Disbelief Often Implies Belief

By Adam J. Pearson

Disbelief often logically implies belief. Why? Suppose a person disbelieves in the truth of statement X. As a consequence of not believing in X, it can also be asserted that they believe also that statement X is false. Thus, to disbelieve in X logically means to believe in not-X.

There are two key exceptions to this rule, however. The first is in cases where “either X or not X” is a false dilemma fallacy. This means that X and not-X are not the only possibilities; there is at least one other one. Therefore, one is not obligated to believe in X if one disbelieves in not-X or to disbelieve in not-X if one believes in X. One could, instead, believe in Y, which is a statement totally distinct from X and its negation.

The other exception is in cases where a person disbelieves in X, but does not believe in not-X because they aren’t sure there is sufficient evidence or sufficient reason to believe in it. Therefore, they choose to suspend belief in either X or not-X. This is akin to agnosticism or to situations where we choose not to decide on a matter because we don’t feel we have sufficient information.

Does belief always mean ‘pure faith,’ that is, to really ‘believe’ something, must one have to believe in the absence of evidence? No, one does not, because the definition of a belief does not include evidence as a necessary component or part of it. A belief is simply a conviction that a given statement is true. That is all. A belief could be supported by extensive evidence or it could be supported by none at all. Either way, it remains a belief.

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