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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.



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



practice of time and a social sym-bolics, belief, through its developments, retreats and displacements, is a strategic site of communication. 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). Bifaceted, speech derives from this present of a loss and from this discounted future. 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. It is a convention made with the thing that is no longer there but whose abandon has led to the birth of the word, and it is an acquired right to the future usage of its referential. In addition, speech enjoys a privileged relationship with belief: like the act of speaking, that of believing articulates onto the disappeared and expected thing the social possibility of a "commerce". In both cases, a loss authorizes a discount. Thus between the three terms that Dumezil distinguishes - an actor, a real, a stating - there is a disparity. In relation to believing, saying has in effect the dual function of indicating a particular type of object (one can believe in a speech, a narrative, etc.), and of furnishing a general model (saying and believing reproduce the same structure). We can add to this homology between believing and saying that which brings belief closer to sacrifice, or at least the analysis that Durkheim makes of sacrifice. For Durkheim, sacrifice establishes and represents society: by what it takes from individual self-sufficiency, it marks on what is proper to each (on the body or on goods) the existence of the other, but the plurality thereby produced already has contractual value; the code of social exchange inscribed on individual nature, while mutilating it, transforms it into a blazon of sociality.6 The place ceded to the other by the gift has a "conventional" value with the other. In the order of (re)cognition, believing would be the equivalent of what sacrifice is in the order of religious practices. It carves the mark of the other within an autonomy; it loses a present for a future; it "sacrifices", in other words "makes sense" (sacer-facere), by substituting a debit for a credit. In a society, belief thus prevents the totalizing unification of the present. It creates in that society a return to the other and to a future. It also eschews dissemination. It creates a nexus of debts and rights amongst the group members. In sum, it guarantees a sociality based on a duration. It acts as the impetus to an insurance system in which social contracts are based on distinct periods of time. It is essential to the collectivities that temporally articulate human relationships. 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), the less importance it accords to belief. 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". Expectancies are supported by beliefs. A system of belief links present behaviour to a future that escapes them. Thus gestures of mutual aid, hospitality or courtesy function by the right

Emile Durkheim, Les Formes e/ementaires de la vie religieuse (Paris: PUF, 1968).



they give of trusting in a surety. Everyday practices are developed on a "background of expectations".7 They presume all the social rites that play on deferred time. With greater or lesser virtuosity, they "execute" and they "interpret" (as we do a piece of music) the codes of expectancy proper to a group. In this connection and anew, language here is a comprehensive model, organizing a formal network of mutual expectancies. For example, syntax foresees "linked probabilities", in other words what each position enables one to expect from the other and of the equivalent after it. More fundamentally, however, the entire language presumes that meaning must respond to what it articulates, and that it has acquired a symbolic right over the referential from which none the less it is separated. The act of speech is also founded on the expectation that there is a respondent, and that the utterance "given" to the other will, in the mode of an equivalence and not of an identity, be restored to the donor-speaker. In many ways, a credibility network upholds the conventions that regulate social communication. Between partners, it also makes for all kinds of games, manipulations and surprise effects with these conventions (making believe that one believes, or that one does not, etc.). Essentially, however, believing makes a communication practice out of the alterity of time (or of non-immediacy). It functions where only a duration can reverse the donor's position to that of beneficiary; 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. In contrast to this principle of historic sociality there is a principle of scientificity (or "truth") which, by eliminating the delay of a deferred time, by practising the immediate coincidence between the given and the received, has seeing as its index.

Stating and Doing The believer says: "I believe that you will (re)appear." He is sustained by the other, even if in many cases the other is tamed, sometimes controlled, even domesticated by the social rules that "insure" the creditor against the risk of time. He is situated in this interspace, in the suspense that separates what he has done from what the other will do. A stating occupies such a space: a promise, a convention, a confession of "faith", etc. However, that statement presumes and intends a doing. Believing is the link, distended, that connects by speech two distant gestures. It thereby ties a statement to a doing. Reciprocally, such an inscription of stating in doing, and doing in stating, turns belief into an expectational practice. From this point of view, the formula indicating his position to the believer could be: you believe it if you do it, and if you do not do

Harold Garfinkel, "Studies in the Routine Grounds of Everyday Activities", in David Sudnow (ed.), Studies in Social Interaction (New York: The Free Press, 1970) pp. I-3D.


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



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

See Emile Benveniste, Vocabulaire, vol. 2, pp. 273-9, a propos of superstitio, which designates that which "survives" or "subsists". Moreover, English anthropology has replaced "superstition" by "survival". See P. Saintyves, "Les origines de la methode comparative et la naissance du folklore: Des superstitions aux survivances", in Revue de l'histoire des religions, vol. 105 (1932).


