24 - What puzzling Pierre does not believe  pp. 408-417

What puzzling Pierre does not believe

By David Lewis

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Kripke's puzzle about belief refutes a certain simple analysis of belief sentences. This analysis fails for another reason as well, since it requires believers to have a knowledge of essences which they do not in fact possess.


The case of Pierre is presented by Saul Kripke. It runs as follows.

Suppose Pierre is a normal French speaker who lives in France and speaks not a word of English or of any other language except French. Of course he has heard of that famous distant city, London (which he of course calls ‘Londres’) though he himself has never left France. On the basis of what he has heard of London, he is inclined to think that it is pretty. So he says, in French, ‘Londres estjolie’ On the basis of his sincere French utterance, we will conclude:

(1). Pierre believes that London is pretty.

Later, Pierre, through fortunate or unfortunate vicissitudes, moves to England, in fact to London itself, though to an unattractive part of the city with fairly uneducated inhabitants. He, like most of his neighbours, rarely ever leaves this part of the city. None of his neighbours knows any French, so he must learn English by ‘direct method’; by talking and mixing with the people he eventually begins to pick up English. In particular, everyone speaks of the city, ‘London’, where they all live. Pierre learns from them everything they know about London, but there is little overlap with what he heard before.