, Volume 178, Issue 1, pp 49–66 | Cite as

Learning to live with voluntarism

  • Paul TellerEmail author


This paper examines and finds wanting the arguments against van Fraassen’s voluntarism, the view that the only constraint of rationality is consistency. Foundationalists claim that if we have no grounds or rationale for a belief or rule, rationality demands that we suspend it. But that begs the question by assuming that there have to be grounds or a rationale. Instead of asking, why should we hold a basic belief or rule, the question has to be: why should not we be committed as we are? Within a system we can sometimes find internal reasons. But, short of assuming foundationalism from the outset, when it comes to our evolving system as a whole there are no grounds for abandoning the commitments that we experience so strongly. Along the way the paper develops a systematic way of talking about terms that cause confusion because of variation in usage: foundationalism, relativism, basic beliefs and rules, voluntarism, etc.


Voluntarism Foundationalism Rationality Consistency Relativism Method Commitment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DavisUSA

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