Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Vallicella on the naturalist version of fides quaerens intellectum

Do naturalists use the principle of faith seeking understanding. In this old post, Bill Vallicella argues that they do, rebutting some objections that I have heard from time to time from naturalists.

20 comments:

GREV said...

From the article:

"What it amount to is a decision to count as real only what can be encountered in the world of space-time. This is why the naturalist does not give up when his arguments are shown to fail. Abandoning naturalism is not an option for him."

See no reason to argue with that. I like the site very much, having added it to the blogs I follow.

Victor Reppert said...

Though he has changed blogs since then.

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/

woodchuck64 said...


What I want to argue is that naturalists employ the principle of Faith Seeking Understanding no less than theists.


This seems somewhat vague without defining what counts as Faith. Does Faith mean you are at least 50.001% certain of the truth of your belief, 100%, or anywhere in between? Being a theist usually entails being taught that Faith of the 100% variety is morally superior, while being a naturalist entails being taught that belief/Faith must only be adopted in strict proportion to the evidence.

Of course, some theists will claim provisional belief in God, and some naturalists will claim absolute certainty for naturalism, but what beliefs are more statistically likely?

I think that naturalistic efforts to explain qualia, intentionality are surprisingly strong if naturalism is actually false, but at the same time I'm not going to insist that those efforts count as full explanations at this time, and I believe naturalism is incomplete and only provisionally true without such explanations. But I still call myself a naturalist.

Blue Devil Knight said...

If Victor's blog is the NPR of the Christian blogoshere, Vallicella's is Fox News. That post is a great example of why I think this.

GREV said...

BDK: don't tease us like that -- elaborate as to why the label Fox News is applied here.

GREV said...

I am serious with that request. Your setting your of your reasons for thinking so would be much appreciated.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Come on. It's obvious. My hunch is he would take it as a compliment...

Read his blog you'll see why.

Anonymous said...

He likes to bash liberals. It's good, they deserve it.

BenYachov said...

>If Victor's blog is the NPR of the Christian blogoshere, Vallicella's is Fox News. That post is a great example of why I think this.

If I may ask....

What are your politics BDK? Because then we could decode your statement better.

For the record I tend to be conservative.

Cheers man.

BenYachov said...

Thinking aloud.....

Of course if he answers Independent he would be having a laugh at our expense. Not that I would hold it against him.....

BenYachov said...

BTW is the Vallicella man a Christian or a Theist?

unkleE said...

woodchuck64 said: "Being a theist usually entails being taught that Faith of the 100% variety is morally superior"

G'day. I'm interested in this comment. It's not what I think as a theist, and not what any writer on faith I can recall thinks. But perhaps you have examples of this, if so could you list a few please, I would like to compare.

Thanks.

woodchuck64 said...

unkle,

G'day. I'm interested in this comment. It's not what I think as a theist, and not what any writer on faith I can recall thinks.


You don't agree that most major religions consider strong faith a virtue, or that most theists belong to major religions? Those don't seem all that controversial to me (and I'm pretty sure that's what I said in so many words).

Anonymous said...

You don't agree that most major religions consider strong faith a virtue, or that most theists belong to major religions?

You said, "Being a theist usually entails being taught that Faith of the 100% variety is morally superior". unkleE asked for examples of this. Arguing instead that you think religions consider faith to be a virtue in some sense is another topic.

What are these examples of "100% faith" being morally superior? Are you saying that, say... the Catholic Church thinks a person saying "I believe there will be a tornado in Houston tomorrow. I have no reason to believe this or even infer it as a possibility whatsoever." would be considered morally superior because of the nature of their stated belief?

Anonymous said...

Oh, c'mon BDK, you just think that because he has crazy views about Muslims and racial profiling. The comparison is really unfair. Fox news isn't racist or bigoted.

unkleE said...

Woodchuck64:

Like Anonymous said. There is a big difference between saying "Faith of the 100% variety is morally superior" and "strong faith [is] a virtue". I imagine all christians would agree with the latter, but I know none who believe in the former (it is the 100% that I disagree with). If you do, I'm asking you to share those examples please.

woodchuck64 said...

unkleE,


Like Anonymous said. There is a big difference between saying "Faith of the 100% variety is morally superior" and "strong faith [is] a virtue". I imagine all christians would agree with the latter, but I know none who believe in the former (it is the 100% that I disagree with). If you do, I'm asking you to share those examples please.

Hmm... I really don't see the difference between "strong faith" and "100% certain faith", except that "strong" can probably cover a greater range, say 90-100%. What differences do you see? If strong faith is a virtue, shouldn't 100%-certain faith be a virtue as well? There seems to be clear overlap. Note also that along with Bill V, I'm talking about faith in one's belief in either God or naturalism, not faith in some random proposition.

finney said...

"Does Faith mean you are at least 50.001% certain of the truth of your belief, 100%, or anywhere in between?"

I'm not sure what's valuable to God specifically certainty per se as it is knowledge of God ("this is eternal life, that they may know you"). one can know something and be very uncertain of it.

unkleE said...

woodchuck64 said: "mm... I really don't see the difference between "strong faith" and "100% certain faith", except that "strong" can probably cover a greater range, say 90-100%. What differences do you see?"

The problem is that you are setting it up as a decision where faith + evidence = 100%. In this model, (which I don't necessarily object to if it is explicit) if one had equal faith end evidence, both would be 50%. Since everyone has some evidence, however little, no-one's faith is 100% in this equation. Even a strongly faithful person who had as much faith as they could possibly have, would not have 100%.

Do you see? You have confused two faith scales.

So, if you and I look at the evidence for something we may agree that the evidence makes that proposition 60% likely. But you may fill up the remainder with doubt, and choose to not believe that proposition, whereas I may fill up the remainder with 40% faith and believe the proposition.

Now do you understand how your original statement was a misunderstanding?

woodchuck64 said...

unkleE,

Ah, we're using different meanings for "faith". As I said originally, I wasn't sure what definition of "faith" Bill V was using, but I guessed that faith was being understood as the degree of confidence in one's belief, regardless of evidence. Strong confidence in one's belief in God, regardless of how one got there, is highly valued in Christianity, but confidence in one's belief in naturalism should only be proportional to the evidence supporting naturalism. There's nothing useful to be gained by arguing that belief in God and belief in naturalism both require faith under this definition. The key difference was always in the approach to evidence.

Your view of faith, if I understand correctly, is a little different:

So, if you and I look at the evidence for something we may agree that the evidence makes that proposition 60% likely. But you may fill up the remainder with doubt, and choose to not believe that proposition, whereas I may fill up the remainder with 40% faith and believe the proposition.


Under the "rules" of naturalism, if the evidence makes a proposition 60% likely, we should believe it to be 60% true, there is no filling up the remainder with confidence or doubt; it is probably true and should be acted on as if probably true, but not acted on as if certainly true. Christianity may ask one to "fill up the remainder with faith", but naturalism should never ask that.

In my first comment, I assumed a definition of "faith" that would work both with Christianity and with naturalism. But if "faith" is best understand as "filling up the remainder" to reach a strong belief, then I would argue naturalism simply doesn't have that concept.