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Pragmatic Religion

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Pragmatic Religion

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Pragmatic Religion

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Pragmatic Religion Bibliographic Information

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Additionally, we might ask whether the property of intellectual openness is to be understood as the evidence is lacking, or as the evidence is in principle lacking.

That is, is an option intellectually open when the evidence is indeterminate, or when it is essentially indeterminate?

The lack of adequate evidence is sufficient to render an option intellectually open. If more evidence appears so that one hypothesis is supported by a preponderance of the evidence, then a commitment to abide by the evidence is triggered.

James asserts that there are two affirmations of religion. By affirmation James means something like an abstract claim, devoid of much doctrinal content, and found in the major religions.

The first affirmation is that the best things are the more eternal things, while the second is that we are better off even now if we believe the first affirmation.

The first affirmation is particularly puzzling, since James does not assert that the best things are the eternal things; he says that the best things are the more eternal things.

The plurality though is still puzzling. If we take this as a third affirmation of religion perhaps at the risk a charge of theistic parochialism , the possibility that the more eternal things are plural is foreclosed.

Monotheism, in other words, and not polytheism is established by the third affirmation. Taken together, then, the first and the third affirmations of religion suggest that the supreme good in the universe is the existence of a personal being that is essentially perfect and sovereign.

The second affirmation is that we are better off now by believing in the existence of this perfect being. At least in part, we would be better off now by believing the first affirmation because by doing so the possibility of a relationship with this being is established.

According to James, just as one is not likely to make friends if one is aloof, likewise one is not likely to become acquainted with the perfect being, if there is such, if one seeks that acquaintance only after sufficient evidence has been gathered.

There are possible truths, James claims, belief of which is a necessary condition of obtaining evidence for them.

The Cliffordian may be forever cut off from certain kinds of truth. One might object that James has at best shown that theistic belief is momentous only if God exists.

If God does not exist, and, as a consequence, the vital good of eternal life does not obtain, then no vital good is at stake. To answer this objection a Jamesian might focus on what James calls the second affirmation of religion—we are better off even now if we believe—and take that affirmation to include benefits that are available, via pro-belief, even if God does not exist.

In The Varieties of Religious Experience James suggests that religious belief produces certain psychological benefits:. In addition this objection is easily evaded if we revise the notion of a genuine option by removing the requirement that an option is genuine only if momentous, although James himself may have been loath to drop that requirement.

With this argument, James seeks to support the second of his two primary concerns of his essay, that a religious commitment is permissible.

That is, hoping that a proposition is true is no reason to think that it is. A Jamesian might contend that this objection is unfair.

Restricting the relevant permissibility class to propositions that are intellectually open and part of a genuine option provides ample protection against wishful thinking.

Can a morally and intellectually responsible person ever have a moral duty to believe a proposition that lacks adequate evidence, a duty that outweighs the alleged Cliffordian duty of believing only those propositions that enjoy adequate support?

Suppose Clifford is abducted by very powerful and very smart extraterrestrials, which offer him a single chance of salvation for humankind—that he acquire and maintain belief in a proposition that lacks adequate evidential support, otherwise the destruction of humankind will result.

Clifford adroitly points out that no one can just will belief. The ETs, devilish in their anticipation as well as their technology, provide Clifford with a supply of doxastic-producing pills, which when ingested produce the requisite belief for 24 hours.

As we mentioned earlier, given the distinction between A having reason to think a certain proposition is true, and B having reason to induce a belief in that proposition, it may be that a particular proposition lacks sufficient evidential support, but that forming a belief in that proposition is the rational action to perform.

Every epistemic principle that divides beliefs into those that are permissible and those that are not runs the risk of shutting off access to certain possible kinds of truth.

But an alleged flaw found in every possibility is no flaw. This objection is interesting since it is in one sense true.

Still, while interesting, this objection is irrelevant. His examples of social trust, and acquiring friends, and of social cooperation are intended to make that clear.

If theism were true, then it is very likely that there would be dependent propositions and restricted propositions in that realm as well.

He is arguing against the prohibition of believing whenever the evidence is silent. Mill thought that belief in a creator of great but limited power was supported by the design argument, and one could certainly erect the superstructure of hope upon the base of a belief in a creator who would extend human existence beyond the grave:.

Since we do not know that granting postmortem existence to humans is beyond the capability of the creator, hope is possible.

As Mill puts it:. The second condition L2 is straightforwardly pragmatic and restricts hope to those who have goals either of personal happiness, or of contributing to the well-being of others.

Believing that hope will result in the increase of happiness or well-being is a necessary condition of permissible hope.

Mill was no subjectivist or fideist. But hope and belief are not the same; and the standards for the permissibility of the latter are considerably higher.

