Religious diversity and epistemic luck

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 76 (2):171-191 (2014)
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A familiar criticism of religious belief starts from the claim that a typical religious believer holds the particular religious beliefs she does just because she happened to be raised in a certain cultural setting rather than some other. This claim is commonly thought to have damaging epistemological consequences for religious beliefs, and one can find statements of an argument in this vicinity in the writings of John Stuart Mill and more recently Philip Kitcher, although the argument is seldom spelled out very precisely. This paper begins by offering a reconstruction of an argument against religious beliefs from cultural contingency, which proceeds by way of an initial argument to the unreliability of the processes by which religious beliefs are formed, whose conclusion is then used to derive two further conclusions, one which targets knowledge and the other, rationality. Drawing upon recent work in analytic epistemology, I explore a number of possible ways of spelling out the closely related notions of accidental truth, epistemic luck, and reliability upon which the argument turns. I try to show that the renderings of the argument that succeed in securing the sceptical conclusion against religious beliefs also threaten scepticism about various sorts of beliefs besides religious beliefs

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Author's Profile

Max Baker-Hytch
Oxford University (DPhil)

Citations of this work

Problems of Religious Luck: Assessing the Limits of Reasonable Religious Disagreement.Guy Axtell - 2019 - Lanham, MD, USA & London, UK: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.
Religious Diversity (Pluralism).David Basinger - 2014 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:1.
Introduction.Hans Van Eyghen, Rik Peels & Gijsbert Van den Brink - 2018 - In Hans van Eyghen, Rik Peels & Gijsbert van den Brink (eds.), New Developments in the Cognitive Science of Religion - The Rationality of Religious Belief. Dordrecht: Springer.

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References found in this work

Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Otto Neurath.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.
Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Philosophical explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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