Summaries of classes


Please note that these are summaries, not 'the notes' for the class. These have been prepared by students in the class, and I have posted them here, unchanged, as a ready reference for those who could use a quick idea of what topic(s) have been discussed. But there is no guarantee of accuracy (or even proper spelling)! Caveat lector!



Summary of Week 1 classes: January 4th and 6th  - Sarah Beattie

A key question we will consider in this course is: what exactly is a religious belief and can someone rationally discuss religion or is it just a matter of faith? Is faith something beyond what we can know? This question has metaphysical implications because it deals with reality. However, we are not specifically interested in the beings of religion (God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha), but in how we can know anything about religion. So, the focus of this course will largely be on epistemology.


The aim is to be able to articulate your own view of what religious belief is.

Broadly, there are two ways we will approach this topic: (1) Critically. We will look at other authors. What are their conclusions? This is an analytical approach. We will look at classic statements of what knowledge and belief are. We will look at the conclusions, reasons, and assumptions of various authors. (2) Speculatively. The question this way of approaching the topic asks is, “So what?” If Aquinas is wrong, what difference does it make? Whether Kant believes rational basis for human dignity or not, what do I think? What is religious belief? The aim here is to develop your own understanding of what religious belief is, refine your own position. This is a way of doing philosophy that is speculative, rather than analytical.  


What is a religious belief? This can be understood in a variety of ways. In the text “Can Religion Be Discussed?” A. N. Prior sets up a discussion between several figures representing various religious traditions. For the Barthian Protestant (fideism), rational discussions and proofs about religious beliefs are not only irrelevant, but inconsistent. St. Thomas’ Five Ways, and Anselm’s Ontological argument, on this view, are pointless. Faith is not something that tells you anything you can prove or demonstrate. There are those who preach on sidewalk corners, who represent the idea that by their witness of faith, people might come to believe. Some say religious beliefs are more an expression of emotion or feeling, which are telling you more about where I stand than facts about the world. Perhaps I could say you shouldn’t stand there, but can’t say no you do not stand there.


The statement, “All men will be brothers” has a nice sentiment, except of course literally that is not true. Perhaps it is an aspiration. Perhaps religion is an aspiration, a hope for something. That it would be as if all beings were united as a functional family as opposed to a dysfunctional family. We say a statement like “The sun sets,” even though literally that isn’t true, but is an accepted expression and we understand what people mean when we use this terminology. There is a reality behind the expression that you could talk about. For some, religious statements are figurative in this way. Phrases used to talk about Jesus like “Son of God” or “Son of Man” might be easily explained as titles, rather than accurate descriptions. Some would say these are actually statements that are either true or false. Either God is real or he is not. The fact that you believe it doesn’t make it true, and disbelief doesn’t make it false. Fideist could say statements of Religious belief are not things you could show to be true or show to be false. A traditional Roman Catholic would say statements of religious belief say things about the world that are either true/false.


What is the distinction between “true” and “justified”? You can be not justified, and still say true things. There’s a difference between whether there is a God, and whether you can prove there is a God. Are there people living on (other) planets? Either there are, or there are not. For some things, the answer is either true or false, and not just a matter of opinion. You may not know whether there are people living on other planets, but you not knowing does not make it false. 


How do we come to knowledge? Epistemology looks at this question, and tries to understand the limit of knowledge, what knowledge is. In modern philosophy, one of the big questions is what the limits of human knowledge are. ‘Knowledge’ itself is an ambiguous term. I know 1+1=2, and could probably prove it. I know Justin Trudeau is Prime Minister. The way I’d go about proving this is very different from 1+1=2. When I say, “I know my wife, daughter,” I am not saying I simply know facts about them, but I understand who they are. I also know how to drive a car. Suppose I give someone all the information, and you pass all the written tests for driving. Does this person know how to drive? No. Actually you can know relatively little about the mechanics of a car to know how to drive it. So there are different ways of using the word ‘knowledge’. Normally, when you use word ‘knowledge’, you have to be talking about knowledge of something that is true. You may be justified in believing that Justin Trudeau is Prime minister, but this may not be true. He could have been assassinated since the last time you verified he was Prime Minister. Knowledge has to be something you know to be true.


Is knowledge a kind of correspondence? A correspondence between my thought and reality. If I say “There are five people in this room,” we see the correspondence between the mind and what is in reality. But this is not the only way of talking about something. Some talk about truth being a property of sentences that fit with one another. If I said, “I know the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity,” how could I prove this? Well, I can’t see the Trinity in the same way as we can see Justin Trudeau, but the statement fits with what we know in some forms of Christianity. So not correspondence, but coherence – fits with a lot of other statements. We don’t know whether it corresponds or not. Knowledge has to be true. Whatever truth is.


Plato says knowledge is justified true belief. So what would justify me in believing there are four people in room? Perceptual evidence. As far as you know, your perceptual faculties are still reliable, so you perceive it and you trust your perception. 1+1=2 is not based on observation and evidence. 1 is a concept not necessarily physically represented. You know 3+67=70 some other way.


Is religious belief a kind of knowledge or not? Not? Maybe because belief is an ambiguous term. Belief might be something of which you are not certain. This is often how we use the term. I have some confidence in its truth but I wouldn’t say I’m certain. In Plato’s divided line, belief falls at the bottom of list because belief is based on unreliable perception. Belief is an inferior kind of knowing, and can be false. If say I believe in my wife, this is belief in a different sense than when I say, “I believe in God.” Religious person who sees apparently pointless suffering, still believes in God. Perhaps belief is even greater than certainty. Think of martyrs, who gave up lives for belief. That seems to go beyond certainty.


Do you know all your beliefs? Can you control your beliefs? Could you convince yourself that there is a sixth person in this classroom? If you were crossing the TransCanada highway, heard truck blaring, could you convince yourself there was nothing there? Would you stop to work through your perceptual faculties? Would you jump? If you would, then you believe. Is belief voluntary? Could people really choose to start believing in God? Maybe there are some beliefs so fundamental we could never question them, such as the belief that, currently, I am awake. Are there some beliefs that I could never doubt, but never prove? Is it reasonable to believe that I am alive? If no, then I probably couldn’t believe I could perceive anything. Sometimes because I believe, I can know other things. Kant said, “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” In reflecting on the order, design, majesty, one might realize that the fact that we can come to understand this is remarkable. Why should it be orderly? Why should there be regularity? If you’re an atheist, and you look up at the same sky, you may simply see stars where Kant sees the handiwork of God. In this case, the religious person sees something that the atheist doesn’t see. The religious person has a framework of belief that allows him to go beyond, allows us to have an understanding. So, in some cases, belief is what you need to have in order to know other things.


Monday, January 11 - Sam MacDonald

-        Reason: a sort of capacity of the mind to move from data to conclusions

-        Data: bits of information from various sources

-        We usually reason about things comprehensible

-        can we reason about things that are incomprehensible?

-        like God: God is love: what does that mean?

-        whatever the essence of love is, is God

-        If I can reason that God is love, then can I predict what God will do?

-        Probably need to comprehend the subject in order to predict its actions

-        How do children know about cause and effect?

-        Do they reason it? Not really, they don’t have full capabilities of reason yet

-        Why do premises lead to a conclusion?

-        There is some sort of connection between statement of reason

-        Can we reason things without knowing it or being conscious of it?

-        Reasoning could be a habitual action that we get in the routine of using

-        Faith: also something psychological

-        Paul Claudel: went to Notre Dame Cathedral on Christmas Eve as an agnostic. While he was there the rousing sound of the choir enlightened him and he became a man of faith.

-        What is that faith? Believing in something, like God.

-        But we can believe in all sorts of things, a teaching, a person, etc.

-        Must faith have evidence? Faith might be able to be explained, but probably cannot give evidence in the traditional sense.

-        On this account faith is not an affair of reason, it does not require empirical evidence

-        You can’t say anything is reasonable without evidence

-        Faith can also be a huge motivator, can lead on to self-sacrifice

-        faith can be a great commitment to something

-        Faith is sometimes called a disposition to act: a certain prescribed way of living that habituates itself - worship, prayer, generosity

-        People of faith tend to do some sort of worship/ prayer, as well as a way of acting toward others

-        People may not like having to do these things but they do them anyway because that’s what’s right (does this require faith?)

-        A sort of obligation to act in a certain way

-        Faith is not a classic Aristotelian virtue because you cannot practice faith and then suddenly get to faith.

-        Faith isn’t just like belief, lacking certain evidence, uncertain, wavering

-        Can you choose your faith, or is it spontaneous? Why is someone Catholic rather than Protestant or Lutheran?

-        The way one is brought up. If everyone around you is Catholic, then you’re more likely to become a Catholic than a Lutheran

-        The occasion of attaining faith, who is around you at the time

-        Is the story of Jesus turning water into wine magic? To children maybe

-        The water was a symbol of ritual purification, the old covenant

-        The wine, a symbol of a Jesus’s blood and a new covenant

-        Jesus stands between the old and new covenants

-        The story is not so much about Jesus’s supernatural chemical abilities, but a story of the covenants

-        Adult believers may have more mature, enlightened views of religious text.

-        Does faith change, or do one’s beliefs about their faith change?

-        faith seems to be authoritative, and independent of my control

Wednesday, January 13 - Sam MacDonald

-        Is it reasonable for someone to have faith?

-        We need to understand what it means to be reasonable and what it means to have faith

-        Some say it is not reasonable to be religious

-        reason doesn’t apply to faith (fideism)

-        Some go as far as to say it is irrational to be religious

-        holding a religious belief contradicts truths provided by means of rational proof

-        Aquinas: “Is faith reasonable?” Summa contra gentiles

-        trying to argue from a position of reason so as to hold common ground with other cultures.

-        What kinds of things can be demonstrated and what can only be believed?

-        demonstration is seen as more than a probabilistic argument, more in the realm of logical or mathematical arguments

-        Guilty: probable beyond reasonable doubt

-        reasonable, but still could be a false verdict

-        Aquinas: faith is reasonable, but what can we actually demonstrate?

