, Volume 194, Issue 8, pp 2895–2915 | Cite as

Responsible belief and epistemic justification

  • Rik PeelsEmail author
S.I.: DoxasticAgency


For decades, philosophers have displayed an interest in what it is to have an epistemically justified belief. Recently, we also find among philosophers a renewed interest in the so-called ethics of belief: what is it to believe (epistemically) responsibly and when is one’s belief blameworthy? This paper explores how epistemically justified belief and responsible belief are related to each other. On the so-called ‘deontological conception of epistemic justification’, they are identical: to believe epistemically responsibly is to believe epistemically justifiedly. I argue that William Alston’s criticism of a deontological conception of epistemic justification in terms of our influence on our beliefs is unconvincing. Moreover, such a conception meets three criteria that one might put forward in order for an account of epistemic justification to be plausible: it shows a concern with the Jamesian goal of having true rather than false beliefs, it is relevantly similar to accounts of justification in non-doxastic realms, such as action, and there is good reason to think that, if spelled out in sufficient detail, it may well provide a necessary condition for knowledge. I conclude that the deontological conception of epistemic justification is stronger than is often thought: it is worth exploring whether epistemically justified belief is epistemically responsible belief.


William Alston Deontologism Doxastic control Doxastic influence Epistemic justification Epistemic obligations Intellectual obligations Knowledge Responsible belief 



For their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, I would like to thank Anthony Booth, Jan Bransen, Sanford Goldberg, Amy Flowerree, Christopher Hookway, Joel Katzav, Andrea Kruse, Miriam McCormick, Anne Meylan, Philip Nickel, Nikolaj Nottelmann, Michael Pauen, Herman Philipse, Hans Rott, Matthias Steup, Krist Vaesen, Hamid Vahid, Verena Wagner, René van Woudenberg, Heinrich Wansing, David Widerker, Jan Willem Wieland, and two anonymous referees for this journal. This publication was made possible through the support of a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Templeton World Charity Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentVrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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