Re: virus: Phaith page on

Sat, 05 Jun 1999 13:35:10 -0700

Eric Boyd wrote:

> I think you've confused two propositions above:
> (1) "If truth is the goal, rationality is the way" -- David McF.
> (2) "we should proportion our belief to the evidence"
> The second proposition is quite widely held, and seems so utterly
> obvious from a freethinkers prespective that we pass by it without
> thought, but I think that the main content of faith and phaith is in a
> denial of it.

Well, "faith" is a term that gets used to cover a wide range of states and processes, some of them, as has been pointed out and illustrated time and again with vivid and bloody examples, DO conflict with that fundamental tenet of freethinking.

> Faith and phaith differ in that the former advises breaking (2) when
> evidence *is* actually present, while the latter says that {in cases
> where evidence can never be applied / for non-falsifiable
> propositions}, you may choose to believe/value/embody the proposition,
> rather than taking the agnostic position.

One of the points I was most hoping to make in my defense of a certain kind of faith is that it is not tied to belief. "Belief," when used to mean commitment to the truth of a proposition, is no part of phaith at all.

Also, I would direct your attention to the "may choose to believe/value/embody the proposition" portion of your statement. As I said in the "it's not where I'm going; it's who I am" post, the value that I place on conscious awareness does not seem like something that I have chosen or like something I can abandon at will. I could probably adopt a lifestyle that would lead to the diminishment of my phaith, e.g. by getting addicted to heroine, but it doesn't seem like something I can just dispel in an instant with a single decision.

In spite of Wade's judgment that carving out a specific subset of the range of things we call faith and giving that subset a distinct label constitutes overposturing, I'm still not getting the sense that many participants in the discussion appreciate that phaith is a subset of faith. Every instance of phaith is an instance of faith, but not vice versa. When your interest is in reasons for or against holding a proposition to be true, you may still be in the faith circle, but you've moved out of the phaith circle as I'm attempting to articulate it.

> Now you state above that "It would be his commitment to rationality
> that would prescribe re-examining the maxim in light of that new
> evidence", but I don't think that's true. It is his commitment to (2)
> that causes that. Is two a rational/logical consequence of (1)?

You might say that. I would say that a commitment to rationality prescribes a commitment to only accepting propositions in a tentative fashion. I'm not disagreeing with you.

> <<
> One thing I would say to prompt a re-evaluation of the question of
> whether David's maxim constitutes an example of phaith is this: If
> one's commitment is to the truth of a proposition, then one has faith
> rather than phaith.
> >>

> As opposed to the usefulness of the proposition? The value of the
> proposition?

Focus on abstractions, on propositions, on belief is not what I had in mind when I was trying to make a case for a particular brand of faith. The immediate experience of feeling connected with an intelligence or a system larger than oneself (as usually defined, i.e. ending at the top layer of skin but sometimes being extended to include the clothes one is wearing or the car one is driving) can have an animating effect that dramatically increases our feeling of aliveness and moves us to a greater level of connection and compassion.

That's why I'm more and more inclined to separate out the "trust in one's modus" definition of phaith and call that "fides." Fides seems to answer more to the major Varian concerns about belief and evidence than does phaith.

> I've got an interesting idea: could one have phaith in
> the value of the proposition; i.e. embody the proposition, bring it to
> life, as it were; and then also have a rational argument which
> supports it's truth? (and hold the truth value of the proposition
> according to the evidence)

Certainly. We naturally look for evidence that confirms and validates our worldviews and our general approaches to life. This gets back to your question which got this conversation going: "do you think that phaith should/can be used to strengthen belief in falsifiable propositions?"

I have nothing to say on the "should" part of your question. That's just not the game that interests me at this time. Does one's phaith influence one's faith? I would think so.

+     [faith]           +++++++++++++++++++++                       +
+                         +
+                      +
+                         +      [phaith]
+                      +
+                         +
+                       +
+                         +++++++++++++++++++++                       +


Phaith is a subset of faith. If and where you draw the interior border will depend on your interests. It's not a substantial barrier, and the effects of processes within the phaith box will extend beyond its borders and out into faith and vice versa. In terms of my interests, when you talk about acceptance of, believe in, or commitment to a PROPOSITION, you are outside of the domain of phaith.

In order to communicate one's phaith, one is likely to formulate propositions, but when we start to take those words too seriously we tread on the border of dogma and expose ourselves to it's demonstrated risks.

> In this way, we can continue to say that phaith, per say, has nothing
> to do with truth; phaith has to do with value, with meaning and gnosis
> (self-knowledge).

I think that works if you are not bothered by the implication that gnosis has nothing to do with truth. It doesn't bother me at all.

> The position then is: "Rationality isn't where I'm going. Rationality
> is who I am". I value it with my life. I also have this pile of
> evidence {a, b, c, ..., x, y, z} that rationality leads to truth,
> which is quite fortunate. I like truth!
> Can we have our cake and eat it too?

I think we can.