Reason and faith

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  • Created on: 04-04-13 16:45

What is Faith?

Faith as acceptance of revealed truths 
2 ways believers can know God - Natural theology (intellect and reason), Revealed theology (divine revleation) 
Can come to conclusions about God through reason - five ways = scientific knowledge of God's existence, empirical evidene used to establish his existence 

Faith is the acceptance of revealed truths that are beyond human reason
Revelations are a body of truths - faith allows us to accept these truths without reason 
Begins with intellect not the heart
based on truths as expressed in propositions
experienced as certainly true, despite lack of evidence
like scientific knowledge, firm and free of doubt
like opinion - lacks absolute proof

Aquinas - faith as believing what someone says because you trust them, if you need someone's testimony it is because you cannot work it out yourself e.g. quantum physics, because intellect is limited we need faith to be in contact with God, you can try to rationally find God but cannot achieve it without proof first 

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Evidentialism + Basic beliefs

Plantinga - faith as basic belief, basic beliefs are blocks on which we build our understanding of the world 
Evidentialism would say that we need evidence for all our beliefs
Plantinga disagrees and argue that some beliefs do not rest on other beliefs, (basic beliefs) e.g. what I see is real
Different to evidentialist which argues you can only believe in something iff it is based on experience or self evident.
Plantinga argues this is wrong as the evidentialist claim itself is not evidential
Also there are many other basic beliefs which hold but are not evidential e.g. I was not born yesterday
God exists is properly basic - it is obvious to the person who holds it and does not need to have a reason for it e.g. we see God in nature, we do not infer from nature, faith is a distinct cognitive state that can tell us about the world  
Basic belief can be questioned - e.g. in a illusion you know your sense experiences are wrong in same way arguments against God can cause us to lose our faith 
Aquinas is arguing you can get to belief in God through reason, Plantinga and basic beliefs seem to say that faith gives you belief in God and is given by God, (but can be corrupted by sin) 

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Faith as an attitude or commitment

Clifford - immoral to believe without evidence (boat analogy) 
weakens our cognitive powers, makes other people less concerned about telling us lies,

William James:
can be right/reasonable to believe without sufficient evidence, when we face a genuine option that cannot be decided on evidence
Genuine option if:
option forced - no alternatives
Option living - both options available
Option momentous: not easily undone 
if all 3 conditions hold and cannot decide from evidence then not unreasonable for us to choose one over another

not forming a belief is also a choice (based on fear) and it is better to fail than not to have risked at all (e.g. friendship deciding someone is trustworthy) 

James is not arguing that faith is more rational only it is not less rational 
It is reasonable to realise that reason can only go so far and faith is needed  

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Kierkegaard faith as commitment

religious belief is objective uncertainty - different to other beliefs 
faith is a passionate commitment - to believe in God but not have it affect your life is not to have faith

Some argue that this leap of faith required because God want us to have a commited relationship - if we knew all the answers something would be lost

Why should we jump to believe in God rather than not? - e.g. cosmological argument 

The fact that we can make the leap suggests it is reasonable to do so - reason can only take us so far so we need the leap but if the leap was illogical we could not take it 

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Is it rational to choose to believe in God?

Pascal's wager

What do we gain vs. lose by believing in God?

Believing- promise of infinite reward in afterlife - infinite reward (and some finite gain e.g. comfort when living) with some  finite loss when living e.g. going to Church

Not believing - possible infinite reward/the finite gain while gain ability to do things forbidden by religion

As the evidence for God's existence is inconclusive there is no cognitively rational reason to choose belief in God but there is practical reason - infinite reward

It is pragmatic to believe in God because no matter how small the chance of God's existence as long as it is not 0 then as you have infinite reward then the expected utility gain is infinite as infinity x any finite number = infinity 

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Problems with Pascal's wager

Intellectualist objection - cannot be made to have a certain belief e.g. believe sky is green for £1000
You cannot simply do something e.g. go to school you must take micro-steps e.g. have breakfast - in same way must take micro-steps to believe in God e.g. go to Church - though still does not guarantee belief
However if you can believe then you have a justification because Pascal's wager works - it works as an assessment even if it does not work as persuasion - also Pascal argues if one acts in a religious way they will slowly be converted 

Diderot - does not tell you what God to believe in
Pascalian reasoners are manipulative egoists who God might not offer infinite reward
Schelsinger response - any reasoning that gets you to believe in God is not bad 

Question raised by whether religion is based on faith not reason is that arguments for God's existence are pointless - epistemelogical assumption is wrong  

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