Strong internalism, doxastic involuntarism, and the costs of compatibilism

Synthese 197 (7):3171-3191 (2020)
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Epistemic deontology maintains that our beliefs and degrees of belief are open to deontic evaluations—evaluations of what we ought to believe or may not believe. Some philosophers endorse strong internalist versions of epistemic deontology on which agents can always access what determines the deontic status of their beliefs and degrees of belief. This paper articulates a new challenge for strong internalist versions of epistemic deontology. Any version of epistemic deontology must face William Alston’s argument. Alston combined a broadly voluntarist conception of responsibility, on which ought implies can, with doxastic involuntarism, the position that our beliefs are not under our control. Together, those views imply that epistemic deontology is false. A promising response to Alston’s argument is to embrace a compatibilist account of control—specifically a reason-responsive version of compatibilism—and use it to criticism his doxastic involuntarism. I argue that while reason-responsive compatibilism about control does undermine Alston’s argument, it comes at a cost. Specifically, it is inconsistent with strong internalist versions of epistemic deontology. The surprising upshot is that so long as we retain a voluntarist conception of responsibility, we have reason for rejecting strong internalist versions of epistemic deontology.

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Timothy Perrine
Rutgers - New Brunswick


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