Jamesian epistemology formalised: An explication of 'The Will to Believe'

Richard Pettigrew*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
509 Downloads (Pure)


Famously, William James held that there are two commandments that govern our epistemic life: Believe truth! Shun error! In this paper, I give a formal account of James' claim using the tools of epistemic utility theory. I begin by giving the account for categorical doxastic states-that is, full belief, full disbelief, and suspension of judgment. Then I will show how the account plays out for graded doxastic states-that is, credences. The latter part of the paper thus answers a question left open in Pettigrew (2014).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-268
Number of pages16
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Science and Philosophy


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