Believe and Belief

[From Fred Nickols (990109.1207 EST)]--

Bruce Abbott (990108.1140 EST)]

Bruce Gregory (990108.1047 EST) --

Rick Marken (990107.1830)
But all this has nothing to do with what belief _is_. I think
believing is something people do (even if they do it covertly,
in imagination). What do you think believing _is_?

Bruce G
I agree that believing is something people do. I think believing x is
thinking "x is true".

Bruce A
Beware of the semantic pitfall: one could just as well assert that
perceiving is something people "do." That doesn't make it a behavior. >I

perceive my beliefs; I don't "do" them. How about you?

Whoa there! I waited to see if Bruce G would respond
to the Bruce A's semantic sleight of hand in the comment
above (no disparagement intended, Bruce A), but Bruce G
didn't so I will.

Bruce G said that "believing" is something people do.
I believe that to be true. Bruce A said that perceiving
is something people do. I believe that to be true, too.
But Bruce A went on to say that, although he perceives his
beliefs, he doesn't do them. Beliefs, a noun, just got
substituted for believing, a verb. So, believe, which
can mean many things, ranging from "accepting a proposition
on faith" to serving as a synonym for "think" got lost in
that little semantic shuffle. Believe and believing refer
to acts; so do perceive and perceiving.

From my tattered Webster's...

Believe...(verb transitive)
        1. to take as true, real, etc.
        2. to have confidence in a statement or promise of
           (another person)
        3. to suppose or think
Believe...(verb intransitive)
        1. to have trust or confidence
        2. to have religious faith
        3. to suppose or think

Belief...(noun)
        1. the state of believing; conviction that certain
           things are true
        2. faith, esp. religious faith
        3. trust or confidence
        4. anything believed or accepted as true
        5. an opinion; expectation; judgment

I strikes me that believing in PCT leads to a belief in PCT.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
Distance Consulting
http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm
nickols@worldnet.att.net
(609) 490-0095

[From Bruce Abbott (990110.0900 EST)]

Fred Nickols (990109.1207 EST)--

Bruce Abbott (990108.1140 EST)

Beware of the semantic pitfall: one could just as well assert that
perceiving is something people "do." That doesn't make it a behavior.
I perceive my beliefs; I don't "do" them. How about you?

Whoa there! I waited to see if Bruce G would respond
to the Bruce A's semantic sleight of hand in the comment
above (no disparagement intended, Bruce A), but Bruce G
didn't so I will.

Bruce G said that "believing" is something people do.
I believe that to be true. Bruce A said that perceiving
is something people do. I believe that to be true, too.
But Bruce A went on to say that, although he perceives his
beliefs, he doesn't do them. Beliefs, a noun, just got
substituted for believing, a verb. So, believe, which
can mean many things, ranging from "accepting a proposition
on faith" to serving as a synonym for "think" got lost in
that little semantic shuffle. Believe and believing refer
to acts; so do perceive and perceiving.

Perhaps you would be kind enough to describe what you are doing when you are
believing.

In my view, this is one of those cases in which the linguistic analysis is
misleading. One does not "believe" something in the same way that one holds
an apple. To believe is to have a belief.

Belief to me does not seem to have the same character as a voluntary act.
One may want to believe something -- even want it desperately -- and yet be
unable to do so.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (990110.1000 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (990110.0900 EST)--

Belief to me does not seem to have the same character as a voluntary act.
One may want to believe something -- even want it desperately -- and yet be
unable to do so.

I doubt that anyone who wants to believe something will find it impossible
to do so, unless there is a conflict with another part of the organization
that has an equally strong intention not to believe it.

All this gets so much simpler when you identify a belief as a reference
perception.

The word "do," in my opinion, is essentially useless for discussing behavior.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Abbott (990110.1225 EST)]

Bill Powers (990110.1000 MST) --

Bruce Abbott (990110.0900 EST)

Belief to me does not seem to have the same character as a voluntary act.
One may want to believe something -- even want it desperately -- and yet be
unable to do so.

