Does doxastic responsibility entail the ability to believe otherwise?

Synthese 190 (17):3651-3669 (2013)
Whether responsibility for actions and omissions requires the ability to do otherwise is an important issue in contemporary philosophy. However, a closely related but distinct issue, namely whether doxastic responsibility requires the ability to believe otherwise, has been largely neglected. This paper fills this remarkable lacuna by providing a defence of the thesis that doxastic responsibility entails the ability to believe otherwise. On the one hand, it is argued that the fact that unavoidability is normally an excuse counts in favour of this thesis. On the other hand, three objections against this thesis are discussed and criticized. First, one might think that what suffices for doxastic responsibility is control over or influence on certain desirable or undesirable properties of beliefs. It is argued that this objection misrepresents the issue under consideration. Second, it may be objected that the thesis is contradicted by our intuitions in doxastic analogues of Frankfurt-style scenarios. It is argued that distinguishing between belief-universals and belief-particulars helps to see why this argument fails. Third and finally, one might draw an analogy with the asymmetry thesis in ethics by arguing that even if blameworthy belief requires the ability to believe otherwise, praiseworthy belief does not. It is argued that the main arguments in favour of this presumed asymmetry are wanting, partly because they fail to distinguish between two different kinds of praiseworthiness. Finally, the author sketches three implications of the thesis that doxastic responsibility entails the ability to believe otherwise: counterfactual construals of responsible belief might be tenable, the deontological conception of epistemic justification needs revision on an important point, and there might be an important asymmetry between beliefs on the one hand and actions and many non-doxastic consequences on the other
Keywords Ability to believe otherwise  Doxastic responsibility  Excuses  Frankfurt-style cases
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-012-0217-5
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Roderick M. Chisholm (1966). Theory of Knowledge. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,Prentice-Hall.

View all 39 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Rik Peels (2014). Against Doxastic Compatibilism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (1):679-702.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Neil Levy (2007). Doxastic Responsibility. Synthese 155 (1):127 - 155.
Benjamin Bayer (2015). The Elusiveness of Doxastic Compatibilism. American Philosophical Quarterly 52 (3):233-252.
Danny Frederick (2013). Doxastic Voluntarism: A Sceptical Defence. International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 3 (1):24-44.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

38 ( #87,235 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #183,615 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.