Philosophy of Religion
Chapter 8 Religious Language World Views and Reason
Section 3 World Views and Conceptual Frameworks
What is the relation of Reason to Faith?
Can or must a set of religious beliefs be rationally examined and
understood? Must they be consistent and coherent, make sense and be
Since the issues involved with examining sets of religious beliefs and they often contain or constitute the basic ways in which people experience and think about their world, the very concept of a basic and global perspective on life and experience must be examined. What is it? Where does it come from? How does it function? What is its importance?
As each person interacts with others in a given environment they learn not only about things, (their names and features) but they learn from others the basic framework in which it is believed that those things are set. People learn a number of basic ideas through the very language that they learn to speak. These ideas are imbedded in the language itself. As long as all the users of the language use it in a similar fashion there is little reason for any one of them to begin to think about the underlying assumptions or basic ideas that are imbedded in that language.
The use of ordinary language to express religious ideas about what is most important or most basic often leads others to begin the examination of the imbedded assumptions of ordinary language itself.
For example, when people grow up hearing and speaking about such things as: having a "mind", "losing my mind", "what’s on your mind?", "are you out of your mind?"
The result is that people in that culture that uses language this way have a belief that humans have something called a "mind" and that it is important and may be occupying a space in their body but is not part of it. These ideas about the existence and nature of the mind are imbedded in the language. There is not a sufficient amount of evidence to actually support these ideas and the evidence can be interpreted differently depending on whether or not one begins the examination of the evidence already with the belief in the existence of the mind.
In order to examine these issues and to enter into a serious dialogue with others who have considered these questions it is important to understand the meaning of certain important concepts that become involved in the ongoing discussion.
People hold different views of various matters. The difference in those views is of different orders. Two or more people can view the same event from different physical perspectives or with different attitudes towards what they have viewed. Over and above those differences, people can view matters with very different ideas about what things mean what is valued, and what it takes to prove something, even what constitutes reality. When people share a common set of basic beliefs about what is real, true, known, valued and how one comes to know things then they share in what is known as a worldview.
This is a set of ideas which establish a manner of viewing either all of reality or some well-defined portion of it. For example, physicists may view events using the framework of quantum mechanics or that of relativity theory. Their findings and explanations will differ accordingly.
A set of profoundly unfalsifiable assumptions that govern all of a person’s other beliefs.
Each person has such bliks and no one can escape having them. Some claim that these bliks can not be subjected to rational scrutiny. Others claim that they can and should be appraised rationally; that a gradual accumulation of evidence and reasoning can count against a blik and lead to its abandonment. For example, someone who believes in alien visitations to earth and government conspiracies to cover them up will experience official government reports and independent investigations of such phenomena and claims much differently from someone who does not hold those beliefs concerning extraterrestrials and government officials. Bliks are a “ belief which is strongly held, in spite of evidence to the contrary.” Bliks are “views that avoid debates.” R.M Hare
Bliks by Kelly Dorsey (NCC, 2006)
Bliks are beliefs that are strongly held, in spite of evidence to the contrary. These bliks( beliefs) become the basis for other beliefs. It was thought that that if a skeptic were to present data to a believer in opposition of that person’s blik, the believer would give up that blik. However, due to the fact that bliks are so foundational, the believer will come up with a “rationalization” for the discrepancy rather than to give up on their conviction. “A blik is not an assertion, not a concept, not a system of thought. It is what underlies the possibility of any kind of assertion about facts and their meanings. Hare writes: "Differences between bliks about the world cannot be settled by observation of what happens to the world. . . . It is by our bliks that we decide what is and what is not an explanation." Furthermore, because bliks are a basis for self-involving language, we care very deeply about our religious assertions. It becomes very important to have the right blik.(R. M. Hare in Antony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre, eds., New Essays in Philosophical Theology, pp. 100-101.)”
Hare also points out that people may agree about the facts and differ intensely about the interpretation: "The facts that religious discourse deals with are perfectly ordinary empirical facts like what happens when you pray; but we are tempted to call them supernatural facts because our way of living is organized round them; they have for us value, relevance, importance, which they would not have if we were atheists" (Basil Mitchell, ed., Faith and Logic [London: George Allen & Unwin, 1957], pp. 189-90.)
