Epistemic Involuntarism and Undesirable Beliefs

Southwest Philosophy Review 39 (1):225-233 (2023)
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Epistemologists debate the nature of epistemic responsibility. Rarely do they consider the implications of this debate on assigning responsibility for undesirable beliefs such as racist and sexist ones. Contrary to our natural tendency to believe and to act as if we are responsible for holding undesirable beliefs, empirical evidence indicates that beliefs such as implicit biases are not only unconsciously held but are intractably held. That is, even when we become consciously aware of our biases, we have enormous difficulty changing them and believing differently than we do. This paper considers five responses to epistemic involuntarism. It considers how each response provides or fails to provide a principled means for holding individuals epistemically responsible for their undesirable beliefs. The involuntaristic nature of at least some beliefs seems obvious, but, in the end, we can choose to cultivate epistemic virtues that can influence these beliefs.



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Deborah Heikes
University of Alabama, Huntsville

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