You'll recall that for the guy who wanted to be put BACK into the Matrix that the beef and the red-dress woman were real enough. What was really real wasn't relevant to him. Sadly, knowing the beef is real might mean that in reality it's just moldering, fatty hamburger. Knowing the woman is real might mean knowing that you had too much to drink the night you thought she was pretty or that her dress was red.Blosser:
True. The philosophically relevant point is that not caring about existence, but only for essence (actually accidents of taste and appearances of the womanish phenomenon in what looks like the red dress) corresponds to "essentialism," while caring about being corresponds not only to "existentialism" but the classical metaphysical position of, say, Thomas Aquinas, that the principal features of reality are "esse," "act" and "perfection."Interlocutor:
While it may be true for Kant that "being" isn't a "real predicate," and therefore can't be a content of simple apprehension (the first act of the mind), nevertheless it's also true that we apprehend things as "existing" in our everyday acts of judgment (the second act of the mind) in a complex synthesis of a formal (non-material) judgment that things either exist or don't: like "I'll take the real $100 over the imaginary $100 dollars, please."
I suspect G.K. Chesterson, were he pressed on the issue, would have to concede that there's faith and then there's faith. There's the faith that, based on one's past experiences, one can reasonably predict future happenings, such as the daily rising of the sun or that roses will continue to smell like roses. Then there's axiomatic Faith which needs no independent verification because it is, definitionally, a matter of faith. To confuse the two, in my humble opinion, is bad epistemology.Blosser:
If I understand you correctly, you're distinguishing between what is (1) evidentially probable and (2) matters of blind faith-- the former having some sort of basis in empirical facticity, the latter none.Interlocutor:
I am impressed that anyone whose seen and thought about the Matrix as you certainly must have would think the matter so simple. As my favorite atheist Bertrand Russell
points out, for example, how do we know that the world did not come into existence
five minutes ago with all the appearance it now has of age? Is there any piece of
factual empirical data that you could point to that would make it any more probable
than not that the world did so?
Of course, like you I think it's perfectly "reasonable" to believe that the world has had a long history, that memory is generally reliable, that the deliverances of our sense experience are generally reliable, that we have minds, that we have free will, and so forth. But I don't for a moment suppose that any of these things can be known apart from something very much like faith or trust-- of the sort that would utterly confound anyone who tried to demonstrate these things to a Humean skepic.
You might enjoy reading a chapter called "The Suicide of Thought" by Chesterton in his delightful little booklet for closet atheists entitled Orthodoxy. It's hilarious.
I never said either faith or knowing were so simple. When you assert that by Faith (using the big "F" to denote religious faith) I mean "blind faith," you are making a subtle two-pronged argument, which respectfully both miss my point.Blosser:
Prong 1) Infer and imply that TC has argued that all Faith equals the sort of faith that is blind and irrational and generally unsupported by anything other than stubbornness or ignorance.
But this characterization misses the fact that I concede and even applauded the fact that that for many people Faith is rarely blind and unsupported. Instead, it comes from having a feeling in your gut (your soul?) that this thing is correct. Faith very often comes from an experience - real or perceived - of God. I am not in a position to evaluate what this experience is or its validity in individual people, but I acknowledge that it is there.
What I won't accept, however, is the proposition that this basis in experience is somehow a self-evident axiom upon which all sorts of logical conclusions can be reached. All too often, such a view leads people down the primrose path of moral and spiritual certainty by which they unknowingly fall in to ignorant and narcissistic condescension. It's one thing to poo-poo moral relativism; it's quite another to lay the down the full of canon of Natural Law. Speaking of which, has the Church articulated all of the rules that comprise Natural Law yet?
