The Ethics of Belief and Inquiry

John Kilcullen

in Sincerity and Truth

Published in print July 1988 | ISBN: 9780198266914
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191683114 | DOI:
The Ethics of Belief and Inquiry

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This chapter is concerned with the ethics of thinking. Rejecting widely held ideas of ‘epistemological responsibility’, it argues that we have a right to believe, assert, and act on what seems true even if we can give no supporting reasons for this truth. This is part of what Bayle regards as the ‘rights of conscience’. Although he emphasises the duty of examination, as one would expect a Protestant to do, he also defends those who refuse to examine because they are afraid of going wrong or think they lack time or talent, and says that their refusal to examine may even show a love of truth. He holds that we have a right to affirm and act on opinions for which we do not have conclusive evidence — that we have a duty and a right to act on whatever seems true, perhaps in the complete absence of evidence, or in the face of evidence to the contrary. This chapter states that these points seem to be right and worth asserting against the more rigorous ‘ethics of belief’ which liberals sometimes invoke against opponents to the right and to the left.

Keywords: Bayle; ethics of thinking; truth; inquiry; liberals; evidence

Chapter.  17326 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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