“Ethics is Like Physics” is total me-linkbait

In which Spiderman is actually working out metaethical questions empirically. (Can you tell I’m pretty excited for the movie tonight)

The power is trickling back on.  Well, for now at any rate.  There’s still a live utility pole a few blocks from my house that’s apparently teetering over a gas station.  Sigh.  So as I work through my backlog of comments and email and promised replies, I’ve got another reading recommendation.

Because, speaking of promised replies, Camels with Hammers had a really nice essay up titled “How Ethics Is More Like Physics Than Faith.”  I’m not really in agreement with Dan’s definition of faith:

First, let’s clarify the difference between faith and other kinds of uncertain belief. Faith entails an implicitly or explicitly willful belief that is obstinate in the face of counter-evidence and goes so far as to disdain changes in belief as a matter of principle. Faith also usually involves trusting as a matter of principle in dubious authorities disproportionately more than their actual, demonstrable expertise warrants.

But I’m very much in agreement with this section:

So, are most people just faith-believers when it comes to morality? Is the average atheist still guilty of faith in moral fictions, even as he or she might be clean of faith in religious ones? Some philosophers would say yes. Nietzsche would not only say yes that ordinary people believe in morality by faith but even go much further and say that even many philosophers who claim to examine morality rationally are self-deceived and actually just the protectors of a faith. I think I can show textually how Nietzsche thinks he (or the philosophers of the future whom he influences) can break with this pattern and determine a genuinely better value standard for not only assessing but deliberately creating genuinely better moralities.

For my part, I do not think that it is generally correct to equate moral decision-making with faith-based thinking and here are my reasons why.

There are two senses in which someone could be said to know with respect to morality. On the one hand, someone can have theoretical knowledge and a mastery of numerous technical truths with respect to morality which can be aids in coming to better specific conclusions about specific moral problems than the average person, unaided by philosophical clarifications, would. But, on the other hand, someone can be knowledgable about morality as a matter of competence at moral evaluations and decision-making, even where technical theoretical competence is missing (or, even, badly carried out).

To use an analogy: I am embarrassed to admit this but I do not know a thing about calculus. I dropped out of that course as an apathetic high school senior and never returned (to my eternal regret). So I cannot do the basic physics calculations that explain how the angle and the speed at which I should duck my head to avoid a ball of a specified speed, direction, and angle from knocking me unconscious. But even without the slightest real knowledge of theoretical physics or basic college level math, I am rationally competent not only at evading your average errant projectile but also at not bumping into objects, not tripping, and not getting hit by cars (except for that one time in February).

So head over, read the whole thing, and tell me your thoughts. Especially if you have a better definition of faith, since I don’t think we came up with anything satisfactory the last time we had an argument on this topic. I should be back to my usual posting habits by the end of the week.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    The definition I came up with a while ago as this:

    “Faith is where you hold a belief more strongly than a strict interpretation of the evidence would justify. In short, you believe something with a confidence level — even up to knowing it (although I don’t consider knowing merely a consequence of confidence so don’t make the mistake of assuming that that’s what I’m implying) — that is greater than the confidence level suggested by the evidence.”

    I apply it not just to religion — although it clearly fits there — but think that that covers pretty much any case where we talk about having faith.

    • Pseudonym

      That’s not bad. It fits with Kierkegaard’s analogy that falling in love with someone requires an overwhelming emotional commitment that evidence alone cannot justify.

    • Adrian Ratnapala

      Like all words, “faith” is fuzzy and there is a continuum from “Tentatively interested in the possibilty of X” to “Passionately dogmatic, demands no evidence for X and closed against all evidence against X”.

      I wander what propositions Leah thinks Christinaity demands you take on faith, and where on the continuum those faiths lies.

    • R.C.

      “Faith is where you hold a belief more strongly than a strict interpretation of the evidence would justify. In short, you believe something with a confidence level…that is greater than the confidence level suggested by the evidence.”

      It’s actually not a bad definition, but I think I have two problems it:

      1. Unless I’m mistaken, this definition includes an assumption that evidence of the sort which is observable, quantifiable, and subject to repeatable experiment is the only kind of evidence human beings ought to use for a truth claim. I think that assumption is false, even self-contradictory.

      2. Persons are complicated and tend to complicate things for us. If one is gathering evidence for an inanimate, impersonal proposition not yet held, there is no issue of personal character to take into account. But if the proposition in question regards the behavior (and thus the character) of a Person, I think the evidentiary bias slips sideways in time a bit, encompassing a holistic understanding of the person.

      When evidence arises that Jane is unusually tall, I don’t take into consideration the fact that she was not so tall at age 5. But when evidence (but, let us say, ambiguous evidence) arises that Jane is cheating on her husband, I do take into consideration what I know (and what I suspect, and what I vaguely and casually understood to be the case) about her character, up until now. The new evidence is not the only thing I consider; the whole picture of Jane as a person needs to be congruent with the new evidence, or else the new evidence needs to produce a new picture. But that takes time, and in the meantime if I continue operating as if I hadn’t seen the new evidence, or as if I had seen it but am failing to give it the full weight it merits, someone is apt to say I’m denying evidence. I’m not; but I’m attempting a larger assessment.

      I bring these up because in the Christian context, “faith” doesn’t always mean quite the same thing as “belief”:

      If a person is a faithful friend, they’re a reliable friend.
      If a person has faith in God, he believes God exists.
      If a person has faith in God, he trusts God’s character.
      If a person is faithful, he firmly believes God exists.
      If a person is faithful, he has profound trust in God’s character formed by God’s past reliability.
      If a person is faithful, he is a reliable friend from God’s perspective; God can rely upon him to not disobey.

      The above propositions don’t use “faith” in quite the same way each time. Combining them all together, we might get something like this: If a person is faithful, he is a reliable friend from God’s perspective meaning that God can rely upon him to not disobey; and God knows he can rely on that person because that person has faith in God (in the belief sense) and has faith in God (in the trusting-in-God’s-character sense) and that these two senses in which the man has faith are what naturally produce the reliability of behavior which God, from His own perspective, can label “faithfulness.”

      Because of the recursive way in which these usages unite with one another, reducing “faith” to mere attachment to a particular true/false proposition misses, I think, about 90% of the usage of the word “faith” in Christianity.

