On faith (not religion)
Posted: 04 March 2010 03:03 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hey all, first time on the board, and I signed up specifically because I’m seeking more insight and information on what *must* be a philosophy that has been discussed *somewhere* before.

My main premise is a discussion on faith.  Specifically, that our entire lives are based on faith.  Not faith in religion specifically, but faith on EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.

————-

First a definition of the term:

faith   [feyth]  Show IPA
–noun
1.
confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2.
belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

From http://www.dictionary.com

————-

Ok so… faith is a trust in a person or thing.  Basically, whether it be science, religion, news, history, space, or the very air we breath… we function on knowledge that is a product of believing what someone else has told us.

We read a history book in a library, and believe that its true.  Why?
We read a science book that explains the fundamentals of the periodic table, and believe that its true.  Why?
We read a prestigious news paper and believe that the articles on the front pages are true.  Why?

Every single piece of knowledge we have that hasn’t been obtained empirically is perceived as true/false simply based on faith in the person or group of persons that have told us (or implied through renown) it is so.

Technically then, is fact or fiction to the individual based solely on social function and communication?

Even still, studying things empirically is never complete proof of fact.  Example:  I drop a soda can, and it falls on the ground.  I believe that gravity is the cause of this, though I only believe that because it is the concept that was taught to me as a child.  It could very well be that an invisible leprechaun grabbed my can and pushed it into the floor.  Although improbable, how can I *without a single modicum of scientific doubt* say that it IS NOT TRUE?

If anyone out there can understand the basic principles of my ramblings, are there any philosophers or thinkers that have posed these questions? I’m not necessarily trying to define the concept of truth, but that everything we do and consider is based on trust in someone else (or something, like social structure, or environment).

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Posted: 04 March 2010 03:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Faith and trust are two very different concepts.

For example: when I eat at my local restaurant I trust the staff won’t try and poison me. It’s not faith that leads me to think I’m safe to eat there. I’ve been there many times. I know them, they know me.

Many religious people try and equate people’s trust in the science as a kind of faith, when in reality it’s a methodology.

Faith is, to quote Paul “faith in things unseen”.

Science, history etc. have very different standards of evidence: documents, observed events, eye witness reports. It’s about verification and testing one’s hypothesis against evidence. These disciplines require evidence, whereas faith requires no tangible evidence at all. Faith is saying “It is so because I said so”.

Take your soda can example: it’s about probability and Occams razor. To quote Wikipedia:

Occam’s razor… is the principle that “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity” and the conclusion thereof, that the simplest explanation that explains all the data or strategy tends to be the best one.

In order for your leprechaun to be responsible for the effects of gravity you’d need either trillions of the buggers pushing round stars, pulling cans out of hands and pushing over trees. Then you’d have to ask WHY the leprechauns wanted to that: for fun? Malice? And why can’t we see them… etc.

You have to invent even more explanations to explain why the leprechauns do what they do, how they do it, why we can’t see them… you are multiplying explanations ad infinitum. Occum’s razor is used to good effect in science.

I’d suggest looking into basic metaphysics (nature of reality) and epistemology (theories of knowledge).

[ Edited: 04 March 2010 04:04 AM by Mike from Oz ]
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Posted: 04 March 2010 04:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Severance - 04 March 2010 03:03 AM

We read a history book in a library, and believe that its true.  Why?

No, I don’t necesarily believe it to be true. I have read enough history to have an idea of what the book should be presenting. If it deviates, I go to primary sources to double check. I also want to know the track record of the author; what has he written before. I am not going just take their word for it, there is a lot of garbage in the library. It’s called Freedom of Speech.

We read a science book that explains the fundamentals of the periodic table, and believe that its true.  Why?

Because it can be demonstrated. Have you ever taken even high school chemistry? It works. I don’t have to believe it, I can demonstrate it, given the time and equiptment.

We read a prestigious news paper and believe that the articles on the front pages are true.  Why?

See library book example. Even the most prestigious newpaper has been fooled into printing BS. Now, even more,since most of them have gotten rid of their science reporters, and betlieve that true journalism is presenting both sides of an argument equally, no matter how ludicrious the other argument might be.

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Posted: 04 March 2010 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Hello Severance, welcome.

Severance - 04 March 2010 03:03 AM

Hey all, first time on the board, and I signed up specifically because I’m seeking more insight and information on what *must* be a philosophy that has been discussed *somewhere* before.

My main premise is a discussion on faith.  Specifically, that our entire lives are based on faith.  Not faith in religion specifically, but faith on EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.

————-

First a definition of the term:

faith   [feyth]  Show IPA
–noun
1.
confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2.
belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

From http://www.dictionary.com

I’m afraid I need to start out being picky.  This isn’t *a* definition.  These are two definitions.  (Well, two denotations.)  What often happens in science-and- or science-versus-religion discussions on the internet is an attempt to employ equivocation.  That is, bait the discussion with one denotation and then switch to the other.  When done intentionally it’s disingenuous. 

Every single piece of knowledge we have that hasn’t been obtained empirically is perceived as true/false simply based on faith in the person or group of persons that have told us (or implied through renown) it is so.

Hmm.  One might argue that a piece of knowledge obtained by means other than reason applied to empirical evidence is not knowledge after all.  Reason applied to empirical evidence is just a longer way of saying “science”.

Even still, studying things empirically is never complete proof of fact.

 
Yes, this is a very important thing to keep in mind about science.  It never completely proves anything.  (Fact has a different meaning in science.)  There is no dogma in science.  Given convincing evidence and reasoning, even the currently strongest conclusions of science would be abandoned.  If something were to be considered completely proven, it would be equivalent to dogma.  However, the degree of coherence in science is such that it would take an extraordinary amount of evidence to overthrow its core.  The possibility is there no matter how slight.  The self-correcting aspect of science is much more evident at the frontiers of our knowledge.