-        it’s relative depending on what you’re talking about and who is inquiring

-        Some objects are indemonstrable

-        Can’t demonstrate the existence of the trinity, or transubstantiation

-        We might be able to show that it doesn’t violate the laws of nature; that they’re not irrational beliefs

-        Some say that there are only 6 people in the world that really understand string theory

-        Some people have a natural capacity to do things

-        For some it may take an incredible amount of time and require a lot of patience

-        We have to know what is being demonstrated and who is doing the demonstration

-        Some things are known by faith, some of which can also be demonstrated by reason

-        All sorts of scientific facts and theories are taken on faith, for no scientist has actually done all of the experiments that have led them to various scientific conclusions. Other scientists did the experiments and then many more take their conclusions on faith

-        Faith can provide (or sustain?) descriptive, true things

-        What about the things in faith that cannot be known by reason, should I believe them?

-        Aquinas: sometimes yes, provided they don’t contradict reason

-        If I believe in the trinity and nothing in reasonable knowledge contradicts that belief, then it is not an unreasonable belief

-        If there were things that might confirm that belief (such as miracles), then that belief is reasonable

-        Reason (provided God exists) presumably came from God, and faith presumably came from God

-        If there is any apparent conflict between the two, then the conflict is in one’s reasoning or their interpretation of their faith. For the err cannot be in God

-        I cannot prove by reason the existence of heaven , but if it’s possible, then I should probably live in a way that will get me in

-        In some sense faith is a set of truths (don’t conflict with reason)

-        but faith is more than believing in a set of statements

-        Faith as a disposition to act in certain ways

-        Can be reinforced through action

-        Faith is supplied by God: can be denied but cannot be grasped alone

-        Faith is something intellectual, but it also incorporates the will

-        you give your assent and then act on it

-        Locke was among the early generations who want to take a long second look at Aquinas

-        Would disagree with Aquinas about the nature of knowledge

-        Locke was an empiricist: people are born without innate ideas or knowledge

-        What is knowledge? L: the perception of agreement or disagreement between ideas and other ideas (not ideas and the objects that produce them)

-        How do I know my sense experience is reliable?

-        Light changes the appearance of things, so how do I know the absolute or actual colour of a thing?

-        We might all be seeing different images, but we’re just conditioned into calling things by their common signs

-        We cannot know the external world, but we can believe it exists

-        We can only know ideas by how they fit together

-        Immediate knowledge: direct perception, actual

-        Habitual knowledge: we resurrect ideas from memory to relate them

-        Intuitive knowledge: immediate and clear

-        Calculating or reasoning requires demonstration

-        Some proofs are demonstrable, some aren’t but are probable

-        Most of our “knowledge” is probabilistic, and liable to mistakes

-        Logic itself vs. the memory of learning about logic

-        Probability: the connection between ideas is not necessary, but contingent

-        Testimony: we believe things people tell us based on their trustworthiness or the uniformity of hearsay

-        Enthusiasm: is to be avoided: love of truth is great, but most people don’t earnestly love truth

-        anything that you believe must be proportionate to the evidence you have to support the belief

-        otherwise you’re believing things not for their evidence, but for some other motivation

18 and 20 January, 2016 -- Benjamin McGrath


Jan 18

               As a continuation from the discussion from the previous week, we examined the philosophy of John Locke, taking into account his empiricist view of the relationship between faith and reason. Rather than proving the existence of God, the observed selection from Book IV from Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding aims at asking whether it is reasonable to hold religious beliefs. As a starting point, it was stated that as God is beyond the process of the human capacity to reason, we neither prove nor disprove His existence.


               In discussing the source of Locke’s interest in religion (a considerable portion of his library consisted of theological works), it was shown that religion causes a problem for stability in the governance of a nation, which was the focus of much of Locke’s writing. This friction between groups of individuals was an arena in society that troubled Locke deeply, it seems, as there is no clear way of resolving this dispute. Furthermore, as religious individuals are most likely to answer to the authority of their faith over that of a political institution when faced with a dilemma, Locke saw the potential for social dissent and even revolution if political power created laws that opposed the popular religious dogma or ideology.


               For this reason, Locke was a proponent of religious toleration. He thought that if one possessed demonstrably true knowledge, then they should not tolerate disagreement, and that if one was confronted with a demonstrable truth, that they should abandon their false belief and adopt the true viewpoint. However, most instances of thought are not demonstrable truths, and in these cases it is an unjustified act to impose one’s potentially erroneous views on another. In this realm of uncertainty, therefore, all beliefs surrounding the nature of God should be tolerated, except for those of atheism and Catholicism, as members of such faiths place their loyalty in human beings, who are capable of error. Locke leaves room for the potential for religious views to be challenged, but thinks that it is wrong to impose them upon others. As we cannot be certain of the truth of certain dissenting views, toleration makes the most sense, both logically and politically. 


               The second topic that was focused upon in class discussion was the idea that knowledge exists in the mind, and that we have no true access to the outside world, and cannot directly know a reality external to our minds. We do have knowledge of images and ideas, but cannot comprehend their source. This idea brings forth an important distinction between direct and habitual knowledge, which is essentially the difference between knowing that you see a glass on the table before you, and knowing that cups are a good container for holding liquids. While direct knowledge is based upon sense perception and requires no argumentative evidence, habitual knowledge is based upon reasoning and requires evidence in the form of a series of propositions designed to reach a conclusion.


               Along the lines of this division, Locke suggests that it only ever makes sense to hold an opinion when it is based on evidence. He warns against enthusiasm – to be carried or lifted by the spirit of an idea – and in this way posits something close to evidentualism, a doctrine that states that you must have evidence sufficient to the conviction you hold in your belief.

               The third topic discussed on 18 January pertained to Chapter V of the aforementioned reading, and the statement that “truth properly belongs only to propositions” was expanded upon and investigated with some depth. Propositions, it seems, can be true, false, or completely meaningless. “God is love” is a proposition, as it is composed of both a subject and a predicate. It can be either true or false, as this case is dependent upon the context and upon the religious belief held by the speaking individual. An example of a meaningless proposition is “colourless green ideas divorce,” as it is comprised of only a contradiction and an action that cannot be applied to the idea it is paired with. Another instance of this type of nonsense is the poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Carrol.


               If truth is propositional, it follows that belief is propositional as well. For example, we state “I believe that God exists.” In most cases, one must give propositional evidence for such a claim, the only exception being in the case of direct knowledge. When, then, can one claim that their evidence is sufficient? Beyond cases of demonstrable proof, we must talk in terms of probability and likelihood, and work towards beliefs through our own experience and the testimony of others. It is through this weighing of the testimony of others by which we judge their competence. For example, if my father and siblings reassure me that my mother is not a robot controlled by radio waves from Mars, it is most likely that she is in fact human, and in being human and my mother, loves me.


               A different example is the King of Siam, who did not believe that water could, under certain conditions, become a solid substance that could carry the weight of an elephant, despite it being the truth. This is because the evidence provided to him by his experience told him the contrary, and he was not willing to trust the testimony of the messenger. In this case, it seems as though it would truly be unreasonable for him to believe the truth, based on his knowledge of the world.


               The fourth topic discussed in class was exploring the possibility of proving the existence of God. Locke claims that we can know with certainty that there is indeed a God, as it is self-evident through the faculty of natural reason, and can be demonstrated through various proofs. On page 27 of the given reading, Locke states that “reason is natural revelation,” as it gives us the ability to comprehend the information available to us through our various faculties. When attempting to determine whether a revolution is genuine, mere belief is not sufficient. As Locke states, a genuine revelation requires “something else besides that internal light” (p.32). Furthermore, he puts forth the notion that “reason must be out last judge” (p.31), which is essentially a restatement of the idea that enthusiasm must be curbed by reason. Ultimately, it is reason that will dictate the reliability of a revelation.     



Jan 20

               On this day, the difference between faith and belief was investigated in depth. A lengthy discussion concerning the factors that make a belief religious demonstrated that both content and worldview played an important role in many religious beliefs, but neither was a necessary or sufficient factor in giving an explanation for the religiousness of a belief.


Do Locke, Hume, and others correctly understand religious belief? Are they giving us a full account of faith? Is what they claim about religion what actually religious people believe? Furthermore, what is it that they have said about religious belief specifically? It seems as though neither philosopher made an attempt to define precisely what holding a religious belief entails.


Locke, specifically, differentiates faith from belief in the following manner: belief is the admission or assertion of truth without knowledge, while faith comes from God through revelation, and can be defined as the assent to any proposition not made out by the deductions of reason. In this context, a revelation is a sort of message that comes directly to the receiver from God, as Locke is skeptical about the nature of revelation coming from a reading of scripture.

In this sense, reason can provide us with more certainty than traditional revelation, as a message received in this way deals with probability, and not with certain knowledge. Testimony pins the act of reasoning on another, and assenting to this kind of information is shaky ground for faith.


Demonstration is the act of proving a necessary connection between two ideas.


I can hold some religious beliefs when they are directly revealed to me from God.

-        In this case, we can claim knowledge as it is purely a matter of faith, and lies beyond the faculty of reason. As Locke states: “faith gave the determination where reason came short.” 


In the realm of possibility, we must allow others to hold different views and be open to changing our minds. Even when reading scripture, we must keep an open mind because it is the testimony of others who claim to have experienced revelations. In the entirety of the New Testament, there is only one revealed truth, which is that Jesus Christ is the messiah. Everything else presented in that series of books is testimony, and is open to interpretation and possibility. There is still no manner of determining the validity of Jesus as messiah through the faculty of reason alone, although the probabilistic argument that one can use in this situation is that if Jesus was not the messiah, then he was a lunatic. However, Jesus of Nazareth was not a lunatic, and therefore he was the messiah.


