it is about.

e.g. I believe that the earth orbits the sun because of the history of science, but the history of science is not the sun's orbit.


  • Is what makes a proposition true only determined by its referent?
  • If so, does that mean the propositional content is only determined by the referent?

But I suppose that a proposition cannot be reduced to what makes it true...

  • 1
    Answers to the last two questions depend on one's theory of meaning: yes under Millianism, no under descriptivism of Frege-Russell. But I am not quite sure what the preceding paragraphs are getting at: are you asking about the difference between a reason for belief and its content, between sense and reference, or...? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense_and_reference – Conifold Jan 4 '16 at 3:28
  • i'm not sure that i can ask any clearer than i have. i'm asking whether being "determined by reality" trivially means being "about reality" – user6917 Jan 4 '16 at 3:29
  • yeah i think i'm a little confused. i wasn't sure if i should start another thread, it made more sense in the context of another – user6917 Jan 4 '16 at 3:36
  • I think even Millianists would admit that "determined by reality" does not necessarily mean "about reality". On a realistic position hallucinations and optical illusions are determined by reality, but they are not about it. – Conifold Jan 4 '16 at 3:39
  • @Conifold my apologies i must have misunderstood who i was arguing about this with, on another thread – user6917 Jan 4 '16 at 3:40

There are three layers not to be confused:

  1. The truth value of a proposition is defined/determinable by (the properties of) its referent.

  2. The content of a proposition is determined by some reality (perceptions, mood, thoughts, structure of objects,...) obviously, but it could be false or sheer nonsense.

  3. Calling a proposition knowledge does mean endorsing its truth and implies that the content corresponds to the actual properties of the referent of this proposition.

Therefore, if a proposition is knowledge and its content is mind-independent (realism), it also has to have a mind-independent referent, as the content is some kind of definite assumption about something. It is about its referent and implies its existance. Otherwise the truth value would be indeterminable.

  • can you explain what you mean by "its content is mind independent" there seems to be some disagreement as to my [implicit] question in the 1st paragraph: do you endorse it? – user6917 Jan 4 '16 at 4:31
  • I'm not a realist, nope. But the basic assumption of realists is that we have a way to perceive the world exactly as it is, that means as it exists mind-independently. E.g. scientific realists that claim that our measurements and theories are able to describe the world at least approximatly as it actually is, not only as we as humans are able to make sense out of what we get out of it. – Philip Klöcking Jan 4 '16 at 4:43
  • i'm not asking if you're a realist, but whether you mean "content is mind independent" to mean "determined by mind independent reality". i suppose you do, but i thought Conifold was claiming that obviously mistaken – user6917 Jan 4 '16 at 4:44
  • I do not. As for propositions, I do not care about what determined them, wether pure thought, remembrence or something mind-independent. What I do care about is their referent and what calling them knowledge implies about it. – Philip Klöcking Jan 4 '16 at 7:56
  • confusing, sorry – user6917 Jan 4 '16 at 8:07

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