High and Low Beliefs

Wallace Matson

in Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199812691
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919420 | DOI:
High and Low Beliefs

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Virtually all the beliefs of animals without language are formed in encounters with what they are about. Let us call them low beliefs. And with few exceptions they are true. People too have low beliefs, which like those of beasts are overwhelmingly true. But people can acquire beliefs in other ways: by being told and by imagination. Let us call these beliefs high. If people have acquired low beliefs and transmitted them to others who have not had the encounters generating them, these beliefs are individually high for those who take them on testimony, but socially low. Henceforward in this book the adverb will usually be omitted; “low belief” will mean “socially low belief”. The most successful mammalian species, Homo sapiens, is the one harboring the vast majority of false beliefs. Much of the rest of this book will be devoted to explaining how this can be and what are its consequences..

Keywords: low belief; high belief; true; false; socially low/high belief; belief acquisition

Chapter.  3762 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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