Reason, knowledge and belief
Reason, knowledge and belief RLST 105
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Reason Knowledge and belief notes Epistemology: involved with the study of the nature of knowledge Knowledge: ask questions on the differences between knowledge and belief. Knowledge and belief: elaborate on methods by which we gain knowledge o Philosophical significance: what knowledge is and how we can best attain in o Big question: must the belief in god be comparable with reason to be justified and what if such compatibly does not exist? Evidentialism and non evidentialism: o Belief is justified if and only if its reason is proven through consistency or rational thinking Some say that god can only exist if there’s objectively verifiable evidence Others believe personal and faith based reasoning is consistent with rational thinking bc faith is the only route to knowledge of god’s existence. o Evidentialists: once a belief is justified, epistemological tests if someone can know that god exists. Belief without evidence does not count as knowledge o Nonevidentialists: factors that give rise to the belief in god can only apply to that of knowing god. o Fideist: while one can believe in god without evidence, this can only rest on faith. Still nonevidentialist bc reason applies to faith and belief. Reasoning is individual based on person need for faith. Natural theology: knowledge of god can be acquired by humans without aid of divine relevation. Reasons it is necessary to have evidence for claims: o Evidentiary approaches are more successful in guiding scientific progress than nonevidentiary : No justification = no existene. o Enlightenment success contradicted traditional religious beliefs : God’s existence myst be proven in the same manner that everything else is proven. Evidentialists take this evidence from nonreligious claims and deduces conclusions about religious claims. Enlightenment era= interested in maintaining honesty and consistency in knowledge. o Burden of Proof: Whoever makes a claim must be able to prove it. Those who refute it do not necessarily have to show it is false. o Ethics: It is unethical to believe anything on the basis of insufficient evidence. Reason 1: The success of evidence: o Without evidence, claims can only be proven through intuition. o No evidence claims can be proven through authority and usefulness to an individual. o Just bc it is usefull doesn’t mean its true o Scientific accomplishers all had in common: A lack of appeal to authority. Rejected intuition and authority of the church. o Evidence can be found to explain many events of today’s world. Reason 2: The challenge of enlightenment o Scientific revolution and enlightenment era: Took place in Europe and America Marked an abandonment of the medevial world and church with rise to the credibility of science. o Honesty and consistency o Central task for theologians during this time was to defend religious prospectsagainst modernism and demonstrate that faith is compatible with reason. o Sorts of evidene that are acceptable to the evidentialist: Evident to the sense Slef evident upon reflection. The only available evidence for nonreligious beliefs consists in nonreligious premises Reason 3: the burden of proof: o It is the job of someone asserting god’s existence to prove he exists. Reason 4: The ethics of belief: o Ex. A drunk driver believes he is ok to drive and although on accidents occur, it is still morally wrong bc he knowingly put people in danger. o Refrain from believing in god unless evidence bc: Entails a variety of rules/ practices Affects ones life and others Includes restictions and guidelines. Disasterous conseuqnces would be avoided. o Evangleic Christian groups: Refrain from premarital sex by adovacation abstinence. Teens still have sex. Unethical to project religious beliefs that abstain information about sexual behavior and obligations to the unborn o Philosopher Russell: Introlerable presumptions on the part of human to doubt it. Instances in which there is no resulting harm are unethical bc harm wasn’t completely avoided The limits of evidence: o Supporting evidence doesn’t guarantee truth. o Intuition can lead to false information o Evidence increases chance of discovering truth. Why nonevidentialism: o Truth may be less important than the belief. o Often have to act without complete knowledge o Other considerations must be taken in order to analyze god. Analyze god as a max gain and minimum loss. Just to be safe method. o Soren Kierkegaard: Knowledge of god with forever elude us. God withholds information in order to allows people to choose. o Immanuel Kant: Belief is justified if it prevents anarchy. PL 203: Introduction to the Study of Religion Montgomery College Professor Daniel G. Jenkins Reason, Knowledge, and Belief The branch of philosophy known as epistemology is involved with the study of the nature of knowledge. In epistemology philosophers ask questions about what we can know, and about the differences between knowledge and belief. Philosophers working in epistemology also attempt to elaborate the methods by which we gain knowledge. Epistemology has general philosophical significance because it is thought to be important to give accounts of what knowledge is and how we can best attain it. Epistemology is relevant to the philosophy of religion in particular because much of the philosophy of religion is involved with figuring out what one is entitled to believe about God and about other religious matters, and this kind of analysis can only be undertaken with reference to principles of epistemic justification in general. Further, specific questions about how we can justify belief in God, and about how we might come to know whether or not God exists, deserve our attention and are proper subjects of epistemological inquiry. Thus, we will now turn our attention to epistemological issues in the philosophy of religion. Chief