I have wrestled with the relationship between Faith and Reason ever since my senior year in high school when I was reconverted to conservative, evangelical Christianity (it is possible that I was just extra-converted, a dilemma I am happy to now leave to the theologians). Over the last seventeen years, the battle to hold faith and reason together made for a painful journey over a number of terrains – geographical, institutional, psychological, political, and intellectual. The intellectual journey is for the most part complete, now that I have finally found some genuine cognitive rest. I am not the first to land on the resting place I have found, but I do believe my struggle has produced some ways of looking at the relationship between faith and reason that just may allow a small contribution to this subject’s evolution.
I wish to guide you, the reader, to this same resting place – once we are there, you can decide for yourself if it is a place you can inhabit for good. But there are some less than pleasant waters to tread on the way. In order to begin wading into this deep and murky swamp, I will turn first to what philosophy proper might be able to say about the relationship between faith and reason, or more precisely, about the alleged tension between them. In particular, I will address four philosophical topics: Metaphor, Narrative, Knowledge, and Belief. I will argue that each reveals the unlikelihood of locating a distinction between faith and reason given a strictly philosophical armchair methodology. If an important distinction cannot be found, then neither can a philosophical tension.
The skeptic is usually a good place to begin a dialectic, and so we should tune our ears to the voice of the unbeliever: Faith calls us to dispense with verifiable facts and empirical investigation so that we may cling to the mythological stories, fables, parables, and metaphors that boast to connect us with the otherwise mysterious, eternal unknown. Faith thereby remains an epistemological stance that demands the flouting of our most basic intellectual duties. This is not a faith in harmony with reason. This is a faith at war with reason.
Fair enough. But is this worry at all grounded in sound philosophical enquiry? Can philosophical inquiry lead us to these conclusions? Can philosophical enquiry at least help justify these conclusions?
The first part of this Faith vs. Reason series is my attempt to demonstrate my answers to these questions, and my answers are no and no and no. This worry is not at all grounded in sound philosophical enquiry; philosophical inquiry will not lead us to these conclusions; and philosophical enquiry does not offer justification to these conclusions. In sum, it is impossible to locate a tension between faith and reason with the tools of armchair philosophy.
In this entry I begin to address the subject of Belief.
Knowledge of fact itself is a bit more complicated than traditional discussions in theology and Plantingian philosophy suggest. I doubt that propositional knowledge – if we must even reference such a technical concept – is a matter of just believing a proposition that ends up being true in the right sort of way – justification, warrant, or whatever. Eric Schwitzgebel, for instance, suggests that knowing that is a capacity whereas belief is a tendency (‘Acting Contrary to Our Professed Beliefs’). But for simplicity, I will here assume that there is a sufficiently tight relationship between propositional knowledge and believing propositions. Considering the current cultural landscape, this seems an innocent move to make: (more…)