What We Do When We Believe

In its Vedic (,sraddha) and Latin (credo) origins, the term to believe presents a constellation of usages. Already it furnishes a field of hypotheses. "A true morphological fossil", sometimes it signifies having confidence in someone or something, sometimes believing in reality or in what one sees, sometimes trusting in what is said. 1 In these three forms, which concern either an actor (person or object) or a referential or a stating, belief posits a relationship to something Other. In this triple guise it always implies the support of the other, which stands for what we have to rely upon. In addition, in the examples cited by Georges Dumezil (Numa, etc.), this relationship has the form of some "commerce". It obeys the ethics of the do ut des. A loyalty is required of the partners, presumed to be "on the up and up". Thereby the shadow of the believer and its opposite, the renegade or traitor, is already evident. Belief thus occurs between the recognition of an alterity and the establishment of a contract. It disappears if one of the two terms weakens. Belief no longer exists when difference is effaced by a process tending to equalize the partners and give them a mutual mastery of the contract; it no longer exists when difference becomes excessive through a breach of the pact. The oscillation between these poles, in the field of beliefs, makes for a first classification that could go, for example, from fidelity (which gives pride of place to alliance) to faith (which stresses difference). Analysing the Vocabulaire des institutions indo-europiennes, Emile Benveniste recognizes in the functioning of the word kred (Credo) - a function he ranks among "economic obligations" - a sequence linking a donation to a remuneration. To believe, he says, is to "give something away with the certainty of getting it back". 2 A coming and going of the "thing" marks, through a


yeorges Dumezil, Idees romaines (Paris: Gallimard, 1969) pp. 47-59 ("Credo etfides"). Emile Benveniste, Vocabulaire des institutions indo-europeennes (Paris: Minuit, 1969) vol. I, ch. IS, pp. 171-9.

customs. it wj]] evolve into a relationship of (knowing) subject to (known) object. 1964). Quine and J.4 believing takes the form of an interlacing of operations. it also derives a profit: it is sustained by them. The "believer" abandons a present advantage. if thereby it actualizes them. The thing given is exchanged for a right that places the other . vol. V. 5 The difference that distinguishes it from seeing or knowing is not at first notable for the truth value of which a proposition is susceptible . the question of belief is the question of time. The Web of Belief (New York: Random House. xv. 1970). It is by this "deferred" that believing is separated from seeing. no. by the same gesture. no. 1 (January-March 1974) p. 23. 3 . It will develop on the side of credence.3 Similar in its form to seeing. S.but by this inscription of time in a subject-to-subject relationship. acquires the right to be sustained.or expected . Le Visible et l'ltwisible (Paris: Gallimard. "Avenir de classe et causalite du probable". since the due . If the gift "sacrifices" to these rules (the act of "confiding something" also impHes obligations). etc. Thus there takes form a problematic of society: independent wills are distinguished amongst themselves by the duration that retards appropriation. and the donor. or some of its claims. It temporalizes the relation of the one to the other. The object of the exchange is itself altered by this distance between moments. Ullian. The modes and duration of its circulation are placed under the guaranty and control of communication rules . When this relationship can no longer be sustained and structured by temporaHzation. In social relationships.to which an entire epistemology has been devoted . of the creditor or "believer" and. to give credit to a receiver. more explicitly.WHAT WE DO WHEN WE BELIEVE 193 separation among moments. 4 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty. He hollows out a void in himself relative to the time of the other. However. but an equivalent: the analogy between the offered and the received would be the work of time on their identity. Rrouefranfaise de sociologie.and time itself within a nexus of obligations. it is a "spider's web" organizing a social fabric. he creates a deficit whereby a future is introduced into the present. where Marx sees "the judgment that political economy bears on the morality of man". and. At the junction of a Quoted in Pierre Bourdieu. it is also the acquisition of a right. a combinative of gifts and debts. or "crediting". 29. This temporal practice of difference endows delay with all its social pertinency. It enters into a field of socio-historical operations that allow for a collective management of the other and of time. A plurality and a historicity are knotted into the act that posits. that which distinguishes its successive owners. through his sacrifice. The deferred thus equally marks the role and price of collective contracts. First. a network of "recognition".is not the same as the given. It has the value of a "receipt". The communication established by the goods put in circulation posits a distinction of sites (the detainers of the "thing") by that of time. towards credit. The sequence of the gift and restitution thus temporarily articulates an economy of exchange. in the interests he calculates. as analysed by Merleau-Ponty. a different partner and a deferred restitution. 5 See W.a right.

