2.72 Belief Ascriptions

Category: Philosophy of Language

Keywords: ralph, tom, hesperus, mary, jane, cicero, dicto, ascriptions, bob, alice, ascription, george, bill, puzzle, lying

Number of Articles: 214
Percentage of Total: 0.7%
Rank: 70th

Weighted Number of Articles: 213.8
Percentage of Total: 0.7%
Rank: 80th

Mean Publication Year: 1988.1
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1986.6
Median Publication Year: 1992
Modal Publication Year: 2000

Topic with Most Overlap: Sense and Reference (0.0543)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Sense and Reference (0.0345)
Topic with Least Overlap: Quantum Physics (3e-04)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Dewey and Pragmatism (0.00028)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the belief ascriptionstopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 1999 when 1.6% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1902 when 0.0% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.72 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.167: Belief ascriptions.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Belief Ascriptionstopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 0.5%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 0.4%. Ethics - 0.2%. Philosophical Review - 0.6%. Analysis - 1.6%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.1%. Journal of Philosophy - 0.7%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 0.7%. Philosophy of Science - 0.1%. Noûs - 1.8%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 0.8%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 0.2%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 1998 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 1.8% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1902 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.0% of the articles.

Figure 2.168: Belief ascriptions articles in each journal.

Table 2.174: Characteristic articles of the belief ascriptions topic.
Table 2.175: Highly cited articles in the belief ascriptions topic.


The model is carving things very finely at this point. There is a topic on denoting and another on sense and reference. There is also a topic on wide content. And here there is a whole topic on belief reports. This is interesting because belief reports are interesting to philosophers primarily because of how they relate to names, descriptions, indexicals and natural-kind terms.

One funny thing to notice here is how little overlap there is between the extensive work on belief ascriptions, set out in this topic, and the work on knowledge ascriptions, which will come up very soon. To measure how much overlap between the topics there is, for each article, I calculated the minimum of the probability they are in this topic, and the probability that they are in the topic on knowledge ascriptions. Here are the five articles that score highest by this measure.

Table 2.176: Christopher Hookway, “Knowledge, Questions And Context: A Response To Fogelin.”
Subject Probability
Knowledge 0.3666
Belief ascriptions 0.3421
Ordinary language 0.1673
Truth 0.0325
Personal identity 0.0263
Norms 0.0237
Table 2.177: Martijn J. Blaauw, “Reinforcing The Knowledge Account Of Assertion.”
Subject Probability
Knowledge 0.4235
Belief ascriptions 0.2920
Speech acts 0.1821
Mechanisms 0.0697
Table 2.178: Fred I. Dretske, “A Cognitive Cul-De-Sac.”
Subject Probability
Knowledge 0.4944
Belief ascriptions 0.2396
Origins and purposes 0.2064
Time 0.0459
Table 2.179: Robert J. Fogelin, “Hookway On Knowledge Inferences.”
Subject Probability
Belief ascriptions 0.3097
Knowledge 0.2355
Arguments 0.1766
Deduction 0.1317
Ordinary language 0.0515
Medical ethics and Freud 0.0428
Chemistry 0.0223
Table 2.180: Julia Staffel, “Reply To Roy Sorensen, ‘Knowledge-Lies’.”
Subject Probability
Belief ascriptions 0.2458
Knowledge 0.2307
Speech acts 0.1772
Intention 0.0686
Vagueness 0.0480
Sets and grue 0.0442
Functions 0.0355
Formal epistemology 0.0339
Value 0.0306
Abortion and self-defence 0.0229

Except perhaps the Dretske, none of them really feel like they fit in this topic. Or, to put things more provocatively, somehow all this work on belief ascriptions didn’t even have a huge influence on work on ascriptions of very similar propositional attitudes like knowing.

Since 2013 there has been, to my eyes, less work on topics like puzzling Pierre and Cicero/Tully. But it’s notable that the last keyword in the list at the top, and the last of the five articles I just displayed, both concern lying. That has been a big topic since 2013, and if we extended the study in time, perhaps we would see this turn into a topic more centered around lies and less around puzzles about belief ascription.