A Theory in Ethics and Epistemology

Great news! OUP has just published a book, written by Rik Peels. The first volume entirely dedicated to the question of what it is to believe responsibly.

What we believe and what we do not believe has a great impact on what we do and fail to do. Hence, if we want to act responsibly, we should believe responsibly. However, do we have the kind of control over our beliefs that such responsibility for our beliefs seems to require? Do we have certain obligations to control or influence our beliefs on particular occasions? And do we sometimes believe responsibly despite violating such obligations, namely because we are excused by, say, indoctrination or ignorance?

By answering each of these questions, Rik Peels provides a theory of what it is to believe responsibly. He argues that we lack control over our beliefs, but that we can nonetheless influence our beliefs by performing actions that make a difference to what we believe. We have a wide variety of moral, prudential, and epistemic obligations to perform such belief-influencing actions. We can be held responsible for our beliefs in virtue of such influence on our beliefs. Sometimes, we believe responsibly despite having violated such obligations, namely if we are excused, by force, ignorance, or luck. A careful consideration of these excuses teaches us, respectively, that responsible belief entails that we could have failed to have that belief, that responsible belief is in a specific sense radically subjective, and that responsible belief is compatible with its being a matter of luck that we hold that belief.


Introduction: Why Responsible Belief Matters

  1. Doxastic Responsibility: What Is It?
  2. The Problem: Doxastic Control and Doxastic Obligations
    Rik Peels

    Rik Peels

  3. The Solution: Doxastic Influence and Intellectual Obligations
  4. Responsible Belief Entails the Ability to Believe Otherwise
  5. Responsible Belief Is Radically Subjective
  6. Responsible Belief Is Compatible with Doxastic Luck

Appendix: Responsible Belief and Epistemically Justified Belief

The book is available via the OUP webshop.