To try and decipher the distinction between knowledge and belief we must first understand what the meaning of Philosophy is. In its simplest definition it translates to ?the love of wisdom? taken from the Greek word ?philo? which means love and ?sophia? meaning wisdom. Philosophers love to know the truth about the general principles of the world and they pursue the truth in these. Through the ages many philosophers have been on a personal quest to discover the principles of the universe and explain what is meant by knowledge and belief.
An opinion, statement or teaching can be a belief and to believe means to regard or to accept what is being said is true, but it does not have to be true to be believable. Descartes (1596?1650) was a Rationalist; he believed he had to doubt everything known to him to really understand knowledge. He defined belief as an active state of mind in which agreement is either given or withheld to the proposition.
Whether he was awake or dreaming he was never in any doubt that he was thinking and that his thoughts were real, hence his famous quote ?I think therefore I am?.
Others such as Hume (1711-1776) an empiricist went against the ideas of rationalists, whilst identifying with belief being a particular state of the mind considered it to be a passive state, which either occurs or is absent in respect of the given proposition. In other words we believe what we believe because of ?custom and habit?. For instance, the sun rises every day as we know it, so it is fair to assume it will rise tomorrow morning and the morning after and so on. He described this as induction and that we have impressions and ideas that influence our thought process.