« Malcolm Pollack's Kulturpessimismus | Main | David French »

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The discussion (to call it a debate would be to prejudge the outcome) which I would like to see imagined is one between Thomas, advocating the thesis that faith represents a genuine knowledge, and Aristotle, examining it; the two would, as I imagine it, have come to full agreement on all matters purely philosophical, so that the focus would be on the thesis alone that faith represents a genuine knowledge. I would further imagine Averroes as an intensely attentive member of the audience.

Bill,

As you rightly note, this is a difficult philosophical problem.

It might help to clarify what is meant by ‘faith.’ Arguably, the Christian conception of faith is not just a matter of believing that God exists. Rather, it is trust in God and his revelation. If one trusts in something, one acts as if it is true. Of course, trust in God presupposes belief that God exists. But belief that God exists need not be mere belief. Given the arguments for God’s existence, belief that God exists can be at least a matter of justified belief, if not JTB.

If Christian faith is a matter of trust in God, then this can be reasonably construed as (at least) a way of obtaining knowledge. Consider a common example:

A new student of logic takes a college course in logic. The Ps and Qs are gibberish to him. Modus ponens and the constructive dilemma make no sense to him. He has never seen such material before. His instructor says “I know this looks strange to you now. But if you memorize the rules of deductive inference and you complete all of your proof exercises over the next few weeks, you’ll come to understand. At this point, you must trust me and accept what I teach, even though it seems strange.)

Perhaps religious faith is comparable to normal cases in which we must trust an authority in order to obtain knowledge. But there is at least one important difference, as you recognized. Christian faith is a matter of divine grace and, according to orthodox Christianity, is warranted by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

Good to hear from you, Elliot.

I agree with your second paragraph. There is belief-that and belief-in, and the latter involves trust. And I agree that belief that God exists can be justified, whether or not it is true.

And I agree that one must trust one's teacher in order to learn what he has to teach.

Now suppose I put my faith and trust in Muhammad and learn what he has to teach. Unfortunately, what he teaches is mainly false. In this case the certainty of my trusting faith does not amount to knowledge.

It is merely subjective.

And from you, Bill. Merry Christmas!

Right, in that case the certainty would be merely subjective and would fall short of knowledge, since truth would be absent. If trust in a teacher is to successfully produce knowledge, the teacher must be trustworthy.

Suppose the following: knowledge does not require certainty, either subjective or objective; one can have JTB w/o either form of certainty that God exists; one has reason to view the teaching of Christ as being the correct conception of God; the teaching of Christ is true. (Granted, there a several suppositions here!)

So one trusts in Christ, and learns and practices his teaching. He becomes subjectively convinced of its truth.

He is now subjectively certain. Is he also objectively certain, since his subjectively certain belief is true and justified? Did he, via faith, move from JTB w/o certainty to JTB with certainty?

Regarding the nature of certainty, the following definition from Chisholm might be helpful as a starting point for discussion:

p is certain for S = Df For every q, believing p is more justified for S than withholding q, and believing p is at least as justified for S as is believing q

(Theory of Knowledge, Third Edition, p. 12)

I don't think so.

Suppose I am subjectively certain that Christ's teaching is true and his promises reliable, and suppose the teaching is in fact true and also that I am justified in considering it true. This still doesn't get us to objective certainty since the justification involves flimsy and external factors. You have to believe ancient accounts of Christ's resurrection, his appearances to the disciples after the Resurrection, his Ascension body and soul into heaven, etc.

Surely there is no objective certainty here. This all has to be taken on faith. One has to believe things that appear logically contradictory, for example, that Christ ascended soul AND BODY into a purely spiritual realm, thereby importing materiality into the Godhead -- which implies that God is a pure spirit prior to the Ascension, but not after! And thus that the immutable God changed due to an historical event.

Glad to see you are reading Chisholm. That df. is of subjective certainty since it is relativized to a subject S.

Good points. I suppose, regarding the accounts of the Resurrection, we’d need to discuss the reliability of historical reasoning and to evaluate the relevant accounts.

Regarding the Ascension of soul and body, I recall J.P. Moreland noting somewhere that there are problems with the commonly accepted definition of matter, and suggesting a definition of matter (or body) as “the capacity to become spatially located.” (Unfortunately, I don’t have a reference for JPM. I’d need to hunt it down.)

If this definition of matter is accurate, and if God eternally possesses the capacity to become spatially located, then the Ascension of soul and body would seem to fit.

The question is not whether sense can be made of Christ's Ascension. The point is that nothing one says about it will be objectively certain.

And it seems quite a high standard for subjective certainty!

Indeed. Did Chisholm give some examples?

And how could one apply this definition?

For example, *My wife is shorter than me.* To evaluate whether that proposition is certain for me I would have to consider every other proposition. A rather large task!

Chisholm ranked certainty as the highest level of epistemic justification. He wrote that his concept of certainty is illustrated by two types of propositions: self-presenting ones; and logical and metaphysical axioms which form the basis of what we know a priori. (p. 12)

Example of the former:

1) “If feeling sad is a self-presenting property and if S feels sad, then S is at least as justified in believing that he feels sad as he is in having any other belief” (p. 19)

Examples of the latter:

2) “If Jones is ill and Smith is away, then Jones is ill”
3) “The sum of 5 and 3 is 8”
4) “All squares are rectangles” (p. 28)

It seems to me that, on the assumption that one’s subjective certainty about p requires being as justified in believing p as he is in believing that the antecedent of (2) entails the consequent of (2), then even if he could consider every proposition, to achieve subjective certainty he would still need to justify p at a level equivalent to deductive entailment, not to mention mathematical axiom. A tall order!

Also, some of Chisholm’s comments lead me to wonder if he intended his concept of certainty to be objective, even though his df. is relativized to a subject S.

“Surely there is no objective certainty here. This all has to be taken on faith.”

You seem to suggest that, regarding at least some religious doctrines, if one accepts them, one either knows them with objective certainty or takes them by faith. Is this your position?

Also, do you hold that knowledge requires objective certainty? How would you define objective certainty? As something like JTB plus infallibility (i.e., the impossibility of being mistaken)?

Lastly, if knowledge is JTB plus the impossibility of being mistaken, then is mere JTB a form of faith? Something less than knowledge but more than faith?

>>You seem to suggest that, regarding at least some religious doctrines, if one accepts them, one either knows them with objective certainty or takes them by faith. Is this your position?<<

Not quite. One can have evidence for the Resurrection, but it surely doesn't make it obj. certain. So faith comes into it.

>>Also, do you hold that knowledge requires objective certainty? How would you define objective certainty? As something like JTB plus infallibility (i.e., the impossibility of being mistaken)?<<

I incline to the view expressed here: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2011/03/knowledge-as-absolute-impossibility-of-mistake.html

>> Lastly, if knowledge is JTB plus the impossibility of being mistaken, then is mere JTB a form of faith? Something less than knowledge but more than faith?<<

As you suggested, rightly, faith involves trust in a person. So if I have JTB without objective certainty, that it not faith.

I'm about to punch out for the night. Merry Christmas!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Google Search Engine

My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 10/2008

Categories

Categories

September 2017

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Blog powered by Typepad