In a free society, it is common to hear the request that one `keep an open mind.' Just what exactly is it, however,
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Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Section 1: What Is Open-Mindedness?
1 Open-Mindedness: An Introduction • James S. Spiegel
2 Epistemic Disagreement and Open-Mindedness • Gregory E. Trickett and David Williams
3 Analytic Postmodernity and Religion: Quine, Rorty, and Restoring Pragmatism for Metaphysical Discourse • Bradley Palmer
4 Open-Mindedness and Justice • John Lee
Section 2: Critiques of Open-Mindedness
5 Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics • Benjamin H. Arbour
6 The Virtue of Close-Mindedness • John R. Gilhooly
Section 3: Applications of Open-Mindedness
7 We Should Be Open-Minded about ‘God of the Gaps’ Arguments • Robert B. Stewart
8 On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility • James Elliott
9 Open-Mindedness and Narrative • Stephen Chanderbhan
10 Schellenberg and the Notion of Revelation • Robert Boyd
Appendix: Following an Ecumenical Cow • Valerie R. Quindt
Open-mindedness in Philosophy of Religion
Open-mindedness in Philosophy of Religion Edited by
Gregory E. Trickett and John R. Gilhooly
Open-mindedness in Philosophy of Religion Edited by Gregory E. Trickett and John R. Gilhooly This book first published 2019 Cambridge Scholars Publishing Lady Stephenson Library, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2PA, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2019 by Gregory E. Trickett, John R. Gilhooly and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-5275-3636-X ISBN (13): 978-1-5275-3636-4
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface ........................................................................................................ ix Introduction ................................................................................................. 1 Section 1: What Is Open-Mindedness? Chapter One ................................................................................................. 6 Open-Mindedness: An Introduction James S. Spiegel §1. Moral and Intellectual Virtue ........................................................... 6 §2. Accounts of Open-mindedness ........................................................ 8 §3. Open-mindedness Among the Virtues ........................................... 13 §4. Benefits, Risks, and Limits of Open-mindedness .......................... 16 §4. Open-mindedness and Religious Beliefs ....................................... 19 §5. Conclusion ..................................................................................... 23 Works Cited ......................................................................................... 23 Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 26 Epistemic Disagreement and Open-Mindedness Gregory E. Trickett and David Williams §1. Epistemic Peers, Epistemic Disagreement, and Open-mindedness .................................................................... 28 §2. Open-mindedness in the Face of Religious Epistemic Disagreement.................................................................................. 37 §3. Conclusion: Open-mindedness, Disagreement, and Intellectual Virtues .................................................................. 39 Works Cited ......................................................................................... 40 Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 41 Analytic Postmodernity and Religion: Quine, Rorty, and Restoring Pragmatism for Metaphysical Discourse Bradley Palmer §1. Quine and the Reference Problem.................................................. 43 §2. Toward A Refined Theory of Quinean Reference ......................... 46
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§3. Conclusions .................................................................................... 58 Works Cited ......................................................................................... 61 Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 62 Open-Mindedness and Justice John Lee §1. Introduction .................................................................................... 62 §2. Eudaimonistic Framework ............................................................. 63 §3. Eirenéistic Framework ................................................................... 64 §4. Preferentiality of the Eirenéistic over against the Eudaimonistic Framework, with Attention to Open-Mindedness .. 65 Works Cited ......................................................................................... 74 Section 2: Critiques of Open-Mindedness Chapter Five .............................................................................................. 76 Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics Benjamin H. Arbour §1. Virtue Epistemology and Open-Mindedness ................................. 76 §2. Open-Minded Methodology and Dogmatic Doxastic Foreclosure in Philosophy of Religion ........................................... 82 §3. Conclusion ..................................................................................... 97 Works Cited ......................................................................................... 98 Chapter Six .............................................................................................. 100 The Virtue of Close-Mindedness John R. Gilhooly §1. The Dogmatism Paradox.............................................................. 100 §2. Sincere Belief ............................................................................... 103 §3. Perceived Zealotry ....................................................................... 104 Works Cited ....................................................................................... 106 Section 3: Applications of Open-Mindedness Chapter Seven.......................................................................................... 108 We Should Be Open-Minded about ‘God of the Gaps’ Arguments Robert B. Stewart §1. Defining “Gap Arguments” ......................................................... 108 §2. What’s the (Supposed) Problem with Gap Arguments from Science for God? ................................................................. 110
Open-mindedness in Philosophy of Religion
§3. On Abduction and the Scientific Method..................................... 116 Works Cited ....................................................................................... 120 Chapter Eight ........................................................................................... 121 On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility James Elliott §1. Introduction .................................................................................. 121 §2. Defining Faith and IH .................................................................. 123 §3. On the Conflict between Faith and IH ......................................... 131 §4. Conclusion ................................................................................... 136 Works Cited ....................................................................................... 138 Chapter Nine............................................................................................ 140 Open-Mindedness and Narrative Stephen Chanderbhan §1. Introduction .................................................................................. 140 §2. Framing the Debate about Faith: Faith, Propositions, and Relationship ........................................................................... 141 §3. A Way Forward: Narrative, The Object of Faith, and One’s Having Faith................................................................ 148 §4. Defining the Virtuous Scope of Open-Mindedness in a Narrative Approach to Faith .................................................. 155 §5. Conclusion ................................................................................... 159 Works Cited ....................................................................................... 160 Chapter Ten ............................................................................................. 162 Schellenberg and the Notion of Revelation Robert Boyd §1. Schellenberg’s Hiddenness Account ............................................ 163 §2. Elaboration of the Skeptic’s Position ........................................... 167 §3. Critique of Skepticism ................................................................. 170 Works Cited ....................................................................................... 173 Bibliography ............................................................................................ 175 Appendix: ................................................................................................ 183 Following an Ecumenical Cow Valerie R. Quindt
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Contributors ............................................................................................. 191 Index ........................................................................................................ 192
In my first decade of teaching introductory philosophy courses, some of the most persistent questions and topics discussed regarded openmindedness. What is it? How do we apply it? What is our obligation to being open-minded? Is it even possible to be open-minded? In the spring of 2017, I approached the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services at Weatherford College (WC), Mike Endy, asking if he thought the college would be willing to match the funds of a small department grant to which I was applying. After explaining what I had in mind, he enthusiastically encouraged me to continue in my application for the Society of Christian Philosophers’ (SCP) small department grant. My proposal involved inviting James S. Spiegel of Taylor University, and using the grant funds and matching funds to host a small conference on the topic of open-mindedness in philosophy of religion. I was ecstatic to learn early that summer that we had been awarded the grant. After much planning and preparation, we hosted the conference on a weekend in April, 2018. The weekend’s schedule was simple; we had 8 parallel sessions throughout the weekend with a total of 20 professional, graduate, and undergraduate presentations. There were two keynote addresses by Professor Spiegel, one titled, “Open-Mindedness: When and Why is it a Virtue?” and the other, “Open-Mindedness and Religious Devotion.” The conference ended with a Q/A banquet featuring Professor Spiegel. The conference proved to be an unmitigated success. We had 73 conference registrants with 25 attending the banquet. Including Professor Spiegel, we had 22 presenters travel from institutions across the nation such as the University of Notre Dame, Oklahoma University, Purdue University, and Cornell University to name a few. The conference also provided 4 undergrad students (one of them a student of mine from WC) with the opportunity to present work for the first time in an academic conference setting. This volume is a representation of the work presented at that conference. I am grateful to the SCP for the many opportunities this grant has afforded me and WC. First, and not surprisingly, organizing and hosting a conference for the first time is a rich (even if stressful!) learning experience. I am truly thankful for this experience and its lessons. Second, this conference gave an opportunity for our students to get a taste of a university academic experience that will encourage and inspire them
toward their future academic pursuits. Third, receiving this grant provided me with the opportunity to raise the profile of academics at a two year institution such as WC. We are one of the oldest community colleges in the state of Texas, with a history that goes back to 1869. It was a privilege to bring a respectable conference, made possible by a prestigious organization to showcase the often overlooked role of academics at two year institutions. As a result, the WC administration has encouraged me to continue with future conferences. This past year, in our sesquicentennial celebration year, we hosted the second annual Weatherford College Philosophy of Religion Conference on the theme “Philosophy of Religion and Art.” Thus, the final opportunity this grant has afforded me is the opportunity to continue in this work at WC. I am grateful to the SCP administration and the anonymous grant proposal referees who recommended my proposal. Also, I am thankful to Weatherford College for matching the SCP grant funds to make this conference a reality. I appreciate the support and encouragement of the Weatherford College community including her faculty, staff, and students. Of particular note are Mike Endy, Vice President of Instruction and Student Services; our facilities manager, Loretta Huddleston; Mr. Endy’s administrative assistant, Debbie Alexander; Dana Orban; my colleagues in the Humanities Department and in my office bay (particularly Trey Jansen and Scott Tarnowieckyi); and all of the other support staff from the Business office to Public Relations to Graphic Design (especially Chelsea Cochran who created all the graphics for the conference) . . . you have my heartfelt thanks. When I applied for the SCP small department grant, my hope was to be able to host a respectable conference on a timely topic that would showcase the often overlooked role of academics at a two year institution. The papers in this volume show that not only are such academic endeavors possible at an institution such as Weatherford College, but that a community college has the potential to provide an important role and voice in an academic dialogue that is often the territory of the research university. I would also like to thank my co-editor, J.R. Gilhooly, whose dedication and support were an inspiration. Finally, I’d like to thank my wife, Katherine, and my children, Amelise and Grayson, who put up with an often absent father and husband during the conference organizing and book editing. You are evidence of God’s grace in my life. I love you. Ultimately, I hope this volume is one that encourages open-mindedness in a way that glorifies God, without whom I’d literally be nothing. —Gregory E. Trickett Fort Worth, TX, 2019
In a free society, it is common to hear the request that one ‘keep an open mind.’ In fact, open-mindedness serves as a paradigmatic intellectual virtue in parlance and in the majority of the philosophical literature. But, just what exactly open-mindedness is, how it functions, and how it squares with important personal commitments is less clear. These issues are particularly acute when it comes to matters of religious belief in which open-mindedness can sound to the pious a bit too much like doubt. Certainly, in a discipline whose discourse remains rational dialogue, we need to spend some effort to discern the contours of this virtue, especially in light of its formal role in establishing responsiveness to new inquiries in matters philosophical and religious. In light of some of these concerns, our book provides a collection of essays intended to promote conversation about open-mindedness, its virtue (or lack thereof), and its role and application to problems in the philosophy of religion in particular. Because wide-scale assessments of openmindedness are themselves somewhat scarce outside the specialist journals, we focus some attention on the nature of open-mindedness itself – both normative and descriptive issues. In the eleven essays included, two are undergraduate works; one as an appendix from a first year student in philosophy at Weatherford College, and one from an upper-level student majoring in philosophy with a little help from one of the editors. The other selections are from graduate students and professionals in philosophy from all over the country. The book proceeds in three parts. First, the concept of openmindedness itself is explored in a set of essays covering analytic to continental conceptions of open-mindedness. This section begins with a survey of open-mindedness by the conference plenary speaker, James Spiegel. In his chapter, Spiegel sets the table for discussion by discussing the relationship open-mindedness has with other virtues, the benefits and problems associated with open-mindedness, and how open-mindedness is related to religious belief. Greg Trickett and David Williams take up the conversation considering how to understand the relationship between open-mindedness and epistemic disagreement. Central to their concern is whether those in serious religious disagreements about whether or not there is a God can be
truly considered epistemic peers. If, as they suspect, the answer is that they are not, the question becomes whether or not those in such disagreements can and should be open-minded. They conclude that open-mindedness does not necessarily require a willingness to give up one’s position, but does require a minimum of being willing to take opposing views seriously.1 In chapter three, Brad Palmer argues that the relativism of postmodernity and pragmatism still allow for a realist approach to metaphysics that allows for but does not require open-mindedness in the discourses that result. In this way, the benefits of relativism and pragmatism just are open-mindedness in discourse. In his chapter, John Lee argues that there is a better framework for thinking about open-mindedness than the typical eudaimonistic framework. He demonstrates how the eudaimonistic framework focuses on the benefits of open-mindedness for the virtue bearer rather than (if not to the exclusion of) the object of open-minded action. Lee thus argues for an “eirenéistic” framework which considers the one being treated openmindedly as well as the one being open-minded. Thinking about the issue this way, Lee suggests, gives us a more complete and biblical picture of the virtue of open-mindedness than we otherwise would have. In the second section we move from explications of open-mindedness to criticisms of it. The section begins with a thorough criticism of those who would consider themselves open-minded about God’s existence by Ben Arbour. Arbour argues that while many are dogmatic about being open-minded, they are ultimately not willing to be open-minded if doing so leads them to dogmatic conclusions. Utilizing modal ontological arguments and cumulative case arguments for God’s existence, Arbour demonstrates how the truly open-minded person must lean heavily toward accepting that God exists. In chapter six, J.R. Gilhooly takes the contrary stance that closemindedness is the virtue and open-mindedness the vice. Gilhooly argues that if one knows a claim to be true, he is under no compunction to consider that his claim might be false. In fact, to do so would not be virtuous. Considering responses to the so-called “Dogmatism Paradox,” Gilhooly claims that one should be dogmatic concerning what one knows (or thinks she knows) to be true, and thus, should be close-minded on such issues. Section three includes various applications of open-mindedness beginning with Robert Stewart’s argument in favor of God of the gaps 1
This paper represents one of the two undergraduate papers included in this volume.
Open-mindedness in Philosophy of Religion
arguments. Stewart argues that there are no inherent logical problem with gap arguments and no less with God of the gap arguments. As such, argues Stewart, the open-minded person will not be concerned about whether God of the gaps arguments are worth employing. James Elliott continues this section arguing that faith may not be compatible with intellectual humility. This is because faith is a paradoxastic virtue whereas intellectual humility is a dispositional, doxastic virtue. As such, Elliott argues, there are many ways that the aims of faith may weaken or otherwise inhibit one’s efforts to be intellectually humble. Because intellectual humility is a virtue at least akin to, if not entailed by, open-mindedness, Elliott’s work contributes to thinking about the practical consequences of open-mindedness in the lives of people of faith. Elliott concludes by nodding to various potential ways one may attempt to resolve this conflict. On the other hand, Steven Chanderbahn suggests that the view that faith and open-mindedness are incompatible sets up a dilemma with the view that there is a “virtuous scope” of open-mindedness and faith. In short, while open-mindedness could be harmful if faith requires that one be more or less firm in the beliefs that one holds in virtue of one’s religious faith, it could also be beneficial if religious faith is a kind of relationship with God which requires one to be open to the truth claims revealed by Him. Chanderbahn suggests that a narrative approach to faith offers a way to split the horns of this dilemma and form a better, holistic picture of faith and the place open-mindedness has in that faith. Finally, Robert Boyd assesses the Divine Hiddenness argument made famous by J. L. Schellenberg and finds that it lacks the kind of openmindedness prized by most philosophers of religion. This is because the argument rests on assumptions to which the theist is not required to commit. Insisting that such assumptions lead any rational person to atheism shows a lack of open-mindedness on the part of the argument’s proponent. This collection is a result of the proceedings of a conference on openmindedness in philosophy of religion held at Weatherford College in the Spring of 2018. Weatherford College is a two year, community college focusing mainly on core and workforce education. Such a conference is rare in such settings and the papers in this volume serve to demonstrate the value of the community college in important philosophical dialogues. Thus, this volume demonstrates the importance of open-mindedness in all of academia, from community college to university. To this end, we have included an appendix in which one of the Weatherford College first year philosophy students, Valerie Quindt, relates an experience she and her
husband had while on honeymoon in Sri Lanka and a lesson related to interreligious open-minded discourse that she gleaned from it. Quindt’s contribution is an example of the kind of reflection that an academic conference at a two year institution can foster. It is our hope that the efforts in this volume can spark discussion and interest among students and faculty across academia, but especially in a two year, community college setting. In this way, it can serve as a contribution to work on the concept of open-mindedness, as an example of open-mindedness, and perhaps might foster open-mindedness as well.
SECTION 1: WHAT IS OPEN-MINDEDNESS?
CHAPTER ONE OPEN-MINDEDNESS: AN INTRODUCTION JAMES S. SPIEGEL
One of the most widely praised intellectual traits is an open mind. Scholars and lay persons alike are typically critical of closed-minded attitudes and express appreciation for those who maintain an openness to new or challenging ideas. Why is this the case? What, exactly, is openmindedness? Is this intellectual disposition generally appropriate? If so, why? Are there some issues regarding which open-mindedness is inappropriate? And, what does it mean to display open-mindedness in the context of religious belief? These are some of the questions we will explore in what follows.
§1. Moral and Intellectual Virtue Generally speaking, a virtue is a specific excellence. Even when speaking of inanimate objects, from clocks to cars to coffee cups, we may describe certain commendable traits as virtues, specifically when those traits enable the thing to better fulfill its function or purpose. Similarly, we might say that a given character trait in a human being is virtuous because it helps her to fulfill her function in some realm. Since Aristotle, philosophers have often distinguished between two broad categories of virtue—moral and intellectual.1 Although this distinction is controversial and difficult to draw, the basic idea is the moral virtues pertain to the whole person, whereas intellectual virtues are specifically related to the mind and the quest for knowledge and understanding. Moral virtues enable a person to function well in a range of contexts and include such traits as patience, courage, temperance, kindness, and generosity. They are 1
See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, book VI.
Open-Mindedness: An Introduction
characteristics that cannot be developed through mere study but must be trained, much like the development of skills in carpentry or the mastery of a musical instrument. In contrast, intellectual virtues are specific excellences related to cognitive functions such as the formation of beliefs, assessing truth claims, and the acquisition of knowledge. We might say that intellectual virtues are characteristics that improve one’s capacity as a knower. Lists of intellectual virtues typically include such traits as intellectual conscientiousness, epistemic humility, intellectual autonomy, imaginativeness, intellectual courage, curiosity, intellectual charity, intellectual generosity, and open-mindedness. Wisdom and the love of knowledge also appear to be intellectual virtues. Virtue epistemologists generally sort into two major camps. One of these is virtue responsibilism, which says that intellectual virtues are trained habits of mind, such as those just listed, which essentially constitute character traits.2 In contrast, virtue reliabilists emphasize the truth-tracking capacity of cognitive functions, which also include such processes as perception, memory, and intuition.3 There is disagreement among virtue epistemologists as to whether intellectual virtues are a separate category or a sub-category of moral virtue.4 But, in any case, intellectual virtues are important, and it is universally agreed that they are traits that we should nurture in ourselves and others. Where most of the disagreement emerges regards just what intellectual traits are genuinely virtuous and exactly how they are properly to be characterized. Open-mindedness is widely acknowledged to be an intellectual virtue, but there is dispute about how exactly the trait is to be defined and when or to what extent it is actually virtuous.
2 Some leading virtue responsibilists include James Montmarquet and Linda Zagzebski. See James A. Montmarquet, Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993) and Linda T. Zagzebski Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry Into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). 3 Prominent virtue reliabilists include Ernest Sosa and John Greco. See Ernest Sosa, “The Raft and the Pyramid: Coherence versus Foundations in the Theory of Knowledge,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5 (1980): 3–25 and John Greco, Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 4 For some recent defenses of the idea that open-mindedness is a moral virtue, see Nomy Arpaly, “Open-mindedness as a Moral Virtue,” American Philosophical Quarterly 48:1 (2011): 75-85 and Yujia Song, “The Moral Virtue of Openmindedness,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (2018): 65-84.
§2. Accounts of Open-mindedness Consider a variety of intellectual attitudes one might have regarding a practical issue, specifically the use of automated strike zones in Major League Baseball through the use of so-called “robo-umpires.” First, there is Dan, a long-time fan of the game who has a keen interest in the issue and is firmly opposed to strike zone automation. He openly worries about the possibility that if implemented this technology will ruin an important “human element” of the game. Next, there is Chris, who is also a devoted baseball fan, but he’s a strong advocate of the automated strike zone. He has grown weary of in-game disputes over balls and strikes, both because of the distraction this creates but also because bad calls by umpires have often been decisive in important games, which Chris decries as unjust. This warrants the use of robo-umps, in Chris’s judgment. Thirdly, there is Ian, also a stalwart baseball fan, who is moderately familiar with the new technology and is also somewhat familiar with the arguments pro and con. However, at this point he is basically undecided on the issue. Now Dan, Chris, and Ian are neighbors and fans of the same team. At some point the issue comes up in conversation. Dan expresses his firm rejection of automated strike zones, and when challenged about it by Chris, Dan refuses to consider arguments against his view. He shakes his head and waves his hands dismissively at Chris, declaring, “Don’t waste your time. You’ll never convince me that robo-umps are a good thing.” In contrast, when Dan offers his objections to automated strike zones, Chris listens intently and even welcomes suggestions for published commentaries on the issue by robo-ump critics. Meanwhile, Ian grants a certain legitimacy to both Dan’s and Chris’s arguments but remains neutral on the issue. Consequently, he declares that he has an open mind about it and is eager to learn more. Chris, too, says that his mind is open and is willing to change his position if he encounters better criticisms of strike zone automation than he has thus far heard. Dan, however, happily admits that his mind is closed on the matter. Which of these three men is open-minded when it comes to the issue of MLB strike zone automation? Clearly, Dan is intellectually foreclosed, a self-confessed dogmatist on the matter and anything but open-minded. But what of Chris and Ian? Some scholars insist that Ian’s perspective – essentially that of neutrality – constitutes the essence of open-mindedness. This is the indifference model of open-mindedness, and it is defended by, among others, Peter Gardner who says, “to be open-minded about an issue is to have entertained thoughts about the issue but not to be committed to
Open-Mindedness: An Introduction
or to hold a particular view about it.”5 Thus, Gardner would say that Ian is the only one in this trio of friends who is truly open-minded, since he currently is not committed to a position on the issue. William Hare would take strong exception to Gardner’s view, insisting that Chris is actually the open-minded man in this scenario. Openmindedness does not consist in neutrality, according to Hare, but rather a certain readiness to take seriously alternative perspectives on an issue, even when they challenge or conflict with one’s own. This is the contest model of open-mindedness. As Hare puts it, “to be open-minded is . . . to be critically receptive to alternative possibilities, to be willing to think again despite having formulated a view, and to be concerned to defuse any factors that constrain one’s thinking in predetermined ways.”6 Or, as psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman similarly conceive it, open-mindedness is “the willingness to search actively for evidence against one’s favored beliefs, plans, or goals, and to weigh such evidence fairly when it is available.”7 So which view is correct? Is open-mindedness properly considered an attitude of neutrality regarding an issue or a willingness to have one’s view evidentially challenged? Perhaps they are both correct in the sense that the indifference and contest accounts of open-mindedness each describe genuine forms that this intellectual virtue takes. Jason Baehr has offered an account of open-mindedness which seems to affirm as much. His proposal is that in all cases of open-mindedness “a person departs or detaches from, he or she moves beyond or transcends, a certain default or privileged cognitive standpoint.”8 Given this definition, we can readily affirm that both Chris and Ian exhibit an open–minded attitude toward strike zone automation. Chris transcends his default conviction that robo-umps are a good idea when he seriously entertains Dan’s arguments against his view. And Ian transcends his default neutrality when he earnestly considers arguments both for and against automated strike zones. And Dan is clearly closed-minded given Baehr’s definition, since he refuses to move beyond 5
Peter Gardner, “Should We Teach Children to be Open-minded? Or, is the Pope Open-minded About the Existence of God?” Journal of Philosophy of Education, 27, (1993): 39. 6 William Hare, “The Ideal of Open-Mindedness and Its Place in Education,” Journal of Thought, 38 (2003): 4-5. 7 Christopher Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). 8 Jason Baehr, The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 148-49. Author’s emphases.
his cognitive standpoint to seriously consider counter-arguments to his view. In this way, Baehr’s cognitive transcendence model of openmindedness has the merit of revealing a basic unity between the two major contenders in the debate over the essence of open-mindedness. Although much of the terminology in current debates over openmindedness is new, advocacy for each of these perspectives—the indifference and contest models—is actually very old.9 Among historical precedents of the indifference view, there is the ancient skeptic Sextus Empiricus, who characterized indifference as the essence of the skeptical attitude. Sextus prized the skeptical mindset—a “state of mental suspense” which leads to the desirable mental condition of “unperturbedness” or “quietude.”10 As Sextus sees it, when it comes to any truth claims about what lies beyond immediate appearance, the skeptic “announces his own impression in an undogmatic way, without making any positive assertion regarding the external realities.”11 This seems an apt description of Ian’s attitude regarding the appropriateness of strike zone automation and matches Gardner’s conception of open-mindedness generally. In the early modern period we find another advocate of this approach in John Locke. According to Locke, the ideal attitude for the rational inquirer is “an equal indifferency for all truth.” This, he says, “is the right temper of the mind that preserves it from being imposed on, and disposes it to examine with that indifferency, until it has done its best to find the truth, and this is the only direct and safe way to it.”12 Unlike Sextus, Locke does affirm the possibility of discovering truth, even regarding matters which lie behind appearances. Locke just believes that the attitude of indifference is the most effective approach in enabling us to arrive at truth. Along the way, Locke is careful to note that the quest for the ideal of indifference is fraught with many challenges, including selfish motivation (the desire for power, profit, fame or other personal benefits which can create significant bias), popularity of a view (which can tilt one for or against a view, if it happens to be popularly affirmed), chronological bias 9
For an extensive “philosophical archaeology” of the contest and indifference models of open-mindedness in the work of the four philosophers I discuss here (Sextus Empiricus, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Paul Feyerabend), see James S. Spiegel, “Contest and Indifference: Two Models of Open-minded Inquiry,” Philosophia: Philosophical Quarterly of Israel 45:2 (2017): 789-810. 10 Sextus Empiricus. Outlines of Pyrrhonism, trans. R. G. Bury (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 7. 11 Ibid., 11. 12 John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Understanding and of the Conduct of the Understanding (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1996): 186.
Open-Mindedness: An Introduction
(which can tilt one either for or against a view, depending on whether it is old or new), disciplinary specialization (which threatens to blind a person to the biases endemic to their own academic field or its methodology), and the noble cause excuse, whereby one rationalizes one’s partiality on an issue on the basis of some supposed higher purpose. Whichever model of open-mindedness one prefers, Locke’s cautions are timelessly valuable. It is certainly easy to identify instances of each of these biases in contemporary Western culture. And in our contrived scenario above, we can imagine that Dan’s foreclosure against automated strike zones could be due to one or more of these sources of bias, whether chronological bias, popularity, the noble cause excuse or some combination of these. Precedents for advocacy of the contest view are also to be found in the history of philosophy. Most noteworthy among these is John Stuart Mill, who relentlessly defends open-mindedness in his classic On Liberty. He writes, “In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just.”13 Like Locke, Mill does not regard such openness as valuable in itself but rather as a critical means in the quest for truth. In short, the person who welcomes evidential challenges is more reliable in their judgments. As Mill puts it, “. . . knowing that he has sought for objections and difficulties instead of avoiding them . . . he has a right to think his judgment better than that of any person, or any multitude, who have not gone through a similar process.”14 According to Mill, such challenges are not only effective in helping us discover truth but also in enabling us to more fully appreciate the truths we already have in view, since “he who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.”15 If we apply Mill’s insights to the automated strike zone debate, then we see why, other things being equal, we are far more likely to trust Chris’s judgment than Dan’s. For Dan seems to have avoided objections to his view, rather than seeking them out as Chris has. Consequently, Dan 13
John S. Mill, On Liberty (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956), 25. Ibid. 15 Ibid., 45. 14
really only knows “his own side of the case” and thus, as Mill would say, he “knows little of that.” Finally, as another important advocate of the contest approach, consider the twentieth century philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, whose endorsement of consideration of diverse and contrary perspectives in science extends to fundamental methodological commitments in the field, even challenging the most cherished assumptions which drive science itself. Feyerabend proposes that: The first step in our criticism of commonly-used concepts is to create a measure of criticism, something with which these concepts can be compared. . . . But in order for this examination to start there must be a measuring-stick in the first place. Therefore, the first step in our criticism of customary concepts and customary reactions is to step outside the circle and either to invent a new conceptual system, for example, a new theory . . . or to import such a system from outside science, from religion, from mythology, from the ideas of incompetents, or the ramblings of madmen. This step is . . . counterinductive.16
Here Feyerabend advocates a particularly aggressive form of openmindedness—one that is not limited to taking seriously or even seeking critiques of one’s own views and methods. He promotes the actual invention of new perspectives and welcoming such from outside one’s discipline (in this case, science) in order to generate insights from different points of view. This degree of openness is threatening and perhaps dangerous, which is why Feyerabend has been a controversial figure in the philosophy of science. But perhaps his thesis that “anything goes” in science was primarily intended as a way to prod more widespread displays of open-mindedness in a field where dogma has been prevalent historically, arguably as much so as in the history of Western theology.17 Applying Feyerabend’s counsel to the automated strike zone debate, Feyerabend would likely regard the robo-ump concept as controversial just because it constitutes an importing of an idea (or technological application) into the game of baseball which is foreign to that context. So foreign, in fact, that dogmatically negative reactions like Dan’s are to be expected. But whether or not this technology is ever actually incorporated into Major League Baseball, Feyerabend would no doubt affirm the importance of seriously considering it as a means by which the game is 16
Paul Feyerabend, Against Method, 4th ed. (London: Verso, 2010), 47-48. For an account of how and why this happens in the history of science, see Thomas Kuhn’s landmark book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).
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ultimately advanced. If attitudes like Dan’s prevail, however, the professional game will stagnate.
§3. Open-mindedness among the Virtues Open-mindedness is an important intellectual virtue, because it is a trait the display of which improves one’s capacity to flourish as a knower. This is so for a variety of reasons. First, an open-minded attitude makes a person with a false belief more likely to surrender it when new facts become known. After all, to be genuinely open-minded about an issue indicates that one is willing to revise one’s beliefs as the evidence warrants. Also, since the open-minded person is non-dogmatic and more irenic than the closed-minded person, her friends and acquaintances will be more inclined to share new ideas and perspectives with her which will expand her knowledge base and in some cases serve a corrective function regarding false beliefs she presently holds. Of course, open-mindedness is just one of many intellectual virtues, and, as in the case of moral virtues, the various intellectual virtues tend to come in clusters and function to enhance one another.18 It is helpful to reflect on how open-mindedness both enhances and is enhanced by certain other intellectual virtues. The virtue of intellectual courage comes to mind as a trait which is required for the consistent display of open-mindedness. Though it might be difficult to admit, the prospect of our discovering the falsehood of some of our views—especially in the moral, political and religious domains—can be frightening. For these tend to be what Nicholas Wolterstorff has called “control” beliefs, dictating many other beliefs in our noetic structure.19 Thus, if we are wrong about such beliefs, then this will necessitate the adjustment of many other beliefs and, in all likelihood, some aspects of our conduct as well. So it takes intellectual courage to be open-minded about such issues.
This is to affirm at least a soft version of the thesis of the unity of the virtues. Some have defended a much stronger version of this thesis, such as Raymond Devettere, who asserts, “If you have one virtue, you have them all . . .. Virtues cannot be separated—a person lacking the virtue of temperance also lacks the virtues of justice, love, and so forth” (from his Introduction to Virtue Ethics [Georgetown University Press, 2002]). For a more qualified defense of the thesis, see Susan Wolf, “Moral Psychology and the Unity of the Virtues,” Ratio 20:2 (2007): 145-167. 19 Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason within the Bounds of Religion (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984).
Another requisite virtue for open-mindedness is intellectual autonomy, which is self-trust or the willingness to think for oneself when it comes to the formation of beliefs. Now to suggest that this is necessary for openmindedness could appear ironic or even paradoxical, since intellectual autonomy might seem to imply complete self-reliance or epistemic egoism. However, this is not the case, as Linda Zagzebski has recently argued. Given that (1) I basically trust my own perceptual abilities, cognitive faculties, and other belief-forming mechanisms and (2) I also generally believe in the parity of cognitive abilities among human beings (i.e., other people are generally as reliable and responsible as I am when it comes to belief formation), it follows that “I cannot consistently trust my own faculties but not those of others.”20 That is to say, if I am epistemically self-trusting, then I should extend that trust to others or, as Zagzebski puts it, “the fact that another person has a certain belief always gives me prima facie reason to believe it.”21 This, in turn, is a strong inducement to open-mindedness, since recognizing another’s belief to be grounds for holding that belief as well is ipso facto to take their belief seriously and to regard it as potential reason to adopt that view. Perhaps the most important intellectual virtue vis-à-vis openmindedness is intellectual humility. To be intellectually humble is to recognize one’s fallibility as a knower.22 It is precisely because we recognize our fallibility as knowers that it is epistemically wise to have an open mind on many issues. And why need we recognize our noetic fallibility? Several reasons. First, there is a statistical argument to be made for this. Consider the fact that you hold beliefs about thousands of issues in multiple domains, including science, history, ethics, religion, politics, economics, art, business, sports, and your personal relationships. And regarding most of those issues there are intelligent, well-informed people whose views differ from yours. The odds are, then, that you are wrong about some, if not very many of those issues, notwithstanding the fact that you, too, are intelligent and generally well-informed.
Linda Zagzebski, Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 56. 21 Ibid., 58. 22 Jonathan Adler mistakenly defines open-mindedness in this way (as a recognition of one’s fallibility as a knower) and thus confuses open-mindedness with intellectual humility. See his “Reconciling Open-mindedness and Belief,” Theory and Research in Education 2:2 (2004): 127-142. For a critique of his position see James S. Spiegel, “Open-mindedness and Intellectual Humility” in Theory and Research in Education 10:1 (2012): 27-38.
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Also, there is the argument from experience. Throughout history many popularly accepted empirical claims, ranging from flat-earth theory and geocentrism to the pseudo-sciences of phrenology and physiognomy, have proven to be false. And in the moral and religious spheres, racial superiority theories, myths about the gods, and animistic theories have been popular in various places but are now roundly rejected. Our age is certainly not immune to similar errors, so it seems likely that some currently popular views are mistaken as well. Furthermore, there is the impact that social context has on worldview formation. A person raised in India is more likely to be a Hindu than a Muslim or Christian. A person who grows up in Turkey is more likely to be a Muslim than a Christian or Buddhist. Or, more locally, if you are raised by Muslim parents, you are much more likely to become a Muslim than a Christian or Marxist. And, of course, these tendencies are not limited to religious beliefs but extend to our beliefs in the moral and political spheres. So how many of our current beliefs do we hold not because of careful inquiry but because we’ve embraced them via a kind of intergenerational worldview inertia? Finally, there is the problem of personal bias, which is a ubiquitous challenge for human beings. Even if not in the form of full-fledged selfdeception, our individual emotions, interests, and personal concerns tend to have a significant causal influence on belief formation.23 Just to take the matter of personal concerns, Nomy Arpaly has powerfully highlighted several ways in which our concerns influence our emotions, attention, ability to learn, and our tendencies to draw conclusions and the degree of confidence we have in the conclusions we draw. All of these things have a significant impact on the beliefs we form and how steadfastly we cling to them.24 And neither these factors nor the personal concerns which influence them are necessarily reliable, much less infallible, when it comes to belief formation. All of these considerations are grounds for emphasizing our fallibility as knowers and thus reinforce the epistemic appropriateness of intellectual humility. In turn, this underscores the general appropriateness of openmindedness. So intellectual courage, intellectual autonomy, and intellectual humility are all virtues which are relevant to the display of open-mindedness. We could go on to discuss other epistemic traits which 23 For some excellent discussions of this point, see A. Lazar, “Self-Deception: Deceiving Oneself or Self-Deceived?: On the Formation of Beliefs ‘Under the Influence,’” Mind 108 (1999): 265-290 and Jason Stanley, Knowledge and Practical Interests (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 24 See Arpaly, “Open-mindedness as a Moral Virtue,” 76-79.
are similarly relevant, including intellectual conscientiousness, candor, diligence, generosity, and charity. But the general point should be clear: open-mindedness is not a stand-alone intellectual virtue but depends upon and enhances other such virtues in the flourishing knower.
§4. Benefits, Risks, and Limits of Open-mindedness So what does it mean for open-mindedness to help one to flourish as a knower? In other words, what are the epistemic benefits of openmindedness? One obvious benefit consists in how keeping an open mind enhances one’s ability to discover truth. The more willing one is to transcend her default cognitive standpoint, the more likely she will be sensitive to be favorably impressed by strong evidence and the logical force of good arguments in favor of different perspectives. Of course, this also creates a certain risk that the open-minded person will be more likely to be misled by fraudulent data or deceptive arguments, but here it is important to keep in mind the point just made—that open-mindedness is not a stand-alone intellectual virtue but properly works in concert with other virtues. A related further epistemic benefit of open-mindedness is the purging of false beliefs. This can be more demanding on the knower because, as opposed to the simple acquisition of new beliefs, the purging of false beliefs entails an admission that one was wrong in what one formerly believed. This, of course, also requires intellectual humility even as the process of giving up a false belief helps to develop this virtue in the knower, not to mention self-control (if only to resist any impulse toward self-deception which might arise in order to avoid having to admit one’s error). In addition to these fundamental epistemic benefits, open-mindedness has community benefits. For one thing, this trait has a socially unifying effect insofar as its display within a social group will naturally discourage dogmatic attitudes which tend to cause division. So where openmindedness is a prevalent virtue, tolerance of diverse perspectives will also be more common. As Wayne Riggs observes, Tolerance is an important civic good in modern pluralist democracies. It depends upon the conviction that everyone has the right to pursue the good as she sees fit, so long as this does not violate certain side constraints (harming others, for example). This conviction is hard to maintain if too many citizens begin to lose sight of their fallibility. Open-mindedness is an important personal virtue for such societies.25 25
Wayne Riggs, “Open-Mindedness,” Metaphilosophy 41:1-2 (2010): 187.
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So, in this way, there is a connection between open-mindedness and public civility. And this is true not just because open-mindedness leads to adjustments of belief. Even where minds do not change, open-mindedness improves civility for at least two reasons. First, open-minded people tend to make us less defensive. When people show a genuine inquisitiveness about what we believe, this naturally makes us feel less threatened even when they disagree with us. Secondly, and as a consequence, this enhances our capacity for calm and patient dialogue, as an open-minded person’s genuine interest in our perspective naturally inspires a similar genuine interest in their perspective. Thus, as the saying goes, one good turn deserves another. Kant noted that “when a man has done a good deed to another, he knows that the other loves him, and so he loves him in return, knowing that he himself is loved.”26 This reciprocal effect seems true of many other virtues, including kindness, generosity, and wit. It is likely also true of open-mindedness. There are also risks involved with open-mindedness which are often expressed in the form of objections to the trait even being virtuous. One objection is that open-mindedness undermines belief commitment, and this is especially problematic when it comes to moral beliefs and lifestyle choices. After all, if one is willing to transcend one’s default cognitive standpoint on, say, human rights, then how committed can one be to this value? A willingness to seriously entertain counter-evidence regarding this belief seems more dangerous than potentially beneficial. So how could open-mindedness in this case be virtuous? This is an important point, as any epistemic trait or practice which might undermine one’s fundamental moral values must be regarded as dangerous and potential grounds for rejecting it. Proponents of open-mindedness typically deal with this objection by pointing out, as I have above, that this virtue is one of many epistemic virtues which properly work in concert with one another in the life of the knowing subject. If we assume that the open-minded person is also intellectually conscientious, diligent, patient, well-informed, and respectful, we can be confident that no clever new argument will succeed in overturning her commitment to human rights. And if she did decide to grant the legitimacy of, say, infanticide, racism, or slavery, then we could be confident the culprit was not her open-mindedness but other epistemic vices which corrupted her cognitive processes. Another common criticism of open-mindedness is that exhibiting this trait renders a person vulnerable to global skepticism. The worry is that if I routinely transcend my own beliefs on issues under consideration I will be 26 Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics, trans. Louis Infield (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1963), 223.
more likely to embrace a default posture of suspense of judgment. In response, I would note that if this is a risk at all, it is only true of the indifference form of open-mindedness. Recall that on the contest account open-mindedness is consistent with firm belief. Thus, I may be fully convinced that automated strike zones would be good for baseball while at the same time open to seriously considering counter-arguments which could potentially change my mind. Such openness, even as a general epistemic attitude, doesn’t seem to be a serious threat to turn someone into a global skeptic. However, we should recognize that open-mindedness has its limits. Foreclosure does seem appropriate regarding some issues. In fact, in many cases, a genuine open-mindedness would be unhealthy. I am thinking of such examples as the following: being open to the idea that my wife might actually be an extra-terrestrial or being open to the idea that rape and pedophilia are morally appropriate. Genuine openness to the possibility that these things might be true is not a sign of proper epistemic function but rather an indicator that something has gone awry. We should be foreclosed about these and many other things. But what are the criteria for determining what sorts of beliefs it is appropriate to be foreclosed about? That is an excellent question and one regarding which I doubt there is an easy answer. We can give clear, paradigm cases, such as those just mentioned, where foreclosure is obviously appropriate. And we can identify many more instances where open-mindedness seems appropriate. But establishing criteria for clearly and reliably distinguishing where one or the other is appropriate would be very difficult, if it is feasible at all. Still, it is worth considering possible criteria for identifying those beliefs regarding which one is entitled to epistemic foreclosure. I would recommend beginning with considerations based in actual epistemic practice. That is, what sorts of considerations ordinarily prompt people to foreclose in favor of a belief? We may begin with the widely used criterion of experts or established authorities on various subjects. But since even the experts in a given field are sometimes mistaken, further qualifications are necessary to warrant foreclosure. One possibility here is consensus among the experts. And since such consensus may be synchronic (time-slice) or diachronic (across time), this suggests two distinct but related criteria for warranted belief foreclosure: (1) historical consensus among established authorities (2) contemporary global consensus among established authorities
Open-Mindedness: An Introduction
Examples of views where there is historical consensus include, say, the belief that Plato was Socrates’ pupil and the belief that Shakespeare is one of the most important writers in the English language. One would be hard pressed to find a reputable history or literary scholar in the last two hundred years who would not affirm these claims. Examples of views where there is current global consensus include the belief that the inverse square law of gravitation is true and the belief that regular exercise is good for one’s physical and mental health. Again, the opinions of experts in the fields of physics and health science would likely be unanimous in both cases. Countless ordinary, even mundane beliefs satisfy one or both of these criteria (e.g., that Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth President of the United States, that the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed by terrorist hijackers on September 11, 2001, etc.). Now I should emphasize that these criteria appear to provide sufficient conditions for warranted belief foreclosure. I do not propose them as necessary conditions. Indeed, we can think of countless more beliefs that do not satisfy one of these criteria but about which foreclosure seems appropriate (e.g., sensory states such as that I have a headache, immediate perceptions such as that there is a computer in front of me, the belief that my wife is not an extra-terrestrial, etc.). These ordinary cases suggest a further criterion, namely direct personal experience. Of course, the fact that all of our experiences are, to some degree, interpreted creates difficulties here. But something in this territory might nonetheless be useful in developing an account of warranted belief foreclosure. Notice that in our illustration regarding automated strike zones Dan’s foreclosure against robo-umpires does not satisfy any of the criteria just proposed. There is neither historical nor contemporary global consensus among established authorities in any domain that Dan’s view is correct, nor could he know his view to be true simply on the basis of direct personal experience. Perhaps other instances of belief foreclosure that we ordinarily deem inappropriate would similarly fail to meet these criteria. There is obviously no way to systematically review all truth claims to see how the criteria fare in matching our intuitions and everyday practice, but I suppose that at least rough alignment in this regard would be necessary for any such criteria to be satisfactory.
§4. Open-mindedness and Religious Beliefs Since this is a volume dedicated to open-mindedness and religious belief, a bit of focus on issues related to religion is appropriate. First, we should note that religious beliefs such as that God exists, that there is an
afterlife, and that God will judge humanity are common around the world, but there is not a historical consensus about these things among philosophers nor even among theologians and biblical scholars. While there appears to be a majority of biblical scholars and theologians who are theists, there is nothing like the consensus or near unanimity of opinion among experts that we find in the cases noted above. Nor does it seem reasonable to suppose that all such religious beliefs are matters of direct personal experience, since few people claim to have seen or heard God, no one has directly experienced the Final Judgment, and only a small fraction of people have had Near Death Experiences (assuming some of these are veridical). It appears to follow, then, that no one should be foreclosed regarding their religious beliefs. The believer should keep her mind open with regard to the reality of God, the afterlife, and Judgment Day. But this creates something of a dilemma for the religiously devout person. For while she presumably has an epistemic duty to be intellectually virtuous, including displaying the virtue of open-mindedness, according to most religious traditions the religiously devout person also must be unwavering in her commitment to God. And this faith commitment includes her beliefs. So for the ideal religiously devout person it would appear impossible for her theological beliefs to be overturned through the review of further evidences. And this entails that the devout theist should be foreclosed about her faith convictions. Christian philosophers in particular, from Descartes to Kierkegaard have agreed about this.27 So the dilemma for the religiously devout person seems to be this: she must either (1) compromise her religious commitment by opening her mind to the possibility that some of her fundamental faith convictions are false or (2) violate her epistemic duty to be fully intellectually virtuous by refusing to practice open27 While Descartes and Kierkegaard would agree that the ideal epistemic orientation toward theistic belief is one of doxastic foreclosure, their grounds for maintaining this are diametrically opposed. Descartes maintains that such foreclosure is properly based in rational, evidentially grounded certitude, while Kierkegaard insists that religious foreclosure is a matter of volitional commitment which may contradict or transcend reason itself. So these two modern philosophers lie at polar extremes when it comes to the relationship between faith and reason, with Descartes being the archetypal rationalist and Kierkegaard as an equally extreme form of fideism. Yet, despite these radically divergent orientations on the epistemics of faith, they are united in the conviction that religious belief foreclosure is appropriate. For an extensive discussion of this and the broader matter of open-mindedness and religious devotion, see James S. Spiegel “Openmindedness and Religious Devotion,” Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy and Traditions 52:1 (2012): 143-158.
