Against a descriptive vindication of doxastic voluntarism

Synthese 194 (8):2721-2744 (2017)
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In this paper, I examine whether doxastic voluntarism should be taken seriously within normative doxastic ethics. First, I show that currently the psychological evidence does not positively support doxastic voluntarism, even if I accept recent conclusions by Matthias Steup that the relevant evidence does not decisively undermine voluntarism either. Thus, it would seem that normative doxastic ethics could not justifiedly appeal directly to voluntarist assumptions. Second, I attempt to bring out how doxastic voluntarists may nevertheless hope to stir methodological worries within normative doxastic ethics, should they demonstrate that our typical practices of deontically evaluating doxastic states crucially rely on voluntarist assumptions. I also argue that some of the key arguments thought positively to support voluntarism as a psychological thesis may be put to better effect in the context of this kind of descriptive vindication. However, a closer examination reveals that nothing obviously suggests that voluntarism provides a better regimentation of our ascription practices as compared to rival theses concerning human powers of doxastic control



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References found in this work

The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - London, England: Dover Publications.
Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.

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