Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Control, Beliefs, and Moral Responsibility

Corinne McCarthy

Typically, we assume that an agent can be responsible for some thing only if he can do that thing just by willing to do so.  Thinking this way leads to an interesting question regarding our responsibility for our beliefs.  That is, we tend to hold individuals responsible for their beliefs and yet, they are things that cannot be acquired at will.  In an effort to answer this question, I consider views of philosophers such as Angela Smith who have recently argued that we do not need to be able to control things such as our beliefs in an "at will" sort of way in order to be responsible for them.  I point out that we have good reason to doubt that we must be able to do things at will to be responsible for them since we often lack this sort of control over what we consider the paradigm for which we can be held responsible.  Expanding on Smith's view, I argue that we can be held responsible for our beliefs because we exercise a robust form of agency in coming to believe p