Conversation_and_collective_belief_paper.doc

Jennie in a tone of doubt mmm tom butit is so bright

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Jennie (in a tone of doubt): “Mmm” Tom: “But…it is so bright and sunny!” Jennie: “You’re right: it really is a beautiful day.” Tom has to work harder here than in the previous example to establish the collective belief that it is a beautiful day. What Tom does in his second move in the negotiation is give a reason for believing the proposition originally proposed for collective belief. Many negotiations over a given collective belief may be expected to involve such reason-giving. This may well lead to further collective beliefs, as well as the one originally proposed, to the effect that such-and-such a proposition is true and that its truth is a reason for believing the original proposition . One might be inclined think that this has happened once Jennie responds as she does in the above dialogue. That it has happened, however, would be clearer had Jennie responded, as she might very well have responded, in some such way as this. Jennie: “True! I guess it has to be a beautiful day, then!” Here she indicates by “True!” and “…., then!” that she accepts the following propositions that Tom has proposed for collective belief. First: it is very bright and sunny. Second: If it is very bright and sunny, then it is a beautiful day” It is true that Tom does not spell out the second proposition, as he does the first. That he is indeed proposing it for collective belief, however, this is clearly indicated by his beginning with “But…” 26 See section I above. 18
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19 As the first example conversation shows, “negotiating” a collective belief can be as simple as making an assertion and receiving an affirmative response. More precisely, in conditions of common knowledge you may express to your interlocutor your readiness jointly to commit the two of you to believing some proposition as a body, and he may immediately do likewise in response, thus ensuring that the two of you are jointly committed to believe that proposition as a body. In other words, he may promptly seal the deal. Ways of closing the deal: accepting a collective belief proposal There are many ways in which one’s acceptance of a proposed collective belief might be shown. It need not involve verbal behavior. A nod of the head, for instance, might suffice, as might a smile, in the right context. If words are used a simple “Yes” may suffice, depending on its tone. Similarly, the expression “Uh-huh”, said in the right way, is a form of acceptance. Something like this is presumably the most economical way to make sure one’s acceptance is verbally marked. A hesitant “Ye-es” or a quizzical “Uh-huh” may lead to further discussion, and be intended so to lead. Or it may serve to indicate that the proposition in question is not yet collectively believed, though it has not been pushed off the table. In such a case a participant may describe the situation to one who asks what they collectively think by saying: “We’ve not yet decided what we think about that”.
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