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mindedness in the context of religious belief. What shall the religiously devout person do? Is there a way to justify her religious belief foreclosure that we have thus far overlooked? I think so. The first thing to clarify here concerns the nature of faith commitment. Religious commitment is not merely intellectual but goes well beyond beliefs. To be religiously devout is not purely a matter of signing off on a set of propositional truths, though belief in the truth of various propositions is definitely one aspect of such a commitment. Religious devotion, in contrast, is more like a marital commitment, which does include various beliefs but most importantly includes vows pertaining to one’s conduct in relation to the person to whom one is pledging one’s commitment. So a major problem with the dilemma posed above is that it conflates two important kinds of knowledge, namely propositional knowledge and personal knowledge. If the questions and concerns regarding religious devotion were entirely a matter of propositional truth, then the intellectual obligation to be open-minded would perhaps apply. But religious devotion also crucially involves personal knowledge, an existential acquaintance which, for all we know, is possible in religious experience.28 If this is indeed possible and a person may have a direct personal encounter with God, then such a person’s belief in God is more like my belief that my wife exists than my belief in some objective fact (e.g., that the Mona Lisa painting is still housed in the Louvre Museum). This in turn entails that such a person is epistemically entitled to be foreclosed about her belief in God. After all, if I know someone personally, then the notion of new evidence overturning my belief that they exist is absurd. So an open-minded attitude towards the possibility is actually irrational—just as irrational as would be my being open-minded about my wife’s existence (or that she might be an extra-terrestrial). Of course, all of this hangs on the possibility that it is possible to experience God in a personal way. But that is a separate (and enormously complicated) issue.29 28 William Alston has defended this point with a rigorous analysis of the analogy between religious experience and sensory experience. See William P. Alston, Perceiving God (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993). 29 Another problem with the dilemma of religious devotion as presented here is that it ignores or severely downplays the role of conduct in religious commitment. Again, although the religious devotee believes many things to be true, she is also importantly committed to behaving in certain ways. So in this way, too, religious commitment transcends beliefs and even knowledge. In other words, religious devotion is not just a matter of doxastic commitment but is also a matter of praxis—a set of behavioral practices which flow out of personal engagement with
Having resolved the dilemma of open-mindedness and religious devotion, it appears there is no necessary tension between religious devotion and the epistemic duty to be open-minded. To reinforce this point, it is helpful to note some theological arguments in defense of openmindedness. First, consider the biblical duty to pursue wisdom, which is repeatedly proclaimed throughout both the Old and New Testaments. For example, Proverbs 4:7 declares “Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”30 This mandate, along with similar such exhortations throughout the Bible, assumes that readers have open minds, that they are willing to change their beliefs in order to bring their views into better alignment with moral truth. Another biblical argument for open-mindedness follows from the Golden Rule, expressed by Jesus Christ as follows: “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Mt. 7:12). If I am to take this command seriously, then I must ask myself, do I want others to seriously consider my truth claims and the arguments I make in defense of them? Yes, of course. But if that is the case, and I am also committed to following the Golden Rule, then I have a duty to seriously consider others’ truth claims and the arguments they make in their defense. Just as I want others to be willing to change their minds if my evidence and arguments are compelling, so must I be willing to change my mind if I find their evidence and arguments compelling. That is to say, generally speaking, I should be open-minded toward others because I would have them to be open-minded towards me. So there are at least two theological grounds for being open-minded— the biblical call to wisdom and the Golden Rule.31 Perhaps there are others as well. This doesn’t mean that the biblical duty to be open-minded is unqualified. We’ve already noted many ways in which it is, including the possibility that one may reasonably be foreclosed with regard to the reality of God. And, for all I know, there could be other religious beliefs regarding which doxastic foreclosure might be warranted.
the divine. So, again, this seems to transcend, though it is fully consistent with, the exercise of the intellectual virtue of open-mindedness. 30 This and other passages quoted in this chapter are from the New International Version of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973). 31 For an extensive discussion on issues related to open-mindedness and Christian religious devotion, see James S. Spiegel, “Open-mindedness and Christian Flourishing,” Christian Psychology: A Transdisciplinary Journal 8:1 (2014): 3848.
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§5. Conclusion In summary, we began by reviewing the two standard models of openmindedness—contest and indifference, which are captured in Baehr’s broad definition of open-mindedness as the ability to transcend one’s default cognitive standpoint. And we discussed some contributions from advocates of each approach from the history of philosophy—Sextus Empiricus, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Paul Feyerabend. Next we considered the place of open-mindedness among the intellectual virtues, noting how open-mindedness is not a stand-alone intellectual virtue but depends upon and enhances other such virtues in the flourishing knower. We also explored some of the benefits of open-mindedness, both for the individual knower and their community, and we addressed two objections to open-mindedness, expressed as potential risks involved in displaying this trait, including the worry about open-mindedness undermining belief commitment and the threat of global skepticism. In response to these concerns, we identified some reasonable limits to open-mindedness and proposed potential criteria for identifying warranted belief foreclosure. Finally, we considered open-mindedness in the context of religious beliefs, addressing the apparent dilemma between open-mindedness and religious devotion, and we concluded by noting some theological grounds for affirming open-mindedness as a virtue. There is much more that can be said (and has been said) about each of these issues related to the subject of open-mindedness, and there are many other issues besides these which could be addressed as well. But hopefully this discussion provides a useful foundation for the discussions to follow in subsequent chapters of this book.
Works Cited Adler, Jonathan. “Reconciling Open-mindedness and Belief,” Theory and Research in Education 2:2 (2004). Alston, William. Perceiving God. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 2nd ed., trans. Terence Irwin. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1999. Arpaly, Nomy. “Open-mindedness as a Moral Virtue,” American Philosophical Quarterly 41:1 (2001). Baehr, Jason. The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Devettere, Raymond. Introduction to Virtue Ethics. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2002.
Feyerabend, Paul. Against Method, 4th ed. London: Verso, 2010. Gardner, John. “Should We Teach Children to be Open-minded? Or, is the Pope Open-minded About the Existence of God?” Journal of Philosophy of Education, 27, (1993). Greco, John. Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Hare, William. “The Ideal of Open-Mindedness and Its Place in Education,” Journal of Thought 38 (2003). Kant, Immanuel. Lectures on Ethics, trans. Louis Infield. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1963. Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1970. Lazar, A. “Self-Deception: Deceiving Oneself or Self-Decieved?: On the Fomration of Beliefs ‘Under the Influence,’” Mind 108 (1999). Locke, John. Some Thoughts Concerning Understanding and of the Conduct of the Understanding. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1996. Mill, John S. On Liberty. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956. Montmarquet, James A. Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993. Peterson, Christopher and Martin E. P. Seligman, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Riggs, Wayne. “Open-mindedness,” Metaphilosophy 41 (2010). Sextus Empiricus. Outlines of Pyrrhonism, trans. R. G. Bury. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976. Spiegel, James S. “Open-mindedness and Intellectual Humility,” Theory and Research in Education 10:1 (2012). —. “Open-mindedness and Religious Devotion,” Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy and Traditions 52:1 (2012). —. “Open-mindedness and Christian Flourishing,” Christian Psychology: A Transdisciplinary Journal 8:1 (2014). —. “Contest and Indifference: Two Models of Open-minded Inquiry,” Philosophia: Philosophical Quarterly of Israel 45:2 (2017). Song, Yujia. “The Moral Virtue of Open-mindedness,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (2018). Sosa, Ernest. “The Raft and the Pyramid: Coherence versus Foundations in the Theory of Knowledge,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5 (1980). Stanley, Jason. Knowledge and Practical Interests. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Wolf, Susan. “Moral Psychology and the Unity of the Virtues,” Ratio 20:2 (2007).
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Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Reason within the Bounds of Religion. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984. Zagzebski, Linda T. Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. —. Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
CHAPTER TWO EPISTEMIC DISAGREEMENT AND OPEN-MINDEDNESS GREGORY E. TRICKETT AND DAVID WILLIAMS
What is the relationship between open-mindedness and disagreement? Does open-mindedness require that we be open to giving in to disagreement? Does the presence of disagreement require that we be openminded? How we answer these questions depends on our understanding of disagreement and open-mindedness as an intellectual virtue. For example, it doesn’t seem that I am under any obligation to concede a particular disagreement to someone who is not relevantly similarly epistemically positioned; nor does it seem that I am under any obligation to be openminded to a position that I find basically false or otherwise wrongheaded. Furthermore, what implication do our answers to these questions have for religious disagreements, especially when such disagreements are significant and between alleged epistemic peers? So, our question becomes, under what conditions must we be open to giving into to disagreement and under what conditions does disagreement require openmindedness, specifically in relation to reasonable religious disagreement among epistemic peers? In answering this question, we hope to come closer to answering our initial question of what the relationship between open-mindedness and disagreement is, particularly as it relates to questions of religious disagreement. Our specific concern, as theists, is to consider how we might be obliged to be open to our atheist peers, especially since we have strong a priori reasons to be closed. Our contribution is less a work in epistemology (though it touches on epistemology) and more an exploratory work in intellectual virtue, specifically the virtue of open-mindedness as it applies to disagreement. With this in mind, our paper will proceed in three parts. First, we must determine to what kind of disagreement open-mindedness is relevant,
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since it seems intuitively obvious that one is not required to be openminded with respect to each and every kind of disagreement. In other words, the obligation to be open-minded does not follow from the mere fact of a disagreement. For example, I may disagree with my 11 year old on how best to spend an unexpected gift of money. It does not follow from the fact of this disagreement that I should be open to what my 11 year old thinks is best. Or (for those who may have particularly perspicacious 11 year olds), the fact that students in my Introduction to Philosophy class may disagree that logic is a sub-discipline of philosophy does not oblige me to be open to their views on the matter. With respect to my 11 year old and students, there is something missing that would require openmindedness—a relevant epistemic status shared between myself and my 11 year old and students. Thus, it seems that disagreement must be among those who share a particular epistemic status, i.e., epistemic peers; and an epistemic disagreement differs from other mundane disagreements in that it is the result of an informed position. In any case, it is these distinctions (regarding what makes for an epistemic peer and disagreement) that rule out the previous examples as the kind of disagreements that may require open-mindedness; my 11 year old and my students are either not epistemic peers or the disagreements are not epistemic disagreements. However, there is another sense in which we should be open to giving in to disagreement. If I am challenged in my views by someone whom I respect and who is (or someone I believe to be) at least as knowledgeable of the topic about which we disagree as I am,1 then I may be under some kind of obligation to be open-minded toward that person. But then what does open-mindedness require of me? Perhaps these same distinctions (concerning epistemic peerage and disagreement) can rule in certain other cases. Thus, in the first part, we will consider what counts for proper disagreement, what might constitute an epistemic peer sufficient to openminded discourse, and will provide a working definition of openmindedness. Having clarified these terms and considered these distinctions in the first part, we will next consider how (in what manner) and under what 1
We include the criterion of respect here because it seems that mere knowledge of the disputed topic is insufficient to the obligation. That is, one could have the requisite knowledge but otherwise be a scoundrel. Thus, we can stipulate that respect is a response to an individual’s display of certain virtues such as honesty, integrity, forthrightness, diligence, etc. In the current context, respect is a response to the display of the corresponding intellectual virtues. We will see later that possessing intellectual virtues is an important part of epistemic peerage. We do not necessarily mean to invoke the philosophical literature on the concept of respect.
conditions an epistemic peer should be open-minded. Since our main focus is on open-mindedness in reasonable religious disagreements, our concern here will be to consider whether theists and atheists can be epistemic peers at all and whether their disagreement is a reasonable one. Conventional wisdom may tell us that theists and atheists can certainly be on similar epistemic ground with respect to the question of whether or not God exists, but we have reservations that we will argue for in the second part. Finally, in the third part, we will conclude by affirming that openmindedness is an intellectual virtue best exercised in concert with other intellectual virtues. That is, while open-mindedness and other intellectual virtues can be considered in isolation from each other, they cannot be practiced in isolation from each other. In this way, the theist indeed is obliged to be open-minded to her atheist peers if she is to be intellectually charitable, generous, or humble toward them, or if she is to display these and other virtues to them in hopes of positively influencing them toward virtue, intellectual or otherwise,2 but just what that obligation entails is unclear. Thus our paper will close with some questions concerning the nature of open-mindedness for the theist with a start at some answers focused on virtue and other benefits for the theist.3
§1. Epistemic Peers, Epistemic Disagreement, and Open-mindedness Before we consider the way in which one should be open-minded in the face of disagreement, it will be helpful to provide a working definition of what constitutes the relevant kinds of disagreement. It seems reasonable to assume that such a disagreement must be epistemic in nature, but what kind of disagreements are epistemic ones? Here it may be helpful to introduce a fairly standard structure of what Bryan Frances terms, “the disagreement question.”4 When two individuals have spent time and ability on a reasonable question and they come to two opposing views, 2
See Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood, Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) e-book (Nook) version, 81-88. 3 Our main focus here will be to consider the way in which the Christian concern to love others may be key in motivating one toward a display of intellectual virtue regarding those with which one may disagree. Furthermore, other benefits may be in the neighborhood which initially seem at odds with open-mindedness, such as a renewed firmness of belief and strengthened conviction towards one’s beliefs, but may result from the kind of open-mindedness we have in mind. 4 Bryan Frances, Disagreement, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014), 27.
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what is the reasonable position for them to take? Should they hold on to their view, change their view in favor of the opposing view, or suspend judgement?5 Furthermore, if the relevant kinds of disagreements are epistemic in nature, then it seems reasonable to assume that they only genuinely occur among epistemic peers. But then, what constitutes an epistemic peer? It is with these questions (what ‘epistemic disagreements’ and ‘epistemic peers’ are) that we will begin.
Epistemic Disagreements Human history is filled with disagreement. No place is this more evident than in the field of philosophy. Yet, philosophers have only fairly recently given attention to the issue of epistemic disagreement.6 For our purposes, we are interested in significant epistemic disagreements that constitute a reasonable religious disagreement. That is, disagreements in which there is much at stake between two or more people in a similar epistemic state, where an epistemic state is a state of one’s cognitive ability, confidence, and understanding of relevant facts and includes one’s beliefs about what those abilities, confidences, and understandings require. There are two main parts to our stipulative definition. The disagreement must be epistemic and significant. With Bryan Frances and Jonathan Matheson, we agree that the only significant disagreements are those between competent peers, so it is on those kinds of disagreements we will focus. 7 Later, we will define what a competent epistemic peer is, for now suffice it to say that such peers share similar epistemic states and those states are arrived at in epistemically responsible ways. Disagreement within the social and physical sciences are common and part of the truth finding process, but disagreement can become problematic when it is based on more subjective reasons—specifically when those disagreements occur among epistemic peers. We will classify disagreements in three ways: easy, moderate and difficult.8 Easy disagreements are cases where the focus of the disagreement is (more or less) objectively verifiable making the disagreement easy to resolve, as in 5
Ibid. Bryan Frances and Jonathan Matheson, "Disagreement," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/ archives/spr2018/entries/disagreement/. 7 Ibid. 8 It should be noted that the subjective nature of disagreement does not allow it to be so easily divided. As such these designations are helpful, but better describe points along a spectrum of possible combinations and degrees of disagreement. 6
disagreements involving matters of math or established grammar. For example, if two friends don’t agree on the total of their restaurant check they don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out a solution because they can bring their disagreement to a close by utilizing simple arithmetic. Moderate disagreements are more subjective and less easily resolved, though there may be an element of objectivity whereby a resolution can be reached, as in differences of taste or preference. For example, one may disagree about which cola is better, whether it is better to drive a Toyota Prius or a Ford F-150, or what may be the best route for a road trip to Denver, Colorado. The complexities of moderate disagreements are based more in perspectives that are influenced by one’s preferences than in obvious or easily verified facts, like those of easy disagreements. Difficult disagreements are those where subjective experience and disputed facts make resolutions much harder to come by, as in methodological or conceptual disagreements or disagreements about theory. For example, metaphysical disagreements such as whether there is such a thing as “self” or whether God exists would be difficult disagreements that are not easy to resolve. Such disagreements take into account a wide range of data analysis, reason, theoretical thinking, and so on. As such, difficult disagreements are complex and more likely to be significant and not trivial. Trivial disagreements are disagreements about which nothing serious is at stake while significant disagreements are those about which much is at stake. Each class of disagreement may be significant or trivial. Again, it is worth noting that this distinction is somewhat subjective and occurs on a spectrum of significance, but it seems that some things could be reasonable and considered relatively trivial or significant given certain other preconditions for the individuals involved. For example, for one who has no particular affinity to coffee, what brand of coffee is best is a relatively trivial issue. For someone who has significant investment in the coffee industry, this question may be quite significant. Note that each kind of disagreement is only resolvable in cases where there is a similar epistemic state, i.e. a state in which one has similar cognitive ability, confidence, and understanding of relevant facts and beliefs about what those abilities, confidences, and understandings require.9 But this only gets us so far. Further distinctions are needed to get to the kind of disagreements with which we are concerned. Reasonable religious disagreements are epistemic disagreements that are also significant and not trivial as defined above. The one who has no interest in 9
There may be other factors that go into an epistemic state, but for our purposes, ability, confidence, and cognitive access to relevant facts are enough to make our point.
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religious matters, specifically the one who has no concern as to whether there is a God or not, sees such issues as trivialities (though the question remains a difficult one) while the person who is a theist (and often the person who is an atheist) sees such issues as significant. So, by epistemic disagreement, we mean a significant disagreement that occurs between two or more people with similar epistemic states and is resolvable in part by appeal to reason. We are mainly concerned with the difficult epistemic disagreements concerning significant matters of religious disagreement such as might occur between theists and atheists (e.g., whether or not God exists). Having defined what we mean by epistemic disagreement, it is worth considering what is not included in our definition of epistemic disagreement. That is, what kinds of disagreements are not difficult epistemic disagreements concerning significant matters but may sometimes be confused as such? Here we note three ways of disagreeing that are in no way rational (i.e. not epistemic), but often used in everyday rhetoric and pedestrian debate. They are relativism, intolerance, and dismissive close-mindedness.10 Note that the first is a particularly negative way of being “open-minded” and the other two are particularly negative ways of being close-minded.11 The relativistic view takes the stance that there are no true reasonable disagreements because there are really no disagreements of any type.12 Since the view concedes that there may be no view that leads to ultimate truth, any view can lead to a particular truth. Since there are so many intelligent people who could disagree with each other, there is room for them all to be right. Unfortunately relativism divests disagreements of any explanatory significance they may hold. Disagreements in which relativism is assumed become no more significant than disagreements about whether Batman would win against Superman in a fight. It may be fun to think about, but ultimately unimportant.
10 These categories are adapted from Richard Feldman, “Reasonable Religious Disagreement,” in Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, ed. Louise M. Antony (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007): 195198. 11 Here we consider that while being open-minded is generally understood as a virtue, there are ways in which it could be vicious or otherwise negative. Similarly, while being close-minded is typically understood as a vicious trait, there are ways in which it could be virtuous or otherwise positive. See James Spiegel’s and John R. Gilhooly’s articles in this volume. 12 Feldman, 197.
Different from relativism is intolerance. Where relativists views strive to ignore disagreements of any type by asserting that everyone is correct, intolerance asserts that only one’s personal view can be correct, even (perhaps especially) in light of opposing views. The intolerant person actively seeks to undermine and demean opposing views as inferior to his own. A close relative to intolerance is dismissiveness. Dismissiveness is when one rejects an idea out of hand, disregarding whether it has serious merit in any discussion without giving it even a cursory consideration. The key element in dismissiveness is that ideas are not considered at all. We make the distinction between intolerant and dismissive approaches to disagreement in the attitudes with which the intolerant or dismissive individual treats the opposing view. The intolerant person actively attacks and demeans the view as inferior or less-than, while the dismissive individual does not acknowledge the opposing view’s worth to begin with. Dismissiveness has serious negative moral implications against the person who would take this stance. Not only does this stance ignore the goal of truth-seeking, but it shows none of the intellectual virtues that epistemic peers would employ while having a rational disagreement. Indeed, it seems that the dismissive stance rejects such virtues along with the person with whom one disagrees. As we consider what kinds of disagreement make open-mindedness most worthwhile and virtuous, we have come to the position that difficult epistemic disagreements concerning significant matters are the kinds we are most concerned with. It is here that we find the most serious kinds of religious disagreements. But of course, simply having a disagreement is not itself sufficient. As we discussed at the outset, disagreements in which open-mindedness plays a part must be disagreements between and among epistemic peers. Epistemic Peers While what makes for an epistemic disagreement is fairly straightforward and, in some ways, obvious, what makes for an epistemic peer is more ambiguous. This is partly because it is difficult to define a peer of any sort let alone an epistemic one. These complexities are due to the various degrees of interpersonal, social, and professional relationships and the various approaches used in determining whether and in what way
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one is a peer.13 While it may be relatively difficult to determine just what a peer is, it is even more difficult to identify which of those peers is an epistemic peer. Furthermore, we can infer from these distinctions that those who are not epistemic peers are either epistemic superiors or inferiors. But just how do we determine whether one is inferior or superior to another? Does one who is epistemically superior have more authority in a disagreement over someone who may be an epistemic inferior? 14 Does moral superiority or inferiority play a role? What follows are considerations of what we think qualify someone to be an epistemic peer in a rational religious disagreement. The issue of epistemic superiority and inferiority will be tabled for now. Thomas Kelly classifies epistemic peers as “(i) . . . equals with respect to their familiarity with the evidence and arguments which bear on the question, and (ii) they are equals with respect to general epistemic virtues such as intelligence, thoughtfulness, and freedom from bias.”15 We essentially agree with Kelly’s definition, but it seems a bit anemic with regard to what Frances calls “disagreement factors.” Frances identifies six different disagreement factors, including data, evidence, time, ability, background knowledge, and circumstances of investigation.16 We feel that these imply a familiarity with the arguments which bear on the question and thus fill out Kelly’s definition. So, with respect to epistemic peers in philosophy of religion, individuals are more likely to be epistemic peers if they are relatively close with respect to the disagreement factors outlined by Frances and the intellectual virtues mentioned by Kelly regarding questions related to issues in philosophy of religion. We would add that epistemic peers are those who have been properly mentored. A proper mentorship involves a mentor who is trustworthy, authoritative, and experienced and a mentee who has received the correct
We imagine these complexities, degrees, and approaches are multifaceted along philosophical, psychological, sociological, economic, biological, and religious lines which makes the issue even more complex. 14 Bryan Frances defines an epistemic superior in a particular matter as one who surpasses another in several “disagreement factors” (which include things such as data, evidence, ability, and background knowledge) while an epistemic inferior is the one who is surpassed with respect to the disagreement factors related to the matter. See Frances, Disagreement, 26 and 43. Morality is not one of his factors. 15 Thomas Kelly, “The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement,” in Oxford Studies in Epistemology, vol. 1, ed. Tamar Szabó Gendler and John Hawthorne (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005) 175. 16 Frances, Disagreement, 26.
information and training.17 It also requires a mentee who has the cognitive abilities to interpret the data correctly. There is a rich tradition in philosophy by which peerage is fostered through a mentor relationship. Such training has traditionally been the process by which philosophers have continued the work of philosophy. By identifying those who have a “knack” for philosophy, encouraging their work, and giving correct guidance, philosophers have been able to continue their work in philosophy posthumously through their students. It may seem like the student is looking to a single authority for guidance, but a proper mentor also encourages her student to doubt. Much like the way that healthy epistemic disagreements foster open-mindedness, doubt can help the student stay focused and think correctly about truth. Doubt and critical thinking help temper the student’s relationship with his mentor, guarding against treating her like a guru. It is correct that in the mentor/student relationship there is a level of intellectual trust the student must place in the mentor, but not at the expense of intellectual honesty. If there are two individuals who are relatively equal with respect to the intellectual virtues, disagreement factors, and mentorship experiences, and have reached a comparably similar degree of authority in a similar discipline, then they can consider themselves epistemic peers. If one of the two possesses more (in quantity or quality) of the virtues, factors, and mentorship experiences than the other, relative to a particular disagreement, then they can be considered an epistemic superior while the other is the epistemic inferior. This is because the individual with more of the relevant qualities has an epistemic edge in the disagreement over the other. Consider two epistemic peers, as defined above, who disagree about the existence of God. While each has the same virtues, factors, and mentorship experience, they come to two completely different conclusions. Namely, one has concluded that there is a God and the other that God does not exist. How can it be that two people, similar in every epistemic way, come to two opposing beliefs about God? Such disagreements are a specific kind of epistemic disagreement called reasonable religious disagreement. Given such disagreements, what is the next step for epistemic peers who find themselves in a disagreement dilemma as shown above? Should they be steadfast and have confidence in 17
Appealing to a mentor as a proper authority is not to be confused with an appeal to false authority. This type of appeal is a fallacy in which one insists that a claim is true simply because a valid authority on the issue said it was. A mentor is one who encourages the mentee to think and critically analyze independent of the opinions of the mentor.
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their view, give equal weight to their epistemic peer, maintain their view, or put more weight into the total evidence they have to keep their view? These are just a few of the potential solutions presented in philosophy of what might be the right response to an epistemic disagreement.18 In the equal weights view, in order to not concede one’s view, it is appropriate to give the same weight to an epistemic peer’s opposing conclusion drawn from the data to which each has access.19 Thus, even though the conclusion of each individual is different, each is obligated to give the same credence to the other view ensuring that one’s view is at least as valuable as the opposing view. The steadfast view is the opposite of the equal weights view in that if one has done the appropriate analysis of data and they are following the intellectual virtues and they have a high degree of confidence that they are right, then they should stick to their belief. The consequence of holding this view is that one is obligated to believe that their view is right, even if the epistemic peer with whom they disagree comes to the opposite belief. The justificationist view is a kind of compromise view. Depending on the difficulty of the disagreement, one may or may not be justified in using the equal weights view or steadfast view. For example, in cases of easy disagreements the equal weights view may be acceptable, but in cases of difficult disagreements the equal weights view should not be employed. Circumstances of the disagreement determine which view one is justified in using. Last is the total evidence view. According to Kelly, the total evidence view doesn’t merely take into account the higher-order evidence (evidence of the opinion of one’s peers) like the equal weights view does, nor does it only take into account firstorder evidence (first hand evidence of one’s beliefs) as might be the case in the steadfast view, but rather takes into account both higher-order and first-order evidences.20 18
Frances, “Disagreement,” SEP. In Thomas Kelly’s estimation, this view suggest that reasonable belief supervenes on “higher-order” evidence. That is, evidence “that is afforded by the fact that one’s peers believe as they do.” Thomas Kelly, “Peer Disagreement and Higher-Order Evidence,” in Disagreement, Richard Feldman and Ted A. Warfield, eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010): 142. 20 Ibid. It is not clear that what we are suggesting below fits any of these solutions. In that sense, it could be that our suggestion is not for the relevant kinds of disagreements but some other disagreement. If that is the case, then our conclusion leads us to think that there may not be any relevant disagreements. It may also be that there are no categories for the kinds of disagreements we are suggesting, in which case a new or additional taxonomy may be needed. It is also entirely possible (if not more probable) that we’ve missed a category in the literature, in which case, the kind of disagreement we are suggesting has a home. 19
In the previous section, we looked at what constitutes an epistemic disagreement and considered the various degrees in which a disagreement could be had between two individuals. In this section we considered what constitutes an epistemic peer and how those peers could resolve certain epistemic disagreements. Next, we will consider open-mindedness and what role it has in resolving issues of epistemic disagreement, specifically issues of reasonable religious disagreements.
Open-mindedness Whatever else we may say about it, it seems pretty clear that openmindedness is a virtue. However, it should be noted that by “openmindedness” we do not mean empty-mindedness. That is, the openminded individual will not be irrational in what she chooses to be openminded about. Nor will she hold relativism as defined above to be a proper, open-minded response to rational disagreement. Open-mindedness thus requires a rational or thoughtful component. Having considered what open-mindedness is not, what can we say of open-mindedness? First, as we’ve said, it is an intellectual virtue.21 Second, it is an intellectual virtue that either shares elements with other intellectual virtues or is otherwise intimately connected with other intellectual virtues such that open-mindedness requires or is predicated on other virtues.22 We will consider below what virtues may be so required. Jason Baehr characterizes open-mindedness in the following way: (OM) An open-minded person is characteristically (a) willing and (within limits) able (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint.23
We think this is more or less correct. However, we think it is worth emphasizing that while open-mindedness requires that one be willing and able to transcend one’s cognitive standpoint in order to take a different view and its merits seriously, it does not seem to be necessary to openmindedness that one be willing or able to transcend one’s cognitive 21
That open-mindedness is an intellectual virtue seems rather uncontroversial. See Jason Baehr, The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology (Oxford University Press: New York, 2011), or Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood, Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 22 With others, we hold a kind of weak unity view of the virtues. See Baehr, 55-57 and Spiegel in this volume. 23 Baehr, 152.
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standpoint in order to change one’s view. In other words, we think that one could be closed to taking up a different cognitive standpoint and still be considered open-minded, so long as one is willing to take seriously that standpoint’s merits. Thus, in light of Baehr’s definition and in advance of the next section in which we will consider the way one ought to show open-mindedness in the face of epistemic disagreement, we think three distinctions can be helpful. First, Open-mindedness can be granted to a true epistemic peer with whom one has a genuine epistemic disagreement. That is, a peer who has the same virtues, disagreement factors, and a similar mentorship; a peer for whom there is no epistemic advantage. Second, one may grant open-mindedness to a near epistemic peer who is epistemically inferior. That is, a peer who has less virtue, disagreement factors, and dissimilar or no mentorship; a peer for whom there is an epistemic disadvantage. Third, one may grant open-mindedness to a near epistemic peer who is epistemically superior. That is, a peer who has more virtue, disagreement factors, and better mentorship; a peer for whom there is an epistemic advantage. Consider the relationships among a pair of philosophy professors (epistemic peers) and a professor and student (epistemic superior and inferior). It seems that across all of these relationships, open-mindedness requires one to take the other’s view seriously. However, it doesn’t seem to be a requirement that one be willing to take up the other’s view. While the colleagues may need to be willing to take up the other’s view, and the student may need to be willing to take up the professor’s view, the professor is under no obligation to take up the student’s view. Still, it is reasonable to think that the professor could be open-minded to the student’s view by taking that view seriously. It may be that this is an attenuated view of open-mindedness, but it seems to be one of open-mindedness nonetheless.24
§2. Open-mindedness in the Face of Religious Epistemic Disagreement Does applying the foregoing understandings of disagreement, peers, and open-mindedness to religious concerns make any difference to whether or how we should be open-minded? Obviously, in such cases, if genuine epistemic disagreements are possible and true epistemic peers 24
While there is certainly much more to the discussion of disagreement, peers, and open-mindedness, in our short treatment of the issue, we don’t think that the nuances of the discussion have much bearing on our overall point. But of course this paper merely reflects our first thoughts on the issue.
exist we should be unqualifiedly open-minded to our disagreeing peers. That is, we should be willing to take seriously or take up the other’s view. But it isn’t clear that there are such things as epistemic peers (at least with respect to religious disagreements). However, let’s take a moment to consider in what direction the force of being open-minded should go. Suppose Craig and Dan are, for the most part, epistemic peers. They each have looked at the same set of evidence regarding God’s existence and have considered the relevant arguments on each side. However, Craig, who believes that there is a God, has come to a different conclusion than Dan, who does not. According to Richard Feldman, if there is a reasonable disagreement then the only choice Craig and Dan have is for each to suspend their judgement (and thus their beliefs) concerning the existence 25 of God. This, he says, is the rational thing for each to do. However, it is not clear that this is necessarily the case. First, it’s not clear that Craig and Dan are, or can be epistemic peers if theism is true. Suppose that theism is true and Craig has a set of religious experiences that he adds to his available evidence. Note that this would be experience and evidence that Dan either does not have access to or has interpreted differently (i.e. incorrectly). In this case, Craig has the epistemic advantage over Dan and has no obligation to be fully open to Dan’s differing conclusion. Furthermore, even if theism isn’t true, Dan has no epistemic edge and Craig may still be in an epistemic position that makes genuine epistemic disagreement and peerage impossible. This is because since Craig believes his religious experience is veridical, his intuitions about theism being true are prima facie stronger than Dan’s. Suppose that Craig had no religious experience at all. In this case, Dan and Craig have access to the exact same set of evidence and their intuitions and attitudes toward this evidence are on par with each other. Here a suspension of judgement may be warranted in the open-minded individual. But if there is a religious experience about which Craig has a strong belief, no matter how subtle and introvertive the experience, Craig has the epistemic edge over Dan. The obvious response to the possibility of genuine epistemic disagreement between true epistemic peers is that each peer should be fully open-minded to the views of the other, where being fully openminded is understood as the willingness to take up or take seriously the position of the one with whom one disagrees. However, what if, as we have suggested, because there are always different disagreement factors there are no genuine reasonable religious disagreements of the relevant sorts because there are no true epistemic peers of the relevant sorts. What 25
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then does open-mindedness look like in these situations? As we have suggested, at a minimum open-mindedness must include the willingness to take seriously the other’s view. But is there no more to open-mindedness in these cases than this? We think that the answer lies in our understanding of how open-mindedness is related to the other intellectual virtues. Insofar as open-mindedness is a kind of expression of respect, love, generosity, and the like, when the theist takes the atheists view seriously, she expresses these virtues as well. Furthermore, insofar as the Christian is under an obligation to love her neighbor, she is obligated to take the atheist’s view seriously in the way the open-minded professor takes the view of the student seriously.
§3. Conclusion: Open-mindedness, Disagreement, and Intellectual Virtues So, we conclude that in one sense, the sense in which open-mindedness is a willingness to take up the other’s view, we are not obligated to be open-minded toward those who are epistemic inferiors. Furthermore, it seems that, if theism is true, the theist has access to information that the atheist does not, in which case the atheist is an epistemic inferior to the theist. Nonetheless, the Christian is obligated to be open-minded to the atheist in another sense. This is the sense in which open-mindedness is an expression of love in concert or coordination with other intellectual and perhaps moral virtues. In other words, if the Christian is to show love to the atheist, and if the virtues are unified in some way, and if openmindedness is indeed a virtue, then the Christian must show openmindedness toward the atheist. But in this case, open-mindedness does not amount to the willingness to take up the atheist’s view, but rather the willingness to take seriously the atheist’s view. It is important to note that the main aim in being open-minded in this way is to be loving toward the atheist, not to discover that what one knows to be true is rather false. While it may seem obvious that in order to resolve reasonable religious disagreements, one must apply the intellectual virtue of open-mindedness, we maintain serious reasonable religious disagreements (such as whether or not God exists) do not require unqualified open-mindedness because it isn’t clear that theists and atheists engaged in such disagreements are epistemic peers. Thus, in this chapter, we sought to clarify what we think constitutes relevant disagreement, proper epistemic peerage, and proper open-mindedness among such peers in the face of such disagreement. In light of these clarifications, we went on to consider what open-mindedness looks like in the face of proper religious epistemic disagreements. Finally,
we concluded by emphasizing the role that open-mindedness has for the theist in religious epistemic disagreements with atheists.
Works Cited Baehr, Jason. The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology. Oxford University Press: New York, 2011. Feldman, Richard. “Reasonable Religious Disagreement.” In Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, ed. Louise M. Antony. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Frances, Bryan and Matheson, Jonathan. "Disagreement." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Spring 2018 edition. Edward N. Zalta, ed. URL = . Frances, Bryan. Disagreement. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014. Kelly, Thomas. “The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement.” In Oxford Studies in Epistemology, vol. 1, eds. Tamar Szabó Gendler and John Hawthorne. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005. —. “Peer Disagreement and Higher-Order Evidence.” In Disagreement, eds. Richard Feldman and Ted A. Warfield. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Roberts, Robert C. and W. Jay Wood. Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Ebook, Nook.
CHAPTER THREE ANALYTIC POSTMODERNITY AND RELIGION: QUINE, RORTY, AND RESTORING PRAGMATISM FOR METAPHYSICAL DISCOURSE BRADLEY PALMER
Open-mindedness took on a whole new weight- not just in religion, but in all disciplines- with the onset of Postmodernity. The Continental “PostStructural” path to Postmodernism is widely appreciated, even by most Analytics. But the Analytic tradition has its own path. The seeds of this separate track were planted in the late nineteenth century by the classical pragmatism of Peirce, James, and Dewey, then took on a new saliency in the 1950s with the advent of the later Wittgenstein, Quine, and Kuhn, etc.; particularly, I wish to argue, with Quine. By the time we reach Richard Rorty and Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature in 1979, we’ve discovered both the incommensurability of rival conceptual schemes (not just in science, but all schemes) and more, the abandonment of correspondent realism. Rorty describes his resulting Antirepresentationalism thusly: The antirepresentationalist is quite willing to grant that our language, like our bodies, has been shaped by the environment that we live in…What he or she denies is that it is explanatorily useful to pick and choose among the contents of our minds or our language and say that this or that item “corresponds to” or “represents” the environment in a way that some other item does not…Antirepresentationalists think that attempt hopeless…Just as Quine suggests that we throw out the whole cluster of concepts (e.g. “synonymous”, “conceptual”)…so antirepresentationalists suggest that we throw out the whole cluster of concepts (e.g. “fact of the matter”, “bivalence”) which are used to make us think we understand what “the determinacy of reality” means… Antirepresentationalists think this latter cluster dispensable because they see no way of formulating an independent
Chapter Three test of accuracy of representation- of reference or correspondence to an “antecedently determinate” reality…1
This is, of course, a devastating appraisal for the traditional Western philosophical project, in no less a way than were those of Heidegger or Derrida. For one thing, this appraisal posits the abandonment of the very concept of realism and ultimately the acceptance of instrumental relativism as the proper category for all claims about the world. Thus, statements like “The earth revolves around the sun” ultimately become precisely the same kind of statement as “Wednesday follows Tuesday” or “Admirals outrank Lieutenants,” which are also on par with “The Volcano God is angry” and “My refrigerator light comes on because my fridge wants me to see inside of it.” If it “works” instrumentally in Rorty’s scheme, then it may be called “true,” and philosophy is powerless to declare anything more, much as it may like to. But, secondly and even more importantly for this volume, it eliminates the ability of one linguistic or conceptual scheme (in our case a religion or a coherent metaphysics) to declare realist superiority over another, no matter how bizarre or apparently flawed.2 Thus, not only are there no grounds for the correspondent truth-hood of theism over atheism, or Buddhism over Astrology, or Calvinism over Open Theism (or vice versa in all cases), neither are there realist grounds for science over voodoo, spherical over flat earth, or representative democracy over the Divine Order of the Present King of France. In short, we lose the ability to philosophically critique any system or claim beyond the single lax proviso that it has shown itself to be useful to people as a means of coping with experience. Thus, religiously speaking, if the precepts of The Church of Cosmic Mayonnaise sufficiently inform your life and explain your experience, your scheme and its beliefs are just as metaphysically valid as mine, even given contradictory assertions. Usefulness is the only criteria. Correspondence has to exit the building. This, it seems, is open-mindedness taken to an extreme, and has been enough for many, if not most in the Analytic tradition, to assume on 1
Richard Rorty. “Introduction” in Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991). 2 A key word here is realist. One might conceivably declare pragmatic superiority in this scheme, which amounts to saying “This language scheme works better.” But this doesn’t actually get one very far because of the View-From-Nowhere problem. Virtually everyone is inclined from within their own system to say it works better than others, resulting in a kind of ethnocentric stalemate, a fact which Rorty famously acknowledges.
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reductio grounds that not only Rorty’s scheme, but the entire Pragmatic Project was flawed from the start, having taken a wrong turn somewhere around James. Here, however, I wish to offer two claims: The first is that the dismissal of Pragmatism and language analysis as a proper epistemic path following the collapse of foundationalism after Kant is an unnecessary mistake, even for the rigorous Analytic. An appropriate analysis of the Pragmatic Project with the help of more modest Pragmatists like the earlier James, and Putnam, and Margolis, and MacIntyre,3 etc., demonstrates precisely where human beings stand in relation to claims about reality, not merely, but especially, in Philosophy of Religion and Metaphysics. Secondly, and this is the chief argument of this paper, the Rortyan notion that a proper understanding of linguistic and conceptual schemes robs us of all access to the real, and further that we have no rational means of adjudication between proposed paradigms on the basis of correspondence, is an even bigger mistake, and the de facto cause of the first. This second claim I will argue by reference to Quine’s doctrine of the Inscrutability of Reference, which is a foundational principle in Rorty’s scheme, but also which I maintain has provoked certain errors. A proper dissection of this doctrine shows us both how a healthy degree of flexibility may be allowed in our consideration of metaphysical and religious truth-claims, yet not without corral. Reality necessarily constrains all language-games, even metaphysical ones, to the extent it is possible to rank some higher than others in terms of potential correspondence with reality, while at the same time declaring others wildly and absurdly false, a standard which I suggest that all of us want to retain.
§1. Quine and the Reference Problem For those generally outside of the literature on this subject, much of the problem at hand boils down to a relatively simple, yet maddening question, namely: How do our terms attach to the world? There is, naturally, a common-sense solution to this to the effect that our words correspond to items in the world; we pick out the “objects” of reality and designate terms for them, then solidify this correspondence with communal use. So every time we see “an apple” or “a table” we all 3
Alasdair MacIntyre is not usually counted among the pragmatists, but his analysis of adjudication between competing conceptual schemes (traditions) in works like Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (1988) is ultimately pragmatic and apropos to this project.
know what we’re referring to. Words are signs for real “things” we all experience. This notion, intuitive as it is, runs into trouble fairly quickly, however. For what objects do terms like “notion” and “intuitive” and “fairly” and “however”… not to mention “philosophy” and “Wednesday” and “mind” and “evil” and “ouch” and “and” refer to? Here we might wish to make some distinctions, ultimately settling on something like Wittgenstein’s train-levers analogy in the Investigations.4 We note that some terms pick out concrete objects in the world (like “apple” and “table”), while others describe properties, and others have only intensional meaning, and others are purely instrumental, and still others are sort of linguistic “gimmicks.”5 Clearly this complicates things, but the good news is that as long as the first rather large category holds, we can still say that we’re all talking about the same real world of objects, the properties we may or may not wish to assign to them, the ways we will relate to them, etc. This is precisely where Quine’s assault comes into play, however, because if he’s correct, the first category is no less flexible and indeterminate than all the rest. In his scheme, even concrete objects like “apple” and “table” may play different roles or have unique ontological standing in rival schemes (or even fail to exist at all) signifying the point in which we are truly in Kuhnian and Feyerabendian territory, by which I mean that to be in one linguistic or conceptual scheme is to truly exist “in a different world” than those in others6. Quine’s argument for this comes first from his magnum opus Word and Object (1960) with significant elaborations in his paper Ontological Relativity, ultimately published in 1969. I’ll not fully elucidate the argument in all its glory, but the principle is simple enough. How, Quine asks, in learning an entirely new language from scratch (which all of us have presumably done) can we ever know if we are actually referring to the same distinct objects? If a native in an untranslated tribe points to a scurrying rabbit and shouts “Gavagai!”, even after Wittgensteinian stage-setting whereby we determine that he doesn’t simply mean “Look!” or “running” or “food” or “brown” or “furry” or “money,” how do we still know that we’re referring to the same 4
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations. (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1958): 7. 5 My personal favorite such term is “Bob’s your uncle”. Or perhaps an old American favorite, “I’ll be John Brown.” 6 T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Second Edition. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973): 150.
