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Under faith means a holding for true without methodological grounds. Belief in this sense means that a state of affairs is believed to be seemingly ( hypothetically ) true or likely . "Faith" in the broader sense differs on the one hand from religious faith in the narrower sense in that religious faith is always based on the will to believe and assumes the absolute truth of the content of faith (e.g. the existence of God ); on the other hand, belief is different from knowledge that can be understood as true and justified fact.

Belief in everyday language use is therefore a presumption or hypothesis, which assumes the truth of the presumed facts, but at the same time leaves open the possibility of refutation if the presumption should turn out to be unjustified by facts or new knowledge . The verb “believe” can, however, be used differently in different contexts, for example (in relation to people) in the meaning of “trust someone” or in legal contexts.


The word believes comes from Middle High German  gelouben , Old High German  gilouben 'to hold for dear', 'approve' and goes with the related words praise and dear u. a. to the Indo-European root * leubh . The same etymological word family from other languages ​​also includes English be-lieve 'believe', Latin libet 'it is popular', 'is compliant' libīdo 'desire' and Russian люби́ть ljubit 'love'. Furthermore, the prefixed German words promised , betrothed , allow , vacation and pledge emerged from the root .


In the philosophical and, in particular, epistemological sense, belief means holding one's own perceptions , convictions ( belief , dogma , paradigm ) and conclusions to be true , but these do not have to be logically imperative here. This holding to be true does not necessarily require objective justification and can be subjective .

In 1962, Jaakko Hintikka examined the logical structures of expressions of belief and knowledge in his work Knowledge and Belief , thus establishing a new branch of philosophical logic ; the epistemic logic , are contrasted as mutually exclusive opposites in knowledge and faith in their pure forms.

For a long time it was assumed that justified true belief was knowledge ( knowledge of faith, GWG assertion). Edmund Gettier gave counterexamples that showed that justified true belief is not enough for knowledge ( Gettier problem ).

Faith in kind

In everyday parlance, the verb to believe describes the expectation regarding some facts or contexts established in the context of uncertainty. For example: “I believe that the sun will shine tomorrow” or “I think it will go this way and not there.” In contrast to the use of the word in a religious context, “believe” with a factual reference is always subject to error, so it can be based on facts or new findings are refuted and corrected. In the sentence “I think it will rain” the possibility is allowed that this assumption is not confirmed either . In this kind of belief in the everyday sense the opinion is expressed: “Maybe it is true or it will be true, maybe not.” Here, belief also means “think” or “assume”.

The belief can be plausible and pragmatic, for example "I believe that I am not a brain in a glass and that the environment I see is real."

As a rule, to believe means to believe something to be true based on a credible witness or source of information. The holding of scientific theories that have not been or cannot be verified can also be understood as belief. This is the case with scientific hypotheses , for example . Belief in this sense always implies the lack of an accepted justification or the lack of evidence. If this justification or this proof becomes possible later, for example when new facts or knowledge make the justification or the proof possible, the hypothetical belief in the truth of a fact can become knowledge.

Faith with reference to a person

Faith can also be found in everyday language use in a different sense than in the sense of "my" and "suspect", for example sentences such as: "I believe you.", "I believe in the love between us." Such a belief is not here so much a presumption about facts, but primarily expresses an interpersonal relationship in which a person can be guided by what is believed. Faith is used here to mean "trust". In sentences like “I believe you”, however, it can also be expressed that you adopt an opinion of the person addressed (i.e. trust him or her) without having checked this opinion yourself.

"Faith" in this purely human sense denotes the act of consciousness of trust (trust belief) with the associated trusting act of action (factual belief) that what is believed is a possibility that can become reality or is a reality that cannot yet be experienced, so that is acted in such a way that what is believed can become reality or as if what is believed is already an experience of reality. Otherwise the belief would only be a pseudo- belief or the trust would only be a pseudo-trust.

In other words, the belief is to be seen in a close connection with trust or “can trust”. This form of belief can therefore go hand in hand with a suspension of sole responsibility , which is nourished by the accepted belief and thereby justifies one's own actions .


In some laws the term "belief" or " good faith " occurs, e.g. B. in Section 8 of the German Patent Act . This assumes the party has a well-founded assumption that is not rejected by better knowledge or well-founded doubts. In this way, the correctness of a product description can be assumed in good faith, since it must be correct due to legal requirements.

Another example is the acquisition of property in good faith in Section 932 of the BGB . According to this legal norm, it is in principle possible for a party to acquire ownership of an item even though the seller was not the owner. One of the prerequisites for this is that the acquirer believed, with good reason, that the seller owned the item.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Belief  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Faith In: Rudolf Eisler: Dictionary of philosophical terms. Volume 1. Berlin 1904, pp. 391-395.

Individual evidence

  1. Belief . In: Brockhaus, Volume 8. 1989.
  2. ^ Pfeifer: Etymological dictionary of German
  3. DWB
  4. Ernstpeter Ruhe: Pour faire la lumière as lais? Medieval Handbooks of Faith Knowledge and Their Audiences. In: Norbert Richard Wolf (ed.): Knowledge-organizing and knowledge-imparting literature in the Middle Ages: Perspectives on its research (Colloquium December 5-7, 1985). Wiesbaden 1987 (= Wissensliteratur im Mittelalter , 1), pp. 46–56.