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Faith and Reason 
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Post Faith and Reason
It is sometimes argued that a rational faith is a contradiction in terms. The potential rationality of faith is an important factor in the assessment of the meaning of Christian belief.

In assessing the relation between faith and reason, we do well to avoid facile assumptions about the nature of faith. Faith is easily mocked, given that many people hold opinions by faith which on examination are unfounded. So Mark Twain defined faith as ‘believing things you know aint so,” while Richard Dawkins said faith is a blind vice. Twain’s definition has entered popular secular thought as a devastating critique of religion. But if we consider faith more objectively, there is also a role for faith in statements that are true, and this opens the potential for a virtuous path to reconcile faith and reason.

In the philosophy of science and religion, one of the leading great thinkers of the modern enlightenment, the Scottish philosopher David Hume, made a number of astute logical perceptions. Hume held that we cannot know if the sun will rise tomorrow, if there is a necessary connection between a cause and an effect, or if any statements of morality logically derive from statements of fact.

Against these devastating critiques of the limits of pure reason, Immanuel Kant argued that our knowledge in these areas is necessary as a universal condition of our experience. If principles such as causality, morality and regularity of nature did not work, life would be impossible; therefore causality, morality and regularity are necessary truths. However, the key point is that these beliefs, which Kant termed 'synthetic a priori judgments' are truths of rational faith, not derivations from observation.

Further to Kant’s analysis of rational faith as the basis of good philosophy, there are simple obvious necessary axioms which are ultimately based on faith. These axioms include that the universe exists and obeys consistent physical laws which can be discovered by logic and evidence.

Saying these axioms are matters of faith is not to denigrate belief in reality, but rather to note that such belief is not itself derived from the scientific method but sits as a precondition for science. The scientific model of reality is restricted to testable theories, and falls well short of the requirements of everyday belief which depend on trusting our senses in ways we cannot always test.

In the project of reforming faith to become compatible with reason, all statements of faith can be assessed as phenomena. So for example personal faith in ones’ own ideas can be examined in continuity with broader social theories of faith. Historically, the absolute certainty of faith has both a positive and a negative role in culture and politics.

Our dominant modern ideas of liberal tolerance and freedom produce a healthy skepticism about all absolute claims. When pushed to the logical limit, we should not not equally tolerate true and untrue beliefs, and instead should assess beliefs against their consequences and coherence.

As an example of rational faith, Jesus Christ said that if you have faith you can move mountains. When we look objectively at the movement of mountains by the mining industry, such intangibles as investor confidence, trust in law and technology and money and effective community relations are all necessary matters of faith without which projects cannot proceed.

So faith emerges as a major basis of entrepreneurial investment. We cannot in practice deliver core rational objectives of modern life without a central place for faith.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert wrote:
therefore causality, morality and regularity are necessary truths. However, the key point is that these beliefs, which Kant termed 'synthetic a priori judgments' are truths of rational faith, not derivations from observation.


I'm not sure if I agree. The devil is in the details. Sure, something like morality exists, and we can call that synthetic a priori. But when we start to define morality and figure out where it came from and if it's objective or subjective; we get lost in the mud.

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Further to Kant’s analysis of rational faith as the basis of good philosophy, there are simple obvious necessary axioms which are ultimately based on faith.


From the moment each of us are born, we have experience with instances of causation, morality, and regularity. We have these experiences before we can form propositions. They are true regardless of our ability or inability to capture the predicate in propositional form. When something comes from experience, it isn't ultimately based on faith. It's ultimately based on experience. Faith is the tool we use to bridge the gap of epistemic uncertainty.


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Tue Jun 14, 2016 4:07 pm
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Interbane wrote:
something like morality exists, and we can call that synthetic a priori. But when we start to define morality and figure out where it came from and if it's objective or subjective; we get lost in the mud.

Getting back to the definition of faith and reason, the way these terms operate is as markers of the difference between religious values and scientific facts. Our faith is an expression of our personal values while our reason is a statement of what is objectively the case as a matter of scientific fact. Therefore, claims of reason are testable while claims of faith are not testable.