Fair enough. Several things here. Though I haven't the time for it now, your characterization of Faith calls for some sorting out. First, I would want to distinguish (a bit differently than you do) between "faith" (as a subjective act) and "Faith" (as an objective content, usually of the Christian Faith). Second, I would want to define "faith" in God as an act of "intellectual assent" in which the will is moved not by an intellectual object (as in "knowledge") but by God's grace, making faith a supernatural gift rather than a natural achievement. Third, one would have to distinguish between such religious "faith" and other acts of "belief" in which one's assent is moved by an act of will (such as trust in one's wife or friends, or the proposition that the world is more than 5 minutes old), etc. Fourth, though I do not doubt that the religious convictions of people may rest to some extent on some sort of "gut feeling" (or feeling of "certitude"), or even that this feeling may be one of the by-products of faith, but I would not want to argue (and I'm not claiming that you do) that this constitutes the only basis for such convictions or that a "self-evident axiom upon which all sorts of logical conclusions can be reached." Fifth, I would want to distinguish from the subjective act of "faith" the objective appeal of rational arguments that may be adduced in support of The Faith (only the latter constitute a basis for "intellectual conclusions"). Sixth, I would want to stress that "knowledge" and "rational proof" are person-relative and situational, and that most of what we reasonably claim to "know" we could not conclusively demonstrate that we know to a sufficiently tenacious skeptic. Seventh, no, the Church has not made any declarations laying out the content of Natural Law since it is not an article of faith and no part of Church dogma.Interlocutor:
The very point of Faith and faith (meaning faith in sensory perceptions) is that an experience - a knowing - is incomplete. By themselves, Faith and faith are just bridges between what we think we know and what is. If a thing is experienced and understood in its entirety - putting the limits of sensory perception aside for now - then Faith and faith are no longer necessary. If Faith and faith change, then in both cases it is because what they are bridging has changed.Blosser:
Agreed. I would add that there is very little that we could be said to understand in its entirety, and that confidence in reason (our faculty for making sense of experience) is itself a matter of some sort of faith.Interlocutor:
But what I was getting at in my last email when I used the term "axiomatic Faith" was that all too often people are unwilling to allow Faith to be changed in light of new information, even though they allow faith to regularly be changed by new perceptions. The only way I could account for this difference is that Faith must be, to some extent, a matter of belief and knowing that is beyond mere sensory experience. It's a matter of faith.Blosser:
I agree that this is true not only of many groups of people of religious faith, but also of many groups of people unwilling to allow their political convictions to be changed in light of new information, for example. Or, for that matter, the excessive and nearly "axiomatic" confidence the public seems too often to repose in television and the western media. Here I love Alasdair MacIntyre's reference to "the readership of the NEW YORK TIMES, or at least to that part of it which shares the presuppositions of those who write that parish magazine of affluent and self-congratulatory liberal enlightenment ...." (Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, p. 5).Interlocutor:
Prong 2: Conclude that because even the simplest of "evidentially probable" events can't be known in an absolute sense that Faith, as a way of knowing, is perfectly valid. In other words, because you can't prove that the world wasn't created five minutes ago my Faith is valid.Blosser:
Why should one believe that I make such an inference? Isn't the import of what I wrote here simply that a probabilistic argument is never more than a probabilistic argument? I don't see (any more than you) how the fact that one can't furnish conclusive arguments for conclusions in one sphere would make the conclusions of another sphere (where one similarly can't furnish conclusive arguments) any more intellectually credible. It simply shows that the situations are similar, does it not? Namely, that many things we reasonably believe cannot be supported by conclusive argument. The Matrix comes to mind, as a possible film for a future course in philosophy and film.Interlocutor:
The problem with this prong is that a lack of absolute certainty about sense perceptions in no way bolsters arguments about Faith. To crib from Aristotle, ordinary sensory perceptions really only deal with everyday events which occur lower down the chain of being. Faith , on the other hand, has always claimed to be about things higher up the chain. The two really should be unrelated, except to the extent that a person claims sense perceptions as basis for Faith, in which case they may very well be talking about something other than mundane perceptions.Blosser:
Your first sentence is answered by my foregoing paragraph. As to the distinction between the realm of senses and the realm of religious faith, I would say this: while it's true that physical sensation is one thing and the intellectual assent involved in faith is another, I would not want to say they are unrelated. It is an act of faith, for example, to believe that your sensations offer access to a real external world at all, is it not? Like the religious faith, trusting the deliverances of our senses involves an intellectual assent that involves an act of will, does it not?Interlocutor:
I'm reading an interesting passage in Thomas Merton's Zen and the Birds of Appetite that somewhat addresses this point. From the Zen and Buddhist points of view, everyday perceptions - even the perceptions of one's own thoughts and cravings - are always objects observed by the omnipresent subject "I." Zen cannot be adequately described in subject-object terms because it strives to describe the perception of the world as simply existing, no subjects, no objects. The Zen master does not deny the existence of subject and objects. His experience, however, tells him that this is simply not how the universe is.Blosser:
Tucker N. Callaway's equasions (in Zen Way--Jesus Way) are to the point as well: for Zen Buddhism, "everything is mind, and mind is no-thing." But isn't that as much an act of willed intellectual assent as believing the world is more than five minutes old or believing in God? I don't see how "experience," as such, teaches us anything. As C.S. Lewis observes in one essay, "Experience by itself proves nothing. If a man doubts whether he is dreaming or waking, no experiment can solve his doubt, since every experiment may itself be part of the dream. Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it."Interlocutor:
All I meant by Chesterson having to concede that there's faith and then there's Faith is that the former allows me to wallow around in my day-to-day life, while the latter is my link to the higher parts of the chain of being. In an objectless world, the two would be the same. But I'm no Zen Master. I'm just a due admiring the pretty red dresses.Blosser:
Well spoken, Sensei!