Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tully here,

I often hear about "faith voters" and policies favoring "faith," people making decisions by "faith" rather than reason, or without having to have certainty. But then they say they have faith in God, by which they often mean that they have more certainty in God than in anything else. Others say that they don't need certainty because they have faith instead.

So is faith a sort of certainty, or is it the opposite of certainty?
Or is it a synthesis of the two, or neither of the two?
Or are all of these the case?

Is it a vague beginning, or a lucid end? Is it the journey from one to the other, or the cessation of a journey?


kr said...

Oh, Tully, the question is a vague as "the meaning" of the word "faith." It really depends on the person using the word, and the denomination they are part of and their emotional and intellectual experience that caused them to choose "faith."

High-churchers are more likely to think of faith as "a choice to believe that which I cannot prove and trust that if I look at any single issue hard enough, the faith will prove out."

But I know plenty of Christians who more or less consider it a sin to question the dogma they first chose (often, in that case, on basis of emotional experience, but sometimes intellectually) and they call that unblinking, unthinking dedication "faith" ... and I would have to say it is "faith," also.

Both types are "faithful," in terms of dedication. Both types trust their "faith." Both types try to live by their chosen "faith."

But certainly the two "faiths" are very different in intellectual action.

Mark Heuring said...

Faith is a compass. Problem is, a lot of people think they need a GPS.

tully said...

KR, of course the questionS are vague. Faith is vague. The point is not to put faith under a microscope, but to read opinions about it, and to spark a dialogue to challenge those opinions. But, to be quite clear, the word "faith" and its meanings are of no value to me. All opinions about faith are to be challenged, and the challenging is what perhaps is to be valued.

"Both types trust their faith" does that mean they have faith in their faith? To say that faith is determined by what their churches tell them it is, or how their churches tell them to worship, is to say that faith is a convention, no less relative than a word. If these people all have faith in their faith, than the latter "faith" is to be disregarded, and we are to consider "what is this faith that they have in their 'faith'" Hence, if faith is trust, then the way in which people invest that trust in relation to their appraisal of reason does not affect the nature of trust/faith but merely the way in which it relates to reason and other factors.

Take Heuring's comment. It says a lot- that faith is at once certainty and uncertainty, for a compass is certain about directions but uncertain about the particulars to which directions point us.

Plato referred to something like a "divine intuition" (Jowett) of The Good, which causes people to have a sense that something is good and to direct them towards this, but not to direct them precisely as to whether The Good is pleasure, prudence, virtue, etc. On the other hand, Hegel referred to a Mystical stage, called the Speculative stage of the Dialectic, which far from being a vague starting point was the third stage, an affirmative assessment of the Dialectical stage of thought. Perhaps this is faith. Yet I don't consider either of these certainty, nor do I consider either of these uncertainty.

kr said...

y'know, I think "faith" in America is often a substitute for the hard work of really engaging the issues and personally owning one's opinions.

I've had plenty of arguments with people who distrust the Catholic teachings in a knee-jerk way ... how exactly does it behoove one to knee-jerk reject 2000 years of dedicated spiritual work and thinking? I've had plenty of arguments with Catholics who knee-jerk reject the idea of questioning church teachings and interpretations ... how does it behoove one to reject immediate experience and the suggestions of scientific studies?

As for trusting their chosen faith, well, I suppose even in my answer I implied a difference between the verb "to have faith" and the noun "faith" that people have (by choice). Being "faithful," choosing trust, is a different thing I think than what a "faith voter" would be referring to, which is the noun. I think it is semantically to argue that the one meaning-unit existing somehow negates the quite separate second meaning-unit; both of them being derived from the same root and accidentally (look I used a philosophy word ;)! ) looking the same in our language doesn't mean you can 'logic' the game that way.

I'm not sure this discussion can go anywhere. I think I liked better when you used to post questions to solve ;). This pure-science thinking thing, I discover I am an applied scientist thinker at heart ;).

tully said...

I'm not sure why you're bringing up critics of Catholicism. The fact that it's bad to criticize Catholicism in a knee-jerk way doesn't mean that it's good to cling to Catholicism.

It seems like you're maintaining the multiplicity of language and senses of the word "faith" for some aesthetic purpose, as if you were an artist guarding the integrity of the colors in his palette. Why not simplify language as much as possible? Doesn't "faith as a verb" have something in common with "faith as a noun" and "the way people percieve faith here" which has something in common with "the way people talk about faith there"? If so, why can't we just say that "faith in general" refers to whatever is in common between these? The idea is to cut through the bullshit, not to amplify it by maintaining distinctions perpetuated by convention, ain't it?

kr said...

no, Tully, the different meanings are in fact distinct words, if you consider a word as a "unit of meaning" rather than its phonetic/spelling accident. Shared roots? yes. Able to mash them together and still carry meaning? not so much.

Catholicism was merely chosen as an example with which I am familiar.

tully said...

Seriously, what happened to the guy's shoes after he threw them?

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