. is a strategic site of communication. believing would be the equivalent of what sacrifice is in the order of religious practices. through its developments. hospitality or courtesy function by the right 6 Emile Durkheim. It is essential to the collectivities that temporally articulate human relationships. It carves the mark of the other within an autonomy.an actor. belief thus prevents the totalizing unification of the present.there is a disparity. a stating . In relation to believing. and it is an acquired right to the future usage of its referential. transforms it into a blazon of sociality. Most frequently it takes the form of a speech that fills the interval between a present loss (what is confided) and a remuneration to come (what will be recuperated). It also eschews dissemination. the code of social exchange inscribed on individual nature. belief. a loss authorizes a discount. In addition. in other words "makes sense" (sacer-facere). Bifaceted. Thus gestures of mutual aid. it loses a present for a future. We can infer from it that the more a society evades the temporal law (for example by constituting scriptural sites where knowledge can be capitalized in a present). speech enjoys a privileged relationship with belief: like the act of speaking.194 MICHEL DE CERTEAU practice of time and a social sym-bolics. It acts as the impetus to an insurance system in which social contracts are based on distinct periods of time. while mutilating it. a narrative. etc. the less importance it accords to belief. speech derives from this present of a loss and from this discounted future. it "sacrifices". A system of belief links present behaviour to a future that escapes them. For Durkheim. In a society. or at least the analysis that Durkheim makes of sacrifice. Les Formes e/ementaires de la vie religieuse (Paris: PUF. retreats and displacements. We can add to this homology between believing and saying that which brings belief closer to sacrifice. Its status (but is this not true of all speech?) is the simultaneous stating of the absence of the thing it represents and the promise of its return. that of believing articulates onto the disappeared and expected thing the social possibility of a "commerce". 1968). saying has in effect the dual function of indicating a particular type of object (one can believe in a speech. sacrifice establishes and represents society: by what it takes from individual self-sufficiency. a real. Expectancies are supported by beliefs. The same problematic can be encountered at the level of a group micro-sociology: everyday practices related to systems of expeaation that refer to "a legitimate order of beliefs about life in society". it guarantees a sociality based on a duration. It creates a nexus of debts and rights amongst the group members. In both cases. by substituting a debit for a credit. In the order of (re)cognition. and of furnishing a general model (saying and believing reproduce the same structure). but the plurality thereby produced already has contractual value.6 The place ceded to the other by the gift has a "conventional" value with the other. It creates in that society a return to the other and to a future. In sum. It is a convention made with the thing that is no longer there but whose abandon has led to the birth of the word. it marks on what is proper to each (on the body or on goods) the existence of the other. Thus between the three terms that Dumezil distinguishes .).