So the problem of morality is about how we can justify our values when we have no way to prove objectivity. For Hume, with his extreme scepticism, the solution to this problem was to accept that “an ought can never be derived from an is”, meaning that statements of personal sentimental value are different by type, not by degree, from factual statements. So Hume expressed what has become a scientific secular consensus, that moral values are purely subjective.

Of course the problem with this stance, despite its logical coherence, is that it provides no basis to assess if one value is better or worse than another. Taken to the extreme of logical absurdity, saying that all morality is subjective means a total moral relativism, where mass murder is no better or worse objectively speaking than selfless humanitarian love.

That is a conclusion that people naturally reject, so we do have a demand for some objectivity to validate our basic moral senses. The problem that we encounter, which sits right behind Hume’s theory of moral sentiments, is that our moral claims are not testable in the same way that factual claims are testable.

If we seek to reduce morality to the most simple and universal axioms and assumptions, we find statements such as “flourishing is good”, “inflicting suffering without good reason is evil”, “peace, justice, freedom, love and mercy are good.” The shared feature of these statements is that they rest on or express fundamental assumptions about the moral nature of the universe in which the ethical value of sustained human improvement is a basic moral axiom.

We cannot test or falsify whether sustained human abundance is a good thing, although of course we can test whether specific actions can produce enduring happiness. But the idea that enduring happiness is good has to be considered as self-evident or axiomatic, as the writers of the American Declaration of Independence recognised.

When we say that a claim is self-evident, we ask that it be taken on faith. That need not be a religious faith in the sense of something that has no supporting evidence, but rather can be entirely secular, based on a vision of the type of world that adherence to that value will create.
Quote:

From the moment each of us are born, we have experience with instances of causation, morality, and regularity. We have these experiences before we can form propositions. They are true regardless of our ability or inability to capture the predicate in propositional form. When something comes from experience, it isn't ultimately based on faith. It's ultimately based on experience.


Again, the difference between scientific factual claims and our experience with instances of causation, morality, and regularity is that the broad inductive principles about the nature of the universe which underpin the assumptions of the coherence of experience are not testable. As Hume argued, we cannot test if there is a necessary connection between a cause and an effect. This is a general principle about the nature of the universe whose truth can only be assessed by faith.
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Faith is the tool we use to bridge the gap of epistemic uncertainty.
That is an excellent philosophical definition of faith. I am not sure how it would play in Peoria though, or in any other traditional religious context where Biblical ideas like the “hope of things unseen” as the definition of faith are accepted blindly.

‘Epistemic uncertainty’ is a constant in life, as anyone who recognises the basic truth of ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ will understand. All ventures are a leap of faith into the unknown. The only difference in type between a personal leap, without assuming any conclusions, and how faith is formulated in religion is that religion suffers from the fallacy of wishful thinking, the idea that propositions which give us the most comfort are more likely to be true just on that basis alone.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
So the problem of morality is about how we can justify our values when we have no way to prove objectivity. For Hume, with his extreme scepticism, the solution to this problem was to accept that “an ought can never be derived from an is”, meaning that statements of personal sentimental value are different by type, not by degree, from factual statements. So Hume expressed what has become a scientific secular consensus, that moral values are purely subjective.


Philosophical thought has changed a bit since Hume. Ethical naturalists see no issue in the is-ought problem in light of the existence of goals. If I have a goal I want to achieve, and I know where my current position is, then I can derive what I ought to do. As long as it's understood that "ought" doesn't necessarily imply a moral coloring. However, if we can find consensus on a moral goal - the flourishing of humanity - we can pick apart sub-goals and begin deriving what we ought to do in light of morality. The flourishing of humanity isn't necessarily an axiom, but is instead a goal arrived at by consensus.

Quote:
Again, the difference between scientific factual claims and our experience with instances of causation, morality, and regularity is that the broad inductive principles about the nature of the universe which underpin the assumptions of the coherence of experience are not testable. As Hume argued, we cannot test if there is a necessary connection between a cause and an effect. This is a general principle about the nature of the universe whose truth can only be assessed by faith.


