Conversation_and_collective_belief_paper.doc

16 17 the process of everyday conversation is

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17 the process of everyday conversation is structured around collective belief formation. 23 More specifically, in a paradigmatic conversation, whatever else is going on, the parties are negotiating the establishment of one or another collective belief on the basis of proposals put forward by one or another interlocutor. We shall call this the negotiation of collective belief thesis---more briefly the NCB thesis. 24 In the rest of this section we give some examples of how the NCB thesis construes a variety of example conversations and conversational moves, to some extent elaborating the thesis further while doing so. In all of these cases we assume that there are no special background collective beliefs or other factors that might skew one’s interpretation of what is going on. Consider two individuals, call them Jenny and Tom, waiting together at a bus stop on a sunny day. The two fall into conversation. “Sure is a beautiful day!” says Tom cheerfully. Jenny, whose actual preference is cool cloudy weather, replies, “I suppose it is.” She speaks pleasantly, but without great conviction. According to the NCB thesis what happened, among other things, was this. First, Tom proposed for collective belief the proposition that the day in question is a beautiful day. In other terms, he made a particular collective belief proposal . More precisely he makes what we shall refer to as an explicit collective belief proposal. That is, he proposes that the parties collectively believe that p by uttering a sentence that expresses proposition p . Second, Jenny considered Tom’s proposal and in spite of her personal belief to the contrary decided to go along with Tom and believe the proposition in question collectively with him, indicating that she was ready to do this by her reply . In other terms, she accepted his collective belief proposal . Thus, through their conversation, Jenny and Tom together established a collective belief that would persist at least through their current interaction, all else being equal. 25 We shall refer to collective beliefs that are established through the making and accepting of an explicit collective belief proposal as explicit collective beliefs. 23 Here and in other statements of the thesis we refer to collective beliefs in the class roughly indicated earlier in this section. 24 See Gilbert (1989: 294-298) and the rest of chapter 5 of that work for further pertinent discussion. 25 In our discussion in this paper we shall not address the ways in which established collective beliefs can be amended. Suffice it to say that such amendment requires the concurrence of the parties. 17
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18 In this example, Jenny does not personally believe what the two collectively believe, but this does not matter. Our collectively believing that p does not entail that I personally believe that p nor does it entail that I do not personally disbelieve it. The same goes for the other person or people involved. 26 One can imagine all kinds of variations on the first example conversation. For instance: Tom: “Sure is a beautiful day!”
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