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Is Faith inherently irrational?

I would like to propose the motion that faith is inherently irrational.

I consider rationality (in a nutshell) to be:
'An accurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.'

I can think of no better definition of faith than the exact opposite of this:
'A grossly inaccurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.'

However, I invite those who have faith, and profess it as a virtue, to submit their definition of faith.

(EDIT 16/9/12: This is intended to be a discussion on the nature of religious faith, of the sort people cite when putting forward claims of the supernatural, of gods, of an afterlife etc.... This is not intended to be a discussion of the wider concepts of hope, loyalty, trust or monogamy, but feel free to mention them in passing, or in comparison to faith. ENDEDIT).

Joseph Dorrell


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    Sep 15 2012: Sure but the dictionary doesn't define faith like this, faith is defined as confidence or trust in a thing. It can also be defined as belief without proof. Absolute proof must ultimately rely on induction which is inherently falsifiable, so such a thing cannot exist. Therefore all conclusions must be deduced from the available evidence which you mentioned. This evidence cannot provide absolute proof since it is inductive, therefore one must place confidence and trust in available evidence to deduce conclusions. This makes the dictionary's definition of faith much like your definition of rationality.
    • Sep 15 2012: So perhaps instead of trying and answer the question, we should ask which faith are we talking about.

      However, I think you are just playing semantics to make any faith look like rationality. Faith as in the religious kind is inherently irrational.
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        Sep 15 2012: Yes, we need to get definitions down first, becuase the OP is clearly talking about religious faith. If you think I'm doing that, that's a ridiculous assumption because I'm using a dictionary definition of faith.
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          Sep 15 2012: Budimir Zdravkovic :

          Why don't just deduce conclusions from the available evidence ?
          The conclusions would be right as long as the available evidence are correct .
          The rationality is simple : that one has evidence and from them deduce conclusions , on them he builds beliefs .

          There is no need to complicate the thing with the idea of 'absolute proof' .
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        Sep 15 2012: Of course, it's physically impossible to derive proof in any other way. I'm just saying faith has a wider definition than religious faith. At least in the English language.
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          Sep 15 2012: And if that thing about 'absolute proof' falls , it's useless , does the wider definition of faith still applies to rationality , in other words do you still claim we need to place trust an confidence in the available evidence in order to deduce conclusions ?
          This was what I was heading to , I know you're saying that faith has a wider definition .
    • Sep 15 2012: "This evidence cannot provide absolute proof since it is inductive, therefore one must place confidence and trust in available evidence to deduce conclusions. This makes the dictionary's definition of faith much like your definition of rationality."

      No, believing in evidence is rational because the probability of the evidence being correct is high. When you have faith you don't care about the probability of being right, that's not rational. Me playing the lottery because I have faith that I will win is not equivalent to me not playing because I believe I will not win, one of those outcomes is clearly more likely than the other so it is entirely rational and not an act of faith for me to go expect that outcome, even though I can't be entirely certain that outcome will occur.
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        Sep 15 2012: That's incorrect, placing your trust and conference in any uncertain event requires some degree of faith. I didn't say believing in evidence is irrational.
        • Sep 15 2012: I'm saying it's not faith when you're betting on the most likely version of events. It's a fallacy to think that just because you have two possibilities their probabilities must be 50/50 and all you can do is have faith in one of them.
        • Sep 15 2012: Surely we can have degrees of trust or confidence. Belief is not black and white, on or off, yes or no; there are degrees (or as I would put it 'apportionments') of belief. This degree of belief is the summation of rational belief based on evidence and irrational belief, faith.

          When I have an uncertain matter, I apportion an appropriate amount of belief, with no need to 'top up' with faith.
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        Sep 15 2012: I'm aware that probabilities don't have to be 50/50, they can be 90/10 for instance. But all evidence is evidence with reference to a theory, the evidence can either confirm your theory or not, you can have rational faith in your theory based on this probability.
        • Sep 17 2012: "Rational faith" is a contradictio in terminis at least using the common definition of "faith".
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        Sep 17 2012: I think you just need a dictionary.
        • Sep 17 2012: "Faith (noun):

          confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
          belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
          belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
          belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
          a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith."

          I think I got it covered. You want to redefine faith as including evidence backed belief but you can't just change the meaning of words to win an argument. Worse, you just can't argue when you change the meaning of words because then you stop speaking the same language as the other person.
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          Sep 17 2012: John Smith :

          You don't know what you're talking about .

          1. the confidence itself or the trust itself aren't irrational or rational things , they just are .

          2. the belief that has no proof is not necessarily irrational , 'without proof' is not equal with 'irrational' , e.g. the belief in the existence of alien life has no proof , does it mean that 'the existence of alien life' is an irrational thing ? Of course not .

          The existence or the non-existence of proofs for a belief is not an enough criteria to can say that is rational or irrational .
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          Sep 18 2012: EG I'm not sure what angle you are coming at this from.

          It is difficult to debate whether a belief is more or less rationale or irrational until you examine a specific claim, the nature of the claim, who is making it, what evidence or reasons might there be to support it or refute it.

