I think that the following puzzling case about belief ascriptions is very important to studies of: (i) the nature of belief, (ii) the contents of belief, and (iii) the nature of representation. The case comes from an example that David Barnett communicated to me in person.
Harry and Harriet are both young and sexually unschooled. Last night was a romantic encounter for the two of them. They played footsie at the show, held hands waiting for the taxi and snuggled together during the taxi ride home. The next day, Harry writes in his diary:
Last night, Harriet and I French kissed. It was fabulous. I love French kissing. I didn't know if I would like it. It seemed weird before we tried it. But now I know. French kissing is amazing!!! My friends told me that if Harriet and I French kissed, then we reached second base. So, Harriet and I reached second base. They also said that many diseases, like Strep throat, can be spread through French kissing. For that reason I especially hope that Harriet wasn't sick. I don't want to catch Strep throat!
According to Wikipedia, a French kiss is a passionate, romantic or sexual kiss in which one participant's tongue touches the other's tongue (or lips) and usually enters his/her mouth. Harry and Harriet did no such thing. Neither Harry's lips nor his tongue ever touched Harriet. In fact what happened was that the two put their eyes close to each other and fluttered their eyelashes. Harry and Harriet didn't French kiss, they butterfly kissed.
There is a tension here. On what hand it seems:
(1) Harry believes that he French kissed Harriet.
After all, he says that he believes that he French kissed Harriet. He wrote it in his diary. He uses the belief in his reasoning, as when he uses his belief that he French kissed Harriet to infer that he reached second base with Harriet, or when he uses his belief that he French kissed Harriet to ground his desire that Harriet was not sick. Moreover, he may well have used a modus ponens style argument to form his belief. (a) Harriet and I co-fluttered out eyelashes. (b) If Harriet and I co-fluttered our eyelashes, then we French kissed. So, (c) Harriet and I French kissed.
But on the other hand, it seems:
(2) Harry does not believe that he French kissed Harriet.
After all, he has no illusions about what took place between him and Harriet. He doesn't believe that his lips touched hers, or that he ever put his tongue in her mouth.
(1) and (2) seems to be contradictory.
Clearly, Harry misunderstands the phrase 'French kiss'. He thinks that the co-fluttering of eyelashes is called 'a French kiss' when in fact it is called 'a butterfly kiss'. What is unclear is whether Harry believes that he French kissed Harriet.
One important thing that seems to me to hang in the balance is the following sort of thesis.
No Surprise if You’re Right Thesis: Suppose that S has consistent beliefs, and we number his beliefs B1, …, Bn. Take Bi such that there are possible worlds in which all of B1-Bn including Bi are true and there are possible worlds in which all of B1-Bn except for Bi are true. The No Surprise if You’re Right Thesis has it that because S has the belief, Bi, S will be more surprised if a world in which all of B1-Bn except for Bi is true is actual than if a world in which all of B1-Bn including Bi is actual. In other words, if S had to guess among the the many possible world as to which is actual, S would choose a world in which Bi is true.
In other words, if S had to guess among the the many possible world as to which is actual, S would choose a world in which Bi is true.
Notice that Harry would be shocked if in fact he and Harriet French kissed last night. That would imply that he had forgotten his lips touching hers!