I doubt that anyone who wants to believe something will find it impossible
to do so, unless there is a conflict with another part of the organization
that has an equally strong intention not to believe it.

O.K., then I want you -- in order to prove your point -- to will yourself to
believe -- really believe -- that my position on belief is the correct one.
Let me know how the exercise comes out.

The word "do," in my opinion, is essentially useless for discussing behavior.

I agree, but then, why did you use the word in the paragraph above?

Bruce

[From Rick Marken (990110.1100)]

Bill Powers (990110.1000 MST) --

I doubt that anyone who wants to believe something will find
it impossible to do so, unless there is a conflict with another
part of the organization that has an equally strong intention
not to believe it.

Bruce Abbott (990110.1225 EST) --

O.K., then I want you -- in order to prove your point -- to will
yourself to believe -- really believe -- that my position on
belief is the correct one. Let me know how the exercise comes out.

Let me quickly describe a similar belief exercise in which I have
been engaged for some time. As I noted earlier, I have been trying
to believe -- really believe -- that you will eventually become
one of the great PCT researchers and promoters of all time. I have
been trying to believe this for over two years. I am still trying.

Actually, it's rather easy to to just believe this for a short time --
just as I can briefly believe in a caring god up on his throne in
heaven. I can easily produce the imagined perception of you as
a great PCT researcher and promoter just as I can produce an
imagined perception of god as caring father. The problem (as Bill
notes) is sustaining these beliefs (_really_ believing them) due
to the existence of conflicts with other parts of my organization
that seem to have an equally strong intention not to believe these
things. In the case of believing in god the problem seems to come
from conflicts between my intention to maintain that belief and my
belief that (among other things) a caring father would not destroy
his children (with natural disasters) for nothing.

In the case of believing that you will become a great PCT researcher
and promoter, the problem seems to come from conflicts between my
intention to maintain that belief and my belief that (among other
things) a great PCT researcher and promoter would not even consider
publishing a new edition of a psychology research methods textbook
that describes methods for studying the behavior of cause- effect
rather than control systems.

Best

Rick

···

---
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken/

[From Bruce Gregory (990110.1412 EST)]

Bill Powers (990110.1000 MST)

All this gets so much simpler when you identify a belief as a reference
perception.

Since a reference level is not, in general, perceived, why do you call a
belief a reference perception? A belief is a reference level is it not? Of
course, it's your theory, so you can call it anything you like.

Bruce Gregory

[From Rick Marken (990110.1155)]

re: Rick Marken (990110.1100) --

Let me hastily point out that, while I long ago (like when I was
6) abandoned my attempts to believe in god, I intend to keep
trying to believe that Bruce Abbott will be one of the great
PCT researchers and promoters of all time. Pace Kenny Kitzke, but
I'm afraid that believing in Bruce Abbott is more important to me
than believing in god;-)

Best

Rick

···

--

Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken/

[From Bill Powers (990111.0708 MST)]

Bruce Gregory (990110.1412 EST)--

All this gets so much simpler when you identify a belief as a reference
perception.

Since a reference level is not, in general, perceived, why do you call a
belief a reference perception? A belief is a reference level is it not? Of
course, it's your theory, so you can call it anything you like.

You're right, "reference perception" is a bad term. A reference signal is
not a perception, and can't give rise to one until its information is
transferred into a perceptual channel.

While we're at it, let's also try to get more precise about "reference
level" versus "reference signal." I've tried to be consistent about using
reference _level_ to refer to the state of the controlled quantity that
corresponds to the reference _signal_. The reference _level_ is what we
arrive at from observations using the Test; the reference _signal_ is an
element of a model with which we explain the existence of an observed
reference _level_.

Thanks for the correction.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bill Powers (990111.0717 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (990110.1225 EST)--

I doubt that anyone who wants to believe something will find it impossible
to do so, unless there is a conflict with another part of the organization
that has an equally strong intention not to believe it.

O.K., then I want you -- in order to prove your point -- to will yourself to
believe -- really believe -- that my position on belief is the correct one.
Let me know how the exercise comes out.