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ontological “thing”? We presumably think of “rabbits” as individuated objects. But what if the native is a Process Metaphysician who, instead of an object, sees the event of “rabbiting”? What if he’s a Platonist, and is instead referring to a shadowy instantiation of the Form of Rabbithood? What if he doesn’t see the rabbit as a unified object, but rather a collection, thus “gavagai” refers to an amalgam of “undetached rabbit parts”? What if “rabbit” in his language doesn’t refer to a distinct object, but rather to a property, in which case the best translation of “gavagai” is “rabbity creature”? Viewed this way, it becomes clear relatively quickly that whole new worlds of possible objects, categories, properties, and relationships conceivably open up for distinct language users, to the extent at which we are all perhaps more about proposing objects and properties to explain our experience rather than merely discovering them. In effect, each participant in a sufficiently removed language game is, by the designation of terms, potentially constructing a different conceptual- or at least linguistic7universe than those in other schemes. Now, of course, comes the question: If this is indeed the case, how might we know which proposed scheme is correct (or perhaps most correct) as it relates to reality? From not merely the Logical Positivist perspective, but most others, what are the facts of the world as they are free from theory and perspective? Quine has a simple answer to this, and it’s a tipping point in analytic philosophy: “The inscrutability of reference is not the inscrutability of a fact. There is no fact of the matter.”8
Essentially, the nature of language, on this view, ultimately severs contact between all our terms and the reality they attempt to describe, such that even those related to “concrete” objects have both an unavoidable inscrutability and also instrumentality about them, beyond which we can never see past to the world as it really is. We propose the existence of distinct objects, ontologies, categories, and properties as a means of coping with our experiences, but we can never really know if the schemes and relations we’ve proposed are “correct” as they exist independent of
For consideration of this possible distinction, see Donald Davidson’s “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 47 (1973). 8 W.V.O. Quine, “Ontological Relativity” in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969): 47.
conception. That goal, as Rorty famously puts it, is “a world well lost”9 and one that proper linguistic analysis demands we abandon in favor of something else- in his case antirepresentational neopragmatism. This, again, is somewhat of a paralyzing conclusion for Western Philosophy. However, in leaning so heavily on Quine, for anyone interested in staying and taking on the problem on its own terms, Rorty has at least done us the service of identifying where it seems the problem turns. In Mirror, he writes: The need to pick out objects without the help of definitions, essences, and meanings of terms produced, philosophers thought, a need for a (new) “theory of reference” which would not employ the Fregean machinery which Quine had rendered dubious. This call for a theory of reference became assimilated to the demand for a “realistic” philosophy of science which would reinstate the pre-Kuhnian and pre-Feyerabendian notion that scientific inquiry made progress by finding out more and more about the same objects.”10 (parentheses mine)
Here he is obviously thinking about Philosophy of Science, for which these conclusions are arguably even more dramatic than religion and metaphysics. And for Rorty, of course, no new “machinery” is possible for the restoration of our connection with the world, whether for physical or, certainly metaphysical, claims. But reevaluation of this point is precisely where I wish to take this paper, for if an argument can be made against Rorty to re-anchor our terms to the world- however loosely- then not only is scientific realism given renewed support (the earth should be taken to be spherical because that’s how reality truly is), but other, more speculative enterprises like religion and metaphysics may be profoundly aided as well, and the degree of openmindedness needed in them significantly moderated.
§2. Toward A Refined Theory of Quinean Reference If one is reading Quine for the first time, and is astute, a challenging question may present itself. To wit: “If reference is inscrutable, and the native cannot convey his ontology to me, then how, pray tell, have the natives been conveying it to each other?” 9
Rorty, Richard. “A World Well Lost” in The Consequences of Pragmatism. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982). 10 Richard Rorty. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979): 274.
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Do we not generally assume, when speaking of paradigms/conceptual schemes/forms of life, etc., that they are communal in nature, and that the problems to be overcome in communicating and adjudicating between them are group-related? However, if Quine is correct, and ontological conception is truly inscrutable, then it follows that, not only can the native not communicate his conceptions to me, he can’t do it for his progeny either, and his parents and other tribe members could not have done it for him, etc., in which case ontological relativity is not merely a problem at the group level, but the individual (and also in which case Quine need not have appealed to radical translation to make his point). This is consequential, of course, because inasmuch as paradigms and linguistic systems are dependent upon ontological conception,11 it follows that each and every individual potentially represents their own unique paradigm, incommensurable and potentially incompatible with anyone else’s. Importantly, this challenge does not go unrecognized by Quine, and he comfortably admits the point. On his account, ontological relativity is just as much of a possibility in our home language as it is in radical translation, which is precisely why he is ultimately able to shrug it off as unproblematic, the way we generally shrug off the somewhat pseudochallenge of inverted qualia. Thus he is able to say: What our present reflections are leading us to appreciate is that the riddle about seeing things upside-down, or in complimentary colors, should be taken seriously and its moral applied widely.12
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you and I have different phenomenological conceptions of the color sepia provided we always interact with it in complementary ways. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if we and the native have different conceptions of gavagai, or even if all the natives have different conceptions amongst themselves, so long as when the Chief commands his hunters to go out and catch gavagai, past reinforcement assures that they don’t come back with a porcupine, or a skunk, or a hood ornament to a ’35 Studebaker. Here we may note that the problem of ontological relativity gets shuffled over to concerns about phenomenology, which Quine (and later Davidson and Rorty following) determines to be negligible in the development of meaning. Thus, phenomenology, according to those who follow him closely, is actually epiphenomenal to concerns about communal paradigms. 11 12
They’re not necessarily, as we will see. Quine, “Ontological Relativity,” 50.
There are, perhaps, challenges to this notion,13 but even if it’s accurate, it raises for us an important question that seems to have gone remarkably unexplored: If this is the case, then what are we talking about when we talk about the incommensurability, possible relativity, and other problems that exist between group paradigms and competing communal theories? This is still a separate and distinct problem. What problem is Quine talking about when discussing issues of radical translation between “our” way of carving up the world and that of an entire jungle tribe or Mandarin Chinese speakers? What is at issue when Rorty speaks about incommensurability between our presumed collective scheme and that of Antipodeans or South Americans?14 Or in Kuhn between Aristotelians, Newtonians, and Einsteinians? To this, Quine also has an answer (though to my reading he never sufficiently delineates it, resulting in no shortage of conflation by those who follow him): There is a difference between ontological relativity, which is forever inscrutable, and the separate challenge presented by the fact that all languages are in the business of attempting to, as it were, “carve nature at the joints.” To the former problem there is no solution, concurrent with all the phenomenological problems of Descartes and Kant, which are beyond empirical adjudication. The inverted qualia problem is, after all, a mentalist concern, which, again, Quine has joined Wittgenstein in dismissing as inconsequential for communication. To the latter, however, he gives an answer, as indeed he must if he is to properly acknowledge, along with others like Kuhn, that different linguistic schemes are able to communally reproduce the unique way they divide the world. His solution to this different challenge is best expressed, to my eye, in his tract “Speaking of Objects,” one of the titular “other essays” in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. In this, he discusses the challenge of a child learning several different concepts, including, but not limited to, “mama,” “water,” and “red.” What’s important for our concern is that these terms represent, in our presumed common scheme at least, three distinct categories of “objects,” yet these categories are by no means immediately intuited by the child. 13 I join others like Christopher Norris [see the remarkable essay “Treading Water in Neurath’s Ship” in Minding the Gap: Epistemology and Philosophy of Science in the Two Traditions. (University of Massachusetts Press, 2000)] in thinking that mental conception and organization cannot be so easily dismissed from this conversation. However, for the purposes of this paper, phenomenology is not a concern for the evaluation of communal paradigms. 14 Rorty, Mirror, chapter 2.
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The child has to actually learn, over time and through a process, how we distribute them in our shared language. “Mama,” for example, we regard as a singular entity, while “water” is dispersed. “Red” is also dispersed, like water, but it’s not an “object” in the conventional sense, rather it’s a property- only present when another “object” is present for it to attach to. To these we can add, as Quine does, other more complicated terms like “apple,” and eventually multiply the challenge to every term that anyone ever uses in any language anywhere. And what we learn, ultimately, is that there is a reasonable degree of flexibility that every language has for the usage and categorization of almost every term.15 This is remarkable and concerning. But crucially, according to Quine, the teachers of each language are able to overcome this flexibility in every case and teach the community’s established classification system. Quine explains how this way: Each such term was learned by a process of reinforcement and extinction, whereby the spatiotemporal range of application of the terms was gradually perfected. The object named is assuredly an observed one, in the sense that the reinforced stimuli proceeded pretty directly from it…16
Later, considering also abstract terms with more difficult reference, he adds: By finding out roughly which non-verbal stimulations tend to prompt assent to a given existential statement, we settle, to some degree, what is to count as empirical evidence for or against the objects in question.17 15
The question of natural kinds and whether or not nature itself contains proper “joints” for accurate segmentation is a profound one, and the flexibility in view may not seem that obvious from these particular examples. But in actuality, a great deal of fun can be had with the possible usage of even these terms. We can, for example, with minimal effort, conceive of a (presumably tribal) language in which “mama” is not a delineated object but dispersed, like water. That is to say, my biological mother is “mama,” but so is my older sister, and my grandmother, and every other female in the tribe who attends to my needs. In this conception, “mama” is best translated “container of mamahood.” Granted, this flexibility is not unlimited, as I am in the process of arguing, but a quick step out into all the other vast terms in our language with a touch of creativity shows that not all languages are required by nature to divide it equally, or even acknowledge the same objects and properties. 16 W.V.O. Quine, “Speaking of Objects,” in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969). 11. 17 Ibid, pg. 16.
By this process, he says, we see how the child is able to: …slip into the community’s ontology of attributes by easy stages, from bulk terms onward.18
In Word and Object, he’d concurrently summed up the whole enterprise of the building of linguistic schemes thus: There are so-called logical connections, and there are so-called causal ones: but any such interconnections of sentences must finally be due to the conditioning of sentences as responses to sentences as stimuli….The theory as a whole…is a fabric of sentences variously associated to one another and to non-verbal stimuli by the mechanism of conditioned response.19
In all these we see Quine’s answer to the second problem above: All languages potentially organize experience differently, but via stimuli, accessible by everyone regardless of language, teachers of each specific scheme are able to demonstrate, over time and through a combination of behavior and reinforcement, how terms and concepts are uniquely divided within it. This is critical, because as Quine himself, I think, would assent, were it not for these shared stimuli, not only would language systems and “theories” be unable to reproduce themselves accurately, but we might rightly ask how communication would be possible with any other sentient creature at all. As an argument for this last point, consider the following: Imagine, in an alternate world, that I am a practicing chemist, and have a lab in the basement of my home. I am also a parent, and like any responsible one, I’ve been cautious about allowing access by my children because of the dangers it potentially represents. As they’ve gotten older, I’ve slowly but rarely allowed them to join me in the lab, remaining strict about their limitations. One thing I’ve never allowed them to do is to enter the chemical closet, in which resides multiple chemicals and tools that might be especially harmful and dangerous. But situations change: at age fourteen I finally decide that my daughter is old enough to be of help to me. While she has never once experienced the inside of the closet, I determine that she is capable of now entering it and safely retrieving for me an item I need. So I say to her, “Will you go 18
Ibid, pg. 15. We can see by this phrase, why conflation is so prevalent between this concern and Quine’s ontological relativity, since in an importance sense, this process delineates ontology too. 19 W.V.O. Quine. Word and Object. (Connecticut, Martino Publishing, 2013): 11.
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into the closet and, on the second level from the top of the white wooden shelf, retrieve the green pipette controller and bring it to me?” Now she has no established reference for a “pipette controller,” and indeed has never seen one, so I describe it. “It’s a plastic device that looks like a stubby handgun, with a handle and two triggers, and a white tube extending downward from the tip.” Some further information conditions her challenge: Inside the closet are a set of white wooden shelves, a set of black wooden shelves, sets of both white and black metal shelves, sets of black and green plastic shelves, a gray metal cabinet, a black metal cabinet, and a woodgrain cabinet. And on and in all of these are many lab items and chemical samples stored away for safe keeping, some of which are highly volatile, and most of which she’s never seen before. Now the question is, “Do I have the right to expect that my daughter will retrieve for me the correct item?” And on the first try, no less? It certainly seems like, given the proper conditioning (i.e. past behavior and reinforcement ala Quine) I have every right to this expectation. But from where does this expectation come? It most certainly cannot be from behavior alone. Again, she’s never once been inside this particular closet and seen the specific representatives of any of the dozens of terms I’ve given her. Everything in it, and in particular the object “pipette controller,” which she has no established conception for, are experientially neutral to her. So how might I expect her to attach the terms I’ve given her properly to the items I’ve described, and not return with a beaker of hydrochloric acid from a bottom cabinet? The answer seems to me simple, and I think Quine would or should agree: via stimuli that proceed from a consistently ordered and shared external world that we are both connected to. In this scenario, behavior is indeed critical in the establishment of terms and meaning, just like Quine (and Wittgenstein) asserts. But behavior is communicatively worthless without the “raw material” of stimuli from a shared noumenal world to work with in the creation of terms. To put it differently, behavior is only one necessary, but not sufficient, criteria for establishing what’s even more crucial in the process of fixing terminology: namely agreement regarding the handling of shared stimuli.20 Without both elements, no communication can adequately take place. If we cannot agree upon the stimuli we’ve agreed to associate with terms like “white” and “shelf” and “top” and “stubby” and “device” and “mama” and 20
Here we might bring in Kripke’s causal theory of reference and the baptism of terms. For space, I leave Kripke mostly out of this paper, but one could, in my estimation, consider these mechanics as synthesis of Quine and Kripke.
“apple” and “gavagai,” then we have no reason to think that the behavior of others will correspond appropriately, or indeed that any communication can take place at all. And all of this quite independent of what any of us “see” in our “phenomenological field” regarding any of these terms, concurrent with ontological relativity. To further see how this process mechanically works in practice, as well as the flexibility it still allows, I offer an additional exercise: Imagine we have the challenge of establishing terms relative to the following items:
Now, let’s begin by assuming that we’ve already agreed on a few notions, including but not limited to the concepts that these are all distinct “objects,” and that we can distinguish instrumentally what we mean by the terms “right” and “left.” At this point we can presumably utilize common experience of stimuli to establish further, more important terms. So for instance, I can ask whether or not you note the common quality that the two items on the right have against the object on the left (represented, perhaps appropriately, by cross-hatching). Following your affirmation, I can suggest we “baptize” that stimulus, however it may appear to you, “green.” The other “color” we’ll agree to call “red.” Easy enough. We have now established the use of these color terms. But now we go further. Operating on further shared experience of stimuli, I now ask if you experience the similarity of the two objects on the left, against the singular object on the right. And here, following your supposed affirmation, I can suggest that we refer to this common quality as “square.”21 This is all, of course, fairly elementary, and you can imagine how the same game is played for many other terms like “line,” “angle,” “larger,” “smaller,” and potentially dozens of others, “baptized” from agreed-upon
21 Perhaps Wittgensteinian “stage-setting” is necessary to identify the appropriate quality. Consider it given.
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reference to shared stimuli, regardless of how we phenomenologically conceive them. But now one may ask “Where is the flexibility of conception?” (and what does this have to do with open-mindedness?) If the relativity in play only takes place at the phenomenological level, which is negligible, how is it that different languages come to divide reality differently? To this point, it doesn’t seem like we’ve really rendered Frege’s notion of reference particularly “dubious”. But we’re not finished. And here is where the term “proposed” above becomes more salient. In order to experience the further flexibility relevant to competing paradigms as they matter for the challenge of carving up reality differently and proposing distinct objects, consider this: Imagine now that we rotate the middle object 45 degrees:
Now, a host of seemingly sophomoric, but natural questions arise. How many distinct shapes do we truly have? It might be natural to consider the middle item a different shape now - a diamond, rather than a square. But on this consideration, do we really need a distinct object term? “Of course”, you may say. Not all diamonds are rotated squares. Fine, but then do we really need the term square? Imagine a language with only a term for quadrilateral. So a square is not really a distinct object with its own essential properties, but rather is essentially a quadrilateral, with the accidental properties of symmetry. But if we make this conceptual move, do we now need the distinct term for diamond? Or even triangle? Isn’t it possible to conceive of a triangle as a half-quadrilateral? No, of course not, we say. A triangle is a different object, with distinct properties. But we don’t have a distinct term for half-circle. Doesn’t the same situation apply? To the point, is a half-circle a distinct object in reality? Or is it half an object? What about a quarter circle? Or a 1/45th circle? While this might initially seem like a rather pedestrian exercise, here we can already conceive of several variant languages, one which proposes three essential objects, and another which proposes only one, and others something in between, all reliant upon and conditioned by agreement
regarding the same external stimuli. And all ultimately jointly appraisable for anyone open-minded enough to become proficient in all the relevant languages. This may not yet seem entirely profound since these possible language games seem resolvable enough, even if they don’t discuss the “same objects” pace Rorty. But alas, the target of the experiment is not squares and circles. Apply this entire approach now to all manner of complicated descriptions of the world, particularly those without geometric/ mathematical structure. In particular for this volume, those of a metaphysical nature. If this is indeed the process- alongside behavior- by which all our language is constructed, what does this tell us, for instance, about the proposed components of a human being- “body,” “mind,” “soul,” “spirit,” “will,” etc.? What does this mean for substance metaphysics? For old, current, and future conceptions of causality and logic? For gender identity? For moral distinctions? For the attributes of God? For all the thousands of metaphysical concepts and distinctions which have been proposed by all the countless thinkers who have ever tried to explain the world? Consider also some important conclusions apropos of the realism/ relativism concerns we began with. First, once again, is the negligibility of ontological relativity as Quine conceives it, not merely for language formation and replication, but also for the construction of variant conceptual schemes. It doesn’t matter what you “experience” in your head when you reference “squares” and “circles” (or “monads” or “hypostases” or “phlogiston”) any more than it does when you reference “sepia,” “heat,” or “gavagai;” It’s conceivable that your phenomenological experience would initially be an unrecognizable, inverted, mirrored, pulsating Jackson Pollock chaos to me were it possible for me to experience it, regardless the paradigm (in which case I would conceivably return to infant status again, having to learn to reorganize this chaos anew). However, this matters not in either the construction of language or of unique holistic conceptual schemes, replete with unique objects, provided we are able to agree on both uniform similarities and differences in our untranslatable messes- uniformity that can presumably only proceed from a shared experientially independent external world. This has a profound consequence, namely teachability. To put it in relatable terms, if the native can teach his child his unique schema of objects, he can, over time, teach it to me as well, and using the same stimulus relations my father and mother used to teach me an entirely different schema. Linguistic schemes, sans phenomenology, are therefore
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not fully incommensurable, so Rorty has made a faulty application. It is possible for each of us to learn and appreciate multiple paradigms at the same time, and thus conceivably even compare them, even if they don’t directly translate one to another.22 Secondly, and this is, I think, the most important addition to this discussion, the same (1) agreement and (2) uniformity necessary to make any communication possible between parties also heavily constrain the claims that the parties can make- both inside and outside of unique linguistic schemes. The agreement, inasmuch as, once terms regarding objects and properties are agreed upon, barring renegotiation, the scheme itself determines allowable propositions within it. Once we’ve created and agreed upon the unique objects, properties, and explanatory devices of the scheme or paradigm, a rather robust coherence restriction ensues such we can no longer claim that, for example, “squares have three sides” or “dolphins grow on trees” or “God is a pencil.” Once we adopt a coordinate system as a perspective, there are finite sets of categorical claims that can be made within it, the constraints being imposed by the system itself. Thus there are always strictly true and false notions given within each scheme, even if arbitrary. To adopt a language or scheme is to accept a wealth of assertability conditions about reality.23 This is perhaps no news, but maybe the constraints given by the uniformity required for language development is. Because the uniformity of relations given by stimuli (or stimula to vaguely ontologize my proposed unsynthesized objects that produce them), even though they do not restrict us to only one possible coordinate system or way of organizing them, do restrict the total possible range of not only claims, but systems, given that some systems will presumably explain wider ranges of stimulus relations (and thus arguably come closer to an accurate categorization of the proposed stimula) than others.24
The mechanics and challenges of this are also profound, and require elaboration. But alas, this must wait for a later paper. 23 This brings up another challenge: namely the question of when, precisely, we can determine we are actually in another paradigm, versus the situation that we are in a shared paradigm and merely using terms differently. The line between these is admittedly blurry, but this must also wait for elaboration elsewhere. 24 This is true even if, as Quine postulates, “countless alternative theories would be tied for first place” (Word and Object, 23). Even if this is theoretically possible, it also follows that countless theories might also be ranked at least lower, if not discounted entirely.
Here, if I may suggest, one might imagine stimuli as something like the points on a complex connect-the-dots puzzle. Presumably there are multiple possible ways of connecting such dots to create a coherent picture (even if it is arguable there is only one optimal one). But more important than this for the question of open-mindedness is that there are a conceivably infinite number of composite pictures that do not work with the dots very efficiently, as well as a further infinite number that do not work at all. The dots/stimula and their independent relations constrain the possible number of schemas that may be constructed using them such that any schema that says, for example, that “Once every calendar year all humans randomly swap memories with a spirit mate somewhere else on earth, and die whenever there are no more spirit mates to swap with” may be safely demoted, because even if it were possible to create a coherent system that allows such a belief, it could never be squared enough with common experience of the world we actually share to make it useful.25 This mitigates heavily against any form of relativism that says that “All views of the world are correct and useful on their own terms.” This is patently false. Coherence is not the only standard. There are an infinite number of coherent possible worlds that can never be synced with the uniform evidence of stimuli (the dots on our puzzle page) necessary to create language. The worlds of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, for instance, in addition to Mind Swapism. Thus we have an inkling of a return to some kind of moderated Correspondence Theory, despite Rorty’s protests. There may be multiple possible paradigms and worldviews that correspond equally well with the reality we actually have, or that may be argued for given new evidence or shifts in perspective; however, there are many views of the world that might be proposed on the basis of coherence alone- Potterism and Mind Swapism for instance- that do not correspond to the uniform relations of stimulus at all, and are therefore open to proper and sustained philosophical disparagement, because the holistic language system ultimately cannot be squared with even our weak and indirect access to reality. One further famous thought experiment from the annals of Classical Pragmatism might help further make both these points.
Quine famously notes, regarding his holism, that “any statement can be held true come what may, if we make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere in the system”. W.V.O. Quine. "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" in From a Logical Point of View, 2nd Edition. (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. 1980): 43. However, I think he would also readily agree that in many cases, such drastic adjustments would render the system as a whole untenable.
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It’s significant for our purposes that William James, arguably the most important figure in the establishment of Pragmatism as a proper discipline, initially defined the concept thusly: “The pragmatic method is primarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might be interminable.”26 Just prior to this, in an effort to provide an example of the kind of disputes his method was considered to aid, he offered “the squirrel problem,” by which, given two different but legitimate language games, it’s both true and false that an observer goes “round the squirrel” on a tree.27 It is, of course, vital in this famous analogy, and for this paper as well, that two apparently contradictory analyses may both be taken to be true at the same time given the flexibility of reference in a presumably common language. This is the first great discovery that James believes he’s found in Pragmatism that may be of help to metaphysics: In some cases, at least, wildly opposing assessments of the world can be true at the same time, and the disagreement between them shown to be trivial. This “peculiarly simple example” has on this basis long been taken by those who appreciate it as evidence for not only the flexibility of language, but also the relativity of truth- that is, truth claims are relative to the linguistic scheme or paradigm one claims as a coordinate system- the “spectacles,” if you like, through which one observes the world. Fine and good. What has been systematically underappreciated, however, by relativists like Rorty, and his Continental counterparts to be sure (but certainly not James himself) is the fact that, although there are at least two seemingly antinomic descriptions allowable for the relation of the observer to the squirrel in this example (and many others), there are, beyond these, an infinite number of descriptions that cannot be countenanced by any coherent paradigm/conceptual scheme anywhere, conditioned as they are by both the language-game itself and the reality they attempt to describe. For example, statements such as “The observer went through the squirrel” or “The observer ate the squirrel” or “The observer went around Morgan Freeman” or “The observer invented the catapult.” Despite differing descriptions, there is still, surely, only one reality which constrains the possible range of descriptions allowed on its basis, and to alter a schema significantly enough to make any of these statements work as Quine’s suggests is possible is to surely put more stress on the entire system than tenability will allow. 26 27
William James. Pragmatism. (New York: Dover, 1995): 18 Ibid., 17.
This is, I believe, the second, and often overlooked discovery that James finds in the Pragmatic method, which I think Quine also gives us the mechanics for, and it’s also here, despite the flexibility noted in the first discovery, that we may rightly ask, “What is this if not Correspondence, even if perspectival?” Rorty, for his part, and in his version of Pragmatism, once again admits no such correspondence or constraint, even of a perspectival or indirect variety, basing his antirepresentationalism largely (though admittedly not fully) on the belief that the Inscrutability of Reference sufficiently severs all determinant connection between our terms and the constraints of the independent world. However, if my assessment is correct, even if we grant that the objects of reference are indeed flexible as per Quine, there is still the lower-level element of stimulus that demands at least a meager uniform connection to the external world if any communication between two individuals is possible. These uniform stimula/stimuli further make it possible not only to declare some holistic language schemes more tenable and even accurate than others, but also make it possible to dismiss others entirely, and without philosophical prejudice.
§3. Conclusions Well, what have we gained? Have we stumbled upon a new “theory of reference” as suggested by Rorty, one that allows the synthesis or intertranslation of divergent theories inasmuch as it reinstates the possibility that different languages approach realism by “finding out more and more about the same objects”? No, unfortunately I don’t think we make it that far. By my lights it is still true that different linguistic schemes conceivably propose different objects and even realities, and Quine’s dictum still holds that when it comes to at least some alternate descriptions of the world, we have nowhere to stand that would allow us to indubitably adjudicate the, as it were, “facts of the matter.” My perspective is further conditioned by the warnings of both Rorty and Davidson that stimuli, important as they are, are no workable substitute for reference in the Fregean scheme and the logic all of us want to employ within our various bodies of concepts. That said, we may have yet come across something still wildly profound. To wit: instead of the familiar dualistic division of merely sense and reference, perhaps we are aided considerably in our search for realist descriptions by the proposal of what seems to me at the moment to be an arguably accurate tripartite structure of language- i.e. sense, reference, and
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stimula- that allows for the flexibility of objects from scheme to scheme, but which nevertheless demands at least a modest correspondence of each scheme to the constraints of an “antecedently determinate reality.”28 In this admittedly pragmatic (and Kantian) structure, (1) Stimula refers to the unknowable, unsynthesized objects of the external (noumenal) world which produce necessarily uniform stimuli and by which we propose the objects of reference for our schemes (and without which consistent communication would be impossible), (2) Reference refers to the objects proposed and agreed upon in any coherent language system, teachable, given time, to anyone keen to learn the scheme, and (3) Sense refers to the various views and descriptions that are still possible regarding objects of reference, even within the same system (i.e. chordates and renates/Hesperus and Phosphorus). The benefits of this schema are that it validates both the Quinean/Kuhnian recognition of the linguistic flexibility and even (for lack of a better term) relativity of truth claims within paradigms, while at the same time demanding at least a modest correspondence of all paradigms and schemes to an independent world. This makes it possible to both accept some rival and even bivalent claims on certain very unique occasions (say, some Einsteinian and Newtonian measurements, or the circumnavigation and non-circumnavigation of Jamesian squirrels), while at the same time chastising other claims for ever having been proposed (say flat-earthism, or Mind-Swapism, or squirrel-based time travel). And all the while accepting that there is a real world out there independent of all our schemes that we are trying our darnedest to get to, even though our access to it is indirect, and perhaps, forever speculative to an uncomfortable degree. This picture is, of course, not ideal given our desire to know reality as it is, and also perhaps for the salvaging of logic as it has been traditionally understood. The astute reader will surely not miss the damage done at least to the concept of a priori claims, if not also analytic ones.29 My 28
Accurate by my own pragmatic lights, of course. The circularity is noted but unavoidable. The trick is, of course, to find a circularity that a broader range of people can subscribe to. See Quine’s stab at this in “Epistemology Naturalized” in Essays. 29 This might seem backwards, given the historical language adopted by the Logical Positivists and attacked by Quine. However, in my scheme, the reverse is accurate. What is impossible is a priori knowledge- that is, knowledge that precedes experience. All terms and concepts in the mind are acquired a posteriori. However, once a bulk of terms are defined within any given paradigm, analysis is actually irrefragable, given the syntactic (though not semantic) incorruptibility of logic.
assessment preserves not only Quine’s ultimate disavowal of both the analytic/synthetic distinction, but also his abandonment of foundationalism. Unavoidable also is the ultimate Fallibilism of Quine, James, Pierce, Wittgenstein, and Popper, and even Kant and Russell inasmuch as they acknowledge that the noumenal world can never be truly known or factually described. By my accounting, there are truly neither any objects nor properties in any language that do not qualify as merely proposed, meaning that it is only on pragmatic grounds that all our schemes “carve nature at the joints,” and build our picture of reality. This, of course, also brings up historical concerns about essences, and “natural kinds,” and the afore-mentioned problems of any logic that now divides Frege’s classic Sense and Reference into at least three parts. I’ll leave it to more qualified logicians to work out the exact minutiae there, though perhaps it is merely obvious that logic only holds necessarily within a given body of established objects, properties, and concepts, after stimuli have been, as it were, communally synthesized. There is also a deeper challenge persistent for both religion and metaphysics, given that the objects of metaphysics, though necessarily predicated upon stimuli like any and all terms via the mechanics I’ve described, are often clearly less directly related to stimula and thus perhaps more speculative than, say, physical objects.30 Perhaps we can even grant that some version of Occam’s razor routinely applies. Despite these persistent challenges, however, the bigger picture is, I think, extremely valuable in the simple discovery that, although our holistic descriptions of the world are always potentially constructive of reality and perhaps even nonintertranslatable as the common thread of philosophy that runs from Kant to Quine require, they are not unconditionally so. If it is true that Aristotelian physics, Newtonian physics, and Einsteinian physics are communal- and clearly they are- then they and their concepts are teachable based on external stimuli, just as are the concepts of Neoplatonism, Thomism, and Process Theology. Further if it is possible for those who are fluent in multiple of these scientific languages, commensurable or not, to compare and contrast them by their explanatory usefulness and coherence with the current level of evidence and experience in hand -i.e. Einstein explains and predicts a wider range of observations than Newton, which explains and predicts a wider range of observations than Aristotle, etc.- then the same may be possible in religion and metaphysics as well- i.e. Perfect Being monotheism syncs better with 30
Though perhaps in many cases this shouldn’t scandalize us too much. Remember, of course, that causality is a metaphysical concept. And presumably none of us want to challenge that notion too heavily.
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observation than Tribal Polytheism which syncs better than Mind Swapism. This is to say nothing more than that we happen to live in a world where Perfect Being monotheism seems to work better with our experience of reality as it is than the other two items, even if we grant we are far from a foundational proof of the concept, or there may still be problems with it, or even that there may potentially even be other alternate schemes that explain our experience equally well. Either way, the apparatus of the linguistic process for the creation of terms and schemes I have described gives us a more refined means by which to have these discussions. And in case it’s not obvious, it’s a means for establishing which explanations have the stronger claims to realistic description of the world. In the end, this may equate only to Pragmatic or Perspectival Realism. But it is, I contend, still Realism. And that’s something.
Works Cited Davidson, Donald. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 47. 1973. James, William. Pragmatism. New York: Dover, 1995. Quine, W. V. O. From a Logical Point of View. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953. —. Word and Object. Boston: MIT Press, 1960. —. Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. Rorty, Richard. Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, volume 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. —. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations, 3rd ed. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1958.
CHAPTER FOUR OPEN-MINDEDNESS AND JUSTICE JOHN LEE
§1. Introduction Philosophical analysis of virtues – including intellectual virtues – is usually carried out within the conceptual framework of eudaimonism, a framework of “human flourishing.” This eudaimonistic framework is not typically a matter of controversy for the simple reason that virtues as excellence making human dispositions are defined as character traits that enable humans to flourish in some way. In this essay, I propose a different framework for thinking about intellectual virtues, with a special focus on open-mindedness. I argue that a non-eudaimonistic framework offers a perspective on open-mindedness that captures important aspects of openmindedness that cannot be adequately analyzed within traditional (e.g., Aristotelian) eudaimonism. This non-eudaimonistic framework derives from the work of Nicholas Wolterstorff, from his book, Justice: Rights and Wrongs. Wolterstorff offers a different moral framework for understanding the flourishing life, which he calls eirenéism. This alternative framework is rooted in the Scriptural concept of “shalom.” (“EirenƝ” is the Greek for the Hebrew “shalom.”) Eirenéism recognizes that human beings are not only agents of actions but are also recipients of actions. Eudaimonism has much to say about human agency but has little to say about human recipiency. But both the notions of agency and recipiency are necessary notions for understanding justice in terms of human interactions. Justice is manifested when humans treat one another with the level of respect that is in keeping with their inherent worth. In terms of open-mindedness, then, from the perspective of eirenéism, open-mindedness is more than an intellectual virtue that we should affirm and aspire to. Open-mindedness is also what is required in respecting another in our dialogic interactions. In other words, open-mindedness is the ethically fitting, respectful attitude that is in keeping with the worth of
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another. And its opposite – close-mindedness – is the ethically unfitting, disrespectful attitude that violates that worth. In this essay, I will describe the relevant contours of these two conceptual frameworks (eudaimonism and eirenéism) and argue for the preferentiality of the latter framework based on three key features of the eirenéistic framework: (1) its recognition of the recipient dimension in human interaction; (2) its ability to disclose the moral dimension of how persons are treated based on recognizing the recipient dimension; and (3) its affirmation of the social-ethical dimension in the exercise of human virtues and vices. The essay will be divided into three parts: the first part will describe the eudaimonistic framework for intellectual virtues, like openmindedness; the second part will describe the eirenéistic framework for the same; the third part will argue for the preferentiality of the eirenéistic over against the eudaimonistic framework for understanding intellectual virtues, with attention paid to the virtue of open-mindedness.
§2. Eudaimonistic Framework The conceptual framework in which virtues – whether moral or intellectual or even theological – is discussed is itself rarely questioned. There’s a perceived natural fit about thinking about virtues and how these virtues are constitutive of the well-lived life, a life the ancient Greeks called by the name of eudaimonia. Although the translation into English of eudaimonia is often the English, ‘happiness’, our “happiness” does not capture what the Greeks meant by that term. So instead, some philosophers have favored the term “flourishing,” but this too is not an exact translation. As Cooper et al. have pointed out: the idea of “flourishing” comes from plant life, whereas eudaimonia comes from Greek religion. Limited thus by our English word choices for the Greek eudaimonia, many have settled nevertheless for the word ‘flourishing’ as the best approximation for the Greek idea of happiness. This perceived natural fit between virtues and human flourishing is so commonplace that philosophers either ignore the question of fit altogether; or, if they do make note of the fit, the connection between virtues and human flourishing is given as a standard background to the more interesting analyses of virtues themselves.1 1
A sampling of well-respected books on intellectual virtues shows that none addresses this framework or fit question: Linda Zagzebski. Virtues of the Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood Intellectual Virtues (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), Michael
What are we to conclude about this general neglect or absence of discussion on the question of “framework” or “fit”? I can only draw one of two conclusions. One, the framework or fit question is not raised in discussing intellectual virtues because such a question has little direct relevance to the analysis of intellectual virtues. If the framework or fit question had direct relevance, then we would naturally expect appropriate attention paid to such questions. The other conclusion I would draw is that the framework or fit question is not raised in discussing intellectual virtues because we all take for granted the acceptability of the eudaimonistic framework for understanding the virtues, including the intellectual virtues. Questions do not rise because no problems are discerned. Historically speaking, the main debate surrounding the virtues was whether or not virtues alone were necessary and sufficient for fulfilling the well-lived life. The Stoics thought so. The Peripatetics did not think so. The Peripatetics recognized that external circumstances can thwart the exercise of the virtues, whereas the Stoics believed that no matter the circumstances one can always exercise the virtues since external circumstances are powerless to take away one’s ability to exercise the virtues. What neither of the camps doubted was the questionability of the eudaimonistic framework. And as such, all the focus about the virtues was on the individual whose virtues were being considered. The recipient of the virtuous action – or its opposite, vicious action – was not in the philosophical purview.
§3. Eirenéistic Framework In the course of discussing a theory of rights for the sake of grounding justice, Nicholas Wolterstorff presents a persuasive argument why eudaimonism cannot serve as a framework for such a theory of rights. In fact, Wolterstorff argues, the moral vision of the Christian Scriptures is incompatible with the moral vision that’s been proffered by the eudaimonists. The well-lived life that’s at the heart of any eudaimonist picture of life-goods is discordant with the well-going life that’s at the heart of the Biblical picture of life- and history-goods, which the Old Testament writers call shalom. What eudaimonism overlooks the Biblical DePaul and Linda Zagzebski, eds. Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), Jason Baehr. The Inquiring Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). When the framework question is addressed indirectly, like in the case of Jason Baehr, the focus is on the relationship between the person and the person possessing the virtue. Virtue and its relation to persons outside the possessor of the virtue is not examined.
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moral vision pays attention to: the fact that we human beings both act and are acted upon. We are both actors and recipients of action of others. And in this matrix of act-and-acted-upon we enjoy, among other things, respect, honor, and justice. At the core of justice itself is respecting the worth of the other. When this respect is trampled upon, we get instances of unjust acts, occasions of injustice.
§4. Preferentiality of the Eirenéistic over against the Eudaimonistic Framework, with Attention to Open-Mindedness As noted in the introduction to this essay, three key features of the eirenéistic framework would recommend us to consider eirenéism as the preferred framework for understanding virtues instead of eudaimonism. The first of these features is the recognition of the recipient dimension in human interaction. 4.1 Humans act. Humans are acted upon by other humans. The first basic fact of human action has been the chief focus of ethical reflection. Intentional action, motivated action, consequential action, dutiful action, virtuous action, vicious action, and so forth are the topics of philosophical reflection and analysis. The same cannot be said about being acted-upon. One obvious reason why action gets the philosophical attention and why acted-upon does not is because ethical analysis is interested in identifying and analyzing that aspect of human action that render it moral or immoral. What feature in the action would make that action moral? What motivation behind the action makes that action just or unjust, loving or unkind? The first and most obvious place to look for moral aspects of an action is the action itself and what might lie behind the action – be it a Kantian duty, an Aristotelian virtue, or a Benthamian calculus. The ancient eudaimonists, likewise, looked first (and almost exclusively) at the action and the virtues that gave rise to the actions. Their philosophical contribution was to insist that human actions come patterned. These patterns are characterological. A brave person acts bravely, a cowardly person acts cowardly, a wise person acts wisely, a foolish person acts foolishly. And so on. It is the ancient eudaimonists’ focus on the nexus between character and action and reflections on this nexus which produced the eudaimonistic, philosophical legacy for thinking about virtues. In contrast, the eirenéistic virtue ethicist expands the scope of virtue ethics beyond the possessor of the virtue. The eirenéist includes in his or her ethical purview the recipient of virtuous or vicious action, in addition to the possessor of the virtue (or vice). The expansion of the ethical scope
is grounded in the fact that what constitutes the good life is not the welllived life but the well-going life. The well-going life is another way of describing a life marked by shalom. A well-going life includes life-goods that come by way of exercising one’s virtues, but it also includes lifegoods that come by way of how one is treated. An argument for the acceptability for the good life as the well-going life seems hardly necessary. One can simply observe that good and evil actions go both ways between actor and acted-upon. We act in morally good ways; we can also act in morally bad ways; we can be treated in morally good ways; we can be treated in morally bad ways. Whether the good is upheld or not determines whether justice is upheld or not. 4.2. The second key feature of eirenéism is its ability to disclose the moral dimension of how persons are treated based on recognizing the recipient dimension. How we identify and assess instances of justice and injustice is to see how persons are treated. This obvious fact from an everyday perspective, nevertheless, is often overlooked or underappreciated by ethicists because their attention, again, is often on the action of a certain sort and not necessarily on the acted upon. But if we shift our philosophical gaze from the actor to the acted-upon, we can straightforwardly discern whether an action on a person is one of just or unjust treatment. This disclosure, provided by the eirenéistic perspective, yields an alternative way of judging morally the character of a certain action, an alternative from assessing primarily the actor’s intent, duty, or action. Now from these general comments, I would like draw our attention to a particular intellectual virtue – open-mindedness – and see how the treatment of this virtue differs from a eudaimonistic perspective compared to an eirenéistic perspective. A good place to begin is with Jason Baehr’s fine work on intellectual virtues, The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues & Virtue Epistemology.2 Baehr’s Chapter 8 is devoted to the virtue of open-mindedness. After some initial characterizations of openmindedness, Baehr settles for the following characterization of openmindedness: (OM) An open-minded person is characteristically (a) willing and (within limits) able (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint.
Jason Baehr. The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). See (esp.) Chapter 8.
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Baehr’s characterization captures the essential core of what we think about when we consider someone as being open-minded. Openmindedness is the basic willingness to hear from another and consider what the other has to say with a sincere interest in considering his or her view and, if persuaded, to change one’s view. Open-mindedness is not necessarily changing one’s mind about something. Open-mindedness is the attitudinal precondition to changing one’s mind when an argument or an explanation persuades one to change one’s mind on some topic or issue. Of particular interest for the sake of this essay is not so much the scrutinization of intellectual virtues, like open-mindedness, but how a virtue like open-mindedness is embedded and informed by its larger conceptual framework. Again, it will be instructive to take a sample from Jason Baehr’s work, looking at his framework. Baehr presents what he calls, a “personal worth conception of intellectual virtue.” In summary form, he writes, “My proposal, then, is that an intellectual virtue is a character trait that contributes to its possessor’s personal intellectual worth on account of its involving a positive psychological orientation toward epistemic goods.” (italics, Baehr’s) In highlighting his own take on intellectual virtues, Baehr distinguishes his view from that of other philosophers, namely Thomas Hurka, Robert Adams, Julia Driver, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Linda Zagzebski. The views of Hurka and Adams, Baehr thinks, are similar to his view, while the views of Driver, Hursthouse, and Zagzebski, Baehr thinks, are dissimilar to his view. What is of note is the “dissimilar” view of Rosalind Hursthouse. To quote Baehr:3 In her important book On Virtue Ethics (1990), Rosalind Hursthouse defends the view that a “virtue is a character trait a human being needs for eudaimonia, to flourish or to live well.” She divides this definition into three separate claims: (1) “The virtues benefit their possessor”; (2) “The virtues make their possessor a good human being”; (3) “[These] two features of the virtues are interrelated” (167). My focus here will be on (2), since this is the conceptual heart of her account.
In paragraphs following, Baehr’s main disagreement with Hursthouse’s account is that she offers a naturalistic understanding of the virtues, seeing human beings as part of the natural, biological order and that this natural order is sufficient to ground a proper understanding of the virtues. Baehr’s doubt about a naturalistic grounding for intellectual virtues is that intellectual virtues incorporate rationality. And rationality, rightly 3 Baehr’s citation is from Rosalind Hursthouse. On Virtue Ethics. (Oxford University Press, 1999).
understood, is an “explicitly normative notion.” A gap (my word) is therefore created in Hursthouse’s account. Baehr writes: “Given the central and critical role that the appeal to rationality plays on Hursthouse’s account, and given that she is thinking of rationality in normative terms, a question arises concerning the extent to which this account is genuinely naturalistic.” So, a familiar philosophical challenge is raised here: the compatibility between rationality as a normative notion and a consistent naturalism that claims to make room – let alone, ground – the normativity of rationality. As an intramural battle within virtue ethics (Baehr vs. Hursthouse), Baehr’s makes telltale points against a thoroughly naturalistic understanding of virtues as we traditionally understand virtues. But despite the differences between Hursthouse and Baehr, there are still things in common that both share. Both understandably see virtues as possessed by persons/human beings which either “benefit their possesor” (Hursthouse) or “contributes to its possessor’s personal … worth” (Baehr). Virtues, in both Hursthouse and Baehr, add something positive to the owner of the virtue in question. I think we can all agree at this level of general characterization of virtues, that both Hursthouse and Baehr are correct. To say something opposite – that virtues somehow detract or harm their possessor or virtues are neutral – would be to say something patently false. So, this positive attribution about virtues in relation to their possessors is not at all controversial. Besides this positive commonality, I note another commonality: that of silence. Both Hursthouse and Baehr (and the other philosophers surveyed by Baehr in his book) have nothing substantial to say about how the virtues relate to another person. To say it a bit more strongly, none of the philosophers offer a characterization of virtues that take into account how virtues and virtuous acts bear upon another. That virtues and virtuous actions are other-directed – be the other be a person, an object, a goal, an objective, etc. – are implied. But none of the representative philosophers listed here offers how the virtues and virtuous acts are integrally connected to the recipients of virtuous acts. In other words, the scope of analysis as conceived by standard, eudaimonistic ethics is solely on the possessor of the virtues. The scope of analysis does not include the non-reductive pair of actor and acted upon. Sociality, I want to argue, is built into the essence of virtues and virtuous acts. Virtues do not exist in singularities. Although individuals possess virtues, these virtues always have a referent; a virtue is a virtue with respect to someone or something. Take our case study: open-mindedness. Open-mindedness, given the characterization above, would not make any sense without the existence of another “cognitive standpoint.” A solitary figure cannot be said to be
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open-minded if there were no other person for this figure to engage with. Open-mindedness is a type of pro-attitude toward someone with whom one is speaking. If we broaden the analysis of open-mindedness and consider its ethical dimension, from an eirenéistic point of view, we can add the following: open-mindedness is an attitude of respect that honors the worth of the other by considering the cognitive stance of the other. The contrary of open-mindedness – close-mindedness – would then be something like this: close-mindedness is an attitude of disrespect that does not honor the worth of the other by not considering the cognitive stance of the other. If we were to formulate our characterization of close-mindedness in the fashion of Baehr, we can describe it as follows: (CM) A close-minded person is characteristically (a) unwilling (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint.