READ: The Language Gap and God: Religious Language and Christian Education by Randolph Crump Miller Published by Pilgrim Press, Philadelphia and Boston, 1970. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock. (http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2300&C=2269).
Another way of viewing bliks is to imagine them as mental filters. Information will pass through filtration allowing fragments of reality be accepted, while other portions of reality which conflict with their blik will be sifted out.
“Hare says religious people have a religious blik. Once you accept the religious blik, you have a brand-new way of looking at the world. Your frame of reference is radically altered, and with it, your evidentiary standards. Suddenly all sorts of things that previously did not count as evidence for God begin to count. Your evidentiary filter becomes much more porous. The existence of God becomes so obvious that nothing can falsify it.”
READ: The Problem of Religious Language by Sandra LaFave of West Valley College (http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/flew.html
An example of a common religious blik shared by people of the Western religions is the belief in Creationism. No matter what evidence is provided in support of the Theory of Evolution, including human remains that predate the supposed creation of Earth, their blik remains unscathed. The reason for this is because if they discredit their blik, then other aspects of the religion might also become discredited. Creating reasons for the inconsistencies are a defense mechanism in order to preserve their way of life and possibly their mental health. If in fact the evidence against their blik was excepted by them and they did disregard that belief, a domino effect could take place. In the end the believers are left confused. If something they held as a basic truth was disproved, then the foundation for all their truths could be shaken. Bliks effect they way a person perceives the world and therefore are subconsciously protected by the believer.
Bilks also are a catalyst for bringing people together. Those who own the same bliks seek each other out in order to support their belief. The more people who believe something, the more credible the belief becomes to others. This insures that certain religious bliks will be passed down to future generations.
Wittgenstein has observed that the limits of my language are the limits of my world. If a person does not have the words with which to think of something then it may be impossible for that person to think that the object of that thought even exists. On the other hand a person may live in a culture that has many words with which to think of things and so that person has more objects in the world than those people from cultures without the words. For example, Eskimos have many more words for "snow" than do other peoples. They experience snow differently. For them there are a far greater number of different forms of snow than the non-Eskimo experiences. Chinese languages use gerunds (action words) for nouns. Their view of reality is one which has a much greater amount of activity in it and less isolation of objects from one another than those people who are not raised with Chinese as their first or basic language.
Form of Life or Language Games
Wittgenstein has observed that humans enter into different uses of language in which the words take on different meanings. There are in life different situations or contexts in which the language usage and meaning may vary and these are repeatable and organized. They are referred to as language games or forms of life. A person could enter into several different language games during a lifetime. For example, there is the ordinary form of life and then the sports form of life. There is the scientific form of life and language game and there is the religious form of life and language game. To "steal" is wrong ordinarily but to "steal" a base is acceptable and commendable in baseball and to "steal" the opponent’s game plan or signals is acceptable in basketball or football. To " kill" one’s opponent means one thing on the streets and another in an athletic contest.
READ this on Wittgenstein's Fideism
Basic Beliefs- Foundational Beliefs
Whether it be religion or science or athletics or commerce there are certain basic beliefs upon which an entire set of ideas are built or constructed or rest. These basic ideas are not tested for their truthfulness or accuracy. They are not verified. They are not capable of being verified. Yet, the entire system of ideas rests upon them. For example, in science the idea of uniformity of nature is a "given" or basic idea and so is the very existence of an external universe that is separate and apart from the knower or experiencer. Likewise the process of reasoning known as Induction is accepted as a form of reasoning and verification. Yet there are no "proofs" that such ideas are "true". Foundational beliefs are a “given.”
READ this on Reformed Epistemology for some notion of the Basic or Foundational Beliefs
Evidentialist Position on Basic Belief Systems
Some theorists hold that any and all basic belief systems must be and are subject to a method of verification that utilizes physical evidence and phenomenal evidence. This requires that there be physical events, objects and experiences that confirm the basic beliefs or at least a substantial number of them.
READ this on Evidentialism The Rejection of Enlightenment Evidentialism
Coherentist Position on Basic Belief Systems
In this view the basic belief systems can not be verified or confirmed using actual evidence. It is enough for the believers to subject their belief systems to a rational examination utilizing the criteria of coherency. What is required for a believer is that the basic ideas be consistent with one another and make sense in reference to one another.
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© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.
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