A limitation on agency in judgment

Matthew McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To many, judgment has seemed a locus of cognitive agency, a kind of cognitive mental act. In one minimal sense, judgment is something one does. I consider whether judgment is more robustly agential: is it a kind of action done with an aim? The most attractive version of this sort of position takes judging that p to affirming that p with an alethic aim, an aim such as affirming truly. I argue that such views have unacceptable consequences. Acts done with aims, in general, can be based only indirectly on evidence that one would attain the aim in so acting. It follows that if alethic aims theories of judgment were correct, a judgment that p could be based only indirectly on evidence for p. This itself would be problematic. But the problems extend further. Given the connection between judgment and belief-formation, it would follow, further, that the beliefs we form through judgment could at best be only indirectly based on evidence for p. On these theories, the direct bases for a judgment that p would have to be either a belief that p or a belief that it’s likely that p. The former cannot support belief-formation and the latter supports at best epistemically inappropriate belief-formation. I conclude that there is a hard limit on how robustly agential judgment can be.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number88
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)


  • Action
  • Basing
  • Belief-formation
  • Epistemic Agency
  • Evidence
  • Judgment


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