If we continue our ethical reflections further, in the mode of Wolterstorff’s eirenéism, we can comment additionally: open-mindedness in relation to another is an instance of justice because open-mindedness respects the worth of the other; whereas close-mindedness in relation to another is an instance of injustice because close-mindedness disrespects the worth of the other. When we juxtapose the eudaimonistic and eirenéistic conceptual frameworks and examine how the two might shed light on open-mindedness and close-mindedness, we get a fuller disclosure from the eirenéistic framework since it takes note of the recipient of the virtuous or non-virtuous action. The eudaimonistic framework settles for examining the possessor of the virtue as determinative of whether an act is virtuous or not. All the relevant information about the virtue or virtuous act can be gleaned from reflecting on the virtue itself or the virtuous act. How the recipient is treated by the virtue or the virtuous act does not yield any essential information about the virtue or the virtuous act in question. There are consequent responses associated with virtues and virtuous acts of course, but, the consequent responses themselves do not inform the nature of the virtues themselves. In contrast to eudaimonism, eirenéism takes into account how the recipient of a certain action informs the virtue or vice itself. To put it another way, the nature of the virtue or vice can only be fully understood when both the actor and acted upon are considered. Simply focusing on the actor and actor’s motivation cannot yield the full picture necessary to discern what kind of action has taken place. For example, a person’s motivation behind giving a small sum of money to another from the giver’s point of view might be entirely
innocent, believing the money is a way of saying thank you for an act of generosity; but from the recipient’s point of view, that money-giving act can be seen as disrespectful because in the recipient’s culture a guest is treated with honor without any thought of money. What started out as an innocent, kind act turned out to be a disrespectful act. The full understanding of this act required both the actor and recipient to come into view. Exclusive attention on the actor and his or her action would have misled us in terms of understanding the nature of the act. An eirenéistic frame of reference always requires us to look at the context of the act and acted-upon (including the cultural context) to determine the nature of the act. Refocusing our attention back unto open- and close-mindedness, let’s begin with how an eirenéistic framework would characterize openmindedness and close-mindedness. If we start with Baehr’s characterization of an open-minded person, we have the following: Baehr: (OM) An open-minded person is characteristically (a) willing and (within limits) able (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint.
Redescribing open- and close-mindedness in terms of attitude and ability, we have the following: (OM) Open-mindedness is an attitude of a person who is (a) willing and (within limits) able (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint. (CM) Close-mindedness is an attitude of a person who is (a) unwilling (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint.
At this point the above characterization would satisfy a eudaimonist description. However, for an eirenéist, the characterization would not go far enough. Something more would need to be added, to round out the eirenéist description: we would need to say something about the ethical dimension of open- or close-mindedness. That ethical dimension (in italics), as applied to the case of open-mindedness and close-mindedness would be as follows: (OM) Open-mindedness is an attitude of a person who is (a) willing and (within limits) able (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in
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order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint. Such an attitude toward another person renders proper respect in keeping with the worth of the other and is thus an instance of justice. (CM) Close-mindedness is an attitude of a person who is (a) unwilling (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint. Such an attitude toward another shows disrespect not in keeping with the worth of the other and is thus an instance of injustice.
This second merit of the eirenéist framework thus brings to our attention the critical role that the recipient dimension plays in disclosing the moral dimension of how persons are treated. Without the recognition of the recipient dimension we will not be able to discern whether an attitude or an action is just or unjust. 4.3 The last of the key features of eirenéism is its affirmation of the social-ethical dimension in the exercise of human virtues and vices. In Wolterstorff’s preliminary description of rights, he says the following: Rights are normative social relationships; sociality is built into the essence of rights. A right is a right with regard to someone…. Rights are normative bonds between oneself and the other. And for the most part, those normative bonds of oneself to the other are not generated by any exercise of will on one’s part. The bond is there already, antecedent to one’s will, binding oneself and the other together. The other comes into my presence already standing in this normative bond to me. This normative bond is in the form of the other bearing a legitimate claim on me as to how I treat her, a legitimate claim to my doing certain things to her and refraining from doing other things. (4)
Rights are antecedent to virtues. Because rights exist, virtues exist. And not the other way around: it does not make sense to claim that because virtues exist, rights exist. Rights are more fundamental. So if it’s true that rights are normative social relationships (i.e., that rights are normative bonds between oneself and the other) then virtues partake of those normative social relationships. So if we consider those moral and intellectual virtues that are directed toward another, like open-mindedness, than we can always consider whether the supposed virtue affirms the rights of the other.4 When the 4
An obvious point of observation is that intellectual virtues, like open-mindedness, has the other person in view. But how about other intellectual virtues whose object of engagement is not necessarily a person? Intellectual virtues like love of knowledge, firmness, courage and caution, humility, autonomy, generosity, or
supposed virtue turns out to violate the rights of the other, then that supposed virtue is not a true virtue in that context. Benevolence can turn out to be paternalism if that benevolence casts a blind eye to the demands of justice and that benevolence morally self-satisfies and excuses the person from acting justly. The Biblical call for justice in the opening chapter of Isaiah, in fact, highlights the temptation to replace the doing of justice with religious piety. Religious piety in itself is a religious virtue, but when it supplants the doing of justice – when piety substitutes for justice – then that piety turns out to be an excuse from doing justice. Although religious piety might satisfy the religious worshipper, such piety is a “burden” to God. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. practical wisdom (this list comes from Roberts and Wood)? Some of these virtues will be in the context of other persons, while some will include no persons. The emphasis of my argument is not that all intellectual virtues have the recipient dimension and therefore partake, by extension, in an ethical dimension. My argument is that some of the intellectual virtues do have a recipient, or an actedupon, dimension and therefore we need to take account of this extra feature. An interesting case can be made, perhaps, that all intellectual virtues are either directly or indirectly God-related. If we take the Apostle Paul’s admonition in I Corinthians 10:31 – “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” – and generalize this command (as Paul himself seems to advocate), then all intellectual virtues can be seen as God-directed, namely directed to the glory of God. In other words, the exemplary exercise of intellectual virtues in one’s life manifests the glory of God. The excellent exercise of the intellectual virtues honors God the Creator and thus renders to God glory and his justice (by acknowledging God’s worth as Creator by the excellent exercise of these God-created gifts). In this fashion all intellectual virtues can be envisaged with a recipient dimension, the recipient being God.
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Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.5 Thus paying attention to the social context of actor and acted upon (and in the theistic case, God as the indirectly-acted upon) gives us a fuller, truer sense of whether a virtue or virtuous act was exemplified or whether the supposed virtue or virtuous act was a cover for neglecting something that ought to have been done. The social context, therefore, is much more than the backdrop for virtues in action. Rather, the social context or dimension tells us what the (supposed) virtues really are. Examining all the inner workings of a virtue – its motivation, objectives, thought processes – is not sufficient to determine the true character of that virtue. One might possibly get access to praiseworthy motivations, innocent objectives, and informed thought processes related to a virtue and yet still be lacking access to some key features for a true, ethical assessment of the event or state of affairs in question. Let’s dig a little deeper into the Isaiah passage. In the larger context of the passage cited above, Yahweh commands the people to show themselves before him. That Israel should have lifted the burdens of the “oppressed … fatherless … widow” is something that the people of God would have heard before through Israel’s prophets. Instead, rather than addressing the condition of the vulnerable, Israel offers sacrifice and worship. It could be the case that those who are offering sacrifice and worship are doing so to manipulate Yahweh, to satisfy Yahweh’s moral demands by substituting religious ritual in its stead. But it could also be the case that those who are offering sacrifice and worship are sincere in their religious offering, not consciously manipulating Yahweh at all. If it is the latter case, then we have before us a difference between how those offering sacrifice and worship are thinking about their act of sacrifice and worship and how Yahweh is thinking about their act of sacrifice and worship. Whose thinking is correct? In the case between two human beings it might be tough to decide beforehand which side has the “correct” understanding of a specific act. In the case between human beings and God (in Scripture) the “correct” understanding is preponderantly on the side of God, unless we have clear indication in the biblical text that such is not the case. Once again, considering the human side of understanding the (sincere) offering of sacrifice and worship, nothing in their conscious intention and action tells them that they are doing something wrong. It 5
Isaiah 1:14-17 (NIV).
might therefore come as a surprise to hear that Yahweh is not pleased with their sacrifice and worship. Isn’t the offering of sacrifice and worship commanded in the Law? That Yahweh insists on Israel administering justice to the “oppressed … fatherless … widow” should not come as a surprise; but Yahweh’s rejection of their sacrifice and worship in place of doing justice might come as a surprise to those worshippers. What is illuminated here is that the full scope of the social context, including Yahweh’s response to Israel’s religious rites, is necessary for us to understanding the virtues and virtuous acts in question – even whether they are really virtues at all. That good intentions alone in virtuous acts do not prove the goodness of the “virtuous” act is something that all of us are aware of. We encounter cultural misunderstandings of acts and intentions, we encounter harmful unintended consequences of virtuous actions, we encounter the mixed-bag nature of different virtue-based motivations in our hearts, and so forth. Although we are often aware and often acknowledge the necessity of seeing the “big picture” in one’s actions to discern whether our virtuous acts hit their ethical targets and do not misfire, the awareness and acknowledgement are sometimes missing when we philosophize about virtues and virtuous actions. The awareness and acknowledgement of the larger social dimensions, including the recipient dimension – and correctly philosophizing about these dimensions – is what eirenéism offers us, a way of seeing the virtues as connected to the well-going life that the Scriptures call shalom.
Works Cited Baehr, Jason. The Inquiring Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. DePaul, Michael and Linda Zagzebski, eds. Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Hursthouse, Rosalind. On Virtue Ethics. Oxford University Press, 1999. Roberts, Robert C. and W. Jay Wood. Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Zagzebski, Linda T. Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
SECTION 2: CRITIQUES OF OPEN-MINDEDNESS
CHAPTER FIVE DOGMATIC OPEN-MINDEDNESS AND OPEN-MINDED DOGMATICS BENJAMIN H. ARBOUR
Near universal consensus exists among contemporary epistemologists that open-mindedness, when properly instanced, contributes to the discovery of truth and the avoidance of error. I offer a critique of this view, noting that open-mindedness (at least as construed in the contemporary literature) doesn’t always assist truth-seekers in either discovering the truth, or in avoiding error. My essay divides into two parts. The first part focuses on summarizing the contemporary literature on open-mindedness and virtue epistemology (VE). The second part focuses on applications of open-mindedness with respect to theistic arguments in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion, and it divides into two sections, one covering the argument from so many arguments, and the latter covering contemporary formulations of the modal ontological argument.
§1. Virtue Epistemology and Open-Mindedness Towards a Minimalist Understanding of Virtue Epistemology1 Aristotle long ago advocated that epistemic virtues are significant in two ways: 1) character traits such as wisdom and discernment are conducive to our striving to live a happy life, and 2) other epistemic
This section summarizes my, “Christian Doctrines of Humanity and Salvation Provide Theological Foundations for Virtue Epistemology,” in Being Saved: Explorations in Human Salvation, eds., Marc Cortez, Joshua Farris, and S. Mark Hamilton (London: SCM Press, 2018), 157-72.
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virtues “are conducive, we think, to the discovery of truth (and the avoidance of error).”2 Despite the significant differences between virtue epistemologists as to what they hope VE accomplishes, they can all agree that the central idea of VE is that knowledge arises from the proper functioning of our intellectual virtues in an appropriate environment.3 So, while I acknowledge significant differences between virtue reliabilists such as John Greco and Duncan Pritchard, and virtue responsibilists such as Lorraine Code, James Montmarquet, and Linda Zagzebski, we needn’t entangle ourselves in these debates for our present purposes.4 Furthermore, given that the present topic is obviously related to broader issues in religious epistemology, note that this minimalist conception of VE is perfectly compatible with both phenomenal conservativism and/or proper functionalism. Proponents of VE have each offered their own conception of what counts as an intellectual virtue, and why. Kvanvig suggests that intellectual virtues are a subclass of the class of admirable characteristics: persons can be admired for their cognitive powers, their intellectual insight, their ability to find the truth, as well as other sorts of qualities. A person can be acutely perceptive, or have a memory like an elephant; she can be exceptionally intelligent or original in her thinking. Some persons are especially scrupulous in collecting available evidence before jumping to conclusions;
James A. Montmarquet, “Epistemic Virtue,” in A Companion to Epistemology, eds., Jonathan Dancy and Ernest Sosa (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992), 116-18, 116. The appeal to Aristotle is taken from the Nicomaachean Ethics, Book VI, chapter I. Of course, Aristotle’s position is not without its own problems. As Kvanvig notes, “Aristotle’s account of knowledge proceeds by discussing five faculties of the soul that express truth, which are held to be infallible.” Jonathan L. Kvanvig, The Intellectual Virtues and the Life of the Mind: On the Place of the Virtues in Contemporary Epistemology (Savage, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1992), 15, emphasis mine. 3 Cf. John Greco, “Virtue Epistemology,” 520. 4 For those who care, I find the virtue responsibilist view more compelling. Cf. James A. Montmarquet, Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility (Lanham, MD: Roman and Littlefield, 1993); and Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
Chapter Five others consistently avoid the inferential errors to which most of us are liable.5
Zagzebski agrees, and clarifies; an intellectual virtue “is roughly a disposition toward or ability to acquire justified beliefs.”6 Sosa offers a still more precise definition of virtue, bringing environment into account. “One has an intellectual virtue or faculty relative to an environment E if and only if one has an inner nature I in virtue of which one would mostly attain the truth and avoid error in a certain field of propositions F, when in certain conditions C.”7 With this understanding of intellectual virtues in mind, we can now turn our attention to open-mindedness.
Open-Mindedness The literature on epistemic virtues presents us with different conceptions of what, exactly, it means to be open-minded. William Hare describes open-mindedness as a first-order attitude towards one’s own beliefs. “To be open-minded is…to be critically receptive to alternative possibilities, to be willing to think again despite having formulated a view, and to be concerned to defuse any factors that constrain one’s thinking in predetermined ways.”8 Elsewhere, Hare suggests that “the test of openmindedness is…whether or not we are prepared to entertain doubts about our views.”9 Hare nuances his view by explaining how both positive and negative features of being willing to reconsider one’s views fill out robust openmindedness. On the negative side, open-mindedness entails “the absence of a dogmatic and rigid stance that dismisses reflection and inquiry,” whereas, on the positive side, being genuinely open-minded necessitates 5 Kvanvig, The Intellectual Virtues, pp. 7-8. Kvanvig later offers a functional definition, noting that an intellectual virtue “is roughly a disposition toward or ability to acquire justified beliefs.” Ibid., 141. 6 Linda Trainkaus Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 137. 7 Ernest Sosa, Knowledge in Perspective (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 284. Consider the importance of the way that environment can help make room for proper functionalism and the noetic effects of sin, which might shape the way one evaluates arguments and evidence for the existence of God. 8 William Hare, “The Ideal of Open-Mindedness and its Place in Education,” Journal of Thought 38, no. 2 (2003): 3-10, 4-5. 9 William Hare, In Defence of Open-Mindedness (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1985), chapter eight, entitled “Open-Mindedness, Liberalism, and Truth.”
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“sincere commitment to the pursuit of truth” and “serious consideration of alternative ideas.”10 Peter Gardner offers an alternative to Hare’s account, suggesting instead that open-mindedness is something akin to non-committal posture about an issue. According to Gardner, “to be open-minded about an issue is to have entertained thoughts about that issue but not to be committed to or to hold a particular view about it.” He continues, “I am openminded…about whether soft drugs should be legalized, about whether Britain should become a republic, and about whether the salmon season in England should be extended. I have thought about these things, I have even listened to some of the arguments about them, but I have no views, certainly no firm views, for or against.”11 Taking Gardner’s account seriously means that epistemic open-mindedness really isn’t a virtue that a person could have, or could develop, unless one doesn’t hold a particular view about much of anything. But this is absurd, so we do better to interpret Gardner as suggesting that open-mindedness can be instanced not as a general epistemic ideal, but rather in particular circumstances. Spiegel has argued compellingly against Gardner’s position, noting that it fails to account for normal usage of open-mindedness in ordinary discourse. Consider: “She subscribes to Keynesian economics but is open to reconsider her views based on the outcomes of the government’s current policies.” “He’s confident that electric-powered vehicles will never be as affordable as gas-powered vehicles. But he’s an open-minded person and is willing to be proven wrong.”
I take Spiegel’s examples as sufficient to demonstrate the problems with Gardner’s account, so I won’t say anything more about it here.12 Jonathan Adler offers yet another account of open-mindedness that is critical of both Hare and Gardner. Adler suggests that we conceive of open-mindedness not as an attitude we take towards individual, specific beliefs, but rather as an attitude we take towards ourselves as fallible knowers. He says that “open-mindedness is…a second-order (or ‘meta’) attitude towards one’s beliefs as believed, and not just toward the specific 10
William Hare, “What Open-Mindedness Requires,” Skeptical Inquirer 33, no. 2 (2009): 36-39, 37-38. 11 Peter Gardner, “Should We Teach Children to Be Open-Minded? Or, Is the Pope Open-Minded About the Existence of God?” Journal of Philosophy of Education 27, no. 1 (1993): 39-43, 39. 12 Cf. James Spiegel, “Open-Mindedness and Intellectual Humility,” Theory and Research in Education 10, no. 1 (March 2012): 27-38, 31
proposition believed.”13 Spiegel is right to see that Adler is really offering an account for why intellectual humility leads us to be open-minded, rather than an account of open-mindedness per se.14 So, there are at least three accounts of understanding what openmindedness is: the first-order attitude account, the non-committal posture account, and the meta-attitude account. Spiegel takes issue with all of these, but, where Spiegel concludes, I want to pick up and go farther. I will adopt a broadly Aristotelian conception of virtue, together with both the doctrine of the mean, and the thesis that some unity exists between the good, the true, and the beautiful. Assuming this set, it is impossible to properly instance an intellectual virtue in any way that leads someone away from the truth. Most epistemologists take it for granted that openmindedness is a good thing, and automatically include it in the list of intellectual virtues.15 It might even be considered an epistemic dogma that one ought to be open-minded. Of course, there are puzzles that arise upon reflection, such as how open-mindedness can count as an intellectual virtue since it’s not always truth-conducive.16 Although there may be solutions to those puzzles, we should consider an alternative account of just what open-mindedness is.
Open-Mindedness as an Epistemic Methodology Is open-mindedness always a good thing? Is it always virtuous to be open-minded? Should we be open-minded about whether 2 + 2 = 4, or whether modus ponens is a valid rule of logical inference?17 Should we be open-minded about whether women should be allowed to vote, or whether some races of human beings are superior to others? Or what about openmindedness itself? Should I be open-minded about whether I should be open-minded? Wouldn’t a genuinely open-minded person be open-minded 13 Jonathan Adler, “Reconciling Open-Mindedness and Belief,” Theory and Research in Education 2, no. 2 (2004): 127-42, 130. 14 Cf. Spiegel, “Open-Mindedness and Intellectual Humility,” 35. 15 Rebecca M. Taylor, “Open-mindedness: An Intellectual Virtue in the Pursuit of Knowledge and Understanding,” Educational Theory 66 (2016): 599–618. 16 Cf. John R. Gilhooly, Chapter 6, in this volume, as well as B.J.C. Madison, “Is Open-Mindedness Truth Conducive?” Synthese (2017): https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-017-1571-0. 17 For the sake present concerns, I assume that we are restricting inquiry to base 10 numerical systems, thereby foreclosing discussions of advanced maths, as well as exceedingly technical work done by an exceedingly small minority of genius logicians who deny the validity of modus ponens.
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about whether or not to be close-minded? Sadly, it seems that the majority of scholars haven’t adequately reflected on this meta-level concern, for they take a dogmatic stance towards open-mindedness rather than being open-minded about whether or not we should be open-minded. Reflection on these questions suggests that open-mindedness isn’t always a virtue. And, if open-mindedness isn’t always a virtue, on an Aristotelian conception of virtue, it isn’t a virtue at all. What, then, are we to make of open-mindedness? How we should answer this question gets even more complicated when one further considers how it is that openmindedness relates to intellectual virtues such as humility.18 The unity of the virtues thesis comes in both strong and weak forms. The weak thesis says that the virtues tend to come together, such that if a person counts as virtuous in one way, he is virtuous in every way. The strong thesis says that the unity of the virtues entails that when a person instances virtue in any particular way, he actually instances virtue in every way, since all virtues are united. I think both of these conceptions of the unity of the virtues are false.19 However, insofar as we are limiting the discussion of the unity of the virtues thesis to intellectual virtues, the weak thesis seems correct. When someone instances intellectual humility, she usually also instances other intellectual virtues such as diligence, a healthy skepticism that avoids gullibility, and commitment to truth. That is, the intellectual virtues generally come in a package; it’s rare to find genuine commitment to truth in someone while intellectual scrupulousness is absent. It seems that these epistemic character traits, which are actual intellectual virtues, lead virtuous persons to proceed in an open-minded fashion when conducting inquiries into thus and such. So understood, open-mindedness is an epistemic methodology whereby an agnostic inquirer displays other intellectual virtues. One might be tempted to think that open-minded methodology is the unity of other intellectual virtues, but this won’t hold, since sometimes intellectual virtues might lead someone away from open-minded methodologies towards doxastic foreclosure. Echoing Hare’s conception of open-mindedness, a properly openminded epistemic methodology allows an inquirer to be critically receptive to multiple possible outcomes, and allows an inquirer to be willing to think differently about a matter despite having antecedently coming to a view on the matter by entertaining new evidence, and also allows an inquirer to defuse factors that viciously constrain one’s thinking in predetermined 18 19
Cf. Spiegel, “Open-Mindedness and Intellectual Humility,” 35-37. Thanks to Jim Spiegel for helping me articulate this distinction.
ways stemming from premature doxastic foreclosure. So understood, this methodology should only be practiced when an inquirer stands in a particularly agnostic epistemic stance towards some proposition (or set of propositions). In Bayesian terms, if one’s credence is 0 or 1 with respect to some proposition P, then there is no reason to think one should reevaluate one’s beliefs about P. However, one might have a .99 credence towards P, believe P to be true with near certainty. In such cases, one might be willing to entertain new evidence, which might affect his credence level. However, for those who are doxastically foreclosed with respect to P, while such persons may be willing to entertain new evidence, it is not possible that such evidence would change their credence levels, for to admit that new evidence might affect such person’s credence levels is to deny that such persons truly enjoy a 0 or 1 credence level with respect to P in the first place. Accordingly, open-minded methodology requires that someone not be in a state of complete doxastic foreclosure at the onset.
§2. Open-Minded Methodology and Dogmatic Doxastic Foreclosure in Philosophy of Religion Obviously, it can be virtuous to be doxastically foreclosed about certain truths. So, failure to be open-minded, in the methodological sense, doesn’t constitute epistemic sin, or epistemic viciousness—at least not on a minimalist VE. How, then, are we to know how to proceed? And when is it okay to fail to be open-minded, in the general sense, or in the methodological sense?
Cumulative Case Theism and the Argument from So Many Arguments At this point, let’s turn our attention towards applications of openmindedness as an epistemic methodology in philosophy of religion. Consider what methodological open-mindedness entails when one virtuously considers arguments for the existence of God. In regards to contemporary analytic philosophy of religion, most atheists don’t even know that there are numerous arguments for God’s existence that are taken very seriously by academic philosophers, both theists and atheists. There are literally dozens of arguments for the existence of God, and most atheists—even those atheists that count themselves reasonably informed on the issues—cannot name more than a couple of these arguments, despite the fact that they are well-established, and being defended at the
Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics
highest levels of scholarship.20 In what follows, I will focus on two arguments: 1) modal ontological arguments, and 2) the argument(s) from so many arguments.
Ontological Arguments The problem of open-mindedness is particularly bad for atheists when considering ontological arguments for God’s existence. As one can imagine, atheists who are doxastically foreclosed against God’s existence without even knowing about the numerous arguments for the existence of God obviously don’t count as virtuously open-minded. What’s even worse is that most atheists aren’t even open-minded about the possibility of God’s existence. That is, many atheists are aware that Alvin Plantinga’s modal ontological argument is logically valid. (34) The property has maximal greatness entails the property has maximal excellence in every possible world. (Analysis and definition of the property, and what is entailed by, maximal greatness) (35) Maximal excellence entails omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection. (Analysis and definition of the property, and what is entailed by, maximal excellence) (36) Maximal greatness is possibly exemplified. (Premise) (37) There is a world W* and an essence E* such that E* is exemplified in W* and E* entails has maximal greatness in W*. (38) For any object x, if x exemplifies E*, then x exemplifies the property has maximal excellence in every possible world. (39) E* entails the property has maximal excellence in every possible world. (40) If W* had been actual, it would have been impossible that E* fail to be exemplified. (41) There exists a being that has maximal excellence in every world.21
Because this argument is logically valid, the success of the argument hinges on the truth of its key premise, namely, (36) maximal greatness is possibly exemplified. How does this argument relate to virtuous instantiations of openmindedness? Well, it seems that anyone who is open-minded about some 20 Consider, for example, Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project, eds., Trent Dougherty and Jerry L. Walls (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018). 21 This argument, including the numeration, is taken from section seven (“A Victorious Modal Version”) of chapter ten, entitled “God and Necessity,” in Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), 213-17.
particular proposition P should avoid strong claims with respect to P, and this is doubly true for anyone who is genuinely agnostic about P. Making strong claims about P seems inconsistent with being both open-minded about P and being agnostic about P. For those who are agnostic about P, before concluding for or against P, methodological open-mindedness requires that virtuous inquirers first think through the relevant evidence for and against P. When it comes to modal claims about P, it seems that openminded inquirers and agnostics should default to weaker modal claims about P rather than stronger modal claims about P. Accordingly, rather than think that P is either necessarily false (impossible) or necessarily true (both of which are very strong modal claims), the open-minded person ought to think that P is possible, apart from a good reason to think otherwise, since thinking otherwise entails the impossibility of P, which is a very strong claim. Sadly, when confronted with the validity of Plantinga’s modal ontological argument, instead of adopting the more open-minded approach and embracing a weak modal claim represented by (36), most atheists adopt the much stronger claim that is the negation of (36), namely It is not the case that maximal greatness is possibly exemplified.
This is the same as saying that it is impossible that maximal greatness is exemplified. But surely open-mindedness is incompatible with such a strong claim apart from some very good epistemic justification for the impossibility of maximal greatness. In fact, it’s extremely close-minded to think that God’s existence isn’t even possible. A puzzle emerges here, for God, if God exists at all, exists of necessity. But, we must face the objection that an open-minded person should also be open to the possibility of God’s non-existence. It’s tricky to figure out whether one should think that possibly God exists, or that possibly God does not exist.22 After all, it’s inconsistent to demand openmindedness in one direction without similarly demanding openmindedness in alternative directions. But perhaps we have good reasons that provide epistemic justification for a lack of open-mindedness in certain cases. What could provide such a justification? Perhaps we have good epistemic reasons for defaulting towards possibility when considering modal claims for positive existentials. There is a kind of epistemic justification (and perhaps warrant) for modal 22
Cf. Robert Merrihew Adams, “Presumption and the Necessary Existence of God,” Noûs 22, no. 1 (1988): 19-32; and Peter van Inwagen, “Ontological Arguments,” Noûs 11, no. 4 (1977): 375-95.
Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics
appearance claims in the case of things that possibly exist, but there is no such epistemic justification (or warrant) in the case of the possibility of non-existent things. Whereas modal seemings are grounded by the existence of positive existentials in a way that yields epistemic justification (and perhaps warrant), no such extant thing grounds modal seemings in the case of a negative existential. That is, there is a correspondence between extant reality (even in the domain of possibilia) and modal seemings for positive existentials, whereas there is no parallel correspondence in the case of the possibility of the non-existence of some object (e.g., negative existentials). Therefore, we shouldn’t default towards possibility in the case of atheism, even on the basis of open-mindedness, since God’s non-existence counts as a negative existential.23 Admittedly, there is one way to ground modal seemings for the possibility of non-existence for some object. Consider square-circles. For those who take the laws of logic to be necessarily true, it seems that square-circles are logically impossible. Were a square-circle to exist, there would exist an object that has zero corners while simultaneously having exactly four corners. Because this violates the law of non-contradiction (which is necessarily true), we say that it is impossible for a square-circle to exist, which is equivalent to saying, “There are no possible worlds in which any square-circles exist.”
But, if that is true, then it’s certainly true that it is possible that squarecircles do not exist, which is a possibility claim about a negative existential. However, what grounds the epistemic justification of this claim about one possible world is knowledge of all possible worlds. That is, one can rationally maintain that it is possible that square-circles do not exist because one has antecedent knowledge of the impossibility of squarecircles. Recall that open-minded persons should default to weaker modal claims (e.g., possibility) instead of stronger modal claims (e.g., necessity or impossibility), unless one has reason for accepting the stronger modal claims. In this light, because the only grounds for possibility claims about a negative existential (a weak claim) that gives rise to epistemic justification (and possibly warrant) of such claims is antecedent knowledge of the impossibility of that negative existential (a strong claim), we are sufficiently equipped to respond to objections against the idea that open-minded persons should default towards possibility claims 23
Thanks to Chad McIntosh for helping me understand this more clearly. I recommend his unpublished paper “Keeping Up Appearances: A CORNEA Defense of Modal ‘Appears Claims’.”
about positive existentials. As the example about square-circles illustrates, the modal seeming that gives rise to rationally and open-mindedly making a possibility claim about the non-existence of a negative existential (e.g., a square-circle) is epistemically justified because one has a reason for rejecting the weaker possibility of that same object as a positive existential, since square-circles are known logically impossible. Nonetheless, this position on the difference between positive existentials and negative existentials in regards to modal appearance claims remains somewhat controversial. For those not inclined to accept my views on this, we need to provide some alternative way of adjudicating whether we should accept or reject (36). Here, it’s wise to turn our attention to the argument from so many arguments. In a way, ontological arguments can serve as the bookends of all of the arguments for God’s existence. Consider the following imaginary dialogue between an agnostic (A) and a theist (T). (A) Why should I believe in God? (T) Well, there are lots of good arguments for the existence of God… (A) Like what? (T) Well, there are the ontological arguments, the cosmological arguments, the teleological arguments, and there’s Aquinas’s five ways: the argument from motion, the argument from contingency, Oh! the argument from numbers, the argument from so many arguments, and… (A) Wow, that’s a lot of arguments, and I’ve never heard of most of those. Let’s start with the first. What did you call that? An ontological argument? (T) Ah, yes. That’s my favorite. Here’s Alvin Plantinga’s formulation of the modal version. (Gives Plantinga’s argument) (A) That’s interesting, but it all seems to hinge on the possibility premise. Why should I think that it’s possible that God exists? (T) Well, you want to be open-minded about this, right? And there are these reasons to favor positive existentials. (Gives those reasons)
Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics
(A) Maybe, but maybe not. Are there any other good reasons why I should think that God exists? (T) Well, sure. There are all the other arguments for God’s existence. So take the Kalam cosmological argument, or the Leibnizian cosmological argument, or any of the other arguments that yield a necessary being, like the moral argument, or the fine-tuning argument, or… (A) Okay, so I guess if any of those turn out to be decent arguments, then there’s probably a good reason for thinking that God at least possibly exists. (T) And then we can conclude that God actually exists, by way of the modal ontological argument. When one considers the argument from so many arguments, it’s easy to see that the majority of atheists are in trouble, not only because they don’t know about many of the numerous arguments for God’s existence, but also because, since they don’t know about those arguments, they aren’t in any position to evaluate the success (or failure) of the argument for so many arguments. In his seminal book The Existence of God, Richard Swinburne discusses several independent arguments for God’s existence, each of which demonstrates that theism is more likely than atheism.24 After an extended discussion on the intrinsic probability of theism, he offers his thoughts on cosmological arguments, teleological arguments, arguments from consciousness, moral arguments, and arguments from miracles and religious experience. He even discusses the problem of evil before bringing Bayesian probability theory into play to construct what he calls a cumulative case for theism. On Swinburne’s analysis, God’s existence is significantly more likely than not. Assuming an open-minded outlook, it seems exceedingly difficult to avoid this conclusion. Ted Poston offers another compelling Bayesian approach to the argument from so many arguments.25 Given the objectivity of the math, it’s difficult to see how anyone who adopts any of the more traditional 24
Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God, 2nd Ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). 25 Ted Poston, “(Z) The Argument from (A) to (Y): The Argument from So Many Arguments,” in Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project, eds., Trent Dougherty and Jerry L. Walls (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 372-86.
approaches to open-mindedness, or (alternatively) utilizes methodological open-mindedness to evaluate the argument(s) from so many arguments could arrive at atheism. It seems that, for an open-minded person, atheism is almost never a rational position. Simply put, atheism lacks epistemic justification for anyone who has yet to consider all of the theistic arguments, since such failures preclude anyone’s ability to rightly evaluate the success or failure of not only each particular argument, but more importantly the argument from so many arguments. Accordingly, virtuous thinking, and virtuous epistemic methodology seems to be at odds with the vast majority of contemporary atheism. Whatever Bayesian credence level one has towards (36), if one is open-minded about God’s existence, then that credence level should be able to increase or decrease. Given our antecedent commitment to openmindedness (at least methodological open-mindedness), the intrinsic probability of theism should not be set at either 0 or 1 with respect to (36).26 One might be inclined to split the difference at set credence level at a seemingly neutral 0.5, but there are good reasons for not doing so.27 In Bayesian terms, anyone who finds God’s existence likely will have a higher credence in (36) than an agnostic who is “in the dark” about the possibility of God’s existence; and an agnostic will have a higher credence in (36) than someone who inclines towards doubts with respect to the possibility of God’s existence. But regardless of the starting credence, I suggest that an open-minded person’s credence in (36) will increase in light of other arguments for the existence of God. It is trivially true that the probability of any x is greater on x than on ~x. Furthermore, it is trivially true that for any subject S who is in the dark about x, S’s credence of x should be moved up, even if only by the tiniest of measurements, if S knows that x is logically possible. That is, P (x | ¸x) > P (x | ~¸x),
because P (x | ~¸x) = 0
Calum Miller, “The Intrinsic Probability of Theism,” Philosophy Compass 13 (2018): https://doi.org/10.1111/phc3.12523. 27 John Maynard Keynes, A Treatise on Probability (London, UK: MacMillan & Co., 1921).
Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics
When restricting the conversation to the way that a person’s credence level should be impacted by that person’s epistemic situation with respect to the ontological possibility of some given proposition, if someone has good reason, warrant, or justification for thinking that it’s possible (whether nomological, metaphysical, narrowly logical, or broadly logical possible is irrelevant) that the Texas Rangers win the 2019 World Series, that person’s credence in the claim that such a marvelous and wonderful event will actually occur should be higher than it would be if either of the following epistemic situations were the case: • •
That person is in the dark about, or unsure as to whether or not it is possible that the Rangers win the 2019 World Series, or, That person is convinced that it is not possible for the Rangers to win the 2019 World Series.
Since we are discussing an individual’s credence in a particular proposition, it doesn’t matter whether or not the proposition in question is ontologically possible at all—a person can be mistaken about whether or not something is ontologically possible, but this doesn’t stop that person from having a credence, mistakenly, about that event. For instance, some people might have high credences that 2+2 = 5, or, more modestly, people might think that it could have been the case that 2+2 = 5, or that there is some far-off possible world in which 2+2 = 5. Such people are wrong, but this doesn’t mean that these people don’t have their respective credences. Now, we should also note that a person’s credence in the possibility of some property x being instantiated ought to be very high if that person has a reason for thinking that such a property is actually instantiated. That is, if someone believes that some object exists in the actual world that bears the property x, that person’s credence level in the possibility of x ought to be one (1), or very near one (1). What seems possible to someone ought to influence one’s credence level one way or the other, regardless of the actual ontological possibility of whatever is in question. And, a person’s credence ought to be even more strongly influenced one way or another by not mere epistemic possibility, but ontological possibility, and (to borrow from Kant) confidence of this driven by not merely reflecting upon the noumenal realm, but by a posteriori reflection of the phenomenal realm. Accordingly, we are now dealing with what counts as something which
can be empirically verified as opposed to that which can neither be verified nor falsified.28 If a person’s epistemic situation leads them to conclude that some proposition is possibly true, this epistemic situation naturally leads to the conclusion that the proposition is possibly true; this much is tautological; possibly p entails that possibly p. However, the modal seemings here don’t do near as much work as the work done if that person has reason to believe that the proposition is actually true in the actual world.
Back to Ontological Arguments But we are interested in (36), and only secondarily with whether or not the Rangers will win the World Series, or whether it is even possible that such a marvelous and wonderful event occur. In light of what we’ve gleaned from Bayesian approaches to probability, let’s consider again (36) and modal ontological arguments. We need to reconsider the nature of maximal excellence. Yujin Nagasawa has recently defended a novel version of perfect being theology that does not depend upon omniperfection.29 I have defended Anselmian omniperfection against Nagasawa’s reformulation elsewhere, but the points that I am making here hold regardless of whether or not Anselmianism entails omniperfection or a more modest understanding of maximal greatness. Space constraints prevent me from revisiting those issues in greater detail. To be clear, I defend classical theism, whereupon God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipresent, immutable, sovereign, impassible, metaphysically simple, and God exists a se, and necessarily so. Christians have historically embraced this view of God on the basis of both natural revelation (e.g., philosophical theology) and special revelation. On the assumption of divine simplicity, it doesn’t make ontological sense to separate these properties as though they were components of the divine nature. Moreover, some scholars who deny divine simplicity have argued for some kind of unity among the various divine attributes while others have suggests various entailment
28 J. William Forgie, “The Modal Ontological Argument and the Necessary A Posteriori,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 29, no. 3 (1991): 12941. 29 Cf., Yujin Nagasawa, Maximal God: A New Defence of Perfect Being Theism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics
relationships between these attributes.30 Additionally, C’Zar Bernstein has argued compellingly that all perfections are compatible with other perfections, so long as the perfections in view are not maximally great, yet opposite ends of a spectrum.31 Obviously, none of this works if the omniconstruals of the great-making attributes are not compossible, for it that were the case, the probability in question would be 0. However, as I mentioned antecedently, Nagasawa has offered a compelling defense of perfect being theology that avoids even this worry.32 Accordingly, for anyone who takes issue with classical theism, my point still stands on Nagasawa’s reformulation of Anselmianism. For our present purposes, I will speak of the various attributes independently, following the standard heuristic conventions, and to simplify things, I focus on power, knowledge, and love. Let us assume, for the sake of argument that a maximally great being, if one exists at all, is omnipotent (P), omniscient (K), and omnibenevolent (L). For the purposes of our discussion, we symbolize (36) as follows: (36) = ¸( (x (Px•Kx•Lx)))
Now, in order for any being to exemplify the conjunction of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence, it must be possible for some being to exemplify any one of these attributes individually. That is, if any one of these great-making attributes is logically impossible (e.g., self-referentially incoherent), then the co-instantiation of this attribute with any other attribute is obviously logically impossible. Accordingly, (1) P(¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx))) | ¸( (xPx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (xPx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)) | ~¸( (xPx))33 30
Richard Swinburne, The Coherence of Theism, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016). 31 C’Zar Bernstein, “Is God’s Existence Possible?” Heythrop Journal 59, no. 3 (2018): 424-32, and “Giving the Ontological Argument Its Due,” Philosophia 42, no. 3 (2014): 665-79. The caveat is meant to avoid puzzles raised by Michael Tooley in “Plantinga’s Defense of the Ontological Argument,” Mind 90 (1981): 422-27. 32 Nagasawa, Maximal God. 33 Read: The probability that it is possible that, necessarily, there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent being, on the assumption that it is possible that, necessarily, an omnipotent being exists, is greater than the probability that it is possible that, necessarily, there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent being, on the assumption that it is unknown (“in
Once we recognize this for omnipotence, we can apply this sort of Bayesian reasoning to omniscience, and then to omnibenevolence. (2) P(¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)) | ¸( (xKx)) > P(¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)) | “In the dark about” ¸( (xKx)) > P(¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)) | ~¸( (xKx)) (3) P(¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)) | ¸( (xLx)) > P(¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)) | “In the dark about” ¸( (xLx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)) | ~¸( (xLx))
Having considered these three steps, we can take four more. It goes without saying that if our credence for (36) can be increased by considering evidence for the actual instantiation of a single attribute, then such evidence can be added together to further increase our credence in (36).34 Symbolically, (4) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (xPx)) • ¸( (xKx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (xPx)) ( (¸ שxKx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ~¸( (xPx)) ( (¸~שxKx)) (5) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (xPx)) • ¸( (xLx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (xPx)) ( (¸ שxLx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ~¸( (xPx)) ( (¸~שxLx)) (6) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (xKx)) • ¸( (xLx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) |“In the dark about” ¸( (xKx)) ( (¸ שxLx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ~¸( (xKx)) ( (¸~ שxLx))
the dark”) whether or not it is possible that, necessarily, an omnipotent being exists, is greater than the probability that it is possible that, necessarily, there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent being, on the assumption that it is not possible that, necessarily, an omnipotent being exists. 34 In what follows, I use the wedge to indicate “or” in logical form to show why one’s credence should be lower in cases where one is “in the dark” about the possibility of something, or in cases where one knows that something is impossible. The formulas demonstrate the decreasing credences regardless of whether one takes the disjunction to be exclusive or inclusive. Therefore, I won’t bother adding additional formulas by changing the “or” to “and” even though those formulas are also correct, since doing so would merely clarify the meaning of an inclusive disjunction, and because the conclusion for which I argue is already sufficiently supported by the fourteen formulas already provided.
Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics
And even, (7) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (xPx)) • ¸( (xKx)) • ¸( (xLx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (xPx)) ( (¸ שxKx)) ש ¸( (xLx)) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ~¸( (xPx)) ( (¸~שxKx)) ( (¸~שxLx))
Moreover, we can take additional steps that represent the coinstantiation of two of the three attributes. (8) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (x(Px•Kx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” (¸( (x(Px•Kx)))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)) | ~¸( (x(Px•Kx)))
The same goes for the conjunction of omnipotence and omnibenevolence, and then again for the conjunction of omniscience and omnibenevolence. Symbolized, (9) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (x(Px•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (x(Px•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ~¸( (x(Px•Lx))) (10) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (x(Kx•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (x(Kx•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ~¸( (x(Kx•Lx)))
At this point, we can combine all of these evidences together, just as we did when considering the evidential value of individual attributes. Therefore, (11) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (x(Px•Kx))) • ¸( (x(Px•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (x(Px•Kx))) ש ¸( (x(Px•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ~¸( (x(Px•Kx))) ( (¸~ שx(Px•Lx))) (12) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (x(Px•Lx))) • ¸( (x(Kx•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (x(Px•Lx))) ש ¸( (x(Kx•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx))) | ~¸( (x(Px•Lx))) ( (¸~ שx(Kx•Lx))) (13) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (x(Px•Kx))) • ¸( (x(Kx•Lx))) > P(¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (x(Px•Kx))) ש ¸( (x(Kx•Lx))) > P(¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ~¸( (x(Px•Kx))) ( (¸~ שx(Kx•Lx)))
And finally, (14) P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ¸( (x(Px•Kx))) • ¸( (x(Px•Lx))) • ¸( (x(Kx•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | “In the dark about” ¸( (x(Px•Kx))) ש ¸( (x(Px•Lx))) ( (¸ שx(Kx•Lx))) > P (¸( (x(Px•Kx•Lx)))) | ~¸( (x(Px•Kx))) ( (¸~ שx(Px•Lx))) ש ~¸( (x(Kx•Lx)))
Okay—Now What? An open-minded person should recognize the force of these formulations, and an open-minded person would also be open to any evidence for the existence of an omnipotent being, or an omniscient being, or an omnibenevolent being. Is there any such evidence? Yes, there’s lots of evidence. First, there is evidence on the basis that each of these properties seems to be internally consistent, and there are arguments against naysayers.35 Moreover, they are certainly conceivable, and many philosophers think that conceivability entails possibility.36 I’ve already defended the idea that the intellectual virtue of epistemic open-mindedness together with common sense modal intuitionism leads rational people to default towards possibility for positive existentials, but not for negative existentials, unless there is some reason for thinking some given subject under consideration is known to be impossible. After all, possibility is a much weaker claim than either necessity or impossibility. Therefore, apart from any argument that purports to show that these attributes are logically impossible, it’s reasonable to see why an open-minded person would think as much. This suffices to produce whatever amount of evidence comes from what I’ve called the epistemic possibility of each of these individual attributes.
