Sunday, May 05, 2013

Does Kierkegaard's "leap of faith" support the atheist idea that faith is belief without evidence?

One would have thought that the atheists at least have Kierkegaard on their side on this issue. But maybe not. 

The article winds up with a discussion of Kierkegaard's notion of the leap of faith. This mind tend to make one think that faith means the irrational acceptance of of a proposition with no evidence.SK says faith is irrational and that it's achieved by an irrational leap. Yet one must note that the leap itself is an epistemological ploy, it's an attempt to get over the final chasm which can't be bridged by evidence or logic. The road up to the final gap can be paved with argument and reason. One can make a find philosophical diving board to prepare for the leap. The point at which one makes the leap can be narrowed. The leap is always there. Even in the world view there are epistemic blind alleys from which there are no returns. So in the final analysis there is no basis to the atheist straw man definition of faith as "believing things without evidence."

19 comments:

Crude said...

I'm pretty leery of accepting Atheistwatch's interpretation of Kierkegaard without more reading.

This may help things, anyway. I think I get what AW is driving at, but I've always heard Kierkegaard associated with total fideism (possibly incorrectly).

Archer said...

Kierkegaard's association with fideism is definitely a misinterpretation and incorrect. This is probably the best page intepreting Kierkegaard: http://www.kemstone.com/Nonfiction/Philosophy/Reflections/kierkegaardgod.htm

David B Marshall said...

It is cruel to take Kierkegaard away from the atheists. I've sometimes had my suspicions, but let sleeping Danes lie.

Papalinton said...

I am reminded of Dr David Eller's aphorism:
"Kierkegaard once said that to believe, one must crucify the intellect.
Sadly he was right. Even more sadly, he approved."

David said...

One things is certain. The bible does support the atheist idea that faith is belief without evidence. In Hebrews 11 it presents the Hall of Fame of faith--those chosen to receive special commendation for their faith. All of them spoke to god or witnessed miracles. One of them, Gideon, demanded that God prove he was god. Yet he is in the hall of fame. If faith was "belief w/o evidence" we would not expect the list we find in Hebrews 11.

Dan Gillson said...

As I read him, Kierkegaard belongs to a stream of thinking that runs somewhat circuitously from Luther to Wittgenstein, which claims that we relate to the world in ways other than knowing. I find it a pleasant stream of thought to visit because it is much less hubristic than scholasticism or scientism.

oozzielionel said...

I found this citation. The blind leap is not a simple as fideism. I should admit up front at a sort of plagerism by lifting this from someone who actually read Kierkegaard.
"1. The subjective existing thinker is aware of the dialectic of communication. Whereas objective thinking is indifferent to the thinking subject and his existence, the subjective thinker as existing is essentially interested in his own thinking, is existing in it. Therefore, his thinking has another kind of reflection, specifically, that of inwardness, of possession, whereby it belongs to the subject and to no one else.... 2. In his existence-relation to the truth, the existing subjective thinker is just as negative as positive, has just as much of the comic as he essentially has of pathos, and is continually in a process of becoming, that is, striving.... In the domain of thinking, the positive can be classed in the following categories: sensate certainty, historical knowledge, speculative result. But this positive is precisely the untrue. Sensate certainty is a delusion (see Greek skepticism...); historical knowledge is an illusion (since it is approximation-knowledge); and the speculative result is a phantom. That is, all of this positive fails to express the state of the knowing subject in existence.... 3.... Lessing has said that contingent historical truths can never become a demonstration of eternal truths of reason, also that the transition whereby one will build an eternal truth on historical reports is a leap.... 4. Lessing has said If God held all truth enclosed in his right hand, and in his left hand the one and only ever-striving drive for truth, even with the corollary of erring forever and ever, and if he were to say to me: Choose!—I would humbly fall down to him at his left hand and say: Father, give! Pure truth is indeed only for you alone! (Concluding Unscientific Postscript, p. 72f., 80f., 93, 106).

grodrigues said...

Kierkegaard was a genius, a supreme ironist (his phd thesis was titled " On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates") and a master of indirect communication. The intellectual rabble should just stay away from him.

B. Prokop said...

I've never read one word of Kierkegaard. In fact, I'm not even sure how to pronounce his name. But if he did indeed say that faith was irrational and required an irrational "leap" (and mean by that what I assume he meant), then I couldn't disagree more. I don't know about anyone else's faith, but mine is rock-solid based on evidence and reason, and even (as Loftus so loves to say) "going with the probabilities". So (going by this thread's title) faith is not belief without evidence.

No "leap" required!

Victor Reppert said...

If Kierkegaard did not exist, Loftus would have to invent him.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, I was convinced a long time ago that Kierkegaard was not strictly a fideist from reading this book by Stephen C. Evans:

"Subjectivity and Religious Belief: An Historical, Critical Study"(Eerdmans, 1978)

Stuart C. Hackett used it in the class I took at TEDS on "Religious Epistemology."

Victor Reppert said...

Well, I am glad you know some good Kierkegaard scholarship!

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic,

There's K.'s leap of faith

There's Miguel Unamuno's leap as well, being stuck on a mountainside and leaping out into the fog and darkness hoping there is a ledge nearby right beneath you.

And there's Lessing's "broad ditch" between history and faith.

And Pascal's "wager."

Take your pick.

I'd like knowledge, but there always remain questions, plenty of them, unsettling questions, especially for the most orthodox and doctrinal believers of any particular religion or sect.

