Agnosticism, the Moral Skepticism Objection, and Commonsense Morality

In Justin McBrayer Trent Dougherty (ed.), Skeptical Theism: New Essays. Oxford University Press (2014)
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According to Agnosticism with a capital A, even if we don’t see how any reason we know of would justify God in permitting all the evil in the world and even if we lack evidential and non-evidential warrant for theism, we should not infer that there probably is no reason that would justify God. That’s because, under those conditions, we should be in doubt about whether the goods we know of constitute a representative sample of all the goods there are, among relevantly similar things. In my "Epistemic Humility, Arguments from Evil, and Moral Skepticism" (2009), I defended Agnosticism against the charge that it leaves us in doubt about whether we are obligated to intervene to prevent horrific suffering we can prevent at no risk to ourselves. In his “Agnosticism, Skeptical Theism, and Moral Obligation” (2014), Stephen Maitzen argues that, in light of my defense, Agnosticism is at odds with commonsense morality’s insistence that we have an obligation to intervene in such cases. In the present essay, I argue that the moral principle Maitzen seems to impute to commonsense (it's hard to tell what principle he has in mind) is false and that a moral principle much more in keeping with commonsense is compatible with Agnosticism and my defense of it. Along the way, I mention multiple misrepresentations Maitzen makes of Agnosticism and my defense of it.

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Daniel Howard-Snyder
Western Washington University


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