Believing Against the Evidence: Agency and the Ethics of Belief, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Believing Against the Evidence

Agency and the Ethics of Belief, 1st Edition

By Miriam Schleifer McCormick


144 pages

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The question of whether it is ever permissible to believe on insufficient evidence has once again become a live question. Greater attention is now being paid to practical dimensions of belief, namely issues related to epistemic virtue, doxastic responsibility, and voluntarism.

In this book, McCormick argues that the standards used to evaluate beliefs are not isolated from other evaluative domains. The ultimate criteria for assessing beliefs are the same as those for assessing action because beliefs and actions are both products of agency. Two important implications of this thesis, both of which deviate from the dominant view in contemporary philosophy, are 1) it can be permissible (and possible) to believe for non-evidential reasons, and 2) we have a robust control over many of our beliefs, a control sufficient to ground attributions of responsibility for belief.


"If McCormick’s case for her two main theses strikes you as highly plausible, you are not alone: this book very effectively criticizes much of contemporary orthodoxy…Anyone henceforth interested in questions about agency, and its relation to normativity, will need to engage with McCormick’s important book." -- Ram Neta, forthcoming in Mind

"McCormick does an outstanding job drawing our attention to questions about the ultimate basis for epistemic normativity and the extent of our control over belief." -- Peter J. Graham, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"McCormick defends the claims that some beliefs are 'permissible' in the absence of evidence because 'doxastic norms are not wholly evidential.' Further, she suggests that, contrary to 'evidentialism,' criteria for acceptable beliefs must include reference to one's emotions, desires, and well-being - concerns that sometimes override the need for evidence." -- CHOICE Reviews, S.A. Mason, Concordia University

Table of Contents

Introduction Part I: Doxastic Norms 1. Conceptual Defenses of Evidentialism 2. Normative Defenses of Evidentialism 3. Unity of Norms: A Defense of Pragmatism Part II: Doxastic Responsibility 4. The Puzzle of Doxastic Responsibility 5. Responsibility without Voluntary Control 6. The Possibility of Doxastic Agency Conclusion

About the Author

Miriam Schleifer McCormick is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Richmond, US.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Epistemology
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
PHILOSOPHY / Movements / Pragmatism