I don't want to "believe" that your position is the correct one; in fact, I
don't want to accept _anything_ as true simply because of a desire to have
it be true, no matter how attractive the consequences. To me, that would be
the polar opposite of truth.

The nearest I can come to cooperating with you is to try to imagine what it
would be like to adopt your point of view. And when I try that, I realize
that I don't really understand what it is.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Rick Marken (990111.1100)]

Bruce Abbott (990111.1315 EST)--

My strongest objection to your [Bill Powers'] proposal is that
beliefs do not always seem to me to be defended; indeed I would
argue that most are not defended. We just accept certain
propositions as true until evidence proves otherwise, that is,
until we have reason to reevaluate them.

That was actually my position too when Bill and I first discussed
this a couple years ago. I objected to Bill's proposition about
beliefs because beliefs do not always seem to be defended. My
(now abandoned, just in case Bill is right;-)) belief that you
are and will remain a conventional S-R psychologist was not
something I think I would have defended. If, for example, you had
published a great paper on testing for controlled variables in
operant research I don't think I would have done anything to defend
against it, even though your writing such a paper would have been
a huge disturbance to my belief. Indeed, I think I would have
celebrated your work and happily revised my belief.

So I don't know. I think certain beliefs obviously are defended
against disturbance, sometimes brutally (as in "holy wars"). So
the notion of belief as reference signal certainly seems to make
sense in terms of some kinds of behavior. Maybe all beliefs are
references (this makes sense in terms of the HPCT model) but
some, like my belief about you remaining an S-R psychologist, are
very low gain; so we don't do much to defend them and we readily
revise them when they no longer seem true.

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bruce Abbott (990111.1315 EST)]

Bill Powers (990111.0717 MST) --

Bruce Abbott (990110.1225 EST)

I doubt that anyone who wants to believe something will find it impossible
to do so, unless there is a conflict with another part of the organization
that has an equally strong intention not to believe it.

O.K., then I want you -- in order to prove your point -- to will yourself to
believe -- really believe -- that my position on belief is the correct one.
Let me know how the exercise comes out.

I don't want to "believe" that your position is the correct one; in fact, I
don't want to accept _anything_ as true simply because of a desire to have
it be true, no matter how attractive the consequences. To me, that would be
the polar opposite of truth.

I'm only asking you to want to believe it for a few minutes, as a test of
your proposition that one can set a belief as a reference. If the exercise
proves successful (during that time you really _do_ believe that my position
is the correct one), you can allow your reference to revert to its former
state, no harm done. This is really no different than asking you to hold
your hand in a certain position, in order to demonstrate that you can
control your reference for hand position.

The nearest I can come to cooperating with you is to try to imagine what it
would be like to adopt your point of view. And when I try that, I realize
that I don't really understand what it is.

In my view, a belief is a perception, the output of an evaluative process.
A belief perception can vary from certainly false to certainly true, with
various levels of uncertainty between (including "I don't know").

Beliefs may become controlled perceptions as a result of higher-level
control-system action, if maintaining the belief allows the person to assert
or maintain control over some higher-level perception(s).

This is only speculation, another of Richard Kennaway's "just so" stories.
But so is your proposal. Absent any firm evidence to decide between them,
our only criteria for choosing are consistency with subjective experience
and consistency with PCT. My view seems consistent with my own subjective
experience (I can't vouch for anyone else's), and at present I see no
glaring inconsistency with PCT. You've offered arguments to support your
own "just so" story, but I remain unconvinced by them. My strongest
objection to your proposal is that beliefs do not always seem to me to be
defended; indeed I would argue that most are not defended. We just accept
certain propositions as true until evidence proves otherwise, that is, until
we have reason to reevaluate them.

Bruce

[From Rick Marken (990111.1300)]

Bruce Abbott (990111.1510 EST)--

My proposal, which does NOT assume that all beliefs are
references, also makes sense in terms of the HPCT model,
so far as I am able to tell.

What was your proposal again?

If a belief is defended, then it must be a reference; if not,
then it is still a reference but the system gain is very
low.