What is it that distinguishes Christianity from a collection of stories? It must be the truth of Jesus as the messiah, as most other points in the bible are argued upon, and indeed these disagreements form the base of many of the divisions within the broader religion of Christianity. Some examples include:

-        The death of Jesus upon the cross

-        Whether or not Jesus had siblings

-        Whether Mary was truly a virgin

-        If Jesus truly, physically turned water into wine

-        Most details surrounding the resurrection of Jesus

-        The trinity

-        Sacraments

This is because all of these points are based off of unreliable testimony, especially due to the vested interest in the validity of these acts. There is more evidence given for some events than there are for others, and reason also tells us many things that are included in the bible, such as that kindness and compassion are essential to humanity.

There are, of course, some truths about religion / faith. Some of these are demonstrable proofs, while many more still are beliefs. From Locke’s unenthusiastic view, this belief must both be proportional and open to change. It is also true that some things are simply beyond human knowledge and understanding.


Therefore, there is nothing distinctive about religious belief, only that some such beliefs rely upon divine revelation.


A short note about David Hume: He picks up many of the presuppositions of John Locke, refines them, adds substance to some of them, has certain distinctive views regarding miracles. His is essentially an academic and skeptical philosophy, and he explores the manner in which one might go about trating religious texts.


-25 January 2016-

Hume: what do we know? 
     skeptic - doesn’t believe in causation.

Enquiry concerning Human Understanding
     -miracles      -afterlife     -dialogues on Natural History of Religion

Skeptic? skepticism is a characteristic of academics. 

pg. 1 halfway down […] *fill this in

Skepticism: doubt ‘dare to know’ 
     -a kind of balance to this though:  a kind of common sense always wins out … 

Causality: based on constant conjunction - habit of mind 
     -how do I know the pen will fall? - gravity as a force - kind of archaic - don’t see it in a way that explains attraction

-nature | common sense : intervenes when we seem to be getting a bit crazy.
     Desire to know limits of human understanding.

What can we sensibly talk about? What should we doubt or be skeptical about? 
     ‘nature will always maintain her rights’ 

Even though I can’t prove cause and effect, I would not be able to survive in the world without it. 
     -no reason to believe physics, etc. 

Empirical Foundation for things
     based on ideas and impressions are the basis of our knowledge (concepts and complex ideas) 
     (sci-fi is new combination of ideas)

Locke: Prove things? Ways to know things:
     i. Demonstrative: absolutely known
     ii. Probability: not absolutely certain but varying degrees of probability 

‘all humans must die.’ ^ neither these. 

need a 3rd Category:
  1. Proof pg. 7

Matters of Fact
     -popular or philosophical 
     ‘Justin Trudeau is Prime Minister’ 
     -not always the case (can be true at certain parts of time)
     -doesn’t have to be true - e.g. Justin Trudeau a woman? 
     -shown by experience
Matters of Abstract Reason
     -logical rules
     -known by reason (quantity, etc.)
     -often find this in math (1+1=2) 
     -not probability - not a matter of fact (would be odd to say that was untrue)
     -velocity = distance/time (true always) 

Matters of Fact: can be probably but never absolutely certain.
Matters of Abstract Reasoning: hard to know how I can be mistaken about these things. 

3 Ways of knowing things: demonstrative, proof, probability 
2 Wising of talking about reality: fact or reasoning

*can state certain truths but not be justified.

Demonstration is the more perfect way of knowing things (species of knowledge) 

Fact: proof or probability 

Miracles: not abstract reasoning 
     -supported, therefore only proof or probability 

Say something that can’t be demonstrative or probability? 
     e.g. Cause and effect: can’t demonstrate every event has a cause 
     e.g. that Mozart produced beautiful music (not matter of fact - matter of taste)
… but true or false? not. Opinion. 
…not probability … taste or sentiment. 

Where would statements of religion fit in? 
     if there is something we can’t have rational justification for, maybe it lives behind human understanding - nonsense to talk about because behind human.

‘God is 3 persons…' 
     demonstrative? nope. 
     sentiment? makes me feel good (no right or wrong)

Religious Belief
     pg. 4

Belief: sentiment that begets immediately - nature produces this in us
     -prefer one way of things over another

Imaginary vs. things I should have belief (inexplicable, just grabs me.)

Children develop a habit of cause and effect
     -inexplicable product of nature

belief: not a reasoned conclusion - natural

Why believe in a physical world? - natural to believe - result of how human beings work

Section X on Miracles
     - sounds like belief is within our control
     -‘a wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence'

2 Kinds of Belief: ^
     Speaking from Experience 
     Religious Faith:      
     -can we demonstrate beliefs? (abstract matter of quality and matter)
     -no … not matters of abstract reasoning

Matters of abstract reasoning doesn’t really tell you anything about the world.
     -when did #7 come to exist? 
     -time in which no human consciousness … 2 billion years ago did #7 exist? How long will it exist for? 

Bachelor - word existing … yes? 

Ideas of numbers, logical facts ‘abstract reason'

Religious Statements:
     Proof? Can’t imagine it to be false 

     Resurrection: based on testimony
     Testimony: sometimes reliable, sometimes not
     -perspective: thought they did say 
     -deceive even themselves?
     -level of understanding so low, they don’t understand?

NT: surprising that they didn’t know Jesus was alive … Road to Emmeus (why didn’t they recognize)
     -didn’t look the same. 

Testimony itself seems to be problematic: 
     if testimony fits with what we know about nature, then great … 
     when testimony seems to conflict with what we know about nature, have to go back and weigh probability of testimony. 
     -need some way of discerning reliability of testimony 

Paul saw something on the road Damascus
     -has connection spoken by Jesus
     -others: you are crazy —> have other reason
     -chances are, theres a more natural explanation for the event.

     Evidence for
     Evidence against
If they confirm beliefs … if they disconfirm, have to make a choice.

End of the day —> miracles are based on testimony

Miracles: violations of the laws of nature
     -counter evidence is law of nature

Any miracle: what is probability its true? Very low.
     -Quality of testimony? doesn’t matter, completely goes against laws of nature.

Miracles simply aren’t probable.
     pg. 14 […}
     Miracles: subverting all principles of understanding.

Section XI:  of the Academical or Skeptical Philosophy
     pg. 21 pt. 3

Mitigated Skepticism: limit statements to that narrow capacity of human understanding.  

Options Open. pg. 23
     Moral Reasoining: anything concerning particular or general facts 
     -open to probabilistic knowledge 

The Sciences: politics, natural philosophy

Divinity or Theology: 
     foundation in reason, only so being supported by experience
     -best and most solid foundation is faith and divine revelation
     -maybe support for religious belief but best support is revelation

Morals and Criticism -> taste and sentiment
     beauty is felt, more properly than perceived.

General tastes of mankind. 

*some things are cognitive and can really be known
     -others not 

In the end: 
     does this contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? nope. 
     does it contain any experiential reasoning? Nope.
     Commit it then to the flames. For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. 

* nothing we can grasp or understand

Most religious belief —> no foundation in reason —> grammatically well formed, conceptually confused
     -cant know matters of religion

Natural belief in God? maybe Hume’s view … don’t know.

Stand back and look at the two authors:
     -what exactly is belief? (control or hope?)
     -what would standard be for rationally believing something?

     -would individuals say religious beliefs describe things or express feelings? (descriptive, expressive, or both somehow
     -our beliefs cognitive or expressive.  

-27 January 2016-

Locke and Hume: a bit of a review
     What have we learned about religious belief? 

What are religious beliefs? 
     -a kind of attitude/state/way of knowing things
     -some things we can only know by 


     -used in large sense
     -Locke says there are some things we can know without clear revelation
     -can know God’s existence - not just opinion, its knowledge

Particular Religious beliefs: what kinds of statements = conclusions of demonstration
     -intuitive knowledge (God is one? God must exist?)
     -probability ? (no more firm belief)
     -revelation (only concern is how do we know genuine)
          -have to look for confirmation 

Religious Statements are not a matter of opinion … either right or wrong, whether or not I believe it 
     -describing the way the world is ‘talk about the world'

Statement based on probability —> how strongly we assent to them is based on strength of testimony

Can’t accept testimony at face value.
     -lots of factors (quality of speaker, vested interest, etc.)
     -to figure out if solid testimony

Evidence: based on observation and experience
     have to be open to idea that you are wrong … King of Sian analogy (water turning to ice with elephant)

Claims can be made but are not definitive 
     -always open to addition/change (?) 

Beliefs are fallibalistic 
     -can always fail, be corrected/revised

Claims in later —> can’t impose probabilistic claims on other people 
     Toleration … current belief - have to admit I could be wrong...

Hume: what about things that you don’t have much evidence, experience or knowledge about? 
     e.g. Belief in the Trinity: not demonstrable, not intuitive, matter of probability, not revealed.
     -speculation but no foundation ‘absurdities'

pg 25 enthusiasm section II
     ‘if you make no distinction between faith and reason, anything can go!'
     -e.g. faiths that oppose reason
     -engaged in ridiculous behaviour
     -if no basis for reason, you should just shut up because then just absurdities.

Where does this leave most religious belief?
     -shut up, left in the dust.

*room for religion, but limits - surpass reason —> don’t talk about it
     -Locke: talk about Christianity but beyond?

Religious Belief and Locke
     -not talking about conviction (psychological state)
     -he is saying religion is largely about descriptive/cognitive statements (things you can talk about)
     -‘jesus, son of God’ : tells you about Jesus

But language is sometimes used in a non-descriptive way
     e.g. Myth’s of Plato —> he’s not describing state of affairs - do it in a way that uses analogy or parable.

‘Jesus is the shepherd and we are the sheep'
     -literally, NOT true.
     -doesn’t describe a state of affairs but does propose something claimed to be true.