Here I am thinking about the paradox of the stone as a supposed proof against omnipotence, and the numerous responses that refute arguments against omnipotence. Cf. George I. Mavrodes, “Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence,” Philosophical Review 72, no. 2 (1963): 221-23; and Swinburne’s chapter on divine power in Coherence of Theism. Various published philosophical responses to the paradox of the stone in defense of omnipotence are too numerous to cite here. Responses are also available for objections against omniscience and/or omnibenevolence, many of which are well-known by anyone with even a basic awareness of the academic philosophical literature on perfect being theology. 36 See several of the essays in Tamar Szabó Gendler and John Hawthorne, eds. Conceivability and Possibility (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics
But I think we can say more. I think we have evidence that produces not only the epistemic possibility of such, but for the actual instantiation of these attributes. For instance, it seems to me that moral arguments yield an omnibenevolent being who exists necessarily. What else could serve as the ground for objective moral facts that are necessarily true? Furthermore, it seems that some cosmological arguments yield not only a necessary being, but also an omnipotent and omniscient being, at least on certain Thomistic understandings of divine power and divine knowledge. So, it seems that we can get (1), and (2), and (3), and we also have (4). From various combinations, we can easily generate (5), (6), and (7). Therefore, apart from some argument that provides compelling evidence against the possibility of a being that is both omnipotent and omniscient, any open-minded person is epistemically justified in believing that such a being is possible. The same goes for a being that is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, and the same goes for a being that is both omniscient and omnibenevolent. With this in view, we can run (8) through (14) in a way that yields the evidence that stems from the sorts of epistemic possibility available on (8) through (14). Perhaps there are arguments for the actual existence of the types of beings that exemplifies any two of the omni-attributes we are considering. Again, some cosmological arguments probably establish not only divine omnipotence, but also divine omniscience. If there are any other such arguments, then those would allow us to run (8) through (14) such that these formulas yield not only the type of evidence available on epistemic possibility, but rather the stronger evidence that comes by way of the actual existence of a being that exemplifies any two of the omni-attributes we are considering. This model lends itself to being built out to accommodate any and all other great-making attributes that are traditionally associated with classical theism. Apart from an argument demonstrating as much, we have no reason to think this is false, especially in light of the sorts of moves that enable the shift from (1) through (7) to (8) through (14). A critic might retort, “All well and good, but (36) isn’t about anything you’ve discussed in (1) through (14). We are interested in something greater than what you’ve discussed, and therefore we are just as much in the dark as before we got started.” This is incorrect for two reasons. First, just as the presumption of possibility over impossibility is right for any open-minded person when considering the co-instantiation of any two omni-attributes (apart from an argument purporting to show that such co-instantiation is logically impossible), so too is this same presumption of possibility right for an open-minded person when considering the co-
instantiation of three (or more) omni-attributes (apart from an argument purporting to show such a co-instantiation is logically impossible). Therefore, we aren’t as “in the dark” as the critic might have us believe, and all the more given Bernstein’s logical proof defending the compossibility of all perfections. Obviously, none of this works if the omni-construals of the great-making attributes are not compossible, for it that were the case, the probability in question would be 0. Second, once we have taken the first reason into account, we can reexamine (1) through (14) to provide evidence for (36). After all, an open-minded person’s credence in the proposition “Possibly, a maximally great being exists,” seems like it should be higher if that person knows that the various great-making attributes that together comprise maximal greatness are individually logically possible, and that a truly open-minded person’s credence might even be even higher if such a person were to know that any two of these individual attributes are compossible with each other in ways that come up short of maximal greatness. Regardless, an open-minded person’s credence in (36) should be very high if that openminded person believes that the divine attributes are compossible in any way that actually yields maximal greatness.
The Payoff So, what are we to make of all this Bayesian reasoning about arguments for God’s existence? In light of open-mindedness, we can conclude at least two things. Modal ontological argument can serve as book ends for cumulative case approaches to arguments for the existence of God. Open-minded persons should be able to see how the modal ontological argument on its own contributes to the cumulative case, just as cosmological arguments do, along with moral arguments, arguments from contingency, arguments from motion, arguments from beauty, arguments from numbers, and even the argument from so many arguments. Notice, however, that the individual arguments that collectively establish a cumulative case for theism also help motivate the central premise of Plantinga’s modal ontological argument. That is, other arguments for the existence of God that lead to a necessary being lend epistemic support to (36). The other important thing to consider is how a posteriori reasoning contributes to modal ontological arguments. Traditionally, philosophers have categorized ontological arguments as a priori arguments that trade on reflections about the relation(s) that obtain(s) between logical truths. In light of what I’ve written above, I propose alternative approaches to
Dogmatic Open-Mindedness and Open-Minded Dogmatics
ontological arguments that involve appeals to a posteriori reasoning which motivates the key premise of Plantinga’s modal ontological argument. Open-minded people will be willing to allow both a priori and a posteriori evidence to shape the way that they think about the nature of possibility, and relatedly, whether or not God’s existence is possible. Perhaps we should deem such open-minded approaches as a posteriori modal ontological arguments. But, the real payoff is when open-minded people consider other arguments for theism besides modal ontological arguments. A cumulative case ontological argument helps open-minded people see how a person’s credence in (36) can increase from wherever one places their credence with respect to the intrinsic probability of theism. This, in turn, serves to help open-minded people see not only the rationality of theism, but also helps philosophers recognize not only the validity, but the soundness, of Plantinga’s modal ontological argument. Accordingly, this all helps openminded people believe in the existence of God.
§3. Conclusion In this essay, I explored some of the ways that open-mindedness might be related to issues in philosophy of religion. During a brief survey of the literature on open-mindedness, I pointed out how open-mindedness pairs nicely with a minimalist conception of virtue epistemology. I pointed out that there are certain problems with understanding open-mindedness as an intellectual virtue, so I suggested that we take open-mindedness to be an ideal methodological approach for people who aren’t antecedently convinced of any proposition in question. Interestingly, it seems that no one has any problems with being dogmatic about the need for openmindedness, which isn’t particularly open-minded. In the second section of the essay, I turned my attention toward the application of methodological open-mindedness with respect to three different arguments for God’s existence: the argument from so many arguments, Plantinga’s modal ontological argument, and the cumulative case approach to God’s existence. In light of these arguments and other supporting material, I argued that atheism is almost never epistemically justified for openminded people. Therefore, open-minded people should conclude that God exists. As demonstrated, if God exists at all, God exists of necessity. Interestingly, it appears that in some cases, being open-minded leads to dogmatic conclusions.
Works Cited Adams, Robert Merrihew. “Presumption and the Necessary Existence of God,” Noûs 22, no. 1 (1988). Adler, Jonathan. “Reconciling Open-Mindedness and Belief,” Theory and Research in Education 2, no. 2 (2004).
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Second Edition, trans. Terence Irwin. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1999. Bernstein, C’Zar. “Giving the Ontological Argument Its Due,” Philosophia 42, no. 3 (2014). —. “Is God’s Existence Possible?” Heythrop Journal 59, no. 3 (2018). Cortez, Marc, Joshua Farris, and S. Mark Hamilton, eds. Being Saved: Explorations in Human Salvation. London: SCM Press, 2018). Dancy, Jonathan and Ernest Sosa, eds. A Companion to Epistemology. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992. Dougherty, Trent and Jerry L. Walls. Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Forgie, J. William. “The Modal Ontological Argument and the Necessary A Posteriori,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 29, no. 3 (1991). Gardner, Peter “Should We Teach Children to Be Open-Minded? Or, Is the Pope Open-Minded About the Existence of God?” Journal of Philosophy of Education 27, no. 1 (1993). Gendler, Tamar Szabó and John Hawthorne, eds. Conceivability and Possibility. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Hare, William. In Defence of Open-Mindedness. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1985. Hare, William. “The Ideal of Open-Mindedness and its Place in Education,” Journal of Thought 38, no. 2 (2003). —. “What Open-Mindedness Requires,” Skeptical Inquirer 33, no. 2 (2009). Keynes, John Maynard. Treatise on Probability. London: MacMillan & Co., 1921. Kvanvig, Jonathan L. The Intellectual Virtues and the Life of the Mind: On the Place of the Virtues in Contemporary Epistemology. Savage, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1992. Madison, B.J.C. “Is Open-Mindedness Truth Conducive?” Synthese (2017). Mavrodes, George I. “Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence,” Philosophical Review 72, no. 2 (1963): 221-23 Miller, Calum. “The Intrinsic Probability of Theism,” Philosophy Compass 13 (2018). Montmarquet, James A. Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, 1993. Nagasawa, Yujin. Maximal God: A New Defence of Perfect Being Theism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Plantinga, Alvin. The Nature of Necessity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974. Sosa, Ernest. Knowledge in Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
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Spiegel, James. “Open-Mindedness and Intellectual Humility,” Theory and Research in Education 10, no. 1 (March 2012). Swinburne, Richard. The Existence of God, Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. —. The Coherence of Theism, Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Taylor, Rebecca M. “Open-mindedness: An Intellectual Virtue in the Pursuit of Knowledge and Understanding,” Educational Theory 66 (2016). Tooley, Michael. “Plantinga’s Defense of the Ontological Argument,” Mind 90 (1981). Van Inwagen, Peter. “Ontological Arguments,” Noûs 11, no. 4 (1977). Zagzebski, Linda Trinkaus. Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
CHAPTER SIX THE VIRTUE OF CLOSE-MINDEDNESS JOHN R. GILHOOLY
In spite of some recent attempts to deal with the Dogmatism Paradox,1 I hold that one should be a dogmatist about whatever he knows that he knows – and, hence, that open-mindedness is not per se intellectually virtuous.2 The reason is that dogmatism is rationally indexed to one’s warrant for his belief. Hence, while one may have an imperfect duty to be open-minded, there is no such generic duty.
§1. The Dogmatism Paradox The Paradox is given as: If I know that h is true, then I know that any evidence against h is evidence against the something that is true; so I know that such evidence is misleading. But I should disregard evidence that I know is misleading. So, once I know that h is true, I am in a position to disregard any further evidence that seems to tell against h.3
The major line of response to the Paradox is based on “junk knowledge.” Gilbert Harman takes this tack, and it has been developed by Roy Sorensen as well as among others.4 The move is to suggest that the 1
Gilbert Harman. Thought. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973). Of course, it seems to be epistemically virtuous to be open-minded about propositions to which one is uncommitted. For example, I am open-minded (I think) about whether Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is better than his Ninth and that seems appropriate because I have never heard the Fifth Symphony. But, no one seems to argue about open-mindedness in situations like that. 3 Ibid., 148, 4 Roy A. Sorensen. “Dogmatism, Junk Knowledge, and Conditionals,” The Philosophical Quarterly 38; Carl Ginet. “Knowing Less by Knowing More,” 2
The Virtue of Close-Mindedness
paradox rests on a mistaken intuition about what effects new evidence has on old knowledge. For example, Harman suggests that: the argument for paradox overlooks the way actually having evidence can make a difference. Since I now know h, I now know that any evidence that appears to indicate something else is misleading. That does not warrant me in simply disregarding any further evidence, since getting that further evidence can change what I know. In particular, after I get such further evidence I may no longer know that it is misleading. For having the new evidence can make it true that I no longer know that new evidence is misleading.5
On the face of it, this is a confusing defense, since it is not clear how new knowledge can overturn old knowledge. There seem to be two ways: I could either fail to know h because I lost justification for my belief that h and hence ceased to believe it or for some other reason (such as headinjury or amnesia). Since only the first way of knowing less is relevant for our purposes, most commentators have tried to explain how later evidence would undermine confidence in prior knowledge sufficient to cause one to fail to know h. Sorensen’s line refers to junk conditionals to explicate Harman’s point, but the point can be put rather simply (if without technical flourish). Although one might be justified in dismissing M evidence against x on the basis of x, that dismissal from x is nontransferable to independent evidence in favor of M. So, if I came to believe M for reasons unrelated to x, I might come to believe M. Upon believing M, my credence in x might be lowered sufficiently that I no longer believed it, in which case I would cease to know it. So (with Sorensen) suppose that I know that my car is in the parking lot. Then, I know that if Doug says otherwise, then he is wrong. Fair enough. But, if in fact Doug said otherwise to me, my knowledge that he is generally reliable would cause me to reject the conditional (“if Doug says otherwise, then he is wrong”) before it would cause me to modus ponens. Doug’s reliability is sufficient to lower my credence in my original belief at the time I come to be aware of his report. Similarly (with Hawthorne), suppose that I know that the Times reports that Manchester United won the match. If that grants me knowledge that Manchester United won the match, then I know that Manchester United won. So, I know that if The Guardian reports otherwise, then the Guardian is wrong. Fair enough. But, if in fact I discovered that The Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5; John Hawthorne, Knowledge and Lotteries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). 5 Harman, 149.
Guardian reported otherwise, my knowledge that The Guardian is generally reliable would cause me to reject the conditional (“if The Guardian reports otherwise, then it is wrong”) before it would cause me to modus ponens. In each of these cases, the later discovery of a reliable source of a defeater for my initial claim is sufficient for the loss of knowledge of my initial claim. The reason for this activity, however, is because both stories assert that the new source is (1) reliable and (2) that its reliability is recognized by me at higher levels of credence than my belief in the initial claim. These solutions seem to work well for situations in which “know” is relatively weak. But, that is not what the paradox reads. To be a substitution-instance of the paradox, Sorensen’s version should read: suppose that I know that “my car is in the parking lot” is true. Then, I know that if Doug says otherwise (i.e., if he says “NOT (my car is in the parking lot)”), then he states something false. In that situation, I would not reject the conditional on the basis of Doug’s reporting to me, because, in that situation, I know that it is true that my car is in the parking lot. I know that I know it. What we have in ‘avoiding’ the paradox in these examples is an instance in which the person in question lacks confidence that the mechanism of their forming their initial belief is as reliable as the mechanism of trusting a trustworthy person’s report. So, we do not get, in fact, dogmatism from what people think they know, know without deeper consideration, prima facie know, justifiably believe with slightly more than .5 credence, or what-have-you. But, that doesn’t mean that we should not. In any case, we do get dogmatism about whatever someone knows that they know. If one knows that his belief is true, then he should reject counter-evidence because it would be misleading and he likely would reject counter-evidence for the same reason. After all, I am justified in believing that otherwise trustworthy Doug is not so in this instance because of a reliable process, namely, modus ponens. This seems also to describe any encounter one has had with a dogmatist. His “closemindedness” is usually annoying precisely because we feel that he is not in a position to claim that he knows what he claims to know, either because what he knows that he knows is false (in which case he is wrong that he knows it) or because he has some lack of justification for his confidence in what he knows. In other words, he may think that he is warranted when he is not. But, that suggests that open-mindedness is a trait we appreciate in the wrong, since confidence in what one knows he knows ought really to be expected. Hence, it is our perception that the dogmatist has an undue
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confidence in his beliefs that we find off-putting. Of course, if he knows what he knows, then his confidence is justified, and we who disagree with his belief turn out to be wrong.6
§2. Sincere Belief It seems to me that the dogmatist is justified even in instances in which he merely believes that he knows something (which, of course, is the chief accusation against any dogmatist, i.e., that he thinks or believes that he knows something when I believe that he does not). In fact, since no one goes around holding beliefs that he knows are false, one can re-motivate the paradox for any belief that one would claim to know. The issue is on the second-order posture that one has toward his own beliefs. For example, 1. 2. 3. 4.
I hold no beliefs that I know are false. So, as far as I know, all my beliefs are true. So, as far as I know, I should not revise my point of view about my beliefs. So, as far as I know, I should not be willing to revise my point of view about my beliefs. 5. So, as far as I know, I should not be open-minded about my beliefs.
So, for any particular belief I might have, my dogmatism is more or less justified (so to speak) the more or less warrant that I believe myself to have for my knowledge about my knowledge. Now, most professional philosophers likely have less confidence in many of their beliefs than the layman (because most philosophers are wimps), so perhaps it is less rational for them to be dogmatists about some of their beliefs. After all, anyone of sufficient experience probably thinks: 6. At least one of my beliefs is false.
But appealing to that point does not entail that I be less of a dogmatist about any particular belief that I have, since it does not commit me to thinking that any particular belief that I have is false. Insofar as I have a posture of commitment toward any particular belief that I have, I ought to be a dogmatist about that belief. Instances in which dogmatism seem wrong-headed seem to be instances in which we question whether a dogmatist is correct, but it is question-begging to dispute the dogmatist on
In this section, one could construe the argument as justifying close-mindedness on the assumption of externalism about epistemic justification.
those grounds.7 The reason that it is only irrational to expect that evidence will be misleading if one is wrong.
§3. Perceived Zealotry Consider the harmless creationist, subject of sustained internet mockery. He believes that: 7.
Creationism: In six days, God created the heavens and the earth.
Now, Creationism is widely held to be false, and not the sort-of-false which it is understandable to have believed. Rather, Creationism is treated as almost obviously false since the scientific community almost unilaterally rules it out. Hence, the believer of Creationism is usually taken to be (1) a charlatan, (2) massively ignorant, or (3) a zealot (i.e., ‘strongly’ close-minded about something with which one disagrees). It is not generally acknowledged that there is another possibility: (4) rationally close-minded. But, why can’t we defend the poor creationist on that score? After all, suppose he reasons this way: 8. Moses: Whatever God says through his prophets in the Bible is true. 9. Genesis: God says through his prophets in the Bible that Creationism. 10. If Moses and Genesis, then Creationism. Hence, Creationism.
How is the enlightened person to rebut such reasoning? Surely, the creationist will not be persuaded that he should be open-minded about Creationism. After all, 8, 9, 10! So, what is the plan of attack here to relieve him of his zealotry? Since he has validly arrived at Creationism via modus ponens, one must erode his confidence in either Moses or Genesis. Of course, he will strenuously resist these moves, and it seems both virtuous and rational that he would do so. After all, to dispute Moses means to attempt to show something like: 11. Moses*: It is not the case that, [Whatever God says through his prophets in the Bible is true]. 7
In this section, one could construe the argument as justifying close-mindedness on the assumption of internalism about epistemic justification. Hence, regardless of whether one holds to internalism or externalism with respect to epistemic justification or warrant, the dogmatism “paradox” gives one resources to see why close-mindedness is (often) virtuous.
The Virtue of Close-Mindedness
But, if Moses* is false (as the creationist believes), then it is vicious to believe it. Furthermore, it would be morally and intellectually vicious to be open to believing it. So, it seems that one has to beg the question against Moses in order to dispute the zealot who believes it. Consider the other premise to dispute: Genesis.8 If you intend to dispute interpretations, then you are now within the preferred space of the zealot who would still be within his epistemic rights to ignore your accounts since (from his vantage) he knows the book better than you do (and unless you are a student of biblical studies, he very well may in fact know the book better than you). If you dispute his expertise to interpret his own book, then you beg the question against his views (more than likely) about authorship, hermeneutics, and authority. After all, if he is right (and certainly he thinks he is), then it is morally and epistemically appropriate for him to remain unpersuaded by you. I trust that we all agree that there can be no demonstrations against the truth. So, if his view is true, then he knows that your arguments don’t really work (whether he knows why or not). Even if his view is false, his believing that it is true ought to be sufficient to make him rationally and morally justified in being a dogmatist. In my view, these sorts of considerations are why religious believers tend to be viewed by those outside their religious communities as bigoted, small-minded, or arrogant. After all, religious people can be so closeminded! But, it turns out on this view of the dogmatist, that it is at least epistemically justified (and I think virtuous) for them to stick-to-their-guns even in the face of what appears otherwise to be strong evidence against their positions. This doesn’t mean that they cannot “entertain” objections against their views, however, in the sense that they can listen charitably to an objector, try to understand his objection, and, then, attempt to show what’s wrong with it. But, he doesn’t have to be seriously open to reconsidering his views (and it would be intellectually vicious for him to be so open) in order to engage in this way. Furthermore, the sense in which one thinks the silly creationist should be open-minded is correlated strongly (so I assert) with the opponent’s view that it is not even possible that Creationism is true. But, that too is zealous.9
One could also dispute whether modus ponens is valid, but down that road there be dragons. 9 See Chapter 5.
Works Cited Ginet, Carl. “Knowing Less by Knowing More,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5: 151-162. Harman, Gilbert. Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973. Hawthorne, John. Knowledge and Lotteries. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Sorensen, Roy A. “Dogmatism, Junk Knowledge, and Conditionals,” The Philosophical Quarterly 38: 433-454.
SECTION 3: APPLICATIONS OF OPEN-MINDEDNESS
CHAPTER SEVEN WE SHOULD BE OPEN-MINDED ABOUT ‘GOD OF THE GAPS’ ARGUMENTS ROBERT B. STEWART
My primary purpose in this essay is to challenge the automatic rejection of theistic Gap arguments, or “God of the gaps” arguments as they are commonly called, because of the nature rather than the content of these arguments. I believe that in large part this is an argument type concerning which most philosophers have been too quick to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water. While I do not have a particular theistic gap argument to propose, I will argue that philosophers of religion should in principle be open to such arguments. I wish to investigate two questions in order to press my point. Those questions are: (1) What would a sound theistic gap argument look like? and (2) What effect should a scientific discovery that undermines a theistic gap argument in part or entirely have on future arguments for God’s existence that appeal to a gap in our scientific knowledge? Two preliminary questions immediately arise. First, exactly what sort of argument is a “God of the gaps” argument, and second, what exactly is the (supposed) problem with this sort of reasoning?
§1. Defining “Gap Arguments” Gregory Ganssle argues that God of the gaps arguments come in a variety of forms, some of which are superior to others. He demonstrates that most of these sorts of arguments are formally valid.1 He further shows that such arguments are typically probabilistic arguments. He states it thus: 1
Gregory Ganssle, “‘God of the Gaps’ Arguments,” in Blackwell Companion to Christianity and Science, ed. James Stump and Alan G. Padgett (London: Wiley Blackwell, 2012), 130-31.
We Should Be Open-Minded about ‘God of the Gaps’ Arguments
1. It is probably the case that natural means cannot explain event E. 2. Therefore, it is probably the case that there is a supernatural explanation of event E.
He adds that two premises must also be affirmed, either explicitly or implicitly: 3. There is an explanation for event E. 4. Every explanation is either Natural or Supernatural.
Interestingly he notes that arguments sharing this form are not referred to as “gap” arguments when they are not “scientific” arguments about natural vs. supernatural causes. Examples of arguments that have a similar form are not hard to find. William Rowe’s evidential argument from evil for atheism comes to mind. Rowe’s argument runs thus: 5. P: No good we know of justifies God in permitting E1 and E2; 6. Therefore, it is probable that ~G: There is no omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good being.2
So why is not Rowe’s argument commonly characterized as a “Gap” argument? Ganssle believes that the answer to this question is, because it is not a gap argument “from science.” Robert Larmer analyzes Gap arguments and concludes that people who apply the “Gaps” label see these arguments as arguments from ignorance. They amount to an argument from the premise, “There is no proof (or you have not proved) that E is a natural event” to the conclusion “Therefore E is not a natural event.” He concedes that arguments from ignorance are fallacious but insists that often what appears at first glance to be an argument from ignorance is actually an argument of a different sort. Larmer provides a story to make his point clear: If my son tells me that there is a Great Dane in the bathroom and I go look and find no evidence of a Great Dane, I conclude that it is false there is a Great Dane in our bathroom. My lack of evidence of it being the case that there is a Great Dane in our bathroom is good evidence that there is not a Great Dane in our bathroom because I have knowledge that if a Great 2
William L. Rowe, “The Evidential Argument from Evil: A Second Look,” in The Improbability of God, ed. Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2006), 283.
Dane were there, there should be positive evidence to confirm its presence.3
Essentially Larmer reasons thus, “If there were a Great Dane in the bathroom, it would be fairly obvious.” His argument, then, is not the following: 7. There is no evidence that there is a Great Dane in the bathroom. 8. Therefore, there is no Great Dane in the bathroom.
But rather: 9. If there were a Great Dane in the bathroom, there would be clear evidence of it. 10. There is no clear evidence that there is a Great Dane in the bathroom. 11. Therefore, there is no Great Dane in the bathroom.
So the major premise in a Gap argument from science for God would be a conditional statement and run something like, “If there were a Natural explanation for event E, we would probably know that such was the case.” This argument is not an informal argument from ignorance but rather a modus tollens.4 It appears then, at least at first glance, that there is no good reason to object to Gap arguments qua Gap arguments unless one has a problem with modus tollens. But perhaps Gap arguments from science for God’s existence are a uniquely problematic genre of modus tollens.
§2. What’s the (Supposed) Problem with Gap Arguments from Science for God? The major objection to arguments that are derided as ‘God of the Gaps’ arguments seems to be the claim that it is foolish to appeal to a gap in our scientific knowledge when science has systematically been closing such gaps, i.e., showing how things formerly assumed to have been the result of
Robert Larmer, “Is There Anything Wrong with ‘God of the Gaps’ Reasoning?” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 52.3 (Dec. 2002): 131. (Emphasis added) 4 Larmer here cites Douglas Walton, Arguments from Ignorance (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), 134-35.
We Should Be Open-Minded about ‘God of the Gaps’ Arguments
divine action can be explained by observing certain natural phenomena. Ganssle writes: Some might be tempted to think that there is something special about arguments that are about God such that they get labeled Gap arguments while other arguments of the same structure will not earn the label. But what is special about the arguments that earn the “Gap argument” label is not something about God, as we all know, but something about science. The gap in our knowledge appealed to is a gap in our scientific knowledge. From a gap in the current state of our scientific knowledge, we infer a gap in reality. We argue for a gap in what naturalistic items can explain. The problem with this kind of reasoning, many argue, is that gaps in our scientific knowledge are shrinking. What we know today will be supplemented by more accurate, more detailed, and wider reaching knowledge tomorrow. Locating our argument for a supernatural explanation in this kind of gap, then, is locating it on shrinking ground.5
While I agree with Ganssle that the distinctive thing about Gap arguments is that they argue from a gap in the current state of our scientific knowledge, from the perspective of applied apologetics I am one of those who is not only tempted to think but actually believes that Gap arguments for God, as well as other theistic arguments from science are too quickly criticized—and frequently misrepresented—precisely because they are arguments for God. My point here is not a logical point but rather a personal observation about human psychology that comes from countless experiences with atheists and from reading contemporary atheistic literature. In short, I see the issue, at least in part as a worldview question, not simply a logical issue. In my opinion that is why Rowe’s Gap argument is generally not characterized as such. Consider once more Larmer’s canine modus tollens: The primary issue seems to be the major (conditional) premise: “If there were a Great Dane in the bathroom, there would be clear evidence of it.” The truthfulness of this premise depends neither upon one’s motivation nor one’s beliefs but upon the relevant facts about bathrooms and Great Danes! It would seem then that the truthfulness of the major premise in Gap arguments of this form about God based on our understanding of science will depend upon the relevant facts about God, nature, and science, not the persons making the argument nor their motivation. Larmer’s Great Dane story is, of course, fairly unproblematic. Virtually everyone agrees that both Great Danes and bathrooms are more 5
easily comprehended than either God or science. Filling in the blanks with a specific Gap argument from science for God will thus be more difficult. Unless and until we state exactly what it is that we should reasonably expect to be able to find evidence for, we are being hopelessly vague. Another important question is this: is it true that science is systematically closing all such gaps in our knowledge and that any such argument is unavoidably situated on shrinking ground? I cannot see how one can answer this question with any degree of certainty. I certainly cannot see how one could scientifically demonstrate such a thing, though one could appeal to history and thus argue from the history of science. That seems to me, however, to be a very dicey path to take because one cannot be certain that future scientific discoveries will close a Gap argument. It’s even possible that future scientific discoveries may widen the gap! Furthermore, it is not clear to me that the ground is shrinking at all. No doubt the overall amount of scientific knowledge that we possess today is greater than it was in the past. But is what we know in comparison to what we don’t know, or even to what we know that we don’t know decreasing or increasing? I am not certain how to answer this question because I don’t know how to measure such things, nor does anyone else as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, my non-scientific, look-around-town epistemology seems to be telling me that every time scientists come to understand a previous mystery, they find themselves confronted with a host of new questions. So it may not be the case that the so-called gaps are shrinking; they may be growing, or simply relocating themselves. While this is a significant concern, it is also one that I am interested in enough to point out but not a question that I can pursue in any systematic way in this essay. So on to the questions that are the focus of this paper.
(1) What would a sound theistic gap argument look like?6 I am not seeking to provide a specific theistic Gap argument; I am attempting to provide a general description of the conditions that a sound theistic Gap argument would meet. My focus is thus upon the structure and nature of the hypothetical argument, not the content. It is important to understand that often we are made aware of gaps in our scientific knowledge because of what we know. In such cases, our lack 6
I am using the word “sound,” a term especially related to deductive reasoning despite being as yet unpersuaded that a proper gap argument from science must be deductive in nature.
We Should Be Open-Minded about ‘God of the Gaps’ Arguments
of knowledge in a particular area may be surprising—and significant. Recognizing this point will be key to any legitimate theistic gap argument. It seems then that for a sound theistic gap argument from science to be made certain conditions need to be met. Allow me briefly to unpack what I think these conditions are. These terms are my own and are meant to apply only within this context. The Expectation Condition. There is an obvious and admitted gap in our knowledge, such that knowing what we know, we would expect to be able to provide a naturalistic explanation of the phenomena observed and thus there should be no gap. Nevertheless, a gap still remains. (This would provide the major or conditional premise to a modus tollens.) The Prolonged Failed-Search Condition. After much research and investigation, no significant progress has been made. It may even be the case that the situation has regressed rather than merely being one where no progress has been made. (This would provide the minor premise of a modus tollens.) These are, in my view, the necessary (or minimal) conditions for a legitimate gap argument. But there are some accidental conditions that can further strengthen a gap argument. The Predictability Condition. Given what we believe theologically about God, his nature, and particularly his action in this world, the quandary that we find ourselves in is predictable. This is similar to Ganssle’s premise 12 below: If there were a supernatural agent at work in this context, we would expect something like event E. (This could apply either to arguments for Classical Theism or for Christian Theism.) The Related Gaps Condition. Other gaps are related directly or indirectly to the initial gap. In other words, the gap widens as a result of attempts to fill it in. This is the inverse of the abductive criterion of fruitfulness (which again, we shall see shortly below). Ganssle offers two types of Gap arguments that he believes are immune to the shrinking gap objection. The first builds on the expectation that we probably would (should?) know what the Natural explanation was if there were one.
Chapter Seven 12. No natural means we know of can explain event E. 13. There is an explanation of event E. 14. Every explanation is either natural or supernatural. 15. If there were a natural means to explain event E, we would probably know that this is the case. 16. Therefore probably no natural means can explain event E. 17. Therefore, it is probably the case that there is a supernatural explanation of event E.
The second includes all that the first does and builds further upon a reasonable expectation concerning divine action. 18. No natural means we know of can explain event E. 19. There is an explanation of event E. 20. Every explanation is either natural or supernatural. 21. If there were a natural means to explain event E, we would probably know that this is the case. 22. Therefore probably no natural means can explain event E 23. If there were a supernatural agent at work in this context, we would expect something like event E. 24. Therefore, it is probably the case that there is a supernatural explanation of event E.
Ganssle refers to this as the Final Argument form. I concur with Ganssle to a significant degree. I am a bit uneasy, however, about the sorts of arguments, or more specifically premises in formal arguments, that speculate on what we would (subjunctive mood) reasonably expect God to do. This does not mean that no argument involving such a premise could be sound. But my default mode is to be skeptical about such claims—and thus to be very careful in making them. (This does not mean, however, that I myself never make statements about what God can be expected to do—in fact, I do—but I endeavor to do so only on the basis of the clear teaching of Scripture or evident reason.) My
We Should Be Open-Minded about ‘God of the Gaps’ Arguments
uneasiness is just that, a sense of discomfort, rather than an outright objection. Furthermore, I have a minor concern that his Final Form is not as simple as possible. In other words, there are more premises that could fail rather than fewer. I generally try to follow Ockham and try not to multiply entities unnecessarily. I am therefore inclined to think that (23) might strengthen his argument, it is not necessary to his or any Gap argument, and could also possibly undermine his argument. On the positive side, however, adding (23) gives the argument the “feel” of predictability, an important scientific/abductive criterion. It seems then that a sound theistic Gap argument can possibly be made. But clearly numerous arguments have been made that have later been shown to be unsound. What does this mean? This brings us to my second question.
(2) What effect should a scientific discovery that undermines a theistic gap argument in part or entirely have on future arguments for God’s existence that appeal to a gap in our scientific knowledge? No doubt there is a psychological tendency to shy away from making theistic gap arguments. But why? Although many assert “God of the gaps” as though the phrase itself were a magic wand that makes any argument from science vanish with a mere wave, it should now be obvious that it is not a priori the case that every conceivable gap argument from science is invalid or unsound, or that every gap in our scientific knowledge will eventually be filled by a naturalistic explanation. This realization alone should make us, at least in theory, if not in practice, open to the possibility that a theistic gap argument from science might be sound. Still, it is not difficult to think of arguments that have appealed to God either as part of a scientific model or that have argued to God from a gap in our scientific knowledge that was later filled in by a Naturalistic explanation. (NB: There is a great deal of difference between making God part of a scientific model and making a philosophical argument based upon scientific findings, or lack thereof.) So what exactly is proven when a theistic Gap argument from science is shown to be faulty due a new scientific discovery? Such a case would prove that that particular argument was unsound and that science changes—and hopefully on the whole advances. That’s all. These cases would not prove that all gap arguments from science are unsound, or even that any other particular Gap argument from science is unsound simply
because it is a Gap argument. Change is simply part of the nature of science. It may well be that a particular Gap argument for God will be undermined by later scientific discoveries. But the most that that could prove is that that particular argument was not a good argument, not that no Gap argument could ever be sound, or that God does not exist!
§3. On Abduction and the Scientific Method One frequently overlooked point is that scientists and philosophers generally reason in dramatically different ways, or at least rely primarily on different types of reasoning. Philosophers, especially those in the Analytic tradition, typically reason formally, i.e., deductively. Scientists typically reason pragmatically, i.e., abductively. This is not to say that scientists do not make use of both deduction and induction—they do! But neither deduction nor induction is the starting or ending point in most scientific reasoning. Scientific theories begin with abduction and end with abduction. Scientific theories are judged, and more importantly accepted or rejected, primarily on the basis of abductive reasoning. Abduction is a type of pragmatic reasoning, given its formal name by the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914).7 Peirce did not invent abduction; human beings have always practiced it. He did, however, give formal expression to something that people have always done, thus allowing future reasoning of this sort to be done in a more critically aware and consistent manner. Like induction abduction depends upon a posteriori observation and its conclusions are not guaranteed to be true. Unlike induction it is not simply about the probability of such and such being the case based upon repeated observation. Abductive reasoning attempts to offer an explanation of the facts, to say why things are the way they are. Abduction seeks to determine the most plausible solution to a problem. In other words, the goal of abduction is to find the likeliest explanation. 7
Peirce also calls abduction “retroduction” or “hypothesis.” See C. S. Peirce, Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. Justus Buchler (New York: Dover, 1955), esp. 150-56; 190-217; idem, Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, ed. Charles Hartshorne, Paul Weiss, and Arthur Banks (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935-1966), esp. V.I.VI-VII; idem, Chance, Love, and Logic (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1923). For useful secondary studies on Peirce’s abductive method, see A. J. Ayer, The Origins of Pragmatism: Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce and William James (San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper, and Company, 1968); and K. T. Fann, Peirce’s Theory of Abduction (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1970).
We Should Be Open-Minded about ‘God of the Gaps’ Arguments
Abductive reasoning is center stage at the first logical moment and the last logical moment of a scientific breakthrough. This is because paradigm-changing insights are abductive moments of creative insight. Abduction also provides the criteria by which a scientific theory is tested. Science proceeds on the basis of inferences. These inferences are of different natures and involve different types of reasoning. The first inference is abductive, or creative in nature; the second is deductive, or logical in nature; while the third is inductive, or observational in nature. The final moment is once again abductive (albeit a different type of abduction than is active in the first logical moment).8 The creative-abductive stage is when a scientist creates or tentatively adopts a hypothesis that, if true, would explain certain phenomena. For instance, he might infer that the behavior of materials would be explicable if they were made up of tiny particles, which could react to other tiny particles of different materials, sometimes combining, sometimes behaving in other ways. The deductive stage involves using logic to infer testable consequences that would follow if the hypothesis considered were true. On the basis of these consequences, predictions can be made. 8
There are numerous types of abduction. Umberto Eco helpfully identifies four types of abduction for us: (1) Overcoded abduction—When the interpretive law (or hypothesis or framework) is supplied automatically/ immediately. An example of this sort of subconscious reasoning, in which one makes a choice somewhat automatically, without giving conscious consideration to one’s choice concerning the meaning of a sign, would be assuming that when one hears the sound “man” in a cosmopolitan setting that one is hearing the English word for a male rather than some other word that sounds the same in another language; (2) Undercoded abduction—When the interpretive law (or hypothesis or framework) is selected from multiple pre-existing options that are equally probable; (3) Creative abduction—When no interpretive law (or hypothesis or framework) via which one interprets data exists and therefore a new law must be created by the investigator. An example of this sort of abductive reasoning is the sort of ‘paradigm construction’ that Thomas Kuhn writes about in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1962); (4) Metaabduction—This sort of abduction relates only to creative abduction, not to overor undercoded abduction because their models and conclusions are drawn from the existing, prior world of human experience. The paradigm proposed by creative abduction does not. Therefore meta-abduction tests the proposed paradigm as to its verifiability. See Umberto Eco, “Horns, Hooves, and Insteps: Some Hypotheses on Three Types of Abduction,” in The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce, ed. Umberto Eco and Thomas A. Sebeok (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 206-207.
The inductive stage involves the testing—through experimentation— of the predictions inferred at the deductive stage. In this way an experimental prediction is verified or falsified.9 The meta-abductive stage is when scientific theories are tested by abductive criteria. While there are no universally agreed-upon criteria, there are generally agreed-upon criteria for abduction by which one may test a hypothesis.10 Among the most common are: Clarity—Is the theory clearly stated? Coherence—Does the theory fit with what we already know (or have good reason to believe is true?) Particularly, does the math work? Fruitfulness—Does the theory provide an explanation for questions to which there have previously been no good answers? Simplicity—Is the theory simpler than its rivals (Ockham’s razor)? Simply put (no pun intended) simpler theories are less likely to be flawed than are more complex theories. Comprehensiveness—Does the theory account for all the available data? Coherency and simplicity are much more easily attained if one disregards some of the data, but the conclusion is more likely to be flawed. In some ways comprehensiveness serves as a guard to overemphasizing simplicity. Predictability—Can one make predictions based on the theory? Experiments can come from a theory that makes predictions. Testability/Falsifiability—Can the theory be tested, i.e., proven false? If it cannot, then neither can it be confirmed. (Of course, this means that observations matter.) This idea of falsification is one of the most important of all concepts in the philosophy of science.11
Charles Sanders Peirce famously presents this schema in “The Fixation of Belief,” Popular Science Monthly, 12 (November 1877): 1-15. 10 Those criteria which I shall list are the most commonly used in critiquing scientific theories. Some of these will not apply to other fields of investigation such as history or criminal investigation, which in turn will also have some criteria which are unique to their specific foci and ends. 11 Where theoretical science is concerned testability is the one criterion that seems to rule all other criteria.
We Should Be Open-Minded about ‘God of the Gaps’ Arguments
Elegance—Can the theory be stated simply and applied universally? In most cases “elegance” refers to the mathematical expression of the theory or some part of it (think e=mc2).
Abduction permeates our thinking. We use it multiple times every day though for the most part we are unaware of what we are doing. We even use it when we are consciously engaging in deductive reasoning. We assess individual premises of a formal argument as to their truthfulness primarily on an abductive basis.12 Abductive conclusions are always subject to revision when new facts are brought to light. But what if the most likely explanation for an unexpected gap in our scientific knowledge, a gap that was unanticipated given our understanding of the field of investigation but was undeniably present despite a prolonged and systematic investigation by a very large number of experts, involved an appeal to the Supernatural? Would that disqualify it as the most likely explanation? Some would say “yes,” and argue that science must proceed as a type of methodological naturalism. This, of course, is a philosophical position rather than a scientific one. Those holding this position can appeal to simplicity but in doing so they also risk violating comprehensiveness. Significantly, if one appeals to methodological naturalism, then it seems evident, at least to me, that one cannot then move to metaphysical naturalism on the basis of methodological naturalism because one has already ruled metaphysics out of bounds. To conduct this conversation properly requires more time and space than I have but suffice it to say that it does not appear obvious to me that the best abductive solution will always be a Natural one. To those who argue against this possibility by appealing to “shrinking gaps” I say, bring on the evidence that is supposed to close the particular gap in question and then we can assess our abductive explanation. But abductive explanations are revised in light of new evidence—not the promise of evidence to come. I have attempted to provide some criteria by which to critically assess future theistic gap arguments from science, two of them being required and two being desired. No doubt there will always be a subjective element to how one assesses such arguments but there is always a subjective element to abductive reasoning. My goal in providing criteria by which to judge theistic gap arguments has not been to remove the subjective element entirely but to provide a way to provide a means by which such arguments can be reasonably judged in a fashion that is both public and 12
I am indebted to Gregory Ganssle for this insight.
critical. Objectivity is not the goal, but rather public, critical, reasoned subjectivity that is recognizably abductive is what is needed. In conclusion, so long as a theistic Gap argument is properly made, one need not worry about what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future. The best explanation at the moment is after all the best explanation at the moment.
Works Cited Ganssle, Gregory. “God of the Gaps’ Arguments,” in Blackwell Companion to Christianity and Science, eds. James Stump and Alan G. Padgett. London: Wiley Blackwell, 2012. Larmer, Robert. “Is There Anything Wrong with ‘God of the Gaps’ Reasoning?” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 52.3 (2002). Peirce, C.S. Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. Justus Buchler. New York: Dover Publications Co., 1955. Rowe, William L. “The Evidential Argument from Evil: A Second Look,” in The Improbability of God, eds. Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier. Amherst: Prometheus, 2006. Walton, Douglas. Arguments from Ignorance. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996.
CHAPTER EIGHT ON THE INCOMPATIBILITY OF FAITH AND INTELLECTUAL HUMILITY JAMES ELLIOTT
§1. Introduction In the last several years, a burgeoning literature concerning the epistemic role and status of both intellectual humility (hereafter “IH”) and faith has begun to uncover some exciting uncharted ground.1 Interestingly, many popular-level ‘Science vs. Religion’ tractates, most notably those of the so-called “New Atheists”, have had a parallel insurgence.2 This poplevel milieu is characterized by questions such as the following: “What is faith, and how does it differ from scientific inquiry and skepticism?”, “Is faith rational?”, and “What role does faith have in the modern world?”3 1
See, e.g., Laura Frances Callahan and Timothy O’Connor, eds. Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). See also James Spiegel. “Open-mindedness and Religious Devotion.” Sophia 52, no.1 (2013): 143-158; as well as his “Open-mindedness and Intellectual Humility.” Theory and Research in Education 10, no.1 (2012): 27-38. Great work coming out of research groups and projects (such as the recent “Nature and Value of Faith” project at Baylor University, “The Philosophy and Theology of Intellectual Humility” initiative at St. Louis University, and the “Humility: Moral, Religious, Intellectual” research theme at the Biola University Center for Christian Thought) also attest to this trend. 2 Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006) famously epitomizes this trend. The stellar sales of a recent (and mostunfortunately titled) book by Jerry Coyne [Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. (New York: Viking, 2015)] attest to the ensuing popularity of this sort of literature. 3 Discussion of IH has been far more marginal in the popular ‘science vs. religion’ literature, but IH does play an important role in how many writers characterize the virtue of a skeptical, anti-faith-based epistemic paradigm.
Recent work on these topics in the academic literature is generally more nuanced and less rhetorically driven (thank goodness!). Bracketing the fact that the “faith & reason” debate is perennial, however, no work has yet been done regarding the specific relationship between faith and IH. This paper thus makes the case for a sort of incompatibility, or at least a particular conflict, that exists between faith and IH, and attempts to delineate where (at least some of) the tensions lie. We can first get an appreciation for the prima facie incompatibility between faith and IH if we take ‘IH’ to mean something like “a general inclination toward skepticism and fact-checking”, and ‘faith’ to mean something like “a general resistance to skepticism and fact-checking”. Thusly worded, IH and faith are strictly incompatible (by definition). Although these understandings of faith and IH are indeed simplistic (and thus, as stated, implausible), I think they get something right about the alleged incompatibility of faith and IH. IH suggests attitudes of epistemic caution—being careful, you might say—to not over-estimate your epistemic capacities; IH carries with it, so to speak, a healthy dose of pragmatic skepticism. Faith, alternatively, might (not unreasonably) be understood as that which gives us confidence in our beliefs or positions in spite of our doubts and skepticism. The oft-quoted Hebrews 11:1, e.g., states that “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”4 If faith is something that assures us of p when we might otherwise lack the evidence to justify such assurance, it is certainly, in at least some sense, conflicting with IH (if, again, IH demands that we not be assured when lacking such evidence). In this short paper I attempt to (i) suggest general definitions of both faith and IH, building off current proposals in the literature (in an attempt to portray both in as broad and uncontroversial a manner as feasible5), and (ii) argue that the prima facie incompatibility or tension stated above 4
It is worth noting that this is a famously difficult verse to translate into English, particularly the terms “assurance” (ਫ਼ʌȩıĲĮıȚȢ, “confidence, conviction, realization” or “nature, being”) and “conviction” (ȜİȖȤȠȢ, “proof, verification, certainty” or “evidence”). This translation is from the NRSV, and the italics were added by myself. 5 Some might scoff at this suggestion as a fool’s errand. I understand, but want to focus back to the central thesis of the paper: namely, that I’m interested in exploring a specific way in which IH and faith are often (at least pre-theoretically) assumed to be (at worst) incompatible or (at best) in tension. I thus aim to define IH and faith in ways that are broadly and fairly representative of the way each is discussed in the literature, and to show that this tension therefore aligns in at least a general sense writ large.