So the connection between cause and effect must be necessary, or the best we can do is faith? I don't agree with this. I think the terms are simply too loose. You have to get closer to the tier 1 abstraction, the thing you're actually referring to. What cause and what effect? You can say that B always follows A whenever we test it. Induction is not certain, however. But it's not merely faith. If it's the best we can do in figuring out our universe, then that qualifies as justification. Otherwise, the term "justification" is meaningless. When you take this knowledge and want to bridge the gap to certainty, then you need faith. But when you start with a bunch of knowledge and only need a touch of faith, I think the proper term is confidence.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
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When we say that a claim is self-evident, we ask that it be taken on faith. That need not be a religious faith in the sense of something that has no supporting evidence, but rather can be entirely secular, based on a vision of the type of world that adherence to that value will create.


I completely agree, the faith is something we all have, we have faith in the new day or faith in the people that surround us, faith is not necessarily believing in an all-mighty power.

Reason has made us looking for answers, research and find new ways of explaining our life and our enviorment, but the faith has been always with us, saying "there should be a way to solve a problem", that faith is what pushed humans to finish what they started.

I think we all have faith in something, at least in us.

Was a post for starting my day. Thanks a lot.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Interbane wrote:
Faith is the tool we use to bridge the gap of epistemic uncertainty.
That is an excellent philosophical definition of faith. I am not sure how it would play in Peoria though, or in any other traditional religious context where Biblical ideas like the “hope of things unseen” as the definition of faith are accepted blindly.

How the faithful view faith is the real kicker as I would see it, Robert. With due respect for your investment of thought, your major assumption about faith--that it has to do with knowledge--doesn't correspond well with the mindset of the faithful. It's most striking that I don't see the word God anywhere in your posts. Can you really hope to reconcile faith and reason without accurately reflecting that faith concerns such things as confidence, trust, loyalty, and steadfastness in regard to the idea of God's presence in human lives? Knowledge, per se, such as how life was organized, is a minor part of faith, and might have no importance at all to many faithful. Faith is, I think obviously, much more emotional, or what some call spiritual.

The idea that God is in control, fully responsible, and accessible can never be reconciled to reason. Faith is something people have against all evidence. There isn't a rational way to reconcile Zika virus with faith.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
mighty13 wrote:
I completely agree, the faith is something we all have, we have faith in the new day or faith in the people that surround us, faith is not necessarily believing in an all-mighty power. Reason has made us looking for answers, research and find new ways of explaining our life and our enviorment, but the faith has been always with us, saying "there should be a way to solve a problem", that faith is what pushed humans to finish what they started. I think we all have faith in something, at least in us. Was a post for starting my day. Thanks a lot.
Many thanks mighty13, and a warm welcome to booktalk.org. What your comment illustrates is my key point that faith serves as inspiration for action.
DWill wrote:
How the faithful view faith is the real kicker as I would see it, Robert.
No, the ‘real kicker’ is whether faith is justified. True faith is justified while false faith is not justified. A faith that is incompatible with reason (eg one that holds literal belief in miracles and creationism) is not true.
DWill wrote:
With due respect for your investment of thought, your major assumption about faith--that it has to do with knowledge--doesn't correspond well with the mindset of the faithful.
Yes, good point, and to clarify, my argument is that faith can only reconcile with reason when it sees that many traditional beliefs are symbolic rather than literal. I would not want to try to validate blind faith in untrue claims, in fact I consider that to be evil and dangerous.
DWill wrote:
It's most striking that I don't see the word God anywhere in your posts.
I have discussed God extensively in other threads on booktalk. My view is that faith in God can be justified when we see our religious language as allegory for the natural order of the cosmos, but not when we engage in psychological projection about imaginary supernatural entities.
DWill wrote:
Can you really hope to reconcile faith and reason without accurately reflecting that faith concerns such things as confidence, trust, loyalty, and steadfastness in regard to the idea of God's presence in human lives?
Great point, and that was indeed the point of my analysis of the parable of Jesus about how faith can move mountains. However, confidence can form the basis of a secular faith, and need not rest on mythical imagination validated by pre-scientific politics.
DWill wrote:
Knowledge, per se, such as how life was organized, is a minor part of faith, and might have no importance at all to many faithful.
Ignoring the role of knowledge for action is unethical. That is why I think that Christianity needs a new reformation to bring faith into harmony with reason.
DWill wrote:
Faith is, I think obviously, much more emotional, or what some call spiritual.
Yes, and that is precisely why conventional religion is the object of such withering scorn from rational people. I would not want to remove the comfort that belief in Jesus provides to old ladies, but spiritual understanding involves much more than emotion.
DWill wrote:
The idea that God is in control, fully responsible, and accessible can never be reconciled to reason.
Now you are on disputable ground. I disagree, but my point is that this reconciliation involves a pantheist natural vision of God, like the ideas of Einstein and Spinoza. The attributes you attribute here to God do not necessarily entail irrationality in the belief in such divine properties existing in the universe as you imply.
DWill wrote:
Faith is something people have against all evidence. There isn't a rational way to reconcile Zika virus with faith.
Of course theodicy (the problem of evil) is a highly complex topic for the rationality of faith, but I see no insurmountable problems with saying as an article of secular faith that the laws of physics are omnipotent, omnipresent and eternal, and provide the structure of order that encompasses all events on earth, including those which cause suffering.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
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True faith is justified while false faith is not justified.


