Ethical Knowledge

“To ask a person to justify a belief is to ask an ethical question. It is to ask what ethical right that person has to be believe such and such; it is to ask whether and why we are ethically obligated to believe it. What is the “pressure” we feel to accept a justified belief? It is not a physical pressure, like a drug that causes hallucinations in the brain. At least we hope not! Nor is it merely the desire to believe what is convenient or in our best interests. Many justified beliefs are not convenient, and many unjustified beliefs are. The pressure, I think, can be understood only as moral pressure, as the pressure of conscience. After all, believing is one human activity among other human activities, and like all of those activities, believing is subject to ethical evaluation. Beliefs can be responsible or irresponsible, obedient or disobedient to God. Thus we sense an obligation to accept justified beliefs and to act on them, to live “according to truth.” We can resist that obligation, we can dull our conscience in that regard, but that obligation always remains in effect.

…The correlation between ethics and epistemology underscores our emphasis on the centrality of presuppositions. If I am right, every belief presupposes an ethical value judgment. When a person claims to know something, he is also claiming to be under a certain ethical obligation, to have a certain ethical right. But if knowledge claims presuppose value judgments in that way, then there is no such thing as ethically or religiously “neutral” knowledge. There are two kinds of knowledge claims: those which assume godly ethical standards and those which do not.”

(Frame, DKG, 109)


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