Saturday, January 2, 2016

An Overview of Belief

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. In other words, belief is when someone thinks something is reality, true, when they have no absolute verified foundation for their certainty of the truth or realness of something  Another way of defining belief is, it is a mental representation of an attitude positively orientated towards the likelihood of something being true.  In the context of Ancient Greek thought, two related concepts were identified with regards to the concept of belief: pistis and doxa. Simplified, we may say that pistis refers to trust and confidence, while doxa refers to opinion and acceptance. The English word doctrine is derived from doxa.

In epistemology, philosophers use the term ‘belief’ to refer to personal attitudes associated with true or false ideas and concepts. However, ‘belief’ does not require active introspection and circumspection. For example, we never ponder whether or not the sun will rise. We simply assume the sun will rise. Since ‘belief’ is an important aspect of mundane life, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the question that must be answered is, “how a physical organism can have beliefs” (

Knowledge and Epistemology

Epistemology is concerned with delineating the boundary between justified belief and opinion, and involved generally with a theoretical philosophical study of knowledge. The primary problem in epistemology is to understand exactly what is needed in order for us to have knowledge. In a notion derived from Plato's dialogue Theaetetus, where the epistemology of Socrates (Platon) most clearly departs from that of the sophists, who at the time of Plato seem to have defined knowledge as what is here expressed as "justified true belief". The tendency to translate from belief (here: doxa - common opinion) to knowledge (here: episteme), which Plato (e.g. Socrates of the dialogue) utterly dismisses, results from failing to distinguish a dispositive belief (gr. 'doxa', not 'pistis') from knowledge (episteme) when the opinion is regarded true (here: orthé), in terms of right, and juristically so (according to the premises of the dialogue). Which was the task of the rhetors to prove. Plato dismisses this possibility of an affirmative relation between belief (i.e. opinion) and knowledge even when the one who opines grounds his belief on the rule, and is able to add justification (gr. logos: reasonable and necessarily plausible assertions/evidence/guidance) to it.  It is important to keep in mind that the sort of belief in the context of Theaetetus is not derived from the theological concept of belief, which is pistis, but doxa, which in theological terms refers to acceptance in the form of praise and glory.

Strangely, or not, Plato has been credited for the "justified true belief" theory of knowledge, even though Plato in the Theaetetus (dialogue) elegantly dismisses it, and even posits this argument of Socrates as a cause for his death penalty . Among American epistemologists, Gettier (1963) and Goldman (1967), have questioned the "justified true belief" definition, and challenged the "sophists" of their time.


Religious belief refers to attitudes towards mythological, supernatural, or spiritual

 aspects of a religion. Religious belief is distinct from religious practice or religious behaviours with some believers not practicing religion and some practitioners not believing religion. Religious beliefs, being derived from ideas that are exclusive to religion, often relate to the existence, characteristics and worship of a deity or deities, divine intervention in the universe and human life, or the deontological explanations for the values and practices centered on the teachings of a spiritual leader or group. In contrast to other belief systems, religious beliefs are usually codified.

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