What method or rubric do you go by to achieve justification? I think when a belief is justified, it is by definition "knowledge".

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I see no insurmountable problems with saying as an article of secular faith that the laws of physics are omnipotent, omnipresent and eternal


There's a potential insurmountable problem with what you say here; it might be untrue. Uniformity is necessary as an assumption, but the moment we elevate it above that, we close the door to possible future truths.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Here's my confidence vs faith dance!~

confidence-vs-faith-part-2-t18665.html

Quote:
There are big distinctions to be made about the reasons people believe.

Terminology I find accurate and useful is to frame things in terms of faith and confidence.

Faith is an expectation without evidence, against the evidence and regardless of the evidence.

That means no new information will change your faithful belief. If you ever stop believing in an article of faith then it’s because you have LOST faith in that thing… and possibly gained confidence in something else.

Confidence is an expectation built on the preponderance of evidence in support of it. Confidence is flexible. It can increase or decrease depending on the quality of the data. Data which builds a predictive pattern that will either fail or succeed to correlate with the events of reality demonstrating the objective accuracy of that expectation. And as the true mark of justified belief this correlation determines the amount of confidence you should have in your belief.

The difference between confidence and faith is the entire purpose of the scientific method.


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Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?

Confidence being an expectation built on past experience, evidence and extrapolation to the future. Faith being an expectation held in defiance of past experience and evidence.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Interbane wrote:
Philosophical thought has changed a bit since Hume. Ethical naturalists see no issue in the is-ought problem in light of the existence of goals.
Hi Interbane, thanks. There is a good summary of the argument you allude to at oughts and goals. I must say, having read that link, which of course starts off with the amazing lucid clarity of Hume’s timeless logic, all naturalistic efforts to answer Hume without a priori faith fall flat.

If I have a goal, then my belief that the goal is objectively good is purely a matter of faith. In terms of systematic logic, my goal will always build upon simple propositions whose status is a pure value, such as that specific results are objectively good or bad.

This is a philosophical problem that is far from easy, given that people wish to think rationally in ways that do not involve the fallacy of circular reasoning. Hume’s remorseless guillotine, as the is-ought problem has been called, is at the foundation of modern rationality, and therefore is no more obsolete than modernity itself. The only way to escape from moral relativism is through the circular reasoning of having faith in our own values. It gets down to which we think is worse, relativism or circularity.

The existentialists Kierkegaard and Heidegger had very interesting views on this problem, arguing that circular reasoning is in fact necessary to avoid the logical abysses of solipsism and nihilism, which like Kant they saw as the conclusion of Hume’s logic.
Interbane wrote:
As long as it's understood that "ought" doesn't necessarily imply a moral coloring.
Such language of non-moral oughts has the flavor of semantic abstraction without relevance to any real discussion of what people believe they ought to do. Normative language generally involves moral absolutes in practice, except in the case of postmodern liberal relativist tolerance where people say they ought to freeze in the paralysis of inaction where everything is permissible.
Interbane wrote:
However, if we can find consensus on a moral goal - the flourishing of humanity - we can pick apart sub-goals and begin deriving what we ought to do in light of morality.
Yes exactly, illustrating that systematic ethical thinking rests upon defining the simplest universal moral principles which are at the foundation of action and belief and logic.
Interbane wrote:
The flourishing of humanity isn't necessarily an axiom, but is instead a goal arrived at by consensus.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that flourishing is good, as Jane Austen famously said about a different moral principle. The semantic difference you are asserting here between moral goals and moral axioms is rather hard to discern.

