BELIEVING AND ACTING: VOLUNTARY CONTROL AND THE PRAGMATIC THEORY OF BELIEF (pages 495-513)

Brian HEDDEN

ABSTRACT: I argue that an attractive theory about the metaphysics of belief – the pragmatic, interpretationist theory endorsed by Stalnaker, Lewis, and Dennett, among others – implies that agents have a novel form of voluntary control over their beliefs. According to the pragmatic picture, what it is to have a given belief is in part for that belief to be part of an optimal rationalization of your actions. Since you have voluntary control over your actions, and what actions you perform in part determines what beliefs you count as having, this theory entails that you have some voluntary control over your beliefs. However, the pragmatic picture doesn’t entail that you can believe something as a result of intention to believe it. Nevertheless, I argue that the limited sort of voluntary control implied by the pragmatic picture may be of use in vindicating the deontological conception of epistemic justification.

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