My fav K. quotations:

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/09/sren-kierkegaard-quotations.html


Edward T. Babinski said...

Some K. quotations...

"I have just come from a party where I was the life and soul. Witticisms flows from my lips. Everyone laughed and admired me - but I left, yes, that dash should be as long as the radii of the earth's orbit -------- and I wanted to shoot myself."
-- Søren Kierkegaard, journal entry [cited by Alastair Hannay in Kierkegaard: a biography

"How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it and why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought by a peddling shanghaier of human beings? How did I get involved in this big enterprise called actuality? Why should I be involved? Isn't it a matter of choice? And if I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager—I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?"
— Søren Kierkegaard

"To defend something is always to discredit it. Let a man have a warehouse full of gold, let him be willing to give away a ducat to every one of the poor - but let him also be stupid enough to begin this charitable undertaking of his with a defense in which he offers three good reasons in justification; and it will almost come to the point of people finding it doubtful whether indeed he is doing something good. But now for Christianity. Yes, the person who defends that has never believed in it."
— Søren Kierkegaard (The Sickness Unto Death)

C. S. Lewis said something similar:

"I envy you not having to think any more about Christian apologetics. My correspondents force the subject on me again and again. It is very wearing, and not v. good for one's own faith. A Christian doctrine never seems less real to me than when I have just (even if successfully) been defending it. It is particularly tormenting when those who were converted by my books begin to relapse and raise new difficulties."
-- C. S. Lewis to Mary Van Deusen, June 18, 1956, The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III, p. 762.

Crude said...

I'd like knowledge, but there always remain questions, plenty of them, unsettling questions, especially for the most orthodox and doctrinal believers of any particular religion or sect.

Indeed. Committed atheists and naturalists do show signs of being frequently disturbed about the quality of their arguments and the solidity of their logic. Hence their need to obsess, sometimes for years on end.

A salient point, Eddie. Thank you for raising it!

B. Prokop said...

Again, not a Kierkegaard expert here, but does he make a distinction between his "leap of faith" and "certainty/uncertainty"? I see those as quite different things.

Crude said...

Bob,

Again, not a Kierkegaard expert here, but does he make a distinction between his "leap of faith" and "certainty/uncertainty"? I see those as quite different things.

I'm still (despite the helpful link earlier) hesitant to state with certainty what Kierkegaard's view there is. The more I read, the more it makes it sound as if he's saying that when it comes to a worldview of principles, argument and logic and reasoning can never get you to utter certainty. But, I may just have to read more.

Lapa Pinton said...


-Firstly, as some may have noticed, the incumbent growth of scientifically informed philosophy weaves a certain apologetical superstition concomitantly apposite the superstitious apologetical efforts. [This statement also applies to the ethereal netherworld occupied by superstitious sprites, omni-max will-o-the-wisps, apologetical angels, persiflagellant pixies etc.]. More misamicably, to extol religious superstition applies verisimilitudally to such apologists for mythos with striking accord (much like beta-decay).

-Secondly, the netherworld and concomitant cognitive revolutions of tripe required by a religious upbringing are coming under increasing public criticism. This tripe (proposed by pre-scientific cultures) can now be cast off in the manner of structural revolution [cf. Thomas Kuhn]. Thankfully, the natural sciences [eg neuroscience, physics, biology, medical science, forensic science, geology etc.] now provides a tool to make more judicious unbetwixt conclusions.

As wikipedia puts it "The techniques used by neuroscientists have also expanded enormously, from molecular and cellular studies of individual nerve cells to imaging of sensory and motor tasks in the brain. Recent theoretical advances in neuroscience have also been aided by the study of neural networks."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience

And, as Victor Stenger noted in “The Fallacy of Finetuning”:
“Even the most devout theist must admit the existence of God is not an accepted scientific fact in the same way as, for example, the existence of quarks or black holes.”

While I haven’t read the material mentioned in the post, I cannot be held responsible for your frabjous feelings of being aggrieved or sensitive to these two razor sharp challenges. I can however, understand why the comment box doesn’t have the same proportion of woo-meisters given that I now provide a skeptical perspective here.

But while one might take comfort from one’s supernaturalism, the parasitic nature of the superstitionist claim is most pertinently fragrant and topological. In the manner of a Mobius strip, the decaying memeplex of superstitious supernaturalism feeds off itself!

And, of course, as Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia [1983 edition] put it “The theory of knots is another branch of topology containing many unsolved problems.”
Thankfully, the Gordian knot of the accretions of apologetical fog and mist present in Western culture is being remedied by the thallophytic Alexandrian sword of science and the rigorous presentations given thereof such by contemporary advocates like Dawkins, Krauss etc.

Speaking of swords, the Damocletian nature of the whole debate was exemplified by a recent case of religious superstition being superimposed onto a quasi-digital omni-max set of philosophical assumptions [insofar as superfluously and superstitiously independent/dependent on the canons of classic logic]That is to say: the jejune offerings of an apologetical variety, whether in the vein of popular thought or in more recherche varieties will fail to convince the educated.

Metacrock said...

Atheists are desperate. they are trying Tillich away from us too. I would not accept anything an atheist says about any theologian becuase they are just looking for confirmation not truth. The idea SK was an atheist is idiocy. It's a total misunderstanding of everything he was about.

Not that it matters, that article began it's life in Metacrock's blog. Of course both are done evil me who can't be trusted becuase I care about truth. I am not intimidated by Orwellian atheism so therefore I don't know anything.