Goals are only ever validated by supporting assumptions. Basic moral principles like the goodness of flourishing have a mythological structure, in the sense that myths are the stories that provide shared meaning in our lives, as a universal trusted consensus. In this sense saying belief that flourishing is good is a myth does not mean it untrue, but rather that it is universally accepted as self-evident.
Interbane wrote:
You can say that B always follows A whenever we test it. Induction is not certain, however. But it's not merely faith.
Yes, that notes an important distinction between pure scientific method and religious faith, that science is about testable provisional models rather than absolute certainty.

What I am getting at though, is the moral worldview or framework that is implicit in these different approaches. The existence of a universal necessary connection between cause and effect, as a property of the nature of matter, is an idea that we can induce from observation. We have no proven anomalies that challenge this principle, and even in areas such as the mysteries of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the scientific method does tend to proceed on the assumption that a theory of everything bringing all experience into a universal coherent causal framework is ultimately possible. Causality is an axiom, defined by Kant as a necessary condition of experience.

The moral point here regarding faith is that accepting a principle such as causality on faith, in the absence of any contradicting evidence and the presence of universal corroboration, is highly morally superior to other traditional faith claims which actually conflict with the evidence of our senses and can be explained against political motives.

Scientists can maintain the technical opinion that they do not take causality on faith, but in fact this looks disingenuous, and is highly confusing for the general public who assume that faith is necessary, and are open to reasoned persuasion about which faith is best. If science resiles from that debate on principle, by treating religion as beneath contempt and not even wrong, the whole ethical project of making society more rational will fail.
Interbane wrote:
If it's the best we can do in figuring out our universe, then that qualifies as justification. Otherwise, the term "justification" is meaningless.
There is a distinction between epistemic and social justification. The claim that causality is absolutely universal has a strong social justification as a simple presentation of a rational worldview, able to contest against those who maintain that God breaks the laws of physics. The point is that causality explains the nature of order, and removes the need to posit any order supervening the laws of physics. Even if the epistemic justification for the absolute universality of causality might face some technical and philosophical questions regarding scientific method, such questions are not relevant to social justification.
Interbane wrote:
When you take this knowledge and want to bridge the gap to certainty, then you need faith. But when you start with a bunch of knowledge and only need a touch of faith, I think the proper term is confidence.
Even a touch of faith is like a sprinkle of pixie dust. Hard line skeptics will resolutely and confidently hold the line against the seductions of Tinkerbell, with her belief that wishing makes it so.

But what the amusing example of Tinkerbell raises as a serious point in epistemology is that our concept of world is constructed, not discovered, and part of that social construction involves the role of certainty. I think there is a high moral purity in the principled rejection of faith, but as a tactical and strategic question of how to advance rationality in the world, such Trappist scientific isolation is rather detached and irrelevant to actual moral debate, which occurs on the terrain of faith.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert wrote:
If I have a goal, then my belief that the goal is objectively good is purely a matter of faith. In terms of systematic logic, my goal will always build upon simple propositions whose status is a pure value, such as that specific results are objectively good or bad.


The question isn't whether or not the goal is good or bad. The question is whether or not we can go from an is to an ought. And the answer is that we can, if we have a goal. Philosophers recognize that any such goal rests on subjective grounds. Sure, a goal could be an evil one. But that doesn't mean the is-ought problem doesn't have a solution. The question is how to arrive at moral goals without ignoring the threat of these goals drifting into poor moral territory. It's healthy to recognize these distinctions.

