Monday, August 8, 2016

When blind faith is encouraged

I've never had blind faith in God or the Church. When I was younger, I believed for the same reason I believed most other things - I accepted the words of my authority figures. As I became older, I questioned. I had my doubts on all kinds of things; some held. Others gave way to rejection. God, it turned out, has a lot more intellectually going than many other things. Sure, certainty wasn't in the cards, but realizing that I couldn't achieve complete certainty about the existence of the past put that in perspective.

Of course, during that whole time, there was forever the condemnations of blind faith on the part of the religious. Belief without evidence was and remains a grave charge, and a lack of doubt is condemned as zealotry. In response, many Christians have not only stressed the role of evidence in religious belief, but also the existence of doubt. Doubting God - in some capacity - is taken as a kind of given for religious people, and Christians even have biblical examples of that. Questioning is welcomed, even by the more zealous, as part of the process.

What I've noticed is that the celebrating of doubt, of questioning, of exploring one's doubts, is more and more seeming uniquely Christian.

I've never seen a feminist encourage people to question the existence of the patriarchy. I do not see people who say 'Go, see for yourself whether Black Lives Matter's claims are legitimate'. I do not even see people who say 'Yes, evolution is a big complicated theory, it makes sense to doubt it. Look into it on your own and make up your mind!'

There, dissent and questioning is treated as a grave character flaw.

Blind faith, is turns out, is only bad in select situations. Otherwise, it's practically compulsory.

9 comments:

believingperpetuum said...

Are you sure about the certainty part?

I mean, I think there is a very good argument to be made from the perspective of G.E.Moore when talking about our senses.

For the same reason we can know with certainty our senses are reliable when it comes to the reality of the external world, we can also know our senses are reliable when it comes to the reality of the past.

I'm pretty sure a Moorean argument can be applied to skepticism of the past in the same way Moorean and other arguments can be applied to skepticism of the external world.

Externalist philosophy also looks like it can be applied to our memories as well, not just to our sense perception of external objects in the real world.

So I wouldn't exactly say we cannot have certainty about the reality of the past or the external world.

But at the same time, arguments such as Aquinas's Cosmological Argument and the historical case for the Resurrection (with the appropriate Thomistic philosophy showing that it could only have been caused by the Unmoved Mover) can give us certainty that Christianity is true.

All of this reminds me of a quote by G.K.Chesterton:

"It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong."

believingperpetuum said...

Are you sure about the certainty part?

Cause I am pretty sure we can use Moorean arguments that are used to prove the reality of the external world to prove the reality of the past.

Externalist philosophy of mind as well I think.


And I am also sure that arguments for God such as the classical cosmological argument do give us certainty about God's existence, and the historical argument for the Resurrection combined with Thomistic philosophy can also give us certainty of the truth of Christianity.

And let's not forget what G.K.Chesterton said:

"It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong."

Crude said...

I'm pretty sure a Moorean argument can be applied to skepticism of the past in the same way Moorean and other arguments can be applied to skepticism of the external world.

I don't think Moore's argument works for giving certainty of an external world. I think, at best, it gives a good practical explanation for a model that other people - already like-minded - can make sense of and agree to. As a metaphysical demonstration? No, I don't think it works.

But at the same time, arguments such as Aquinas's Cosmological Argument and the historical case for the Resurrection (with the appropriate Thomistic philosophy showing that it could only have been caused by the Unmoved Mover) can give us certainty that Christianity is true.

I think the kind of certainty it can give is qualified - 'certain, given several grounding intellectual assumptions which are self-evidently reasonable'. Utter certainty is another matter, and arguably - I think Thomists would agree with this - is the wrong standard to use.

believingperpetuum said...

>>>I don't think Moore's argument works for giving certainty of an external world. I think, at best, it gives a good practical explanation for a model that other people - already like-minded - can make sense of and agree to. As a metaphysical demonstration? No, I don't think it works.<<<

Well, there is externalist philosophy that can be used here too.

