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On Angels, Demons, and Ghosts: Is Justified Belief in Spiritual Entities Possible?

How Not to Object to Demonic Realism

Department of Philosophy, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV 89154, USA
Academic Editor: Hans Van Eyghen
Religions 2022, 13(7), 610;
Received: 24 May 2022 / Revised: 17 June 2022 / Accepted: 28 June 2022 / Published: 1 July 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Epistemic Issues in Non-classical Religious Belief)
There are few academics today who actively argue against demonic realism. Much of this is perhaps due to the fact that there are comparably few defenders of such. This has created a vacuum for critics to comfortably object to the existence of demons without sophistication (for it is only in the professional exchange of ideas do bad arguments get weeded out and good arguments gain vitality). Add to this the common perception of demonology as an anti-intellectual superstition and we end up with a threshold for the success of anti-realist arguments to be set quite low. In this paper, I shall survey three of the most familiar objections to demonic realism to arise out of this skeptical intellectual environment: First, and most ambitiously, there is the impossibility of justified belief objection that proffers that belief in demons cannot even in principle be justified no matter how much (scientific) evidence there is. Alternative explanations are always to be preferred. Second, there is the demon-of-the-gaps objection (or category of objections) which insists that demonic realism is hastily posited as a pre-scientific explanation for physical, medical, and psychological mysteries. Third, there is what I call the ethical argument from scapegoating that questions the existence of demons on grounds that, if they in fact exist, such a fact would preclude moral responsibility and the possibility of retributive justice since we could never know if a bad actor was himself morally culpable for his own evils or if he was under the coercive influence of demonic agents. I argue that, despite their rhetorical appeal and kinship with the anti-supernatural sentiments of many academics today, these three arguments are not successful, for these are either based on egregious philosophical assumptions or assumptions about demonology few if any adopt. View Full-Text
Keywords: demonology; Satan; metaphysics; gaps-based objections; mental disorders; cognitive science; demons; devil; angels; explanatory reasoning demonology; Satan; metaphysics; gaps-based objections; mental disorders; cognitive science; demons; devil; angels; explanatory reasoning
MDPI and ACS Style

Guthrie, S.L. How Not to Object to Demonic Realism. Religions 2022, 13, 610.

AMA Style

Guthrie SL. How Not to Object to Demonic Realism. Religions. 2022; 13(7):610.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Guthrie, Shandon L. 2022. "How Not to Object to Demonic Realism" Religions 13, no. 7: 610.

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