Volume 91, 2017
Philosophy, Faith, and Modernity
Doxastic Involuntarism and Evidentialism
A Curious Modern Conjunction
It is a curious feature of early modern (specifically empiricist) epistemology and its contemporary heirs in analytic philosophy that belief is held both to be involuntary (doxastic involuntarism), and to be subject to a prescriptive norm of evidence (evidentialism). I begin by laying out these theses, pointing out the tension that exists between them, as well as discussing how they put pressure on religious faith. I then ask why the first thesis—doxastic involuntarism—has come to be so dominant. Following my diagnosis, I advance reasons to think that the thin concept of belief presupposed by doxastic involuntarism is not faithful to our ordinary and more substantial concept of belief. I conclude by outlining an alternative understanding of what it means to believe that p, based on insights of St. Thomas Aquinas and Gabriel Marcel regarding belief and opinion, as well as the relationship between persons and their beliefs.