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Scots Philosophical Association University of St. Andrews Moore's Paradox and Epistemic Risk Author(s): Arthur W.

Scots Philosophical Association University of St. Andrews

Moore's Paradox and Epistemic Risk Author(s): Arthur W. Collins Source: The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 184 (Jul., 1996), pp. 308-319 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the Scots Philosophical Association and the University of St. Andrews Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2956443 Accessed: 11-06-2015 13:17 UTC

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The PhilosophicalQuarterly, Vol. 46, No. 184 ISSNo' 1-8o)94

July 9f96

MOORE'S

PARADOX

AND EPISTEMIC RISK

BY ARTHURW. COLLINS

Moore said that assertion of conjunctions of the form 'I believe that p, and

-p' would be 'absurd'. He found this absurd and not contradicto?y, because

both propositional elements conjoined might be true, and each one by itself would make an unobjectionable assertion. The idea that there is a paradox, and the reason for the continuing interest in this topic, is that the deviance

of such conjunctions stands in need of some other explanation, once we agree that the relevant explanation is not just avoidance of contradiction.

I. THE CLAIMOF THIS DISCUSSION

I say that avoidance of contradiction does suffice to explain what is wrong with Moore's conjunctions, and that there is no residual absurditystanding in need of explanation, and nothing paradoxical here. In order to see this, we have to bear in mind that a speaker S may contradict himself (or herself, omitted hereafter for simplicity) without uttering any sentence that is contra- dictory in form. S contradicts himself if S assigns both T and F to the same proposition, whether or not he does this by asserting a conjunction in what

is

is itself a contradictory sentence. The resolution of the supposed paradox

facilitated in what follows by emphasis on the liability for error that is an ineliminable part of the concept of belief. I call this side of the concept of

belief 'epistemic risk'. The discussion concludes with a statement of the im- plications of this resolution of Moore's paradox for the philosophy of mind.

II. UNPROBLEMATIC CONTEXTS AND

ANALOGIES

It is generally appreciated that the words 'I believe that p, and -p' can be

used without absurdity or deviance

statements, or within the scope of a modal operator, as in 'If I believe that p, and -p, I am going to look foolish', or 'It is possible that I believe that p, and

of any kind, for example, in conditional

? 'he

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MOORE'S PARADOX AND EPISTEMICRISK

309

-p'. Similarly, past-tense assertions, such as 'I believed that p, and -p' are

unproblematic, and resemble third-person analogues of Moore's deviant conjunctions such as 'Sbelieves that p, and -p'. The availability of these un- problematic contexts and analogies indicates that the deviance of Moore's conjunctions is connected with the fact that they are in the first person and

the present tense. This, too, is universally understood.

III. EPISTEMICRISK

A subject who believes that p stands to be right if p is the case and is mis-

taken if p is not the case. I call this uncontroversial aspect of the concept of belief 'epistemic risk'. A cumbersome form of words for expressing belief in terms of epistemic riskis this:

ER. Ifp I am right about p, and if -p I am mistaken about p.

The

third-personparallel ascribing belief that p is

If p, S is right about p, and if -p, S is

mistaken about p.

These conjunctive forms are redundant, since the liability for error and the

prospect of being right are essentially correlative. Thus 'If -p, I am mistaken about p' by itself expresses belief that p. This is reflected in such idiomatic formulations for making one's belief known as 'Unless I am mistaken,p' and

'p, or I am much mistaken'. S stands to be mistaken ifp is false if and only if

S believes that p.

IV. MOORE'S PARADOX THROUGH THE LENS OF EPISTEMICRISK

Since 'If -p, I am mistaken about p' expresses belief that p, Moore's con-

junctions

can be re-expressed in the form

A. If-p

Now (A) entails the non-conjunctive

B. I am mistaken about p.

This curious formula inherits the deviance of Moore's conjunctions. (B),too, cannot be allowed, in spite of the fact that we are tempted to say that, were

it not 'absurd',(B)might be true, since the speakermay be mistaken aboutp.

