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Gendler, Tamar Szabó, and . Alief and Belief

2008, Journal of Philosophy 105 (10): 634-663.

Abstract: I introduce and argue for the importance of a cognitive state that I call alief. Paradigmatic alief can be characterized as a mental state with associatively-linked content that is representational, affective and behavioral, and that is activated – consciously or unconsciously – by features of the subject’s internal or ambient environment. Alief is a more primitive state than either belief or imagination: it directly activates behavioral response patterns (as opposed to motivating in conjunction with desire or pretended desire.) I argue that alief explains a large number of otherwise perplexing phenomena and plays a far larger role in causing behavior than has typically been recognized by philosophers. I argue further that the notion can be invoked to explain both the effectiveness and the limitations of certain sorts of example-based reasoning, and that it lies at the core of habit-based views of ethics.

Comment: In this influential paper, Gendler argues for the existence of an important cognitive states that she calls alief. It is a highly-relevant material for teachings on many topics, for example forms of belief, rationality and belief, varieties of irrationality, implicit bias and etc, in upper-division undergraduate courses and postgraduate courses.