Lecture 6.6 - Case studies from religion: transmission of revelation

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In this lecture, Professor Mark Alfano discusses the role of epistemic virtues and vices in science and religion. The lecture has three main sections. First, Alfano distinguishes four types of epistemic virtues and vices. Source virtues such as honesty make someone an excellent primary source of knowledge. Receiver virtues such as intellectual humility make someone an excellent recipient of knowledge provided by sources. Conduit virtues make someone an excellent conveyor of the knowledge they receive from others to third parties; these dispositions might include a willingness to gossip carefully in order to protect others from a sexual predator, as well as the virtues that journalists try to embody. Echo virtues make someone an excellent sounding board for others. Along the way, Alfano mentions various vices that can attach to people in the role of source, receiver, conduit, and echo. In the second part of the lecture, Alfano uses the notions of source, receiver, conduit, and echo virtues to make sense of scientific collaborations and trust in science by laypeople. In section three, he shows that unless we have unreasonably high credence in very long chains of conduit virtues, we should not accept testimony in favour of miracles or divine revelation.

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