The same unproblematic parallels we found for Moore's conjunctions are plainly accessible for (B), namely, 'If I am mistaken about p I shall look

I am mistaken about p, and -p.

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310

ARTHUR W. COLLINS

foolish', 'It is possible that I am mistaken about p', 'I was mistaken about p', and 'Sis mistaken about p'. The reason for the deviance of Moore's conjunctions emerges when we contemplate the similar absurdity of (B). Why is it that 'I am mistaken about p' cannot be used to make an ordinary assertion? Exploring the assertions made by the unproblematic analogues, we see that 'S is mistaken about p' means that S takes a stand on p (assigns a truth-value to p), and that what- ever truth-value he assigns, p actually has the other truth-value. 'S is mis- taken about p' expresses an evaluation of a judgement S makes. As such, it involves a comparison of twotruth-value assignments, one of them made by

S

and the other by the speaker making the evaluation. In just the same way,

'I

was mistaken about p' compares two truth-value assignments, in this case

both assignments made by the speaker, the first made during some interval of past time, the second made at the time at which S is speaking. Plainly, any evaluation of a judgement or a belief involves the comparison of two assign- ments of truth-value, one by the believer, the other by the person making the evaluation. Sometimes both roles are played by the same subject.

V. MOORE'S PARADOX RESOLVED

I am sure that the solution of Moore's paradox is already discerned by the reader. I want to set out a few points explicitly. The words 'I am mistaken about p' have the superficial form appropriate for the expression of an eval- uation of a judgement or a belief of the speaker. Cannot S evaluate his own belief? If S believes that Cicero denounced Catiline, cannot S be assailed by doubts as to whether it was not, perhaps, Catiline who denounced Cicero? Of course he can. And if he can investigate to find out whether his belief is correct, does it not follow that one possible outcome is a negative evalua-

tion? Indeed, an evaluation of one's own belief can be negative. Not

that: in ordinary speech, it is actually possible to say 'Then I am mistaken' in expressing a negative finding. The speaker is allowed this rhetoric, although

everyone understands that the speaker does not, in fact, take himself to be mistaken.The words, when actually used, really mean 'I was mistaken until just now'. They do not mean that at present I assign a truth-value to p and also assign the other truth-value to p, and thus recognize that the first assignment is wrong. In order to say something that would be literally as- serted by 'I am mistaken about p' I would have to assign both T and F to p.

The resulting assertion would not be absurd or paradoxical, for it would express a self-contradiction.No one finds it puzzling or paradoxical that self-

only

contradictory speech acts are proscribed.

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MOORE'S PARADOX AND EPISTEMICRISK

311

Nothing stands in the way of applying this result to the conjunctions to which Moore called attention. The third-person 'S believes that p, and -p' expresses a negative evaluation of S's assignment of T to p. As above, that evaluation necessarily depends on a comparison of two truth-value assign- ments, one by the believer and the other by the speaker. For the first-person past-tense conjunction 'I believed that p, and -p' the comparison of two assignments of truth-value is still required. Since the speaker is the believer, both are made by the same person, but the two different truth-value assignments are not made at the same time. Now we ask why it is that we cannot allow the first-personpresent-tense conjunction. It would express an evaluation of the speaker's present belief by the speaker and would, in consequence, require that the speaker assign both T and F to p. The im- propriety of this is not paradoxical and the conjunction would express a self- contradiction and not an absurd sentiment. S contradicts himself even though the sentence S assertsis not itself a formal contradiction.

