The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 45, 1998

Theory of Knowledge

Riku Juti
Pages 133-136

Willing and Knowing

This paper discusses W. K. Clifford's classic paper, "The Ethics of Belief," and the significance of his use of the locution "knowingly and willingly" in the context of morally irresponsible ignorance. It is argued that this locution can point to a very subtle and important distinction in the premisses of ethically responsible belief formation. An analysis of willful ignorance is then given. It is argued that, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as willful ignorance: what is called willful ignorance in ordinary language is just the phenomena of getting oneself knowingly to believe something by willingly and knowingly altering the evidence for one's belief, rather than the genuine phenomenon of getting oneself willingly to believe something against the evidence. The former phenomenon is not, however, morally approvable. Therefore, willfulness of belief is not a necessary condition of morally irresponsible ignorance.