Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. Miriam Schleifer McCormick
Beliefs occupy a powerful role in all aspects of our lives and are essential to many of the most impactful realms of human activity. All intellectual, political, and social activity relies on the stable function of our belief practices, and our everyday experience certainly reflects this. At times, we find it fitting to hold people
responsible for the beliefs they develop, and if these beliefs are in some way bad or incorrect, to blame them for them. However, this is in tension with the popular sentiment that opinions are open to (mostly) free adoption and expression. So long as your beliefs do not directly harm someone (e.g. forms of violent bigotry), it does not seem fit to vocally censure or punish a stranger for the beliefs they hold, even if they are completely unfounded or somewhat problematic- “that’s just my opinion” is usually a viable defense.
These observations led me to question our ordinary belief practice, and to attempt to find some consistency within it and find out what an ideal belief practice should look like. If an unfounded belief is not directly harmful, can we hold someone responsible for adopting it? Can we blame them for it? If so, in virtue of what are we responsible for our beliefs? Which ones can we be blamed for adopting? Above all, how can we be good believers, how can we be responsible believers?
In this work I will attempt to answer each of these questions in the order that I have presented them.
Conk, R J., "Responsible Belief- An Interpersonal Approach" (2021). Honors Theses. 1586.