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Res Philosophica

Volume 98, Issue 2, April 2021

Special Issue: Islamic Philosophy and Contemporary Philosophy of Religion

Kirk Lougheed
Pages 261-281

Epistemic Paternalism, Open Group Inquiry, and Religious Knowledge

Epistemic paternalism occurs when a decision is made for an agent which helps them arrive at the truth, though they didn’t consent to that decision (and sometimes weren’t even aware of it). Common defenses of epistemic paternalism claim that it can help promote positive veritistic results. In other words, epistemic paternalism is often good for inquiry. I argue that there is often a better alternative available to epistemic paternalism in the form of what I call Open Group Inquiry. I then examine how Open Group Inquiry can be applied to cases of religious inquiry, while noting that epistemic paternalism is impermissible in cases of general religious inquiry. I argue that in the case of religious inquiry, there are serious questions about what constitutes evidence along with how to evaluate it. Rather than posing a particular worry for Open Group Inquiry, I suggest these questions pose a problem for religious inquiry in general. I conclude that while it very much matters how concepts like religious knowledge, religious faith, scepticism, etc., are defined, these considerations may well pave the way for a novel argument for religious scepticism.