St. Augustine and the Problem of Deception in Religious Persuasion

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A substantial body of literature has been produced in the twentieth century by religious and philosophical writers on the ethics of belief. Discussion of this topic has generally focused on the processes leading up to belief within the individual, so that it would not be inaccurate to say that for most of these writers 'the ethics of belief' means 'the ethics of coming-to-believe'. There has been little attention among these writers, however, to the moral questions which surround the production or inducement of beliefs in others, to the ethics of persuasion. An extension of the ethics of belief to cover moral issues which arise in connection with persuasion seems reasonable; the ethics of belief, widely construed, might be said to encompass questions about both the production of beliefs within oneself and the inducement of beliefs in others.