Two things. First, if there is low gain control then there will
be _some_ defense; it will just be weak. There is a difference
between no defense and weak defense. Second, having a reference
for a perception doesn't necessarily mean that you are actively
controlling the perception; you could just be controlling it in
imagination.

Maybe belief becomes a reference for a controlled perception when
a control system moves from imagination to control mode. I think
PCT has zip to say about what does the switching between these
modes. But the person who believes, say, that religion X is the
one true religion -- but only believes this (controls for it) in
imagination -- is a lot less of a problem than the person who
believes this for real (controls for the perception of everyone
acknowledging religion X as the one true religion).

I'm also curious about your linkage of very low gain and
ready revision (reorganization?) of the belief.

If a system is low gain then even small disturbances will create
large error. If chronic error sets off reorganization then
the low gain systems might be expected to be the first to
be reorganized away.

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bruce Abbott (990111.1510 EST)]

Rick Marken (990111.1100) --

So I don't know. I think certain beliefs obviously are defended
against disturbance, sometimes brutally (as in "holy wars"). So
the notion of belief as reference signal certainly seems to make
sense in terms of some kinds of behavior. Maybe all beliefs are
references (this makes sense in terms of the HPCT model) but
some . . . are very low gain; so we don't do much to defend them
and we readily revise them when they no longer seem true.

My proposal, which does NOT assume that all beliefs are references, also
makes sense in terms of the HPCT model, so far as I am able to tell. If
some (or perhaps many) beliefs are NOT defended (as appears to be the case),
the notion that all beliefs are reference signals is disproven.

You suggest that all beliefs are references but some (most?) are defended
with low gain. This idea is advanced in order to handle the observation,
which otherwise is inconsistent with your position, that beliefs may not be
defended. It seems to me that this addition to your proposal makes the
proposal all but untestable. If a belief is defended, then it must be a
reference; if not, then it is still a reference but the system gain is very
low. The theory survives no matter what the outcome of the "test."

I'm also curious about your linkage of very low gain and ready revision
(reorganization?) of the belief. If HPCT proposes a linkage between the
level of gain of a control system and the ease with which its reference may
be changed, I am not aware of it. Perhaps you can clue me in.

Bruce

[From Kenny Kitzke (990111.1535 EDT)]

<Rick Marken (990110.1100)>

concerning Bruce A:
<I have been trying to believe -- really believe -- that you will
eventually become one of the great PCT researchers and promoters of all
time. I have
been trying to believe this for over two years. I am still trying.>

I would see this as simply a want, a reference for how you want to view
Bruce.
Your environmental input perception disturbs this reference perception.
So, you move up a level and act to chide Bruce once again about him doing
methods for PCT ver C-E research and select some different reference
perception to control.

I do not see anything like "belief" there. If anything your belief is that
Bruce is not a great PCT researcher.

I know originally you focused on morality; or moral beliefs. I think I can
have many types of beliefs that do not relate to morality (determining
whether behavior is good or bad).

Other types of beliefs can be right or wrong, true of false, or simply be
our understanding at the moment without any proof at all.

I believe the sun will rise tomorrow morning at 7:11 AM. This is my best
understanding. Probably some reference at the sequence level. It may or
may not actually happen. Nor does this type of belief have a moral
dimension based upon the belief being good or bad.

On the other hand, I believe that it bad to kill another human being. This
is a moral belief. I believe it is a reference perception at the principle
level. How do you see these two internal ideas/imaginations/beliefs
references?

Kenny

[From Kenny Kitzke (990111.1600 EST)]

<Rick Marken (990110.1100)>

<Actually, it's rather easy to to just believe this for a short time --
just as I can briefly believe in a caring god up on his throne in
heaven.>

When was the last time you believed this for a short time?

<In the case of believing in god the problem seems to come
from conflicts between my intention to maintain that belief and my
belief that (among other things) a caring father would not destroy
his children (with natural disasters) for nothing.>

Actually, this perception is what is rather easy for you to hold. And,
since natural disasters are something I suspect you really do and always
have and always will believ in, there can't be much time when you actually
believe in God, your loving father in heaven.

