, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 19-35
Date: 27 Mar 2011

Doxastic Voluntarism and the Function of Epistemic Evaluations

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Abstract

Control of our own beliefs is allegedly required for the truth of epistemic evaluations, such as “S ought to believe that p”, or “S ought to suspend judgment (and so refrain from any belief) whether p”. However, we cannot usually believe or refrain from believing at will. I agree with a number of recent authors in thinking that this apparent conflict is to be resolved by distinguishing reasons for believing that give evidence that p from reasons that make it desirable to believe that p whether or not p is true. I argue however that there is a different problem, one that becomes clearer in light of this solution to the first problem. Someone’s approval of our beliefs is at least often a non-evidential reason to believe, and as such cannot change our beliefs. Ought judgments aim to change the world. But ‘ought to believe’ judgments can’t do that by changing the belief, if they don’t give evidence. So I argue that we should instead regard epistemic ought judgments as aimed mainly at influencing assertions that express the belief and other actions based on the belief, in accord with recent philosophical claims that we have epistemic norms for assertion and action.