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Pete_Carlton comments on Belief in Belief - Less Wrong

66 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 July 2007 05:49PM

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Comment author: Pete_Carlton 30 July 2007 05:58:46AM 8 points [-]

From the post:

While I disagree with Dennett on some details and complications, I still think that Dennett's notion of belief in belief is the key insight necessary to understand the dragon-claimant. But we need a wider concept of belief, not limited to verbal sentences.

If you've read Dennett on beliefs, you'll appreciate that this "wider concept" based on behavior and predictability is really at the heart of things.

I think it is very difficult to attribute a belief in dragons to this "dragon-believer". Only a small subset of his actions - those involving verbal avowals - make sense if you attribute a belief in dragons to him. There is a conflict with the remainder of his beliefs, as can be seen when he nonchalantly enters his garage, or confabulates all sorts of reasons why his dragon can't be demonstrated.

But as you have shown, everything makes sense if you attribute a related, but slightly different belief, namely "I should avow a genuine, heartfelt belief in dragons". Perhaps we can say that this man (and the religious man, since this is the real point) doesn't just believe in belief, but they believe that they believe. He tries to make a second-order belief do the work of a first-order belief.