I am trying to work out if I understand the term epistemic parity. This is in the context of pluralism exclusivism ect. The resource I am working from states

A religious exclusivist would deny the earlier claim that parties are under an epistemic obligation to reassess their claims, and also deny epistemic parity to the other.

Would a pluralist say there is epistemic parity between two faiths?


  • Can you spell out what you mean by ‘epistemic parity’ and ‘equal evidence’? An example might help. Also, say you’re right: two believers in different world faiths are on epistemic parity if and only if they have the equal evidence. How would it follow that all religions are on epistemic parity? Religions themselves don’t ‘have’ evidence in the way that agents do; so, the notion of epistemic parity might not even be applicable. If it is, the definition leaves open that some religions don’t have ‘equal evidence’ as others. – MarkOxford Mar 5 '18 at 17:56
  • @MarkOxford I am trying to use the question to get what epistemic parity is in the context of religious pluralism. – Tom Snow Mar 5 '18 at 18:19
  • @MarkOxford I have clarified the question (I hope) – Tom Snow Mar 5 '18 at 18:23
  • +1 Perhaps not between any two faiths, but I can see the pluralist recognizing that the evidence underdetermines the selection of one faith over some others as a better choice. It would be similar to picking a position in the stock market or accepting beliefs in competing quantum physics interpretations. They may not be all equally valid, but some might be. Ultimately a choice has to be made . One could also claim there is epistemic parity between two specific faiths and nonetheless one chooses one over the other. – Frank Hubeny Mar 5 '18 at 18:39
  • I’m still not entirely sure how ‘epistemic parity’ is being used here; but (depending on what counts as religious evidence) I don’t think a pluralist will automatically grant epistemic parity to all religions. Say one religion is based on deep, clear, convincing, valid arguments (for the existence of God), while the other is based on a lunatic’s fever dreams. Then if there’s any substance to our notion of epistemic parity, we’d probably want to say that these two are not epistemically on par – even if we are pluralists. (Btw., do you have a particular version of pluralism in mind?) – MarkOxford Mar 5 '18 at 18:41

Phillip Quinn outlines the basic idea of epistemic parity in the following passage:

The notion of epistemic parity appears attractive from the outset. Every ethics should include fairness, and epistemic parity seems to do no more than introduce considerations of fairness into the ethics of belief. Initially the idea seems simple enough. One should demand no more, and no less, by way of justification for beliefs in one area of inquiry than one does in another. Equally stringent standards of rationality should apply in all cognitive domains. For example, belief in God should not have to satisfy higher standards in order to be rational or justified than does belief in the external world or other minds. (P.L. Quinn, 'Epistemic Parity and Religious Argument', Philosophical Perspectives, Vol. 5, Philosophy of Religion (1991), p.317.

If this conveys the central idea, one wonders how reasonable it is. Aristotle says in Nicomachean Ethics, I.3, that 'Our discussion will be adequate if it has as much clearness as the subject-matter admits of; for precision is not to be sought for alike in all discussions, any more than in all the products of the crafts' (Barnes, 'The Complete Works of Aristotle', Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1984, 2, p.1730.)

Aristotle clearly recognises that one cannot reasonably expect or require the same rigorous standard of proof from an orator as one can from a mathematician. Equally he himself cannot offer the same degree of rigour in discussing ethical topics as he uses in setting out his logical theory : the subject-matter does not allow it.

Precision and rigour have to be relativised, indexed, to subject-matter. If this is so then the requirement of epistemic parity does not appear reasonable.

But you mainly wanted to know what epistemic parity is. This I hope I have indicated clearly.

As to your rider, if the pluralist endorses epistemic parity in the particular field of religion, and not across the piece, then s/he should apply the same standards of proof or argument to one faith as to another. This need not mean that the two faiths will score equally by the relevant standards, since one may have epistemic merits that that the other lacks : mertis e.g. of consistency, comprehensiveness, clarity, economy of assumptions, &c.


Would a pluralist say there is epistemic parity between two faiths?

Not necessarily, and in practice almost never https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_pluralism

In my experience, religious people never accept epistemic parity, or why would you remain under the umbrella of that faith? Perennialism, and ecumenism, sure. But I think only atheists and some agnostics go for full epistemic parity, by being non-partisan. Being epistemically non-partisan, is going to result in science

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