Doxastic voluntarism

Thought for the day: Do humans have direct voluntary control over their beliefs? Per Michael Sudduth: “This is the so-called doxastic voluntarism thesis. According to this view, a cognitive attitude (belief, disbelief, or withholding of belief) is justified only if the cognitive attitude is within our direct voluntary control. However, there is good reason to suppose that this thesis is false…” This is intriguing: I had always assumed that we do not have voluntary control over our beliefs, and I was surprised to find the idea that we do was sufficiently respectable that it had acquired an impressively polysyllabic name….

I came across the term while reading a review by Jeff Wisdom of Owen Flanagan’s The Problem of the Soul: Two Visions of Mind and How to Reconcile Them. I bought the book this morning, anticipating a well-reasoned approach to reconciling humanistic expectations with scientific realities. Like Jeff, I have been disappointed that Flanagan has (so far) failed to address the deeper objections to his, fairly orthodox, views. Now I happen to share most of Flanagan’s ideas (though not his Buddhism), but this doesn’t mean that there are no arguments to be made. Oh well; even if it isn’t a rigorous treatment of the subject, it should be an enjoyable read on my flight back to Boston on Monday.

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