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WILLIAM FLEMING - 1890 - Table of contents

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H- I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W  

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden


Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy





BELIEF (Fiducia, πίστις, Glaube).—(1) The recognition of the reality of an object which is neither present in consciousness, nor discovered by the senses; (2) the mind's assent to the truth of a proposition.


"Holding for true, or the subjective validity of a judgment in relation to conviction (which is at the same time objectively valid), has the three following degrees:—Opinion, Belief, and Knowledge. Opinion is a consciously insufficient judgment, subjectively as well as objectively. Belief is subjectively sufficient, but is recognised as being objectively insufficient. Knowledge is both subjectively and objectively sufficient" (Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Doctrine of Method, Meiklejohn, p. 498; Max Müller, II. 705).

"Belief, assent, conviction, are words which I do not think admit of logical definition, because the operation of mind signified by them is perfectly simple, and of its own kind... Belief is always expressed in language by a proposition wherein something is affirmed or denied. Belief admits of all degrees, from the slightest suspicion to the fullest assurances. There are many operations of mind of which it is an essential ingredient, as consciousness, perception, remembrance. We give the name of evidence to whatever is a ground of belief (Reid, Intellectual Powers, essay II. ch. XX.; Inquiry, XX. sec. 5).

"St Austin accurately says:—'We know what rests upon reason; we believe what rests upon authority." But reason itself must rest at last upon authority; for the original data of reason do not rest upon reason, but are necessarily accepted by reason on the authority of what is beyond itself. These data are, therefore, in rigid propriety, beliefs or trusts. Thus it is, that in the last resort, we must, perforce, philosophically admit, that belief is the primary condition of reason, and not reason the ultimate ground of belief. We are compelled to surrender the proud Intellige ut credas of Abelard, to content ourselves with the humble Crede ut intelligas of Anselm" (Hamilton, Reid's Works, note A, sec. 5, p. 760).

Belief, in contradistinction to knowledge, always ought to indicate some case in which the objective evidence is incomplete, and of which the opposite does not imply either impossibility or absurdity. We cannot, accordingly, in propriety of language, say:—"I believe I have a pen in my hand and a sheet of paper before me," or I believe that two and two make four, or I believe in my own existence or the law of gravitation. "These are things which we know... We have used the adjective natural in connection with the word belief, to indicate that state of rational intelligence which comes next of all to knowledge; which forms the transition point between positive knowledge and personal conviction" (Morell, Mental Philosophy, p. 325).

Hamilton says (Letter to Calderwood in Appendix to Metaphysics, II. 530):—"The sphere of our belief is much more extensive than the sphere of our knowledge, and therefore when I deny that the Infinite can by us be known, I am far from denying that by us it is, must, and ought to be believed. In the order of nature, belief always precedes knowledge" (Sir W. Hamilton, Metaphysics, I. 44. The meaning is that knowledge has in each particular instance faith as its basis, and all human knowledge finds its resting-place on necessary belief (Calderwood, Phil. of Infin., 2nd ed., p. 29).

"The word believing has been variously and loosely employed. It is frequently used to denote states of consciousness which have already their separate and appropriate appellations. Thus it is sometimes said:—'I believe in my own existence and the existence of an external world, I believe in the facts of nature, the axioms of geometry, the affections of my own mind,' as well as 'I believe in the testimony of witnesses, or in the evidence of historical documents.'"

"Setting aside this loose application of the term, I propose to confine it, first, to the effect on the mind of the premises in what is termed probable reasoning, or what I have named contingent reasoning—in a word, the premises of all reasoning, but that which is demonstrative; and, secondly, to the state of holding true when that state, far from being the effect of any premises discerned by the mind, is dissociated from all evidence" (Bailey, Letters on Philosophy of Human Mind, 8vo, 1851, p. 75; Essays on Formation of Opinions, 8vo, 1831).



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