    • mark

      I agree. Not bad.
      On the subject of Morality:
      If you “banish God from the Universe – morality, knowledge, human dignity, freedom and meaning are banished with Him.”
      “By contrast… the Christian theistic worldview DOES provide a basis for essential aspects of human experience. In fact, the moment one assumes the existence of God and God’s creation of men and women in His image … everything else falls neatly into place.” (Patrick Madrid, Kenneth Hensley – “the Godless Delusion”)
      Ironically, “in order for an atheist’s life to NOT descent into utter chaos, he actually MUST live as though the Christian theistic worldview WERE true … even as he denies God’s existence. He HAS been created in God’s image, and so knows in his heart of hearts that knowledge is possible, that right and wrong ARE real, and that life has meaning (despite Mr. Dawkins trying desperately to convince himself that “there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ – just a merciless universe”).
      Strange, then, that “whenever you find a man who says he does NOT believe in a real [concept of] Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later: He may break his promise to you, BUT if you try breaking one to him, he will complain “It’s not fair”.
      Has he not [by his reaction], ‘let the cat out of the bag’ and shown that, whatever they say, they really DO know [there exists] the Law of Nature … just like anyone else [does]”.(C.S.Lewis)
      “The truth is that we ALL believe in a Law of Morality. And those who SAY that Moral Laws do NOT exist, actually show by the way then think, speak and live that [deep in the their conscience] they really DO believe in them.”
      Otherwise, if we behave according to Mr. Dawkins’ concept of the NON-existence of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ – then how can he [LOGICALLY] suddenly do “an about-turn” and talk about the concept of “EVIL” … as if it DID exist, after all?
      IF ‘evil’ does NOT even exist, as he claims:
      - Then what happened to his LOGIC as he presumes to talk about the “evils” of atrocities committed in war; Hitler’s holocaust, the hideous crimes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.?
      - Indeed by what LOGIC does he presume to talk about ANY “evils” in the world?
      After all (by his OWN definition) his world-view would LOGICALLY define that these very individuals were NOT ‘evil’ at all. Just DIFFERENT!
      When Mr. Dawkins (falsely) alleges that many conflicts have been “caused by religion” – he (conveniently) forgets that he has relied on inexcusably erroneous information (in fact, the proliferation of deliberate DIS-information by other atheists) and that:
      1. if ANY CONFLICT is precipitated by an attacker – the ATTACKER is acting in DISOBEDIENCE to the instruction of Christianity to promote peace at all times. Therefore (even if he ALLEGES to be a “christian” – he ELECTS to CEASE being a “Christian” – because he CHOOSES to DIVORCE himself from Christian teaching – therefore he is NOT a follower of Christ – therefore he is NOT a Christian.
      (just as a person, while knowing the rules of the road, ELECTS to break the rules to suit himself – and thereby ELECTS to DIVORCE himself from the law – and thus ELECTS to be a law-BREAKER).
      He thus also DISQUALIFIES himself from ANY right to call himself a “law-abiding citizen”
      2. Is there such a thing as a morally “just” war?
      The ONLY circumstances when a Christian is allowed to RETALIATE (even using weapons) … are:
      a) for example, when attacks upon himself or his family or his nation are RELENTLESS, causing massive DAMAGE (deaths, destruction of vital infrastructure) – AND despite several attempts at PEACEFUL NEGOTIATION – and with NO prospect of peace.
      b) as a humanitarian RESPONSE When one nation (which is suffering severe loss of life and damage to vital infrastructure) PLEADS for assistance to REPEL attacking forces.
      c) Logically, Therefore deliberate DISOBEDIENCE against the teachings of Christ CANNOT COUNT as “religious causes”.
      Ironically, Mr. Dawkins claims that there is “no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ in any case, BUT by his own absence of LOGIC – he himself collapses his own argument.

  • http://animavoluminis.blogspot.com Philosoraptor

    Faith is an assent of the intellect regarding a proposition that does not admit of scientific falsifiability, most fittingly applied to assent to the truth of divine revelation.

    • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

      That’s useful, thanks. Everyone acts by faith in everything they do, because ultimately we have no logical warrant for rejecting extreme skepticism. We just do.

      • anodognosic

        There’s skepticism, and then there’s radical skepticism. The two kinds of “faith” that you refer to are somewhat isomorphic, but they’re still two wildly different things. The motivated belief against radical skepticism is pragmatically warranted, at the very least, because without it we are literally without ground to stand on. On the other hand, there’s plenty of ground to stand on from which to doubt the kind of motivated belief that, for instance, Philosoraptor is talking about.

    • Darren

      Oh, I don’t know about the scientific falsifiability part of that. I can think of plenty of articles of Faith which could be verified.
      Take Luke 17:6, “And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”
      One thousand evangelicals, one thousand trees, a simple statistical evaluation and there you go.
      Or, Mark 16:18, “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
      These are present tense versus, so no running behind the “it only happened in the age of miracles” defense.
      While belief may be a conviction based upon insufficient evidence, Faith is a conviction in the face of countervailing evidence: dead people do not come back to life, humans cannot walk on water, virgins do not conceive, bushes to not spontaneously combust and remain intact, water does not transmute into wine, getting bitten by a deadly snake results in death… The stronger the evidence against, the stronger the Faith to resist it.
      Snake handlers have Faith. They are utterly convinced that a snake bite will do them no harm, despite copious evidence to the contrary. The Pope, riding around in a plexiglass bubble – less so. Not exactly demonstrating a firm conviction in the sovereignty of almighty God with that one.

  • Oregon Catholic

    Religious Faith is a theological virtue, a gift from God. I think people get faith and belief mixed up and use them interchangably when talking about supernatural things. In that context belief comes from within – it is our conviction. Faith comes from without -God- and requires us to assent to it through our will.

    • @b

      I find your bifurcation to be very useful; we all have faith, some of us additionally have Faith.

      It’s important to acknowledge that having Faith implies a value judgment that one’s beliefs about the Divine are good to keep.

      Not just good to keep until they’re better understood in terms of earthly beliefs.

      (cf. the philosophy of the 14th Dali Lama and his approach to reconciling Buddhism with brain science)

  • Dennis Mahon

    Don’t know if this helps, but :Faith –entry from the old (1917) Catholic Encyclopedia.

    • Hidden One

      There is also the Modern Catholic Dictionary by the excellent Jesuit priest John A. Hardon (RIP) to pay attention to.

      FAITH. The acceptance of the word of another, trusting that one knows what the other is saying and is honest in telling the truth. The basic motive of all faith is the authority (or right to be believed) of someone who is speaking. This authority is an adequate knowledge of what he or she is talking about, and integrity in not wanting to deceive. It is called divine faith when the one believed is God, and human faith when the persons believed are human beings. (Etym. Latin fides, belief; habit of faith; object of faith.)

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  • Matthew

    “So the average human has a genuine, workable, truthful, and innate common sense knowledge of the very basics of the physical world and how to make a range of physical decisions correctly and knowledgeably. ”

    He’s conflating things here. The average’s humans knowledge of the “very basics of the physical world” is informed by empiricism. It is not, at least largely, innate. Think of the studies where infants are shown seemingly impossible things and then shown obviously possible things. They don’t distinguish between the two categories of events; they aren’t surprised by violations of the law of gravity until they have some sense, draw from empiricism, that gravity is a law. If an infant was raised in a laboratory where scientists were constantly performing slight-of-hand violations of the laws of physics, it is highly unlikely he’d see behind the curtain. I don’t see any evidence that his evolutionary instincts would kick in and say, “although my experience tells me that apples consistently float, nonetheless apples ought not float. Something is amiss”.

