How We Choose Our Beliefs

Research paper by Gregory Salmieri, Benjamin Bayer

Indexed on: 31 Jul '13Published on: 31 Jul '13Published in: Philosophia


Recent years have seen increasing attacks on the "deontological" conception (or as we call it, the guidance conception) of epistemic justification, the view that epistemology offers advice to knowers in forming beliefs responsibly. Critics challenge an important presupposition of the guidance conception: doxastic voluntarism, the view that we choose our beliefs. We assume that epistemic guidance is indispensable, and seek to answer objections to doxastic voluntarism, most prominently William Alston's. We contend that Alston falsely assumes that choice of belief requires the assent to a specific propositional content. We argue that beliefs can be chosen under descriptions which do not specify their propositional content, but instead specify the mental actions by which they are formed and maintained. We argue that these actions partially constitute the beliefs and that is it in virtue of resulting from and being partially constituted by such actions that the beliefs are subject to epistemic appraisal.