amongst the questions that require our consideration are whether or not belief in God must be compatible with reason to be justified, and what such compatibility consists in. EVIDENTIALISM AND NONEVIDENTIALISM To say that a belief is justified is to say that holding it is consistent with reason, or with rational thinking. Philosophical differences emerge, then, around the matter of what reason demands. Some assert that belief in God can only be justified with reference to objectively verifiable evidence. That is, they claim that believing things in the absence of evidence – or contrary to the evidence – is irrational and thus unjustified. Others claim that subjective, personal, or faith-based reasons for believing in God are consistent with rationality, either because it is reasonable to sometimes believe things in the absence of evidence, or because faith is the only route to knowledge of God’s existence. Those who are advocates of the first, “evidentialist” stance claim that belief in God is justified only if there is objectively verifiable evidence of God’s existence. Once a belief is justified, further epistemological tests may allow it be said that one can know that God exists. In the absence of objective evidence, then, one might be Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins able to say that one believes that God exists, but such a belief would be unjustified in the view of the evidentialist and would therefore not count as knowledge. Proponents of the other, “nonevidentialist” position claim that objectively verifiable evidence is not necessary to justify belief in God; that is, belief in God that is based on nonevidentiary factors is claimed by nonevidentialists to be consistent with reason. There is variance among nonevidentialists on the issue of knowledge, however. Some nonevidentialists claim that objective evidence is not necessary for one to know that God exists. For them, the subjective factors that give rise to a belief in God are sufficient for also knowing that God exists. Other nonevidentialists, however, maintain that evidence is necessary for any belief to count as knowledge, and assert that this evidence is lacking when it comes to God. This latter kind of nonevidentialist, called a “fideist,” meaning literally “faith-ist,” asserts that while one can believe in God without evidence, such belief can only ever rest on faith. Indeed, according to some nonevidentialists, belief in the absence of evidence is the only attitude one can take with regard to the divine. Thus, according to the fideist, one cannot ever know that God exists; one can only believe. While here fideism is included as a kind of nonevidentialism, suggesting that the kind of faith described by fideism is consistent with reason, not all philosophers – indeed, not even all fideists – will agree that faith is, strictly speaking, justified. For this kind of fideist, not only is belief in God incapable of ever becoming knowledge of God; belief in God is also somehow beyond reason or is inconsistent with reason. It is worth pointing out that both theists and atheists (as well as deists and pantheists) might agree in their epistemological commitments on the matter of justification and disagree as to whether or not that burden of justification has been met. That is, one who is committed to the evidentialist understanding of justification will be a theist if the available evidence supports belief in God, while that same committed evidentialist will be an atheist if they find the evidence to be lacking. Those of the former camp practice “natural theology,” a theology which holds that knowledge of God can be acquired by human reason without the aid of divine revelation. 2 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins Similarly, one might be committed to nonevidentialism and be a theist if one has the intuition that God exists, if one holds that it is beneficial to believe that God exists, or if one has faith that God exists. The same holds true for atheism; one who is not committed to a connection between evidence and belief might nevertheless assert that God does not exist because one simply does not feel God’s presence, because one deems it contrary to one’s best interests to believe in God, or because one otherwise lacks faith. WHY EVIDENTIALISM? There are several reasons why it might be necessary to provide evidence for the claims we make: First, evidentiary approaches have been more successful in facilitating scientific progress than non-evidentiary approaches have been, and many have taken this to mean that evidentiary approaches reveal the truth about the world. Thus, many argue that unless we have evidence of God’s existence, we are not justified in believing that God exists. Second, during the Enlightenment many successes in science and politics contradicted sometimes cherished traditional religious beliefs, and so the methods that had supported those beliefs – intuition, revelation, doctrinal authority – were deemed by many to be incapable of revealing the truth about anything. In the wake of progress many insisted that, if God’s existence can be proven, it must be proven in the same way that the existence of anything else is proven. Thus, the evidentialist takes as evidence only those claims that are not religious claims, and attempts to deduce or infer from them conclusions about religious matters. The drive to make and to evaluate evidentialist arguments for God’s existence was shared by skeptics and theists alike during the Enlightenment, and people tend to be interested in the subject for similarly diverse reasons today. Those skeptical of religious claims are interested in seeing if the available evidence supports belief in 3 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins God because they are interested in maintaining intellectual honesty and consistency. Those firmly committed to belief in God are interested in making evidentialist