For example, I remember one externalist argument which basically states that we wouldn't be occupying the perceptual state we occupy right now if everything were an illusion.

Explanations were also given for cases of hallucinating a certain perception or dreaming, showing that the argument does in fact show that at least there is actually a metaphysical limit to what we can doubt, and that certain things really are certain.

A parallel argument can be made about cognitive states, which includes memory, and the possibility of false memories can also be used to strengthen it, wherein we would not occupy the cognitive state we do in fact occupy right now if all our previous memories were an illusion.

Now even if externalist arguments were no good, I am pretty sure that we could use any other legitimate argument against external world skepticism against skepticism of memory and the past as well.


>>>I think the kind of certainty it can give is qualified - 'certain, given several grounding intellectual assumptions which are self-evidently reasonable'. <<<

Well if that's the case, doesn't that render Christianity so reasonable that it takes something akin to radical skepticism to doubt it?

Basically, Christianity is on the same level as everyday induction then.

>>>Utter certainty is another matter, and arguably - I think Thomists would agree with this - is the wrong standard to use.<<<

But what exactly do you mean by "utter certainty"? Do you mean the certainty like 2 + 2 equaling 4?

Or the certainty of the classical deduction that Socrates is mortal because he is a man, and all men are mortal?

Or do you mean absolute certainty that isn't vulnearable to radical Cartesian skepticism, the unique certainty that you exist, but it being the type of certainty you cannot have of anything else?


Crude said...

Re: these arguments you mention about the external world - I've not seen any arguments against external world skepticism which eliminated the possibility of skepticism. I've seen arguments that suggested it was, given various assumptions, impractical to take as true. But I think a determined skeptic can be skeptical of quite a lot, including the external world and the past. Arguments which assume a limit to that skepticism among normal people are useful, but address a different concern.

Well if that's the case, doesn't that render Christianity so reasonable that it takes something akin to radical skepticism to doubt it?

I'm not presenting "reasonable to believe" as akin to "utterly unreasonable to doubt". I think it can be reasonable to believe multiple and mutually exclusive things - just, "not at once".

And I'm talking more Cartesian certainty, yeah, so that last one.

believingperpetuum said...

>>>Re: these arguments you mention about the external world - I've not seen any arguments against external world skepticism which eliminated the possibility of skepticism. I've seen arguments that suggested it was, given various assumptions, impractical to take as true. <<<

Well, the arguments against radical skepticism I encountered essentially disarm the very foundation for the skepticism by either proving radical doubt is unjustified, is per se unjustifiable even in principle, or that the skeptic cannot gain any mileage even if we admit our knowledge has the central flaws the skeptic wants us to admit it has, due to the arguments and metaphysics of epistemic externalism.

>>> But I think a determined skeptic can be skeptical of quite a lot, including the external world and the past. <<<

Well, another argument against radical skepticism is that a consistent radical skeptic cannot even be certain he is using language correctly. For he could always be talking nonsense rather than sense, and that means he is basically devolving into self-refuting incoherence if he were to take his skepticism to the obvious conclusion.

Even the very meaning of the word "doubt" would then collapse, as one can only be certain of language actually having meaning if one is part of a society of intelligent agents who bring the meaning into language use.

And the only way that could be true is if an external world actually exists.


>>>I'm not presenting "reasonable to believe" as akin to "utterly unreasonable to doubt". I think it can be reasonable to believe multiple and mutually exclusive things - just, "not at once".<<<

Well, so you're saying that Christianity is a very reasonable belief then?

Okay, although I'm sure many would press on and ask exactly how reasonable Christianity actually is.

Is it as reasonable as the belief that there actually are extraterrestrial beings out there?

The belief in aliens is a perfectly reasonable belief, and it has a lot of evidence behind it too.

It doesn't have any proof to convince the majority people, as it can be and actually is reasonably rejected.

And it is reasonable as the probability of their existence is pretty high when considered. But it is certainly not a settled matter and the possibility that at least intelligent alien life does not exist is also a high probability belief.