    Because the laws of physics are such and such, it’s hard to realize that, conceptually, the laws of physics might have been anything. So it’s easy to conclude that your tendency to evade projectiles is informed largely by evolutionary instincts, rather than a simple accumulation of experiences and observations that suggest being hit by objects is not a lot of fun. Mostly, evolution has given you an ability to avoid projectiles; the actual impulse comes from experience. To expand on this, if I see a dark circular object above my head, I duck. If I see a yellow circular object above my head, I don’t. Because I know the sun is not a falling object of some kind. Evolution didn’t teach me that: living in the world did.

    It is hard to see how this applies to morality. If morality DOES function this way, then his argument- that we naturally develop rational competence to make moral intuitions oriented towards our actual good (the good which fulfills our developed natures)- breaks down. It becomes culture dependent (something he avowedly finds that actual morality isn’t). Someone raised in a laboratory with simulated executions in which the condemned said “thank you” beforehand, would conclude, every time he saw someone executed, that a good time was had by all. I’d like to think about this a bit more before venturing a further response.

    • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

      I’ve three kids. None of them realized that the best way to make sure that their heads did not smack into the floor was to put out their hands to block. They also didn’t realize that the best way to avoid getting hit by the ball thrown at them by another kid is to dodge (or, once again, block the face). It only took a few times for them to figure that out, but it is not “innate”.

    • Bryan

      @Matthew
      A somewhat analogy to this is suicide bombers; they have been taught to believe that death is a reward, not a punishment, therefore they don’t have the same “instinctual” response to dying that, what I believe, the average Westerner would have. Absent empirical experience, would morality even exist? Did the children in Lord of the Flies know they were being little bastards to each other? In a real-world facsimile of the book, would real children come to that conclusion without outside guidance? Like you, much thought needs to be had on my part.

    • KC

      I do not think that our environment and our experience completely predetermines our dispositions. You say that a child who witnessed apples floating all his life would not question it, however for centuries man did not know what planets and stars were, but they still wanted to find out. If there is an effect, apple and planets floating, man will search out the cause. This is because of man’s intellect. This is also the same intellect that when engaged ought to seek to root out ignorance and find truth. Therefore, our immediate experiences and perceptions can both conform to or be opposed to reality. Also think of all the many trends that were thought to be good at one time, which were later, by others who grew up with them, discovered to be bad.

  • Ted Seeber

    To me, this is the difference Pope Benedict XVI has been trying to point out since his speech before the college of cardinals right after Bl. John Paul the Great’s Death:

    You can have moral relativism- and irrational faith- in which morality is individual and even the laws of physics change from person to person. OR you can insist on objective morality, in which even God must obey the rules he has set down, and those rules are discernible from studying nature, scripture, tradition, and history.

    Both of these are rightly termed faith. But only one of the two can logically support both science and a rational theology. If moral relativism is true, then morality cannot be rationally determined, because it is entirely subjective; same with the subjective irrational God of textual fundamentalists in Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism, whose beliefs depend on the *subjective individual* reading scripture, and for whom the natural world has no order or meaning at all.

    ONLY an objective morality and a faith based in empirical research can be trusted to yield a natural world that can be studied. Theistic or atheistic, without objective morality there is no reason whatsoever to have faith in an objective, ordered universe. And without an objective universe, one can’t even begin to understand logic or science.

  • Doragoon

    Who else would I turn to besides Chesterton:
    “But faith is unfashionable, and it is customary on every side to cast against it the fact that it is a paradox. Everybody mockingly repeats the famous childish definition that faith is “the power of believing that which we know to be untrue.” Yet it is not one atom more paradoxical than hope or charity.”
    I’m always amused when I find that progressive arguments haven’t progressed in over a hundred years.

    A more personal definition would have something to do with hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy’s president of the galaxy being surprised every time he put his pencil to paper and it made a mark.

    • deiseach

      And I will throw in a quote from a work belonging to the credulous Middle Ages, the time of blind faith where they never even considered doubting the Bible or proposing questions about the nature of faith and belief, much less constructing arguments to debate those points.

      Dante, “Divine Comedy”, Paradiso, Canto XXIV – St. Peter questions Dante about faith:
      Just as the bachelor arms himself and does not
      while the master is setting forth the question
      for discussion, not for final disposition —
      so I armed myself with all my arguments
      while she was speaking, readying myself
      for such an examiner and such professing.
      ‘Speak up, good Christian, and make your declaration.
      What is faith?’
      …And I continued: ‘As the truthful pen
      father, of your dear brother wrote it
      he who, with you, set Rome upon the path to truth,
      ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for,
      the evidence of things that are not seen.
      And this I take to be its quiddity.’
      Then I heard: ‘You reason rightly if you understand
      why he placed it, first, among the substances,
      only then to set it down as evidence.’
      And I: ‘The profound mysteries
      that here so richly manifest themselves to me,
      to our eyes below are so concealed
      ‘that they exist there through belief alone,
      on which is based our hope to rise above.
      And therefore it assumes the name of substance.
      ‘It is from this belief that we must argue,
      when there is nothing else we can examine.

      …Then came forth from the depth of the light
      refulgent there: ‘This precious gem
      upon which all the virtues rest,
      ‘what was its origin and how did you obtain it?’
      And I: ‘The abundant rain of the Holy Ghost,
      poured out onto the parchments old and new,
      ‘is the syllogism that has proven it to me
      with such great force that any other demonstration,
      compared with it, would seem completely pointless.’
      Then I heard: ‘The premises, both old and new,
      that you find so convincing in their truth,
      why do you take them for the word of God?’
      And I: ‘The proof that revealed the truth to me
      are the works that followed, for which nature
      neither makes iron red with heat nor smites an anvil.’
      ‘Say,’ came the answer, ‘who assures you that these works
      all really happened? The very thing requiring proof,
      and nothing else, is your sole warrant of them.’
      ‘For the world to have turned to Christ,’
      I said, ‘without miracles, that indeed was one
      to outdo all others more than hundredfold.
      ‘For poor and fasting did you come into the field
      to sow the good plant that was once a vine
      and now has turned into a thornbush.’

      Mmmm – that last is a bit weak, methinks, but at least Dante proved he possessed faith, at least sufficiently to satisfy Peter :-)

    • http://www.mccaughan.org.uk/g/ g

      I make no comment on the particular argument Chesterton is complaining about. But on the general point: It’s not clear that the arguments *should* have progressed in the last hundred years. If something was a good argument 100 years ago, there’s no particular reason why it shouldn’t still be a good argument now. If it was a bad argument 100 years ago but some people liked it even so, there’s no particular reason why that should have changed.

      (Of course *some* arguments do get refuted and others created by, e.g., new scientific discoveries or more-careful-than-before philosophical analysis. If it were actually true that there’s no difference between what “progressives” were saying 100 years ago and what they’re saying now, that might be bad. But it seems clear to me that that isn’t the case.)

