instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, January 15, 2007

Curling heresies, pt. i

Some time back, I wrote about the differences between knowledge, belief, and opinion. As a brief recap: knowledge is something that has been demonstrated to the knower as true; belief is the assent to the knowledge of someone else; and opinion is personal judgment about the truth of a thing when you lack knowledge and belief of the truth of the thing.

These distinctions come to mind in thinking over a recent discussion I had with Zippy and Mike Liccione regarding heresy and the development of doctrine. In the comment boxes where the discussion occurred, I wasn't able to make my point clear, and I hope to be able to correct that with a -- well, "patient"/"bloviated", "to-may-to"/"to-mah-to" -- series of posts.

A final preliminary point: I will try to be precise without insisting on formal constructs. I want to be clear, not construct logic puzzles to trip up or fool unsuspecting readers.

The posts will use the following example:
Our Scenario
Bob plays on a curling team at the local rink. His wife Alice knows nothing about curling, but has faith that whatever Bob tells her about it is true.

One Saturday evening, Bob returns home from the rink with a big smile and a little trophy, and he tells Alice, "My team won today's round-robin tournament!"
Let's see how many interesting things can be said following from this set-up. But first, let's say something uninteresting: Alice necessarily believes this statement:
1. Bob's team won that day's round-robin tournament.
She necessarily believes this because, per the scenario description, she believes whatever Bob tells her about curling, and Statement 1 is something he has told her about curling. (Note, by the way, that she neither knows nor opines that #1 is true. That his team won has not been directly demonstrated to Alice; and she assents to #1 not on the basis of her judgment of what happened at the rink, but on the basis of her faith in Bob.)