The Factual Belief Fallacy

In: Contemporary Pragmatism
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  • 1 Department of Philosophy / Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University, nvan@gsu.edu

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This paper explains a fallacy that often arises in theorizing about human minds. I call it the Factual Belief Fallacy. The Fallacy, roughly, involves drawing conclusions about human psychology that improperly ignore the large background of mostly accurate factual beliefs people have. The Factual Belief Fallacy has led to significant mistakes in both philosophy of mind and cognitive science of religion. Avoiding it helps us better see the difference between factual belief and religious credence; seeing that difference in turn enables us to pose interesting normative questions about various mental states labeled “belief.”

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