That we decide our goals upon pure value does not mean we only have faith. It's a matter of consensus of values. You can argue that consensus has been corrupt in the past, and falls victim to the ad populum fallacy. But how is faith any better? At least consensus necessarily maximizes happiness. Although I understand the weakness in that argument, I do believe out consensus has grown progressively more in tune with an ideal morality as our species has become more educated. So there is progress, and appeals to rotten consensus in history may not hold as strongly.

Quote:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that flourishing is good, as Jane Austen famously said about a different moral principle. The semantic difference you are asserting here between moral goals and moral axioms is rather hard to discern.


A goal is subject to change. An axiom is less flexible. The greatest error of our species, categorically, is being too certain. The difference is large when you consider this.

Quote:
Scientists can maintain the technical opinion that they do not take causality on faith, but in fact this looks disingenuous


If causation holds in every instance we explore it, then the conclusion isn't one of faith, but of logic. Inductive logic. There is a difference. When an exception is verified, induction will be flexible, but faith will not. The distinction here isn't black and white, but varying shades of gray.

Quote:
There is a distinction between epistemic and social justification. The claim that causality is absolutely universal has a strong social justification as a simple presentation of a rational worldview, able to contest against those who maintain that God breaks the laws of physics.


You're speaking of epistemic justification here. Any social justification is secondary. The universality of causation and any appeal to a rational worldview is epistemic. These deal with propositions that can be shown true or false. The truth of which is independent of morality on the most basic level.

Whether or not eugenics would lead to superior homo sapiens is one thing. Sure, I think it would. But that does not mean this truth is morally correct - that it has social justification. In fact, I think the consensus would be unanimously against it.

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I think there is a high moral purity in the principled rejection of faith, but as a tactical and strategic question of how to advance rationality in the world, such Trappist scientific isolation is rather detached and irrelevant to actual moral debate, which occurs on the terrain of faith.


I agree with you here. There's a knee jerk reaction to the defense of faith. For obvious reasons. But some faith is necessary.

But I think perhaps you're having a knee jerk reaction to the rationalists knee jerk reaction. You overcorrect as I see it.


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Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:16 pm
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Interbane wrote:
The question is whether or not we can go from an is to an ought. And the answer is that we can, if we have a goal.
But what does that actually mean? In terms of the agenda of this thread, the relation between faith and reason, this is-ought question devolves to asking if we can logically derive values from facts. The point is that we can’t, and have to bring to bear something additional to the facts, something from the domain of faith, if we want to assert that any factual statements entail a moral decision.
When we consider a factual situation with moral weight, such as the fact that someone has done a crime, we never say the crime alone causes the punishment. The judgement involves a social and cultural decision about how serious the crime is, a decision that is never directly entailed by the fact alone but comes as you say from the realm of social goals. This realm of culture is constructed, in a way that has the nature of faith.
People want to say the situation alone provides a compelling logical basis for a response, and that desire is the basis for religious codes which assert divine blessing for moral beliefs. But the secular world cannot escape this faith dimension so easily, because secular myths such as universal human rights are just as faith based as any religion.

People would like to say that rights are universal and inalienable in terms of an absolute morality, but as you point out, there has to be something added to the facts, namely our moral judgment of our goals. Facts alone do not entail values. Our goals equate to our values and principles. Goals are normative, establishing our moral norms, which are conceptually different as a general category from any descriptive factual statement.
Interbane wrote:
That we decide our goals upon pure value does not mean we only have faith. It's a matter of consensus of values. You can argue that consensus has been corrupt in the past, and falls victim to the ad populum fallacy. But how is faith any better?
I am trying to define a general conceptual understanding of a theory of value. My point is that our values don’t come from just the collection of facts, but as you say, from the goals we share about the type of world or life we want to make. What is universal about such goals is that they have the character of faith.