VI. IMPLICATIONS FOR THE

CONCEPT OF A STATE OF BELIEF

According to a widely accepted understanding, the concept of belief is the concept of an inner state of a subject. Philosophers propose speculative characterizations of such inner states of belief. The idea that a state of belief is a neural reality in the believer, or that such a state is a functionally defined and neurally realized state of the believer, are familiar examples. Such theses are incompatible with our explanation of Moore's paradox. Thus the above discussion is an argument against these conceptions of belief. I want to make clear just what it is that is excluded, if the above points are accepted. It is not plausible to deny that there are beliefs or that there are states of belief. The phrase 'state of belief' is not a theoretical or tech- nical term, and the inference from 'S believes that p' to 'S is in the state of belief that p' is valid in ordinary discourse. This concession has to be distinguished from the idea that a state of belief that p might have some real constitution in a believer, which it would have if, for example, states of belief were realized as neural items in the brains of believers. It is worth noting that a Cartesian identification of a state of belief with a non-physical reality in the believer's mind also gives such states a real constitution, and is also incompatible with our account of Moore's paradox for that reason. Because most theories about mental states are physicalist nowadays, I shall contem- plate only neural constitutions for belief-states in what follows, while reminding the reader that I am exploring the consequences of assigning any real constitution at all to states of belief.

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ARTHUR W. COLLINS

Let us use '(BSp)' as an abbreviated means for referring to any such pro-

jected neural reality constituting (or realizing) the state of belief that p in S. In the framework of any theory ascribing such a constitution to a state of belief, S believes that p if and only if (BSp) exists in S's brain. Therefore the truth or falsehood of the statements 'S believes that p' and 'I believe that p' (made by S) turn on whether (BSp) is or is not present in S's brain. Theorists who contemplate neural constitutions for states of belief do not suppose that ordinary speakers already know what the neural constitution of their belief- states is, nor that the man in the street understands that belief-states have neural constitutions of some kind or other. The idea is that ordinary speak- ers are able to report their belief-states although they do not know just what the nature of those belief-statesis. On this point, the theorist might appeal to many analogous precedents. For example, an ordinary speaker can report the presence of a wart without knowing the real nature of warts, that is, that they are virus colonies. So philosophers of mind are saying that, whether S

that p' has the presence of

(BSp) for its truth-condition,just as 'I have a wart' has the presence of a virus colony for truth-condition, the ignorance of the reporter notwithstanding. The exclusion of any theory that gives the belief that p a real constitution

not possibly

express a self-contradictionif any such theory were true. For the purposes at hand let p = 'The cat is on the mat'. p will be true if the cat is on the mat, and 'I believe that p' will be true if (BSp) is in my brain. These are simply two distinct and independent matters of fact. No pair of assignments to 'I believe that p' and to p itself, by the same subject, and at the same time,

knows it or

not, what S asserts in saying 'I believe

can be read off from the fact that 'I believe that p, and -p' could

can possibly be self-contradictory on

spective of philosophical theorists, we are free to conjecture that all and only those who believe that p have a state relevantly like (BSp) in their brains.

Alternatively, if we do not expect a type-theory of belief-states, we may legi-

S's state (BSp) will be causally related to S's behaviour

timately stipulate that

under various stimuli in just the same way as functionally defined states of belief are supposed to be related to behaviour according to functionalist theories. Among other things, the presence of (BSp) will cause S to assert p under appropriate circumstances, and also cause S to report the presence of the state of belief by asserting 'I believe that p'. As a consequence of these permissible specifications, we can properly suppose that, when (BSp) is present, S will never be inclined to report the state of belief and also inclined to assert -p. Given the posited causal relations, we shall suppose that, unless S is trying to be deceptive or some other exceptional circumstance obtains, S will be willing to assert either both or neither of the two propositions 'I believe that p' and p itself. To this extent, such a theory is compatible with

this understanding. Adopting the per-

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MOORE'S PARADOX AND EPISTEMICRISK

313

the fact that Moore's conjunctions are not asserted in ordinary discourse. But, allowing all of this for the sake of argument, we would still know just what a speaker would be saying should he say 'I believe that p, and -p'. Even if no one ever asserted it, merely contemplating such a conjunction we would have to agree that, if it were asserted, it would make a straight- forward statement, easy to interpret. The first conjunct would turn on the presence or absence of (BSp) in the speaker's brain (and he might even know of that), and the second conjunct would assert something altogether differ- ent, namely, that the cat is not on the mat.

