A social solution to the puzzle of doxastic responsibility: a two-dimensional account of responsibility for belief

Synthese 198 (10):9335-9356 (2020)
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In virtue of what are we responsible for our beliefs? I argue that doxastic responsibility has a crucial social component: part of being responsible for our beliefs is being responsible to others. I suggest that this responsibility is a form of answerability with two distinct dimensions: an individual and an interpersonal dimension. While most views hold that the individual dimension is grounded in some form of control that we can exercise over our beliefs, I contend that we are answerable for our beliefs as long as they reflect our evaluative commitments and dispositions, or are products of our reasoning, where this does not amount to a form of control. I next argue that answerability has a second, largely neglected dimension: the interpersonal dimension, which is grounded in what I call our relations of doxastic dependence. As social creatures, we depend on one another in our capacity as believers. We depend on one another as believers not only in epistemic ways, but also in practical ways, because our beliefs inform and motivate our actions, and allow us to participate in shared practical goals. Depending on one another in these ways is an unavoidable part of cooperating in the shared project of pursuing epistemic and practical success, and it makes us vulnerable to both epistemic and moral harm. It is because of this, I argue, that answerability has interpersonal normative force upon us: we are subject to legitimate expectations associated with participating in relations of doxastic dependence.

Author Profiles

Robert Osborne
Northwestern University
Robert Osborne
Northwestern University


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