I think if you’ll investigate the philosophy of science a bit, you’ll see the distinction between those two denotations better and you’ll find it easier to avoid equivocation.

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Posted: 04 March 2010 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Severance, I agree almost completely with you.  The only things we don’t have to assign to faith are those we do ourselves.  If I put my pants on in the morning, and I can look down and see them there, I don’t have to believe that by faith. 

For most of the rest, the level of probability that I assign to my faith or acceptance of belief is the level of trust I have in the source.  For a few things, I believe it mostly because I like to.  For example, it’s obvious that there is no proof of the existence or non-existence of a god, but I have very strong faith in its non-existence, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  smile

Occam

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Posted: 04 March 2010 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I think we need to differentiate between Faith, which is complete blind trust, and Confidence/Trust which is based on evidence or at least personal experience. I don’t believe in Faith.

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Posted: 04 March 2010 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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scepticeye - 04 March 2010 11:45 AM

I think we need to differentiate between Faith, which is complete blind trust, and Confidence/Trust which is based on evidence or at least personal experience. I don’t believe in Faith.

Agree, as I said in my post - their are different concepts. Many people muddy their meaning.

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Posted: 04 March 2010 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Sorry, but I went back and still don’t see where you showed that faith and trust don’t both fit different but related aspects of the same situation.  From the definitions you posted (as well as in the dictionary I checked) nothing indicates that it is “complete blind trust”. 

You arrived at the wrong conclusion with your can drop.  What you recognize is that when you opened your hand the can moved from your hand down toward your feet.  That doesn’t require faith, unless you want to start the nano-nit-picking of whether you can trust your own senses.  If you do that, there’s no sense in even bothering with the discussion.

Occam

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Posted: 05 March 2010 01:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Severence, your line of questioning is essentially what epistemology is for. You may consider looking into that. Something to consider; look at the following claims:

1) I’m typing this message on my laptop to respond to you.
2) I’m telepathically telling my miniature pet tyrannosaurus to type this message on a non-functioning computer to respond to you.

Do they seem equally believable?
Do both require the same amount of “faith?”
Why or why not?

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Posted: 05 March 2010 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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From the wiki on faith

Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing.

Bertrand Russell’s comment:

Bertrand Russell noted, “Where there is evidence, no one speaks of ‘faith’. We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.”

Defenders of faith:

Defenders of faith say that belief in scientific evidence is itself based on faith — in positivism; yet they do not themselves defy reason by walking off cliffs out of faith in divine intervention.

Here is George Santayana on animal faith

He posits the necessity of the eponymous “Animal Faith”, which is belief in that which our senses tell us

David Hume’s investigations into the problem of induction

First, Hume ponders the discovery of causal relations, which form the basis for what he refers to as “matters of fact.” He argues that causal relations are found not by reason, but by induction.

And the problem of induction:

Next, Hume ponders the justification of induction. If all matters of fact are based on causal relations, and all causal relations are found by induction, then induction must be shown to be valid somehow.

But, is it?

Hume challenges other philosophers to come up with a (deductive) reason for the connection. If he is right, then the justification of induction can be only inductive. But this begs the question; as induction is based on an assumption of the connection, it cannot itself explain the connection.

Preceding induction and deduction, there is abductive reasoning

Abduction is a method of logical inference introduced by Charles Sanders Peirce which comes prior to induction and deduction for which the colloquial name is to have a “hunch”. Abductive reasoning starts when an inquirer considers of a set of seemingly unrelated facts, armed with an intuition that they are somehow connected. The term abduction is commonly presumed to mean the same thing as hypothesis; however, an abduction is actually the process of inference that produces a hypothesis as its end result. It is used in both philosophy and computing.

Applications:

Applications in artificial intelligence include fault diagnosis, belief revision, and automated planning. The most direct application of abduction is that of automatically detecting faults in systems: given a theory relating faults with their effects and a set of observed effects, abduction can be used to derive sets of faults that are likely to be the cause of the problem.

In the philosophy of science, abduction has been the key inference method to support scientific realism, and much of the debate about scientific realism is focused on whether abduction is an acceptable method of inference.

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Posted: 05 March 2010 07:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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What a great thread, and thank you all for your insight.  I am still researching and investigating and have a lot to use from this discussion.  I apologize for my rough writing, as I can see where I spurred up some debate on the semantics of the term faith.  Fundamentally what I meant to propose is that every thing that happens in the world around us, that has not been directly affected, investigated, or witnessed by us, must be taken as either truth or false on the premise of trust.  I believe Occam hit the nail on the head with his pants metaphor in a way. 

One of my questions about this, is what causes people to believe one source over another?  Is it a function of social science?  Because everyone believes its true, I do to?  Is it part apathy?  I don’t really care if it is true or false, so it can be true as far as im concerned?

In short though, thank you all smile  Be back soon

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Posted: 06 March 2010 06:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Severance - 05 March 2010 07:53 PM

Fundamentally what I meant to propose is that every thing that happens in the world around us, that has not been directly affected, investigated, or witnessed by us, must be taken as either truth or false on the premise of trust.

Even events that are directly affected, investigated, or witnessed by us must be taken on trust, trust in our own perceptions, reasoning, and memory.  Our presence is no guarantee of reliable information.  So if we can’t (perfectly) trust anything, what is the best we can do?  The name for attempts to answer that question is epistemology.

[ Edited: 06 March 2010 06:43 AM by the PC apeman ]
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