An example of the belief in the existence of certain things.

When the thing is present, the individual practically always employs a certain course of action. For example, when his wife is home he always says hello when returning from a day's work. When we observe the individual select such a course of action we cannot say that he believes the thing to exist, because he may select the course of action quite regularly when the thing is not present; he may always call out hello when entering his house. Hence it appears that we must further add a stipulation to make the chosen course of action a critical case for inferring belief: when the thing is not present, the individual never employs the course of action. But this suggestion, although it does provide a clear cut way of determinlng whether the individual takes the thing to be present, really defines belief out of existence except in the sense of correct belief. Since the individual would always act in a certain way when the thing is present, and would never act in this way when the thing is not present, he never displays an incorrect belief in the presence of the thing.

We can take care of this difficulty as follows. Suppose that when an individual responds to something relative to a certain objective he always (or almost always) displays a particular response. When a man perceives his wife on returning home and he wants her to know he is homes he always says hello. Suppose further that when his wife is not at home and he is aware of it he never says hello when entering the house. Now if he enters the house and does not observe his wife but is not aware of her absence and says hello, an observer could conclude that he believes she is home, assuming, of course, that he wants her to know that he is home. In these conditions his belief may or may not be correct. Note that if he does not want his wife to know he is home, even when he observes her, he will not say hello. Hence belief must always be determined relative to an intended outcome. (PS 83)

This page was last updated on July 24, 1996, by Rob Sable.