  • grok

    Hi Leah,
    Very apropos post and question today given that it is the feast of Thomas the Apostle (aka doubting Thomas). Here’s the gospel for today: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070312.cfm
    Gospel Jn 20:24-29
    Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
    So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas said to them,
    “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks
    and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside
    and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
    and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
    Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
    Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

    I just read Thomas Cahill’s “The desire of the everlasting hills.” You may have heard of his other book “how the irish saved civilization”. In “the desire of the everlasting hills” he makes the interesting hypothesis that in the synoptic gospels and most of the new testatment letters Jesus is viewed as the Messiah (i.e.the longed for messiah of the old testament) but not necessarily as divine. He thinks it was really only the Gospel of John (and letters?) that preached the divinity of Christ.
    It’s an interesting hypothesis and I think of it every time I hear the new testament texts.
    best
    grok

    • Matthew

      I believe the Anglican scholar N.T. Wright takes the position that Jesus himself wasn’t quite “aware” of his divinity until somewhat late in the story. I don’t recall how he came to that point but I’m pretty sure it’s in one of those big New Testament books (maybe The New Testament and the People of God?).

      • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

        Interesting. That has a certain incarnational logic to it.

        • http://paraphasic.blogspot.com Elliot

          This is an old heresy, a spin on Adoptionism (the idea that Christ-the-man was infused with Godhead at the beginning of his ministry). If Christ didn’t know he was God, then he wasn’t God. Which is fine, if you want to deny the immutability of the Godhead (like a good many fashionable theologians) or the unity of Christ’s person, but it does make your theology kind of wonky (though maybe more dramatic — a Harry Potter Christ who finds out he’s actually the Ancient of Days and then sets out to save the world), and sets you apart from Chalcedonian orthodoxy.

      • Brandon

        The story of the discovery of Jesus in the temple when he was twelve – in which he told Mary and Joseph, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) – would seem to indicate otherwise. Admittedly, I haven’t read anything by Wright, but I’m not sure what he could mean by “late” that would make sense.

        • http://www.mccaughan.org.uk/g/ g

          Calling God one’s father doesn’t amount to calling oneself God, nor to thinking that one is God. After all, Jesus is famous for encouraging other people to think of, and address, God as their father.

          (Luke’s story is certainly one about a boy with some very unusual ideas! But I don’t see that they have to be ideas of *being God*.)

      • Ted Seeber

        Traditionally, it comes in the story of the Transfiguration. From the NewAdvent Catholic Encyclopedia Site:
        The Transfiguration of Christ is the culminating point of His public life, as His Baptism is its starting point, and His Ascension its end. Moreover, this glorious event has been related in detail by St. Matthew (17:1-6), St. Mark (9:1-8), and St. Luke (9:28-36), while St. Peter (2 Peter 1:16-18) and St. John (1:14), two of the privileged witnesses, make allusion to it.

        About a week after His sojourn in Cæsarea Philippi, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them to a high mountain apart, where He was transfigured before their ravished eyes. St. Matthew and St. Mark express this phenomenon by the word metemorphothe, which the Vulgate renders transfiguratus est. The Synoptics explain the true meaning of the word by adding “his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow,” according to the Vulgate, or “as light,” according to the Greek text.

        This dazzling brightness which emanated from His whole Body was produced by an interior shining of His Divinity. False Judaism had rejected the Messias, and now true Judaism, represented by Moses and Elias, the Law and the Prophets, recognized and adored Him, while for the second time God the Father proclaimed Him His only-begotten and well-loved Son. By this glorious manifestation the Divine Master, who had just foretold His Passion to the Apostles (Matthew 16:21), and who spoke with Moses and Elias of the trials which awaited Him at Jerusalem, strengthened the faith of his three friends and prepared them for the terrible struggle of which they were to be witnesses in Gethsemani, by giving them a foretaste of the glory and heavenly delights to which we attain by suffering.

  • Matthew

    Chesterton is interesting on this point. Faith didn’t give Chesterton trouble because he was constantly amazed that anything went “right” at all. An instructive bit from The Man Who Was Thursday:

    “”I tell you,” went on Syme with passion, “that every time a train comes in I feel that it has broken past batteries of besiegers, and that man has won a battle against chaos. You say contemptuously that when one has left Sloane Square one must come to Victoria. I say that one might do a thousand things instead, and that whenever I really come there I have the sense of hairbreadth escape. And when I hear the guard shout out the word ‘Victoria,’ it is not an unmeaning word. It is to me the cry of a herald announcing conquest. It is to me indeed ‘Victoria’; it is the victory of Adam.””

    • grok87

      @Matthew,
      Great Chesterton quote, thanks

  • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

    Faith is holding onto a proposition or person that you assented to mind, heart, and soul, in the face of challenges that aren’t intellectually sufficient to warrante disbelief but that induce a feeling of disbelief and disorientation notwithstanding.

  • DavidM

    Interesting. It seems to me, however, that the part Leah agrees with is quite confused and wrong. Knowing how to avoid a ball has nothing whatsoever to do with knowing calculus (this is perfectly obvious). Knowing how to act virtuously does have a good deal to do with understanding morality (with practical wisdom, with grasping the good). If I suck at dodgeball, this is no impediment to my being good at calculus (and vice versa, if I suck at calculus…). If I am a morally vicious person, however, this IS a serious impediment to my understanding the nature of the moral good.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Thought the same thing on my first take… but it makes more sense if you swap the second way of being an expert as experience instead of ability. (Natural ability is honed through exp. so I don’t see it as too much of a leap from what he meant.) I don’t care who’s genes you’ve got, throw a basketball at baby Newton or baby Kareem and they are both going to suck. You can become well practiced at “doing the right thing” just through emulation or unqualified obediance of role-models etc, with out understanding WHY it’s right

      • DavidM

        I don’t follow. It’s true, you need experience in order to have moral wisdom, but that’s not the point. Experience (and character) is intrinsically related to moral wisdom. That is not true at all of purely theoretical knowledge: it doesn’t matter how great my experience and ability are when it comes to dodgeball, this has no bearing on my calculus ability. As for merely “doing the right thing,” that is not really acting morally or virtuously. Virtuous or moral action requires that one do the right thing and do so understandingly – moral action is concerned with deliberative willing, not just instinctive benevolence (that’s why even the best-trained dog is not morally virtuous). Anyway, my main point is with regard to Fincke’s ignoring the distinction in kind between theoretical and practical wisdom.

        • Brandon

          There are moral equivalents to someone who is good a dodgeball but bad at calculus, and to someone who is good at calculus but bad at dodgeball. There are plenty of saints who were “simple”, and couldn’t have kept up with Aquinas’ or Augustin’s philosophical reasoning: practical wisdom without theoretical sophistication. On the other hand, I’m sure there have been plenty of professors of moral philosophy – even ones whose philosophy we’d mostly agree with – that were debauched or cruel or deceitful: theoretical sophistication without practical wisdom.

