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Epistemic Inertia and Epistemic Isolationism: A Response to Buchanan

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abstract 

Allen Buchanan argues that conventional applied ethics is impoverished and would be enriched by the addition of social moral epistemology. The aim here is to clarify this argument and to raise questions about whether such an addition is necessary about how such enrichment would work in practice. Two broad problems are identified. First, there are various kinds and sources of epistemic inertia, which act as an obstacle to epistemic change. Religion is one striking example and seems to pose a deep problem for Buchanan's liberal social moral epistemology. Philosophy also exhibits a distinctive kind of epistemic inertia (metaphilosophical beliefs about the impropriety of applying philosophy are hard to shift), but also suffers from epistemic isolationism: (its arguments and conclusions are isolated from practical influence). It is concluded that not only will a liberal social moral epistemology have to overcome a pernicious epistemic inertia with regard to religious belief, but also a different kind of epistemic inertia closer to home.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YG, UK

Publication date: 01 August 2009

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