syntax foresees "linked probabilities". and doing in stating. From this point of view. believing makes a communication practice out of the alterity of time (or of non-immediacy). however. and if you do not do 7 Harold Garfinkel. such an inscription of stating in doing. that connects by speech two distant gestures. it also makes for all kinds of games. has seeing as its index. the formula indicating his position to the believer could be: you believe it if you do it. etc. in David Sudnow (ed. and that the utterance "given" to the other will. the entire language presumes that meaning must respond to what it articulates. Believing is the link. even if in many cases the other is tamed. a credibility network upholds the conventions that regulate social communication. Essentially." He is sustained by the other. or that one does not. The act of speech is also founded on the expectation that there is a respondent. even domesticated by the social rules that "insure" the creditor against the risk of time. Reciprocally.WHAT WE DO WHEN WE BELIEVE 195 they give of trusting in a surety. and that it has acquired a symbolic right over the referential from which none the less it is separated.7 They presume all the social rites that play on deferred time. I-3D. Between partners. 1970) pp. In many ways. It functions where only a duration can reverse the donor's position to that of beneficiary. Studies in Social Interaction (New York: The Free Press. distended. language here is a comprehensive model. turns belief into an expectational practice. However. etc.). manipulations and surprise effects with these conventions (making believe that one believes. organizing a formal network of mutual expectancies. in the suspense that separates what he has done from what the other will do. however. in the mode of an equivalence and not of an identity. Stating and Doing The believer says: "I believe that you will (re)appear. a convention. For example. "Studies in the Routine Grounds of Everyday Activities". sometimes controlled. where a time of the other foreshadows some delay and thus the uncertainty of a difference onto the equivalency between the offered and the rendered. It thereby ties a statement to a doing. by eliminating the delay of a deferred time. be restored to the donor-speaker. With greater or lesser virtuosity. More fundamentally. Everyday practices are developed on a "background of expectations". they "execute" and they "interpret" (as we do a piece of music) the codes of expectancy proper to a group. in other words what each position enables one to expect from the other and of the equivalent after it. He is situated in this interspace. that statement presumes and intends a doing. by practising the immediate coincidence between the given and the received.). A stating occupies such a space: a promise. In this connection and anew. In contrast to this principle of historic sociality there is a principle of scientificity (or "truth") which. a confession of "faith". .

MICHEL DE CERTEAU it you do not believe in it. based on utterances that survive practices that have now disappeared. relative to an operativity of such practices. on the one hand. the illness that compromises the second position. In other words. traditional societies: for example. stratified and fragmented systems of credit coexist. between beliefs and practices. 9 Jean Pouillon. an isolated portion. in other words when it ceases to be a belief. 8 they are interpreted by anthropology as a set of "ritualized activities"9 that embody the promise or the trust in the objectivity of some gesture. distributed into combinable elements in view of some improved efficacy. L 'Ecriture de l'histoire (Paris: Gallimard. We thus endow such detached fragments with the value of assertions about beings (supernatural. ancient Israel or Rome. the other. 1979). Three centuries of polemic between "science" and "superstition" have divided practices themselves into two very unequal parts. commercial. has become the object of a technical rationalization.lO Such a cleavage is accentuated in complex societies. 153-212 ("La formalite des pratiques"). Thus. 10 See Michel de Certeau. Contrary to what happened in many traditional societies. This axiom holds true for a great many stable. Beliefs and conducts thus enter into increasingly unstable relationships. to objective behaviours (medical. 1978) pp. This sundering has given rise. each affected with a veritably different destiny: on the basis of such practices. one consists of mutual expectations. culinary. made possible a break henceforth considered as a proof. Belief is no longer anything but a stating when it ceases to be a relational engaging. That they have been considered as representations capable or not of enjoying an individual or collective assent (of the type: "I believe in it" or "we do not believe in it") is.) that it had brought to the status of techniques and thus treated as a series of gestures related to fabricational activities. 43-51. on the other hand. The isolation of the stating also results from more recent history. in part. practice is no longer See Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vemant. "Remarques sur Ie verbe croire" . and they no longer function as social alliances. which has. etc. The same conventions of credit are practised in contradictory ways. There. and. belief becomes an utterance (an affirmation) when it ceases to mesh with some contractual practice. etc. like Greek sacrifices. and it has become the superfluous remainder of a past. educational. The same practices obey codes that are divergent from what they allow one to expect. Combinations between what becomes of "convictions" and what becomes of "behaviours" increase. La Cuisine du sacrifice en pays grec (Paris: Gallimard. La Fonaion symbolique (Paris: Gallimard. in Michel Izard and Pierre Smith (eds).) or truths that distance enables us to situate under the sign of credibility precisely because we no longer believe in them. To posit the question: "Do I believe it?" is already to leave the field of belief and take it as an intellectual object independent of the act that affirms it as a relationship. in which heterogeneous. analysed. divine. 8 . beliefs had the form of practices. an effect of historical interpretation. 1979) pp. to representations known as "beliefs" precisely because we do not believe them any longer.