  • Kristen inDallas

    I like Philosoraptors definition. For me personally (And I recognize this will only make sense to people who already have faith, and not a convincing argument for those that don’t) but for me faith was like purposefully opening up an inner set of eyes in order to see the evidence which I had previously been blind to. Like a scientist in a lab who, although believing he/she knows everything there is to know about the cold, dense hunk of rock on the table, makes a consious decision to go turn on a light and look at it again.

  • http://dyslexictheist.wordpress.com/ Michael H

    Faith is merely the noun construct of the verb “believe.” This is especially obvious in New Testament Greek, where “believe” is pistis and “faith” is elpis, and of course the known pisteuo. All linguistically linked, so we see “believe” and “faith” as the identical. Everyone would say they believe something. Maybe they are a skeptic and believe they can’t really know anything, in which case they believe in their own fallibility. They put an inherent faith in that as an underlying fact.

    Faith, therefore, is an active trust in a revealed truth. It is what undergirds a peculiar worldview, but it is also what comes at the end of seeking. We believe, of course, in the Theory of Gravity, not as a Law, because a rock dropped previously that falls to the ground does not have to fall to the ground on a second drop, but based on all our prior observations, we have built a mathematical model in which we trust. Every time we get in an airplane, we are acting as a matter of faith that physics being what they are, this machination will behave a certain way, that it will fly.

    Faith is a trust in a peculiar model – or as G.K. Chesterton put it, it is understanding the church (or physics) to be a “truth-telling thing” as it has revealed itself to be through experience. So in the absence of evidence of a certain kind, we defer to what the church (or physics) suggests should happen in the future. Faith is that part of our philosophy which we use to pay the rent – we keep using it, and it keeps coming back to us.

    • http://paraphasic.blogspot.com Elliot

      Not that I’m a Classics scholar or anything, but you need to review your Greek. pisteuein is to believe, pistis is faith/belief/assurance, and elpis is hope. It’s true, obviously, that pistis and pisteuein are related, but not particularly clear that they’re related to “elpis”, and (though you didn’t suggest this) definitely not to episteme.

  • deiseach

    “Faith entails an implicitly or explicitly willful belief that is obstinate in the face of counter-evidence and goes so far as to disdain changes in belief as a matter of principle.”

    *sigh*

    My favourite of the apostles (it used to be John, back when I was young, but as I get older and make dumber mistakes in life, I find myself preferring Peter more and more). Acts 10 – the whole story of the vision of the unclean animals. In fact, pretty much all of Peter’s appearances in the Gospels (he gets one moment of awesome in Matthew 16:17, but pretty much immediately – in Matthew 16:23 – he goes back to his old ways, where he ends up with Jesus directly calling him “Satan”). I can relate, Pete, I really can :-)

    Point of all this? Peter is pretty much an example of “Oh – I get it! Er, no, I don’t” and having to learn over and over again that what he thought was the way to believe is not the case.

  • http://catholicgamer.com darrenl

    “First, let’s clarify the difference between faith and other kinds of uncertain belief. Faith entails an implicitly or explicitly willful belief that is obstinate in the face of counter-evidence and goes so far as to disdain changes in belief as a matter of principle. Faith also usually involves trusting as a matter of principle in dubious authorities disproportionately more than their actual, demonstrable expertise warrants.”

    Wow.

    I don’t know where to start here.

    I find this hilarious:

    “Faith also usually involves trusting as a matter of principle in dubious authorities disproportionately more than their actual, demonstrable expertise warrants.”

    So…this very sentence would conclude that Richard Dawkins (..and others…) is a dubious authority…considering he continues to make huge philosophical and theological assertions about God and is not a trained philosopher or theologian, i.e. he has zero expertise in either of these fields. Glad to see some are catching on.

    I think the language shows an incredible bias here.
    Faith is:
    - obstinate in the face of counter-evidence
    - disdain changes in belief as a matter of principle
    - involves trusting as a matter of principle in dubious authorities

    His whole definition assumes these are true and does not prove that they are. So…here I wait for proof that this is actually the case. In the meantime, I’ll just assume he’s simply stating a matter of faith.

    • anodognosic

      You could assume. Or you could go and look at the impressively voluminous amount of writing he’s done on faith on his blog–it’s easy, just follow the tag “faith” at the end of the post.

      I think I’ve just found a new pet peeve–complaining that ancillary points in a piece of writing are baseless assertions when defending them is not within the scope of said piece–with bonus points for when one such defense is ridiculously easy to find.

      • http://catholicgamer.com darrenl

        Looks like I hit a nerve. Good.

        I also found a new pet peeve. Asserting that when someone defines a term in a sloppy manner such as this, that it magically becomes “out of scope” to provide a basis for said definition.

    • Darren

      “First, let’s clarify the difference between faith and other kinds of uncertain belief. Faith entails an implicitly or explicitly willful belief that is obstinate in the face of counter-evidence and goes so far as to disdain changes in belief as a matter of principle. Faith also usually involves trusting as a matter of principle in dubious authorities disproportionately more than their actual, demonstrable expertise warrants.”
      The tone is a bit on the pejorative side, but when looked at it all bears up.
      Let us take an article of Faith: Human beings die, they are buried, they rest in the grave multiple days, then they are reanimated and go back to walking and talking and such things.
      Do we have evidence for this? No. Do we have counter-evidence for this? Yes. How many humans have died in the past, oh, 100 years and not come back to life? Do we still have a couple of billion people that ardently cling to the conviction that this did actually happen as a matter of historical truth? Yes.
      Is it considered a virtue, by those who accept this article of Faith, to have this Faith? Yes. Is it considered _more_ of a virtue, again by those who accept it, to have struggled and fought to hold on to this Faith? Yes.
      Now, why does one accept this article of Faith? Because one has consulted physicians and anatomists and physiologist and they have indicated that precisely this sort of thing _is_ possible? No. Because they have consulted historians, archeologists, etc., and been assured that this sort of thing actually did happen as a matter of the historical record? No.
      How about another example? Human beings fly up into the air, higher and higher, eventually passing out of sight and arriving in Heaven. This is cited multiple times in scripture.
      So, how high is Heaven? This made a limited sort of sense back in the days of the cosmological crystal shells – go far enough out, past the moon, past the Sun, past Jupiter and Saturn, and you arrived at Heaven. But now? Yet, again, people believe this. Because this is what NASA has told them? Because this is what anyone at all, who might possibly be expected to have any actual knowledge of the matter, has told them? No.
      So, I have to say, every sentence is dead-on.

  • jose

    I believe he’s too verbose.

    His analogy puts scientific observations next to things to which he assigns values (this is good, this is just, etc.) I don’t think they are comparable. It’s one thing to find out killing germs cure diseases, it’s another thing to assert killing germs is a good act. Imo we just feel it’s good because we have an innate idea of reciprocity, like all hominoids. Empathy. We uniquely expand reciprocity to the abstraction of “everybody” because we can do that by rationalizing our intuition with our big fat brain. It’s a side effect.

