Tag: William James

It’s Not True that Empiricism and Religion Are Never the Same Thing

 

I’ve been mostly just lurking around Ricochet lately, a consequence of traveling. Two weeks ago travel and allergens wore me out enough to allow for (probably) a flu, which was followed by the usual sinus infection, which was followed by the usual prednisone and antibiotics. But I felt pretty good about the flu because I felt I had something to show for being completely exhausted: My article “William James and Allama Iqbal on Empirical Faith” was accepted for publication around the time the headache started, with the nicest words I’ve ever received from a blind reviewer. As of this morning, the article is now up at the Heythrop Journal website.

My recommended one-sentence takeaway is: Don’t trust the popular theory that empiricism and religion are never the same thing. And here’s some of the gist of my analysis of two empirical religious philosophers:

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In grad school I took a class on emotions and wrote a paper for it. I have long wanted to turn it into a published paper, but haven’t yet. (One or two versions of the paper were rejected by a prestigious scholarly journal, though.) But here’s a bulleted summary of some of the interesting points from the […]

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“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.

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If you read my last post you were introduced to the poet and philosopher Allama Iqbal and his argument for the reality of both religious and scientific empirical knowledge.  That particular post referenced a conversation with some of my Introduction to Philosophy students.  Now it’s time to go a little deeper and, accordingly, talk about conversations with one of my best former students […]

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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.)