Against Epistemic Agency

Abstract

A great many philosophers suggest that we exercise epistemic agency – a kind of agency that is distinctly epistemic in character and which allows us directly to exercise agency over our beliefs. In this thesis I will question the intelligibility of this suggestion. In order to do so, I will consider and argue against the four common views that are supposed to locate and explain epistemic agency. The first view suggests that we exercise epistemic agency because believing itself is a species of act or action, in the ordinary sense or in the rational sense. The second view suggests that we exercise epistemic agency because belief formation can be directly controlled, either voluntarily or evaluatively. The third view suggests that we exercise epistemic agency when we reflect upon and make judgments about what to believe. The fourth view suggests that we exercise epistemic agency because we are responsive to reasons. I will contend that these views either fail to intelligibly locate and explain epistemic agency or they do not offer the right explanation of it. This gives grounds to doubt the intelligibility of the very idea of epistemic agency

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