    I also reckon he equiparates taking into account the interests of people with finding out what’s truly just and good. He talks about maximally flourishing societies. Putting the concept into practice, the old aegyptian civilization lasted way more than the utopian American communities, so I guess their values (“tyrannical emperors are neato”, to mention just one) were better since they flourished more. I think the West is very thankful the super brutal Roman Empire existed. I also think we hold like 90% of the world’s wealth or something like that. No wonder we’re flourishing.

    In short, I think what’s good/just/moral has nothing to do with what works; but I don’t have a PhD in philosophy so what do I know.

  • Brandon

    There’s a good reason that faith is often characterized as “obstinate in the face of counter-evidence”, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Faith is a kind of trust, and I thinking about trust in relationships illustrates this perfectly.

    When you begin to trust someone, or when you first decide to trust someone, you don’t do it blindly, and you don’t go against the evidence. You evaluate your observations of the person, and maybe things you’ve heard from other people, and you make a reasonable decision. This decision is affected by emotions, but emotions are a natural part of the human mind.
    Once trust is established, it has its own staying power. The fact that you trust someone can be a reason to disregard evidence that the person is untrustworthy, or at least discount the evidence. This again is reasonable, even when there is no particular evidence to support your trust at the moment, because you have a relationship with the person. The relationship itself is evidence that supports the trust you have put in this person.

    • Brandon

      Addendum: the comparison of faith to physics seems a little apples-to-oranges to me. The study of physics is comparable to the study of theology, but theology is not just a fancy word for faith. “Faith” and “Physics” just aren’t the same category of thing. Faith is a kind of relational connector between a person to an idea, just as trust is a kind of relational connector between two people. Physics, on the other hand, is a category of knowledge.

      • Brandon

        Addendum to the addendum: physics is also a category of phenomena, which is the subject of the body of knowledge that is also called “physics”.

  • Joe

    You might think of Faith as analogous to what has been called “Poetic Knowledge” A Russian Orthodox friend of mine discusses it here
    http://logismoitouaaron.blogspot.com/2012/07/maritain-st-dionysius-on-poetic.html

  • Rodney McDonell

    Be very careful how you use the word Faith.

    Faith is a belief yet to be verified of it’s truth.

    The General Theory of Relativity is not a Faith, because it has been proven correct for scientific purposes.

    However, a person may have Faith in the General Theory of Relativity soley because a person of Authority may have acknolwedged that the Theory is a fact. However the person cannot know for sure unless they read enough material on the matter or verify it themselves. So they have Faith in the Theory.

    • Ted Seeber

      I would also point out that in the end, ALL human knowledge is based on the authority of somebody else.

      • Ron K

        Yes, but some human knowledge is based on more than that.

        • Ted Seeber

          Not really. There is nothing magical about data recorded in a lab notebook.

  • Ted Seeber

    “Faith is a belief yet to be verified of it’s truth.”

    What about faith in something that has been proven to be true?

  • KC

    I do not think that the analogy necessarily works. Human acts are always directed toward an end – this is what makes them moral or immoral. If the end (or rather intended end) is good then (if the act itself and the circumstances are good) that act is good. If the end is bad then the act is immoral. If someone does not know what end is good then he cannot know how to be moral objectively (this does not necessarily make him immoral since he maybe unwillingly ignorant in these matters). Much of this is from St Thomas Aquinas. Now regarding faith, Hugo of St. Victor says, “Faith is a sort of certitude of the soul with respect to absent, a certitude that is superior to opinion and inferior to knowledge.” Faith is a theological virtue that unlike the moral virtues comes from without rather than from within. Just as our understanding (faith) of the world comes from the result of external stimuli acting upon our senses, our faith in God comes from outside of us. For example, a blind man takes by faith that the sky is blue. As a virtue too it can also be strengthened through our understanding, just as our understanding of the world grows as we study it.

    • Ted Seeber

      Isn’t this just “The End Justifies the Means” which has been used to excuse bad behavior throughout human history?

      • KC

        There are three components to every act that either makes it moral or immoral. 1. the act itself, 2. the circumstances, 3. the intension or ends. So I think that the analogy fails to explain what ends men ought to seek since dodging a ball is a good end regarding self preservation, but may be oriented toward a bad end if the person is a goalie. So I was specifically addressing the ends. However, for the the act to be altogether good it must be good or neutral in itself and be circumstantially appropriate or at least not inappropriate. Without this people can get into an end justify the means mentality.

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

    Faith is a choice to trust some source of knowledge. The choice will often have emotional overtones. We need to trust some truths. We cannot live in a world full of question marks. If we want to have a marriage and family we need to trust our spouse. We cannot know 100% but we need to proceed as if we did know 100%. Love cannot be restricted to rational assessment of evidence. If it does not go beyond that it is not love. Faith is the same way. It is a choice. For me it was important that rational people I respected trusted in the same dogma’s that I was to accept. But once the choice was made I was not going to abandon it just because I arrived at a logical difficulty. I gave my heart away. You don’t take it back too quick. Yet I did once. When I went from protestant to Catholic I abandoned deeply-held convictions and embraced others for mostly logical reasons. As Pope Benedict puts it. Reason purifies faith and faith purifies reason. Both can be wrong because we are human but when we get both right something special happens.

  • Mitchell Porter

    Daniel’s justification for the objectivity of morality goes nowhere. Suppose for the sake of argument that it *is* objectively true that a particular decision-making method is the best way to ensure that I “flourish”. So what? That’s not a normative statement, it doesn’t say whether it’s a good thing that I get to flourish, and it doesn’t say whether I should want to flourish. Maybe human beings are evil and their flourishing is the worst thing that could happen. Maybe the material world is a snare made by an evil demiurge and I should want to die and/or go to some other place ASAP, rather than hang around and try to flourish here.

    I also think Daniel’s hopes to obtain the right *meta*ethics from a naturalistic examination of human nature are doomed to disappointment. Why people do what they do, what they think they are doing when they make those choices, what a “moral intuition” is, and so on – progress on those questions is bound up with progress on the ontological problems of consciousness in general, and naturalism is not enough here, because of its ontological deficiencies, also on display in other famous hard problems like color (and other qualia), intentionality, and so on.

    Presuming that the material world is not a giant illusion and that the causal models produced by the natural sciences do have something to do with the real cause and effect of reality, it is still the case that a broader ontology is required, and that the first step towards discovering that ontology is to do phenomenology. After you make a start there, then you can worry about neuroscience and physics and the ontology of psychophysical causation.

    (I consider the most sophisticated naturalistic program for investigating metaethics to be the one implicit in the “Friendly artificial intelligence” research program of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Singularity Institute; which amounts to saying, let’s build a cause-and-effect model of human decision-making, using ultimate neuroscientific data and ultimate Bayesian methods of inferring causal models from data; and then let’s use an as-yet-undeveloped mathematical decision theory to analyse that into non-moral choices, moral choices, and metamoral criteria. Ironically, part of the sophistication of this program is the extent to which it remains unspecified – the people involved know that they don’t know enough to turn it into a mathematically rigorous algorithm for reconstruction and interpretation of the hypothesized fundamental human decision-making cognitive procedure.)

