Research Article

The Ethics of Belief and the Morality of Action: Intellectual Responsibility and Rational Disagreement

Robert Audia1 c1

a1 University of Notre Dame


The contemporary explosion of information makes intellectual responsibility more needed than ever. The uncritical tend to believe too much that is unsubstantiated; the overcritical tend to believe too little that is true. A central problem for this paper is to formulate standards to guide an intellectually rigorous search for a mean between excessive credulity and indiscriminate skepticism. A related problem is to distinguish intellectual responsibility for what we believe from moral responsibility for what we do. A third problem is how to square intellectual responsibility in retaining our views with the realization that peers we respect disagree with us. Much of the paper is directed to articulating principles for dealing with such disagreements.



Robert Audi writes in moral and political philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of action. His books include Religious Commitment and Secular Reason (Cambridge, 2000), The Architecture of Reason (Oxford, 2001), The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value (Princeton, 2004), Practical Reasoning and Ethical Decision (Routledge, 2006), Moral Value and Human Diversity (Oxford, 2007), Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge (3rd edition, 2010), and (as Editor) The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (1995, 1999). He is currently John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.