     -Shakespeare/fiction convey any truths - lies, get rid of it. ] a bit uncharitable

There are truths conveyed that aren’t in explicit statements … (not describing state of affairs - metaphorical way if are - need to be unpacked)

Does this explain why people should/do go to death for religious belief?
     ‘1+1=3’ or lions
     -deny Jesus is Son of God or lions (a lot actually didn’t do this)
     -some people would not deny certain statements …  

What is it that marks religious statements that would cause people to hold so firmly?
     -what would explain truth or commitment? 

What motivates this behaviour? 
     -positively irrational
     -or something in religious belief that you ‘couldn’t give it up'
     -relinquish belief = worse than death? 

Does Locke cover all the statements religious people believe?

What would religious believers hold to be true and worth committing so strongly too?

Is belief some kind of principle? 
     -give up ontological belief, getting rid of something they can’t live without 
     -or some strange psychological responses.

What is he saying, what has he left out (?)

Hume: picks up on assumptions of Locke and logically follows them through to their logical conclusion.
     Proofs: not intuitive, but people wouldn’t doubt it Religious belief and faith? 
     -individual beliefs? Inquiry Concern Human Understanding
     -Jesus resurrected from dead
     -Krishna avatar of Vishnu 
     ^in what way do these have meaning? 

3 Categories 
     1. Descriptive: (cognitive) : statements of mathematics/observation 
     2. Sentiments: Adolf Hitler is bad - doesn’t tell us anything about Hitler
     -God ought to be worshipped
     -ethical statements (out to be vegan) 
     -normative/valuative statement 
     -statements are neither true nor false - appropriate or not responses
     3. Meaningless Statements: colourless green ideas divorce - grammatically yes 
     -looks like reason/sense but there is none.

     -looks meaningful, looks descriptive but end up in at least a paradox or contradiction.

*these kinds of texts mislead us when they aren’t therefore we should get rid of them. 

Meaningless: neither true nor false - like gibberish - where do I put religious propositions

Section X: Miracles
     -seems to be claiming to be proofs based on probability ‘I saw Jesus ascend’ 
     -me?      -eyewitness?      -observation? 
     -testimony fails.
     -more reason to doubt than to believe them.

Expressions of Sentiment? (God is love? meaning/am favourable about God)
     -tells about how I am going to live my life     
     -neither true nor false. 

Jesus was resurrected bodily into heaven? Good reason to believe? 

*are religious beliefs ever cognitively meaningful?
     -think saying something meaningful or not. 

Take Hume's own views seriously...
     Miracles: contradict laws of nature … but according to reason, we can’t have laws of nature.
     -miracle report      vs.      law of nature
     -cause and effect based on habit
     -but then later on he writes that we should 

He doesn’t live up to own standards - not being consistent. 

Matters of Fact
     Everything is based on cause and effect … but reason is not … (?) 

Knowledge is so limited -> what is reason for believing it?
     By looking at a thing - what can you know about its purpose? 
     -Coke bottle: the Gods must be crazy! 

When looking at things -> what is basis for believing against laws of nature - put it against these.

Hume wants to place religion closer to the illusion and sophistry category -> not in probable category - if so, very very small. 

-Inspiration or sentiments or metaphor (?) 
-how do we account for statements that don’t obviously fit?

Hume is not saying [just] some religious beliefs are absurdities … most, if not all? 

What do you say to these people? Different kinds of Responses.
     -both want to say no, most are cognitive and verifiable. 

Paley and Whately - Anglican
     -interest in economics, law, he’s a churchman. (Paley)
     -confronted with skeptical challenges
     -Yes basis, believes if going to believe have to have cognitive and demonstrative reasoning.

Religion: Evidence based on:
     -Effect to cause argument (a posteriori)
          Argument from Design: Teleological Argument

Paley: wants to provide an answer to some skepticism
     -not establishing absolute certainty
     argument, so conclusion is best explanation

Argument from Testimony:
     relating/going through all these things:
     -plausible or true? Not just trying to deceive me.
     -plausible to believe - weight of testimony.

Teleological Argument 
     -kick a rock … we don’t ask where it comes from 
     -kick smartphone … where did it come from? ^why not ask the same question?

Best explanation for the smart phone is not that it existed here forever. 

Summary of Week 5 classes: February 1st and February 3rd   - Sarah Beattie


The underlying question here is whether religious people know what they’re talking about or do they only believe what they say? For Locke, if I can demonstrate it, then I know it. So, if I can demonstrate God’s existence, then I know it. This is the same for Hume. If I could prove something in Hume’s sense or if something were intuitively clear in Locke’s sense, I could say that I know them.


Do I believe based on reasons and arguments? Suppose I say, “There is a God?” What would evidence look like? Evidentialism. Aquinas would say that if you are going to be rational, you must have evidence. Should always base my statements on sufficient evidence. What counts as sufficient evidence? How do I know when I have sufficient evidence? Locke and Hume would say if something were demonstrated, to deny it is to engage in some kind of contradiction or absurdity. This is a pretty high standard. In court, people talk about reasonable doubt. Have you proven that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? Who has to provide evidence, and what is the standard? In common law, the burden of proof is on prosecutor, and the defence normally doesn’t have to prove innocence. Usually the person advocating non-traditional claim is the one who has to prove. All the defense has to do is show that the prosecution’s evidence is not sufficient to convict. If something is demonstrated, then that is sufficient. But most of what goes on in a court of law are probabilities.


Some would say would only be certain if you have a demonstration: this is foundationalism. For a clear demonstration, premises must be self-evident and reasoning must be deductive. How many of our premises in daily life are actually incorrigible? “Ben’s shirt is blue.” Incorrigible? No. I could say, “I perceive that Ben’s shirt is blue.” Is the claim “Bachelors are unmarried adult males” self-evident? If you know what the terms mean? It is clear that in our daily life, not many things are self-evident or incorrigible. The best we can hope for is that most of our beliefs have probability. As a child, you may have said, “I love you, mom.” Did you have evidence? You meet someone, and you fall madly in love. Is that based on deductive evidence?

Is it reasonable to make statements before evidence? When we have our beliefs, did we find evidence later? Or were we agnostic, and the evidence pointed us in a certain way? A foundationalist would say you must have demonstrative evidence for statements before you can state them. This seems an unreasonably high standard. Without evidence, we would have to suspend/abandon beliefs.


Why should I believe in Christianity? Because it is about love? This sort of love is not eroticism, not passion. We can’t love people all in the same way, or to the same degree. How you love will vary. If commandment of love is a foundational part of being a Christian, is this what you should be? Is it reasonable to be a Christian? You probably can’t demonstrate, but then again we can’t demonstrate a lot of things. It could be reasonable, and we obviously can’t prove everything. Maybe you love before you have all the evidence. What kinds of arguments do I have for my beliefs? Should you always try to prove beliefs? To what extent can we have reasons for claims? Plato says be just to friends and enemies, but why be just? Plato says it is good to be simply because justice is good in itself, and for its consequences.


Is being a Christian just a way of being ethical, or is it more than that? Why believe in Christianity? (1) Testimony. Paley says,

“If twelve men, whose probity and good sense I had long known, should seriously and circumstantially relate to me an account of a miracle wrought before their eyes, and in which it was impossible that they should be decided; if the governor of a country, hearing a rumour of this account, should call these men into his presence, an offer them a short proposal, either to confess the imposture, or submit to be tied up to a gibbet; if they should refuse with one voice to acknowledge that there existed any falsehood or imposture in the case; if this threat were communicated to them separately, yet with no different effect; if it was at last executed; if I myself saw them, one after another, consenting to be racked, burnt, or strangled, rather than give up the truth of their account … there exists not a sceptic in the world who would not believe them, or who would defend such incredulity” (Evidences 4-5).

Twelve men? Disciples? Or Jury? Testimony provides (good) evidence for the conclusion. There is a cumulative weight of testimony. If each attests to the occurrence of an event, could we reasonably believe? Why should anyone believe testimony in scriptures? (Not just the Bible, but also other scriptures like the Koran, or Bhagavad Gita). Paley and Locke would ask whether religious belief has good effects. If leads people to love, change, etc, is that good evidence for Christianity? If results are bad (wars, famines, crusades – or false cause), is Christianity reasonable? (2) Argument from effects to causes. This is the sort of argument Paley gives. If we find a rock on liquor lane that would be expected, but what if we found an iPhone? It would not be reasonable to think that it has always been there. What about the thing would indicate a maker? Artificial, unnatural, mechanism. We make an inevitable inference that watch has a maker. Our inference: must have been made by someone, put here. Based on observation of thing and properties, we know it must have been made.

“What effect would this discovery have, or ought it to have, upon our former inference? What, as hath already been said, but to increase beyond measure our admiration of the skill which had been employed in the formation of such a machine? Or shall it, instead of this, all at once turn us round to an opposite conclusion, namely, that no art or skill whatever has been concerned in the business, although all other evidences of art and skill remain as they were, and this last and supreme piece of art be now added to the rest?” (p. 19).

Is it plausible that if atoms bounce around in a certain way, they would combine to make an iPhone? Could monkeys on typewriters produce Shakespeare? This is atheism, concludes Paley.


Paley’s claim is that if we look at a designed/intelligently operating effect, we can know something about the cause. It would not be reasonable to think this is accidental. Why is it reasonable that it had a designer? It is simply not a matter of probability of being produced by nature, as opposed to creator. There’s something about reasonableness that relates to probability, but we can’t always know probability. If there are a million monkeys at million typewriters, what is the probability of producing Shakespeare? Is this really how we look at this? Is there a better way of looking at it?  