arguments for God’s existence because they want to demonstrate that belief is compatible with reason. Again, Natural theologians believe that such proofs for God’s existence can be provided, and in attempting to provide them they also attempt thereby to reconcile religious belief with reason. Others, however, attack such arguments on the basis that the evidence insufficiently supports the conclusion that God exists. Third, other epistemological tools that have been vetted through trial and error demand that evidence be provided in support of any claim. The principle of the “burden of proof,” articulated (not first, but well) by philosopher Anthony Flew, for example, holds that it is the job of someone making a claim to provide evidence of that claim, and that it is not the job of someone doubting a claim to show that the claim is false. If this were not the case, we would be forced to accept all kinds of ridiculous assertions as true merely because we could not prove them to be false. Fourth, some, like British thinker C.K. Clifford, argue that it is unethical to believe anything on the basis of insufficient evidence. Let us now investigate each of these reasons in greater depth. The Success of Evidence Philosophers have long thought it important to acquire evidence in support of a claim. Without evidence, claims can only be substantiated through non-evidentiary methods: through intuition – that is, our gut-feelings on a subject – through appeal to authority, and through appeal to usefulness. Unfortunately, these methods seem to have a poor track record of establishing true beliefs. For example, several hundred years ago it seemed intuitively obvious to most people that the sun revolved around the earth. Those that appealed to official Church doctrine were taught this theory of geocentrism. Those who challenged the Church on this matter often met with severe consequences, like imprisonment, and thus many people found it useful to agree with the Church. However, what was intuitive, what was 4 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins handed down by authority, and what was useful to believe all turned out to be false; the solar system is heliocentric. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the success of evidence-based epistemological theories was made evident by the success of the scientific revolution. The scientific revolution was a period marked by a dramatic break with prevailing dogma that allowed for a factual understanding of various phenomena to develop, from anatomy to physics. Andreas Vesalius published his De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body), the first modern anatomy textbook, which discredited Galenic medicine and correctly identified the heart as that which pumped blood throughout the body. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek constructed powerful microscopes that began the science of microbiology. William Gilbert published his On the Magnet and Magnetic Bodies, laying the ground for a science of magnetism and electricity. Tycho Brahe, Galileo Gallilei, and Johannes Kepler made important discoveries in astronomy and physics. Sir Isaac Newton published his Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), detailing classical mechanics, including the law of gravity. Sir Francis Bacon published his Novum Organum, detailing an early version of the scientific method that involved isolating the cause of natural phenomena. Together with Descartes’ Discourse on the Method, Bacon’s work paved the way for further advancements in chemistry, physics, medicine, biology, and the rest of the natural sciences. What all of these accomplishments had in common was that the people who made them rejected intuition and appeal to authority, including the authority of the Church, and relied instead on evidence. In fact, each of these thinkers had, in their own way, battled prevailing thought and Church doctrine to advance their science, sometimes at great personal expense. Galileo, for example, was sentenced to a lifetime of house arrest for advocating heliocentrism. And, presumably, these wonderful discoveries could not have been made unless there was something to the idea that evidence reveals the truth about the world. The same seems to hold true today – science and technology allow us to do marvelous things. They allow us to go to the moon, to send satellites to the edge of the solar system and beyond, and to view remote parts of the universe. They allow 5 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins us to perform open heart surgery, to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and cure diseases, and to understand how brain states affect mood and behavior. They are responsible for our smart phones, for our laptops, and for the internet that we use those laptops to surf. Science is responsible for the cars we drive. And every time we turn the key and the car starts, the medicine cures our ailment, or the rocket takes off, we have additional corroboration that science really does describe the world. It does not seem that science is right by accident. Even when the car doesn’t start or the rocket crashes, we can say that science describes the world, because evidence can be found to explain those events; and when such evidence is had in advance, those events can be avoided. Thus, if one wants to make a claim about something that is true of the world, namely that “God exists” in it, one might only be able to justifiably do so in the same way that one can make a claim about anything else in the world – through appeal to the evidence. The Challenge of the Enlightenment The scientific revolution led to the period in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries called the “Enlightenment,” a time of scientific and cultural flowering and of political upheaval that took place simultaneously in Europe and America. The Enlightenment was marked by an abandonment of the medieval world-view and of the authority of the Church, and was heralded by the ability of science to explain the natural world with ever-greater precision. Philosophy, which had until that time been constrained by religion, was also suddenly free to address matters other than religious matters, and to address them in ways that didn’t relate everything back to official Church doctrine. The central task, then, for any philosopher that deems it important to be intellectually honest and consistent, is to hold up belief in God to the same scrutiny that reveals other things about the world. And the central task for any theologian that seeks to defend religious precepts against modernism is to demonstrate that faith is compatible with reason by offering evidentialist arguments for God’s existence. Thus, both the skeptic and the faithful must ground belief in God in arguments that appeal to evidence, since this is the basis upon which arguments for 6 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins the existence of anything else must be grounded. The more that arguments for God rest on supernatural premises that cannot be proven, the less legitimate those arguments seem. Several sorts of evidence are acceptable to the evidentialist. One kind of evidence consists of beliefs in things which are “evident to the senses,” that is, of beliefs that arise empirically, directly from sense-experience. A different type of evidence is that which is “self-evident”, that is, that which is obvious rationalistically, upon reflection. Evidence may also include beliefs that are due directly to memory of sense-experiences and to introspection. The point is that the evidentialism characteristic of Enlightenment thought stipulates that no beliefs asserting the content of religious or mystical experiences are to count as evidence on their own, because these experiences are themselves dubious conclusions inconsistent with other things believed to be true and are therefore in need of justification. According to the evidentialist, the only available evidence for religious beliefs consists in non-religious premises, from which the religious beliefs can be deduced or otherwise inferred. Therefore, the only way of deciding whether religious beliefs are justified would be to examine various arguments with the non-religious beliefs as premises and the religious beliefs as conclusions. This is exactly what is attempted in natural theology. In offering arguments for God’s existence, natural theologians attempt to show that belief in God is compatible with the lessons of the Enlightenment. In criticizing such arguments on the basis of the evidence, atheists attempt to show that belief in God is unjustified. The Burden of Proof It is generally held that it is the job of someone making a claim to show that their claim is true, and that it is not the job of someone doubting a claim to show that the claim is false. This epistemological rule of thumb is helpful because it prevents us from accepting claims that we cannot prove to be false. For example, suppose that one is told by a friend that aliens exist. If one cannot prove that aliens do not exist, one forced to accept that aliens exist – unless one abides by the burden of proof. If one abides by the burden of proof, it is the job of 7 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins the person asserting the existence of aliens to show that aliens exist, and it is not the job of the person doubting the existence of aliens to excuse himself from believing in aliens by demonstrating their nonexistence. This is especially helpful in this case because the nonexistence of aliens cannot be proven if the universe is infinitely large; indeed, it may be impossible to prove the nonexistence of anything under any circumstances. If you are partial to the possible existence of aliens (as many scientists are), you may substitute the claim for any absurd claim you wish. “Obama is an African-born Muslim that sympathizes with Al-Qaeda,” “Johnson shot Kennedy,” and “Bush orchestrated 9/11 to justify protracted oil wars in the Middle East” are all claims of this sort – they are claims for which we would like to require evidence, because in the absence of evidence these claims are absurd. We do not want to endorse any epistemological theory that would have us accept these claims as true merely because we could not definitively prove them to be false. For these reasons, philosophers like Anthony Flew argue that, when it comes to God, there must be the “presumption of atheism.” It is the job of someone asserting God’s existence to demonstrate that God exists, and is not the job of someone doubting God’s existence to show that God does not exist. Evidentialism takes just such an approach. The Ethics of Belief Last in our collection of arguments favoring the need for evidence of God’s existence comes from philosopher W.K. Clifford, who argued that it is always unethical to believe any proposition on the basis of insufficient evidence. Clifford invites us to imagine the captain of a ship who convinces himself that his vessel is seaworthy despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary. The captain allows himself to believe that the vessel will be fine on its next voyage even though it is quite literally falling apart, and even though he knows it is falling apart. If the ship sinks and lives are lost, no one would contest the idea that the captain had committed a moral wrong. But Clifford thinks that the captain has also behaved 8 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins unethically even if no passengers drown, since they survived merely by accident. As he writes: “When an action is once done, it is right or wrong for ever; no accidental failure of its good or evil fruits can possibly alter that. The man would not have been innocent, he would only have been not found out.” To use a modern example, consider a drunk driver that convinces himself it is OK to drive. Although he has evidence to the contrary, he may elect to ignore the evidence. If he makes it home safely without injuring himself or anyone else, he has still committed a moral wrong because the others on the road survived despite his actions; they survived merely by good fortune, and not because the drunk driver took measures to ensure he wouldn’t kill them. When it comes to God, then, Clifford thinks that we are similarly obliged to refrain from believing unless the evidence warrants it. Belief in God entails a variety of rules and practices that affect one’s life and the lives of others, including (but not limited to) dietary restrictions, social restrictions, prohibitions on sexual conduct, guidelines about marriage, and, sometimes, impositions on life itself. Unsubstantiated belief that one ought to abide by such rules sometimes has disastrous consequences. But even when belief does not have disastrous consequences, Clifford would still hold unsubstantiated belief to be unethical because the disastrous consequences would be avoided merely by accident in the same way that the negligent captain and the drunk driver avoid disastrous consequences merely by accident. Some Evangelical Christian groups, for example, respond to an alleged Biblical mandate to refrain from premarital sex by advocating abstinence-only sex education for teenagers. Such abstinence-only education excludes information about birth-control and condoms. These movements are generally unsuccessful, however, since most teenagers end up having sex, and not usually with their future spouses. As a consequence, there are higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies among those who are part of abstinence-only groups than there are among teenagers generally. This coupled with the fact that Evangelicals oppose abortion, and in light of the statistics pertaining to the quality life that can be expected for unplanned children and their parents – total lifetime earnings, 9 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins reports of subjective well-being, frequency of interaction with social services, frequency of incarceration, frequency of suicide, frequency of divorce, frequency of mood disorder, and so on – makes it unethical, in the view of many, to harbor unsubstantiated religious beliefs about sexual behavior and about obligations to the unborn. Additionally, when claims cannot be supported by evidence, they are often enforced by fiat, resulting in much human suffering. Philosopher Bertrand Russell speaks to this in his essay “Is There a God?”: Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time. However, Clifford would say that such beliefs, if unsubstantiated, are still unethical even if no harm results, because in these cases the harm is only avoided by accident. The teenager who is part of the abstinence-only education program and who, despite being denied information about condoms and birth control, manages to have sex without contracting a disease or becoming pregnant, has still been harmed by those who facilitated the abstinence-only curriculum because she has escaped the more disastrous consequences only accidentally. The creative mind who challenges the official Church doctrine without being excommunicated has similarly just gotten lucky. For Clifford, it is the holding of unsubstantiated beliefs that is itself unethical, and undesirable results of those beliefs are not required to make them unethical. 10 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins Clifford asserts that we must accept only those beliefs that are verified by evidence, out of a duty to promote the interests of mankind: “It is the sense of power attached to a sense of knowledge that makes men desirous of believing, and afraid of doubting….This sense of power is the highest and best of pleasures when the belief on which it is founded is a true belief, and has been fairly earned by investigation. For then we may justly feel that it is common property, and holds good for others as well as for ourselves. Then we may be glad, not that I have learned secrets by which I am safer and stronger, but that we men have got mastery over more or the world; and we shall be strong, not for ourselves, but in the name of Man and in his strength. But if the belief has been accepted on insufficient evidence, the pleasure is a stolen one. Not only does it deceive ourselves by giving us a sense of power which we do not really possess, but it is sinful, because it is stolen in defiance of our duty to mankind. That duty is to guard ourselves from such beliefs as from a pestilence, which may shortly master our own body and then spread to the rest of the town….Every time we let ourselves believe for unworthy reasons, we weaken our powers of self-control, of doubting, or judicially and fairly weighing evidence.” The Limits of Evidence Note that we can insist on evidence without asserting that all claims supported by evidence are true; which is a good thing, because it simply isn’t the case that supporting evidence guarantees truth. Also note that it is advantageous to appeal to evidence despite the fact that evidence doesn’t certify the truth of any claim. It is undeniable that even when we go beyond gut feelings and authority and construct more elaborate justifications for belief, the world is not always as it appears to be and our best-reasoned arguments can sometimes be wrong. One can find factual supporting evidence for the false claim that the sun revolves around the earth: when one stands still outdoors, one experiences the sun moving across the sky; the earth’s motion is imperceptible to its residents; Ptolemaic astronomy is internally consistent in its explanations of planetary motion. Nevertheless, the earth revolves around the sun, and the failure of the evidence available in the twelfth 11 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins century, say, to persuade common folk otherwise should not be taken as a sign that intuition is just as informative (or uninformative) a tool as evidence in discovering the truth. On some epistemological accounts a claim only counts as knowledge if we have evidence for believing a proposition. Further, the astronomy, cartography, mathematics, and space travel that allowed us to eventually establish and corroborate the concept of the heliocentric solar system were only themselves made possible by commitment to evidentiary methods. Evidence doesn’t get its value by guaranteeing the truth, but by increasing our chances of discovering the truth. WHY NON-EVIDENTIALISM? Not everyone is convinced by the arguments which maintain that objective evidence for the existence of God is necessary to justify religious belief. Some, like epistemological pragmatist William James, assert that the truth about the world may be less important than the beliefs we find to be useful about the world. Further, James notes that we are often led to act with only incomplete knowledge, and that the evidence we cite in non-religious matters may not be as complete or as compelling as it at first seems. Thus, believing in the face of incomplete knowledge, James says, is quite rational. Others claim that knowing the existence of God for certain is likely to be impossible, and assert that more practical considerations must come into force when deciding whether or not to believe. Such considerations enter into the analysis of philosopher Blaise Pascal, who advocates approaching the issue of belief in the same way that one might approach a bet – with an eye towards maximizing gain and minimizing risk. Pascal argues that since God’s existence is unknowable to us, we ought to nevertheless believe in God, because the rewards for believing are great and the risks negligible, while the rewards for not believing are small and the risks incalculably bad. Given that the punishment for not believing is eternal damnation, Pascal says, it is perfectly reasonable to believe in the absence of evidence, just to be safe. Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish existentialist, also believes that knowledge of God will forever elude us. Kierkegaard, unlike Pascal, however, is a fideist, and captures 12 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Professor Daniel G. Jenkins the stance quite well in saying that God purposefully withholds evidence of his existence so that one may choose to believe; such choice, Kierkegaard says, is impossible if one is confronted with evidence. Thus, the only way that one apprehends God’s existence is through belief, not through knowledge. Lastly, Immanuel Kant, while claiming that knowledge of God will always be beyond us, makes a moral argument that belief in God is justified if such belief is required to prevent the world from descending into anarchy. Since the desire to prevent the world from descending into anarchy is rational, it is thus rational to believe in God even if there is no evidence for God’s existence. Exploring these positions in greater depth is the focus of what is to come. First, we will address popular evidentialist arguments for God’s existence. Then, we will cover the non-evidentialist approaches that have been mentioned here. 13 Reason, Knowledge, and Belief Review Questions 1. What is epistemology? How is it relevant to the philosophy of religion? involved with the study of the nature of knowledge 2. What is evidentialism? What is nonevidentialism? What is fideism? Belief is justified if and only if its reason is proven through consistency or rational thinking Factors that give rise to the belief in god can only apply to that of knowing god. While one can believe in god without evidence, this can only rest on faith. 3. In what two major ways have evidentiary approaches to knowledge been successful? How do these successes support the idea that evidentialism is epistemologically preferred, if not epistemologically necessary? 4. Briefly describe three discoveries made during the scientific revolution that were a direct result of commitment to the evidentiary approach to knowledge. 5. What was the Enlightenment? Explain how the Enlightenment challenged theists to make evidentialist arguments for God’s existence. Explain how the Enlightenment challenged atheists to evaluate evidentialist arguments for God’s existence. 6. What is the burden of proof? In general, why is the burden of proof useful? When applied to the issue of God’s existence, what does the burden of proof demand? It is the job of someone asserting god’s existence to prove he exists. It is generally useful when someone is trying to assert their point by tackling all false accusations. When applied to god, the burden of proof demands whomever makes a claim must be able to prove god’s existence. 7. How does Bertrand Russell argue that harm can result from beliefs about God? How does the fact that harm can result from religious beliefs support the idea that it is morally obligatory to believe only those propositions that can be rationally justified? Introlerable presumptions on the part of human to doubt it. Instances in which there is no resulting harm are unethical bc harm wasn’t completely avoided 8. Explain how W.K. Clifford argues that it is unethical to believe a proposition on the basis of insufficient evidence even if no harm results to others as a consequence. What example does Clifford use to make his argument? Explain how this example supports Clifford’s point. 9. If there is evidence for a proposition, does this guarantee that the proposition is true? Why or why not? No, people the evidence has to be analyzed and proven through consistency and epistemological tests before the evidence is considered true and not all evidence completely proves a proposition to be completely true, it could simply be the piece of a puzzle.
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