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John_Mark_Rozendaal comments on Belief in Belief - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: John_Mark_Rozendaal 27 August 2007 03:26:06AM 9 points [-]

I like Eliezer's essay on belief very much. I've been thinking about the role of belief in religion. (For the sake of full disclosure, my background is Calvinist.) I wonder why Christians say, "We believe in one God," as if that were a particularly strong assertion. Wouldn't it be stronger to say, "We know one God?" What is the difference between belief and knowledge? It seems to me that beliefs are usually based on no data. Most people who believe in a god do so in precisely the same way that they might believe in a dragon in the garage. People are comfortable saying that they know something only when they can refer to supporting data. Believers are valiantly clinging to concepts for which the data is absent. Most people who believe in a god do so in precisely the same way that they might believe in a dragon in the garage.

Regarding the dialogue between the dragon claimant and his challengers, why didn't the challengers simply ask the claimant, "Why do you say that there is an invisible, inaudible, non-respiriating, flour-permeable dragon in your garage?"

Comment author: johnwcowan 26 July 2011 11:28:57PM 1 point [-]

Knowledge involves more than belief. You know p if all of the following are true:

1) You believe p. 2) p is true. 3) If p were not true, you wouldn't believe it (justified true belief) 4) If p were true, you would believe it (Gettier belief)

And most beliefs, such as the belief that my keys are in my left pocket, are trivial and true, as well as being based on data.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 27 July 2011 01:57:01PM 1 point [-]

At least in my mind, the processes that generate beliefs like "my keys are in my left pocket" are not perfectly reliable -- at least once, I have thought my keys were in my left pocket when in fact I left them on the dresser.

So #3 is demonstrably false for me; on this account, I don't know where my keys are.

Which is perfectly internally consistent, though it doesn't match up with the colloquial usage of "to know," which seems to indicate that the speaker's confidence in p is above some threshold.

There's nothing wrong with having precisely defined terms of art, in epistemology or any other field. But it can lead to confusion when colloquial words are repurposed in this way.

Comment author: MixedNuts 27 July 2011 02:30:10PM 2 points [-]

Add "with high probability" everywhere.

Comment author: Clarica 28 September 2011 07:31:36PM 0 points [-]

And also, "How do you know."

Your question is more helpful, of course. Any person who believes that there is a non-evidentiary dragon in a garage will have some way to answer mine, hopefully without going through too much more stress.