Belief, agency and negative doxastic control
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 03:39 authored by Russell Varley
We commonly refer to the actions performed by an individual, which align with their intentions and goals, as expressions of agency. This is due, at least in part, to that individual’s ability to control what they do. It has become near-orthodoxy however to assert an involuntarist position that we have no, or at least very limited, agential control over our beliefs. Two of the most influential defences of the involuntarist account assert that either beliefs are empirically constrained to be more or less passive responses to our available evidence, or that beliefs are conceptually governed only by considerations of what is true. I argue that both of these defences are problematic because what is apparent in their formulation is an overreliance on investigating the control (or lack thereof) that individuals possess in acquiring beliefs. Subsequently, insufficient attention has centred on the control individuals can exhibit over belief removal. Within this context, I defend the two central claims of this thesis, firstly, that the conclusions reached by the prevailing involuntarist arguments do not sufficiently rule out the conceptual viability of doxastic agency. Secondly, that the concept of Negative Doxastic Control - direct control that we can exhibit over the removal of reasonably held beliefs - in conjunction with many of the precepts of the existing literature can widen the lens of our considerations of doxastic agency, showing ultimately that doxastic agency, properly conceived, is indeed conceptually viable.