The question then is why we think one hoped for world or life is better than the alternative. We might say because the preferred future will maximize happiness or wealth or peace or some other value that we hold dear. But in all these cases what our values hold in common is that they rest upon conceptual moral principles and beliefs.
When we apply such beliefs in practice, reflecting social consensus such as a belief in the principle of rule of law, this practical certainty has the structure of a religious faith, even where a secular community sees that its goals do not have a religious basis. I am trying to show that the nature of faith against general principles does not simply fit in conventional labels. There are some universal phenomena of faith which apply equally in religious and secular contexts in terms of how they motivate our moral values.
Interbane wrote:
At least consensus necessarily maximizes happiness.
Far from it. Russia had a consensus about communism that maximized suffering. Often our faith can be evil.
Interbane wrote:
Although I understand the weakness in that argument, I do believe out consensus has grown progressively more in tune with an ideal morality as our species has become more educated.
That assessment is like saying turkeys have a consensus on the morality of trusting farmers to feed and care for them. Turkey morals work perfectly well until the day before Thanksgiving. Our turkey morality is causing the sixth world extinction event, and we should really be lifting our moral gaze higher. Humans have a better ability to predict the future than turkeys do, despite appearances.
Interbane wrote:
So there is progress, and appeals to rotten consensus in history may not hold as strongly.
Yes there is progress in caring for the weak, probably driven more by economic growth and ability to pay for unproductive members of society. Even today, poor societies that cannot fund good health and welfare systems quietly practice euthanasia and infanticide.
Interbane wrote:
A goal is subject to change. An axiom is less flexible. The greatest error of our species, categorically, is being too certain. The difference is large when you consider this.
That is why I suggest that we should be very conservative, simple and basic in defining moral axioms. For example, from my point of view it is reasonable to say that measures which will enable humans to avoid extinction are moral, at a universal axiomatic level, since all humans should agree that human extinction would be a bad thing.
Interbane wrote:
If causation holds in every instance we explore it, then the conclusion isn't one of faith, but of logic. Inductive logic. There is a difference. When an exception is verified, induction will be flexible, but faith will not. The distinction here isn't black and white, but varying shades of gray.
The beliefs that causality is universal and that no uncaused events occur add to the logic of induction by asserting a fact about the nature of reality rather than just a confidence about testable models.
Interbane wrote:
You're speaking of epistemic justification here. Any social justification is secondary. The universality of causation and any appeal to a rational worldview is epistemic. These deal with propositions that can be shown true or false. The truth of which is independent of morality on the most basic level.
Actually I disagree with all your statements here. In assessing the relation between faith and reason, a purely scientific worldview can totally ignore all faith, in a pure factual worldview with no faith. That is epistemic. Only if we have any concern about what is important, valuable and useful – ie the social justification of belief – do we need to go beyond the nihilistic solipsism of pure epistemics. We cannot show that causation is universal, any more than we can show that parallel lines never meet. Our practical reliance on causality is a matter of induction. Our belief that causality is universal can only be a matter of faith in a proposition we consider to be a self-evident axiom.
Interbane wrote:
Some faith is necessary. But I think perhaps you're having a knee jerk reaction to the rationalists knee jerk reaction. You overcorrect as I see it.

Again, no, my view is not a kneejerk reaction. There is a scientific atheist worldview which holds the opinion that faith is intrinsically false, blind and malignant, as a general inference from the error of traditional religion. It is like induction: philosophers say that when they examine a range of examples of faith, and find that none of them stand up to scrutiny against evidence, they infer that all faith is wrong. However, that general inference is wrong. People hold very simple obvious generally shared beliefs, such as that the universe exists and obeys consistent physical laws which can be discovered by logic and evidence. The belief that such simple ideas are absolutely true is a matter of faith. Science has no absolutes. If we think any universal proposition is absolutely true then our opinion is strictly a matter of faith.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
But in all these cases what our values hold in common is that they rest upon conceptual moral principles and beliefs.


I don't think it's true in all cases. A large part of morality is the avoidance of harm. When we judge the severity of a crime, we do so in many cases based on how much we empathize with the victim. This isn't a matter of conceptual moral principle. It's a matter of feeling and empathy. We each have this undeveloped sense of justice, unrefined until we learn the philosophy behind it.

Pain doesn't necessarily mean physical either. All our conceptual mores are founded on moral emotions. These emotions are very real, even if they're subjective. I don't take it on faith that extreme emotional pain caused to me by someone else should be met with punishment for that person. It's how I feel.

The consensus of morality comes from an aggregation of these feelings across society. We tease the feelings apart and figure out where someone is liable or not, and how much harm they've done. In many court cases, it can be called a "fact" that a mother feels harm for the death of her child. And that's the foundation for moral action in many cases.
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We might say because the preferred future will maximize happiness or wealth or peace or some other value that we hold dear. But in all these cases what our values hold in common is that they rest upon conceptual moral principles and beliefs.