Whately, like Paley, is a Christian. He was the Anglican archbishop of Dublin. A logician, he studied at Oxford. His epistemology influenced by Locke. Whately knows if go along too far with Locke, will end up with Hume, which would be really damaging to the Christian religion. Whately wrote about the elements of logic and rhetoric, as well as a pamphlet entitled, “Historic Doubts related to Napoleon Bonaparte.” In this, he takes Hume’s principles and applies them to the question of whether it would be reasonable to believe that Napoleon Bonaparte lived. If follow Hume’s standards, would quickly conclude that there is no such man as Napoleon Bonaparte. Whately tries to give us better ways of arguing. He differentiates between logic and rhetoric. Rhetoric is understood now in a sort of derogatory way, although it has had a sort of Renaissance. Rhetoric sort of connotes an idea of being uninterested in truth – just getting people to believe things regardless of the truth, and by any means possible. Yet, we recognize that persuasion is important. Logic focused on judging arguments. Rhetoric is simply a way to arrange arguments to prove things. However, Whately says that rhetoric is a way to construct your views, so that they are good arguments. So when people judge them, they are good and persuasive. Rhetoric is concerned with guiding us to rationally show reasons for our belief. Then logic comes in after the fact. Logic today in philosophy really tries to do both. In Chapter 2, Whately tries to scope out typography of different ways of constructing argument. What are these ways? On page 41, he says arguments are “frequently divided into ‘moral’ and ‘demonstrative’. Moral here is not specifically related to ethics, but more generally to human affairs.


What counts as sufficient evidence? According to foundationalism, if we start with certain premises, and use deduction, we can get certain conclusions. The realm of subjects where foundationalism is an appropriate standard of sufficient evidence, however, is limited. It may be useful in theoretic physics, but perhaps maybe not in ethics or aesthetics. Hume and Locke would say demonstration is the gold standard, starting with certain premises, and making inferences. This is visible in rationalists too (Spinoza, etc.). What does Whately think about moral and demonstrative arguments? We might think that demonstrative leads to certainty, and moral does not lead to certainty. But this is not what Whately says. Certainty can apply to things outside of mathematics and logic. Moral arguments can produce certainty. This would bother Hume. What makes the difference between them? Pen – writes, has proprieties associated with pens, ink. He offered it to me as a pen. Have we proved it’s a pen? We’ve agreed it’s a pen. Have I started out with certain premises, used a deductive argument? We all engaged in reasoning, although not consciously, knew it was a pen. Suppose you put a pen in pocket, tried to take it out again and it flew around to corner of the room and exploded? Did the pen turn into a bird? Was it exactly the thing we thought it was and did something entirely unexpected? What constitutes proof? We can put it through tests, or take it apart. At the end of the day, can we ever prove anything about so-called material objects? Can you say you know something even if it turns out completely differently? Or do I have to say I don’t really know these things – just have beliefs about them?

What would Whately say about the pen? We could say, “I am certain that is a pen.” Can I say, “I know that is a pen”? If it flew to corner, did you know it? Did you assume too quickly? What else could I have done to prove was a pen? What test would others perform? When can I say, “tis proven that it’s a pen” or could I never reach this stage? Is it just that the chances of its being a pen are higher than it not being a pen? We’ve tested on four people, what are the chances we’re wrong? If I’m uncertain, what’s the location of my uncertainty? If really still haven’t proven it’s a pen, is there anything I can prove in this universe? I subjected it to all the tests, I believe pen, it turns into a bird, I would not have been wrong to say pen? No. If I can’t say this, I can’t say I know anything at all about the world. If standard of proof is so high that even after passing this object around, still can’t say a pen, it is entirely useless and I can’t know anything. Proof is relative to the subject matter. For math, there are certain procedures we go through. If it passes the test, then it is mathematically certain. You know it if it conforms to standards of math. You don’t know it if departs. When comes to things outside math, standards of proof are different but not because you can’t have certainty, but that the subject matter is different.


For example, if you want a foolproof way to win at chess, punch your opponent. They invariably resign. But, you might say, that’s not how you play chess. If you’re a boxer, punching in face may be required. Different practices have different rules. Is chess better than boxing or is boxing better than chess? It depends on what you hope to get out of it. If you’re hoping to develop mental strategy, maybe should go for chess. If aim is self-defence, boxing a better skill to have. Which is better depends on kind of objectives you’re trying to achieve. So in moral reasoning, Whately would say you could be certain in math, ethics, aesthetics, although you’re not doing the same thing. The rules are relative to the practice/activity you’re engaged in. The highest degree of evidence is relative to what you’re doing. Winning at chess is different from boxing, but you are still winning. You can have certainty. Opposite doesn’t imply logical contradiction. You can have certainty outside of demonstrative sciences. Not inferior to knowledge in mathematics. It’s different. If ordinary life were like mathematics, then we could expect mathematical certainty. The difference is subject matter, not quality of certainty/proof. It’s the kind of argument differs here, not that mathematical arguments better than other. If I can’t have proof in ethics, there’s no point. Not mathematical certainty, but certainty nonetheless. It would be impractical and bizarre to expect mathematical certainty in courtroom, ethics.


Why believe in reasonableness of Christianity? Is the testimony of the apostles and witnesses reliable? Not by itself. In the intervening years, lots of people have looked at evidence on their own and come up with same result. If all come up with same conclusion, not just more probable, but a cumulative weight of testimony. A general weight is greater than individual weights. This is not a matter of probability. Theoretically, you could have 1000 tests, but here cumulative testimony suffices. Not just a question of believing this individual over that individual, but cumulative weight of independent investigations all arriving at the same conclusion. If Christianity is true, what makes it true? Truth of one religion doesn’t contradict the other. If proof of Christianity is from the text, that’s one thing. “Jesus is God” is another kind of statement. How one would go about proving would be different. We have cumulative testimony, but also weigh against refutation or lack of evidence against it. Again, this is not probability.


Whately handles the testimony argument very differently from Hume, who weights probability against the laws of nature being false. Whately says testimony does not work as Hume’s probability, because we cannot calculate this. Another way of looking at moral arguments is that they warrant a different kind of proof than Hume things, because they have a different subject matter. Certain things Whately shares with Hume and Locke: he does think beliefs are statements, and does think they are possible to prove. He does think it is reasonable to have evidence, but would disagree with them on how you construct evidence to support belief. Do we need evidence before you believe something? No, though it is nice if you do. However, there are things we believe that we don’t have the evidence we think we should have.


Why believe do we believe that there are eight planets (or nine)? If I had direct experience, I could say I saw it, but I never had experience of Pluto. I’m convinced there was/is a material object called Pluto, although I never saw it. Should I go to my telescope and hunt it down? I was told about it. It was not my experience, but rather it was told to me. All sorts of astronomers said it was a planet. How did it stop being a planet? The same kinds of people came to the consensus that it was no longer a planet. The real basis for my belief is testimony. So when I say I believe that Pluto exists, I am not testifying to the truth of the event, but that it is the received opinion about the event. The Appendix discusses people who make judgements about New Testament. While they rarely have direct evidence because they don’t read ancient languages, it is still reasonable for them to be convinced. Certainty in this case is my belief in the received interpretation, not my belief in the fact. We do know that educated, informed, knowledgeable people have read, challenged, and interpreted, and we are certain of what they have done. Why people are convinced may not be based on own reasons, but the reasons of others. While I may not be able to find it for myself, I could show you the cumulative weight. 

February 8 and 10, 2016 - Sam MacDonald

John Henry Newman

-        Newman had a great interest in logic

-        While Wately was attempting to make Locke more accessible, Newman worked as his assistant

-        Newman acts as a sort of bridge between the 18th and 19th century

-        Evidentialism cannot account for religious belief; there is something about religious belief that is left out of evidentialism

-        Newman does a sort of phenomenology of religious belief

-        What is the phenomenon of faith?

-        Once you answer this, you can start to ask more interesting questions

-        His sermons are primarily preaching to intellectuals

-          trying to understand faith and reason

-        Faith and reason can be thought about in a variety of different senses

-        Even terrific arguments can’t get to what religion is all about--to touch people’s hearts and to really move them

-        You must try and move people, not by clever argument, but by actually changing their lives

-        In the popular sense, faith is easy, quick, and shakeable, while reason is slow, hard, and unshakeable

-        You can believe something, but not wholly accept it

-        Faith is something more, you must really accept it into your being

-        Faith is a kind of assent

-        We express our assent to various things in statements

-        Religious statements affirm our own assents

-        Some assents are notional, meaning they don’t really affect our conduct

-        For example, v=d/t -> might be too abstract to affect our conduct

-        Theology can be like this, ie. specific statements about the trinity

-        Some assents are real/ personal, meaning the assent makes a difference to the individual’s life

-        Belief in global warming may get people to adopt a greener lifestyle

-        These sorts of assents have to do with some action of the mind

-        An assent without doubt, a certitude

-        How do you see the world you live in? Your understanding of the way the world works

-        A religious belief is a way of seeing the world

-        If you’re a physicalist, you see the world in a certain way

-        How is value translated across different worldviews?

-        Value is placed differently in different worldviews

-        We are all biased in some way, for when we start learning of different worldviews, we are peeking out of our own worldview

-        We don’t observe evidence with a neutral frame of mind

-        It is in terms of our own worldview that we judge what can be viewed as evidence

-        A self-thought prophet has a divine revelation

-        if he goes to a physicalist, they will say the revelation is not evidence

-        if he goes to a religious believer, they may strike up a conversation

-        Our rules of evidence are determined by the context

-        Physical evidence doesn’t work for some things, ie. loving relationships

-        A religious view is a whole other way of viewing the world

-        There is no real way of saying one way of viewing the world is better than another way of viewing the world

-        Page 179: Faith is independent of what is commonly understood by reason

-        Page 207: act/process of faith is an exercise of reason

-        These statements seem to contradict one another, but what do we mean by reason?

-        Commonly, we understand reason in different ways:

-        One large sense:

-        An act that moves from the knowledge of one to the knowledge of another

-        Our ability to have a reason or to give a reason

-        reasons to believe all sorts of things -> neural stimulation causing someone to smell burnt toast when no toast is present

-        we may have reasons, but it may be hard to give them

-        Four different minor senses:

-        1. Expertness in logical argument

-        2. The faculty of framing evidences

-        3. Used to talk about skepticism, skeptics use reason to deny assent to religion or what have you

-        4. Reason in relation to faith: reasoning done within faith

-        If we think of faith as a process within a religious view, faith is the reasoning of a religious person

-        A skeptic attacks religion from the outside

-        A skeptic tries to bring change to another way of viewing the world with evidence harvested from another way of viewing the world

-        In what sense do we talk about reason?

