Monday, November 28, 2005

The Necessity of Faith?

Are the skeptics useful? So asks Hayim.

"The problem starts when the community leans too heavily in one direction. Freewheeling "metaphysics", or an exaggerated emphasis on scholarship to the detriment of other approaches of Judaism, are deplorably overprevalent in our day and age. So we need the skeptics, if only to give us a reality check on the direction our community is taking.

On the other hand, an excess in the opposite direction is even more disastrous. I, for one, would not want to be in Mis-Nagid's shoes. Overskepticism, i.e. the drive to only destroy and never build, must leave you unfulfilled and sour. I am glad to see that some still realize this."

Are you familiar with R' Kook? What you say here is pretty similar to his views. He said that atheists weren't rejecting God, they were rejecting faulty human images of God. That they were actually serving true Monotheism by keeping the faithful on their toes and keeping them from slipping into comfortable easy-thinking heresy.

What you call "overskepticism" would actually be a form of nihilism. This is the where the individual believes essentially in _nothing_. Does not believe in morals, human values, respected traditions, patriotism, progress, the future, and disbelief in religion and God go without saying.

Some nihilists even go so far as to say that there is no point at all in living (since they hold value in nothing). They only strive for the end and to help others get there too through helpful mutual destruction.

There are some who argue that the necessary conclusion of systematic skeptical thinking is the arrival at some form of nihilism. They have a point. If you keep asking "why?" you will eventually hit a wall, an axiom, that you must actively choose to accept, or not. Those that find that they cannot accept even those axioms are often lead directly to nihilism, which is really a depressing and dangerous place to be.

To note though, I do not believe that Mis-nagid is a nihilist.

I, for one, do not think nihilism is good thing. Nor do I think is unrestrained credulity. There may be a happy middle ground, but frankly, I'm not really a fan of this "faith" business at all. What I am slowly realizing though is that even while we may not like faith, it is a necessary and unentangleable part of meaningful human life.

18 comments:

David said...

>I'm not really a fan of this "faith" business at all...[but] it is a necessary and unentangleable part of meaningful human life.

The mistake may be to call it "faith" and leave it at that. There's good reason that classical Jewish literature doesn't make use of that term in the sense that it's used today. I think what is often refered to as "faith" is merely the admitting of the personal, communal, and historical encounter with God in our epistemology.

Mis-nagid said...

Me, a nihilist? Yeesh.

Mis-nagid said...

From The Big Lebowski:
Donny: Are these the Nazis, Walter?
Walter Sobchak: No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of.

A must-see movie.

Orthoprax said...

David,

But to even "admit" to that means that one has faith that such an event actually occurred. You can't reasonably come to that conclusion based on the evidence alone.

David said...

First decide what qualifies as evidence. Why should empirical observations satisfy us? If you try to answer that question using only strict logic, you'll find yourself running in circles.

The answer, I think, is that we simply trust our eyes. Our eyes and the vision they provide us with are so fundamental that it would be unreasonable to ignore what they teach us. I'm suggesting that the experience of God be awarded a similar status.

Now, regarding that last point, you may disagree but you can't simply argue anymore that "faith" has no evidence. What we decide to call "evidence" is determined by what we believe.

B. Spinoza said...

>A must-see movie

I love the fact that the John Goodman character wouldn't bowl on shabbat because his ex-wife was Jewish :)

Mis-nagid said...

Spinoza, the running joke in the movie is that no one is what they say they are. For example, the nihilists are not, in fact, nihilists.

And hearing John Goodman reverently talk about the Rambam is sublime. :-)

B. Spinoza said...

The Dude, is the Dude

alex said...

If you google on "deepak chopra and Michael shermer" you'll find two essays which almost echo the two red paragraphs.

Hayim said...

Alex,

Who is exactly this Deepak Chopra ?

B. Spinoza said...

>Who is exactly this Deepak Chopra ?

sounds like a rapper, but I think he's a new age guru

Hayim said...

> sounds like a rapper, but I think he's a new age guru.

Oh well. I think I prefer to be with R. Kook... ;)

happywithhislot said...

Ortho
I think we were sort of talking about this a month ago.
That is why i started my blog.

Orthoprax said...

David,

"Now, regarding that last point, you may disagree but you can't simply argue anymore that "faith" has no evidence. What we decide to call "evidence" is determined by what we believe."

You are right but there has to be a sense of reason in there as well. If someone has a purely subjective experience that no one else can share then that may be justification enough for that individual to believe something, but it isn't enough for others.

If I see something and confirm with another individual ("Did you see that!?") then that observatory evidence is worth much more in considerations then if I just sensed something myself. Because although I generally trust my own senses, for incredible events I would even consider them somewhat suspect.

For example, suppose God actually spoke to me - I would likely begin to question my own sanity rather than simply assume that this sensation is real and really from God.

Orthoprax said...

Happy,

"I think we were sort of talking about this a month ago.
That is why i started my blog."

It was related but different. Your ideas tend to be set specifically in terms of Jewish Orthodoxy. I'm thinking much more generally in terms of all kinds of philosophy, science and religion. All forms of circumstances where knowledge or claims of knowledge are held.

Anonymous said...

David,
We don't 'trust' our eyes. It's simply 'impossible' not to agree that 'I see what I see'. That's all we are saying to ourselves, ultimately we really don't claim anything more.
Is it really something or just a dream? Well, what do you mean by 'really'? I surely do really see it and feel it, and that's all there is to it, nothing remains to be trusted.

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