Home > Fideism > Faith is Not What You Think it Is

Faith is Not What You Think it Is

There is a distinction between legitimate faith and illegitimate fideism.  Philosophers are now generally defining knowledge as “true belief.”  In other words, if you believe something, and your belief conforms to the reality of the external world, then you have knowledge.  So some beliefs are justified, while others are not.

We have a moral obligation to reject beliefs which are not justified.  W.K. Clifford gives an example of a ship owner in Europe who is unsure that his vessel is seaworthy but lets it set sail to America anyway.  When the ship sinks half way across the ocean, the owner is morally culpable for the deaths of the crew.  So I don’t see anything virtuous about making a “leap of faith.”  In the real world we call that gullibility.

Whatever your beliefs about God, whether Christian, atheist, Muslim, pagan, or whatever, you have a moral obligation to make sure you have really thought through it.  Don’t blow off your doubts, but neither let them control you.  Make sure that what you believe makes sense and that you can back it up with reasons.  I propose that you are morally culpable if you have not done your homework and you get it wrong simply because you never allowed your views to be challenged.

  1. October 17, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    For Kierkegaard that leap was something that you made in the face of a paradox that all of your rational faculties have failed to resolve. I think that that phrase is so misunderstood to mean an act of unthinking belief when what it means is that you have thought long and hard enough about something that you have reached the end of rational explanation, yet you cannot ignore the reality that you are experiencing. Making a leap in order to resolve paradox is very different than making a decision “just because”.

  2. October 17, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Drew, I am critiquing the popular view of the “leap”. It seems that Kierkegaard did his homework. Most today (of any persuasion) do not.

    (Your comment appeared as I was making changes to my first draft of the post, so there’s a little more there than when you first commented.)

  3. October 18, 2008 at 9:43 am

    I was just kind of adding to your thoughts in agreement!

  4. October 18, 2008 at 10:25 am

    I want to know how you’re supposed to say his name. Is it KEER-ka-guard, or KEER-ka-gore? I’ve heard it both ways. I can’t be bothered to read his works until I know how to say his name. 🙂

  5. steph
    October 19, 2008 at 2:38 am

    It’s Keer – ke – gard. 🙂

  6. October 19, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Are you positive? The people that say KEER-ka-gore sound really intelligent when they say it that way. Kind of like the people who say a-GUS-tin in a group where everybody else is calling him AW-gus-teen. You just sound smarter.

  7. steph
    October 20, 2008 at 1:41 am

    Your ‘intelligent’ way is the Danish way except unless you are Danish you can’t pronounce it like a native speaker therefore it just sounds pretentious. The Anglicised version is generally used among the most highly respectable of scholars. I’ve never heard anyone respectable trying to do it the Danish way. 🙂

  8. steph
    October 20, 2008 at 1:45 am

    Actually thinking about it maybe it’s one of the things you do differently in America. That reminds me of aluminium and nuclear but they’re just Bushinisms. I doubt he’s heard of Kierkegaard.

  9. October 21, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Thanks for the tip. Now I can say Kierkegaard with confidence that I am not going to appear stupid.

    Why don’t I get to Anglicize other names? Joachim Jeremias, for instance.

  10. steph
    October 22, 2008 at 4:20 am

    You probably do. Don’t you pronounce him with a J (and not a Y)? I don’t know any English speaker who doesn’t. Or are you joking? 🙂

    Anglicise looks funny with a z(ed). Americanize would be all right with a z(ed) but l’anglais use ‘s’.

  11. steph
    October 22, 2008 at 4:27 am

    ps while we pronounce the joachim in the German way but not the jeremias perhaps it’s just the habit of normally referring to him by last name only and first names are different … like Johann Sebastian Bach. We pronounce the Johann with a Y but who does the gutteral Bach?

  12. steph
    October 22, 2008 at 5:55 am

    actually…. I’m wrong. Posh people say Kierkegore. Pugh. I’ll stick to the Antipodean way and I’ve never heard anyone in England say Kierkegore but then he’s not often a topic of conversations I participate in… my posh 🙂 supervisor says says it’s proper to say Kierkegore. I still think it’s pretentious but then I’m just common as muck!

  13. October 22, 2008 at 7:08 am

    I had a church history class where the professor insisted on saying everyone’s names as they would have been pronounced in their own times. So instead of calling him Octavian, he called him Octawian. For some reason he didn’t pronounce Caesar with a hard C though. I dropped that class after the first week.

  14. steph
    October 22, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    How did he know Octavian was pronounced Octawian? Was he there? Maybe he could enlighten us to the correct pronunciation of NT Greek? I would have dropped his class too!

  15. October 22, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I don’t remember exactly how he said it. Maybe he was more nuanced than I’m making him out to be. I do know that when I learned classical Latin as an undergrad, we were taught to pronounce Vs as Ws. I was told that this was our best guess on how Latin was spoken back in the day.

    As an aside, I only took Latin as an undergrad because, having become a Christian that semester, I decided I wanted to read the Bible in it’s original language. Oops.

  16. steph
    October 23, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I spoke to my supervisor about this Latin thing and he agreed that it’s perfectly normal to say either the English ‘Octavian’, pronouncing it with an English ‘v’, or if in appropriate company, we say ‘Octawianus’, pronouncing it as near as we think we can get to the original Latin. He does not remember the whole argument for this, but remembers that the evidence includes Josephus writing Ouespasianos for the emperor whom we call either Vespasian or Wespasianus. The whole argument is a massive argument of cumulative weight based on lots of small pieces of evidence but suggests that your old teacher didn’t get it right anyway! 🙂

  17. October 23, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    I don’t get it all. I just say it how they tell me. I just don’t want to look stupid. It’s purely an issue of self-consciousness and the desire to appear intellectual. 😉

  18. steph
    October 24, 2008 at 1:12 am

    Don’t say Octawian but don’t be fooled by the beaurocracy!

  19. Pam
    March 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I was searching for readings on philosophy and I came across this discussion on Kierkegaard’s name. True enough, his name is one of those points of contention between the “regular” people and the so-called intellectuals. I myself have used the Danish way of pronouncing his name just to sound more knowledgeable. 😀 Glad to see I’m not alone.

  20. April 2, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I think I’m going to start saying “KEER-ke-gaaaxch” or just sort of trail off at the end…

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