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Epistemic Obligations

Truth, Individualism, and the Limits of Belief

Bruce R. Reichenbach

Publication Year: 2012

Questions of belief, and agency over personal belief, abound as individuals claim to have the right to believe whatever they so choose. In a carefully constructed argument, Bruce Reichenbach contends that while individuals have direct control over belief, they are obligated to believe—and purposely seek—the truth. Though the nature of truth and belief is an oft-debated topic, Reichenbach moves beyond surface-level persuasions to address the very core of what constitutes a human right. These epistemic obligations are critical, as the influence of belief is evident throughout society, from law and education to religion and daily decision-making. Grounding his argument in practical case studies, Reichenbach deftly demonstrates the necessity of moral accountability and belief.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

The other day I attended the reading of a paper with colleagues from another department. The prediscussion turned to the question framed by my writing project: do we have a right to believe whatever we want? Without blinking an eye, one colleague replied that of course we have the right ...

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1 The Challenge of Epistemic Obligations

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pp. 1-28

“I have a right to believe whatever I want.” An academic year never goes by without at least one of my students or peers uttering this phrase or something equivalent to it, such as “I am entitled to my beliefs.” In part, the phrase reflects and is an extension of our individualist culture, where persons ...

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2 Epistemic Obligations

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pp. 29-49

Philosophical literature is not altogether clear on exactly what epistemic obligations are. Whereas moral obligations apply to persons with respect to their actions, epistemic obligations apply to persons with respect to their beliefs. Roderick Chisholm attempts to specify carefully our epistemic ...

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3 Grounds for Epistemic Obligations

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pp. 51-83

Supposing that we are correct that we have epistemic obligations and that they can be understood as we have just discussed, what is their ground? Are they grounded in the fact that true beliefs are intrinsically valuable, or are they grounded elsewhere? ...

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4 Epistemic Obligations and Justification

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pp. 85-113

In chapter 2 we developed a view of epistemic obligations according to which we need to minimize, if not eliminate, our false beliefs and maximize contextually significant true beliefs. We also suggested a broader concept of epistemic excellence that includes believing a wide variety of truths that enable us to function well in life ...

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5 Belief Voluntarism

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pp. 115-173

In the foregoing we provided an account of epistemic obligations and suggested why they are significant. It is generally recognized that having epistemic obligations entails that we have control over our beliefs to an extent that we can be held accountable for them. The contention that we have epistemic obligations only if our beliefs are in our control ...

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6 Belief

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pp. 175-211

Those who hold to epistemic obligations maintain that both extremes, pure Humean passivism1 and pure Cartesian voluntarism or fiatism,2 are mistaken.3 The truth lies somewhere between, which is undoubtedly more consonant with our ordinary way of looking at the world. But how do ...

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7 Epistemic Obligations and Accountability

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pp. 213-241

At the outset of our study we considered four cases in which it is appropriate to say that the individuals in question had epistemic obligations. We looked at a case where Dale and Leilani Neumann had beliefs that they and others felt were true.1 However, acting on those beliefs led to the ...


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pp. 243-262


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pp. 263-268


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pp. 269-272

E-ISBN-13: 9781602586253
E-ISBN-10: 160258625X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602586239
Print-ISBN-10: 1602586233

Page Count: 285
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1