Cognitive Voluntarism

This paper critically examines and defends an epistemological theory sketched by the late American philosopher James F. Ross, known as “Cognitive Voluntarism”.

With remote roots in Aristotle but more closely in Augustine and Aquinas, this epistemological alternative “can be epitomized as: ‘humans believe what they want (with some wants compelled, of course) controlled by (within the general magnetic field of) the targeted finality of the human cognitive system (like magnetic north), which, unlike the animals’ similar systems, is not directed to the preservation of the species, but to the fulfillment of the individual” (Ross Rational Reliance, n.15, p.55).

This recognizes 1) the positive cognitive function of the will (i.e. the rational appetite) and 2) the cognitive finality of the cognitive system. This paper will argue that, by taking account of the steps of cognitive psychology that underlie our cognitive practices, Cognitive Voluntarism offers a more adequate portrayal of how and why we come to believe most of what we ordinarily believe, and know most of what we ordinarily know in the absence of compelling evidence.

Autor: Antonio Ramos Díaz.

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