(BSp) is present in my brain and it is not the case that the cat is present on the mat

is by no means a contradiction, but then it is not absurd or paradoxical either!

issue. Once a real constitution (BSp) is

ascribed to S's state of belief that p, it becomes impossible to interpret 'I be- lieve that p' as an expression of an assignment of truth-value to p. For these

words become the assertion of a proposition that is known to have truth- conditions other than and contrasting with those of p. Given any such theory, an ordinary speaker saying 'I believe that p' is taken to report a state of himself. Of course, such a report will be right if the state is present and mistaken if it is not present. S's assertion will reveal this liability and will not be a determination of the truth of p, which, as is perfectly clear to all, has quite different truth-conditions. It may be worth noting that so-called externalist understandings of the putative reality that constitutes S's believing that p do not elude the crit- icisms of theories about the nature of belief that are set out here. All pro- posals that assign any real constitution at all to S's state of belief that p, whether physical or spiritual, whether inner or (partly)outer, are the same in this respect. This difficulty would immediately infect our understanding of third-

person ascriptions of belief. If we understand that

the presence of something in S's brain, we shall have deleted the force of these words that enables us to take them as an expression of the idea that S assigns T to p. For we shall have to concede that S's version of the same sentiment, 'I believe thatp', makes a definite assertion, and thus expresses an assignment of the truth-value T to a proposition, but not to the proposition p. Whatever it is that 'I believe that p' does assert, it is clear that that asser-

tion can be relayed by saying of the speaker 'S believes that p'. Therefore, if S's assertion 'I believe that p' does not express S's assignment T to p, then 'S believes that p' will not express that idea either. Worse yet, on any such

It is not difficult to understand this

'Sbelieves that p' turns on

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understanding, should S ask himself the question 'Is it the case that p?' and resolve just that question, for example, by examining the concatenated mat, S's assignment of T to the proposition 'The cat is on the mat' will not be cor- rectly rendered by S's asserting 'I believe that the cat is on the mat'. For these words formulate a claim that has truth-conditions known to the speaker (namely, the cat's presence on the mat) which are quite other than the truth-conditions for 'Such and such a state is present in me'. But the latter are the truth-conditions for 'I believe that the cat is on the mat', ac- cording to any theory that provides a real constitution for the state of belief that p. Such a theory of belief-states will necessarily introduce a subject- matter for another proposition different in truth-conditions from p. Within the framework of a theory that envisages such a real constitution, S will certainly express the idea that he assigns T to this other proposition by saying 'I believe thatp'. As we have already conceded, even if the theory is correct, the un- informed speaker may not know what the constitution of states of belief is, so

that S will not literally assign T to '(BSp) is present in my brain' in asserting

'I believe that p'. Our point is unaffected by this presumption of ignorance

on the part of most people who can say what they believe. Any theory that proposes a real constitution for states of belief implies that ordinary speakers

already do

although they are unable to give a perspicuous description of what is in fact

a neural reality. They report states of belief under an opaque description that uses only the content of the belief to pick out the state of belief, but the

truth or falsehood of the assertion made by such a report, according to such

a theory, does not have the truth-conditions of p, and making the assertion

cannot be thought of as assigning T to p. To think that a theory proposing a real constitution for the state of belief that p might be true is to think that ordinary speakersalready report the inner reality (BSp) in asserting 'I believe that p' although they do not know that that is the real nature of the state they report. Thus if (BSp) were something real in believers, Moore's conjunctions

would

broadly similar

conclusion with respect to functionalist identifications of states of belief:

report such states in their assertions of the form 'I believe that p',

not

be

paradoxical. Jane

Heal

has reached

a

'any functionalist approach

something contradictory about [Moore's paradoxical conjunctions]'.' Fur- thermore, she quite properly traces the incompatibility between standard philosophical theories and the deviance of the conjunctions to which Moore drew attention to a widely accepted metaphysical view, namely, the idea

