Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy (MA)

Degree Level





Eric Funkhouser

Committee Member

David Barrett

Second Committee Member

Barry Ward


Belief, Philosophy of Mind, Signaling, Social Beliefs


How are facemasks – seemingly innocuous artifacts of the biomedical industry – currently embroiled in cultural wars? What motivates popular rejections of scientific consensus and messaging about the reality and consequences of anthropogenic climate change or the COVID-19 virus and vaccine? The puzzle is that (a) despite its being in everyone’s rational interests to have a well-informed public and body politic about collective threats, and (b) despite the public availability of accurate and reliable information, scientific messaging and public discourse surrounding climate change, COVID-19, and vaccine hesitancy, nevertheless, tend to be hijacked by political interest. Yet, if belief is essentially truth-directed or truth-governed as many philosophers have supposed, then ameliorating anti-scientific attitudes should be a simple matter of explication: effectively communicating the relevant evidence and reasoning that supports the judgments about which there is scientific consensus I propose a solution to this challenge: anti-scientific beliefs gain traction not in spite of their perceived epistemic cost but because of it. This is at least one piece of the puzzle in understanding the reasons causally responsible for the proliferation of anti-scientific beliefs. Many popular rejections of scientific messaging are motivated by social – not epistemic – aims and enact social rather than navigational functions. My aim in this paper is twofold: (1) to advance a Disjunctive Signaling Model (DSM) of social beliefs and explore how such a model explains motivated rejections of scientific messaging, specifically the motivated rejection of messaging about Climate Change and COVID-19. And (2), to motivate positing the category of tribal belief into our psychological ontology. If DSM is accurate, then this motivates opening up the psychological space to allow for a subspecies of social beliefs, plausibly delineated by their selected-for proper functions, such as signaling socially strategic information, independently of any veridical functions, and which are neither constituted nor governed by a norm of truth. Motivating the addition of such a theoretical postulate is the aim of adequately describing socially and culturally oriented beliefs, which function apart from and are valuable independently of any navigational or epistemic functions or utility.