Belief vs omniscience

Whateverman

Well-known member
Whether this counts as philosophy or not, it's driven by semantics: the question of whether a being who knows/sees everything can hold beliefs.

As this is the thread OP, I shy away from posting definitions, because I'm looking for opinions from other people - and thus THEY are the ones who should be able to appeal to language as they see fit, without my input.

I'll simply say this: I don't think it's simultaneously possible for someone to know everything and then hold beliefs about that knowledge.

For example, I know my name is Jon. It would make no sense to say I "believe" my name is Jon, because that would imply a level of uncertainty that I just don't possess. No, this knowledge is not absolute, in that it's theoretically possible that I could discover some detail which calls that knowledge into question - such as my name having been given to me by adoptive parents, etc. Nonetheless, my name is probably on the short list of things I have near-absolute confidence in.

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So: do omniscient beings believe things?
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
It would make no sense to say I "believe" my name is Jon, because that would imply a level of uncertainty that I just don't possess.
Belief doesn't entail uncertainty. It would be odd that you were using the term 'belief' when the stronger term 'knowledge' would seem more appropriate, but that doesn't make it wrong. Knowledge entails belief, so anything you know you also believe.

Compare: An Olympic gold medalist may truly say they placed in the top three competitors. It would be odd to say that, given that they were actually the top competitor, but they wouldn't be wrong to say it.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
Belief doesn't entail uncertainty. It would be odd that you were using the term 'belief' when the stronger term 'knowledge' would seem more appropriate, but that doesn't make it wrong. Knowledge entails belief, so anything you know you also believe.

Compare: An Olympic gold medalist may truly say they placed in the top three competitors. It would be odd to say that, given that they were actually the top competitor, but they wouldn't be wrong to say it.
Yes, but this discussion involves omniscience - it's not merely a rehashing of the belief vs knowledge topic (in which I'm usually in the minority on, TBH). Beliefs can be faulty, but an omniscient being can't hold faulty knowledge of any kind.

In your opinion, why doesn't this make the use of the word "belief" incorrect for an omniscient being?
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
Yes, but this discussion involves omniscience - it's not merely a rehashing of the belief vs knowledge topic (in which I'm usually in the minority on, TBH). Beliefs can be faulty, but an omniscient being can't hold faulty knowledge of any kind.
Beliefs in general can be faulty, but it is not part of the definition of belief that they be fallible. It's just that we're usually talking about fallible believers. An omniscient being would hold only true beliefs.

In your opinion, why doesn't this make the use of the word "belief" incorrect for an omniscient being?
Because an omniscient being knows everything, and knowledge is defined as JTB, meaning everything it knows is also believed.
 

Torin

Well-known member
I would add that a theist need not think God has a bunch of distinct "beliefs" like we do. The doctrine of divine simplicity, which says that God has no distinct parts of any kind, would seem to exclude such a notion. On that view, God might have his omniscience as a single, indivisible, eternal intuition.
 

Ontos

Active member
I'll simply say this: I don't think it's simultaneously possible for someone to know everything and then hold beliefs about that knowledge.
I would agree.

If you know all - which includes knowing that you know all - it seems unnecessarily ad hoc that there would then be this additional epistemic state "belief"
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
I would agree.

If you know all - which includes knowing that you know all - it seems unnecessarily ad hoc that there would then be this additional epistemic state "belief"
But is it an additional epistemic state? Or is it a component part of knowledge?
Compare: If everyone was a bachelor it seems unnecessary that there's be this additional state of being male.
 

Ontos

Active member
Compare: If everyone was a bachelor it seems unnecessary that there's be this additional state of being male.
When you put it that way, sure; but this is backwards as being a bachelor is accidental to being male, and it's something to be gained and lost.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
When you put it that way, sure; but this is backwards as being a bachelor is accidental to being male, and it's something to be gained and lost.
The point was that being male is not accidental to being a bachelor.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
knowledge is defined as JTB
Sorry, I know this definition is popular here, but it's not the only definition of knowledge. I wont rehash my criticisms of the definition, because I'm in the minority on the subject, and I'm trying to avoid the semantic trap the thread makes room for.

I view knowledge as nothing more than very confident belief. You view it as justified true belief. I'm fairly sure we're both intractable on these positions :)
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
Sorry, I know this definition is popular here, but it's not the only definition of knowledge. I wont rehash my criticisms of the definition, because I'm in the minority on the subject, and I'm trying to avoid the semantic trap the thread makes room for.

I view knowledge as nothing more than very confident belief. You view it as justified true belief. I'm fairly sure we're both intractable on these positions :)
Okay, but note that your definition here still requires everything known to still be believed, contrary to the highlighted statement in the OP.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
Okay, but note that your definition here still requires everything known to still be believed, contrary to the highlighted statement in the OP.
I don't think that's technically correct, according to my definition of the term - but it's certainly within the range of a reasonable semantic point.

"Belief" lies on a continuum of confidence in some information you've acquired; the difference between belief and knowledge is nothing more than the amount of trust you have that the information/idea is true/correct. You could say everything on that continuum is believed in the same sense that everything is known; both push aside the level of confidence you have, in favor of boiling the entire continuum down to a single word.

Instead, I maintain that words like belief and knowledge and hunch and suspicion (et al) are all part of the same thing, varying by the extent to which you're willing to assert them as undeniably true.

Incidentally, this continuum idea is also why I maintain that omniscient beings can't believe in things. They have absolute confidence in what they know, because they know everything. There's no possibility that they doubt what they know, nor is there a possibility that they're wrong.

ps. I tried hard to NOT feed into our disagreement about what the word "knowledge" means. I know you and plenty of others here favor something entirely different, and that I'm in the minority here. I was simply trying to explain the thought process behind the OP.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
I don't think that's technically correct, according to my definition of the term...
Technically, your two claims here are not compatible as stated:

1. I don't think it's simultaneously possible for someone to know everything and then hold beliefs about that knowledge.
2. I view knowledge as nothing more than very confident belief.

The first says some knowledge is not belief, and the second says that all knowledge is belief. To avoid this you could take the continuum and say one end of it is belief only, while the other end is knowledge only. But then you would need to adjust (2) using a new word for the continuum as a whole, i.e. for anything accepted as true. You could say: (2) "I view knowledge as nothing more than a very confident [X], which due to that level of confidence is no longer a belief." But we already have a word for anything accepted as true, and that is 'belief'. So why change concepts around in a way that requires new words?
 

Slyzr

Well-known member
Whether this counts as philosophy or not, it's driven by semantics: the question of whether a being who knows/sees everything can hold beliefs.

As this is the thread OP, I shy away from posting definitions, because I'm looking for opinions from other people - and thus THEY are the ones who should be able to appeal to language as they see fit, without my input.

I'll simply say this: I don't think it's simultaneously possible for someone to know everything and then hold beliefs about that knowledge.

For example, I know my name is Jon. It would make no sense to say I "believe" my name is Jon, because that would imply a level of uncertainty that I just don't possess. No, this knowledge is not absolute, in that it's theoretically possible that I could discover some detail which calls that knowledge into question - such as my name having been given to me by adoptive parents, etc. Nonetheless, my name is probably on the short list of things I have near-absolute confidence in.

---

So: do omniscient beings believe things?

If a being is omniscient, why then would they try to form things according to their knowing?


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