Believing at Will

It has seemed to many philosophers—perhaps to most—that believing is not voluntary, that we cannot believe at will. It has seemed to many of these that this inability is not a merely contingent psychological limitation but rather is a deep fact about belief, perhaps a conceptual limitation. But it has been very difficult to say exactly why we cannot believe at will. I earlier offered an account of why we cannot believe at will. I argued that nothing could qualify both as having been done “at will,” in the relevant sense, and as a belief. Thus, no believer could believe at will. If my arguments are correct, our inability to believe at will reveals no genuine lack in our powers of mind, any more than an inability to draw a square circle reveals a lack of artistic skill. My account has been recently criticized by Kieran Setiya, who has provided an account of his own. Here I revisit and defend my account, hopefully in a way that will both make my thought clearer and illumine some of the broader differences between Setiya’s approach and my own. I then briefly consider Setiya’s own argument, in part to further develop the contrast.
Keywords doxastic voluntarism  voluntary  Bernard Williams
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Nishi Shah (2013). Why We Reason the Way We Do. Philosophical Issues 23 (1):311-325.
Benjamin McMyler (2015). Requesting Belief. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 96 (3).

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