CFP: Synthese Topical Collection: Ethics of belief in science, social world, and philosophy

Submission deadline: September 30, 2024

Topic areas


Call for Papers:

Synthese Topical Collection: Ethics of belief in science, social world, and philosophy

Guest Editors:

Adam Dyrda, Department of Legal Theory, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland

Maciej Juzaszek, Centre for Legal Education and Social Theory, University of Wroclaw, Poland

Winnie Ma, Department of Philosophy at King’s College London, UK

Cuizhu Wang, Department of Legal Theory, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland

Topical Collection Description:

TThe origins of the contemporary ethics of belief debate can be traced back to the classic opposition between ideas of the British mathematician and philosopher William Clifford and the American philosopher and psychologist William James. In his essay "The Ethics of Belief," Clifford argued that it is always wrong to believe something without sufficient evidence, while James countered in "The Will to Believe" that in certain cases, it can be justified to believe something based on personal or pragmatic reasons. This debate sparked a broader conversation about the moral dimensions of belief formation and evaluation, which has continued to the present day. Beliefs play a crucial role in our understanding of the world and our place within it. They guide our actions, influence our decisions, and shape our judgments. However, beliefs are not always true, accurate, as they are based on flawed reasoning or misinformation. Such beliefs may yield negative consequences for believers, for example in terms of action they ground or in terms of violating dianoethical or intellectual virtues. The ethics of belief is concerned with questions about what we ought to believe and why, and how our beliefs impact our actions and judgments. This special issue seeks to explore ethics of belief in various domains, including but not limited to science, social world, and philosophy.

For instance, in science, beliefs can have significant social and ethical implications. For example, the ideal of value-free science is often challenged by the moral, social and political context in which scientific research takes place, as well as by the role of values in shaping scientific inquiry. The concept of inductive risk highlights the potential ethical implications of scientific uncertainty and the need to balance the risk of error against the potential benefits of scientific knowledge. In addition, the ethics of belief in science raises questions about scientific integrity, fraud, and the role of scientific communication in shaping public opinion and policy.

In the social world, beliefs are often shaped by social norms, cultural values, and political ideologies. The ethics of belief in the social world raises questions about the responsibility of individuals and groups for their beliefs, and the role of social power and privilege in shaping belief formation and evaluation. The rise of social media and the proliferation of echo chambers and filter bubbles have also posed new challenges to the ethics of belief in the social world.

In philosophy, beliefs are central to the discipline itself. Philosophers engage in critical inquiry, argumentation, and debate to develop and defend their beliefs about the nature of reality, knowledge, and ethics. However, the ethics of belief in philosophy raises questions about the responsibility of philosophers for their beliefs and the role of philosophical disagreement in shaping philosophical inquiry. Additionally, the ethics of belief in philosophy raises questions about the relationship between philosophical beliefs and social and political norms, and the responsibility of philosophers to engage in public discourse

Because beliefs are the central object of our interest, further elaboration is needed on what constitutes a belief and its nature. Any ethical project requires a solid and clear account of what constitutes an object of ethical valuation. Therefore, we welcome all the inquiries that analyse and compare explicit and implicit assumptions about beliefs in contemporary accounts of ethics of belief. What is more, ethics of belief is distinct from ordinary ethics due to its focus on beliefs, which cannot be, at least intuitively, associated with action. However, there are pragmatist theories (such as pragmatic encroachment) that appear to assume such a relation, which may require further clarification. Additionally, there are instances of belief-like attitudes shared by members of certain groups that may lack some typical features of beliefs, such as the attitude of primordial recognition of certain social or institutional facts. If shared within a group, such attitudes may develop into a mutual belief and contribute to establishing an institution. The ethical evaluation of such attitudes, if feasible, could also be an object of inquiry in this collection.

One reason why a construal of the ethics of belief may be a context-dependent matter is due to a widespread acceptance of the difference between natural and artefactual kinds. While the existence and perception of the latter is essentially belief dependent, the former are taken to exist independently of there being minds thinking about them. Of course, there are manifold accounts of how to draw precisely the distinction between natural facts (kinds) and artefacts, including institutional kinds. We would welcome all contributions trying to connect the philosophical grounds for such distinctions with conceptual and practical consequences to ethics of beliefs. Especially welcome are contributions relating inquiries from social ontology, epistemology of social groups and institutions, and ethics of beliefs.

Overall, this special issue seeks to foster interdisciplinary dialogue and exploration of the ethical dimensions of belief in various domains. We welcome submissions that engage with diverse philosophical and theoretical perspectives, draw on empirical research and interdisciplinary approaches, and address the pressing ethical questions surrounding belief formation and evaluation.

We welcome original research articles addressing the following topics:

- Methodological and/or metaphilosophical comparison of various accounts of ethics of belief, seen especially from the contemporary perspectives on evidentialism vs. pragmatism debate or epistemic purism vs. impurism debate.

- Relations between ethics of belief and other philosophical disciplines, such as epistemology, social ontology, legal philosophy, moral psychology etc.

- Reasons for believing without or against evidence.

- Relations between moral and epistemic normativity, moral encroachment, and doxastic wronging.

Moral considerations in scientific belief formation, such as the value-free science ideal and the inductive risk.

- Ethics of philosophical beliefs and their dissemination, including the question whether philosophers can state, discuss or publish philosophical claims they do not believe.

- Individual and collective responsibility for holding beliefs (of certain kinds), and moral and epistemic luck in various contexts.

- Contemporary challenges to ethics of belief such as social media, echo chambers, AI, and chatbots.

- Ethics of conspiracy beliefs and the role of evidence and argumentation in evaluating such beliefs.

- Ethics of moral beliefs, including whether it is ethical to hold particular moral beliefs.

- Ethics of belief for collective agents, groups, and institutions, and the role of mutual collective responsibility in belief formation and evaluation.

- Legal/institutional aspects of ethics of belief, such as the ethics of belief for legislators and policymakers, and the role of legal evidence in belief formation and evaluation.

- Empirical, experimental, psychological or cognitive studies on ethics of belief, and the role of empirical evidence in informing normative theories of belief.

- Epistemic virtues and vices, and their role in shaping our beliefs and attitudes.

- Epistemic injustice and the role of power, privilege, and oppression in shaping our beliefs and attitudes.

For further information, please contact the guest editors: 

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

The deadline for submissions is:

October 31, 2024

Submissions via: (T.C.: Ethics of belief in science, social world, and philosophy)

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#Synthese, #ethics of belief