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.

Gendler, Tamar Szabó, and . Alief in Action (and Reaction)

2008, Mind and Language 23 (5): 552- 585

Abstract: I introduce and argue for the importance of a cognitive state that I call alief. An alief is, to a reasonable approximation, an innate or habitual propensity to respond to an apparent stimulus in a particular way. Recognizing the role that alief plays in our cognitive repertoire provides a framework for understanding reactions that are governed by nonconscious or automatic mechanisms, which in turn brings into proper relief the role played by reactions that are subject to conscious regulation and deliberate control.

Comment: This is an introductory paper on alief. It provides an account of alief and argues for its role in governing non-conscious or automatic actions. The paper is useful for teachings on philosophy of action, mental attitudes, moral philosophy, social psychology, etc.

Shah, Nishi, and . How Truth Governs Belief

2003, Philosophical Review 112 (4): 447-482.

Abstract: Why, when asking oneself whether to believe that p, must one immediately recognize that this question is settled by, and only by, answering the question whether p is true? Truth is not an optional end for first-personal doxastic deliberation, providing an instrumental or extrinsic reason that an agent may take or leave at will. Otherwise there would be an inferential step between discovering the truth with respect to p and determining whether to believe that p, involving a bridge premise that it is good (in whichever sense of good one likes, moral, prudential, aesthetic, allthings-considered, etc.) to believe the truth with respect to p. But there is no such gap between the two questions within the first-personal deliberative perspective; the question whether to believe that p seems to collapse into the question whether p is true.

Comment: This text will be most useful in advanced Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Metaethics and Philosophy of Action classes. The core argument of should be manageable for students who have read a bit of epistemology/metaethics/mind, but substantial familiarity with these areas is necessary to get the paper as a whole. The paper is also valuable for its critique of Alan Gibbard’s noncognitivist account of normative judgments and J. David Velleman’s teleological account of truth’s normative governance of belief (Diversifying Syllabi).