Author: Jonathan Leicester

What Beliefs are Made From

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Library License: US $116
ISBN: 978-1-68108-264-6 (Print)
ISBN: 978-1-68108-263-9 (Online)
Year of Publication: 2016
DOI: 10.2174/97816810826391160101


What Beliefs Are Made From explores the nature and purpose of belief. The book describes several strange beliefs that have been shared by many members of whole communities. The intellectualistic, dispositional, feeling and eliminativist theories of belief are then examined critically. This is followed by a review of factors that can influence people in their beliefs. These include faulty use of evidence, unconscious reasoning biases, inability to withhold judgement, wishful thinking, prior beliefs, shared beliefs, personal experience, testimony, judgements about the source of testimony, personality, in-group psychology, emotions and feelings, language, symbolism, non-verbal communication, repetition, propaganda, mysticism, rumour, conspiracy theories, and illness. The book also covers beliefs of children and belief during dreaming. The regulation of inquiry by belief and disbelief is described.

What Beliefs Are Made From is a useful reference for general readers interested in the philosophy of the mind, and the psychology of belief.

Indexed in: Book Citation Index, Social Sciences & Humanities, EBSCO.


Have you noticed that sensible people sometimes hold a belief that is contrary to evidence you would expect them to know and accept? Sometimes it is about something important. Beliefs are made from many things, a fact that has intrigued me for years and has led me to this exploration of the nature of belief. It is offered for anyone who is interested in belief, hoping they will find it helpful, as I have. It is about how people do believe, not about how they ought to believe. For readers new to the brain sciences there is a short appendix on the brain’s anatomy and physiology, and for those more deeply involved in the topic there is a section of brief notes, often indicating a point of contention, or a guide to references. The book is intended to be serious but accessible.

Jon Leicester
Neurology Department
The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

Conflict of Interest

The author confirms that he has no conflict of interest to declare for this publication.


I am especially grateful to Pierre Beumont, late professor of psychiatry at the University of Sydney, for help and encouragement through the early stages of this project before his illness in 2003. I thank all the other people who have helped me with comments and suggestions on early drafts. The cover photograph of the battleground, First Bull Run, American Civil War, is by Robert Wines. Jon Gittoes made the drawing at the end of Chapter 13.