Cognition doesn’t care either. Sorry.

Cognition doesn’t care either. Sorry.

Inability and Obligation in Intellectual Evaluation

Buckwalter, W., & Turri, J. (in press). Inability and obligation in intellectual evaluation. Episteme.



If moral responsibilities prescribe how agents ought to behave, are there also intellectual responsibilities prescribing what agents ought to believe? Many theorists have argued that there cannot be intellectual responsibilities because they would require the ability to control whether one believes, whereas it is impossible to control whether one believes. This argument appeals to an “ought implies can” principle for intellectual responsibilities. The present paper tests for the presence of intellectual responsibilities in social cognition. Four experiments show that intellectual responsibilities are attributed to believe things and that these responsibilities can exceed what agents are able to believe. Furthermore, the results show that agents are sometimes considered responsible for failing to form true beliefs on the basis of good evidence, and that this effect does not depend on the seriousness of the consequences for failing to form a belief. These findings clarify when and how responsibilities for belief are attributed, falsify a conceptual entailment between ability and responsibility in the intellectual domain, and emphasize the importance of objective truth in intellectual evaluations.


Wesley Buckwalter
John Turri