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Belief

BELIEF

Belief is the condition of holding a thing to be true or probable, giving credit to a person or an idea, giving credence to or having faith in a story. In this last sense belief is related to theology and economy. The believer is situated in a religious system in which he adopts a certain number of convictions, accepts a series of dogmas and makes this credo a guideline for living. Belief may have to do with clinging to a truth or belonging to a church or a party. The believer is also indebted to the person or persons, parents or teachers or others, who provide the material for belief, and possess a capital of confidence and a stock of responses, encouraging or obliging the believer to borrow from them models of reasoning and types of solutions.

The theme of belief is directly addressed by Sigmund Freud in a note accompanying a letter to Wilhelm Fliess dated May 31, 1897. There, belief is described as a phenomenon belonging entirely to the ego system (consciousness), without any unconscious equivalent. The topic had already been addressed indirectly in chapter 12 of the Studies on Hysteria (1895d), belief there being associated with superstition (p. 250).

It may seem paradoxical to speak of belief in the context of psychoanalysis. Freud described himself as nonbeliever and made no secret of his atheism. But precisely this external position with respect to unproven truth made him see belief as an anomaly that needed to be explained. Influenced by the positivism and scientism of his time, he considered belief to be a relic of childhood. He thus placed himself within the tradition of Auguste Comte, who believed that the individual and humanity as a whole both went through a childish stage with theological and military characteristics. He considered that the church and the army were the two social institutions responsible for perpetuating this stage. The reference to childhood here is bound up with the role of the father: God is the father of believers, who are all brothers; likewise the commander-in-chief is the father of soldiers, who are all comrades. The belief in salvation or victory is thus vital for maintaining the sense of family.

For Freud the concept of belief is inseparable from childhood theories of sexuality that continue to be held by the individual or by society. The little boy believes that women (and therefore his mother) have a penis. Society believes that the child has no sexuality. Belief is always associated with a disavowal of reality. The renunciation of belief is then an educational task and a psychological struggle, both liable to encounter much resistance. Psychoanalytic treatment cannot itself dispense with belief, for the transference, which reactivates infantile processes, demands that the patient lend credence to the analyst's words even though these do not belong to the realm of demonstrable truth. The better to remove the need for belief, therefore, psychoanalysis is obliged temporarily to replace one belief by another.

Differing attitudes regarding belief broadly coincide with the major splits in psychoanalysis and the schisms that have marked its history. In the early days, there was a "left" psychoanalysis, centered around Alfred Adler and the Social Democrats, which believed in popular revolution and the possibility, within a new political system, of eliminating alienation in both the social and the psychiatric senses of the word. A "right" tendency, meanwhile, epitomized by Carl Gustav Jung, believed in a metamorphosis of the soul and an internal unification of man that could heal all dislocations of being and all fissures in the ego. Freud was suspicious of all such beliefs, and his clinical experience tended to make him pessimistic about the possibility of separating belief from illusion. He saw the need to believe as a powerful means of mobilizing the instincts and manipulating the unconscious: so loath were man and society to consent to what Max Weber called the disenchantment of the world that they continually felt the need to believe in the unbelievable, to hope against all hope in some distant paradise or in glorious tomorrows.

Skepticism did not in Freud's view mean a refusal of values. Values were indeed necessary for the progress of culture and its corollary, the renunciation of the immediate satisfaction of instinctual impulses. The values of civilization called nonetheless for a truly critical scrutiny that held fast to one most important principle: to fear no truth no matter how painful it might be.

Odon Vallet

See also: Future of an Illusion, The ; Illusion; Occultism; Omnipotence of thought; Paranoia; Psychoses, chronic and delusional; Science and psychoanalysis; Superego.

Bibliography

Dolto, Françoise. (1996). Les évangiles et la foi au risque de la psychanalyse. Paris: Gallimard.

Freud, Sigmund. (1927c). The future of an illusion. SE, 21: 5-56.

(1930a [1929]). Civilization and its discontents. SE, 21: 64-145.

Freud, Sigmund, and Breuer, Josef. (1895d). Studies on hysteria. SE,2.

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belief

be·lief / biˈlēf/ • n. 1. an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists: his belief in God a belief that solitude nourishes creativity. ∎  something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction: we're prepared to fight for our beliefs. ∎  a religious conviction: Christian beliefs. 2. (belief in) trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something: a belief in democratic politics. PHRASES: be of the belief that hold the opinion that; think: I am firmly of the belief that we need to improve our product. beyond belief astonishingly good or bad; incredible: riches beyond belief. in the belief that thinking or believing that: he took the property in the belief that he had consent. to the best of my belief in my genuine opinion; as far as I know: to the best of my belief, Francis never made a will.

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"belief." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Belief

BELIEF

Mental reliance on or acceptance of a particular concept, which is arrived at by weighing external evidence, facts, and personal observation and experience.

Belief is essentially a subjective feeling about the validity of an idea or set of facts. It is more than a mere suspicion and less than concrete knowledge. Unlike suspicion, which is based primarily on inner personal conviction, belief is founded upon assurance gained by empirical evidence and from other people. Positive knowledge, as contrasted with belief, is the clear perception of existing facts.

Belief has been defined as having faith in an idea or formulating a conclusion as the result of considering information. Information and belief is a legal term that is used to describe an allegation based upon good faith rather than firsthand knowledge.

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belief

belief, in philosophy, commitment to something, involving intellectual assent. Philosophers have disagreed as to whether belief is active or passive; René Descartes held that it is a matter of will, while David Hume thought that it was an emotional commitment, and C. S. Peirce considered it a habit of action. Compared to faith and probability, the concept of belief has received little attention from philosophers.

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"belief." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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belief

beliefaperitif, beef, belief, brief, chief, enfeoff, fief, grief, interleaf, leaf, Leif, lief, Mazar-e-Sharif, misbelief, motif, naif, O'Keeffe, reef, seif, Sharif, sheaf, shereef, sportif, Tenerife, thief •tea leaf • fig leaf • bas-relief • flyleaf •drop-leaf • broadleaf • cloverleaf •massif • leitmotif

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