Mill thought that L1 and L2 were the relevant standards for permissible hope. Mill held that one may hope that God exists, but one may not believe that God exists, as the evidence is lacking.

Suppose one agrees with Mill, that faith can subsist on hope, trust, or some other non-doxastic attitude other than belief. Suppose further that one seeks to build a theistic commitment on hope.

The acceptance of theistic hope provides reason to act as if theism were true, not because one believes that it is true, but because one hopes that it is.

What is it to act as if theism is true? It is to put into practice behaviors characteristic of a particular religious tradition, such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

A problem arises however. Social psychology, with its theories of biased scanning, social-perception theory, and cognitive dissonance theory, advances the idea that behavior can alter, influence, and generate attitudes, including beliefs see Jordan By regularly engaging in behaviors and practices characteristic of a particular religious tradition, one engages in actions that tend to inculcate religious belief.

Belief is catching, as associating and imitating the faithful is an effective way of self-inducing the beliefs of the faithful. Those who seek to replace belief with hope will find themselves taking steps to build a theistic commitment on hope, while holding that they ought to avoid theistic belief.

Yet, the very steps involved in fostering a commitment on hope — immersive role-playing as a theist, or acting as if theism were true — tend to generate theistic belief.

Those who habitually or chronically imitate the actions and rituals of theists find eventually that those are not just tasks they perform, but are at the heart of who they are and what they believe.

Yet, theistic belief is off-limits. One would have to take steps that inoculate against the contagious theistic belief. One is pushed to act as if theism were true, yet pulled to act to ensure that one does not come to believe that it is.

Whatever commitment might emerge out of this dynamic is not likely one characteristic of a mature or wholeheartedly committed theist.

This problem of catching belief flows out of the fact that chronically acting as if something is true is an effective way of inculcating the belief that it is true.

Religious Fictionalism, for example, which holds that faith that p does not require belief that p , has to deal with the problem.

For more discussion, see Malcolm and Scott , and Jordan The essay was a page best seller, which, most commentators agree, was unfair in many respects to Hume.

Since in some cases, Beattie contends, despair flows from the loss of faith. And he assumes that no justifying good exists for Hume to risk causing despair.

Beattie believed that Christian belief provided consolation, especially to those suffering or oppressed. His argument might be reconstructed as there exists a person S , such that:.

Montaigne was endowed with a good estate, health, leisure and an easy temper, literary tastes, and a sufficiency of books; he could afford thus to play with life, and the abysses into which it leads us.

Let us take a case in contrast. This argument lends itself easily to a pragmatic cast since it places great weight on the idea that certain human needs support the rational and moral legitimacy of religious belief:.

This sort of argument faces many questions and issues that we cannot explore here. Among these issues and questions are: suppose that one, morally and rationally, may satisfy a need, it does not follow that one can satisfy that need in any old way.

Some ways of satisfying a need are permissible while others are not. Is belief in God a permissible way?

Do humans in fact have the alleged needs? Is belief in God the only feasible way to satisfy those needs?

See Williams for further discussion. We can understand Evidentialism as the thesis that:. Clearly enough, pragmatic arguments run afoul of E , since pragmatic arguments are employed either when the evidence is inconclusive, or it is conclusively adverse.

Consider the latter case first. The appeal of the third version for theistic apologists is its ready employment as a worst-case device.

Suppose there were a compelling argument for atheism. With the third version the theist has an escape: it can still be rational to believe, even if the belief is itself unreasonable, since inculcating theistic belief is an action with an infinite expected utility.

This use as a worst-case device is something like a trump card that can be thrown down defeating what had appeared as a stronger hand.

If James is correct, then E should be replaced with:. Where the evidence speaks, one must listen and obey. Principle E , on the other hand, forbids believing p in that case.

So, an employer of theistic pragmatic arguments can conform to Weak Evidentialism, but not Strong Evidentialism.

A promising argument in support of the moral and rational permissibility of employing pragmatic reasons in belief-formation is erected upon the base of what we might call the Duty Argument or perhaps more precisely, the Duty Argument scheme :.

The Duty Argument employs the box and diamond in the standard fashion as operators for, respectively, conceptual necessity and possibility.

The alpha is just a placeholder for actions, or kinds of actions. Overall rationality is the all-things-considered perspective.

It is what one ultimately should do, having taken into account the various obligations one is under at a particular time.

Overall rationality, or all-things-considered rationality ATC rationality , is, in W. The Duty Argument can be formulated without presupposing that there are various kinds of rationality, by replacing the principle that no one is ever irrational in doing her moral duty , with the principle that moral obligations take precedence whenever a dilemma of obligations occurs.