'Moore's Paradox: a Wittgensteinian Approach', Mind,I03 (1994), pp. 5-24, at p. 17.

must fail to account for the idea that there is

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MOORE'S PARADOX AND EPISTEMICRISK

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that beliefs are 'phenomena which people may come across' either 'intro- spectively' or in the course of framing explanations of behaviour. The 'Witt- gensteinian approach' involves setting aside this metaphysical presumption. It seems to me that, in spite of this promising beginning, Heal does not reach a convincing explanation of Moore's paradox only because she does not go far enough in what is clearly the right direction. She proposes a complex combination of collectively belief-constituting devices, including training in the expression and ascription of belief, a performative element in judging that one believes, and more or less infallible second-order beliefs. These ideas are supposed to help us move away from the seductively natural philosophical presumption that beliefs are things we (might) come across in ourselves. In my opinion, the defective metaphysical view is the idea that believing has any constitution at all. If this is right, the defect will not be removed by Heal's well-intended sophistications. In sum, 'I believe that p, and -p' would not express a self-contradictory assignment of both T and F to p, if belief-states had a real constitution in believers. In fact, Moore's conjunctions would have to be unobjectionable assertionsof two compatible matters of fact, if (BSp) were an acceptable con- stitution for the state of belief that p. But to assert such a conjunction is to contradict oneself, as I have shown above. The considerations that reveal this are too simple and too clear for us to imagine that they conceal a total misunderstanding. Of course, a person asserting 'I believe that p' is letting us know that he assigns T to p, and this is contradicted if he goes on to assign F to p by asserting -p. Moore put too much confidence in the fact that 'I be- lieve that p, and -p' is not, as a sentence, a formal contradiction. That is simply an inadequate test of whether a speaker is contradicting himself. To assert such a conjunction would be to contradict oneself. There is no mistake in that thought. The mistake lies in theories that ascribe a real con- stitution of states of belief.

VII. CONFUSING COMPLICATIONS

It is very easy to lose one's focus on the subject-matter of S's statements when S expresses a belief. We do well to remind ourselves that mere asser- tion ofp is by far the most common linguistic vehicle for expression of belief. The prefacing words 'I believe that' are almost always selected in order to convey some qualification or insecurity about p, and not to identify one's speech act as an expression of belief. If a subject is entirely secure about the truth of p, the words 'I believe that p' would be misleading, because they would convey uncertainty that is not present. So the boss's petulant sarcasm

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'I believe that I am in charge of this office' manages to convey exasperation by falsely implying less than certainty about p in the light of the behaviour of subordinates. 'I believe that' functions as a means for weakening the claim that p, and not as a device for changing the subject. Furthermore, if S does assert 'I believe that p' and is challenged and asked to back up what he has asserted, both the challenger and S himself will take it for granted that S will defend the proposition p, just as he would had he asserted merely p. Replies to 'How so?', or 'What makes you say so?', will be things like 'I can see it from here, unless that's just a sweater on the mat', or 'The cat always dozes away the afternoon on that mat'. No one expects S to defend the claim to possess a certain state present in him, yet this, and not p, would be the claim S has made if the theory were right. Again, the thought that asser- tion of the belief should be the most common and natural means for ex- pressing belief fits well with the idea of epistemic risk.Assertion ofp makes it clear that it is p about which one stands to be mistaken or right. Expression of belief conveys epistemic risk, and the two linguistic devices, assertion ofp and assertion of'I believe that p', are alternative means for making the same conversational move. Now I have pointed out that the provision of an explicit subject-matter (BSp), on which the truth of S's 'I believe that p' is supposed to turn, is incompatible with the function of those words in conveying epistemic risk relative to p. On just this point, it is especially easy to accept the idea that

its own other than p. This necessarily false assertions

is

when p is false, whereas assertions of 'I believe that p' are not necessarily false when p is false. In particular, 'I believe that p' says something about the speaker, while 'p'does not. One cannot move straight from the fact that an auditor will ordinarilyget information about the speaker from an assertion to the claim that the assertion itself is aboutthe speaker who makes it. We can remove some of the

uncertainty surrounding this issue by substituting an artificiallyexplicit form

of

formulation

'I

believe that p' ought tobe given a subject-matter of because it is so very clear that assertions ofp are

expression.