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

199 respondants of projects or styles of action set up. The rejection of a planetary vacuum is none the less a sign of it. Also, contrary to what Anthony Quinton noted, it does not seem that there can be beliefs detachable from practical consequences. All positions have doubtful elements. Nevertheless, one could adopt the thesis that a belief devoid of practical implications is not a belief. With the bluntness characteristic of the style of his later years, Pierre Janet rightly said: "For us, belief is nothing more than a promise of action: to believe is to act; to say that we believe in something is to say: we shaH do something."17

The Indefinite Surety The "promise of action" also concerns a reality or an external partner. This leads us to what distinguishes belief from a contract and cannot be articulated into objects of exchange guaranteed by some law. In a society, this category of alliance consists of the region that is not yet or cannot be treated in the form of juridical links. The relationships it entails have the appearance of contexts, but they fall outside social instruments capable of objectifYing their terms and thus of verifYing or falsifYing their rapports. Placed outside any legal control, beliefs compose a vast zone that is now open to the conquests of law (many trusts are transformed into contracts), now opposing it to a vast "balance" (resistant to juridical transformation). Belief is differentiated by the role of the partners and their inequality. What it lacks in objectivation must be supplemented by the subjects. Lacking juridical assurances, the believer seeks, beyond the discounted "thing" (an advantage, a salvation, a truth), a surety upon which expectancy is based. He must not only "believe in", he must "have faith in". A trust doubles the belief and "comforts" it. (Trust comes from fortis: that which stands up.) We have to presume a guarantee from the other, in other words postulate an other (a person, a fact, etc.) endowed with power, will and knowledge that can mete out "retribution". In certain cases, apropos of God, spirits or humans, its very existence poses a problem, 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, in one way or another, he is absent. 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. The first point is more relative to a stating; the second, to a doing. The guarantor is seen as the reflection of the characteristic features of the believer. He functions as his mirror. However, the question is to know if there is a surety. When belief is directed to a person, 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. How can we be sure that the partner will aa as obligated, that he will be "faithful" to what is

Pierre Janet, L 'evolution de la memoire et la notion du temps (Paris: A. Chahine, 1928).



expected of him, or "straight" as Dumezil said? A first verification: in order to presume its object (the expected thing) believable, belief must also presume that the other, in a certain sense, also "believes" and that he considers himself obligated by the gift given to him. It is a belief in the belief of the other or in what he/one makes believe that he believes, etc. A belief ofthe other is the postulate of a belief in the other. However, this guaranty is not a sure one, such that it will go behind the first obligator's back to seek, should one be lacking, an heir for him, a wider substitute (family, group, etc.) or higher up (a superior authority, a moral constraint, etc.), always more distant. A myriad of others must guarantee the other. By continually passing the hat and seeking guarantees above and beyond those it has already attained, 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. If the entries in this eternal balance forward are not noted {but they are, by institutions),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. In an increasingly tautological and fundamental mode, 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. In the last instance, it must presume that some Real will stand surety. This general postulate (present even in scientific processes, as is all too evident) rises and falls on the scale of proximities, according to conjunctures and group types. In the village it takes the shape of the "straight" neighbour; in the party, that of the leader who has surety. On the other hand, in times of instability and! or under the questioning pressure of radical minds, this postulate becomes attenuated to the point that it is no more than the constraint of a hypothesis. Its sites of application and anchorage thus vary according to periods (times of crisis or tranquil periods), collectivities (even in a stable society there are outsider or marginal groups), and individuals (in a "closed village society", what attracts the belief of a dying man or a sceptical mind?). They also vary according to socio-economic configurations, medieval society, for example, was organized as a hierarchical combinative of "sureties" and "clienteles", whereas capitalism replaces that by the fiduciary system of a

18 Social life tends to suspend this return of beliefs to their tautological principle. It even
attempts to prevent it. 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. Institutions are set up to respond to the breakdown of objective beliefs and to the needs of everyday practice. Such mediations serve both to buttress the interrogations that threaten the believable, as assurances against the vertigo of doubt, and as supports for the day-to-day relational activity. In a more or less transitory and respectable manner (they can change and/or lose value), such "authorities" are the pragmatic guarantors of social communication; they are the practical authorities of a system of credit.



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

Favret-Saada, Les Mots, la mort, les sorts (Paris: Gallimard, 1977) pp. 28ff.



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

Octave Mannoni, Cleft pour l'imaginaire, ou l'Autre Scene (Paris: Seuil, 1969) p. 18. See Jean Pouillon, in La Fonaion symbolique, p. 48 . 22 Jacques Lacan, Seminaire sur les psychoses (1955-6), lecture of 14 December 1955.