By Henry Bradford Smith
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This argument will be examined in detail in the next chapter. Putting Logic in its Place 44 mentioned above, it is not clear that unqualified assertions express belief, rather than claims to knowledge. 3 Extent and Severity of the Intuitive Problem It seems that the best response to the preface problem, if one wants to impose deductive constraints on belief, will involve biting the whole bullet: holding not only that our author should refrain from believing that his book contains errors, but that he should positively believe his book to be entirely error-free.
According to one, binary belief is identified with graded belief of the highest degree (1); on this account, to believe P is to be Two Models of Belief 21 certain that P. According to the other account, the threshold is lower (and may not be precisely specified); on this account, to believe P is to be sufficiently confident, but not necessarily certain, that P. Let us consider these accounts in turn. The certainty proposal is, I think, less plausible. If the binary conception of belief derives its plausibility from our habit of making unqualified assertions, and from our ordinary ways of thinking and talking about belief, then the plausible notion of binary belief is of an attitude that falls far short of absolute certainty.
Indeed, he believes that writing a completely error-free book in his field is virtually impossible. Given this background, it is not surprising that whenever a new book comes out—even a book written by a scholar he believes to be more meticulous than he himself is—Professor X believes that the new book will be found to contain errors. Time and time again, these beliefs have been borne out. And now, suppose that Professor X is studying a catalogue, in which his forthcoming book is being Deductive Constraints 41 advertised alongside the new offerings from Professors Y and Z (both of whom have taken unseemly pleasure in pointing out niggling little mistakes in Professor X’s previous works).
A primer of logic by Henry Bradford Smith