In

the

case

of

the

non-idiomatic

but

otherwise clear

I assign the truth-valueT to p,

no one will doubt that these words convey to auditors the idea that the speaker assigns the truth-value T to p and is therefore mistaken about p if p

is false. The

forming his auditors concerning another matter of fact about which he is right whether or not p is the case. None the less the words 'I assign the truth- value T to p' are not false because p is false, but only where the speaker does

speaker is letting others know about that liability, and is not in-

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MOORE'S PARADOX AND EPISTEMICRISK

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not riskerror ifp is false. 'I assign T to p' is, for all intents and purposes,just a variant of'I believe thatp'. Do these words not explicitly state something about the speaker S? That they do is indisputable. In contrast, by assertingp, S does not assert anything about himself, but rather tells us where the cat is. From this circumstance philosophical theorists are encouraged to conclude that the two assertions

subject-matter

ought to have separate subject-matters. Let us see how such a

could function here. Suppose we come to follow this practice: upon finding that p is the case, or upon finding evidence for p, we generally mark a physical sentence-token of p with a 'T'. Suppose further that to say 'I assign

the truth-value T to p' literally means that I have made the appropriate mark on an appropriate token. As soon as we flesh out 'assign the truth- value T to p'in this realistic way, the conjunction

I assign T to p, and -p

becomes a natural and non-deviant sentence. The words cannot possibly express a self-contradiction and cannot be read so as to sound absurd or paradoxical, on this understanding. The words cease to be an expression of belief that p. They now assert something else, something that is customarily true if and only if I believe that p, but something that cannot possibly express belief that p precisely because it has its own subject-matter, which is compatible with any stand on the truth-value of p. Of course, given the practice as described, others will accept a report of token-marking as an

indication of S's epistemic risk visa vis p. But

possibly constituteS's epistemic risk, and this is reflected in the straightforward

meaning that 'I assign T to p, and -p' will have. Of course, 'I assign T to p' is not ordinarily used to describe a token-marking ceremony, and would much more easily be used as an oddly elaborate way of expressing belief. As such, it can express no subject-matter other than S's risk concerning p.

the marking behaviour cannot

VIII. WHY THIS HAS GONE UNDETECTED

We can get a deeper understanding of the issues here without leaving the

matter of truth-value assignments. I have suggested that the strongest and therefore the most misleading source of support for the idea of inner states of belief is the fact that, like 'Sbelieves that p', the assertion 'I believe that p' is not accounted false on the grounds that p is false. 'I believe that p' says something about the believer, while 'p' does not. In consequence, we are not

surprised to

that p', and making substantive conjectures concerning just what it is about

find philosophers looking elsewhere for the content of 'I believe

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ARTHUR W. COLLINS

the speaker that is conveyed by the words 'I believe that p'. The problem is, one might say, that the conjectures go toofarafield. Since 'I believe that p' can be true when p is false, philosophers look for another empirical matter of fact on which the truth of the assertion 'I believe that p' may turn. Then it will be the case that 'I believe that p' is true because it expresses something

about which

Nearer to hand, we can account for the surviving truth-value of 'I believe

the speaker is right.