Rick's beliefs are a terrible thing for the CSG to waste. :sunglasses: So let's
here more about them.

Kenny

[From Bruce Gregory (990111.1632 EST)]

Rick Marken (990111.1300)

Two things. First, if there is low gain control then there will
be _some_ defense; it will just be weak. There is a difference
between no defense and weak defense. Second, having a reference
for a perception doesn't necessarily mean that you are actively
controlling the perception; you could just be controlling it in
imagination.

What determines whether we are controlling a perception actively or in
imagination? If I am not controlling a perception actively, how can you
determine if I have no reference level for the perception or am
controlling it in imagination?

Maybe belief becomes a reference for a controlled perception when
a control system moves from imagination to control mode. I think
PCT has zip to say about what does the switching between these
modes. But the person who believes, say, that religion X is the
one true religion -- but only believes this (controls for it) in
imagination -- is a lot less of a problem than the person who
believes this for real (controls for the perception of everyone
acknowledging religion X as the one true religion).

> I'm also curious about your linkage of very low gain and
> ready revision (reorganization?) of the belief.

If a system is low gain then even small disturbances will create
large error. If chronic error sets off reorganization then
the low gain systems might be expected to be the first to
be reorganized away.

Doesn't it strike you as odd that the lowest-gain systems are most
likely to lead to reorganization with its unpredictable outcomes? This
seems like a very high risk strategy for evolution to have adopted. I'd
guess that it would be a lot safer to ignore the errors associated with
low gain systems. If you don't "care" about an outcome why risk
disaster?

Since Bill sometimes perceives my questions as "smart-ass" I will note
that the above questions are genuine.

Bruce Gregory

[From Rick Marken (990111.1440)]

Kenny Kitzke (990111.1535 EDT)

I believe the sun will rise tomorrow morning at 7:11 AM...It may
or may not actually happen. Nor does this type of belief have a
moral dimension based upon the belief being good or bad.

I believe that it bad to kill another human being. This is a
moral belief. I believe it is a reference perception at the
principle level. How do you see these two internal ideas/
imaginations/beliefs references?

I think these beliefs are similar; they are references for
perceptions that you might have; in one case the perception of
the sun coming up at 7:11 AM and in the other the perception
of the badness of killing another person. In both cases, what
you actually perceive may differ from what you believe you
will perceive. In that case, there will be an error and you
will presumably act to make what you perceive consistent with
your belief. For example, if the clock reads 7:00 when the sun
peeks above the horizon then you would probably look for problems
with the clock; or with your time prediction, etc. Similarly, if
you find that the actual killing of another human doesn't seem
so bad to you after all then you will look for reasons why: it
was war, the person was a criminal, etc.

Now here's a couple questions for you, Kenny:

        1) Why do you believe that it's bad to kill another human being?
        2) Is it absolutely (always, no matter what) bad to kill another
human being?

Bruce Gregory (990111.1632 EST)--

What determines whether we are controlling a perception actively
or in imagination?

I don't know. Subjectively it seems to be a consciousness
phenomenon; I can consciously move from controlling in
imagination (as Dwight Stones used to clearly be doing while
waiting to do the high jump) to controlling in fact (as Dwight
did when he actually did the jump).

If I am not controlling a perception actively, how can you
determine if I have no reference level for the perception or am
controlling it in imagination?

I can't. I don't think imagination and belief can be studied
in behavioral experiments.

Doesn't it strike you as odd that the lowest-gain systems are most
likely to lead to reorganization with its unpredictable outcomes?

Not really, now that I think about it. This would just mean that
we don't have many low-gain systems; they've all been reorganized
away.

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bill Powers (990111.1600 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (990111.1510 EST)--

Rick:

I think certain beliefs obviously are defended
against disturbance, sometimes brutally (as in "holy wars"). So
the notion of belief as reference signal certainly seems to make
sense in terms of some kinds of behavior. Maybe all beliefs are
references (this makes sense in terms of the HPCT model) but
some . . . are very low gain; so we don't do much to defend them
and we readily revise them when they no longer seem true.