At the end of the eighteenth century. Such ritual actions lay down invisible borders within the authorized culture. Thus political action that takes the place of religious practices retains the trace of the salvational expectancies that it is trying to eradicate by means of some theory of revolution or well-being. . remains indissociable from things not to do (accepting praise means bad luck) or from precautions to be taken (wearing charms. However it retains . II The important thing here is that even in such extreme cases. Within operations that." That belief. Having been disinherited by the official credit system.WHAT WE DO WHEN WE BELIEVE 197 the transparent objectivity of a belief. In the "enlightened" discourse that is supposed to define the believable. guarantee the "return" corresponding to an investment. The conventions agreed with partners outside of the social legality and identity cut. vol." Through actions that prohibit her from being afraid. However. vol. Croce's belief is a gesture that transgresses cultural orthodoxy. "survival" no longer has a recognized positive function. active but illicit. in the mental landscape that has become foreign to them. We must make a distinction between them. Saintyves. Mme du Deffant stated: "I do not believe in ghosts.and often in this way receives . Writing about the evil eye. also cast out of the epistemological configuration to which it related (the remains of a cosmology). The autonomy of these two elements is neither so rapid nor so radical. she nevertheless indicates what she still "believes". but in behaviours that. it is among the gestures to which we presume a guarantee. 273-9. English anthropology has replaced "superstition" by "survival". Vocabulaire. which are in fact practices that set up contracts with a future that has been more or less deprived of legitimacy by public discourse. are objectified by the strategies that are supposed to replace them.the negative role of restraining such public operations. Benedetto Croce said: "It is false but I believe in it. the thinkable. gestures that survive the collapse of the exchange system from which they derived their public legitimacy remain determinant. has become our contemporary believing practice. saying or writing the number 5. Moreover. quite precisely "survivals". beliefs are still the index of practices that sustain them and that they intend. See P. an equivocal site. Contrariwise. Such outmoded "convictions". the fragment of an illicit belief is still evidenced in behaviours. more modest role. "Les origines de la methode comparative et la naissance du folklore: Des superstitions aux survivances". of limiting them and even sometimes suspending them by "disastrous" procedures. the term "belief" has become the object of wordplay. 105 (1932). within a society. The same holds true for many others. detached from the practices that articulated them. exiled from scientific knowledge (it knows it is false). illegitimate as they may be. and that very distinction. which designates that which "survives" or "subsists".). slash the field oflegitimate expectations with silent gestures. they have received a new. with the status of "superstitions": in other words. a propos of superstitio. in other words. verbal and operatory. limit belief 11 See Emile Benveniste. in fact. but I'm afraid of them. in Revue de l'histoire des religions. excluded from such discourse. pp. 2. They are there. etc.