The relevance of the Duty Argument is this. Consider the following four cases in which pragmatic belief formation is, arguably, morally required:.

Devious ETs : Suppose you are abducted by very powerful and advanced extraterrestrials, who demonstrate their intent and power to destroy the Earth.

Moreover, these fiendish ETs offer but one chance of salvation for humankind — you acquire and maintain a belief for which you lack adequate evidence.

You adroitly point out that you cannot just will such a belief, especially since you know of no good reason to think it true. Devilish in their anticipation and in their technology, the ETs produce a device that can directly produce the requisite belief in willing subjects, a serum, say, or a supply of one-a-day doxastic-producing pills.

It is clear that you would do no wrong by swallowing a pill or injecting the serum, and, hence, bringing about and maintaining belief in a proposition for which you lack adequate evidence, done to save humankind.

Indeed, it is clear that you are in fact obligated to bring about the requisite belief, even though you lack adequate evidence for it.

Pain case : Jones knows that expecting an event to be painful is strongly correlated with an increase in the intensity of felt pain as opposed to having no expectation, or expecting the event to be relatively painless.

Jones is about to have a boil lanced, and believing that she is obligated to minimize pain, she forms the belief that the procedure will be painless.

She does so even though she lacks evidence that such procedures are in fact typically painless. Because of her action, the event is in fact less painful than it would otherwise have been.

Small child : Suppose you are the parent or custodian of a small child, who has been hurt. You know that studies support the thesis that the felt pain reported by patients is typically higher in cases in which the patient expected the event to be painful than in cases where the patient did not have that expectation.

You have no idea about the relative pain associated with a particular medical procedure that the child is about undergo. The child asks you if the procedure will be painful.

Doctor case : Dr. Jones believes that maintaining hope is vital for quality of life. Overall, Jones decides it is better not to inform Smith just how poor the prognosis is and she does not disabuse Smith of her evidentially unsupported belief.

These four cases provide possible scenarios in which pragmatic belief formation, or suborning pragmatic belief formation in others, is morally required.

Although controversial, the Duty Argument, if sound, would provide good reason for thinking that there are occasions in which it is permissible, both rationally and morally, to form beliefs based upon pragmatic reasons even in the absence of adequate evidence.

If the Duty Argument is sound, then E is false. The Duty Argument presupposes that there are various kinds of rationality.

Many Evidentialists, as well as many opponents of Evidentialism, also assume that there are various kinds of rationality.

What if however there is only one kind or standard of rationality? What impact would that have on the debate? Susanna Rinard argues that it is best to reject the idea that there are various kinds or standards of rationality, and replace that idea with an equal treatment idea that all states — whether doxastic or not — face a single standard of rationality Rinard Equal treatment of states — states like carrying an umbrella, or walking the dog, or voting for this candidate over that, or forming a belief in God — provides greater theoretical simplicity than does the idea that there are various standards or kinds of rationality.

Equal Treatment also better explains the methodological attraction of simplicity in science than does the idea that there are various kinds of rationality, Rinard argues.

If the equal treatment of all states idea is correct, then doxastic states would face the same standard of rationality as states of action.

The Equal Treatment idea provides an additional objection to Evidentialism insofar as Evidentialism implies that beliefs are subject to one standard, while other states are subject to another standard.

According to Doxastic Voluntarism, believing is a direct act of the will, with many of the propositions we believe under our immediate control.

We must remember that Pierce focused first and foremost on scientific experimentation — truth, then, depended upon practical consequences that would be observed by a community of scientists.

Perhaps his most famous application of this principle of truth was to religious questions, in particular, the question of the existence of God.

In his book Pragmatism , for example, he wrote:. A more general formulation of this principle can be found in The Meaning of Truth :.

There are, of course, some obvious objections that can be raised against the Pragmatist Theory of Truth. For example, a belief that one will succeed may give a person the psychological strength needed to accomplish a great deal — but in the end, they may fail in their ultimate goal.

James, it seems, substituted a subjective sense of working for an objective sense of working which Pierce employed.

As Nietzsche argued, sometimes untruth may be more useful than truth. Now, Pragmatism may be a handy means of distinguishing truth from untruth.

Peirce used it as a means for developing linguistic and conceptual clarity and thereby facilitate communication with intellectual problems. He wrote:.

William James is the most famous philosopher of pragmatism and the scholar who made pragmatism itself famous. For James, pragmatism was about value and morality: The purpose of philosophy was to understand what had value to us and why.

James argued that ideas and beliefs have value to us only when they work. James wrote on pragmatism:. Instrumentalism was thus both about logical concepts as well as ethical analysis.

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  1. Kegor sagt:

    Wie in diesem Fall zu handeln?

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