Bruce:

My proposal, which does NOT assume that all beliefs are references, also
makes sense in terms of the HPCT model, so far as I am able to tell. If
some (or perhaps many) beliefs are NOT defended (as appears to be the case),
the notion that all beliefs are reference signals is disproven.

How did we come to be arguing about whether "all beliefs are references?"
Since "belief" doesn't refer to one specific kind of thing, it is highly
unlikely that all beliefs are references, or any other single thing. When I
say "I believe her father is 56 years old," I am describing a memory of
what someone told me, not a real-time perception or a reference signal.
When I say "I believe his testimony," I mean to say that right now I accept
it as true. When I say "I believe that if I jump out a fifth-story window,
I will die," I am explaining my refusal to jump out the window, even though
you assure me the firemen will catch me. When I say "I believe your shirt's
on fire," I mean that I see it on fire and thus _know_ that it's on fire,
and am warning you gently so you won't panic.

"Belief" is a pre-scientific folk term, which like most such terms
encompasses a lot of different and even incompatible meanings. It is really
very boring to argue about terms that have never been given a single clear
definition, and it's frustrating to find them being discussed as if they
really "have" right meanings, which we must somehow puzzle out. We can get
out of this argument just by saying what we want belief to mean and then
sticking to it -- no doubt we could then find a niche for this term
somewhere in PCT. Or just agree to junk it when engaged in serious discussion.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Abbott (990111.1925 EST)]

Bill Powers (990111.1600 MST) --

"Belief" is a pre-scientific folk term, which like most such terms
encompasses a lot of different and even incompatible meanings. It is really
very boring to argue about terms that have never been given a single clear
definition, and it's frustrating to find them being discussed as if they
really "have" right meanings, which we must somehow puzzle out. We can get
out of this argument just by saying what we want belief to mean and then
sticking to it -- no doubt we could then find a niche for this term
somewhere in PCT. Or just agree to junk it when engaged in serious discussion.

The argument presented above amounts to an assertion that the differences of
opinion being expressed about how to model "belief" in HPCT have arisen
because different people have defined "belief" differently. I may be wrong,
but I had the impression that we were all talking about the same, rather
precisely defined phenomenon. To state that you believe some proposition is
to state that you evaluate that proposition as true. You offered a model,
which has been objected to on various grounds, none of which have anything
to do, so far as I can tell, with definitional ambiguity.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (990112.0945 MST)]

Bruce Abbott (990111.1925 EST)--

The argument presented above amounts to an assertion that the differences of
opinion being expressed about how to model "belief" in HPCT have arisen
because different people have defined "belief" differently. I may be wrong,
but I had the impression that we were all talking about the same, rather
precisely defined phenomenon. To state that you believe some proposition is
to state that you evaluate that proposition as true. You offered a model,
which has been objected to on various grounds, none of which have anything
to do, so far as I can tell, with definitional ambiguity.

I have identified several possible meanings for the term "belief." One of
them is an assertion that a proposition is true. Another is a perception of
something in a certain state, with no verbal propositions being involved.
Another is a reference to a memory (I believe it rained this morning). Of
course by converting any of these examples into statements someone makes,
you can reduce all definitions to yours, even if the actor is not declaring
any proposition to be true.

However, if you would like to propose that we define belief as stating that
you evaluate some proposition as true (i.e., declare in words or thought,
"X is true"), I'd be willing to go along with that, at least in formal
discussions. However, I think you would need to expand the definition to
include "X is false" as a "disbelief", unless you want to kludge up
something like " 'X is false' is true".

If we agree on that definition of belief, then to believe something is to
evaluate it as true, and to disbelieve something is to evaluate it as
false. The something, in every case, is a proposition expressed in symbols,
I take it. So this would seem to place belief at the level, in HPCT, where
we manipulate symbols according to rules to satisfy principles. The
"evaluation" process, in particular, sounds like a logical or at least
rule-driven process, which fits the concept of the 9th level in HPCT.

Does this meet with your approval?

Best,

Bill P>