MICHEL DE CERTEAU and stop it before phantoms. has worked extensively to extend and deepen the philosophical analysis of belief as a "disposition" to do. It was labelled with such an identity by an epistemology that judged knowledge according to the truth value with which an utterance can be affected and which distributed this truth according to its two possible sources.12 Alexander Bain has alreadr stressed that the act of belief "has meaning only in reference to our actions". Even such propositions as "I believe that it will be nice tomorrow". B. Singer. the believed objea has been isolated from the collective and individual steps that it brought together in contracts. to some efficacious reciprocity or to the success of some enterprise ("believing that the abyss is not so wide" makes it easier for me to cross over it). "The Pragmatic Use of Language and the Will to Believe". in Braithwaite's epistemology. belief received the comprehensively negative definition of corresponding to what one does not know or see. "Knowledge and Belief". 1969). p. still colonized by the question of truth. no. 12 . Beliif(London: Allen & Unwin. quoted in Anthony Quinton. In another. regarded as a "mental occurrence". 1974). is "being ready to act as if p were true". indeed. in other words. However.one linked to the philosophical rigour of an "individualism" that distinguishes the act from its object . Doubtless in a long. It thus refers to an acting. 35 I. 129-46. H. Price. it disappears when those links are broken. I R. we recognize a pullulation of utterances that escape this rule and that instead relate to the alternative "success or failure". Edwards (ed. There is belief because there is still a practice. 16 See Marcus G. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. 13 Alexander Bain. Recent studies on belief actually restore its relationship to a doing. they are based on solidarities that the H. 24-34. 33 (1929-33) pp. 15 It is perceived by the more or less strict links it maintains with what it makes happen and/or expects to see happen. vol. "The Nature of Believing". 8. in P. they have already been relegated to acting vis-a-vis the pertinent instance. concerns "what makes it run". Braithwaite. of being the other of knowledge or sight. New Series. 1 (1971) pp. Since Austin. L 'amour du censeur (Paris: Seuil. vol.). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 15 See Pierre Legendre. especially Anglo-Saxon tradition . vol. B. Broadly. it works or it does not. The Emotions and the Will (1859). especially Mediterranean tradition. 14 R. memory or proof. 4. Braithwaite regarded belief as a disposition to act "as if the proposition were true: belief". Utterances of beliifbelong to this growing family.belief appears as the positive formality of an act of uttering related to a (willing) to do of the subject and to a contraa entered into between social and/or symbolic partners. American Philosophical Quarterly.16 On the other hand. Cut off from the act that posited it. 14 Here the proposition is being judged according to the monotheistic rule of "true or false". or "I believe that the planet Mars is inhabited" do not at first refer to the validity of some knowledge. it relates to some salvation. but discernible only through feeling (fear) that always burdens defiCit with a logic of practices. he said. Belief.

He must not only "believe in". However. but they fall outside social instruments capable of objectifYing their terms and thus of verifYing or falsifYing their rapports. 1928). a truth). apropos of God. in one way or another. Also. Placed outside any legal control. he is absent. In certain cases. A trust doubles the belief and "comforts" it. When belief is directed to a person."17 WHAT WE DO WHEN WE BELIEVE The Indefinite Surety The "promise of action" also concerns a reality or an external partner. will and knowledge that can mete out "retribution". Nevertheless. contrary to what Anthony Quinton noted.) endowed with power. a salvation. a fact. it does not seem that there can be beliefs detachable from practical consequences. How can we be sure that the partner will aa as obligated. a surety upon which expectancy is based. In a society. beyond the discounted "thing" (an advantage. (Trust comes from fortis: that which stands up. . in other words postulate an other (a person. The guarantor is seen as the reflection of the characteristic features of the believer. etc. but in the end it is only a variant vis-a-vis the body of elements that constitute the competence of the surety and confront the hypothesis that. that he will be "faithful" to what is 17 Pierre Janet. now opposing it to a vast "balance" (resistant to juridical transformation). All positions have doubtful elements. to say that we believe in something is to say: we shaH do something. L 'evolution de la memoire et la notion du temps (Paris: A. the question is to know if there is a surety. He functions as his mirror. its very existence poses a problem. this category of alliance consists of the region that is not yet or cannot be treated in the form of juridical links. spirits or humans. The first point is more relative to a stating. to a doing. The relationships it entails have the appearance of contexts. The interrogation born from the possibility that he might default essentially bears on two points: that he recognizes himself as obligated and that he is capable of paying up. Pierre Janet rightly said: "For us. The rejection of a planetary vacuum is none the less a sign of it. belief is nothing more than a promise of action: to believe is to act. With the bluntness characteristic of the style of his later years. Lacking juridical assurances. What it lacks in objectivation must be supplemented by the subjects. it more clearly manifests a displacement that is ultimately to be found in all beliefs and that ends always to seek this surety further on. the believer seeks. he must "have faith in".) We have to presume a guarantee from the other.199 respondants of projects or styles of action set up. beliefs compose a vast zone that is now open to the conquests of law (many trusts are transformed into contracts). This leads us to what distinguishes belief from a contract and cannot be articulated into objects of exchange guaranteed by some law. the second. Belief is differentiated by the role of the partners and their inequality. Chahine. one could adopt the thesis that a belief devoid of practical implications is not a belief.