However, these conceptual moral principles and beliefs in turn rest upon our emotions and desires. We wish for a future where our children can experience the most happiness with the least harm. This desire is tempered by understanding that there must exist some form of broader altruism, in the style of game theory. Otherwise happiness for our children is at odds with other children's happiness, and that's not sustainable.

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In assessing the relation between faith and reason, a purely scientific worldview can totally ignore all faith, in a pure factual worldview with no faith.


I'd say there's a need for faith in the consistency of sense datum, that what we're seeing is real. Beyond that I don't disagree with you. A purely scientific worldview isn't realistic. Anyone who claims they subscribe to one is using philosophy whether they realize it or not. They follow a sort of metaphysical naturalism.

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Our belief that causality is universal can only be a matter of faith in a proposition we consider to be a self-evident axiom.


You believe causality is universal? That beyond the edge of the known universe, causation works the same as it does here on Earth? That back before time began, causation worked as it does now? Your statements are good on the surface, but I think you're sticking with general statements to prove a point that isn't supported when you dig deeper.

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The belief that such simple ideas are absolutely true is a matter of faith.


Sure. But why would anyone believe something is absolutely true? I don't think that's wise.


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Sun Jun 19, 2016 9:55 am
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Interbane wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
But in all these cases what our values hold in common is that they rest upon conceptual moral principles and beliefs.

I don't think it's true in all cases. A large part of morality is the avoidance of harm. When we judge the severity of a crime, we do so in many cases based on how much we empathize with the victim. This isn't a matter of conceptual moral principle. It's a matter of feeling and empathy. We each have this undeveloped sense of justice, unrefined until we learn the philosophy behind it.
The term “these” in my statement that you quoted referred to the function of morality in trying to create a better future. That is a main, if not exclusive, purpose of morality, which does address logical analysis about consequences, duty and principle. You have pointed out that morality also gives vent to feelings, which might include irrational emotional reactions such as revenge and empathy. That is an important point, but readily answered.

Against the purpose of this thread, which is to argue that a rational faith is possible, what you call an “undeveloped sense of justice” can be compared to an irrational faith. Victims feel aggrieved at crimes, and want revenge on the criminal. But the point I was making about values that try to create a better future means that such emotional reactions should be assessed more calmly and rationally. When we do try to apply more objective conceptual frameworks, we see that punishment based on vengeance often fails to fit the crime or to build a better world, just as faith based on blind comforting desire will not be ethical.

A good illustration of this point is seen in the US prison system. America’s jails are an utter disgrace, a hellhole of horror, a complete moral indictment of any claim the USA has to support human rights to freedom, justice and equality, and indeed its own supposedly inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The US is sinking into a cesspit of its own making, continuing to traumatize, shock and horrify its culture with jails, movies, ads, guns, drugs and violence, because as a nation America allows stupid emotional reactions rather than intelligent moral concepts to set its public policies.

Jesus Christ said in the Bible (Matthew 25) that one of the seven works of mercy that will determine if a person is saved or damned is whether they visit prisoners. This clear and simple suggestion from Jesus illustrates how the Gospel principles of love and reconciliation offer a rational path to a better future, whereas the older morality based on revenge causes a spiral of damage and collapse.

This reading does not imply that a rational faith should believe that literal stories such as the return of Jesus Christ on the clouds of heaven are more than myths. It means that the moral lessons contained in such mythology are well worth analyzing for their parabolic content.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Mr. Tulip wrote:
Jesus Christ said in the Bible (Matthew 25) that one of the seven works of mercy that will determine if a person is saved or damned is whether they visit prisoners.

Well I just re-read that chapter and it has the inspiring parable of the servants managing money / increasing god-given talents. And the admonition you quote which also includes feeding the hungry and housing strangers, etc. But then Jesus has to ruin it all by warning of eternal punishment, evidently the foundation of morality for many people i.e. doing good only to avoid hell.



Thu Jun 23, 2016 7:24 pm
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