On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility
aligns with the ultima facie conflict or tension between the understandings of faith and IH outlined in (i). I close by considering one avenue of response for those who want to maintain that, while conflicting in these ways, IH and faith can be simultaneously virtuous.
§2. Defining Faith and IH When facing the question, “Are faith and IH incompatible?” a variety of responses might come to mind. One reason you might expect such a variety is because many tend to think of religious faith as a distinct kind of faith separate from normal faith (that is, faith simpliciter).6 One might suppose that having religious faith that some sort of supernatural deity exists, for example, is a different kind of faith than having faith that your co-worker won’t hijack your social-media account, or having faith that your shoes will not tear amid your tennis match. Although I do not personally find this distinction particularly pressing or convincing, this matter is inconsequential for the purposes of this paper.7 This paper is interested in the relationship between IH and faith simpliciter. These sorts of philosophical projects are only as good as the definitions under examination themselves, so what follows next is a brief delineation of how, in as broad, brief, and uncontroversial a manner possible, we can understand the concepts of faith and IH. For the means of this paper, I take ‘faith’ to be the following, where p represents some proposition.
6 See Robert Audi. “Belief, Faith, and Acceptance.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 63 (2008): 87-102; Daniel Howard-Snyder. “Does Faith Entail Belief?” Faith and Philosophy 33, no. 1 (2016): 142-162; and J.L. Schellenberg. “How to Make Faith a Virtue.” in Callahan and O’Connor, eds., Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014): 75-93 for discussions on this issue. 7 Another distinction that one might raise here is the difference between propositional faith (faith that-p) and interpersonal faith (faith in-p). I also do not find this distinction to be particularly substantive, especially for the purposes of the current paper. You could amend my definition (which is a definition of propositional faith) into a definition of interpersonal faith by changing “trustingthat p” with “trusting-in x”, where x represents some alternative (nonpropositional) object of faith such as a person (or abstract object like “the government”).
Chapter Eight Faith: A positively-valenced, para-doxastic, affective mental state of trusting-that p.8
That’s, no doubt, many adjectives, and the meaning of the noun itself isn’t crystal clear. Let’s address each in turn. Faith is a particular, multi-faceted affective mental state. It’s a certain way in which one can have his or her thought processes, which includes inclinations, attitudes, emotions, etc. By “para-doxastic affective mental state”, then, I mean a mental state that is chiefly characterized by inclinations and attitudes that do not in themselves pertain to belief, but only indirectly indicate belief states. Examples of such inclinations and attitudes are how optimistic you are that p, your confidence in p, how weary you are that p, and how excited you are that p. “Having faith that p”, therefore, indicates that you are in a particular affective mental state with respect to p, but it doesn’t indicate that you necessarily believe p. “Having faith that p” might suggest belief that p, but it doesn’t entail belief that p.9 8 It cannot be stressed enough that I aim to work with generally representative definitions of faith and IH in this discussion. No doubt, the project of simply defining these terms has resulted in entire literatures. Indeed, there are scholars in the field that have specifically argued that faith isn’t a mental state, or isn’t positively-valenced, or isn’t trust-based (for example). But in the context of this paper, this is secondary to my thesis. My thesis is that there is some philosophical meat behind a prima-facie intuition that faith and IH are incompatible in particular ways. Excellent places to begin on understanding the different definitions of these terms are Audi, “Belief,” and Dan-Johan Eklund. “The Nature of Faith in Analytic Theistic Philosophy of Religion.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 80, no. 1 (2016): 85-99 (for faith); and Ian M. Church “The Doxastic Account of Intellectual Humility.” Logos & Episteme 7, no.4 (2016): 413-433, and Nancy Snow. "Intellectual Humility" In Heather Battaly (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Virtue Epistemology. (New York: Routledge, 2019). 9 The idea that faith that p doesn’t entail belief that p is, I think, the most controversial of my assumptions. That being said, I agree with Frise (unpublished) that this distinction isn’t as significant as it has recently been made out to be. However, pace Frise, I think that the alleged incompatibility between faith and IH is a good reason to prefer the non-doxastic account of faith over the doxastic account. For representative works arguing for the doxastic account (viz., that faith entails belief that p), see Alvin Plantinga. Warranted Christian Belief. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Alston, William P. “Audi on Nondoxastic Faith,” in John Greco, Alfred Mele, and Mark Timmons, eds., Rationality and the Good: Critical Essays on the Ethics and Epistemology of Robert Audi. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007): 123-138; Trent Dougherty. “Faith, Trust, and Testimony.” in Callahan and O’Connor, eds., Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014): 97-123; and John Pittard “Credal
On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility
Since faith is a para-doxastic mental state, you can have faith that p while simultaneously having a wide range of credences in p. Faith is a way of feeling about p, not a way of knowing or believing that p. Faith isn’t necessarily luminous (you can be in a state of faith and also not know that you are in it), it can become absent or regained, and its strength comes in degrees—faith can be strong, weak, or anything in between. The strength of Y’s faith that p is going to depend on a number of para-doxastic qualities. First and foremost among these are Y’s evidence and confidence in p; they will also include other qualities such as how desirable p is for Y, how motivated Y is for thinking that something like p is true, and how strongly Y is predisposed to having a trusting attitude. While faith that p doesn’t entail belief that p, its strength increases drastically if p is believed. It is rational to have a stronger faith in something believed than in something that isn’t believed. The lower the credence one has in p, the closer faith gets to something like hope. Keep in mind that hope and faith are distinct mental states, though. Hope and faith are similar in that they are positively-valenced (it is necessary to want p to be true in order to have hope that-p, or have faith that-p10), but they are distinct in that hope that-p does not entail trust thatp, whereas faith that-p does. So faith is quite distinct from hope, chiefly because hope isn’t a positively-valenced state of “trusting-that p”, but rather something more like a positively-valenced state of “wishing that p were the case”. So hope and faith are similar in that they are positivelyVoluntarism and Christian Faith” (unpublished). For representative works arguing for the non-doxastic account, see Audi “Belief,” Howard-Snyder (e.g.) “Does Faith?,” Schellenberg, “How to Make,” and Lara Buchak. “Can it Be Rational to Have Faith?” in Jake Chandler and Victoria Harrison, eds., Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) and “Rational Faith and Justified Belief,” in Callahan and O’Connor, eds., Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014): 49-74. 10 See Meghan Page, “The Posture of Faith,” in J. Kvanvig, ed., Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, vol. 8. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017) for a fascinating account of faith that gives a more nuanced look of exactly what sort of positive posture faith represents: she argues, for example, that faith isn’t always positively valenced in the general way I am suggesting here. For example, when one “has faith that the damned will go to hell”, cashing this out in terms of simplistic valence just won’t do. However, note two things: (1) it isn’t clear that Page’s more nuanced view of a “positive posture” is particularly damning for my account of the sorts of tensions that exist between IH and faith; (2) it is generally accepted by most who write on faith that positive valence (at least generally) is an important component to faith, and I’m primarily interested in a general definition (a horse that has been thoroughly beaten up to this point).
valenced, but they are distinct in that faith that-p entails “throwing your trust on p”. As your confidence and/or credence in p diminishes, your faith that-p will get closer to something like hope, but that doesn’t mean that hope is the same thing as weak faith. “Throwing your trust on p” is an essential aspect of faith.11 Faith isn’t exactly synonymous with trust simpliciter, of course—a fact that has been well appreciated in the literature; this is why you need positively-valenced trust for faith. I can trust, say, that my neighbor will give me an oversized, itchy sweater for Christmas this year; after all, she has had a remarkably consistent penchant for doing so in the past. But seeing as I personally have no desire or see no substantial value in receiving such a sweater, it doesn’t make sense to say that I have faith that she will give such an unfortunate gift. I also hold that faith is an intellectual virtue, and will be treating it in the context of being a virtue throughout the rest of this paper. In short, I think that faith can procure many epistemic goods, such as lightening one’s emotional and epistemic load (faith can, for example, be a form of “epistemic inoculation”, and allow for us to set aside troublesome worries for a given time), gaining friendship, and making one’s affect more overall positive.12 I should also state that, as with most epistemic virtues, you can be too faithful (such as when doing so would be pragmatically inadvisable, like trusting a friend to borrow a firearm when you have very good reason to suspect she’ll commit suicide). Virtuous faith is a rational mean between overzealousness and disparaged, cynical depression.13 To make this definition of faith more vivid, consider the following scenarios.
11 As much as I’d like to get on an etymological tangent with respect to the way ‘faith’ is related to ‘trust’—especially the way it is used in religious texts such as the New Testament—this short paper is clearly not the place for it. One excellent article on this topic is Callahan and O’Connor (2014). For a recent account of faith that tries to shift away from this focus on trust, see John Kvanvig, “The Idea of Faith as Trust: Lessons in Noncognitivist Approaches to Faith,” in Michael Bergmann and Jeffrey Brower, eds., Reason and Faith: Themes from Swinburne. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). 12 Callahan & O’Connor (2014) and Fricker (2014) are excellent on this point as well. 13 Daniel Howard-Snyder, “Faith,” in Robert Audi, ed., The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Third Edition. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015) elegantly states this differently: “Indifference, hostility, and faintheartedness are the enemies of faith, not doubt.”
On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility
CAR: My cosmetically unsightly Toyota Camry, endearingly named Ole’ Bessie, although historically a good, trusty automobile, had begun to show clear signs of having a cracked head gasket in the engine. The car exhibited all the telltale signs: hot, leaking coolant, thick smoke in the exhaust, the distinct smell, etc. Today, however, the rest of my afternoon hinges on my being able to drive home in Ole’ Bessie (so calling a tow truck now rather than later isn’t any more convenient), and I’ve got to get her out of the parking garage regardless (so I could either call a tow truck or try to drive her home, but I can’t leave her in the garage). I only have around a .20 credence that she will make the whole 30-mile trip (mostly through open country roads), and therefore certainly don’t believe that she will make it. Nonetheless, I take it on faith that she will do so.14 KINDERGARTEN: Today is my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. The fact that she’s “in big girl school now” (to use her words) leaves me with a cache of worries that she might experience some difficulties and anxiety on her first day. I thus have around a .55 credence that she will be ‘just fine’ handling her new day. So while I don’t quite believe that she will be ‘just fine’, I have faith that she will. GOD: Say I believe in a tri-omni, Trinitarian God. I’m also well aware of the contentiousness of that sort of belief however, being well trained in the philosophy of religion, and would never claim, e.g., that I am absolutely certain that God exists. Say I have a .95 credence in the existence of this God, and I rationally and accurately take my evidence to support this credence. I affirm belief that this God exists. Nonetheless, I also have faith that God exists.
I think that these examples make it clearer as to why faith is a paradoxastic, trusting-that, positively-valenced mental state, and one that doesn’t entail belief. I am motivated and excited regarding the truth of p in each scenario, by taking p on faith in each scenario I am trusting-that p will obtain, and I only believe p in GOD. Notice that faith comes in degrees here, proportional to the various doxastic and para-doxastic elements at play in each scenario. My faith is going to be weak in CAR, middling in KINDERGARTEN, and strong in GOD. Faith is an
If this scenario seems crazy to you, look ahead to the penultimate footnote, which might clarify why taking on a faith disposition is rational here. One worry might harken back to the distinction between faith and hope: but I think the distinction can be made clearly considering CAR. A disposition of faith in CAR means that I am trusting that Ole’ Bessie will make the drive home—even if I believe she won’t. A disposition of hope in CAR does not mean that I trust she will make the drive home.
affective, para-doxastic virtue (assuming it doesn’t entail belief); its primary goods are pragmatic and attitudinal. The literature on the nature of IH is substantially smaller than that of faith, but in recent years there has been quite an upsurge on the subject in philosophical writing. In order to be widely representative of that literature, the concept of IH we’ll consider in this paper is something like a combination of Hazlett’s (2012), Whitcomb et al.’s (2014), and Church’s (2016) views.15 Intellectual Humility: A proclivity to accurately and rationally (A) track the epistemic status of one’s credences and beliefs, (B) own one’s cognitive limitations and strengths, and (C) update one’s credences or beliefs in light of A & B
To appropriate a locution from Christian Reformed circles, IH is the virtue that motivates us to epistemically “semper reformans” (to “always [keep] reforming”). It’s the rational mean between intellectual arrogance (holding beliefs to an irrationally tenacious extent, under-emphasizing disconfirming evidence for p, over-emphasizing confirming evidence for p, not accurately appreciating your likelihood of being mistaken, etc.) and intellectual diffidence (giving up beliefs or lowering credences capriciously, over-emphasizing disconfirming evidence for p, underemphasizing confirming evidence for p, not accurately appreciating your likelihood of being correct, etc.). Just as with faith, you can be too intellectually humble (e.g., to commit yourself to constantly checking the 15
A is adapted (mostly word-for-word) from Church, “The Doxastic,” (2016); B is from Dennis Whitcomb, Heather Battaly, Jason Baehr, and Daniel HowardSnyder, “Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 91 no. 1, and Ian M. Church, “The Limitations of the Limitations-Owning Account of Intellectual Humility,” Philosophia: 1-8; and C is inspired by Alan Hazlett, “Higher-Order Epistemic Attitudes and Intellectual Humility.” Episteme 9, no. 3: 205-223. None of these papers focus on IH being a proclivity, however. (It should be mentioned that, perhaps not surprisingly, I prefer my definition to the aforementioned definitions). One notably absent view is the “no concern for self” view of Robert C. Roberts and J. Wood, “Humility and Epistemic Goods,” in M. DePaul and Linda Zagzebski, eds., Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). Its absence is for two reasons: (1) their account of IH is merely an addendum to their account of the virtue of humility simpliciter, rather than a specific precise account of IH, (2) I believe (along with Whitcomb et al.) that (B) fully captures, and indeed improves on, Roberts and Wood’s account.
On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility
statuses of your credences—and therefore have no time left to commit to anything else). The most important thing to note at first is that IH is a proclivity (an inclination, predisposition, or a state of readily manifesting a disposition) rather than a mere mental state. To have IH means that you have a readiness and willingness to accurately and rationally do A-C. Someone might be able to rationally and accurately do A-C (and even be quite adept at doing so), but they aren’t intellectually humble unless they’re readily willing to manifest that disposition. The second thing to note is that, unlike faith, IH is primarily a doxastic virtue; its primary goods are found in appropriately tracking the epistemic statuses of beliefs and credences and appropriately updating credences and beliefs in light of those statuses (and having a healthy proclivity to accurately and rationally track such statuses). Moreover, for one to have IH, she must have a proclivity to accurately and rationally do A-C. Someone who has a proclivity to inaccurately or irrationally do A-C doesn’t accurately or rationally track the epistemic status of her beliefs or credences, or update on those statuses, or own her cognitive limitations and strengths; even if she is well-intending, she isn’t being properly intellectually humble in the sense I am interested in here (that is: understanding IH as an intellectual virtue). So much seems clear: if one has a proclivity to inaccurately or irrationally update and track their epistemic statuses (or inaccurately or irrationally judge their cognitive strengths and limitations), then obviously this is not intellectually virtuous, as the virtuous end of epistemic functions is to be both rational and (at least in a general sense) reliably truth-tracking. Furthermore, someone who has a mere proclivity to do A-C, regardless of whether their proclivity to do A-C is rational and accurate or not, also does not have IH in the sense I am interested in.16 Prima facie, it might seem that, if a person has a proclivity to merely track and update their epistemic statuses (and own their epistemic strengths and limitations), regardless of whether or not they do it accurately or rationally, they still (in at least some sense) seem to have IH. My response to this is twofold: first, it seems clear that one must have a proclivity to rationally do A-C in order for this proclivity to be epistemically virtuous—acting irrationally can never be epistemically virtuous (by definition). Second, one must likewise be generally accurate in their doing A-C in order for it to be
Thanks to the editors for raising this worry.
epistemically virtuous.17 Imagine a person who seems very well-intended, and has a strong proclivity to do A-C, yet more often than not errs in her epistemic tracking, updating, and judgments regarding “owning” her cognitive strengths and limitations. It might seem somewhat intuitive to say that this person is intellectually humble, but it certainly doesn’t make sense to say that her particular manifestation of IH is epistemically virtuous. If IH is to itself be a virtue, then it requires a proclivity toward accurately and rationally doing A-C. The proclivity to rationally and accurately do (A), to “track the epistemic status of one’s credences and beliefs”, is, stated simply, to regularly evaluate the epistemic quality of your credence and/or belief in p (e.g., by evaluating the relevant reasons and evidence you have for (and against) your credence and/or belief in p).18 A person with IH, who has a proclivity to accurately and rationally track her epistemic status for p, is going to be sensitive in checking the status of her credence or belief in p in light of her current (and ever-changing) body of evidence. If I am to act out of IH in the case of GOD, for example, I need to regularly check the epistemic status of my belief in God, perhaps by mulling over my reasons and evidence that confirm (and disconfirm) my belief, and engaging in critical reflection of my supposed justification for my belief. Someone who exhibits all the components of IH except for the proclivity to (A) isn’t properly intellectually humble because they’re not invested in examining the justification, evidence, or reasons for their credences or beliefs, which is perhaps the central component of IH (to “semper reformans”). The proclivity to (B)—to “own one’s cognitive limitations and strengths”—is a bit different from the proclivity to (A).19 (B) is primarily affective, though it does involve a cognitive component. Whitcomb et al. ask us “to imagine a department chair who’s been promoted to Associate
Notice that this formulation still leaves room for occasional error—indeed, someone can exemplify IH and make errors regarding their checking and updating their epistemic statuses; what they can’t do is exemplify IH while having a proclivity to generally make errors regarding their checking and updating on their epistemic statuses, since this isn’t intellectually virtuous. The same point applies for irrationality—that is, someone can have IH and be irrational in their doing A-C on occasion, but they cannot have a general proclivity to irrationally do A-C. 18 For a full exposition on the importance of the proclivity to (A), see Church, “The Doxastic.” 19 For a full defense of IH requiring the proclivity to (B), see Whitcomb et al., “Owning.”
On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility
Dean, and recognizes that he’s terrible at calculating budgets.”20 Rather than attributing his mistakes to his limitations, though, he offloads his guilt and blames the staff. The newly-appointed Associate Dean indeed recognizes his limitations, but he isn’t appropriately attentive to (or open, or explicit about) them. As such, he hasn’t owned his limitations. “Owning” your cognitive limitations and strengths means that you aren’t invested in resisting or hedging acceptance of the truth (and the pragmatic and normative entailments) of your cognitive strengths and limitations. It means that you appropriately act in accordance with a full awareness of what you are and are not epistemically entitled to assert or believe. Properly doing (B) requires properly doing (A); you can’t properly own your limitations and strengths without properly tracking the statuses for your credences and beliefs. (B) is therefore the primarily affective component of a generally doxastic virtue. If someone exhibits all the components of IH except for (B), she (like our Associate Dean) isn’t exhibiting IH. (C) is also a key component of IH, however, because someone can have a proclivity to accurately and rationally track their epistemic statuses (A), own their limitations and strengths (B), and still not properly update their credences or beliefs in light of (A) & (B). Consider the case of CAR. Assume that on my drive home, I discover that my son has played a cruel trick on me by putting a special type of fuel in Ole’Bessie that makes the car act as if it has a cracked head gasket. If I thereby still (even if I appropriately track my epistemic status for p and own my cognitive limitations and strengths with respect to p) fail to update my credence in light of this new evidence (say, from a .2 to a .9), I am no longer being epistemically virtuous. If we are to maintain that IH is an epistemic virtue then, (C) is a necessary component. The IH person will not only have a predisposition to accurately and rationally track their epistemic statuses for p, she will also own her cognitive limitations and strengths with respect to p and update her credence or belief that p according to her tracking.
§3. On the Conflict between Faith and IH One key point to remember is that faith and IH are not poles on the same continuum. Faith is an affective, para-doxastic virtue (assuming it doesn’t entail belief); its primary goods are pragmatic and attitudinal. IH is primarily a dispositional, doxastic virtue; its primary goods are found in appropriately tracking the epistemic statuses of beliefs and credences, 20
appropriately updating credences and beliefs in light of those statuses, and having a healthy proclivity to track such statuses.21 They’re (indirectly) in conflict regarding the attitudes and states of mind they welcome. What follows, then, is an assessment of these conflicts. After fully discussing the case for the conflict between faith and IH, I will consider a possible response on behalf of those who wish to maintain that faith and IH are compatibly virtuous. With regards to (A), faith conflicts with IH by weakening our sensitivity, proclivity, and accuracy for tracking our epistemic statuses. With regards to (B), faith might cause us to not appropriately own our epistemic limitations or strengths. With regards to (C), faith hinders our ability to actually conditionalize on our evidence. (A) and (C) are the main concerns here, so let’s address (B) first. I do not think that faith conflicts with (B) in any obvious or clear-cut fashion. It might be the case that faith weakens or confuses our ability to own our intellectual limitations or strengths. Consider KINDERGARTEN—by taking it on faith that my daughter will be “just fine”, I have no doubt eased my worries and concerns (one might say that taking on faith in this situation is a form of “epistemic inoculation”). Does this mean that I am now less able to properly recognize and accept my intellectual limitations and strengths with respect to p? It might be the case that, after taking p on faith, I am now less able to recognize and own my cognitive limitations, but this seems unconvincing. In fact, it might seem more convincing that taking on a disposition of faith would help you recognize and own your cognitive limitations. If faith entails an awareness of how limited our ken is in any particular situation (which it seems to— for reasons I will explain in a moment), then faith doesn’t cut against (B) at all. One aspect of faith worth noting is that it seems counter-intuitive that one can be absolutely certain that p (or not-p) and still “have faith” that p.22 In other words, faith that p seems to entail an awareness that you are
IH no doubt does garner virtuous pragmatic and attitudinal goods (sometimes, e.g., it is quite refreshing to hear someone assert, “I don’t know”, or give an unbiased, non-rhetorical, nuanced answer to a complex question). 22 This might be offered as a criticism of the non-doxastic account of faith, because on the non-doxastic account, you can still have faith with certainty. I do not believe this is a particularly strong objection, though, because I am skeptical that there is such thing as absolute certainty (for embodied, non-divine human persons). That is to say, in any sense in which one might colloquially claim that she is “certain that p”, this is still compatible with acknowledging that she could (ceteris paribus) be
On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility
possibly mistaken with respect to p.23 And if this is so, then (B) seems to be the (perhaps primary) way in which faith might be compatible with IH.24 If the key aspect of both faith and IH is a state of openness to being mistaken, then faith and IH might not just be compatible, they might be synergistic. I, however, believe that this is a rather superficial understanding of both faith and IH; I agree, along with many others (e.g., Robert Audi, Alvin Plantinga, W. Jay Wood, Joshua Mugg, and Ian Church25), that faith and IH are more complicated virtues than that. So, as I mentioned above, even if faith and IH might possibly invite some attitudes which do seem compatible, this doesn’t mean that most, or the most important attitudes they invite are compatible. If most (or the most important) attitudes that faith and IH invite are incompatible, then that is sufficient for claiming that they are (at least broadly-speaking) conflicting virtues. (C) is more clearly problematic for faith, especially if faith entails belief. For example, consider KINDERGARTEN again. Suppose that I learn that the school has been trying to call me several times over the past hour. I thus have evidence that suggests I should lower my credence from .55 to, say, .3. If we maintain that belief that p means having a credence
mistaken. If you are “99.99% certain” that p, having faith in p is still compatible with this because faith requires that you aren’t absolutely certain that p. 23 Buchak, “Rational Faith,” notes this explicitly: “in order for a proposition X to be an appropriate object of faith… her evidence must leave open the possibility for not-X.” (53) 24 One might suppose that a hardline doxastic account of faith, such as that of Thomas Aquinas (see ST II-II, Q2, A9) which holds that faith is a firm knowledge that p, might be a counter-example to the claim that faith entails an awareness of the possibility of being mistaken. Even on this account, though, Aquinas holds that this knowledge can only come in full awareness that one couldn’t have gotten that knowledge by mere human effort alone, so it is still a compatible account with “owning our limitations.” Michael Bergmann has raised an interesting point that, even if faith is incompatible with absolute certainty (and even if faith makes us aware that we are uncertain), faith might keep us from “seeing the true depth of our ignorance.” If this is the case, then this is a way in which faith might still conflict with (B). 25 Audi, “Belief,”; Plantinga, Warranted; Jay W. Wood, “Faith’s Intellectual Virtues,” in Callahan and O’Connor, eds., Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Joshua Mugg, “In Defence of the Belief-plus Model of Faith,” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 8, no. 2: 201-209, and Church, “The Doxastic.”
greater than .5,26 then IH would thereby force me to cease in my faith that she’s “just fine.” That’s about as incompatible as you can get!27 But what about our non-doxastic definition of faith? There is in fact a similar problem.28 On the non-doxastic account, while faith that p does not entail belief that p, it might seem like it entails belief that it is epistemically possible that p. In other words, it seems like even nondoxastic faith entails that one cannot be certain that p is false.29 Consider now CAR. Imagine, upon my drive home, that the engine finally gives out and Ole’ Bessie is no longer able to run. (C) requires that my .2 credence in Ole’ Bessie’s functioning be lowered to a point so low, say .01, that it is no longer reasonable to entertain the proposition that she will run. Since faith isn’t doxastic, it isn’t strictly speaking “incompatible” with my .01 credence in p—i.e., you can have faith that p while holding a credence of .01 in p. But, more importantly, in this scenario, (C) significantly weakened your faith that p. In this sense, then, (C) exhibits a conflict between faith and IH since IH can significantly weaken your faith disposition. Now let’s look at (A). This seems to be where the conflict between faith and IH is the most straightforward. The fact is, faith that p can weaken our sensitivity, proclivity, and accuracy for tracking our epistemic statuses. In fact, it seems like that is one of faith’s primary functions. Recall that among faith’s pragmatic goods are its ability to lighten your emotional and epistemic load—faith can, again, act as a sort of epistemic 26 The specifics here—how credence relates to belief—are quite controversial, but they aren’t pertinent to the topic at hand. All you need to do here is imagine a scenario in which rationally updating on new evidence for a proposition (in which we previously both believed and had faith) requires that you now withhold your previously held belief in that proposition. 27 If my argument here holds any water, then this is a reason, pace Frise (unpublished), to prefer the non-doxastic account of faith over the doxastic account. 28 I want to thank Alexander Pruss for raising this concern (well, for raising a slightly different concern that inspired this particular concern). 29 Most defending non-doxastic definitions of faith argue that faith that p is yet incompatible with disbelief in p (or rather, belief that not-p). If this is so, then nondoxastic accounts of faith are just as conflicting with (C) than doxastic accounts are. That being said, though it isn’t to my knowledge, yet defended, there is logical space to argue that non-doxastic faith that p is compatible with belief that not-p. But even so, it seems to me that this account will only work on fallibilist accounts of belief, such that belief in not-p is compatible with belief that p is possibly true. Thus, it seems to me that in the least, non-doxastic faith will entail belief that p is possibly true (that is, epistemically possible).
On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility
inoculation (to make us feel more positively about some proposition, and allow us to set aside troublesome epistemic worries for a given time). Faith is about trusting that p or making us feel confident that p, even when our evidence or credence might suggest that such trust or confidence isn’t clearly warranted. In other words, the pragmatic goods that come from faith seem to have a potentially epistemically vicious cost (from the lens of IH, that is). Faith can also make us more prone to certain confirmation biases (though it remains to be seen that it must): faith can hinder us from correctly tracking our epistemic status with respect to disconfirming evidence for p (and thus make us more likely to dig in our heels, or underevaluate the power of said disconfirming evidence). It might also make us too quick or cavalier in tracking the epistemic status with respect to confirming evidence, leading us to mistake the power or significance of such evidence. It also seems like part of what makes faith virtuous is that it protects us from micromanaging our status-checking in such a way as the perfectly intellectually humble person might. So in these aspects faith dispositions can, moreover, clearly conflict with IH. Another reason to suppose that IH and faith conflict is that these cognitive-bias concerns are directly proportional to the strength of faith. In short, “the more faith” you have, the more it seems you are likely to err in IH with respect to (A). In CAR, for example, my faith in p is not very strong. Because of this, I am going to be less optimistic about p, even though I do deeply desire p to be the case. Since my faith isn’t particularly strong in CAR, then, I am less likely to be weakened in my sensitivity, proclivity, and accuracy for status-tracking. In GOD, however, it is going to be more difficult to keep my cognitive biases in check. Since p, in GOD, is such an incredibly important proposition, has a lot riding on it, and is one that I am very hopeful, optimistic, and excited about, the strong faith in GOD is more likely to weaken my sensitivity, proclivity, and accuracy for status-tracking than my weak faith in CAR is.30 This incompatibility is even more explicit on Lara Buchak’s view of faith. Buchak’s account of faith states that, for some mental state to be one of faith, one must be consciously taking a risk on p (meaning that one’s evidence leaves open the possibility that not-p31), and be willing to commit 30 Notice that, even if my evidence strongly supports my .95 credence in GOD (and thus I may very well be acting out of IH when asserting my belief), my faith disposition here will yet weaken this proclivity and sensitivity to accurately perform (A) due to these cognitive bias concerns. 31 Buchak, “Rational Faith,” 53
to p without further examining additional evidence.32 This last bit—that faith entails a willingness to commit to the truth of a proposition without gathering any further evidence, runs squarely against (A). Buchak is adamant that, on her definition, faith doesn’t mean you should stop looking for evidence, it just simply means you are willing to act on or commit yourself to the truth of a proposition without feeling the need to seek out more evidence—you’re willing to act as if p were the case, even if you don’t have especially strong evidence to believe that it is. Nevertheless, it still seems evident to me that, when you’re in a mental state such that you’re willing to act as if p were true without further considering more evidence, this is going to weaken your proclivity for epistemic status-tracking. It may very well be rational for one to act on faith in this way; for instance, in the GOD example, my evidence supports p. But that doesn’t thereby mean that I’m not “epistemically inoculating myself” by taking on a faith disposition in a way an ideally intellectually humble person wouldn’t. By committing to the truth of p without deferring to the important need for continual status-checking, one is still “backing off” of the proclivity aspect (the “semper reformans” attitude) of IH. If IH involves a proclivity to track your epistemic status that p, and faith entails (as it seems to in general, and does explicitly on Buchak’s view) that you’re no longer as interested in tracking the epistemic status of p as you were before making a faith commitment, then faith and IH are, at least in this way, clearly in conflict or tension with one another.
§4. Conclusion As we have seen, there is reason to think that there is a prima facie incompatibility between faith and IH. There is also reason to think that faith and IH are in conflict on a deeper level. “But certainly,” I can imagine you saying, “there must be a way to reconcile these conflicts faith and IH.” Perhaps this is so; for what it’s worth, I’m remarkably sympathetic to this sympathy. Recall that my main thesis in the paper is to 32
Here is her technical definition (Ibid.) Faith-Buchak: For an individual I, A is an act of faith that X iff X is a candidate proposition for faith (I needs to want X to be true, I needs to have a positive attitude toward the truth of X, and I’s evidence needs to leave open the possibility of not-X) and: (1) A constitutes I taking a risk on X (2) I chooses to commit to A before examining additional evidence rather than postpone her decision about A until she examines additional evidence.
On The Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility
get clear on the alleged conflict between faith and IH, not argue that there is no way to navigate said conflict. Of the two ways to overcome the conflicts between faith and IH I’ve discussed in this paper, one way is to directly argue against the points I have set forth, and to thereby either claim that faith and IH haven’t successfully been shown to conflict in these ways; e.g., a way to do this would be to simply reject my definitions.33 Another way is to grant my arguments in the paper, but give an account of how the virtuous thinker can employ each virtue in such a way that they do not problematically conflict in rational epistemic tracking and belief deliberation. Although giving an account like this would be difficult, this seems to be the most promising route. It might seem intuitive, e.g., that faith and IH can play a role in ‘balancing each other out’. We need faith dispositions often times because if we don’t have faith, then the pragmatic effects will be disastrous—for example, having faith that your spouse is faithful to you. Even if you have good evidence that this is false, it might very likely be in your best interest to have faith in your spouse at some particular point in time, or in some context—perhaps, say, while you are both dropping your daughter off at the airport. Conversely, if we threw our trust on virtually any proposition out of our impassioned faith alone, without checking our evidence and credences, then this would be no doubt disastrous as well. One promising route to respond to the conflict between faith and IH is to claim that it is simply a question of context and instances: the rational, virtuous thinker will need to play an “epistemic balancing game.”34 Giving a tight, analytic 33
This would be a noble challenge in itself, though, as the definitions in this paper are based on a coherent combination of well-defended proposals in the literature (one that “takes the strongest part” of each proposal, you might say), and the doxastic account of faith has an even tougher conflicts with IH than the nondoxastic account I offered. 34 Here is an account of how such “balancing games” might appear. In CAR, for example, it is reasonable to have (at least a weak) faith that Ole’ Bessie will make it home, because even though I think it is unlikely that she will, it would be mighty wonderful if she did—especially seeing as I don’t have roadside assistance. Since there are not too many significant repercussions if my car does, in fact, die on the way home (my wife, when having to corral the children into the car for an unexpected 40-minute drive, might have a different opinion), it moreover seems relatively harmless to have faith that it will make it home. “So what if I’m wrong?” It had to get towed if I left it in the garage anyway, and since the drive is mostly through the rural countryside, the likelihood of backing up traffic or being in danger is small. Since the good of taking p on faith here (my not being cranky and agitated) outweighs the bad (I won’t be too existentially tormented if my faith
account of how exactly this game should be done (complete with a delineation of what weights we should apply to particular features in particular contexts), however, will undoubtedly prove to be difficult. While it strikes me that giving an account of this is a promising-yetdifficult task, it is outside the scope of the paper; here, I have attempted to show that there are firm philosophical grounds for arguing that faith and IH, thusly understood, are indeed conflicting in relevant, interesting, and significant ways. As with any good philosophical problem, we should take this realization as a call-to-arms and get back to the proverbial drawingboard. 35
Works Cited Abraham, Willian J. and Frederick D. Aquina, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Epistemology of Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae. New York: McGraw Hill (19641981). Audi, Robert. “Belief, Faith, and Acceptance.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 63 (2008): 87-102. —. ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Third Edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Bergmann, Michael, and Brower, Jeff, eds. Reason and Faith: Themes from Swinburne. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Byerly, Ryan T. “The Values and Varieties of Humility.” Philosophia 42, no.4 (2014): 889-910. Chandler, Jake and Victoria Harrison, eds. Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. was misplaced), it seems perfectly rational to have faith that Ole’ Bessie will make it home, even though IH tells me this is very unlikely to be the case. GOD is a completely different situation: I have a much higher credence in p here, and the existential levity of p is about as big as it can get. IH thus has a much bigger role to play here regarding being a rational thinker, as my inclination toward confirmation biases is going to be running full-throttle. I thus, in order to be virtuously intellectually humble, need to pay much more attention to the role of IH, and give it prominence. To act virtuously, then, I would need to not allow faith to ‘lighten the epistemic load’ as much in GOD as it did in CAR, and remain steadfast in focusing on epistemic tracking. 35 I want to thank an especially inquisitive audience at the 2018 Central APA, the 2018 Annual meeting of the EPS/ETS, J.R. Gilhooly, Gregory Trickett, Alexander Pruss, Chris Gadsen, and (especially) Michael Bergmann for their helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this paper.
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Church, Ian M. “The Doxastic Account of Intellectual Humility.” Logos & Episteme 7, no.4 (2016):413-433. —. “The Limitations of the Limitations-Owning Account of Intellectual Humility.” Philosophia 45, no. 3. (2017): 1077-1084. Church, Ian and Semuelson, Peter. Intellectual Humility: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. Callahan, Laura Frances, and O’Connor, Timothy, eds. Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Coyne, Jerry. Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. New York: Viking, 2015. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006. DePaul, Michael and Linda Zagzebski, eds. Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Eklund, Dan-Johan. “The Nature of Faith in Analytic Theistic Philosophy of Religion.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 80, no. 1 (2016):85-99. Greco, John, Alfred Mele, and Mark Timmons, eds. Rationality and the Good: Critical Essays on the Ethics and Epistemology of Robert Audi. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Hazlett, Alan. “Higher-Order Epistemic Attitudes and Intellectual Humility.” Episteme 9, no. 3 (2012): 205-223. Howard-Snyder, Daniel. “Does Faith Entail Belief?” Faith and Philosophy 33, no. 1 (2016): 142-162. —. “Propositional Faith: What It Is and What It Is Not.” American Philosophical Quarterly 50, no.4 (2013): 357-372. Kvanvig, John, ed. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (Volume 8). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Mugg, Joshua. “In Defence of the Belief-plus Model of Faith.” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 8, no.2 (2016):201-219. Plantinga, Alvin. Warranted Christian Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Roberts, Robert C. and W. Jay Wood. Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Spiegel, James. “Open-mindedness and Religious Devotion.” Sophia 52, no.1 (2013): 143-158. —. “Open-mindedness and Intellectual Humility.” Theory and Research in Education 10, no.1 (2012): 27-38. Whitcomb, Dennis, Battaly, Heather, Baehr, Jason, and Howard-Snyder, Daniel. “Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94, no.3 (2017): 509-539.
CHAPTER NINE OPEN-MINDEDNESS AND NARRATIVE STEPHEN CHANDERBHAN
§1. Introduction Using James Spiegel’s characterization, to be ‘open-minded’ is “to be willing to revise or entertain doubts about one’s beliefs.”1 Typically, this is thought of as a kind of intellectual virtue, especially where there cannot help but be some possibility of error either in some claim that one believes or in the way one’s belief about a claim came to be had. Different views of epistemology in general will arrive at different conclusions about when open-mindedness is a virtue. Some will claim it to be a thoroughgoing virtue since any belief, arrived at in any way, is subject to some epistemically problematic kind of error. Others will claim that, when it comes to certain beliefs, open-mindedness is no virtue at all; for example, consider beliefs about claims regarded as “foundational” or “basic.” Few, if any, will claim that open-mindedness is a vice writ large; thus, it appears that these debates generally concern the scope of beliefs over which openmindedness with respect to such beliefs is a virtue.2 An interesting case arises when considering whether or not claims that are believed via some sort of religious faith – specifically, for the sake of this study, the Christian faith – fall within that virtuous scope of open1 James Spiegel, “Open-Mindedness and Religious Devotion,” Sophia 52 (2013): 143. 2 Spiegel writes, “Among those who regard open-mindedness as a virtue, there is dispute over whether the trait is essentially an attitude toward particular beliefs or toward oneself as a believer.“ (James Spiegel, "Open-mindedness and intellectual humility," Theory and Research in Education 10, no. 1 (2012): 27.) Importantly, this paper will treat open-mindedness in the former sense. That is, openmindedness will be thought of as a part of a believer’s epistemic stance specifically towards certain objects of belief (e.g., “S is open-minded about p.”), and not merely as a general character trait spoken of oneself (e.g., “S is open-minded.”).
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mindedness, as defined above. For some, open-mindedness is straightforwardly incompatible with having faith. If one is willing to revise or entertain doubts about claims believed in virtue of one’s religious faith, one does not actually believe those claims – or, possibly, one does not believe those claims enough – so as to count as having faith. (Further, those claims proposed for belief are said to be true.) That is, the virtuous scope of open-mindedness does not extend to such beliefs; for them, openmindedness, specifically with regard to beliefs held on account of faith, is a vice. For others, open-mindedness is positively necessary when it comes to religious claims believed on account of faith; as such, the virtuous scope of open-mindedness does extend to such beliefs. For example, one may take faith to consist in a kind of relationship with the Divine and closing one’s mind about most claims offered for belief from a purportedly perfect Divine interlocutor, as it were, is incompatible with such a relationship.3 What is it, then – is open-mindedness like an open window on what is true regarding faith or an open-wound that diseases the faithful mind? First, I take it that such divergent attitudes towards open-mindedness about beliefs held via religious faith ultimately stem from disagreements about the essence of religious faith itself. Further, at least with respect to the Christian faith, each of those approaches to religious faith have some grounds for claiming it is the correct, or most appropriate, way of thinking about faith. In this paper, I propose a sort of irenic way forward in this debate – specifically, thinking about the object of faith and, subsequently, one’s having faith in terms of narrative. A narrative approach to these things, I claim, appropriately accommodates the truths of both approaches to religious faith (specifically, the Christian faith, to which I limit the scope of my paper). In so doing, I offer an alternative way of thinking about open-mindedness with respect to claims held by faith.
§2. Framing the Debate about Faith: Faith, Propositions, and Relationship For a person to have faith must mean that said person possesses, in some relevant fashion, whatever is the object of faith. What it means to possess the object of faith at all depends on what said object is. 3
Spiegel (in “Open-mindedness and Religious Devotion”) focuses on the seeming “paradox” of a person of faith (where faith is a virtue) having to display the intellectual vice of closed-mindedness. The dilemma I wrestle with here is related, but slightly different: whether or not open-mindedness is an intellectual virtue at all in the context of beliefs held via religious faith.
One question that is raised is whether or not the object of the Christian faith is primarily a set of propositions about Jesus Christ. If the object of faith primarily consists in such propositions, then having said faith involves some epistemic attitude towards such propositions. Different accounts of faith argue that different propositional attitudes are relevant; some examples of such attitudes are knowledge, belief, trust, and hope. The primary alternative to that propositional view of faith is that the object of the Christian faith is primarily a kind of relationship with a personal God, and most especially the person of Jesus Christ, Who is God made man. In that case, having faith means being in the right kind of relationship with God and Jesus Christ; this relationship usually involves certain practical and affective elements as well. Most other alternative views of the object of Christian faith can be subsumed under these two in some way.4 There is philosophical and theological support for the propositional view of the object of Christian faith; again, this is the view according to which, as Curt Thompson writes, “… Christian faith … [is] mostly a cognitive assent to a series of rational beliefs.”5 For example, take the words of the Catholic philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas: The thing known is in the knower according to the mode of the knower. Now the mode proper to the human intellect is to know the truth by synthesis and analysis … Hence, … the object of faith may be considered … on the part of the believer, and in this respect the object of faith is something complex by way of a proposition.6
When Aquinas writes “on the part of the believer,” part of what he means is that the paradigmatic kind of knowledge that we humans have comes via the use of our intellect – and such knowledge is, for all intents 4
For a helpful taxonomy of different “models” of what faith is, including (but not limited to) those models relevant for the Christian faith specifically, please see John Bishop, "Faith,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta (2016), available at https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/faith/. 5 Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising Connections Between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices that can Transform Your Life and Relationships (Carol Stream, IL: SaltRiver, 2010), 15. This is quoted in Jason Walch, “Nested Narratives: Interpersonal Neurobiology and Christian Formation,” Christian Education Journal Vol. 12.1 (2015): 156. 6 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 2nd ed. (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947), II-II q. 1 a. 2, co. (N.B., in this paper, quotations from Aquinas in English are taken from the translations cited unless otherwise noted.)
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and purposes, propositional.7 It is no surprise, then, that Thomas Aquinas accepts the breakdown of the object of faith, at least as humans can possess it, into various articles, each of which contains propositional claims about God and the person of Jesus Christ (e.g., that God is Trinitarian (three persons in one God), that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, etc.).8 Accordingly, insofar as a fair amount of the Catholic Church’s views on theology are grounded in Thomistic thought, it makes sense that the following is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it.”9 This is expressed in the context of an explanation of the principle “lex orandi, lex credendi.” (“The law of prayer is the law of faith (or believing).”) Insofar as such prayer and thought are primarily composed and understood by way of propositions, so too the object of faith should be considered that way. There is philosophical and theological support for the relationship view of the object of Christian faith. Marjolein Erbrink quickly summarizes one way of capturing such a view: “Christian faith is not primarily about agreeing with truth statements but about living in fellowship with a personal God;” and the Christian God is, indeed, personal.10 Some adherents to such a view likely would find it important to think about one’s relationship with one’s “personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Often enough, this view is not a repudiation of propositional claims all together; however, mere propositions are seen as ultimately inadequate – and, in some ways, problematic – at capturing what the faith is. Sharon Warner puts the point as follows:
Even at that, for Aquinas, these propositions of themselves do not completely capture the truth, or the reality, of the object of faith in itself, since that object in itself is so beyond the realm of what propositions can capture completely, which is grounded in our (limited) nature and world. This is likely what Aquinas is saying when he writes, “… the object of faith may be considered … as regards the thing itself which is believed, and thus the object of faith is something simple, namely the thing itself about which we have faith.” (ST II-II q. 1 a. 2, co.) And this something simple is God, as he explains, “… the formal aspect of the object [of faith] … is nothing else than the First Truth.” (ST II-II q. 1 a. 1, co.) 8 ST II-II q. 1 a. 6 and a. 8. For more on this, please see Bishop, “Faith.”. 9 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), §1124. 10 Marjolein Erbrink, “Christian Faith as Personal Relationship: An Individual or Communal Interpretation,” Masters thesis (Utrecht University, 2008), abstract; found at: https://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/31689.