that p', when p is false, by simply recognizing that it expresses a mistake that

S is in fact making, and not a claim about something else about which S is not mistaken. The formulae derived from the idea of epistemic risk help to bring this out. The words 'p, or I am much mistaken' express belief that p, and they will be true when p is false, not because they make a claim about something else, but because they expressly allude to the possibility of error which is an ineliminable part of the concept of belief. If p is false, my asser- tion 'p, or I am much mistaken' is true, for the unspectacular reason that I am mistaken and my disjunctive assertion has canvassed that possibility in advance. It is precisely because I express the assignment of T to p, and do not express some other factual claim about myself, that I reveal to others that I am mistaken if p is not the case. The assertion 'p, or I am mistaken' plainly means 'p, or (-p and) I am mistaken (about p)'. In view of the conceptual interdependence of liability for error and the prospect of being right, we are also able to add the tacitly expressed 'and I am right about p' to the first disjunct, arriving at

ER'. p and I am right about p, or -p and I am mistaken about p,

which is simply the concept of belief expressed in terms of epistemic risk.

This formulation is truth-functionallyequivalent to (ER) on p. 309 above. As an expression of belief that p, (ER') too may be true when p is false, but this

is because it considers that possibility in advance, and not because it con-

tains dependable news about another matter that may involve a neural

reality in the speaker's brain. The circumstance under which (ER') is false

that the speaker is neither mistaken nor right about p, and that means, as it should, that the speaker does not believe that p. So the state of belief has a logical character with respect to the proposition p. Any attempt to trade this merely logical character for an inner state with

a real constitution has the effect of eliminating the logical character without which belief does not get expressed at all. As soon as we put in a reality for a

state of belief, 'I believe that p' will be true if it correctly reports that reality. We shall not be able to capture the idea that, where p is false, 'I believe that

p' expresses S's mistake, and our understanding of discourse about belief will

is

be a shambles.

? The Editorsol 77e Phfllo.ophicalQuml'terl, 1996

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MOORE'S PARADOX AND EPISTEMICRISK

319

The formula (ER') and the parallel third-person version provide an understanding of ordinary discourse that should not be given up lightly. These expressions explain why 'I believe that p' can be true when p is false, they give us a univocal sense for the concept of belief in first-person and third-person belief-statements, they explain all of the natural phenomena of truth-value distributions to 'S believes that p' 'I believe that p' and p itself, they explain how it is that the assertion of p and the assertion of 'I believe that p' can both do the job of expressing belief that p, and they dissolve Moore's paradox in a natural and unforced manner. The measure of the cost of this understanding depends upon one's commitments to one form or another of the popular speculative quasi-scientific philosophies of mind that have flourished recently. I find this price easy to pay. We could say that the very idea of a state of belief with a real constitution is wholly theoretical. Ordinary discourse and ordinary experience do not license the idea of innerstatesof belief constitutedsomehoworother.We are able to state our beliefs. This ability does not come with any conception at all of what a state of belief might be. 'S is in the state of belief that p' carries no implications that are not carried by 'S believes that p'. The claim that a common-sense 'folk psychology' posits inner explanatory realities which are the referents of the expressions 'belief', 'desire', and so on, is itself a theor- etical pronouncement which reads the erroneous assumptions of speculative philosophers who imagine that they are being 'scientific' back into the per- spective of the ordinary speaker. The one thing that we are sure about, the thing that is beyond dispute, is that a speaker telling us 'I believe that p' is expressing the fact that he assigns T to the proposition p. Ironically, the theories which posit a constitution for states of belief, and thus a reportable reality (BSp),compromise this one truly clear feature of the concept of belief. The idea that ordinary speakers make a 'pre-scientific'posit of inner realities of some kind improperly implicates ordinary thought about belief in the conceptual confusions and paradoxes that are actually generated by theor- ists. If 'I believe that p' expressed an explanatory posit an ordinary speaker makes, it would not express assignment of T to p. The patronizing atmo- sphere of claims about a 'folk psychology' is quite out of place when we appreciate that ordinary thought and discourse about belief is free of the errorsand incoherences introduced by pseudo-scientific posits.

CityUniversityof New York

? The Editorsof 77he PhilosophicalQuarterlr,1996

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