    But to really know what you’re doing, you need some concept of the *ontology* of human choice and human moral intuition. And it’s clear that we don’t have that today in science, because we don’t even have a scientific explanation of how anything manages to be actually colored (in the original, phenomenological sense of color). So in the current state of knowledge, “purely naturalistic” philosophies of morality go nowhere. You can make statements about processes in the brain and how they might affect behaviors of the body, but there’s nothing to say about choices or persons, let alone good or bad.

    So as I said, real progress requires better moral phenomenology. And I have to say that in that department, I’m more impressed by the *psychological* reductionism of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, than by rationalistic virtue ethics. Good and bad are founded on private pleasure and pain, but in a more baroque way than a typical hedonist analysis suggests. The role of the will, in determining the positive or negative quality of a phenomenon, is *far* more profound than generally understood.

    I am not averse to speculations about platonic moral forms, such as apparently launched Leah on her personal journey, because it’s not as if the nature of things is self-evident; the platonic hypothesis or way of thinking is an important counterpoint to a metaphysics of immanence, which reduces all moral affect and cognition to self-interested states of a monadic consciousness. The problem of universals is there, regardless of your moral philosophy, and the right approach may involve some hybridization of the traditional metaphysical solutions. But an honest phenomenological investigation of the subjective roots of morality should make it very plausible that it can be entirely accounted for by the interplay within the individual of pleasure, pain, and the will. Furthermore, the idea of morality as an emanation from a divine principle, and the idea that the universe is shaped by something that we would call good, can clearly be explained as the result of wishful thinking. The nature of reality is highly uncertain, therefore it *might be* ultimately friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary – that’s about the most that one can say in favor of this idea; and it seems to be in obvious and well-known contradiction with the facts of history.

  • PJ Jedlovec

    I definitely think the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Faith explains it better than I ever could. By a long shot. But I also do like one of the short definitions given by the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Faith is a personal adherance of the whole man to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words.”
    It is definitely not belief in spite of a lack of evidence as many people improperly define it. It is simply belief in something based on a different type of evidence, namely authority. The authority of an ordinary human being in the case of human faith and the authority of God in the case of Divine faith.
    http://thepapist.org/why-richard-dawkins-is-wrong-about-faith/

  • Ron K

    I’ve many definitions of faith, although frankly, they are mostly rather snarky. I’ve seen people’s definitions here and from what I gather even people of faith are divided in defining what the concept means. So the relevant question is, what do you (Leah) mean when you say faith? Is faith just an axiom of thought, or does it require some sort of evidence, a logical process relying on other axioms, a gut feeling?

    I am surprised that a PhD in philosophy would go to such painstaking lengths to define the meaning of the word ‘faith’, just to confuse, a couple of paragraphs later, two meanings of the word ‘know’ – to know how (to be able to) and to know what (to believe something with a high degree of certainty).

    It is obvious people know how to dodge a ball, or be fluent in English, or reach moral decisions. The fact that they do that does not mean they have any knowledge of Physics, Linguistics, or Ethics. The most one can say is, that people have an physical, linguistical or moral intuition.

    However, having an intuition is not a reliable way to truth. If I were to rely on my intuiive grasp of Physics, then it would be obvious to me that the Earth is flat, that the Sun is a yellow circle that moves through the sky from east to west, and that heavier things fall faster than lighter ones. In fact, Aristotle’s Physics is a prime example of a system of Physics that only relies on intuition and observation.

    Luckily for Physicists, physical theories are testable, and those tests have found reality to be counter-intuitive. No wonder — people are flawed thinkers, and the fact that we have an intuition of something has no bearing on its truth.

    After that experience, how can Fincke actually expect our intuition to have any relation to what is actually true or moral?

    Value systems are not testable, nor can they be derived from experience, since the fact that the world *is* a certain way has nothing to do with how it *should be*. This makes Morality very UNlike Physics. This makes it much more like mathematics — People agree on a certain set of axioms and apply the rules of logic to them until you get a conclusion. If people don’t agree on a set of axioms, they will reach different concusion.

    Pre-supposing a universal, absolute, objective morality doesn’t get you out of this, since as human intuition is falliable and human knowledge only tentative, people could always be wrong, and probably always are to a certain extent. Since morality is untestable, nobody could be proven right or wrong, and you’re back where you’ve started.

  • Iota

    Most things can usually be defined using at least two synonymous words, one of which has positive and the other negative connotations. So my country has “agents” but the enemy country has “spies”. My friend was “courageous” but this stranger I don’t like was “reckless”. My people when they fought an occupying force were “militia” or “guerrillas” – the people fighting my people are “bandits”. When someone supports my government, they are an “ally” but when one of the people of my nation supports a foreign government, they are a “traitor” (possibly)

    (I’m not American and this is not a political comment, by the way).

    Definitions work as a tool of enquiry only if we can somehow crate a shared definition from which we start and to which we both agree. If not, defining things does exactly nothing. For example, Camels with Hammers says that:

    Faith entails an implicitly or explicitly wilful belief that is obstinate in the face of counter-evidence [implied: convincing counter-evidence because if it weren’t being implied that it’s convincing, you wouldn’t call it counter-evidence] and goes so far as to disdain changes in belief as a matter of principle. Faith also usually involves trusting as a matter of principle in dubious authorities disproportionately more than their actual, demonstrable expertise warrants.

    So: faith > wilful (negatively connoted, I think a positively connoted synonym would be willing), “obstinate”, “disdain”, “dubious”, “disproportionately”.

    I’d have to be either pretty stupid, pretty ironic or pretty provocative to agree to that definition. Also, if I actually did, CwH could decide that if I can do so with a straight face, I’m lost to the reasonable cause of humankind. So even if I decided to play ball and assent to his definition, it doesn’t do anything productive for the discussion, because the definition itself contains judgement of that which is being defined.

    On the other hand, a definition of faith like the one you get in, say, Hebrews 11:2 (depending on your translation) doesn’t help much in a discussion with an atheist either, because “conviction of things not seen” is very general. If we treat this literally, then yes, one could possibly “have faith” in orange aliens from Alpha Centauri. Everyone knows that was not the point, but the definition doesn’t ward that off (I’d argue: because it wasn’t meant to). A tightened down definition that would only explain faith in Christ, would have to contain value-judgements, the same way CwH’s definition does, just in the other direction. I’d have to assert, for example, which I actually believe, that there is more “evidence” for Jesus than for orange aliens from Alpha Centauri, which would be a splendid point of attack for A Stereotypical Internet Atheist…

    A definition that actually helps in a discussion requires mutual goodwill and a mutual understanding that there has to be something the people on the other side value, and an – at least hypothetical – assertion that you can understand that (it is not entirely foreign to you). But you know that, of course. :)

  • Mike G.