It is a belief in the belief of the other or in what he/one makes believe that he believes. On the other hand. Institutions are set up to respond to the breakdown of objective beliefs and to the needs of everyday practice. by institutions). Its sites of application and anchorage thus vary according to periods (times of crisis or tranquil periods). they are the practical authorities of a system of credit. and as supports for the day-to-day relational activity. in the party. This general postulate (present even in scientific processes. as is all too evident) rises and falls on the scale of proximities. etc.200 MICHEL DE CERTEAU expected of him.18 the appeal to another converges towards a vanishing point of "fidelity" which under the name of God or society will be the very postulate of belief: there must be a guarantor for it. for example.) or higher up (a superior authority. what attracts the belief of a dying man or a sceptical mind?). By continually passing the hat and seeking guarantees above and beyond those it has already attained. If the entries in this eternal balance forward are not noted {but they are. In the last instance. . belief goes back to the limit which is more than the condition proper to it: only the a priori of another who is "straight" makes it possible. belief seems to make itself independent of any particular interlocutor and to attempt to compensate the uncertainty of each debtor by an endless referral to others. In the village it takes the shape of the "straight" neighbour. a moral constraint. group. A myriad of others must guarantee the other. also "believes" and that he considers himself obligated by the gift given to him. in a certain sense. an heir for him. Social life organizes itself in such a way that the indefinite carrying forward of the guarantor is stopped and that the secret of belief is hidden.). collectivities (even in a stable society there are outsider or marginal groups). was organized as a hierarchical combinative of "sureties" and "clienteles". belief must also presume that the other. should one be lacking. Such mediations serve both to buttress the interrogations that threaten the believable. in times of instability and! or under the questioning pressure of radical minds. a wider substitute (family. In a more or less transitory and respectable manner (they can change and/or lose value). this guaranty is not a sure one. as assurances against the vertigo of doubt. always more distant. It even attempts to prevent it. such that it will go behind the first obligator's back to seek. However. A belief ofthe other is the postulate of a belief in the other. it must presume that some Real will stand surety. whereas capitalism replaces that by the fiduciary system of a 18 Social life tends to suspend this return of beliefs to their tautological principle. and individuals (in a "closed village society". They also vary according to socio-economic configurations. that of the leader who has surety. according to conjunctures and group types. such "authorities" are the pragmatic guarantors of social communication. or "straight" as Dumezil said? A first verification: in order to presume its object (the expected thing) believable. etc. medieval society. this postulate becomes attenuated to the point that it is no more than the constraint of a hypothesis. etc. In an increasingly tautological and fundamental mode.

is "given as belief of the others" .. The secret network of all these others answers for the witch. what. Les Mots. Thus the peasants of Bocage refer not to what they believe. A plurality guarantees the guarantor. this is not only a tactic to keep "superstition" at a distance (a superstition with which the ethnologist identifies them). which they also speak about in this way. some people say . behind him. it is also a security taken against the scepticism that it introduces. it should be possible to classify all the elements composing the successive geographies of such "authorities" having the value of guarantor and allowing for belief.. Is this not the very structure of the lived present? This present is.. It produces this "other" presumed to insure against what it is losing. Each individual guarantor (who must exist on both sides) is thus the metonymy of an indefinite series of others who. or others. some people say. but that other must fill the void. and as if. Belief and time remain linked. which at first appears to concern the believer himself.WHAT WE DO WHEN WE BELIEVE 201 common denominator.. " With 19 Jeanne Favret-Saada.. Differentiations still depend on the rise and fall of values: a decrease in practice leads to an increase in doubt. etc. It is as though the overall a priori according to which there had to be a guarantor somewhere. Belief rests upon an anteriority of the other whose delegate and manifestation is the fact of a plurality of believers: "Some people believe . 28ff. There is no certainty in belief. However. whereas it is possible to see alone some thing or some one. " Witchcraft. However.. by means of a gift (or a sacrifice) creates the empty space that installs the other. under the pressure of crises and!or interrogations.and founders of belief: they "enable" believing. However. presumed to be the debtor and the guarantor of the believing relationship. in fact. les sorts (Paris: Gallimard. or not (yet) there . but to what others believe: "Some people believe .they are not (yet) faithful. for pragmatic and contingent reasons. and a balance forward that will in fact serve as guaranty of the existence and unknowable will of the other: "some people believe it".. The "carrying forward" of the guarantor is also presented in a different form. were. relodged elsewhere according to circumstances. they authorize it. also have the dual position of being missing . And there is more here than a mere coincidence: belief. .. from the fact that many. their mobility is a dominant feature of such compositions of "sites" guaranteeing belief.19 On the part of those peasants. the impossibility of doing without it. 1977) pp. do believe. The process of belief works starting not from the believer himself but from an indefinite plural (other/others). It is because others (or many) believe it that an individual can take his debtor to be faithful and trust him.. it finally took refuge in that impregnable but inaccessible site. placed more or less near. It is not surprising that belief should obey this dynamic circularity. Can one believe alone in some thing or some one? No. it also defines the other himself: what I am lacking is what makes me work. constitutes the alterity of a future. we can justifiably presume that there is a guarantor to what we fear or hope. money. la mort. and the coincidence of absence and presence is one of the secrets of believing. by vanishing. In principle. dislodged.

