The University of Sussex

The believer's innards

Andy Clark

Dennett's treatment of belief and Smolensky's description of cognition are united by a common lacuna. Each seeks to accommodate troublesome facts by augmenting a basic cognitive system with a language manipulating device. In Dennett, this surfaces as the distinction between belief and opinion. In Smolensky, it surfaces as the Conscious Rule Interpreter. But neither author comments on the architectural conditions necessary for the development of such a device. In the present paper I first exhibit this lacuna, and try to make it pressing. I then sketch a possible solution based on some recent conjectures concerning the role of consciousness and the kind of computation- al architecture which it seems to require. The upshot of this is a two factor theory of belief in which broadly architectural constraints must be met before a system is even a candidate for having beliefs. If those conditions are met, then, and only then, may we use propositional attitude talk to roughly pick out the contents of the beliefs. But the fuzziness and indeterminacy of the latter no longer commit us (as they commit Dennett) to treating the distinction between believers and non-believers in an instrumental or quasi- instrumental fashion.


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