Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why faith in the testimony of others is loving: Notes towards a thoroughly ethical social epistemology

Loving someone has three aspects: the benevolent, the unitive and the appreciative. (I develop this early on in One Body.) Believing something and gaining knowledge on the testimony of another teaching involves all three aspects of love.

Appreciation: If I believe you on testimony, then I accept you as a person who speaks honestly and reasons well. It is a way of respecting your epistemic achievement. This does not mean that a failure to accept your testimony is always unappreciative. I may appreciate you, but have good reason to think that the information you have received is less complete than mine.

Union: Humans are social animals, and our sociality is partly constituted by our joint epistemic lives. To accept your testimony is to be united with you epistemically.

Benevolence: Excelling at our common life of learning from and teaching one another is a part of our flourishing. If I gain knowledge from you, you thereby flourish as my teacher. Thus by learning from you, I benefit not only myself as learner but I benefit you by making you a successful teacher.

We learn from John Paul II's philosophical anthropology that we are essentially givers and accepters of gifts. In giving, epistemically and otherwise, we are obviously benevolent, but also because it is the human nature to be givers, in grateful acceptance of a gift we benefit, unite with and affirm the giver, thereby expressing all three aspects of love.


Matthew Kennel said...

What an absolutely beautiful post, Dr. Pruss!

Jarrett Cooper said...

FYI, Over at Public Discourse, Christopher Kaczor writes about your book, One Body.