Right now, we don't have any conclusive evidence either way.

But belief in Christianity is certainly much more reasonable and evidence based than belief in alien life, don't you think?

After all, at the core of Christianity is the Great Comission, which tells us we are to spread the truth of Christianity as much as possible.

This means that Christianity is at least internally confident of it's certainty and that it has enough evidence to be able to convince the world.

Even the Catholic Church holds that the existence of God vis-a-vis Prime Mover can be known with certainty through reason.

And that miracles can be used to clearly establish not just God, but the truth of it's revelation as well.

And then we have Plantinga's "Knowledge and Christian Belief" which attempts to demonstrate that Christian belief in God and Christianity through religious and other experiences is a basic belief like belief in the past and other minds, which I won't get into.


>>>And I'm talking more Cartesian certainty, yeah, so that last one.<<<

Well, we cannot have Cartesian certainty that the Holocaust actually happened either so...


Crude said...

Well, the arguments against radical skepticism I encountered essentially disarm the very foundation for the skepticism by either proving radical doubt is unjustified,

Justified, according to what standard? You're going to have assumptions the radical skeptic won't have to adhere to.

More than that - I think you're mistaking 'the ability to harbor doubt and question' with 'radical skepticism'.

Even the very meaning of the word "doubt" would then collapse, as one can only be certain of language actually having meaning if one is part of a society of intelligent agents who bring the meaning into language use.

You're trying to catch a hypothetical determined skeptic in a contradiction based on assumptions he's going to discard. The idea that there is no meaning or comprehension without a society is a bad move for a theist to make anyway, as it gaslights the Unmoved Mover.

Well, so you're saying that Christianity is a very reasonable belief then?

Hold on.

Are you under the assumption I'm an atheist? If so, this is hilarious.

believingperpetuum said...

>>>Justified, according to what standard? You're going to have assumptions the radical skeptic won't have to adhere to.<<<

Well, one reason of the top of my head is that the radical skeptic has evidentiary standards he takes for granted himself, which he doesn't attempt to justify.

At this point, the radical skeptic's insistence to prove everything is itself unproven and can be rejected in the same way the radical skeptic rejects accepting common sense.

>>>You're trying to catch a hypothetical determined skeptic in a contradiction based on assumptions he's going to discard.<<<

Well, the argument is supposed to put him in a situation where either his words do have objective meaning, or they do not and he is actually spouting nonsense without knowing it.

And I admit my phrasing of the last sentence there was confusing.

What I actually mean by that argument is that a certain word has a certain linguistic meaning because there has to be a society of intelligent agents to make it that way.

A certain society could take the word "rabbit" to actually refer to clouds, whilst another could use it to refer to anything with the color orange.

And a radical skeptic could not know if his language actually has any actual meaning.

He could actually be spouting incoherent nonsense, and that is without even pointing out that the skeptic wouldn't even be using language in the first place if everything was an illusion.


<<>>

No. I know you're a Christian theist Crude.

Crude said...

Well, one reason of the top of my head is that the radical skeptic has evidentiary standards he takes for granted himself, which he doesn't attempt to justify.

Maybe, but who doesn't? Everyone starts with some set of assumptions about the world.

More than that, I think you're treating 'skeptic' as 'radical skeptic who has intellectual guns akimbo, screaming that it's immoral and wrong to believe this or that because it's possible you're wrong'. I have in mind a skeptic who simple entertains the possibility of things being wrong.

And a radical skeptic could not know if his language actually has any actual meaning.

I'm not sure that works. Cogito ergo sum seems to superficially speak against it. It would at least have meaning to himself.

Actually, I'm not sure why you're bringing this up in regards to the post. I think, at the very least, it's obvious that Christians encourage people to evaluate evidence and arguments. You're even doing so here - you're pointing at all the evidence for God's existence, the arguments, etc. It's not like you treat these things as unquestionable in principle - you treat them as questions for which great answers are available.