Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 10, pp 2507–2537 | Cite as

Choosing and refusing: doxastic voluntarism and folk psychology

  • John TurriEmail author
  • David Rose
  • Wesley Buckwalter


A standard view in contemporary philosophy is that belief is involuntary, either as a matter of conceptual necessity or as a contingent fact of human psychology. We present seven experiments on patterns in ordinary folk-psychological judgments about belief. The results provide strong evidence that voluntary belief is conceptually possible and, granted minimal charitable assumptions about folk-psychological competence, provide some evidence that voluntary belief is psychologically possible. We also consider two hypotheses in an attempt to understand why many philosophers have been tempted to view belief as involuntary: that belief is a prototype concept and that belief is a dual character concept. Altogether, our findings contribute to longstanding philosophical debates about the relationship between the will and the intellect, while also advancing scientific understanding of important social judgments.


Voluntarism Involuntarism Belief The will Folk psychology Dual character concepts 



For helpful feedback, we thank Carolyn Buckwalter, Carl Ginet, Joshua Knobe, Shaun Nichols, Jonathan Schaffer, and Angelo Turri. Thanks also to an audience at Cornell University and this journal’s anonymous referees. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, and the Canada Research Chairs program.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (TXT 6 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Cognitive Science ProgramUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  3. 3.Philosophy DepartmentRutgers University, New BrunswickNew BrunswickUSA

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