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This is my first philosophy question, so please bear with me.


Wikipedia says belief is

Belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case, with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty.

When we believe something, how do we know we believe it? For example, let's say I believe that there is a keyboard I'm typing on right now. Even though I may not have complete justification for it, I still believe it. But how do I know I believe it? The definition of belief is "an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.". How do I know I accept something? You could say something like "because I accept it", but that doesn't really answer the question (how do you know you accept it?).

I know this question sounds a little stupid, but I can't seem to really find an answer. Thanks.

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    The key concept is "state of mind"; see Consciousness – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jun 16 '16 at 18:57
  • Is there a specific reason why you're focusing on how we know that we believe something? Your main issue seems to be about the nature of knowledge -- no the specific type of content. If anything, knowing that we believe something is easier than knowing something about the external world. – virmaior Jun 17 '16 at 3:20
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Ned Block makes a distinction between mental states which he calls "P-conscious" and those which he calls "A-conscious." The former includes what one normally thinks of as "what-it's-like" phenomenology such as colors, sounds, tastes, etc. The second category is a different type of consciousness which includes beliefs and similar mental states:

"The paradigm P-conscious states are sensations, whereas the paradigm A-conscious states are 'propositional attitude' states like thoughts, beliefs, and desires, states with representational content expressed by 'that' clauses." Ned Block ("On a confusion about a function of consciousness")

The term A-conscious derives from the fact that Block speaks of these mental states as "access consciousness." They are characterized as such because we access them for the rational control of thoughts and actions.

Since beliefs are mental states which make up our consciousness, we know we believe because we experience it in a similar way that we experience thoughts and desires. Visual experience, for example, is usually accompanied by a belief or certainty that what we are seeing is real. That sense of certainty is a-consciousness accompanying the phenomenal experience of vision. We know it because we experience it in a qualitative way. It's a certain sense of presence that we become aware of in our interaction with objective reality.

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The answer isn't in what you think, it's in what you do. How do you know you believe a keyboard is in front of you and produces letters when you type with it? It's because you interact with the keyboard as if that were true. Similarly, once you've come to know other objects based on certain criteria, you will interact with them based on your belief (understanding) of them.

  • Ah! Thanks for the quick answer too. In terms of religion, believing in God, let's say, would mean doing things like good works and praying, correct? That's how you "believe" in God; not by just mentally saying "I believe", but actually doing what you would if it were true. Is that correct? – APCoding Jun 16 '16 at 18:07
  • Also, what would you say to "how do I know I'm interacting with the keyboard"? A possible answer might be "because what I'm doing is by definition interacting with a keyboard". – APCoding Jun 16 '16 at 18:15
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    Yea, belief in God represents an ontological belief about the universe. If you were say, a Christian, and your understanding of the universe was based on Christian beliefs, you would interact with the world in that way. – Canadian Coder Jun 16 '16 at 18:19
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    "How do I know I'm interacting with a keyboard?"... how do I know I just threw a rock through a window? The rock just went through the window and the glass smashed. – Canadian Coder Jun 16 '16 at 18:28
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    Maybe they don't actually believe in God? Or sincerely believe that they will suffer consequences from refuting God? – Canadian Coder Jun 16 '16 at 18:30
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My definition of belief is that I can prove it to myself. Regardless of the quality of who accepts the proof as true seems to be the case that if I can't prove it I can't believe it. There's the reality that we humam beings can trick other's into thinking that we believe something while there's no real conviction if no true proof is present. That's just pretending to believe. There's something called lying as we all know.

  • This answer could use some sourcing. As written, it's just a raw opinion that doesn't demonstrate knowledge of work on the subject. – virmaior Jun 17 '16 at 3:21

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