From "ethicsBeliefDebste_files/AD0000004932.gif" width=124
0>Many theologians and philosophers of
religion are actively involved in the Ethics of Belief Debate.
A short collection of essays written by several well-known
academics was complied by the American Academy of Religion
which clarifies why we have reasons for faith and I would like
to share their insights with you.
arises out of the need for theologians and philosophers to
justify truth claims about their beliefs. If someone holds a
particular religious belief then there should be justifying
reasons which warrant conviction of the mind. Hopefully, the
reasons are free, inward and self-evident and not necessarily
because "Joe told me so" or "this is always what we believed."
It was William Clifford who first proposed that we
should proportion the confidence we invest in our beliefs to
the evidence we have. (2) The essays he published caused quite
a stir in his day and encouraged such famous writers as G.K.
Chesterton and C.S. Lewis to respond.
When we believe,
do we assent to the truth "God exists" or do we infer (by
experience)? Is what we believe one of the following?
Certainty (excludes doubt)
Do our beliefs have:
VAN A. HARVEY clearly states that Christians have a duty and are
bound by their beliefs to seek the truth. If a Christian
belief by definition is the entertaining of propositions
incommensurate with the evidence, the Christian cannot be
regarded as a lover of truth (a moral virtue) (189),
therefore, it is imperative to the Christian to base beliefs
upon truth supported by evidence.
proposes that the certainty of a proposition does not consist
in the certitude of the mind which contemplates it. (84) For
example, not all men discriminate the same way such as
identifying particular authors of a book in the Bible. There
are also no specific criteria for judging gentlemanly
behavior, poetic excellence and heroic action. The belief we
hold about the degree of these rests in our own propriety,
skill, taste, discretion, art, method and temperament.
LESLIE STEPHEN agrees on the grounds that there are
other affections which motivate us besides love of the truth;
men of equal ability can hold diametrically opposite
principles which shows certitude alone is no test of objective
Does it follow that nobody ought to be
certain? Of course not, but do we:
1) entertain relevant evidence?
2) 2) do our actions based on erroneous belief make
the error manifest? (112)
Perhaps we can rely on the experience of others - is there a uniformity in nature which
expresses itself as to whether some things are good and others
Maybe the truth of a belief does not rest on the
weight of the evidence, but from whence the weight is derived?
Who told you?(157)
In love, it would be the degree of
truth verified by experience or by experts and we cannot reach
certainty because there may be possibilities which we are
unable for want of evidence to exclude. (160)
You can't alter the effect of the evidence by your feelings about
it, "I just feel it in my gut" and if you wish to believe in
truth, you would usually act on certain principles.
Michael Polanyi's book "Personal Knowledge" calls
these kind of principles a fiduciary framework.
All of us hold basic propositions which we assume to be true without
systematically and critically examining our reasons.
Wittgenstein referred to the example of a chess game and his
basic belief about the chess pieces - he assumes that they are
not arbitrarily going to start changing places. He is content
to accept they would not and this has nothing to do with his
stupidity or credulity (Van Harvey, 193) it just makes life
It has been argued that if one cannot prove
the evidence of belief in God, than the effort to do so is
meaningless, for example, Immanuel Kant's "If one cannot, one
ought not" quote.
We also make the assumption that one
must adhere to norms and procedures in a particular sphere of
study (202) - scientific, analytic - when there may be a host
of other ways to find truth.
In what proportion (HUME)
or threshold (CLIFFORD) do we hold the strength of the
evidence? Can truth be assigned degrees?
Is there some
other VALUE to the evidence, a "solace and private pleasure of
the believer" which was disparaged by Clifford, yet
nonetheless provides some goods received for holding beliefs
which may or may not be illusory.
Maybe the key is not
so much the objective and universal truth, but the nature of
the consequence in believing, or the moral character one is
led to as a result of the belief.
If one simply is
looking toward Truth - than you do not want to distort the
issue with values - this is the "Primacy of truth" claim that
it is not the proportions of truth, but truth's intrinsic
Faith causes knowledge itself - this is
what St. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine have shown. Aquinas
believed that our will is biased to the good of the person by
fundamental beliefs which are not typically illusory.
What one gains by believing (226) causes the election
voluntarily by the will. There are scientific AND volitional
justifications for belief and you cannot force yourself to
believe "at will" or "unwillingly." Therefore, your will to
believe the truth or falsity of a statement is usually based
upon reason. <
>AAR Studies in Religion 41
Edited by Gerald D. McCarthy
Press, Atlanta Georgia,
[This message has been edited by suryaz (edited 08-23-2001).]