Chapter Nine The subject-object relationship which engenders deep knowing is not a person-proposition relationship, but, rather, a person-person relationship. … Deep knowledge is a construct, not of propositional affirmations, but of personal relationship. … To keep the knowing experience at the level of propositions, or to reduce the knowing of a person to the knowing of propositions, is to mitigate the knowing of deep truth. … To know God as person … is an experience of discerning the being of God as that which can never be encapsulated in descriptive propositions.11
In those last sentences, Warner seems to indicate that being too beholden to propositional knowledge ultimately hinders one’s having a right kind of relationship of knowing God – i.e., one’s having faith. At best, on such a view, propositions help to bring one into the kind of relationship that having faith implies. At worst, to co-opt the popular turn of phrase, they are the “trees” one sees, where relationship with God and Jesus Christ is the “forest” one cannot see. Based on what one takes to be the relevant object of the Christian faith, I take it one will generally have a different understanding of openmindedness in the context of one’s having that faith – and, accordingly, whether open-mindedness is a virtue or a vice in this context. First, consider where the object of faith is primarily propositional. Openmindedness regarding the faith, then, will regard the propositions at issue here directly, since we are taking open-mindedness to be primarily about propositions. The question, then, is whether or not one can be willing to revise or entertain doubts about those very propositions and still count as having faith. The answer will depend on what propositional attitude(s) are at issue in the definition of faith; as noted above, among the most common attitudes found in various models of faith are knowledge, belief, trust, and hope. Note that all of these are positive. On most accounts, openmindedness about some claim is not contrary to having such positive propositional attitudes insofar as open-mindedness is, in fact, ultimately helpful to one’s having the propositional attitude in a way that is epistemically appropriate for the proposition at issue. To be helpful, openmindedness must either preserve or strengthen said positive attitude appropriately. Conversely, open-mindedness is contrary to such propositional attitudes when, ultimately, it is not helpful to one’s having the attitude in the right way. The primary way in which belief in (or even knowledge of) some ordinary proposition could be rightly subject to doubt or revision later – i.e., the primary way one may rightly be open-minded about it, even if one 11 Sharon Warner, Experiencing the Knowing of Faith: An Epistemology of Religious Formation (Oxford: University Press of America, 2000), 248.
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believes (or knows) it at present, since open-mindedness would be helpful for that attitude – is in the case of better justification or evidence being possible and available to the believer (or knower).12 For example, one might believe the proposition, “It is currently snowing outside,” where what one heard from the weather forecast the night before is one’s justification. While the weather forecast is typically good enough reason to believe something like the proposition expressed, it would be fair on most accounts to remain open-minded about the proposition since one could look outside and have ostensibly better justification for one’s belief – and, in accordance with that better evidence, change it if necessary. The propositions of Christian faith, however, are said to be a part of faith precisely because the level of justification or evidence typically required of ordinary claims about the natural world is not possible. They concern claims that are either physically or metaphysically impossible to substantiate more fully by ordinary means and rely on having been Divinely revealed in some fashion (e.g., “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”). In principle, for propositions such as these, there are no grounds on which one can continually hold out for a better basis of belief or knowledge (or any other positive propositional attitude). Hence, open-mindedness is not ultimately helpful, thinking in terms of the primary way in which it works, for having the positive propositional attitude at issue for propositions such as these. It will neither preserve nor strengthen the attitude in question for one because the propositions of faith are, in principle, different from ordinary, propositions about the natural world about which we may have those positive propositional attitudes. For some, this indicates that the propositions of faith are among a set of propositions that cannot help but require having to make a certain kind of commitment – a William James-like “will to believe,” perhaps. It would appear that open-mindedness about some proposition is not strictly compatible with making such a commitment; one would appear to be holding out for grounds to renege on one’s commitment where no such grounds, in principle, can exist. For others, inspired by Alvin Plantinga, propositions of faith can be held as properly basic as having been produced by a sensus divinitatis of some kind. Since such a belief is said to be basic, there would appear to be no good grounds at all to doubt it or be willing to revise it; hence, open-mindedness about it certainly is not helpful once one believes it. For yet others, perhaps more Kierkegaardian 12
Spiegel notes that this is one of the reasons open-mindedness is generally regarded as an intellectual virtue with respect to ordinary knowledge, insofar as it “enhances one’s ability to gain knowledge.” (Spiegel, “Open-mindedness and Religious Devotion,” 148.)
in their thinking, holding the propositions of faith means transcending the ethical and, indeed, the rational. In such a case open-mindedness would not be helpful insofar as one would be open-minded either towards that which is rational, which is not compatible with faith so defined, or towards that which is irrational but not contained within faith, which is not helpful to having faith so defined. It appears, then, that open-mindedness is nor compatible with most accounts of faith where the object of faith is primarily propositional.13 On the other hand, if one takes the object of faith as a relationship, open-mindedness about propositions takes on a different look. As noted above, propositions are not entirely maligned as having no place as part of the object of faith; but their comprehensiveness relative to what faith really involves – even up to their ultimate utility – is called into question. In other words, judgments about whether or not being open-minded about propositions of faith is virtuous always will be relative to the status of the relationship – open-mindedness is virtuous insofar as it preserves or strengthens the relationship in some relevant way, and vicious otherwise. To use some examples that are analogous to human relationships, being open-minded about some claim may help one to draw closer to someone if one does not get hung up on trying to interpret that claim and is, thus, more open to the experience of relationship; in this case, open-mindedness about said proposition would appear to be virtuous. On the other hand, for example, being open-minded about some claim may put some strain on a relationship insofar as one comes to doubt something only to selfishly serve one’s own (vicious) desires; in this case, open-mindedness about said proposition would appear not to be virtuous. In any event, it appears that no univocal account of open-mindedness about claims of faith can be given here, except perhaps in the case of propositions that are structurally necessary to believe in order for one to even claim one is in relationship with the Christian God (e.g., the claims “It is God with whom I am in relationship,” and “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”). That is to say,
The only kind of exception I can imagine is that of some kind of coherentist or pragmatist, according to whom truth per se is not necessarily the aim of any propositional pro-attitude – rather it is coherence with one’s other beliefs or utility in one’s practical situation, respectively. Open-mindedness of a certain sort would likely be relevant here, though how most traditional accounts of religious faith would square with such epistemological views is questionable. For the time being, I will bracket these views, since treating them would require more space than is afforded me here.
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virtually any proposition about the faith can be the appropriate object of open-mindedness – at least, in the right circumstances.14 14
Some may go even further by considering that the one with whom any human who has faith is in relationship is God Himself (and, in a special way, the person of Jesus). If one holds that any truth of faith is dictated only by God Himself as a matter of mere Divine command or fiat, delivered to one in the context of having such the right relationship with Him, then open-mindedness regarding faith is positively necessary – at least to the deliverances of the mind and will of God. To close one’s mind off with regard to some proposition would be to presume that the Divine judgment on it is final, which in principle (on such a view) cannot be the case. Thus, while in a limited form, open-mindedness can be said to be a comprehensive virtue regarding propositions of the faith. Of course, again, this does not appear to apply to certain structurally necessary propositions in the context of such a view – such as “God exists,” “This is a deliverance from God Himself,” etc. Further, the more that one takes the truth of God to be beyond the grasp of propositions, the less the propositional formulations of the faith ultimately matter to one’s having faith. In this sense, it may appear that open-mindedness about such propositions becomes even more thoroughly necessary; after all, doubt about the adequacy of the propositional formulation of the claim must increase and, thus, the possibility of revision appears always to be a live possibility in order for one to be in the best relationship with Truth itself. However, in such cases, it is less that the propositions of faith are possibly subject to revision as it is that the propositions ought to be left behind so as to attain to a higher, more thoroughgoing knowledge of God. For example, mystical experiences of God would be instances where such a higher kind of knowledge of God, which cannot be adequately grasped in propositions, is possibly attained. Commenting on the ways that Augustine and AlGhazali think about such experiences with respect to knowledge of God, Theresa Tobin writes: … the epistemic value of these [mystical] experiences is not reducible to (nor even primarily involving) the acquisition of information about God. … [T]he epistemic value of their respective mystical experiences does not consist in gaining more propositional knowledge about God, or even greater certainty or justification for the propositions they already believed about God. Indeed, their pursuit of propositional knowledge frustrated their ability to know God. The epistemic value of their respective mystical experiences was in coming to know God as a subject in an encounter that altered dramatically the course of life for both of these figures. (Theresa Tobin, “Towards an epistemology of mysticism: Knowing God as mystery,” International Philosophical Quarterly 50:2 (2010), 221-241; available at https://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.googl e.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1174&context=phil_fac; quotation on p. 22 of this version.) Since open-mindedness about propositions as defined above just entails that one is willing to revise one’s beliefs, not set them aside completely, it follows that open-mindedness per se is not really at issue in such cases.
It follows from this analysis that the way one conceives of openmindedness with respect to claims of faith differs according to how one conceives of the object of faith (and, accordingly, having faith) in the first place. In one case, it is seen as incompatible with faith as consisting in propositions. In the other, it is seen as conditionally compatible with (and, on some views, almost comprehensively necessary for) faith as consisting in relationship. These treatments of open-mindedness are, on its face, incompatible with one another.
§3. A Way Forward: Narrative, The Object of Faith, and One’s Having Faith This dilemma of how to treat open-mindedness regarding claims of the Christian faith is sharpened because, on most traditional accounts of the faith, both propositional and relational elements are present – and, on most accounts, both kinds of elements are necessary in some way. For what it is worth, the relationship view of faith sketched above does not wholly repudiate propositions. Whatever they express, however, is ultimately subordinated to the status of one’s relationship; and reducing such a relationship to what propositions can express either is not helpful or positively harmful to the relationship itself. Further, even the propositional view of faith does not exclude the possibility of relationship. In fact, one could claim that being open-minded about the propositions of faith is wholly incompatible even with relationship in the sense that one thereby fails to acknowledge what can be known to be true about God, and no real relationship can be built on that lack of truth. Still, though, the dilemma persists, since either side takes its element to be primary. An irenic solution to this dilemma would be to find a framework within which each of those elements – propositions and relationship – have equal importance, yet some different approach to the dilemma is offered owing to the way that faith is cast within the framework. I claim that one such framework is that of narrative. I claim that narrative has a unique ability not only to appropriate the importance of specific propositions but also to capture in a unique way that which is necessary for understanding interpersonal relationships. In this case, both the object of faith and one’s having faith can be recast. Insights from work on narrative theology help to explain precisely how propositions of faith are of necessary importance to defining the object of faith. Further, insights from work on narrative theology and narrative identity help to explain how the relational aspect of faith is to be explained.
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Gregory Currie characterizes narrative in general as “the means by which a story is told” that will “focus, in … different ways, on particular events and their temporal and causal relations” in ways that “accounts of mathematical, physical, economic or legal principles” do not.15 Put another way, narratives express causal relationships between agents and events in a way that a mere encyclopedia entry cannot. Narratives certainly can incorporate factual claims as focal points; but, even when it does, it is not reducible to them. What facts are chosen as relevant to tell the story, which of those are foregrounded, which are backgrounded, and how they are knitted together all help to give shape to the narrative.16 In this way, meaning and value judgments are embedded within the narrative, even if such are not made explicit. In addition to being a thicker form of expressing facts, in the sense that more than just mere facts are related, narrative is said to be eminently human. For one, as Dan McAdams puts it succinctly, “Human beings are natural storytellers.”17 Humans’ conscious lived experience is, according to such theorists, constituted by the (at least apparent) unity of a stream of consciousness, wherein moments and events are linked together, and the relatively constant self-reflective search for meaning across events within that single stream. That is, our consciousness is, to one degree or another, like a narrative itself; this is roughly the idea behind Daniel Dennett’s explanation of the narrative self, which also appears to be supported by our best neuroscientific data.18 D.J. Siegel puts the point in the following way: Whether our mind is figuring out the puzzle in front of us or “sussing out” the unsettling feeling we experienced after seeing an old acquaintance, we are experiencing the desire of our mind to integrate our experience and our conditions. Our minds long … to make sense of our experience and to find the meaning of our experience. We are largely unaware of the networks 15 Gregory Currie, “Narrative,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Taylor and Francis, 1998), available at: https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/narrative/v-1. 16 As Jerome Bruner puts it, narrative has “the power … both to govern the selection of relevant facts and to give shape to such facts as are selected.” (Jerome Bruner, “What is a Narrative Fact?” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Vol. 560 (Nov. 1998): 22.) 17 Dan McAdams and Kate McLean, “Narrative Identity,” Current Directions in Psychological Science 22.3 (2013): 233. 18 Cf., Daniel Dennett, “The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity,” in Self and Consciousness: Multiple Perspectives, ed. F. Kessel, P. Cole and D. Johnson (Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. 1992), 203-215.
Chapter Nine and indices bringing together the various components of our neural structures. …The “sense” we seek is coherence. It is a fluid, adaptive flow of elements across time.19
In addition, there are general shapes of narratives and common themes that have been identified by researchers who track subjects relating their own stories. Among these “life-story constructs,” which is the term that McAdams uses, are notions like agency, redemption, contamination, and meaning making.20 Further, narratives are eminently relatable to us. We can enter into others’ stories, or even fictional stories, and their events resonate with us as if we ourselves were experiencing them – at least to the extent that we are attentive to the narrative and the narrative is composed with skill. In this way, narratives can serve as unique vehicles of the experiences of others – where those experiences are presented as those of another, albeit unique, self, rather than some cognitively distant third-personal character. As Eleonore Stump puts it, narratives have the capacity to relate one’s experiences in a second-personal way, as opposed to a mere third-personal (i.e., impersonal) way. She writes, “… the … knowledge garnered in real or imagined second-person experiences and preserved in narratives is communicable to those capable of exercising the cognitive capacities for [this] knowledge in engaging with the story.”21 Narratives are also said to be interpersonal in the sense that they are crafted not in isolation. Jason Walch writes, “Narratives are ‘never set apart from a community of interpreters.’ … There is a constant flow back and forth between the creator and receiver(s).”22 In this way, a narrative cannot help but bear the marks of not only the narrator’s experiences but the collected experience of the community (or communities) within which she exists. The narrative, then, gives some insight to the narrator as well as the narrator’s community. Thus, thinking in terms of narratives gives us a framework for capturing certain kinds of interpersonal relationships. It may be little surprise, then, that the object of the Christian faith is first presented as a narrative – namely, via the stories of Scripture. And while narrative theology as such is a relative newcomer on the academic scene, it is seen as a kind of return to a more original sense in which the 19
Siegel is quoted in Walch, “Nested,” 154.. The original quotation is found at D.J. Siegel, The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are, 2nd ed. (New York: The Guilford Press, 2012), 429. 20 McAdams and McLean, “Narrative,” 234. 21 Eleonore Stump, Wandering in Darkness (New York: Oxford, 2010), 79. 22 Walch, “Nested,” 153. Here, Walch cites I.F. Goodson and S.R. Gill, Narrative pedagogy (New York, NY: Peter Lang: 2011), 86.
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faith was expressed and handed down. At the heart of narrative approaches to Christian faith, as with any religion, is the idea that its primary work is “evaluating and interpreting self and others based on what concerns one ultimately.”23 In the Christian worldview, what concerns one ultimately involves one’s ultimate destiny: heaven or hell. To understand these things requires one to understand the realities of the necessity of salvation and what it means for salvation to have been won for us by Jesus Christ. This means it involves, in part, understanding a salvation history, with several salient historical events taking on non-negotiable importance and special meaning. It is as if these events were pegs on which the thread of the story of salvation must hang, up through the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as well as the establishing of a Church on earth. In short, the Christian faith essentially involves, though is not exhausted by, a specific story of redemption following loss that unfolded in a certain way in a certain place across a certain span of time, culminating in the real existence and work of God made man in Jesus. This dependence of the distinctiveness of the Christian faith on a certain series of events with a certain kind of meaning around them is even expressed in part of the Nicene Creed, the collation of those fundamental articles of the faith referenced by Aquinas above: For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
It is fitting, then, that the Christian faith be expressed in a story. The non-negotiable truths of this story help to define the specifically Christian “master narrative,” in John Renard’s words; he goes on to write: Many of the world’s major faith traditions have given birth to detailed and complex narratives of the origins and development of their communal identities. Master narratives, especially in the Abrahamic traditions, embody and arise out of theological interpretations of the community’s history. Such interpretations are characteristic of highly structured,
Verna Ehret, "Utopia and Narrative: Theology between the Boundaries of Overhumanization and Hypertheism," in Hope and the Longing for Utopia: Futures and Illusions in Theology and Narrative, ed. Daniel Boscaljon (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co, 2014), 3.
Chapter Nine symbol-laden, even stylized, retrospective readings of the “data” of the community’s earliest sources.24
Further, one is also led to express certain structural truths about the nature of God and the world so as to understand what this salvation history means and how it works. Often enough, these were first expressed through narratives themselves; commenting again on the similarities between some Christian and Islamic approaches to narrative theology, Renard notes, “… early examples of ‘narrative theology’ are an important form of expression of belief in both traditions. Fundamental intuitions an convictions about God, creation, and humanity typically take shape first in stories that give voice to often complex worldviews.”25 The fact that such claims about a more general worldview are more systematically formulated need not preclude them from being a part of the story. Between the need to express these kinds of truths, as well as the need to nail down specific events and ideas about the history of Christian salvation, propositional claims have a non-negotiable place in expressing and understanding the faith, to say nothing of the place that language and propositions have in communicating anything at all, whether straightforwardly true or not. Without such propositions expressing the basic facts that the Christian faith holds about the history of salvation and relevant structural truths around this salvation, we do not have the specifically Christian faith in any meaningful sense; that is, there must be at least a canonical core of this narrative, primarily expressed in propositional terms.26 At the same time, by presenting the object of Christian faith as a narrative, it is also in a form that is apt for believers to engage with it as if in a personal relationship with the narrator and the narrator’s community. At root, the Christian narrative is said to be God’s – one of His love and desire to save humans, which involves the Incarnation of Jesus. We can also say that the narrative of faith that is presented, as with any other narrative, is also formed in part by the community who has been continually formed by – and, consequently, has been forming – the thread 24 John Renard, Islam and Christianity: Theological Themes in Comparative Perspective (University of California Press, 2011), 38. 25 Renard, Islam, 71. 26 Of course, there is going to be disagreement between interpreters, congregations, churches, etc., about what those structural truths are – and, in some cases, what events are important points along the journey of salvation. The framework of the story that is definitive of Christianity, though, must remain the same; the propositions that are held as underpinning that story are subject to debate. It is enough for my purposes to show that propositions of some sort really go have a place in the object of faith.
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of the narrative throughout history, albeit without doing damage to the canonical core of the narrative. That is, one engages with the narrative as if in relationship with God and the Church.27 In a special way, it captures the personal elements of God, as well as some of the experiences and marks of the community that is the Church, in a way that allows a believer to enter into the mind and heart of God, inasmuch as is possible, and gain insight, even if imperfect, that is structured by propositional claims but also is experienced affectively and empathetically in some way. What then does it mean for one to have faith, where the object of faith is a narrative? I take it that possessing a narrative goes beyond merely affirming that it is true; in a sense, there is more to do with a narrative, more to grasp. If affirming it is true were the only part of “having” a narrative, then the interpersonal depth and richness of the narrative is ultimately pointless; we might as well have just had propositions. This is, in a sense, parallel to Thomas Aquinas’s distinction between living faith and lifeless faith. He writes, “When living faith becomes lifeless, faith is not changed, but its subject, the soul, which at one time has faith without charity, and at another time, with charity.”28 Charity (caritas), he writes elsewhere, consists in “friendship of man for God” – i.e., relationship with God.29 Hence, lifeless faith differs from living faith only insofar as one lacks a relationship with God in the first place, but has it in the second; effectively, though, one asserts the same faith at least on the part of the intellect. Furthermore, having the faith must make a difference in one’s life – after all, if nothing else, it does claim to bear on one’s ultimate destiny. It causes one to see and value things differently, have different 27 It is debated by narrative theologians how much beyond the scriptural narrative is relevant in the context of relationship, as well as what exactly it means for God to be made present in the context of the narrative presented. Wm. Carter Aikin summarizes this debate here: “Among many theologians and theological ethicists who use a narrative interpretation of scripture …, I articulate two distinct groups. The first group (with [Stanley] Hauerwas as my prime example) speaks of the scriptural narrative itself as the core of Christian community, identity, convictions, and so on, and the adherence to this narrative in and of itself is the source of Christian moral transformation. The second group (with Hans Frei as my prime example) speaks of the scriptural narrative as that which renders God present to the Christian individual and community. This mode of God’s presence through scriptural narrative, then, constitutes the core of Christian community, identity, convictions, and so on.” (Wm. Carter Aikin, "Narrative Icon and Linguistic Idol: Reexamining the Narrative Turn in Theological Ethics," Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 28, no. 1 (2008): 88.) 28 ST II-II q. 4 a. 4 ad 4. 29 ST II-II q. 23 a. 1 co.
intentions in acting, and react to the world differently – ideally, in some way, one with faith sees and judges the world as God might in that situation with an eye towards holding on to salvation. Again, co-opting Aquinas’s distinction, his distinction between living and lifeless faith is inspired by the line from the Letter of James: “… faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”30 Where the relevant object of faith to possess is the narrative, then, really and fully possessing it means entering into it interpersonally and self-consciously. That is, on such a view, the narrative of the faith must interact and intersect with one’s own narrative, even inasmuch as one acts so as to help craft certain parts of that narrative regarding the Church’s continued action and witness in the world today. The interpersonal interaction of one’s own narrative with that of faith must in turn result in choices and deeds done specifically as a result of this interaction. There are many narrators and communities that shape our own personal narratives, it is claimed. To possess faith as a narrative, then, is for the narrative of faith to be one of those formative narratives – and a primary one at that. Two consequences of this are worth noting, each regarding the malleability of narrative. First, our personal narratives, insofar as they extend across time, will have to integrate different experiences, both those within and those outside of our control; they will also be formed while we are at different levels of maturity and cognitive development, in ways both within and outside our control. Thus, it is reasonable to think that the way that the narrative of faith interacts and intersects with our own narrative is not going to be perfectly identical across each and every moment of our lives. For example, Barbara Keller and Heinz Streib formulated a model for tracking spiritual development employing narratives that takes this insight into account; they write: Integrating insights from current discourse in developmental psychology, the religious styles perspective also looks at the contextuality of faith development across the person's lifespan. This allows for different configurations of cognitive, affective and emotional development, and can be linked with integrative models in current psychology: models of development which adopt a lifespan perspective.31
Put in a nutshell, thinking of faith as narrative and having faith as having that narrative intersect our own lends one towards a “lifespan 30
James 2:17 (NABRE). Barbara Keller and Heinz Streib, “Faith Development, Religious Styles and Biographical Narratives: Methodological Perspectives.” Journal of Empirical Theology 26 (2013): 4. 31
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perspective.” Second, constitutive narratives help to give us a sort of vocabulary for understanding and contextualizing (and, as the case may be, re-contextualizing) events in our lives. One effect of having the Christian narrative as a formative part of one’s own narrative will be that the notion of redemption – in this case, specifically Christian redemption – is part and parcel of one’s life; in this case, this will be relevant in every instance of our own sin or brokenness across our whole lives. One will have the resources to engage in some narrative reconstruction, where one can reframe one’s experience by giving it a different interpretation and, as necessary, do what is necessary to be reconciled from it.32 In sum, then, to have faith on this model appears to mean something like this: the narrative of faith, appropriately defined and centered on the canonical narrative of the life of Jesus and the Church, is something with which one interacts interpersonally in a manner relative to one’s development and the overall state of one’s own narrative. Through that interaction, one’s own self-conscious narrative identity is altered so as to result in one doing certain faith-oriented works and understanding certain faith-oriented interpretations of actions and the world.
§4. Defining the Virtuous Scope of Open-Mindedness in a Narrative Approach to Faith What, then, are we to make of open-mindedness with respect to claims of faith – specifically, the Christian faith? When evaluating openmindedness in terms of propositional and relational approaches to faith, I used the criterion of whether or not open-mindedness about a proposition would be ultimately helpful (i.e., preserving or strengthening) to one’s having faith. As I noted above, where the object of faith is a narrative specifically about salvation as brought about through the person of Jesus, to have that faith is for that narrative to intersect interpersonally with one’s own narrative experience and identity and be formative of one’s own identity in certain ways.33 Thus, the functional answer to the question is that open-mindedness is virtuous insofar as it preserves or strengthens how 32
There are some similarities here with the processes of narrative therapy, where certain events are re-contextualized to aid one in coming to psychological wholeness. Cf., Wai-Luen Kwok, “Narrative Therapy, Theology, and Relational Openness: Reconstructing the Connection Between Postmodern Therapy and Traditional Theology,” Journal of Psychology and Theology 44.3 (2016): 201-212. 33 To identify the specific ways that this narrative should intersect interpersonally with one’s own narrative is a critically important question, but one that goes beyond the scope of this paper.
the narrative of faith intersects with one’s own and, subsequently, forms one’s own narrative identity in certain decisive ways – at least in a way that is proper to one’s situation at a given point in one’s development. In this way, there is no categorical approval or disapproval for openmindedness about the faith; a number of factors have to be considered before passing judgment on this. If in a given circumstance, given all relevant factors, open-mindedness about a particular proposition of the faith is better suited than closed-mindedness for the sake of narratives being intersected and for the narrative of faith to end up forming one’s own narrative in certain ways, then open-mindedness is virtuous. This criterion for open-mindedness looks like that of the relationship model of faith described above, as there is some criterion (intersection of narratives) under which judgments about the propositions of faith are subsumed. This criterion does differ in a couple ways, however. First, by casting the object of faith in terms of a narrative involving certain events in history and certain structural claims (i.e., the canonical core of the narrative of the faith), the propositional element of the object of faith is more secure. While the narrative of faith in question need not be completely codified in an explicit story written down in a place per se, narratives themselves are more apt to be captured by propositions. Consequently, propositions cannot be so easily dismissed for the sake of justifying open-mindedness; propositions, whatever they may be, are partially definitive of the object of faith. Second, while relationship can be captured in terms of the narrative, the relationship at issue turns out to be more than a mere one-on-one relationship between the person of faith and God. Rather, the narrative of faith is partially constructed in some manner by the community of faith through history; one engages with a narrative forged within a tradition and a community – similar to how Alasdair MacIntyre characterizes this, in my mind – and, thus, enters into relationship with that community as well.34 The very structure of narrative guarantees this added element more securely than thinking in terms of mere relationship does. What is most important to note about this approach to openmindedness is that it involves an intersection of (at least) two narratives – the narrative of faith and (at least part of) the narrative identity of the believer. This implies that there must be a certain amount of integrity maintained for both narratives; neither is to be merely subordinated or
34 Cf., Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), Ch. 15.
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subsumed under the other.35 Further, as noted above, this narrative conception incorporates a notion of change and development across time, specifically on the part of the believer; the depth with which one is even capable of engaging with the narrative of faith will shift in various circumstances – and this is not a problem, per se, on this view. An interesting case arises, then, when aligning with some truth of the Christian narrative actually harms the integrity of one’s own for some reason. For example, perhaps at some point in one’s cognitive development, not being open-minded about certain truths does broader epistemic harm to one. As such, the integrity of one’s own narrative as a knower is harmed. Suppose, for example, one has not yet learned about the nuances of metaphor and myth; all stories are taken as literal truth and only as literal truth, including those of Scripture. It is not too difficult to imagine that, in such a case, it may be necessary to come to be more openminded about the literal interpretation of certain stories for the sake of even possibly understanding notions of metaphor and myth in general – even if, ultimately, the stories at issue themselves are literally true. That is, for the sake of more general cognitive development, it may be necessary at some point for a time to be willing to cast doubt on even what one (rightly) holds as true. In such a case, as the old Persian proverb goes, “Doubt is the key to knowledge;” perhaps even greater justification or more refined belief will follow from such doubt – and, in that way, openmindedness even turned out to be straightforwardly helpful for the holding of the faith. Here is another (more pointed and more challenging) example: suppose for the sake of argument that the claim “The Roman Catholic Church is the true church established by Jesus Christ,” is, in fact, a true claim. Suppose also that someone was the victim of horrific abuse at the hands of one of that Church’s clergy, and said abuse was never addressed institutionally and only covered up. In this case, it is not difficult to imagine the possibility that affirming the Catholic Church’s primacy in any way actually does grievous harm to one’s psychological well-being – perhaps involving oneself in a cycle of self-blaming and cognitive dissonance stemming from the fact that the vehicle towards one’s salvation is also the institution that enabled one’s most grievous psychological scarring and, indeed, appeared to condone wretched sin while only 35 Verna Ehret cites a debate in theology that, in my mind, aptly characterizes the opposed (and seemingly vicious) poles of interpretation at issue here. These two are the pole of overhumanization (where the narrative of faith is subsumed under the personal narrative) and the pole of hypertheism (where the personal narrative is subsumed under the narrative of faith). (Cf., Ehret, “Utopia,” 3.)
nominally condemning it.36 If that were the case, on this view, the victim would be quite in the right for holding the proposition, “The Roman Catholic Church is the true church established by Jesus Christ,” in doubt – i.e., being open-minded about that. Put somewhat more colloquially, sometimes the best relationship one can have with another is one at a distance; any more closeness would actually do more harm than good at a time, even if there is a desire or a need for such closeness, broadly speaking. It is reasonable to claim that, in such a case, one may still “have” faith to some degree – and, in this case, it is the greatest degree to which it is possible – even though one is, at a given time so open-minded about it. That said, in the Christian narrative, there is embedded the notion of redemption and reconciliation; that is simply a non-negotiable element of the Christian message of salvation. As noted above, narrative identity and narrative therapy also incorporates notions of redemption more broadly speaking as a way of re-casting past negatively-valued events and reappropriating them into one’s narrative as moments of growth or necessary change across one’s lifespan. The malleability of personal narratives in general and the necessary component of redemption in the Christian narrative in particular entail that, in principle, there is always an opportunity for events or moments that are seen at one point as pulling one away from the narrative of faith to be re-cast as events or moments that were instrumental, even necessary, to maintaining relationship with the Christian faith to the extent that it is possible. It follows, then, that even where open-mindedness about the truths of the faith is rightly judged as incompatible with one’s having faith at a given time, that judgment need not be final; the opportunity is there for it to be re-cast at a later and more opportune time.
For reference: cognitive dissonance and the “trauma bond” are said to be symptoms of abuse by narcissistic abusers. For a brief treatment on this, cf., Rhonda Freeman, “The Brain Can Work Against Abuse Victims,” Psychology Today, January 18, 2017, available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neurosagacity/201701/the-brain-canwork-against-abuse-victims. Fr. James Martin, SJ, relates narcissism to the current sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in the following video: “Sex Abuse and the Grandiose Narcissist,” America – The Jesuit Review YouTube Channel, November 16, 2011, available at: https://youtu.be/L5dlpDGL034. Patti Armstrong also comments on this in the following article: “We Need a Plan to Deal With Narcissist Clergy” National Catholic Register, November 27, 2018, available at http://www.ncregister.com/blog/armstrong/we-need-a-plan-to-counteractnarcissist-clergy.
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§5. Conclusion Different approaches to faith, each with their justification, yield different accounts of open-mindedness about the faith. In some sense, I embrace that paradox, yet place it under the umbrella of a unified solution, where the faith is thought of as the story, or narrative, of salvation through Jesus and the Church and is meant to intersect with and be at least partially formative of our own personal narrative insofar as we “have” the faith. In this way, I claim, truths about faith that can be captured in propositions and truths about faith that are best understood in terms of relationship with a personal God are both given a place of importance – as well as the role of ecclesial community in helping to shape that narrative. I make no commitments here about which ecclesial community, if any, is correct (or the most correct), nor do I make any commitments about what structural truths are correct (or the most correct) and which are heretical or nonorthodox. Still, while resolving such debates are outside the scope of this paper in particular, there is a place within the general framework set up by this account for the resolutions of such debates. This framework encourages us to think about faith in terms of the way it intersects with our lives at the level of lived experience. It encourages us to think about how specifically Christian our lives and commitments are – not reducing things to merely secular equivalents – but also how having the Christian faith is, in many ways, a journey along with Church that is dynamic, if only for its unpredictability and changes in our development. It is a journey that is best related as a love story, co-authored by God who so loved the world that He sent His only Son and His people who, as best as we can in the place where we stand, struggle to love – and be loved by – that God and form – and be formed by – that love story day by day in our lives. To whatever extent that open-mindedness can be seen to help (or to have helped) us co-author that story, to that extent it is virtuous.37
The initial thoughts behind this paper were presented in a paper given at the “Open-mindedness in Philosophy of Religion” Conference at Weatherford College (April 7, 2018). I thank those who attended the talk I gave there, those who gave comments on it, as well as the conference organizers. I also thank those who attended a second presentation of this paper at the Western New York Chapter Meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association (April 14, 2018) and gave comments there. Finally, I am grateful to a reviewer’s comments on an earlier draft that helped me to clarify certain points in this paper.
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MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981. Martin, James, SJ. “Sex Abuse & the Grandiose Narcissist.” America – The Jesuit Review YouTube Channel. Published November 16, 2011. https://youtu.be/L5dlpDGL034. McAdams, Dan, and Kate McLean. “Narrative Identity” Current Directions in Psychological Science 22, no. 3 (2013): 233-238. Renard, John. Islam and Christianity: Theological Themes in Comparative Perspective. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011. Siegel, D.J. The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, Second Edition. New York: The Guilford Press, 2012. Spiegel, James. "Open-mindedness and Intellectual Humility." Theory and Research in Education 10, no. 1 (2012): 27-38. —. "Open-mindedness and Religious Devotion." Sophia 52 (2013): 14358. Stump, Eleonore. Wandering in Darkness. New York: Oxford, 2010. Thomas Aquinas. Summa theologiae. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Second Edition. New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947. Available at https://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/index.html. Thompson, Curt. Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising Connections between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices that can Transform your Life and Relationships. Carol Stream, IL: SaltRiver. 2010. Tobin, Theresa. “Towards an Epistemology of Mysticism: Knowing God as Mystery.” International Philosophical Quarterly 50, no. 2 (2010): 221-241. Walch, Jason. "Nested Narratives: Interpersonal Neurobiology and Christian Formation." Christian Education Journal 12, no. 1 (2015): 151-61. Warner, Sharon. Experiencing the Knowing of Faith: An Epistemology of Religious Formation. Oxford, University Press of America, 2000.
CHAPTER TEN SCHELLENBERG AND THE NOTION OF REVELATION ROBERT BOYD
As we ask the question “Is revelation even possible?”, four attitudes toward revelation can be identified. Three of these attitudes respond in some affirmative fashion, while one responds in a negative manner. In this essay, we will consider one denial approach, based on the “hiddenness” of God. Historically, philosophers and theologians, representing many different religious traditions, have acknowledged and grappled with the hiddenness of God. For some traditions, their ultimate ground of Being is said to be “holy.” That is, whatever can be said of God, God is greater than that. Or as the Daoist has claimed, “the dao that can be spoken of is not the Dao.” This historical sense of hiddenness is not the problem confronted by the more contemporary stance. Today philosophical skepticism regarding revelation develops along two different lines of reasoning. For some, their skepticism is the result of a rational objection that shows the notion of revelation is not logical because it violates reason. This is a position advocated by Karl Jaspers and is outside the scope of this paper. For others, their skepticism stems from an existential objection that argues that God is silent or hidden. As a result, revelation is irrational because it is nonsense. This is J. L. Schellenberg’s position.1 The two forms of 1 Karl Jaspers, Truth and Symbol. Translated by Jean T. Wilde, William Kluback and William Kimmel (Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1959) and Philosophical Faith and Revelation (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1967). (The former work was taken from Jasper’s Von Der Wahrheit (Of Truth), originally published by R. Piper & Co. Verlag, Müchen, Germany, 1947. The latter Der Philosophische Glaube Angesichts Der Offenbarung was first published in 1962, also by R. Piper.) J. L. Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993). For other discussions see: Michael Rea, “Divine Hiddenness, Divine Silence” and Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul Moser (Eds.), Divine Hiddenness: New Essays.
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skepticism roughly parallel Hume’s argument that religion is contrary to reason and Ayer’s that religion is nonsense.2 While these forms of skepticism will be found insufficient as arguments that close the door on the possibility of revelation, they do provide invaluable insights that must impact our attitude toward revelation. Schellenberg’s approach illustrates the role of presuppositions and a lack of open-mindedness on the subject.
§1. Schellenberg’s Hiddenness Account Schellenberg’s position is significantly richer than the scope of this essay, and, as a result, we will not be considering much of his insights. Our focus is on the “hiddenness of God” and its implications for revelation. However, an overview of his project is helpful and provided by Schellenberg himself. In the fourth chapter of Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason, “A Summation of the Case,” Schellenberg provides five claim statements that provide this overview: 1. If there is a God, he is perfectly loving. 2. If a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not occur. 3. Reasonable nonbelief occurs. 4. No perfectly loving God exists. 5. There is no God.3 Michael Murray captures the thrust of this by summarizing Schellenberg’s argument as one in which it is assumed that if God exists, then God would provide evidence rendering reasonable unbelief impossible. But such evidence does not exist. Therefore, God does not exist.4 We return to Schellenberg’s second premise, “If a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not occur,” for it strikes at the heart of revelation. In his opening chapter, “Epistemic Implications of Divine Love,” Schellenberg “argue[s] that if a perfectly loving God exists, all human beings capable of personal relationship with himself are, at all times which they are so capable, in a position to believe that he exists.”5 2
David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Nature, section X “On Miracles.” A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Clearly Ayer is dependent upon Hume. 3 Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason, 83. 4 Murray, Michael, “Deus Absconditus.” Divine Hiddenness: New Essays, ed. by Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul K. Moser. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, 62-82. 5 Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason, 18.
This epistemic implication of divine love must be more closely examined. First, we must question the conditional itself, and then we must examine the consequent of this conditional claim. Does the antecedent of “a perfectly loving God exists” entail such a consequent? That is, is the claim of a perfectly loving God sufficient to conclude that all human beings capable of personal relationship with God are, at all times which they are so capable, in a position to believe that God exists? While Schellenberg attempts to make a case for this, I believe he has overstated his position. His reasoning does show a connection can be made, but it does not show it to be a connection of entailment. The consequent is not a necessary condition that follows from his antecedent. Schellenberg fails to recognize positions that suggest his connection may be faulty. For example, in a brief work on creation, written long before Schellenberg, Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers an explanation in which Schellenberg’s antecedent does not entail his consequent.6 Bonhoeffer addresses the notion of persons being created in the “image of God”. For Bonhoeffer, what characterizes God is not physical attributes, but rather that God is free. We, as persons, are free to have a relationship with God or to reject God and that relationship.7 This freedom is to have a relationship with God; however, Schellenberg’s freedom is different. It is a freedom to believe in the existence of God. Schellenberg is claiming that since God is silent, we do not have the freedom to believe. Whether 6
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, Temptation: Two Biblical Studies, translated by John Fletcher. New York: Macmillan, 1965. God is free to do, as God desires. For example, God was not compelled to create. God freely chose to create this cosmos. For Bonhoeffer, persons created in the image of God means that persons have freewill, a limited freewill. Bonhoeffer claims that this freewill is limited to having a choice to acknowledge God or not. So human freewill is not a freewill regarding all sorts of choices, but rather limited to one decision. We are free to have a relationship with God or to reject God and that relationship. 7 “In [persons] God creates his image on earth. This means that man is like the Creator in that he is free. Actually he is free only by God’s creation, by means of the Word of God; he is free for the worship of the Creator. In the language of the Bible, freedom is not something man has for himself but something he has for others. No man is free “as such,” that is, in a vacuum, in the way that he may be musical, intelligent or blind as such. Freedom is not a quality of man, nor is it an ability, a capacity, a kind of being that somehow flares up in him. . . . In truth, freedom is a relationship between two persons. Being free means “being free for the other,” because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free” (Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, and Temptation, 37). The essay “Creation and Fall” was first published in 1937. Bonhoeffer’s usage of “man” in this quote must be understood as not being a gender term, but rather points to “persons”.
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Bonhoeffer is accurate is a point outside the scope of the current discussion: the essential point is that Schellenberg’s consequent is not entailed by the existence of a perfectly loving God. Logically the notion of entailment is much stronger than merely a possible consequent. Other consequents can be offered to follow his antecedent. As a result, the conditional itself that frames his second premise, i. e., if a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not occur, is problematic.8 More problematic, however, is what Schellenberg packs into the consequent “reasonable nonbelief does not occur.” As we have seen, what he means by this is that “all human beings capable of personal relationship with [God] are, at all times which they are so capable, in a position to believe that [God] exists.”9 In order to support this claim, Schellenberg establishes several important points. First, if humans are to have a relationship with God, it must be a personal relationship. This claim, Schellenberg suggests, is an often “neglected feature of divine love.”10 While some religious traditions might claim that having a “personal relationship” with God is impossible, i. e., one must go through some mediator such as a priest, other traditions, such as evangelical Christianity, agree with Schellenberg on this point. If divine love exists, it must provide for a personal relationship between Creator and creature. Furthermore, Schellenberg and evangelical Christians agree on his next point. Human beings, persons, are not in a position to initiate or establish this relationship; God must make the relationship possible for it to occur.11 Only God is in the position to bring about such a personal relationship. While some forms of evangelical Christianity, e. g., Calvinism, claim this personal relationship is possible only for the elect, other evangelicals will find themselves again in agreement with Schellenberg’s third point as he maintains that all human beings capable of personal relationship with God are in a position to believe that God exists. The third point is the universal nature of God’s offer.12 God’s desire to have a personal relationship with persons is not limited to some, but extends to all persons. Hence, God, given divine love, actively makes feasible to all persons the possibility of such a relationship. Furthermore, Schellenberg observes two additional corollaries. First, God, being God, is capable of always bringing about conditions or situations that not only make a personal relationship 8
More needs to be said about this as we elaborate on Schellenberg’s position later in this essay. 9 Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason, 18. 10 Ibid., 17-21. 11 Ibid., 21. 12 Ibid., 23.
possible, but actualized. Second, since there is no good reason for thinking that such a relationship should be withheld for some until some later date, e. g., after this life, it seems reasonable to understand that God will bring about this relationship in this life. Hence, all human beings are capable of this personal relationship because God makes it possible for every person to have the necessary belief.13 As a result, all human beings are capable of a personal relationship with God at all times, and capable of rejecting such a relationship. Of course, this result is not quite the consequent that Schellenberg requires, for it must include “all persons are in a position to believe that God exists,” and this is where Schellenberg and evangelical Christians clearly disagree. Evangelicals may agree that all human beings are capable of a personal relationship with God, but disagree that capability entails believing. For Schellenberg, this entailment is possible because of his first assumption presented in his “Introduction.” The act of belief is involuntary. [W]e cannot believe a proposition at a moment’s notice. If we could decide to “believe” where formerly we had not, and our decisions were immediately efficacious, we would know that our “beliefs” were the result of our decisions and not determined by how things are. But in that case we would not have any reason to suppose that what we “believed” was true and so would not really believe.14
In the footnote regarding this assumption, Schellenberg continues: While it is impossible … to will belief directly, it may be possible to will it indirectly, and so belief may be said to be indirectly voluntary. But this is a very different notion. Getting oneself to believe, for example, that there is a God when the evidence does not seem initially to support that belief requires deliberate self-deception, and such self-deception – since it involves viewing the evidence selectively and forgetting that one has done so – requires a considerable period of time.
This assumption needs to be examined closer as we elaborate Schellenberg’s argument, but for now we must simply see how it provides an important element in his case. Since God must initiate and provide the possibility of a personal relationship to all persons because of divine love, and because God is capable of doing whatever is consistent with God’s nature, belief in the 13 14
Ibid., 24. These two corollaries are must be examined. Ibid., 9-10.
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existence of God is something that all persons must have since beliefs are involuntary. In this case, God must cause the belief in God.15 However, there are some that lack this belief. That is, some persons do not experience belief in God. Their existential experience is absent of this belief. Hence, Schellenberg draws his conclusion that God does not exist.16 Schellenberg’s existential objection based on the hiddenness of God provides a skeptical attitude toward the possibility of revelation. Since traditionally revelation has been understood as “God revealing …,” if God does not exist, then revelation must be denied.