-        In some instances, reason may not be relevant to faith

-        Calls Paley’s arguments dangerous, why?

-        You dispense with moral and religious considerations

-        Like Aquinas’s third way (efficient causality → God)

-        If you accept 3rd way argument, are you really assenting?

-        you don’t get to real assent, faith, or certitude from an argument free of moral or religious considerations

-        Do miracles change people’s beliefs or reinforce existing ones?

-        “the sky clears and the clouds form your name”

-        Could have a naturalist explanation, they’re purely physical events that have a variety of physical explanations

-        If a miracle is reduced to arguments, in what way do you even have faith

-        Arguments don’t provide a sufficient basis for faith

-        Reason has some relation to faith, but we shouldn’t exaggerate its importance to faith

-        If it was so important, everyone should be able to give a reason for their faith

-        Everyone may have a reason, but many are not able to give it

-        Newman: There can be proofs, but we must be careful, they may not work

-        At the end of the day, faith isn’t about good arguments and evidence, because its more than believing certain facts about the world

-        3 major concepts: knowledge, reason, and faith

-        It’s reasonable to say we believe what we know

-        belief itself is more of a problem, presumably, you don’t know it

-        level of belief should be proportional to amount of evidence

-        being reasonable is weighing firmness of belief with evidence available

-        Faith: not clear that it’s knowledge, even if it’s true it doesn’t seem justifiable in the conventional sense

-        Faith is something you may have, despite a lack of demonstrable evidence

-        Is faith more like knowledge or belief?

-        Locke and Hume think it’s closer to belief, while Paley and Wately seem to think faith is closer to knowledge, or a high degree of belief

-        All think the three concepts are propositional

-        Newman brought in the idea that faith is more than a set of statements

-        Faith is a “habit of the mind” → a way of thinking about things

-        Principle of action, a disposition to act in a certain way

-        Conscience is rational, it has information to be reflected upon

-        How we see the world determines what we take as evidence

-        Talking about physics, we look for empirical evidence

-        The way you see the world colours the evidence

-        In mathematics, different experiences make no difference to the truths you uncover. In social sciences experiences can affect a result greatly

-        How do we act responsibly as knowers?

-        Ethically, when is it right to say you believe in something?

-        less about truth or falsity of proposition, but the appropriateness of accepting that proposition

William Clifford

-        When is it appropriate to believe, and when is believing a proposition inappropriate?

-        Not always about truth or falsity of the belief, but about whether or not the belief is supported by available evidence

-        Clifford is not only concerned with the sufficiency of evidence, but the ethics of belief

-        It is wrong to believe anything without sufficient evidence

-        Applies to every belief, secular and religious

-        We must determine what counts as sufficient evidence

-        Beliefs affect our actions; if I believe on insufficient evidence, I am prone to do it again in future instances

-        When we do this, we don’t only affect ourselves, but all of society

-        Society becomes a worse place to have you in it

-        Beliefs affect our actions, so we become prone to act on false things

-        Others may believe our false beliefs by being similarly under-rigorous with belief and act on false beliefs.

-        If I don’t take care in providing evidence for my beliefs, others will think it less necessary to provide evidence for their beliefs



-        Aquinas: Faith is good because it can fill in the gaps left by a lack of philosophy

-        “I don’t have time to provide evidence for all my beliefs”

-        C: If you’re such a busy person, you’ve got no business or right believing anything

-        Why do people belief specific religious beliefs?

-        What is the evidence? A large collection of believers who individually know nothing, collectively know nothing

-        Testimonies: can be direct or indirect: speaking to a prophet or reading the bible

-        Logical arguments: there are arguments in toward theism and atheism

-        Reason never determines belief, it doesn’t really persuade people either way

-        Seeing a miracle, visions? There are still gaps in informations

-        How can you be sure the visions are truly divine?

-        Raised in a community where faith is the norm

-        You can be raised in an environment with a norm, but you don’t necessarily have to believe that norm

-        We must undertake an investigation of our beliefs and find evidence for all of them

-        We must earn our justification

-        If I already believe in God, do an investigation and come up empty handed, then you should stop believing in God, “I am no longer justified in believing in God.”


-        Must have a standard of sufficient evidence

-        Belief is entirely under your own control

-        Belief in God is like a scientific belief in a hypothesis that has not been tested

-        Contrary to what Newman said about Faith

-        What evidence does Clifford have to provide this criterion? Nothing, he fails to meet his own standard

-        Unless you can provide evidence as to why a standard of evidence is appropriate, why believe a standard of evidence?

24 February 2016 - Caitlin Thomas

Religious Belief: what do we know and take for granted 
     thats whats up for discussion next week:
-more reflection on the idea of faith
-Clifford: difference of truth and reasonableness for believing something : interested in when reasonable to believe (not about truth)
     e.g. ship goes down despite sincere belief of safety.
     no more ethical holding belief based on evidence 
     difference between truth of something and the reasonableness to believe

Rationality of Religious Belief today?
     Public sphere: people are doubtful about whether it can be proven
not something setable by testable procedure: therefore private affair
     - think that you can’t prove things like Gods existence.

*No sufficient arguments for religious beliefs - believe what you want, just don’t impose it on others: arguments and evidence are relevant but lacking. 

Impose ethical view (like no child pornography because harmful)
     -tough, theres evidence     
     -some beliefs, there is no trouble imposing them. 

But no empirical evidence for religious beliefs - don’t bring to public sphere, not taken seriously 

Private, undemonstratable, wrong to impose (unlike some ethical beliefs)

What does this mean? we know what religious belief is: statements about God (or Gods) - descriptive of reality in some way. 
Is this all there is to Religious Belief? just a bunch of statements relating to God or gods
     Aquinas and Locke: division between religious belief as a whole and faith
     ‘religious person’ - have faith but then there are particulars...

Place of religion are they talking about faith in large sense or particular statements or dogmas. 

i. Religious belief is ambiguous: faith as a whole or statements
     -reasonable to have faith     or     reasonable to believe certain statements

Is faith just a set of particular statements? 
     Locke: no, something other

‘faith is nonsense’ -> what are you talking about big or particulars, 
     then why? false or what?

Two ways, relation but not the same thing
     person of faith but give up on a bunch of particular beliefs? 
     -what do I have to be a person of faith? 
(myths in a good sense: not false, different ways of getting to truth)

Person of faith and drop all things, whats wrong with being a person of faith in public sphere?

What is religious belief?

Are religious belief things we can know? 
     what do you mean by knowledge? demonstration? Can religious belief be demonstrated accorded to these individuals but not all. Hume and Locke: (not demonstrated, but probabilities (at least in principle)) 
     Hume: cannot be demonstrated - never demonstrate matters of fact.

Not knowledge but highly justifiable belief for Hume and Locke 

Haley and Wakely : demonstrateable? strictly speaking, no. but for matters of fact, you can be rightly certain of some.
     demonstration is not an appropriate standard - appropriate to one sphere of knowledge
     -knowledge we seek, demonstration is method for certain … but use a different method when dealing with empirical for example. 
     -imposing standard that nothing would meet, therefore not standard. 

Ways of looking at argument that rightly produce certainty
     Demonstration - can’t for most things.

‘prove it’ whats the standard of proof? Cnn you demonstrate proof of love for mother? 

-Methods in relation to objects - 

Religious belief - do we know it or only probabilistic knowledge.  All authors agree that evidence is a good thing
     -(what counts as good evidence?)

Aquinas: thinks he has good evidence for Gods existence … : can say that we know it..

Authors differ in what counts as sufficient evidence: persuade a neutral member in a court?
     -there is a standard
     -that is achievable 

Level of Argument: some say provable others not
     -Not religious belief
     -‘appropriate standard'

Is empirical evidence sufficient for immaterial things? 

Hume: probability but empirical evidence ever able to be given or like taste, feeling, etc. 

Ayer: says theres a 3rd category 

Things: not matters of fact
     matters of taste or sophistry and illusion
     -Hume: maybe problem is that its not false but its worse being sophistry…just words designed to mislead.

All standards of Knowledge - somethings we could not understand (fundamentally problematic

Cant have knowledge of religious belief? 
     Reason: why important? because it directs actions
     -process … what is it? 
     -necessary movement from one idea to another
-not a how thing, just a connection.

Consistent … inability to make inferences? 

Something goes on with reasoning
     Hume: habit of mind (reason)

Sir Wilfred Laurier/Queen Elizabeth = 5/20
Why? Explain reasoning process? 

Newman (&Hume): maybe faith is significantly different than knowledge, though can contain statements about religious belief. 
     response, reaction, feeling of approval. 

Faith: more than just believing? 
     Because habit of mind, we determine the evidence (good evidence or bad is relative to a way of looking at the world)

Way of looking at the world in a way that we construct. 

Standards for things? 
Aesthetics : proof/standard - criteria for good or bad art?
Ethically appropriate response? (not own opinion … can show what we out to do but we all have a general idea of what to do or not to do)
^cannot move and expect criteria to be appropriate

Consider faith isn’t just statements or feelings: perhaps a different way of looking at reality.

Clifford: not sufficient … maybe not empirical but who says its about empirical evidence? 

Reason —> how it works and applies, etc.

By criteria, everything unreasonable? Probably wrong standard. 

Sorting mail example, automatic or manuel - better for whom? Employment or efficiency … depends on your standard/value. 
-what gets us to that standard?… what determines whats right? 

Standards for success are also determined by activity.

New Challenge: What we will discuss over the weeks to come: 

     -not whether religion is true or false, its about meaning … falsity can usually be corrected, but a statement that is meaningless is a bigger issue … ‘colourless green ideas divorce’ = how do I make this true? 

