Believing at Will and the Will to Believe the Truth


I defend of a version of doxastic voluntarism, by criticizing an argument advanced recently by Pamela Hieronymi against the possibility of belief at will. Conceiving of belief at will as believing immediately in response to practical reasons, Hieronymi claims that none of the forms of control we exercise over our beliefs measure up to this standard. While there is a form of direct control we exercise over our beliefs, "evaluative control," she claims it does not give us the power to believe at will because it consists in the consideration of reasons "constitutive" of believing that are not, at the same time, practical reasons. I argue that evaluative control does amount to the ability to believe at will, because there is a practical reason that does in part constitute our believing, what I call "the will to believe the truth." However I argue that Hieronymi's case against belief at will is still relevant to critiquing the acceptability of so-called "beliefs" encouraged by anti-evidentialists. Unlike other versions of voluntarism, I defend one that is consistent and fully supportive of evidence as the sole norm of our beliefs.



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Benjamin Bayer
Loyola University, New Orleans

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Controlling attitudes.Pamela Hieronymi - 2006 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (1):45-74.
Deciding to believe.Bernard Williams - 1973 - In Problems of the Self. Cambridge University Press. pp. 136--51.
A new argument for evidentialism.Nishi Shah - 2006 - Philosophical Quarterly 56 (225):481–498.

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