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View Diary: Imagine Dragons (and Jesus)... (154 comments)

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  •  The problem with “know” vs “believe” (1+ / 0-)
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    is that know, along with a number of other so-called “factive” verbs, presupposes the truth of its complement. That is, in order for the sentence as a whole to be true or false, the complement must be true. Believe, on the other hand, is a statement about someone's state of mind and is not factive (that is, it does not presuppose the truth of its complement).

    I can assert, sincerely, that President Obama believes in God even though I do not believe that God exists. However, I cannot sincerely assert that he knows that God exists, because the use of a factive verb with a false complement is infelicitous. Furthermore, if someone else says that the president knows that God exists, I have trouble evaluating that sentence and must classify not simply as a statement about what the president believes, but as a violation of what is sometimes called the “speaker-hearer contract”, that all presuppositions are shared beliefs.

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