Hanging Together from Introducing Philosophy
The following excerpt is from our forthcoming Introducing Philosophy: Knowledge and Reality, which is written by Jack S. Crumley II.
When a belief of ours fits with, or “hangs with,” other beliefs, we are no doubt inclined to give greater epistemic weight or credibility to that belief. It is not very difficult to see why. Recall this feature of beliefs: They provide a picture of or a representation of the world. That’s just what it means to talk about the content of a belief—it’s a little bit of information (about the world). Indeed, that’s why theorists are inclined to talk about beliefs as representational. Of course, for various reasons we might have doubts about whether to trust any particular bit of information. We are understandably encouraged to “trust” some particular belief if we find that its particular information fits with other pieces of information—other beliefs—in our possession. The more the belief fits, the greater our trust. A single belief is a bit like a piece of jigsaw puzzle. By itself, a single piece of the puzzle does not make a lot of sense. Yet once we see how the piece fits together with other pieces, once we see the way it interlocks with other pieces, we understand where the piece fits in and why we need it. The pieces “hang together.” Similarly, as some particular belief content fits with more and more other contents—other beliefs—the more inclined we are to trust that first belief. That is, if some bit of “belief information” can be seen as a piece of a larger picture presented by our other beliefs, then we are more inclined to see that belief as epistemically trustworthy.