Tag: Epistemology

Where Can We Find Knowledge?


shutterstock_170848478During one of Ricochet’s big Same Sex Marriage debates during the run-up to Obergefell, @jamesofengland said this:

I think I’ve been clear that I don’t share Augustine’s confidence in specific bad outcomes […] I tend to think of Burke and Hayek as telling basically the same story, a story that I’ve been boringly obsessive about for decades now (before law, I took theology up to a Master’s degree, spending quite a lot of that time dealing with Derrida and Pseudodionysus, who I also believe to be in the same epistemically humble tradition). […] It’d be good to shift the conversation in that direction, because if the subject isn’t [Same Sex Marriage], but Hayek, I’ll have [another Ricochet gentleman] on my side, along with [a Ricochet lady] and [a third Ricochet gentleman]. I don’t know how much Augustine really backs that side, but I think [another Ricochet lady] has a higher epistemology (a sense that we can know more about the world than Hayek thought), meaning that we could pretty completely reshuffle the teams.

Ever since then, I’ve wanted to start a conversation on the subject. Initially, I wanted to write a long essay explaining and defending my own views, but, frankly, I don’t want to put much time into it. Maybe it’ll be a better conversation anyway if I keep it short! So short it is.

Member Post


“Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” These words of Jesus may suggest that Christianity is about faith and not about knowledge. But it’s not. The separation of belief and seeing, of faith and sight, in the New Testament is only a separation of one […]

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Can Religion Be Empirical?


JamesLet empiricism once become associated with religion, as hitherto, through some strange misunderstanding, it has been associated with irreligion, and I believe that a new era of religion as well as of philosophy will be ready to begin. — William James

Empiricism is the theory that we get knowledge through experience. As James notes above, it’s usually associated with things like science, reason, skepticism, and irreligious attitudes. Religion is more often associated with faith (usually thought to be separate from reason), dogmatism, and Rationalism, the view that knowledge comes from reason rather than experience. Are these associations accurate?

James provides us with a useful name for the view that they are notRadical Empiricism. He uses the term as a technical name for his own version of Pragmatism, but it’s still the best name for the theory I wish to propose: that we can get moral or religious knowledge from experience.

Knowledge and Faith Can Be the Same Thing


F-K VennIt is commonly assumed that an item of knowledge and an article article of faith can never be the same thing. This assumption is mistaken. In this post, I will explain only one point: trust in authority can be a source of knowledge. That’s what faith is: trust. It’s still the first definition of “faith” in the dictionary. Also see the Latin fides and the Greek pistis.

So don’t believe the hype that categorically separates faith from knowledge. This separation ranges from the view William James attributes to a schoolboy (“Faith is when you believe something that you know ain’t true”) to Kant’s more sophisticated idea that “I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith” (in beliefs that might well be true).

We should also reject the hype that says that an argument from authority is necessarily fallacious. The best logic textbook in print will tell you otherwise. It will even tell you that there is such a thing as a valid argument appealing to an infallible authority! (“Valid” is a technical term in logic; be sure to look it up first if you’re inclined to complain that there are no infallible authorities.)