Skip to main content


  • Richard Pettigrew

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).

Corresponding author
Hide All
Buchak, L. 2014. Risk and Rationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Clifford, W. K. 1877. ‘The Ethics of Belief.’ Contemporary Review, 29: 289309.
de Finetti, B. 1974. Theory of Probability, Volume 1. New York, NY: Wiley.
Easwaran, K. Forthcoming. ‘Dr Truthlove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bayesian Probabilities.’ Noûs. doi: 10.1111/nous.12099.
Easwaran, K. and Fitelson, B. Forthcoming. ‘Accuracy, Coherence, and Evidence.’ Oxford Studies in Epistemology, 5.
Fitelson, B. ms. Coherence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Greaves, H. and Wallace, D. 2006. ‘Justifying Conditionalization: Conditionalization Maximizes Expected Epistemic Utility.’ Mind, 115: 607–32.
Hempel, C. 1962. ‘Deductive-Nomological vs. Statistical Explanation.’ In Feigl, H. and Maxwell, G. (eds), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume III, pp. 98169. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
James, W. 1896. ‘The Will to Believe.’ The New World, 5: 327–47.
Joyce, J. M. 1998. ‘A Nonpragmatic Vindication of Probabilism.’ Philosophy of Science, 65: 575603.
Joyce, J. M. 2009. ‘Accuracy and Coherence: Prospects for an Alethic Epistemology of Partial Belief.’ In Huber, F. and Schmidt-Petri, C. (eds), Degrees of Belief, pp. 263–97. Berlin: Springer.
Konek, J. Forthcoming. ‘Epistemic Conservativity and Imprecise Credence.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Levi, I. 1967. Gambling with Truth. New York, NY: Knopf.
Pettigrew, R. 2014. ‘Accuracy, Risk, and the Principle of Indifference.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. doi: 10.1111/phpr.12097.
Pettigrew, R. ms. Accuracy and the Laws of Credence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Predd, J., Seiringer, R., Lieb, E. H., Osherson, D., Poor, V., and Kulkarni, S. 2009. ‘Probabilistic Coherence and Proper Scoring Rules.’ IEEE Transactions of Information Theory, 55: 4786–92.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 1742-3600
  • EISSN: 1750-0117
  • URL: /core/journals/episteme
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed