About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Friday, January 01, 2010

From the APA: is faith a virtue?

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine that a bunch of philosophers have to ask the question at all, the answer for me is obviously no. But ok, let’s see what happens here. We have two speakers: Robert Audi (Notre Dame) on “Faith, faithfulness and virtue” and John Schellenberg (Mount Saint Vincent, Halifax-Canada) on “How to make faith a virtue.” (Interestingly, both speakers come from Catholic Universities — coincidence?)
Audi distinguishes between blind and non-blind faith, and between religious and secular faith (the latter being “faith” in your family, country, democracy, etc.). Right off the bat we are into silly territory: first, I find the whole idea of non-blind faith nonsensical, if it ain’t blind then there are reasons for the belief, which means it’s not faith. As for “faith” in family, country, institutions, etc., if it is blind, it is just as irrational and dangerous as the religious variety, and if it is not blind, then see above (it should be called trust, or belief, etc.).
Audi sees faithfulness — not surprisingly — as a virtue (I’d call it a vice). For him, however, faith is different from, say, justice, in the sense that the latter tends to be directed toward all others (when we are being just, we are not just only with regard to some people), while faith is typically directed to a subset of subjects (you are faithful to your family, or country, or god, but not other families, countries, or gods).
He then finally moves to the real issue: Christian faith (ah, I thought so!). He claims that this sort of faith implies having moral virtues, it is a virtue of character. His big example is Christians (ideally, as we know) treating others as ends in themselves (as Kant would have put it), rather than as means to other ends. Right, but since we can easily get there following an entirely secular route (as Kant himself showed), then why do we need the Christian mumbo-jumbo about god, the trinity, original sin, and so on and so forth?
Audi says that we can be faithful to someone we do not have faith in. This is certainly empirically true, but should we? If my partner betrays my trust in some major way, should I keep unwavering faith in her, or would it be both more rational and more just to question my trust in her? But of course if I question my trust, it automatically means that I did not have faith to begin with, but rather a conditional form of belief. Frankly, I see the latter as the only reasonable, and in fact ethical, relationship to other humans (at least adults, the case is more complicated for children given their temporary immaturity of character).
Time to move to Schellenberg’s talk on how to make faith a virtue (good luck). He says that virtue, rather by definition, is something that is admirable or desirable for a person to have (indeed, which is why I don’t think faith fits the bill). He wants to propose that “nondoxastic” faith, i.e. faith-that without belief-that, is a virtue. Oh boy.
The possibility of nondoxastic faith is exemplified by a woman who found herself in a potentially life-threatening situation while hiking on ice. She “had faith” that she would make it, despite her (alleged) lack of belief that she would actually make it. Bad example for a large number of reasons. First off, how do we know that she didn’t believe in the possibility of making it? Just on the basis of subjective self-report? Second, perhaps she had a very low level of belief, since beliefs don’t often come in yes/no versions, but that low level was enough to motivate her to try. Third, regardless of issues of faith, it was simply the rational thing to do for her to try to get out of danger anyway, even if her chances were close to zero, for she would have certainly died otherwise. Fourth, one could easily construe an example where irrational faith (I know, redundant) is actually positively harmful to an individual’s physical or psychological health.
Here are the author’s examples of the good that nondoxastic faith can do in a secular world: faith in the possibility of knowledge in the face of radical skepticism; faith in personal worth to overcome addiction or depression; socially, in pursuing friendship and cooperation; and morally, to reject the idea that there are no moral absolutes.
These seem to me all perfect examples of instances where one does not need faith, but reason: I don’t have faith in the possibility of knowledge, I have good evidence that human knowledge can improve over time (though it certainly isn’t boundless); addiction and depression are complex problems that depend on a combination of external circumstances and internal biochemical imbalances, and it seems to me that reason is a better guidance for addressing both constructively (to the point that it is possible) rather than “faith”; I think I have better ways than faith to see the cooperation of my fellow human beings and to establish friendship, since I happen to know enough about human needs and frailties to be able to navigate the human social universe qua human; finally, there are in fact no moral absolutes, dude, but that doesn’t imply that moral relativism is the only game in town — again, we get ourselves out of this particular ditch by the power of reason.
Finally, Schellenberg comes to nondoxastic faith in the religious dimension. Here is where his thoughts become seriously confused. The author seems to argue that religious faith can help us reject both “pure skepticism” and “naturalism” (i.e., a science-informed philosophy). But while I can see the (pragmatic, not substantial) rejection of skepticism as inevitable if we want to have a life, it seems to me that rejection of naturalism (presumably in favor of supernaturalism) is a really bad move, essentially the very same bad move that has been made by a large part of humanity over and over in the course of centuries, and which has caused much suffering and a large waste of human resources.
It is not by chance, I think, that Schellenberg toward the end mentioned one of the most irritating concepts in modern philosophy: William James’ “will to believe,” the last refuge of the rationally-challenged believer. It has always seemed to me to be a perfect example of taking the blue pill (in the now famous metaphor out of The Matrix), a choice that I find both unethical and highly dangerous.


  1. When someone seemingly intelligent and reasonable uses a term like "nonblind faith" that seems like a contradiction in terms to you, the most likely explanation is that you haven't understood what they mean by the term. Not all religion matches your stereotype of its worst manifestation.

    Real communication often needs a significant amount of translation. Sometimes translation needs to happen in stages. Eg, a nonreligious atheist can communicate more easily with a religious tradition that does not stress theism or belief: such traditions are a small minority, but they do exist. Terms in that tradition can be translated into something like mainstream Christianity more easily.

    To start this process, try the psychological state of "surrender" as a translation for "nonblind faith". Forget about a relationship between "faith" and "belief": you are on the wrong track. It's about relinquishing control at the psychological level. God is a common prop for doing so, but not essential to the story.

    Another explanation that matches these examples well could come from the Bhagavad Gita. One can see faith as its core philosophy of making every possible effort, while releasing all attachment to the fruits of that effort. Psychologically, it's not about trying "just in case" it works, when the probability is barely above zero. It's about focusing with full undivided effort on the trying while psychologically letting go of the prospect of success.

    Rationality is obviously important, but even the best-trained humans are not strictly rational. The non-rational aspects of the human mind also need to be exploited and trained as a means to producing the (rationally) best outcome. Eg, you brought up addiction. Surrender or faith in some form, with or without "belief" in a higher power, is a key part in the scientifically-proven methods to overcome addiction (eg AA).

    You admit that pragmatic rejection of skepticism is "inevitable if we want to have a life". Taking this same thought further might give an even better life.

  2. "As for “faith” in family, country, institutions, etc., if it is blind, it is just as irrational and dangerous as the religious variety, and if it is not blind, then see above (it should be called trust, or belief, etc.)."

    I think most speakers of English would agree that the term "faith," as commonly used, includes what you call "trust" here. For example, the very first entry in the OED for "faith" reads "Confidence, reliance, trust" and the second reads "Belief proceeding from reliance on testimony or authority." You may have a problem with the fact that the term, as typically used, includes both blind and non-blind faith; that's a fair point. But you must at least acknowledge that the usage you're advocating here is non-standard.

  3. I've really enjoyed these past several posts.

  4. Is it any wonder that philosophy has such a bad rep? Mostly it seems to be word games to justify prior commitments.

  5. Joanna,

    well, what you suggest is a possibility. Another is that an awful lot of smart people twist themselves into logical pretzels just so that they can rationalize their absurd beliefs...


    yes, the common use of "faith" does include trust, but philosophers definitely make a distinction there, so there is no excuse for these speakers to play on that confusion.


    this was by far the worst session I've seen, and so not representative of philosophy. Do you care to know how many really awful talks I listened to when I was a scientist?

  6. "this was by far the worst session I've seen, and so not representative of philosophy."

    Nevertheless, I appreciate your summarizations. None of them were earth-shaking, but most philosophy isn't anyway. Kinda like science. (Did you see the most recent xkcd cartoon?) But it's nice to get a sense of what some of the ideas being kicked around are without necessarily having to slog through a copious body of spoken or written word to do so.

  7. The Abraham/Isaac story is usually pointed to in the Judeo/Christian tradition as an example of blind faith. But that interpretation misses the mark.
    A current textbook on the philosophy of religion [Faith] is typical in its assessment of the story of Abraham: "This story is the archetypal example of faith as trusting obedience to God." Penelhum, like others, takes the story out of context to assess it. But this story of Abraham and Isaac is a part of a larger narrative, a narrative which has shown important events that have already occurred in the earlier relationship with God. For example, in an earlier scene God has said to Abraham: "I will maintain My covenant with him [Isaac] as an everlasting covenant for his offspring to come." (Gen. 17.19) Thus, Abraham has reasons to believe that God will not kill Isaac - in fact, he has the word of God.

    Instead of a set piece on blind obedience the story is a report of rational action.

  8. I think there is a problem with the use of "faith" as a substitute for "belief" and it seems to me that the speakers may be guilty of confusing the two concepts. Neither would seem to be a "virtue." But, I think we can maintain that one belief may be more reasonable than another (in the sense that it may be better grounded), and question whether it can be contended one faith is more reasonable than another, in that sense.

    All Christian philosophers I have read seem ultimately to rely on concepts which are not peculiarly Christian, in the sense that such concepts were or can be arrived at and justified without reference to Christ's divinity, or his teachings (e.g. by Kant, as you note; or the ancient pagan philosphers, for that matter). In their place, I would find this quite depressing.

  9. Massimo,

    You wrote, “but since we can easily get there [to morality] following an entirely secular route (as Kant himself showed), then why do we need the Christian mumbo-jumbo about god, the trinity, original sin, and so on and so forth?”

    While I agree that we can know moral truths in other ways apart from “Christian mumbo-jumbo” – from rational, pragmatic, and considerations of conscience – these latter sources do not carry with them the authoritative or transcendent quality that gives life to morality.

    Let me illustrate. It is not enough that morality is the result of natural laws or processes. Buddhists believe that morality is the product of the natural law of KARMA. For them, as there are natural laws of physics, there are also natural laws of morality.

    However, such a foundation for morality isn’t adequate. We can adapt our situations to physical laws. While it would be imprudent to jump off a 20 storey building, we have learned that we can do this with bungee cords, parachutes, or trampolines. I much as I might hate the idea of jumping with a bungee cord, it’s not an indictable crime. However, we intuitively know that moral laws are of a different nature. We can’t commit genocide simply because of some technological innovations.

    We intuitively know (and need to know) that this violates a transcendent Authority. If morality is just about a chemical-electrical reaction, then we shouldn’t even talk about moral truths, but instead of a pill that can silence our troublesome conscience.

  10. Bob,
    That is a very nice assessment of the times and situation that Abraham lived through and as well that his faith was by no means blind faith. I think God permitted Abraham to only take Isaac to certain point proving that the pagan cultures he was surrounding by were distinct and separate from the God that Abraham was following.

    As the facilitator of the Truth Project Dr. Del Tackett explained: "Culture’s reference to “people of faith” – faith in WHAT? Our faith is not faith in faith or hope in hope. We are to have faith like a child, but what does that mean? It means that their trust in their mother or father overcomes their feelings and inclinations. They don’t want to jump off that diving board into that deep water; but the faith that their daddy will catch them is what conquers their fear."


    What causes or inspires faith is knowing God. (Knowing "Adonai" or YWHW)

  11. "Yes, the common use of "faith" does include trust, but philosophers definitely make a distinction there, so there is no excuse for these speakers to play on that confusion."

    Perhaps I misinterpreted your opening then, because I thought you were saying that Robert Audi was entering "silly territory" precisely by making that distinction upfront. It seems strange to me that he would make the distinction only to abuse it later.

  12. Massimo Pigliucci wrote the following: if it ain’t blind then there are reasons for the belief, which means it’s not faith

    Do you have faith that your friend wont steal from you? Assuming you have friends who've been to your house and seen your possessions, the answer is Yes. You can't know for sure that they wont, but you've probably given them plenty of opportunity to do without anything being stolen.

    So, is this conclusion reasoning or faith? The answer is "both". They haven't stolen from you, so it's reasonable to assume they wont do so in the future. However, I'm betting you rarely (if ever) go through this thought process. You simply trust them, and unless shown why you should do otherwise, are willing to expect that they wont. This, Massimo, is faith.

    As others have said here, you're using a limited definition of faith. Consult a dictionary and you'll find that the word is synonymous with trust - the latter word including but not being limited to "blind trust".

  13. Bleah.

    Despite all my past experience, I still get tempted to try to reason with those who use reason like a fashion accessory.

    Is that faith?

  14. Showing that we perhaps use faith more often than we might imagine (or wish to) is a rather desperate attempt to legitimize something that cannot gain respect in any other way. In almost every situation, and certainly where it is possible, reason and rationality is preferable, and more importantly, can be shown to be a more fruitful approach, on average, than faith. I can think of few, if any, objections to that, and plenty of examples from every area of life, that show that it is, in some sense, at least, true.

    Whether we are talking about academic pursuits, which often place a very high value on strict methodology, vigorous criticism, and testability, in whatever form it takes, right through to the most mundane things that we all do, like paying bills, for example, most, if not almost all people, take a relatively systematic approach to overcoming challenges. There is clearly much variation, and it is certainly true that we have a long way to go before it can be said that we are anything like a reasonable species in that regard, but crucially, very few people of what we would consider sound mind would tell others to turn to faith, as opposed to an ever more systematic and well thought out approach, if what they were doing wasn't working.

    As an example, few of us have faith that we will wake up on time each and every morning, which is why we buy an alarm clock. Those that do (have faith) soon find out that it isn't a particularly fruitful approach. And we learn from experience that certain activities take a certain amount of time, and so, we plan our lives around this knowledge. Where we find a fruitful approach to a certain activity, most of us stick with that approach, and though often not realizing it, we test the boundaries to see if we can improve on it. Clearly we are not always rigorous, and people often believe things with seemingly no rational reason to do so, but I honestly don't see how that can be used as example that somehow falsifies, or at least, throws in to doubt, the idea that it is almost always preferable to tackle any problem by systematically evaluating all evidence before you, and learning from the experience of others, particularly if it is understood why one approach is more fruitful than all others.

    Now, I imagine that some will attempt to argue that much of this requires at least some faith that, say, the alarm clock will actually work, but that appears to me to be a misuse of the word. We trust that it will because it has done so for the six months since we bought it, and there is really no reason to refer to it as "faith" in the way that most people use the term, firstly, because most people don't consciously think about "using" it in those instances, and they certainly don't spend time arguing for its virtuous nature, and secondly, because it is an equivocation between what people mean when they claim that faith is a virtue in a religious sense, and the kind of trust/"faith" that is justified by knowledge.

    It should be obvious that using trust and faith intermittently in this way, and applying it to all situations, no matter how justified, is an attempt to confuse, rather than inform, because it effectively means that everything is an example of faith. And if everything is, the entire concept becomes meaningless and incoherent. In other words, there has to be a method of discrimination, and just as importantly, a language, that allow us to distinguish between very different modes of inquiry. If modes of inquiry that demonstrably allow us to attain ever closer approximations of truth, and which are extremely useful in furthering knowledge, are lumped in with those that have a terrible track record in that regard, we are abandoning the useful mode of inquiry so that we can salvage the useless, for no other reason than a desire to legitimize something that does not and cannot convince by virtue of it being rationally justifiable.

  15. Whateverman,

    no, I don't have "faith" that my friends will not steal from me. I trust them not to do so because of both past experience and my judgment of their characters (based on their actions).

    I am not using a "limited" definition of faith, I am trying to usefully differentiate real faith (the blind kind) from trust/belief (which is based on evidence and reason).

    Dictionaries are not the best source for philosophical discourse.

  16. "Dictionaries are not the best source for philosophical discourse."

    Dictionaries aren't a source for philosophical discourse, but given that much of philosophy aims to clarify everyday intuitions about the meanings of words, it seems to me that the dictionary is one of the first books a philosopher ought to open!

    In any case, I completely agree that using "faith" to refer to both blind and non-blind faith/"trust" without making any distinctions is deceptive. But making an absolute distinction between them is also deceptive. Although they are not the same thing, they are related, and there's a reason the term "faith" may refer to both in everyday speech. We cannot banish uncertainty entirely; we can only assume that things of which we are ignorant will have predictably random effects. We have no way of knowing whether that assumption is valid -- it's rational, but it's also blind. To me, refusing to call that "faith" seems, at the very least, like an inelegant use of language.

    I think the appropriate way to argue against religious faith is not to build some kind of artificial wall between faith and science, but by pointing out that science leaves a lot less up to faith!

  17. To all those who complain about a "limited" definition of the word faith:

    You (and the cited speakers) are using what is an all too common trick of apologists, redefining words to suit your preconceived conclusions. If you can muddy the waters so much that we use the same term for religious faith as for a reasonable, experience-based belief, religious faith will gain some credibility, or so you and they hope.

    However, it still remains unfounded, while the other is not! To differentiate, we would just have to define a new term for unfounded beliefs to distinguish them from the reasonable forms of "faith sensu lato", let us say agleblarg. Then we look at religion to see that it fulfills the criterion of being unfounded, therefore it is agleblarg while believing that my friends will most probably not steal from me is not agleblarg and presto!, you are where you started.

    How about finding some evidence to build your beliefs on instead of playing with definitions?

  18. "...redefining words to suit your preconceived conclusions."

    Well, as I think I've made abundantly clear, I'm not redefining anything. The term faith has long been used to refer to justified trust. I intended my very first post to express skepticism about excluding "trust" from "faith," which I felt to be a manipulative redefinition of the term. Perhaps I was mistaken; perhaps there is a long-standing philosophical tradition of using "trust" this way. If there is, then I retract my criticism.

    I'm not an apologist for religion and I could care less for its credibility. I am a critic of excessive claims of certainty.

    "To differentiate, we would just have to define a new term for unfounded beliefs"

    No, we don't have to define a new term. A commonly-recognized term already exists: "blind faith." Defining a new term smacks of the very strategy you're criticizing -- redefining words to suit preconceived conclusions.

  19. Mintman, rather than call for evidence, how about responding to the evidence that I already cited? Namely the success of AA in treating addiction and the critical importance of surrender to a higher power (whether God or an abstract concept of the universe at large) in their methods. Or are you going to play on definitions yourself and say that this isn't what is meant by faith...?

  20. What I meant is not that I see the need now to sneakily redefine anything, but that after a successful redefinition by apologists we would be left without a word that would mean what faith means now, and therefore would have to invent a new one.

    You are right, the qualifier "blind" makes it even clearer. Nevertheless, how faith is commonly used, especially around the religion issue, already includes the unfoundedness in its definition. As a theologian once in a discussion with Dawkins explained his continuing religious belief after admitting that he had no reasonable grounds: "well yes, there is a reason why it is called faith." Or as Massimo already indicated, I do not have faith in my wife, but trust. Conflating these words serves an agenda.

  21. @Joanna

    I do not feel that I am "playing definitions", but using them as they are commonly understood. And even if some people use a self-serving different definition, Massimo's entire point was that these are two different types of "faith", and that we would do well to differentiate them! He gave reasons for that, too.

    In that vein, I do not grasp how the word faith applies to any of your examples. What higher power? I subject to the authority of my government because of reason, not because I made a leap of faith. The universe at large? You think it is faith that allows me to interact with the universe? Not at all, it is based on experience. Fire hot. I know because I experienced it before, maybe even burned a finger as a child. Wall solid. I know because I cannot pass through. Gravity. I know because I never spontaneously drifted upwards. Etc. Not faithy at all.

    The AA connection is a closed book to me - what does the concept of self-help groups have to do with faith?

  22. Scott,

    the point is that those two meanings of "faith" are conceptually distinct, and we should keep them that way (philosophy is, after all, a lot about conceptual clarification). And it would be much clearer for discussions if we retained "faith" to indicate one and "trust" to name the other. Terminological confusion only aids the obfuscatory approach of theologians.


    there is pretty good evidence that AA doesn't work any more or less than secular equivalents, which means that "faith" has nothing to do with it, it's the result of group dynamics and counseling. Besides, even if faith worked as a placebo effect (which I'm sure it does, in certain cases) I hardly think that's a good argument in favor of treating it as a "virtue." A psychological crouch, at best.

  23. There are definitely different types of faith, requiring different terms. The distinction blind vs nonblind seems as good a place to start as any for me. If you have a better scheme, please propose it. But you have to recognise that somebody out there might be trying to communicate a concept that is genuinely unfamiliar to you, and be open to distinctions proposed by them to reveal it. ALL of your examples are about beliefs. There is an aspect of faith that has nothing whatsoever to do with belief one way or the other. It's not the only aspect of course, but it's there.

    As for AA, as I understand it from listening to participants, one critical part of their method is surrender to something way beyond the self. They don't advertise this fact widely. They certainly don't evangelise. They aren't interested in any particular religious belief. There are atheist participants who have succeeded in interpreting this in a way that works for them, although obviously things are more straightforward for theists. They encourage any interpretation that works, because it helps.

  24. Massimo, when dealing with psychological and behavioral health, placebos are among the best tools we have, and faith is a biggie. The best pharmaceuticals mostly don't do all that better, and the evidence for many of them is marginal and flawed.

    I agree that in my sense, faith is not a "virtue". It is, however, a psychological technique for achieving one's goals. So in some circumstances, faith might be an assistance to virtue. Or its opposite, of course. But I really have no idea what virtue means, to be honest.

  25. Massimo: The source of my confusion is that according to your account, Audi did distinguish between those two meanings of faith.

    Furthermore, he did so using familiar terms in a standard way. Using "faith" and "trust" contrastively, on the other hand, smacks of jargon, at least to me.

    This argument could go in circles for a long time. Religious apologists and scientistic philosophers (not that anyone here is either!) both have a vested interest in redefining the term, which is why I prefer the most conventional possible usage.

  26. Scott,

    Audi did indeed distinguish between the two forms, and then proceeded to equivocate between them, as it is usually the case for religionists. Besides, I was objecting to his calling "non blind faith" faith, the only purpose of which could be to wish to equivocate.

    More generally, please don't put theologians in the same category as philosophers, it irks my professional sensibilities, and I hope you were not accusing me of scientism, considering the amount of writing I have done criticizing scientistic attitudes.

  27. It is true that "faith in" and "surrender to" powers greater than oneself are often used interchangeably, and that usage definitely isn't predeterminately "blind" or not. Examples: You can surrender to the inevitability of events, such as "If I don't finish crossing this ice I will certainly die here, so I will try to do it," or to an idea that has no empirical basis, such as "If I put my faith in God I can summon the courage to finish crossing this ice."

    I actually do see the latter as a useful psychological tool, used when the simple necessity of doing something does not provide enough impetus for someone to overcome an internal deadlock. A "leap of faith" is not in and of itself a bad thing at all, if used to maintain the composure necessary to cope with a crisis effectively. The problem comes in when it becomes endemic, leading people to perpetually default to a crisis-management mechanism to get through their days.

    The fact that a successful leap of faith is rewarded with endorphins and adrenaline is probably much more of a compelling aspect than people realize.

  28. Hmmm. I don't recall referring to any theologian. (Audi appears to be a professor of Business Ethics.) And my parenthetical remark above was entirely sincere. I know you are a critic of scientistic attitudes. I was simply observing that religionists, as you so aptly put it, are not the only people with a motive to redefine the term "faith."

  29. Wiki - "Robert Audi (born November 1941) is an American philosopher whose major work has focused on epistemology, ethics—especially on ethical intuitionism, and the theory of action. He is Professor of Philosophy and David E. Gallo Professor of Business Ethics at the University of Notre Dame."

    philpapers - "Robert Audi (ed.) (1999). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. -
    Widely acclaimed as the most authoritative and accessible one-volume dictionary available in English (and now with translations into Chinese, Korean, Russian, Italian, and Spanish underway) this second edition offers an even richer, more comprehensive, and more up-to-date survey of ideas and thinkers written by an international team of 436 contributors."

  30. Jeez-us H. Christ! When otherwise intelligent PHILOSOPHERS start talking nonsense like this, I just...well, lose faith. (He he.) I know there's a possibility that you've misinterpreted something (and a smaller possiblity that you've misinterpreted everything), but I've seen this all before among philosophers. It's just all too plausible--I guess I have 'faith' in you, buddy! I use 'faith' like this to say that I agree with you, you hit the nail on the head. Faith is either blind, or it's not. If not, it's not faith. If it is, it's stupid and willful ignorance, not things that are virtuous in anyone's book!

  31. "not things that are virtuous in anyone's book!"

    Gonna have to disagree with that one on the low-hanging-basis that it is most certainly a virtue in some people's Book. :p

    Irregardfullessly, by the way & for the record, I never said I was a philosopher.

    I guess to me the issue of the parent article was pretty well exhausted. On a strength of the foregone didactic argument, I offer no objection at this time to the premise that the phenomenon of faith-as-defined-via-rather-convenient-dichotomy is not a virtue-as-defined.

    Okay. I get that. It's not a subtle point you're making, Melvin. (Who can call that one? C'mon, movie buffs.) Throw another bean on the reason side of the scale. Woo! Go reason!

    Perhaps it did not occur to you that we might also be capable of carrying on a related conversation on slightly broader terms here. (At the very same time! I know! Amazing, huh?) That is, unless someone with more clout than a mere 'tude provides actually cares to curtail it.

    So anyway...

    (brushing cracker crumbs and spittle from lapels)

    ...as I was saying, faith qua surrender (let's call that "agleblarg" -- no wait, that's already been taken in an exquisitely framed post which I thoroughly enjoyed earlier! Damn! -- okay, we'll call it "surrender" then -- no, because surrender means a lot of things that aren't that, and now we're just trying to find a surrogate home for a perfectly valid sense of the word faith because the reasonistas gerrymandered it out of the district -- well, screw them! I'm planting my flag right here! "Faith qua surrender," it is!) is a different phenomenon than faith-as-defined-via-false-dichotomy, it may be blind or non-blind, and it may in some circumstances confer some advantages in terms of coping with a crisis. In those specific instances, it does not seem unreasonable to describe this version of faith as something that is desirable for a person to have, which meets the standard of virtue-as-defined.

    Therefore, whatEVAH yo! Whachoo gon' do 'bout it? Yeah, that's what I thought! Uh huh!


  32. "More generally, please don't put theologians in the same category as philosophers, it irks my professional sensibilities"

    See my post above and lets say... oh to bad for you.

  33. Luke,

    my comment about theologians vs. philosophers was general, in response to another comment. Still, Audi sounded a hell of a lot like a Christian apologist to me, regardless of what his official position is. You know, creationist-in-chief Duane Gish is a legitimate biochemist...

  34. Facts suck don't they. Like one being this guy is a philosopher, you drew a pretty clear line, hard to draw it any deeper.

  35. Luke,

    what exactly did you not understand in my clarification that led to that unnecessarily sarcastic tone?

  36. Jebus, and I thought I was being kind in a way.

    Michael Behe is a Christian apologist and a creationist. He is also a biochemist, being a biochemist does not make him also not a biochemist.

    If I were a biochemist it would be illogical in the same type of argument to say; don't put that creationist is the same league as biochemist.

    A is A, A can not also be B. No matter how much those facts seem counter intuitive. As Richard Feynman said: After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

  37. Still think you didn't really get my explanation, but whatever. Nice, if irrelevant, use of the principle of identity.

  38. When I have discussions with people about my views on faith, i.e., that it is valueless at best and hurtful at worst, I am sure to emphasize the difference between religious faith and the vernacular use of the word faith, used to refer to confidence and trust. I "have faith" in my close friends, because I trust and have confidence in them. This clarification leaves, for the purpose of discussion, all faith squarely in the category of "blind faith," a ridiculous, damaging and willfully ignorant stance to take on any matter.


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