[From Bruce Abbott (2017.01.17.2055 EST)]
Rick Marken (2016.01.16.1230)]
RM: This discussion of belief has taken place under three different subject heads and I am going to try to consolidate them under this, the original subject head. I’ve copied the posts below. The participants so far are Bruce Abbott., Warren Mansell. and Lynndal Daniels
BA: To which you can now add Eetu Pikkarainen.
RM: I’ll just say that I think Warren and Lynndal have it basically right: both imply that belief does not need to be “explicitly represented” in the PCT model. The reason is that “belief” refers to a phenomenon – actually, several different phenomena – not to an explanation of a phenomenon. Lynndal mentioned one of the phenomena to which “belief” refers: thoughts. In which case, Lynndal points out that they are already explained in PCT as perceptions (actually, imagined perceptions).
BA:Â I donâ€™t follow.Â â€œBelief does not need to be explicitly represented in the PCT model because it refers to a phenomenon and not to an explanation of a phenomenon.â€?Â If that is the criterion for inclusion in the PCT model, then you may as well remove perceptions, signals, and outputs from the PCT model, as all of these are phenomena and not explanations for phenomena.
BA: You state that beliefs are already explained in PCT as imagined perceptions.Â Well, calling them imagined perceptions is not an explanation, itâ€™s a definition, or at least a partial one (one would have to distinguish this kind of imagined perception from other kinds). Â What roles do imagined perceptions play within PCT?
RM: But “belief” can also refer to other things, like the desired states of perceptions; in which case they are also explained by the PCT model as references for the state of perceptions (this was Powers belief about this connotation about “belief”; when I once said that I didn’t believe person X who ever “get” PCT Bill chided me for saying it, pointing out that I was implicitly describing my reference for that result). “Belief” can also refer to remembered information as in "I believe the first line of Sonnet XXIX is "When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes.â€?
BA:Â I donâ€™t see belief as a desired state of a perception.Â I may fervently want to believe something, but this is not belief, it is desired state of belief, a reference. Â Is it within my ability to control the state of my belief?Â Iâ€™m not sure.Â There are many things I do not want to believe but believe them anyway, and other things I want to believe but canâ€™t make myself do so.Â Your last example, of the word â€œbeliefâ€? referring to remembered information, defines belief as a level of confidence in the truth of some statement. Â Perhaps thatâ€™s what belief is – a level of confidence in the truthh of some perception.
RM: The point is that “belief” points to several different phenomena and the appropriate question is not whether these phenomena can be “explicitly represented” in PCT (that would be using a “dormitive principle”) . . .
BA: Why would that be using a dormitive principle?Â You stated that a dormitive principle is a circular explanation.Â How does including belief in the PCT model make belief into a circular explanation?
RM: . . .but whether PCT can account for the phenomena. In order to test this you have to be able to clearly and objectively describe the phenomenon to be explained. That might be tough to do with the phenomena that are pointed to by the word “belief”. But I think these are the phenomena of interest to psychologists who study “cognitive” phenomena; so I’m pretty sure that, once we are able to describe these phenomena, we can start seeing how well PCT, in its present state, can account for them. And since cognitive psychology (and especially cognitive neuroscience) is the hot area of psychology (still), PCT might get more attention from psychologists if we could show how it can account for the phenomena of interest to them, such as memory, mental imagery, reading comprehension and problem solving.
BA: The phenomenon I am interested in under the heading of â€œbeliefâ€? is, I think, a perception of a perception (a meta-perception?) â€“ a perception of its truth.Â It is the outcome of an evaluative process whose result can vary between unquestionably untrue (zero truth) through various degrees between (e.g., likely true) to unquestionably true. Â How do we arrive at such an evaluation (consciously or unconsciously)?Â How does this evaluation affect what perceptions we will seek to control, and how we endeavor to control them? Â For example, if I believe that vaccinations of young children cause autism, I may refuse to have mine vaccinated. Â Some readily buy into this belief but many do not (I do not, based on my perception of the scientific evidence).
BA: Beliefs may play a variety of roles related to control system functioning. A belief may act as a disturbance to a strongly defended perception.Â As such it can be expected to produce strong action as the individual attempts to counter it.Â Or it might result in a certain kind of action being adopted as a means of controlling a given perception.Â For instance, I believe that there are lions roaming the area around my home and consequently have set up some devices guaranteed to keep them away.Â Iâ€™m convinced Iâ€™ve spent my money wisely as I have seen not a single lion on the property since doing so.Â No doubt there are other ways in which beliefs may relate to what a person attempts to control and how.
Beliefs have consequences – Auschwitz is one really nasty example.Â We donâ€™t just control what our sensory perceptual systems provide to our control systems directly.Â It might be important to understand how they relate to the PCT model.