Such inflation brings about a retreat to the overall postulate: there have to be those who believe. belief must be somewhere . this relationship is the vanishing point towards which belief tends in a society that has repressed the question of subject or which at least has isolated it from the practices cast in the form of objective techniques.or vice versa. the possibility for believing subjects is articulated on the existence of a subject. The "I believe" of opinion oscillates between "it seems to me" and "I do not like". They go to its true foundation: "Other people believe it. 48 . For example. All these "others". Their number is lessening and their attachment to particular practices is weakening. by noting those who tum to belief or no longer believe (who "converted"). By a series of referrals which multiply its initial deftrred. 18. Today. 20 21 Octave Mannoni. a "guarantor" authorizing the relationship. to be spread. necessary to belief. Even scientific work presumes that "matter is not deceitful". they produce for everyone a believable which is. in La Fonaion symbolique. continues. lecture of 14 December 1955. 22 Jacques Lacan. in fact. "I believe". however. It plays on the relationship between a necessity and a supposition. and this enables him to believe that he is not a believer21 . Institutions of belief (religious or political) function in this way. Subjeas supposed to believe are. Very familiar to religions.2o who only speak of their own beliefs on behalf of the other. that there may be others who do believe.202 MICHEL DE CERTEAU regard to witches and soothsayers. 22 What is ultimately questioned is the other even as a subjea. or. The effectiveness of this quid pro quo (one is dealt with instead of the other) is very like experiments in cross-breeding. the condition of belief. . that of others. "Children are in a way the basis for the belief of adults". what each person attributes to so many other people. charged in principle with sustaining the "honesty" of the guarantor. in fact. Seminaire sur les psychoses (1955-6). The fact." This is the overall structure: as we know. are not "taken in" or they sustain nothing. The multiplication of pseudo-believers (proliferated by the interview) does not compensate for the decrease of their quality. p. Conviction is manipulated from a distance by an operation of what appears not to concern it. and now familiar to political powers. so that although we deceive ourselves at least "it does not deceive us". proliferating polls make use of the same structure: artificially. thousands of procedures produce believers by creating the belief that "there are many others who believe". See Jean Pouillon. This question takes the form of what we must suppose. Cleft pour l'imaginaire. an even surer technique. the Bocage peasants are more lucid in defining the belief of those who boast the naive formula. ou l'Autre Scene (Paris: Seuil. Embodied in necessary fictions that are fictions of the other. although they are all placed under the overall index of a societal transformation.not believable objects (that only constitute the object of exchange) but a positing of the subject (or quasi-subject) who is "straight" and does not deceive. 1969) p. In order for there to be belief. belief continually carries forward towards the still other the unpossessable limit at which its status of possibility can be fixed. in many cases it is the "unbeliever" who believes that the "believers" believe.

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