, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 561-569,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 22 Jun 2012

Belief-Policies Cannot Ground Doxastic Responsibility

Abstract

William Alston has provided a by now well-known objection to the deontological conception of epistemic justification by arguing that since we lack control over our beliefs, we are not responsible for them. It is widely acknowledged that if Alston’s argument is convincing, then it seems that the very idea of doxastic responsibility is in trouble. In this article, I attempt to refute one line of response to Alston’s argument. On this approach, we are responsible for our beliefs in virtue of the fact that we have certain belief-policies, that is, policies about what (not) to believe in certain circumstances. I present the advocate of this strategy with a dilemma: either belief-policies are themselves beliefs or they are not. If they are, then they are as involuntary as our other beliefs. If they are not, then they cannot make a difference to the beliefs we hold. I conclude that if we bear doxastic responsibility, it should not be explained in terms of our belief-policies.