Advertisement

Faith and disbelief

  • Robert K. WhitakerEmail author
Article
  • 100 Downloads

Abstract

Is faith that p compatible with disbelief that p? I argue that it is. After surveying some recent literature on the compatibility of propositional (so-called faith-that) and non-propositional (faith-in) forms of faith with the lack of belief, I take the next step and offer several arguments for the thesis that both these forms of faith are also compatible, in certain cases, with outright disbelief. This is contrary to the views of some significant recent commentators on propositional faith, including Robert Audi and Daniel Howard-Snyder. The primary argument revolves around the possibility of maintaining a single faith through drastic changes in cognitive attitude. I argue that once we allow that propositional faith is compatible with weaker cognitive attitudes than belief, such as acceptance or assent, there is prima facie reason to consider propositional faith as sometimes compatible with disbelief. I then consider objections and offer some final reflections on the significance of the thesis.

Keywords

Faith Disbelief Belief Propositional faith Faith-that Acceptance 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Michael Wreen, Noel Adams, Stanley Harrison, Nicholas Oschman, Brett Yardley, Alexander Bozzo, Joshua Mugg, and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on previous drafts. I also benefited from discussion of these ideas with those present at the “Perspectives on Faith” graduate conference at Boston College in Spring 2018, where I presented a previous draft. Thanks to those in attendance, especially Daniel Howard-Snyder, Daniel McKaughan, and Elizabeth Jackson.

References

  1. Alston, W. P. (1996). Belief, acceptance, and religious faith. In J. Jordan & D. Howard-Snyder (Eds.), Faith, freedom, and rationality (pp. 3–27). Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  2. Aristotle. (1934). Nicomachean Ethics. In H. Rackham (Trans.), Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Vol. 19. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Audi, R. (2008). Belief, faith, and acceptance. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 63, 87–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bishop, J. (2007). Believing by faith: An essay in the epistemology and ethics of religious belief. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buchak, L. (2017). Faith and steadfastness in the face of counter-evidence. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 81, 113–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Churchland, P. M. (1981). Eliminative materialism and the propositional attitudes. Journal of Philosophy, 78, 67–90.Google Scholar
  7. Clegg, J. S. (1979). Faith. American Philosophical Quarterly, 16, 225–232.Google Scholar
  8. Dennett, D. C. (1987). The intentional stance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  9. Dretske, F. (1988). Explaining behavior. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fodor, J. A. (1975). The language of thought. New York: Cromwell.Google Scholar
  11. Howard-Snyder, D. (2013a). Propositional faith: What it is and what it is not. American Philosophical Quarterly, 50(4), 357–372.Google Scholar
  12. Howard-Snyder, D. (2013b). Schellenberg on propositional faith. Religious Studies, 49(2), 181–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kvanvig, J. (2016). The idea of faith as trust: Lessons in noncognitivist approaches to faith. In M. Bergmann & J. E. Brower (Eds.), Reason and faith: Themes from Richard Swinburne (pp. 4–25). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kvanvig, J. (2018). Dewey, epistemic fetishism, and classical theism. In Faith and humility (pp. 57–102). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Malcolm, F., & Scott, M. (2017). Faith, belief and fictionalism. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 98(S1), 257–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Morgan, T. (2015). Roman faith and Christian faith: Pistis and fides in the early roman empire and early Churches. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mugg, J. (2016). In defence of the belief-plus model of faith. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 8(2), 201–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Payne, S. (1990). John of the cross and the cognitive value of mysticism. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pojman, L. (1986). Faith without belief? Faith and Philosophy, 3(2), 157–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Schellenberg, J. L. (2005). On religious faith (II). In Prolegomena to a philosophy of religion (pp. 127–166). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Schellenberg, J. L. (2016). Working with Swinburne: Belief, value, and the religious life. In M. Bergmann & J. E. Brower (Eds.), Reason and faith: themes from Richard Swinburne (pp. 26–45). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schwitzgebel, E. (2001). In-between believing. The Philosophical Quarterly, 51(202), 76–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Schwitzgebel, E. (2015). Belief. In: Zalta, E. N. (ed.) The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2015/entries/belief/. Accessed October 6, 2018.
  24. Simpson, T. W. (2012). What is trust? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 93(4), 550–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sorensen, R. (2001). Vagueness and contradiction. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Tennant, F. R. (1943). The nature of belief. London: Centenary Press.Google Scholar
  27. Teresa, M. (2007). Come be my light. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  28. Titelbaum, M. G. (Forthcoming). Fundamentals of Bayesian epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMarquette UniversityMilwaukeeUSA
  2. 2.MilwaukeeUSA

Personalised recommendations