    I thought I’d offer my definition of faith I came up with a few weeks ago, loosely based on writings by C.S. Lewis:
    “Faith is to watch the sun set and believe you’re the one that’s moving.”
    In other words, it’s to choose to rely on the intellectual evidence (theory of gravity, Scripture and the evidence supporting its veracity) over the present empirical evidence (the sun moves across my field of vision while I feel no movement, I don’t sense God’s presence).

    • Darren

      No, that is Belief. A conclusion based on some evidence (science), but not fully supported (counting our sense “evidence” as contravening).

      Faith is believing that it is not I that is moving, but the Sun, because the scriptures tell me so (Joshua 10:12). Contravening evidence in the form of 50 some-odd years of successful interplanetary navigation by various spacecraft using a heliocentric model versus the dogma of scripture.

      • Doragoon

        Either way, it’s because of something you read, not something you directly experienced.
        It’s kinda a “tree falls in the woods” kinda question, do our experiences dictate reality? Is there an objective prospective which would observe the truth your describe?

  • Daniel A. Duran

    I recommend you three books on ethics.

    Moral Theory: A Non-Consequentialist Approach
    Applied Ethics: A Non-Consequentialist Approach
    they are both written by David Oderberg, one of the best Thomists around. You ought to check his website too as it is full of interesting articles.
    I will also recommend you “Duns Scotus on the will and morality,” by William A. Frank and Allan Bernard Wolter. It is an excellent intro to Scotist ethics.
    You might want to check this brilliant and tongue in cheek article by Oderberg on why he’s a moral relativist.
    http://www.reading.ac.uk/AcaDepts/ld/Philos/dso/papers/Why%20I%20am%20a%20Relativist.pdf

    take care

  • Adrian Ratnapala

    Well, I haven’t got anything intelligent to say yet, except that if Morality turns out to be a fundamental field, I would like its elementary excitations to be called “morons”. Better still, the spin of good and evil is not rational thus we have a new class of particles which are neither Boson nor Fermion. So you can call it the “Ratnapala moron”.

  • stranger danger

    http://news.discovery.com/tech/magnet-brain-morality.html

    prove that morality can be objectively proven. unlike faith which is based on superstition

  • Maiki

    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c3a1.htm For a page long discussion on Faith.

    Faith is man’s proper response to God’s revelation — one of trust. “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.” … “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.” … “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.” … “it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love.”

    Faith is, fundamentally the intellectual response to a loved one that can be trusted above all else. The relationship is two-way — God first shows us His Love through grace, and our proper response is to trust in that revelation. We should always seek to know our beloved more and more (not hide away from the truth or external validation, but to seek it), so that we can grow in trust and love. That is Faith.

    (if you want a more “christian-independent” definition of faith, replace mentions of the Holy Spirit with “God”. If the religion lacks a being or beings to have faith in, I’m sure it can be adapted somehow, but I’m not clever enough before lunch).

  • mark

    On the subject of Morality:
    If you “banish God from the Universe – morality, knowledge, human dignity, freedom and meaning are banished with Him.”
    “By contrast… the Christian theistic worldview DOES provide a basis for essential aspects of human experience. In fact, the moment one assumes the existence of God and God’s creation of men and women in His image … everything else falls neatly into place.” (Patrick Madrid, Kenneth Hensley – “the Godless Delusion”)

    Ironically, “in order for an atheist’s life to NOT descent into utter chaos, he actually MUST live as though the Christian theistic worldview WERE true … even as he denies God’s existence. He HAS been created in God’s image, and so knows in his heart of hearts that knowledge is possible, that right and wrong ARE real, and that life has meaning (despite Mr. Dawkins trying desperately to convince himself that “there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ – just a merciless universe”).

    Strange, then, that “whenever you find a man who says he does NOT believe in a real [concept of] Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later: He may break his promise to you, BUT if you try breaking one to him, he will complain “It’s not fair”.
    Has he not [by his reaction], ‘let the cat out of the bag’ and shown that, whatever they say, they really DO know [there exists] the Law of Nature … just like anyone else [does]”.(C.S.Lewis)

    “The truth is that we ALL believe in a Law of Morality. And those who SAY that Moral Laws do NOT exist, actually show by the way then think, speak and live that [deep in the their conscience] they really DO believe in them.”

    Otherwise, if we behave according to Mr. Dawkins’ concept of the NON-existence of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ – then how can he [LOGICALLY] suddenly do “an about-turn” and talk about the concept of “EVIL” … as if it DID exist, after all?

    IF ‘evil’ does NOT even exist, as he claims:
    - Then what happened to his LOGIC as he presumes to talk about the “evils” of atrocities committed in war; Hitler’s holocaust, the hideous crimes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.?
    - Indeed by what LOGIC does he presume to talk about ANY “evils” in the world?
    After all (by his OWN definition) his world-view would LOGICALLY define that these very individuals were NOT ‘evil’ at all. Just DIFFERENT!

    When Mr. Dawkins (falsely) alleges that many conflicts have been “caused by religion” – he (conveniently) forgets that he has relied on inexcusably erroneous information (in fact, the proliferation of deliberate DIS-information by other atheists) and that:

    1. if ANY CONFLICT is precipitated by an attacker – the ATTACKER is acting in DISOBEDIENCE to the instruction of Christianity to promote peace at all times. Therefore (even if he ALLEGES to be a “christian” – he ELECTS to CEASE being a “Christian” – because he CHOOSES to DIVORCE himself from Christian teaching – therefore he is NOT a follower of Christ – therefore he is NOT a Christian.
    (just as a person, while knowing the rules of the road, ELECTS to break the rules to suit himself – and thereby ELECTS to DIVORCE himself from the law – and thus ELECTS to be a law-BREAKER).
    He thus also DISQUALIFIES himself from ANY right to call himself a “law-abiding citizen”

    2. Is there such a thing as a morally “just” war?
    The ONLY circumstances when a Christian is allowed to RETALIATE (even using weapons) … are:
    a) for example, when attacks upon himself or his family or his nation are RELENTLESS, causing massive DAMAGE (deaths, destruction of vital infrastructure) – AND despite several attempts at PEACEFUL NEGOTIATION – and with NO prospect of peace.
    b) as a humanitarian RESPONSE When one nation (which is suffering severe loss of life and damage to vital infrastructure) PLEADS for assistance to REPEL attacking forces.
    c) Logically, Therefore deliberate DISOBEDIENCE against the teachings of Christ CANNOT COUNT as “religious causes”.

    Ironically, Mr. Dawkins claims that there is “no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ in any case, BUT by his own absence of LOGIC, he himself collapses his own argument.

  • Daniel A. Duran

    Hey Leah, go to Ed Feser’s site. He just uploaded an article addressing you and Daniel Fincke on teleological ethics.


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