     -Truth and rationality - not enough for us to know it to be true, the question is, is it reasonable to believe it? 

     -is reasonability something that is absolute or is it contextual.
     are there things that are just reasonable in the abstract? 

Probabilities + Demonstrations now don’t matter: issues are about meaning and rationality
     Quality doesn’t matter if meaningless

Do I know that its true? Cant know but reasonable to believe it … even if I am mislead. 

     -Then: authors who are interested in models of faith beyond philosophy - bigger difference between faith and religious belief.

February 29 - Ben McGrath

Sarah Beattie presenting A.J. Ayer on “Meaningfulness”

Some background information and underlying aims of Ayer:

-        Wrote “Language, Truth, and Logic” at 26 years of age

-        Bertrand Russel’s skepticism was a source of inspiration

-        Wanted to determine criterion for the validity of statements, particularly interested in significance and genuineness of statements as facts.

-        Considered the idea of a non-physical being to be incoherent

-        Criterion for meaningfulness allows Ayer to determine whether or not a philosophical statement is fruitful, and within this criterion we see that religious statement fail to hold meaning.

Ms. Beattie’s presentation of the article was packed with information, yet was fairly clear and largely comprehendible. It seemed to me that she did a good job of unpacking many of the ideas within the text, and took it a step further by delivering an engaging platform for a rigorous critical examination of the article by providing questions relevant to the themes of the course. All of the notes that I took during her presentation are marginalia on the handout she provided, and I feel it would be redundant to replicate them here. If you would like to see the annotated handout, I can provide it.

Questions and Class discussion:

One issue with Ayer’s article is that there is some degree of ambiguity in his use of the term “probable.” It seems as though we should be dealing with degrees of probability, yet Ayer makes only one division: between statements of absolute, irrefutable certainty, and statements of probable verifiability. This causes a problem for the concept of weak verification, as there are certainly instances in which we can say that we are more or less sure of certain probabilities. Furthermore, other terms such as “intelligible,” “non-verifiable,” and “meaning” must be clearly defined, or the potential problem arises of Ayer getting away with too much.

In further discussing the applicability of Ayer’s arguments to the broader investigation of the course (specifically religious belief), we asked: what is wrong with the term “God?” From Ayer’s perspective, the term stands for nothing at all, and Ayer’s opinions of both theism and atheism as equally preposterous are an extension of this idea. Ayer is not trying to say that there is a logical contradiction in the idea of God or of gods, but insofar as his stance remains that meaning corresponds with an empirically verifiable being, the term “God” represents nothing real. Ayer does admit that God exists in some transcendent way that we can neither see nor understand, yet in this way God is less real than the concept of something such as Santa Clause.

We then asked: what if I say “God is the creation of the universe?” It seems as though this is not a metaphysical statement at all, for all we mean by this is: whoever is the creator of the universe, that person’s (force’s, being’s) name is God. Necessarily, we are saying that God is a body, and that God is potentially a material being. In this context, we cannot say that the statement “God directs the universe” is equally nonsensical to the statement “colourless green ideas exist.”


One of Ayer’s aims is to separate metaphysics from philosophy entirely along the lines of meaning. Ayer relates metaphysics to poetry in terms of linguistic form, but states that poetry has a defense – it is the intent of the poet to write statements that arouse some sort of emotion, and might not necessarily have the same objective meaning to each reader. On the other hand, it is the intent of the metaphysician to attempt to explain aspects of the world that cannot be verified under Ayer’s strict criterion.


-        Take question of God seriously – meaningless

-        Kant: metaphysics as a whole – unintelligible


“There is no God” – what is this thing that there is none of? The concept of God is incoherent, and atheists find meaning in it (simply to reject it). Ayer isn’t strictly denying the existence of God, he is claiming that it doesn’t make sense to talk about it in any sense whatsoever. In this manner, the existence of God can never possibly be true or false. How do I know that I exist? I know that something does exist, but is it what I think to be me?

What’s the difference in factual content between analytical statements and tautologies? Tautologies: logical propositions that cannot be false by virtue of the structure of the statement. Eg. Either it is raining or it is not raining. This statement doesn’t tell you anything about the weather. Analytic statements: true by definition.

Ayer divides the world into:

1)      A priori

2)      Factual content

3)      Unintelligible nonsense and gibberish

We must ask: why do we only have three categories to work with here? We need to take into consideration ethical statements, metaphysical statements, and aesthetic statements. In addition, there is a huge gap between non-scientific and gibberish statements. While the first two are okay, they ignore analytic statements.

If analytical statements are just propositions with a high degree of probablility, we don’t need to talk about essences.

What about numbers and statements about numbers? What kind of statements are being made? Tautologies, fact, or empirical?

Cleaning up language in pursuit of precision and answers.

-        Lots of philosophical dead ends largely due to language

-        How can we make language cleaner so that we can solve these problems?  




March 2 - Ben McGrath

Samuel MacDonald presenting Karl Popper on “The Logic of Science”

Some background information and underlying claims of Popper:

-        Popper (1902-1994) wrote within the same time span as Ayer, and there are certain commonalities between them.

-        “critical rationalism”

-        Attracts positivism

-        Theory of falsifiability

-        Criticizes Hume’s problem of induction – it is impossible to go from singular instance to universal truth, and this loos of ability to gain knowledge is harmful to the empirical sciences.  

Sam had less information to wade through, and as a result had more time to thoroughly engage in the concepts that Popper presented in his chapters. Once again, I think it unnecessary to reproduce his presentation but can provide the annotated handout if you wish. 

Questions and Class Discussion:

Popper wants to distinguish the empirical sciences from math, logic, and metaphysics, and wants this distinction to be meaningful. This type of demarcation is imperative to scholars of positivism, as it distinguishes their work from that of metaphysicians.

The definition of an empirical world must satisfy the conditions of our world.

1)      Synthetic

2)      Adequate criterion of demarcation – falsifiability

3)      Distinguishable from other possible worlds

Knowledge of universals through falsification should be impossible.

Criterion of verifiability becomes falsifiability.

Can verify: 5 people in the room

Can’t verify: all men are mortal


Can I have knowledge of math?

-        yes, but it is not an empirical science

-        can find truth without empirical basis


Some theorems can be objectively proved or disproven. You can imagine new theorems coming into existence – this is not normally an empirical process, unless under the circumstances that an applied theory fails and is corrected based on observed evidence.


Is there mathematical knowledge? – Yes

Is there knowledge in logic? – Yes, if being generous

How is that knowledge obtainable?


What is metaphysical knowledge?

-        Non-empirical

-        Math doesn’t depend on the way it is learned, only on the end result.

-        Has nothing to do with what exists.

-        Has to do with the relationship of ideas to one another.

-        Would remain consistent in a different universe.    

If math and logic are not about what exists, what does that say about metaphysical knowledge?


Falsifiability defines what is considered to be empirical science from what is not, but does not apply to the area of knowledge which encompasses logic, math, and metaphysics.


How do I go about finding the meaning of a metaphysical statement? How can I say that I know it?

-        Eg. God is a substance, we are all modes

-        If they are just ideas, we can see how the ideas fit with one another. If we take the fantasy world depicted in the Lord of the Rings, for example, we observe and understand a series of relationships between ideas. You can get in to the story and “play the game,” but doing so tells you nothing about the real world and about the human experience in it (at least not directly). How could one prove that Frodo was right to do one thing or another? Where would the moral standards come from?


Popper thinks that metaphysics is “vaguely fuzzy stuff” (p.16)

-        For example, if one was to read Alice in Wonderland, they might gain insights to logic, even though the content of the novel seems nonsensical. This is largely due to its form, as C.S. Lewis was a logician.


Faith in a hypothesis is still a part of the empirically scientific realm, because it can still be falsified.

Knowledge is always subject to irrefutability, even science. At all times, and in all subjects, it seems as though we can never know anything conclusively.

The weakness of metaphysics is that it (and philosophy in general), cannot be objectively falsified. It is not science.


Religious beliefs:

-        Most religious beliefs do not fall under the scope of empirical science, although some religious statements are indeed falsifiable. ]

-        For example: the earth is 6,000 years old. This statement could be the misrepresentation of certain religious beliefs, and if so, science is not getting at that belief at all. This is still in some sense a scientific claim, but it has its (factual?) basis in a belief or series of beliefs.

-        Another example is that of Jesus’ transmogrification of water into wine. Is this necessarily a religious belief, or can we say that it is in fact an empirical statement found within a religious text?

-        A further example is the Roman Census, the alleged proclamation stating that all individuals must return to the land of their birth. If this had indeed come to pass, one would think that there would be geographical or further textual evidence.

-        Do any religious beliefs fall under the scope of empirical science? It seems as though there is a divide between the two, and that all statements land on either side. It is not as though this gap is too wide, in a sense, to straddle, but that both sides of this divide exist in a different way.


“God placed in planet earth signs that would show to non-believers that the world was older than 6,000 years”

-        How would it be possible to find evidence to support this claim?

-        If we take this claim as legitimate, it forces us to say that one misled by signs is necessarily not a person of faith, which seems to be ridiculous.

-        Is religion separate yet again from metaphysics?



March 7 - review

March 9 - Wittgenstein [no notes]

March 16 - Flew, Hare, Mitchell [ no notes]


16 March - Sarah Beattie

Wilfred Cantwell Smith was a Canadian. He was a scholar of Oriental languages. A graduate of U of T, he went to Cambridge and it was failed. He claimed it was rejected because of a political bias against him. His suggestion was that religion itself is a manufactured category. If we’re thinking about religion in terms of what one believes, there are a lot of people who do not see it the way we do. Belief nowadays is associated with propositions, statements. Cantwell Smith looks at the phenomena – what it is to live out these traditions. If we get rid of ideas of beliefs or dogmas, we’ll get a better idea of what people are doing in religion.


Dr. Sweet’s question: if we don’t talk about religious belief now, what are the implications of that? What are we no longer going to be talking about? Proofs for the existence of God would not be relevant. What would it mean to be a heretic, or a member of the faithful? What would be important about religion? What would a philosophy of religion course look like?


