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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 45, 2020

Andrew Kissel
Pages 217-229

The Cartesian Doxastic Argument For Free Will

This paper raises objections to what I call the Cartesian Doxastic Argument for free will: the argument that it is probably true that we are free on the grounds that there is already widespread intuitive belief in that claim. Richard Swinburne provides the best extant defense of the argument, using his principle of credulity (PoC), which holds that beliefs are probably true merely on the believer’s evidence that they believe it. I argue that the PoC is either too liberal, justifying intuitively unjustified beliefs, or else is inapplicable in practice. I then show that attempts to reformulate the principle to avoid liberality render it too weak to support the Cartesian Doxastic Argument. These failures suggest that any version of the argument that relies on similar principles is likely to fail.

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