§2. Elaboration of the Skeptic’s Position Whereas most religious traditions assume the existence of some deity or deities, the skeptic does not share this basic assumption. The skeptic may assume that human reason is sufficient to provide human beings with all the knowledge required to make sense of the world around them. Or, possibly, the skeptic may assume that one’s experience or lack of experience is sufficient to exclude insights provided by testimony or another’s experience. For some, this skepticism has led them to deny the possibility of revelation. As philosophical theologians, we cannot simply dismiss such skepticism. As philosophers we must be critical reasoners, which entails some level of skepticism. As a theistic philosophical theologian, I share the basic assumption that God exists; however, as a philosopher I cannot simply dismiss those whose skepticism rejects this assumption. We must seek a better understanding of this particular attitude toward revelation. In the above presentation of Schellenberg’s hiddenness argument, we claimed that his argument seems to be an overstatement. While his reasoning shows that a connection can be made between “a perfectly 15 A concern has been raised by a colleague that some reading this might bring in some baggage to the idea of “belief in God.” As this colleague pointed out, for Christians, this typically means a salvific belief. To clarify the point being made, I understand Schellenberg to be using the term “belief” in the fashion it is typically used by philosophers. For philosophers, the term “belief” should not be understood as a “mere” belief, an opinion, but a belief that directs action when appropriate. For some, their belief in God promotes actions of embracing God, while for others it may promote actions of rejecting God. Assuming that Schellenberg is being consistent with the discipline of philosophy, we should not read him as simply calling for “mere belief in God’s existence”. 16 It should be noted that all individuals do not share this existential state. There are individuals whose existential experience possess such a belief.
loving God exists” and a certain level of knowledge being available for humans, he has failed it to be a connection of entailment. His argument does not support the level of knowledge he is demanding. For this reason, we have not understood Schellenberg’s position as a logical argument from hiddenness, but rather an existential argument stemming from an evidential problem. His position does not rest on his logic, but on existential evidence that reasonable doubt does exist. Schellenberg is not the only individual who reasonably doubts the existence of God. While for some individuals there is reasonable evidence to claim that God exists, for others the evidence raises doubt. For some today, reasonable doubt stems from the hiddenness of God.17 Even for many religiously devout individuals, God seems to be silent at times. However, for most religious traditions, from Hinduism to Sikhism, it is assumed that God is not silent; God has and continues to communicate with God’s creatures. Paul, the writer of Romans, claims that the physical world around us speaks of the invisible nature of God, as does the conscience that is found in each person. It is within this context that Schellenberg’s argument must be approached. He, like many others, has not experienced the presence of God, which would be expected in a relational situation. Hence, God does not exist because if God did exist, reasonable doubt would not exist. For surely God would be capable of self-revealing such that the average person could not have reasonable doubt. But since God is silent at times, reasonable doubt does exist. As philosophers, we understand the role presuppositions have in our belief system. For individuals such as Schellenberg, their presupposition is that God is silent, or, at least, has not “spoken” as we would expect God to speak. Our challenge now is to move beyond a “he said … she said …” type of argument. Or the argument type identified by E. E. EvansPritchard “if I were a horse.”18 We need to gain a greater understanding of 17
“Reasonable doubt” may best be understood in contrast with unreasonable doubt. While there are some individuals who still maintain a belief that the earth is flat, most of us view this doubt that the earth is spherical as unreasonable doubt. There is sufficient evidence to support the claim that the earth is spherical. Schellenberg’s claim is if God exists, then God could have done something that makes doubting the existence of God as unreasonable. But doubt is reasonable; God is hidden in this sense. 18 E. E. Evans-Pritchard (Theories of Primitive Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 108) identifies this argument type as that used by reductionist theories of religion. His rebuttal is simply that the problem with this reasoning is that the antecedent is false. He is not a horse. As a result, how can a non-horse know how a horse would think? This analogy has obvious implications for the current issue. “If I were God and wanted a relationship with my creation, here is what I would do.”
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the presupposition that denies self-revealing. We will focus on Schellenberg’s existential argument, attempting to gain a better understanding of the roots of his presupposition. Then we will evaluate this “hiddenness” argument, both in terms of its critique and its contribution. How might the presupposition behind the existential argument be developed?19 One route might take us back to the beginning of analytic philosophy and Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy. Russell distinguishes between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description: [w]e shall say that we have acquaintance with anything of which we are directly aware, without the intermediary of any process of inference or any knowledge of truths … My knowledge of the table as a physical object, …, is not direct knowledge. … My knowledge of the table is of the kind which we shall call “knowledge of by description”. … There is no state of mind in which we are directly aware of the table.”20
These two forms of knowledge are not mutually exclusive, but intertwined for Russell. Knowledge by description enables us to pass beyond the limits of our personal experience. However, we can only know truths that are wholly composed of terms that we know by acquaintance. “Every proposition which we can understand must be composed wholly of constituents with which we are acquainted.”21 It may be construed that Russell is claiming that without first being acquainted, we cannot make sense of any proposition. For example, without first being acquainted with the notion of a “building,” any description of the Old Administration Building at Fresno City College will probably fail to communicate information that is knowable. If revelation is understood as a revealing of information by God, then God is not silent. However, if one has no acquaintance of the terms found in the sentence “God reveals,” then such a sentence is beyond understanding for that individual. Hence, the But I am not God, nor can I know the mind of God apart from some type of revelation. 19 It should be noted that this author choose not to reach out to Schellenberg, thought it is my understanding that J. L. Schellenberg is very open and available for dialogue. I have chosen rather to construct an abstract justification for the presupposition because each existential argument is unique, and I prefer a broader understanding of the problem. Schellenberg should not be seen as the problem. 20 Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 46-47. 21 Ibid., 58. (Italics are Russell’s.)
antecedent cannot be understood, and God may be viewed as silent.22 (If that sentence even makes sense.) This is an existential issue because it is highly individualistic. While some individuals may not be acquainted with the terms “God” or “reveals,” other individuals are acquainted with those terms. (Of course, this does not mean that those who are acquainted fully understand what the terms entail.) However, notice that for those who are not acquainted, revelation is not even possible: it is nonsense. Schellenberg’s position may be understood in this way.
§3. Critique of Skepticism23 Relation to empirical evidence We begin our critique of Schellenberg’s denial of revelation by first considering how this position relates to the empirical evidence. The evidence regarding this criterion is mixed. On the one hand, even religious believers acknowledge that frequently they experience the silence or hiddenness of God. Existentially, God seems to be absent; most believers do not witness God’s voice or immediate self-revelation. This empirical evidence supports the hiddenness of God for most believers. In many religious traditions we find those, such as the Sufis of Islam, or the kabbalah of Judaism, or Pentecostalism of Christianity, who attempt to experience the presence of God in ways that may combat this normative hiddenness. However, even without going the route of these more mystical understandings of the home tradition, it is not clear that the empirical evidence that God appears to be normatively silent entails that God is always silent. It is possible that God is currently silent, but has not always been so. Furthermore, it is possible that God is actually currently involved in the process of self-disclosure, but even the believer is not properly intune with God, and, as a result, he or she is missing the revelation. This latter point may be a result of our preconceived notion of how God should communicate, and, hence, we are not receptive to a form of revelation.
While Russell identified himself as an atheist, I do not think his atheism necessarily resulted from this form of reasoning. Russell’s epistemology was not quite so restrained, for he also made room for both induction and intuition. 23 I have limited my criticism to the two of the most relevant criteria, i.e., relation to empirical evidence and viability, related to the theme of this conference, “Open mindedness in Philosophy of Religion.” It is my position that the criteria internal consistency and alternative positions are less interesting regarding total skepticism and the notion of revelation.
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An example of this would be Schellenberg’s assumption that if God did exist and chose to self-reveal, God would do so in ways that would be obvious to all normal persons. However, God’s purpose and methods may be limited or focused in ways that reasonable doubt does exist. For example, many religious traditions claim that God can be found in nature; in some way, the natural world declares God. While some traditions may identify nature with God, many traditions, such as the Abrahamic traditions, distinguish between the Creator (God) and the created (the natural world). Yet, for these traditions, the natural world points to God. For example, we may be awed at the complexity of the natural world. Within many religious traditions, the awe is focused not on the object that is complex, but on the one who brought about the complexity. While “modern” individuals may be inclined to evaluate “seeing God in a flower” as naïve or primitive, many traditions claim that the world of nature points to some kind of being who is greater than nature itself. As a result, the modern individual may miss the significance of natural revelation. On the one hand, it can be claimed that the empirical evidence does support those who claim that God is hidden and, hence, deny the possibility of revelation. Nevertheless, it can be claimed that the empirical evidence supports the possibility of revelation, and as a result, the evidence denies the claims made by individuals such as Schellenberg. While the empirical evidence regarding the natural world is open to interpretation, there is empirical evidence that is not questionable. This empirical evidence, which supports the notion of revelation, is the common belief of most religious traditions that God, whatever their concept of God is, has revealed, especially in the form of sacred texts. From the Vedas through the Upanishads of Hinduism, or the Torah of Judaism, or the Guru Granth Sahib of the Sikh tradition, sacred texts, as empirical evidence, are claimed to be revelatory, revealed by God. Traditions that do not have written sacred texts, such as Traditional African or Native American traditions, nevertheless, have sacred texts that point to a greater being. It must be admitted that while the empirical evidence, the numerous sacred texts, does argue against positions that deny revelation, this evidence does not indicate whether one text is better than another. It simply is evidence against the claim that revelation is impossible.
Viability The second criterion is closely related to the former in this case. Above it was suggested that the ample number of sacred texts and how believers
of those traditions understand them supplies empirical evidence that revelation is possible; however, that evidence does not mean any of those believers are correct or that revelation has occurred. Just because many children have been frightened by the boogieman under their beds does not mean there ever has been a boogieman. If we assume that ancient persons were less intelligent and naturally more superstitious than we are today, then the number of ancient sacred texts and the beliefs regarding their origins might support the claim that revelation is not reasonable. In such a case, sacred texts are simply the product of less intelligent persons or cultures. Given this, positions that deny revelation are definitely viable positions. However, this reductionist theory of religion, as found in Freud or Frazer, has largely been rejected.24 While some ancient persons may have been more superstitious, this does not support a claim that all ancient persons were unreasonably superstitious. Consider the following examples: much of modern physics reads like ancient Buddhism,25 or our modern understandings of environmental issues and the connection we as persons have with the earth are catching up with insights taught by Native American beliefs. For example, today environmentalists call for humanity to learn to live in harmony with nature, a position advocated by American Indians. In contrast, the white man as he moved across the West “sought the domination of surroundings.”26 Today we must recognize that many ancient civilizations had incredible insights to the cosmos; we cannot simply reject their beliefs as mere boogiemen. Hence, reductionist theories, while simplifying the landscape by elimination, lose their force; Occam’s razor, while frequently useful, may promote the elimination of a necessary condition in a complex situation as it seeks simplicity. This possibility undermines the force of the skeptical arguments against revelation. Their viability becomes problematic because they fail to account for the empirical diversity of sacred texts, and they do 24
See footnote 8 in Robert Boyd, Approaching the World’s Religions: vol. 1 Philosophically Thinking about the World Religions (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017), 43. 25 Vic Mansfield, Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics: Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2008). Fritjof Capra, Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1975). 26 Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux, cited in Kent Nerburn, ed., Wisdom of the Native Americans (Novato, CA: New World Library, 1999), 40. As Jerry Gill has pointed out, “For the most part Native American worldviews opt to the adaptive mode in relating to the natural environment; they seek to fit in with nature rather than alter it” (Native American Worldviews (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2002), 175).
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not aid in the pursuit of truth. First, the viability of the skeptical argument positions is that they do provide an explanation for the fact that we have sacred texts; sacred texts are only the product of ancient persons who were extremely superstitious and naïve. The required evidence to make this reasoning work seems to be lacking. As a result, the skeptical argument positions do not provide an explanation for the empirical diversity and existence of sacred texts. Hence, they are not viable on this account. Furthermore, if we accept the empirical evidence that sacred texts do exist and are extremely diverse, then the question of truth confronts the philosopher. Which, if any, of these sacred texts present the truth? The skeptic’s position eliminates this pursuit. While it may be correct that none of the sacred texts are what they claim to be, i.e., revelation, the skeptic’s position would undermine any pursuit of the veracity of revelation claims. The skeptic’s position does make a valuable contribution as it forces those who respond to the question “Is revelation even possible?” in some affirmative form to temper their assent with a sense of Bayesianism. The skeptic’s position should promote an intellectual humility among those who are not closed to the possibility of revelation. As a result, it seems that while individuals such as Schellenberg have raised issues that philosophers of religion must address, their positions are problematic, if for no other reason than they fail to illustrate the open-mindedness expected of philosophical positions.
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Hume, David. Enquiry Concerning Human Nature, Second Edition. Eric Steinberg, ed. Indianapolis: IN: Hackett Publishing, 2011. Jaspers, Karl. Truth and Symbol. Jean T. Wilde, William Kluback and William Kimmel, trans. Woodbridge, CT: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1959. —. Philosophical Faith and Revelation. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1967. Mansfiled, Vic. Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics: Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2008. Nerburn, Kent, ed. Wisdom of the Native Americans. Novato, CA: New World Library, 1999. Russell, Bertrand. The Problems of Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Schellenberg, J.L. Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993.
Abraham, Willian J. and Frederick D. Aquina, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Epistemology of Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Adams, Robert Merrihew. “Presumption and the Necessary Existence of God,” Noûs 22, no. 1 (1988). Adler, Jonathan. “Reconciling Open-mindedness and Belief,” Theory and Research in Education 2:2 (2004). Aikin, William Carter. "Narrative Icon and Linguistic Idol: Reexamining the Narrative Turn in Theological Ethics." Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 28, no. 1 (2008): 87-108. Alston, William. Perceiving God. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae. New York: McGraw Hill (19641981). Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 2nd ed., trans. Terence Irwin. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1999. Arpaly, Nomy. “Open-mindedness as a Moral Virtue,” American Philosophical Quarterly 41:1 (2001). Armstrong, Patti. “We Need a Plan to Deal With Narcissist Clergy.” National Catholic Register. November 27, 2018. Available at: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/armstrong/we-need-a-plan-tocounteract-narcissist-clergy. Audi, Robert. “Belief, Faith, and Acceptance.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 63 (2008): 87-102. —. ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Third Edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Ayer, A. J. Language, Truth and Logic. New York: Dover Publications, 1952. Baehr, Jason. The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Bergmann, Michael, and Brower, Jeff, eds. Reason and Faith: Themes from Swinburne. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Bernstein, C’Zar. “Giving the Ontological Argument Its Due,” Philosophia 42, no. 3 (2014). —. “Is God’s Existence Possible?” Heythrop Journal 59, no. 3 (2018).
Bishop, John. "Faith." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2016. Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/faith/. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Creation and Fall, Temptation: Two Biblical Studies, translated by John Fletcher. New York: Macmillan, 1965. Boscaljon, Daniel. Hope and the Longing for Utopia: Futures and Illusions in Theology and Narrative. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2014. Boyd, Robert. Approaching the World’s Religions, vol 1. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017. Bruner, Jerome. “What is a Narrative Fact?” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Vol. 560 (1998): 17-27. Byerly, Ryan T. “The Values and Varieties of Humility.” Philosophia 42, no.4 (2014): 889-910. Callahan, Laura Frances, and O’Connor, Timothy, eds. Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Capra, Fritjof. Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. Boston, Shambhala Publications, 1975. Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012. Available at: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM. Chandler, Jake and Victoria Harrison, eds. Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Church, Ian M. “The Doxastic Account of Intellectual Humility.” Logos & Episteme 7, no.4 (2016):413-433. —. “The Limitations of the Limitations-Owning Account of Intellectual Humility.” Philosophia 45, no. 3. (2017): 1077-1084. Church, Ian and Semuelson, Peter. Intellectual Humility: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. Cortez, Marc, Joshua Farris, and S. Mark Hamilton, eds. Being Saved: Explorations in Human Salvation. London: SCM Press, 2018). Currie, Gregory. “Narrative.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor and Francis, 1998. Available at: https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/narrative/v-1. Coyne, Jerry. Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. New York: Viking, 2015. Dancy, Jonathan and Ernest Sosa, eds. A Companion to Epistemology. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992.
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Davidson, Donald. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 47 (1973). Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006. DePaul, Michael and Linda Zagzebski, eds. Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Devettere, Raymond. Introduction to Virtue Ethics. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2002. Dougherty, Trent and Jerry L. Walls. Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Eklund, Dan-Johan. “The Nature of Faith in Analytic Theistic Philosophy of Religion.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 80, no. 1 (2016):85-99. Erbrink, Marjolein. “Christian Faith as Personal Relationship: An Individual or Communal Interpretation.” Masters thesis, Utrecht University, 2008. Available at: https://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/31689. Evans-Pritchard, E.E. Theories of Primitive Religion. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1975 Feldman, Richard. “Reasonable Religious Disagreement.” In Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, ed. Louise M. Antony. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Feyerabend, Paul. Against Method, 4th ed. London: Verso, 2010. Forgie, J. William. “The Modal Ontological Argument and the Necessary A Posteriori,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 29, no. 3 (1991). Frances, Bryan and Matheson, Jonathan. "Disagreement." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Spring 2018 edition. Edward N. Zalta, ed. URL = . Frances, Bryan. Disagreement. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014. Freeman, Rhonda. "The Brain Can Work Against Abuse Victims." Psychology Today. January 18, 2017. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neurosagacity/201701/thebrain-can-work-against-abuse-victims. Gardner, Peter. “Should We Teach Children to be Open-minded? Or, is the Pope Open-minded About the Existence of God?” Journal of Philosophy of Education, 27, (1993).
Gendler, Tamar Szabó and John Hawthorne, eds. Conceivability and Possibility. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Gill, Jerry. Native American Worldviews. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2002. Ginet, Carl. “Knowing Less by Knowing More,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5: 151-162. Goodson, I. F., and Gill, S. R. Narrative Pedagogy. New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2011. Greco, John. Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Greco, John, Alfred Mele, and Mark Timmons, eds. Rationality and the Good: Critical Essays on the Ethics and Epistemology of Robert Audi. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Hare, William. In Defence of Open-Mindedness. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1985. Hare, William. “The Ideal of Open-Mindedness and Its Place in Education,” Journal of Thought 38 (2003). Hare, William. “What Open-Mindedness Requires,” Skeptical Inquirer 33, no. 2 (2009). Harman, Gilbert. Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973. Hawthorne, John. Knowledge and Lotteries. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Hazlett, Alan. “Higher-Order Epistemic Attitudes and Intellectual Humility.” Episteme 9, no. 3 (2012): 205-223. Howard-Snyder, Daniel. “Does Faith Entail Belief?” Faith and Philosophy 33, no. 1 (2016): 142-162. —. “Propositional Faith: What It Is and What It Is Not.” American Philosophical Quarterly 50, no.4 (2013): 357-372. Howard-Snyder, Daniel Howard and Paul K. Moser, eds. Divine Hiddenness: New Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Hume, David. Enquiry Concerning Human Nature, Second Edition. Eric Steinberg, ed. Indianapolis: IN: Hackett Publishing, 2011. Hursthouse, Rosalind. On Virtue Ethics. Oxford University Press, 1999. James, William. Pragmatism. New York: Dover, 1995. Jaspers, Karl. Truth and Symbol. Jean T. Wilde, William Kluback and William Kimmel, trans. Woodbridge, CT: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1959. —. Philosophical Faith and Revelation. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1967.
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Kant, Immanuel. Lectures on Ethics, trans. Louis Infield. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1963. Keller, Barbara and Heinz Streib. “Faith Development, Religious Styles and Biographical Narratives: Methodological Perspectives.” Journal of Empirical Theology 26 (2013): 1-21. Kelly, Thomas. “The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement.” In Oxford Studies in Epistemology, vol. 1, eds. Tamar Szabó Gendler and John Hawthorne. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005. —. “Peer Disagreement and Higher-Order Evidence.” In Disagreement, eds. Richard Feldman and Ted A. Warfield. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Kessel, Frank, Cole, Pamela, and Johnson, Dale, eds. Self and Consciousness: Multiple Perspectives. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1992. Keynes, John Maynard. Treatise on Probability. London: MacMillan & Co., 1921. Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1970. Kvanvig, Jonathan L. The Intellectual Virtues and the Life of the Mind: On the Place of the Virtues in Contemporary Epistemology. Savage, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1992. Kvanvig, John, ed. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (Volume 8). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Kwok, Wai-Luen. “Narrative Therapy, Theology, and Relational Openness: Reconstructing the Connection Between Postmodern Therapy and Traditional Theology.” Journal of Psychology and Theology 44, no. 3 (2016): 201-212. Larmer, Robert. “Is There Anything Wrong with ‘God of the Gaps’ Reasoning?” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 52.3 (2002). Lazar, A. “Self-Deception: Deceiving Oneself or Self-Decieved?: On the Fomration of Beliefs ‘Under the Influence,’” Mind 108 (1999). Locke, John. Some Thoughts Concerning Understanding and of the Conduct of the Understanding. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1996. Madison, B.J.C. “Is Open-Mindedness Truth Conducive?” Synthese (2017). MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981. Mansfiled, Vic. Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics: Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2008.
Martin, James, SJ. “Sex Abuse & the Grandiose Narcissist.” America – The Jesuit Review YouTube Channel. Published November 16, 2011. https://youtu.be/L5dlpDGL034. Mavrodes, George I. “Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence,” Philosophical Review 72, no. 2 (1963): 221-23 McAdams, Dan, and Kate McLean. “Narrative Identity” Current Directions in Psychological Science 22, no. 3 (2013): 233-238. Mill, John S. On Liberty. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956. Miller, Calum. “The Intrinsic Probability of Theism,” Philosophy Compass 13 (2018). Montmarquet, James A. Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993. Mugg, Joshua. “In Defence of the Belief-plus Model of Faith.” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 8, no.2 (2016):201-219. Nerburn, Kent, ed. Wisdom of the Native Americans. Novato, CA: New World Library, 1999. Nagasawa, Yujin. Maximal God: A New Defence of Perfect Being Theism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Peirce, C.S. Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. Justus Buchler. New York: Dover Publications Co., 1955. Peterson, Christopher and Martin E. P. Seligman, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Plantinga, Alvin. The Nature of Necessity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974. Plantinga, Alvin. Warranted Christian Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Quine, W. V. O. From a Logical Point of View. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953. —. Word and Object. Boston: MIT Press, 1960. —. Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. Renard, John. Islam and Christianity: Theological Themes in Comparative Perspective. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011. Riggs, Wayne. “Open-mindedness,” Metaphilosophy 41 (2010). Roberts, Robert C. and W. Jay Wood. Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Rorty, Richard. Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, volume 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. —. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.
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Russell, Bertrand. The Problems of Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Schellenberg, J.L. Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993. Sextus Empiricus. Outlines of Pyrrhonism, trans. R. G. Bury. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976. Siegel, D.J. The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, Second Edition. New York: The Guilford Press, 2012. Spiegel, James S. “Open-mindedness and Intellectual Humility,” Theory and Research in Education 10:1 (2012). —. “Open-mindedness and Religious Devotion,” Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy and Traditions 52:1 (2012). —. “Open-mindedness and Christian Flourishing,” Christian Psychology: A Transdisciplinary Journal 8:1 (2014). —. “Contest and Indifference: Two Models of Open-minded Inquiry,” Philosophia: Philosophical Quarterly of Israel 45:2 (2017). Song, Yujia. “The Moral Virtue of Open-mindedness,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (2018). Sorensen, Roy A. “Dogmatism, Junk Knowledge, and Conditionals,” The Philosophical Quarterly 38: 433-454. Sosa, Ernest. “The Raft and the Pyramid: Coherence versus Foundations in the Theory of Knowledge,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5 (1980). —. Knowledge in Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Spiegel, James. “Open-Mindedness and Intellectual Humility,” Theory and Research in Education 10, no. 1 (2012). Stanley, Jason. Knowledge and Practical Interests. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Stump, Eleonore. Wandering in Darkness. New York: Oxford, 2010. Swinburne, Richard. The Existence of God, Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Swinburne, Richard. The Coherence of Theism, Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Tobin, Theresa. “Towards an Epistemology of Mysticism: Knowing God as Mystery.” International Philosophical Quarterly 50, no. 2 (2010): 221-241. Thompson, Curt. Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising Connections between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices that can Transform your Life and Relationships. Carol Stream, IL: SaltRiver. 2010.
Walch, Jason. "Nested Narratives: Interpersonal Neurobiology and Christian Formation." Christian Education Journal 12, no. 1 (2015): 151-61. Walton, Douglas. Arguments from Ignorance. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996. Warner, Sharon. Experiencing the Knowing of Faith: An Epistemology of Religious Formation. Oxford, University Press of America, 2000. Whitcomb, Dennis, Battaly, Heather, Baehr, Jason, and Howard-Snyder, Daniel. “Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94, no.3 (2017): 509-539. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations, 3rd ed. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1958. Wolf, Susan. “Moral Psychology and the Unity of the Virtues,” Ratio 20:2 (2007). Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Reason within the Bounds of Religion. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984. Taylor, Rebecca M. “Open-mindedness: An Intellectual Virtue in the Pursuit of Knowledge and Understanding,” Educational Theory 66 (2016). Tooley, Michael. “Plantinga’s Defense of the Ontological Argument,” Mind 90 (1981). Van Inwagen, Peter. “Ontological Arguments,” Noûs 11, no. 4 (1977). Zagzebski, Linda T. Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. —. Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
APPENDIX: FOLLOWING AN ECUMENICAL COW1 VALERIE R. QUINDT
Interreligious tolerance has been achieved with a compromise involving the likeness of a cow. This can be seen in the island country of Sri Lanka where a noteworthy interaction has taken place without much notice. Buddhist leaders have paved a progressive path with their Hindu neighbors in a form of forward thinking that has been a part of the Christian movement since the seventeenth century. This ecumenical movement is based on a concept of interdenominational cooperation of unity in diversity. Granted its success, this movement could be extended to include a larger, interreligious community that is prompted to engage in tolerant dialogue regarding solutions to conflicting differences. This idea of inter-religious compromise and tolerance was first brought to my attention while traveling down the streets of Kandy, Sri Lanka. My Husband and I were newlyweds, spending our honeymoon in the island nation. We were a part of a volunteer program and this gave us the outstanding opportunity to stay with a host family for two weeks in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is an island off of the east coast of India, known as the jewel of Asia and saturated with a peculiar culture. The most noticeable characteristic is the people’s display of their religious beliefs. Painted murals, larger than life statues, body decorations, car ornaments, traditional dress, and even the way they talk are all brightly colored and hard to miss. For my husband and me, these outward and bold displays prompted us to ask our host how all these religions could coexist without the conflict we see in our own country over such religious displays. His reply was something that stayed with me and highly influenced this paper. 1
[Ed: This paper was presented by a Weatherford College undergraduate student at the Inaugural Philosophy of Religion Conference at Weatherford College. It represents the sort-of reflective philosophical paper that undergraduates who are attuned to issue in open-mindedness and the philosophy of religion can produce even as first semester philosophy students and the kind reflection that an academic conference at a 2 year institution can foster.]
He told us how the major religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam, have not always gotten along. However, as he went on, he told us about a recent and notable conclusion that was made on a highly trafficked issue between the Buddhist and Hindu populations. This confrontation was over the cow’s place on the Buddhist Moonstone. The Moonstone is a Sri Lankan tradition carved into the base step of the Buddhist temple’s stairways and entry ways. The Moonstone shows the reincarnation cycle and the path for finding enlightenment. The cow (or bull) is normally found on the second ring of the Moonstone. This shows the path of life with four animal symbols. The Elephant meaning birth, the horse meaning youth, the lion meaning power held by adults, and finally the cow (bull) meaning illness and death of old age. Now in the Hindu belief the cow is a scared animal. Its likeness carved into stone and placed on the ground where it is purposely walked over, caused a stir between the two religions. While the Hindus disagreed with what the cow (bull) stands for in the Moonstone, their main concern was the foot traffic treading on it. This was seen as a direct disgrace to the cow (bull) by the Hindu population. This is not a new conversation between the two religions, but within the last few years the two groups conversed and the Buddhist listened to what the Hindus had to say and their reasoning behind the disagreement. After, what I assume was difficult and lengthy conversation between the Buddhist leaders in Sri Lanka, they came to the decision that the cow can be taken out of the line-up. Any new Moonstone placed would not have the cow (bull) in it. However on historic temples the Moonstone would remain unchanged. Also other depictions of the Moonstone could still include the cow (bull) as long as it was not being walked over. My husband and I were astonished by how their religious leaders worked on solving issues with such high efficiency. The level of workable compromise that their leaders showed was hard to comprehend; not only in the fact that the Moonstone is exclusively a Sinhalese tradition, but in the fact that the people and their leaders were willing to hold a conversation about changing anything for the sake of others. In contrast to the above, we can look at the ideas of antisocial behavior pushed forward by pop culture and the mindset of a stubborn willingness not to change, which presents a lack of interaction that has provided a constricting viewpoint. We as people are very self-centered, tending to miss the big picture, or never taking a deeper look into our motivations behind anything we do. Let's say a woman you have never met before is wearing a yellow shirt, and that you hate the color yellow. Whenever you look at the woman’s shirt you are offended, but how would this woman
Following an Ecumenical Cow
wearing the yellow shirt know that you would be offended? She would not. Instead of just dismissing this woman in the yellow shirt, suppose you think about why she has on the shirt. Perhaps, for example, yellow is her favorite color. After we reach this conclusion we can’t simply go over and rip her shirt off, so we must do one of two things. One, we can accept the shirt and ignore the conflict, or two, we can confront the shirt. If we choose confrontation and ask the woman to change her shirt, she most likely will say no. She may tell you that yellow is her favorite color, that it makes her happy, and how she truly believes the color yellow is the only way to make her feel this way. You may counter that you dislike the color (perhaps due to a lemon thrown at you by your brother as a child that knocked out your front tooth). Now that both of you have given your reasons that the color affects you in the way it does, you both realize that your reasoning has a highly personal and strong backing. Changing your mind is not an option for either of you. Perhaps we should switch terms, instead of using “change” we could use “compromise.” At this point the only option for moving forward regarding the color yellow is to “compromise.” This kind of confrontation is far from the kind of physical force that is most common in the news. Perhaps compromise is our next reforming and driving force. We have tried repressing different religions by conventional wars and sieges like the crusades, but instead of a battle of arms we could organize and use conversation as our new battle plan to help stimulate compromise in a diplomatic way. In researching this idea of inter-religious tolerance and compromise, I stumbled on the topic of the ecumenical movement. The ecumenical movement has roots in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, but has recently picked up speed again and gained attention. This movement is Christian-based with the goal of establishing communication between all Christian denominations such as Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, and Quakers who have some involvement in ecumenism. Since ecumenism is independent from any church and without the affiliation of a central denomination, those involved are more open to the opportunity to have conversations without a specific church's ideas getting in the way of focusing discussion on the main goal. The main goal of the Christian ecumenical movement is to unify all believers in Christ. Members of the movement pull from scripture the idea that unity is God’s will for his people. Here I quote from Ethan R. Longhenry, “One requirement of anyone participating in the Ecumenical movement is the confession that the ‘Church of Christ’ is more inclusive than one’s own church.”2 This demonstrates a very important ideology, not 2
Ethan R. Longhenry, “Ecumenism,” A Study of Denominations,
just in the ecumenical movement but also in the idea of workable compromise and tolerance--there is something far greater than my single or set beliefs. Compromise and tolerance are reachable but in order to get there I must forgo my concept of superiority. For many in the movement they feel that denominations have had a part to play in their not fully sharing the Gospel. With such a feeling common in the movement, it pushes them to strive for social reform and to focus on mission work. If the Holy Spirit is at work in all denominations, then why are we in disagreement about our mission work? For those who are only just beginning their journey to Christ, the constant bickering between denominations could be a force that drives them away. The movement’s tagline is “unity in diversity,” which encompasses the movement’s end goal of unity for all Christians despite their variations, a “diverse gift of the Spirit” if you will.3 “Unity in diversity” helps put a guideline on conversations by suggesting that “unity is possible because of agreement on the ‘essential’ matters—the triune nature of God, the understanding of Jesus, practicing many of the same practices, and the like—and that many of the matters of disagreement are ‘non-essential’ matters that ought to be left for liberty.”4 The liberty in this is seen within the same denominations that can be witnessed in rural areas as well as urban areas and is even seen among different races. An example of the variation is infant baptism or adult baptism. While both sides have reasons for and against each view, the major difference is the baptized person’s ability to speak on their own behalf. With this drastic difference what often gets overlooked in discussion is that both believe it is essential that one must be (at some point) baptized. Now imagine two people, person A, who practices infant baptism and person B, who practices adult baptism, explaining their concepts of baptism to each other. While person A is explaining how people should be baptized as infants and are spoken for by their parents and godparents, person B interjects saying that people should speak for themselves when being baptized. These contradicting viewpoints cause confusion, and make one question if person A and B know what they are talking about. It is foolish to think the ecumenical movement’s goals and ideas are only limited to the Christian community. This movement could not only be applied to different denominations, but could also cut across religious boundaries that have been closed to conversation in the past. We need to www.astudyofdenominations.com/movements/ecumenism/ 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid.
Following an Ecumenical Cow
look closer into the “unity in diversity” concept and use the opportunity the words themselves give us. These words are intended to bring people together to engage in conversation while they work out their disagreements and differences. If we examine past the flourish of words and long passages, looking at how faith shapes us, we can begin to see a pattern. Some speculate that religion was made to help morally guide the masses. While this can be debated, I would like to use this concept. If we look at religion as this guiding tool that gives us a standard morality then why are so many religions at odds? If we all are shown the way to be moral then why is there division? Now go deeper than that—if we are all trying to live morally just lives, there must be a reason we are not marauding about. This leads us to the hope of salvation. Each religion holds that there is a release and peace in exchange for a person’s just and productive life. These two points, according to ecumenism, are a good place to start the conversation. In John Hick’s words “it is incorrect to view other religious traditions as inferior to one’s own.”5 This alongside his religious pluralism, which asks if all religions can be equally true or valid, brings up a point about how we can start with the “essential” matters, like salvation, if our paths to get there are not the same. An example of a related common argument is the question of what happens to an unbaptized child when they pass away. If following a strictly religious standpoint the child could not enter heaven and is separated from God. However most of us could and would reason that our view of God is one of a loving God, and that he would not allow the child to be held in damnation because of something out of their control. Would this reasoning not then be an interpretation of the requirements to our salvation? If we can reason from such flexible requirements for reaching salvation, could we not apply flexible judgment on other religions and how we interact? Continuing with this line of reasoning, if not being baptized is out of the child’s control, then the way people are raised in a religion is not in their control either. It is up to each of us as we age to understand why we hold the beliefs we do and to question them. However, if we can reason that a child is not locked out of heaven because they did not fulfill our requirements but is loved so as to be given a kind of “free pass,” can we stop with just children? But now we are getting into the idea of inclusivism. With regard to this the Pope Paul VI stated that: those who by no fault of their own do not know Christ or the Church but seek God and are moved by grace and strive to live a good life, and the goodness is 5 William L. Rowe, Philosophy of Religion: an Introduction (Thomson Wadsworth, 2007), 184.
found among them, this is looked at by the church as preparation for the Gospel.6 In understanding religions other than our own we can see that whoever or whatever a religion seeks to follow can be used in the passage above. If we can reason that someone who is living morally and seeking a way to salvation can be included into our salvation then the matter of different salvations and how to achieve them cannot stand in the way of conversation. Salvation with each religion is varied and how to acquire salvation is different as well, but morally, salvation itself is what we are living for. In moving to the next conversation that may follow, we might focus on what morals we share. One of the most widely discussed moral topics would be how we interact with and treat one another. Most of us seem to follow the “Golden Rule.” The Golden Rule, as taught in churches, schools, and other social activities, is to “treat others the way you want to be treated.” But the Golden Rule goes far beyond how we affect people’s feelings to how we actually treat others; for example, I don’t harm you because I don’t want you to harm me. If we examine the claim of Philip L. Quinn that supports the idea that greater knowledge of diversity can foster greater tolerance, we can see that he reasons that an individual will be less confrontational towards others on religious matters with just a little bit of understanding.7 Quinn states that “serious reflection on the undeniable reality of religious diversity will necessarily weaken an individual’s justification for believing that their religious perspective is superior to the perspectives of others and that (with the second part) this weakened justification can, and hopefully will for some, lead to greater religious tolerance.”8 Quinn’s claim and the idea that people generally are intolerant to what they don’t know, are similar. Knowledge is a powerful thing, and knowing what a person’s motivations are can change the circumstances. Quinn’s hope is that “(1) a greater respect for a person’s epistemic competitors and their positions and (2) a more flexible, inclusive understanding of their own position, and that those who respect their competitors and have a more inclusive understanding of their own perspectives are less likely to engage in inappropriate intolerant religious 6
Pope Paul VI, “Lumen Gentium ,” Lumen Gentium, www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/ documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html. 7 David Basinger, "Religious Diversity (Pluralism)," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . 8 Ibid.
Following an Ecumenical Cow
behavior.”9 In this passage he brings up the word “respect.” This is interesting because to Quinn the knowledge you can gain about someone and their religious practices and why they take part in them would not only help you gain tolerance but also help you respect them more. Respect is a hard thing to give and gain, so Quinn’s claim goes far beyond just hearing someone out. His two steps lead to an understanding of a person’s personal religious reasons.10 We can combine Quinn’s two parts with the goals of the ecumenical movement, which include promoting and not abolishing diversity, while hoping to answer questions about differences and open tolerant conversation between conflicting groups. As in politics, the more people you can reach with your message, the better for you and your cause. If we fully want to examine diversity we must accept that each individual is just that, an individual. The whole point of diversity is to acknowledge that individuality. The purpose of this is to guide conflicted religious believers into an open conversation; but we must not forget that each individual person taking part in the conversation has a different understanding and faith. They share a religion but they do not share the same faith. What I mean is that while a religion is a community that holds the same beliefs and shares in the same practices, faith is more individually possessed and does not have such guidelines or qualifications. My mother and I provide a good example in this case. We both grew up as members of the Lutheran church; however, our individual relationships with God are not the same. The religions we follow are the same, even the denomination, but the faith we possess is different. As we see in this example, the differences between my mother and me are small but allow us to see the multiplicity of diversity that makes multi-religious attempts at compromise and tolerance a monumental challenge. One challenge is that most of us would rather not have discussions, but prefer debates. Debate makes us feel good and accomplished, with either side not having to give up any ground. I think we are all born stubborn. We come into this world screaming in protest at having to leave the only thing we have ever known: our comfort zone. No person under any circumstance should feel they are being forced to change their religious beliefs because of someone else or their argument. However we ought not let our own firmly held beliefs cloud our ability to keep conversation flowing and we cannot allow this to be our excuse for ignorant and dismissive behavior. 9
With the compromise of the Moonstone we can learn and form a compromise that both (or multiple) sides can live with and still be able to practice differences. In the compromise of the Moonstone the questions asked are basic but hold great meaning. Is the cow (bull) the only symbol that can be used or is it a matter of a religious stronghold for the cow be present? To the Buddhists of Sri Lanka, the relationship with their fellow Sinhalese is the better path for progress. By still keeping the cow (bull) in place within the life cycle, the Buddhists uphold their own beliefs, while accommodating to the cow’s (bull’s) sacred status seen by the Hindu tradition. Tolerant talks are hard to inspire and seem just out of our reach. However, considering the points I have gone over and the example I have described in the Moonstone, though it is a daunting task to organize finding a solution to intolerance is not impossible,. I think it is important to hold an open mind in religious conversation; if you don’t, you can miss so much of a person’s motives and therefore never understand the true obstacles that block conversation between religions. To many, a person who holds to different or no religious beliefs from their own seems like a far off concept. Speaking from experience, regarding the time I spent in Sri Lanka (on literally the other side of the world), I can say that even when far apart we are all still people. At the risk of sounding cliché, going into Sri Lanka I thought that the people there would be nothing like me. At first, I could not have stood apart from them more. However, taking part in their everyday lives, I found that we are fundamentally the same. In watching our host family, and in taking part in their household, I learned that they wanted to learn about me just as much as I wanted to learn about them. I learned that they live honest moral lives while working toward a better future for the people they will one day leave behind and for their place among the peaceful reward that awaits them in the afterlife.11
While I was revising this paper, the county of Sri Lanka became a victim of terror. Upon hearing the news on Easter morning 2019, I shared in the despair of the Sinhalese people. In this paper I did not discuss the fear our host family shared with us about the religious struggles currently moving through their nation. Now more than ever I understand how the balance that I expressed in this paper is hard to inspire and maintain. I share in their fear and I am burdened with the worry that this act of terror will halt the conversation and scrub out most tolerance. I fear for my friends and the progress they must now protect.
Benjamin Arbour (Executive Director, Institute of Philosophical and Theological Research) Robert Boyd (Professor Emeritus in Philosophy, Fresno City College) Stephen Chanderbhan (Associate Professor, Canisius College) James Elliott (Purdue University) John R. Gilhooly (Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Theology, Director Honors Program, Cedarville University) John Lee (Academic Dean, John Leland Center for Theological Studies, Leland Baptist University) Bradley Palmer (Iliff School of Theology) Valerie Quindt (Student, Weatherford College) James Spiegel (Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Taylor University) Robert B. Stewart (Professor of Philosophy and Theology, Greer-Heard Professor of Faith and Culture, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) Gregory E. Trickett (Associate Professor of Philosophy, Weatherford College) David Williams (Student, Arizona State University)
abduction, 116, 117, 118 Adler, Jonathan, 14, 79, 80 agnostic, 81, 82, 84, 86, 88 Alston, William, 21 Aristotle, 6, 62 Arpaly, Nomy, 15 atheist, 26, 28, 31, 39, 82, 83, 111, 121, 170 Audi, Robert, 123, 124, 125, 126, 133 Baehr, Jason, 9, 64, 67, 68 Bayesian, 82, 87, 88, 90, 92, 96 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, 164, 165 correspondence, 42, 43, 58, 59, 85 credence35, 82, 88, 89, 92, 96, 97, 101, 102, 125, 126, 127, 130 Davidson, Donald, 47 DePaul, Michael, 64 Descartes, 20, 48 dismissive, 31, 32, 189 divine simplicity, 90 dogmatism, 2, 100, 106 epistemic peers, 2, 26, 27, 28, 29, 32, 33, 34, 37, 38, 39 epistemic state, 29, 30 essence, 8, 10, 68, 71, 83, 141 eudaimonia2, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 69 existential, 21, 49, 85, 138, 162, 167, 168, 169, 170 Feyerabend, Paul, 12 foreclosure, 8, 18, 20, 21, 22, 82, 83 Frances, Bryan, 28 Frege, Gottlob, 46, 53 Ganssle, Gregory, 108, 109, 111, 113, 114, 119 Gardner, Peter, 8, 9, 10, 79 Golden Rule, 22, 188 Hare, William, 9, 78, 79, 81
Hick, John, 187 Hursthouse, Rosalind, 67, 68 intellectual autonomy, 7, 14, 15 intellectual courage, 7, 13, 15 Jesus, 22, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 151, 152, 155, 157, 159, 186 Kant, Immanuel, 17, 43, 48, 60, 89 Kelly, Thomas, 33, 35 Kierkegaard, 20 Kripke, Saul, 51 Kuhn, Thomas, 12, 41, 44, 48, 117 language game, 45 Larmer, Robert, 109, 110, 111 Locke, John, 10 MacIntyre, Alasdair, 43, 156 Matheson, Jonathan, 29 Mill, John Stuart, 11 Montmarquet, James, 7 Nagasawa, Yujin, 90, 91 Occam (Ockham), 60, 115, 118, 172 Peirce, C. S., 41, 116, 117, 118, 180 phenomenology, 47, 48, 54 Plantinga, Alvin, 83, 84, 86, 87, 91, 96, 97, 98, 124, 133, 145 Plato, 19 Quine, Willard, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60 relativism, 2, 31, 32, 36, 42, 54, 56 revelation, 90, 162, 163, 167, 169, 170, 171, 172 Riggs, Wayne, 16 Roberts, Robert, 28, 36, 72, 128 Roberts, Robert C, 63 Rorty, Richard, 41, 42, 43, 46, 47, 48, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58 Rowe, William, 109, 111, 187 Russell, Bertrand, 60, 169, 170 Schellenberg, J. L., 163
Open-mindedness in Philosophy of Religion scientific, 46, 60, 104, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121 Sextus Empiricus, 10 Socrates, 19 Stump, Elonore, 150 Swinburne, Richard, 87, 91, 94, 126 theist, 20, 26, 28, 31, 39, 82, 86
tolerance, 16, 183, 185, 186, 188, 189, 190 vice, 2, 42, 65, 69, 140, 141, 144 wisdom, 7, 172, 174, 180 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 41, 44, 48, 51, 60 Wolterstorff, Nicholas, 13, 62, 64 Wood, W. Jay., 63 Zagzebski, Linda, 7, 14, 63