Belief originally meant “to hold dear”. But can you love statements? Usually you love people. You can love things in a sort of corrupt way. Belief – beloved. Belief as someone you are attached to. When you love someone, you don’t just love a lot of things about them. You love them. Love isn’t really propositional.


Your idea of love is not descriptive, but more of a commitment, an attitude. The lover and the beloved. This meaning shifts somewhere around the 15th C. A linguistic shift, but also a shift in the sense of the word: faith. In the KJV, you can see this transition. “Faith” comes to take belief over, because seems to be more holistic. You have a disposition towards someone. You have faith in your wife, the government. Faith takes the space that belief had.


Belief migrated from existential relation in once had to a descriptive. Belief now more like a belief that something is a certain way. We’ve gone from talking about an interpersonal relationship to the character of a judgment. Judgments aren’t same as effective commitments. Belief migrates in the 16th century from existential to theoretical judgements. This is where our course picks up, with Locke and Hume talking about belief as statements. Since that time, belief has had less and less of commitment. Now like weak truth claims, or things about which we are more and more uncertain. Low degree of knowledge or uncertainty.


When we are thinking about religion, the history of Christianity seems to be largely about fighting about beliefs. In the old way of thinking about belief, not just propositional. People, relationships can be true. Jesus says, “I am the truth.” He is not saying he is a statement, but in Christianity, there has been a fixation on statements. If Jesus is truth – what truths correspond to Jesus being the truth? Truth was once understood as a wholeness, authenticity, but now just a property of statements. In its place, we’ve got ‘faith’ (although this can be used in non-religious sense).


Where does this leave belief? Smith says in first section to give up on it. Doesn’t have much to do with how people understand religion today.


Faith? Talk about shift from belief to faith. But what exactly is faith? Faith now should be the primary religious category. Here he also talks about truth. Talks about individuals who were all interested in the truth (in a general sense). So faith is a kind of way of designating a relationship to the truth. All these people see themselves as looking for truth. The achievement of this truth is faith.


Smith doesn’t like the word ‘faiths’. What is the difference between Jews, Confucians, Muslims, Christians? Is it a difference in belief? For Smith, that is not how you think about differences in faith. Thinks they’re all of same faith because all trying to pursue a transcendent realty, ultimate truth. Faith is a quality of the whole person (p. 138). If talking about a quality of faith, talking about that person as a whole.


What is faith? (1) Insight, (2) Response.


(1) Insight. You can see why someone would find something funny, but you may not ‘get it’. You can understand a joke, yet may not find it funny. Same thing applies to certain truths about life. Getting the point is more than understanding it, or being able to explain it. When we think of faith as insight, that is to see how someone is related to or characteristic of a tradition. I see its value. Part of that insight is the recognition that there’s something more than just what is around us. Something that has a transcendental, an insight that involves the recognition of a transcendence. I recognize it and then find that I have some relation to it – this is what insight means. If I don’t ‘get it’ or have that, then I’ve got a problem. “Insofar as faith in insight, one might venture to suggest that a modern student is either uninformed or unintelligent if he fails to recognize what it was that, however partially, men such as these knew and found important about human life and the universe” (p. 141). If you don’t see something important in human life and the universe, you don’t get it. When Richard Dawkins says it is all superstition, response is that you really don’t understand what faith is. You’re missing the point: focusing on beliefs, but not on faith. Looking at tertiary elements of a religious person’s life, not really about what faith is. If faith is this insight, attachment of the whole person to what is transcendent, why would you expect people to get it?


(2) Response. This is a commitment of yourself to living this out. Responding to insight, loyalty to the truth. Person of faith has insight into transcendent, responds to that by living out what the truth says to them. Response is a willingness to be loyal to what is truth. We are not talking about statements here. What Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, represents a truth larger than themselves. A response comes with a commitment to live out and be subordinate to faith. What distracts us from truth is doctrines and dogmas. The five people he mentions did not say the same things, but would recognize each other as seekers of the truth. What religions do is one or two stages removed from faith. Religions make attempts to institutionalize, organize, understand faith. Religion comes from the Latin relegere which means to bind. An institutional practice, not a disposition of a person, a response to truth.


Faith should be continuous with the tradition. Continuity not a continuity of belief – beliefs can vary of time, some may be more central at certain times. There is a continuity because generally all had a disposition to the truth. Up until the 11th-12th century, Christianity really is about faith, seeking truth, but not about believing a bunch of statements. Faith is not belief in a doctrine, it is responding to truth.


In the last 100 years, in Christianity, there has been an intellectualizing of faith. But statements are an approximation of truth. Tradition is not marked out by a lot of propositions. “Faith is not belief in a doctrine. It is not even belief in the truth as such, whatever it be. It is ‘assent’ to the truth as such, in the dynamic and personal sense of rallying to it with delight and engagement. It is the exclamation mark in saying not merely ‘yes’ but ‘Yes!’ to the truth when one sees it. It is the ability to see and to respond” (p. 147).


Question to consider: Suppose Cantwell Smith is right. What are the implications of this? Where does this leave talking about proofs, religions? If he is right, what should we take away from this?

March 21 - Sam MacDonald


-        Studied religions in their own respective contexts

-        He makes a distinction between faith and belief

-        Belief should only talk about matters of fact, not matters of religion or faith

-        Faith is not about belief, but about the person who has it

-        There are two parts or principles of faith, insight and response

-        A person of faith first has an insight into the Truth of transcendence

-        They then respond to that insight by living in a certain way

-        There is a recognition of transcendent Truth, and a lifestyle change that corresponds with that Truth

-        Faith is not really about the things individuals believe, but about the transcendent Truth that is above all that we know

-        When people have this insight and response, they tend to want to try and conceptualize the Truth

-        The conceptualization of Truth is not inherently bad, but it is a very dangerous process

-        Through conceptualization, what the individual recognizes as Truth is inadequately converted into statements of belief

-        These statements become markers of faith

-        Faith, in the sense of insight and response, is common to all religions

-        Being a recognition of transcendent Truth, nobody ever gets the whole Truth

-        Once Truth has been converted into statements of belief or ideas, they become subject to historical conditioning

-        “God is father,” Why? The traditional relationship of a father and his children is one of protection, caring, creation, among other relations

-        We don’t really know what God is, nor do we possess language that could adequately describe Him

-        So we choose words from our language that express the same sort of relationship we think of when looking at God and creation

-        Flying saucers are not actually saucers, but that description expresses the typical flat, round shape of UFO’s

-        Converting the recognized Truth to a statement like, “God is father,” makes what was once an eternal, unchanging Truth to a statement whose meaning changes throughout history

-        The idea of the role of a father changes through history

-        We now have artificial insemination, being a single mother is not very uncommon

-        The idea of God being a father loses much of its weight

-        If we recognize this danger in the conceptualization of Truth, we can modify the ideas to accommodate for the changing society

-        Religions often get stuck in belief and dogma

-        Some doctrines of religions seem rather obscure and irrelevant

-        Others may still seem very important, but 100 years later, they may not

-        We should either re-express the ideas or abandon them

-        We shouldn’t be wedded to ideas, but rather the transcendent Truth


-        Belief is an impediment to faith

-        If faith is seen as belief in certain doctrines, faith is weakened, for it is no longer about transcendent Truth

-        Since faith is more than belief, it should not be reduced to belief

-        A list of beliefs is an approximation of the current faith

-        Continuity in faith: doesn’t mean believing all the same things that people used to believe, that would be continuity in belief

-        It means a continuity in the recognition of transcendent Truth

-        Benefits and criticisms of Smith’s account of religious faith:

-        Gives a good account of the evolution of widespread religious belief over time

-        Difficult to determine what to do with heretics in a certain tradition

-        They may have recognized transcendent truth, but articulated it differently

-        It may be a political issue, a heretic threatens existing authority

-        Admits axial religions: recognition of transcendent Truth by many cultures around 600 BCE

-        Platonism is heavily concerned with the recognition of transcendent Truth

-        Although there is a recognition of Truth, the statements articulated from it are different from conventional religions

-        What is the actual content of this search for Truth?

-        The search constitutes the structure of form of faith

-        The content seems to take the form of belief, but under Smith’s account, the beliefs don’t really matter

-        Within each religion, there is a sense of getting It (Truth) right

-        Each tradition has a different content to their faith

-        Smith brushes the content aside as contingent, but this, in a way, trivializes the whole pursuit

-        The content matters in some sense, we have access to many religions, which should we choose?

-        Where you come from is important to which tradition you choose, but whatever you end up choosing should have a genuine search for Truth

-        The search for Truth is done communally, not alone

-        Insight/response seems very individualistic

-        What is the connection between an individual and their tradition? This account doesn’t provide a unification factor for different traditions


-        Lives roughly at the same time as Smith, 1904-1984

-        He gives a better examination of the background of religious faith

-        He comes up with a method of theology

-        Trained in philosophy, but interested in what theology is all about

-        Jesus didn’t teach theology, he was a witness to Truth

-        The Buddha didn’t teach theology, he was a witness to Truth

-        You first experience a sort of transcendence, God’s Love

-        You then respond with faith, a way of living

-        Initially, this account is very similar to Smith’s insight and response account

-        Following faith, you get theories, dogmas, and doctrines

-        There is then preaching and teaching of these doctrines

-        4 Realms of meaning: transcendent Love, faith, theory, and teaching

-        The Word unifies these 4 realms of meaning

-        Difference between prior word and outwardly spoken word

-        Transcendent moment or the prior Word is acted upon by our understanding and we try to share it via outwardly spoken word

-        We get problems because the nature of transcendent Love is different from our theories, which are themselves different from the teaching

-        At each stage there is a degradation of Truth, because of our limited capabilities

-        We can’t live exactly according to God’s Love, we can’t perfectly articulate what it means, and we can’t pass on our theories to others completely