          If you claim to absolutely know alien life exists I suggest you are being irrational unless you have some evidence I'm not aware of. If you claim the alien overlord Xenu absolutely exists without any evidence you are being even more irrationale.

          If you believe it likely that life exists on other planets, but admit you do not know for certain, that is a more reasonable belief.

          So it depends on the nature belief and how certain you are relative to the evidence and reasonable consideration.

          With the alien claim we see life has evolved here. There are probably billions of planets. It could be possible. But to claim you know is irrational unless you have information I'm not aware of.

          It is not irrational to believe gods may exist. It probably is if you believe god does exist and was born of a virgin and is named Dave and lived in a cave in Africa 10,000 years ago or that Adolf Hitler was a prophet of the creator and an alien angel inspired him to write Mein Kampf.

          It is even more irrational when there is a lot of evidence to believe people have similar experiences related to conflicting supernatural religious beliefs, and yet believe your particular guru has identified the truth and everyone else is misguided.
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          Sep 18 2012: G M :

          No , no you didn't get what I said . What I said is about pure logic . I don't wanna suggest alien life exist or not .

          Let's say ' a circle is a square ' is a belief . This belief has two characteristics :

          - it has no proof
          - itself makes no sense .

          If you know only the first you can't say that belief is irrational , it would not be enough . In order to know whether that belief is irrational you need to know the second besides the first .

          You talk generally because you're not sure what angle I'm coming from but because you talk to me it may suggest that what you say applies to me . That does not happen . I won't take anything you say and comment it to show why that doesn't apply to me .

          The question was : 'is faith inherently irrational ?' this question was asked mainly because faith means no proof but as I said right in this comment the existence or the non-existence of proofs alone doesn't make a belief irrational .
          The same thing about the belief in God : - you may not have evidence for the existence of God but as long as the concept of God is consistent you can't say that the belief in God is irrational .

          That's what everybody misses here . Atheism lack of thinking..... that is what happens.

          Am I clear enough ?
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        Sep 17 2012: Who said anything about winning? That's not my intention, it might be an intention you are projecting onto me but it's certainly not my intention. Yes so two of the above definitions are related to the kind of faith you are talking about. Are you telling me that one is not supposed to have some degree of faith in a hypothesis? That having faith in a hypothesis is not rational? Well if that was the case no one would bother testing a hypothesis. Even theories, a theory is not a proper proof because it is falsifiable, believing in a theory requires faith, finally confidence and trust in a thing or person can be considered rational faith in many instances. All these definitions I think demonstrate that faith has a wiser definition than how it has been discussed ib the thread, yes faith can be irrational but all faith is not irrational.
    • Sep 15 2012: Using a dictionary definition or many dictionary definitions? Conflating things by using several meanings is called a fallacy of equivocation. It happens when people jump from one definition to another and eureka! A wrong conclusion. It is part of rhetorical trickery, but it is quite often done by mistake. Among the hardest to understand unless you look at them carefully enough. Great trick though. Lots of people buy into them and can't see what the problems might be.

      Besides that, you made rationality to require absolute proof, thus building something of a straw man of rationality.
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        Sep 15 2012: The definition of faith has a wider meaning than religious faith, as I pointed out above. All definitions of faith are united by a single conceptual framework, which is trust in uncertainty. I'm tricking you by using dictionary definitions? Way to expose my trickery champ. Anyway I don't care that much you can make up your own words and meanings or your own language it doesn't really matter to me. We don't have to go by the English dictionary. But remember we are speaking english so my assumption was we are sticking to common English definitions.

        I didn't say that, rationality doesn't require absolute proof. I just stated that faith according to the dictionary and rationality according to the OP are not mutually exclusive. One is not the opposite of the other. The OPs definition of rationality is more in accordance with the dictionary.
        • Sep 15 2012: Nope, not all definitions of faith are united by a single conceptual framework. The word can mean quite different things. Yes, this is English we are writing. So what?

          If the OP is talking about religious-like faith, and you use a different definition (from a dictionary), then compare that to whatever you perceived rationality to be from the OP, while "reducing" (I could not find a better word) its meaning talking about the impossibility of absolute proof, you are building an equivocation fallacy by any standard. Sorry. I did not say you did this with the purpose of misleading. But mislead you did.

          You are right on one thing though. You did not say that rationality requires absolute proof (my mistake). You just implied that for rationality to be different to faith it would require absolute proof. Which is still wrong, but not the same.
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        Sep 15 2012: Budimir performed no such fallacy, (Rather he opened up his definition for more interpretations than combining or mixing them up)

        However Gabo you did perform a confirmation bias; since Budimir's more broad interpretation conflicts with your position (beliefs) you claim it is fallacious.

        Also I have faith Budimir would have a much different position had the debate been "religious [based] faith is inherently irrational"
        • Sep 15 2012: "Opened up" his definition to conflate faith with rationality. That's an equivocation fallacy. Also remember that Budimir himself said: "the OP is clearly talking about religious faith."

          So, nothing to do with conflicting with my "beliefs" (which beliefs? should we start another set of equivocations?)
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          Sep 15 2012: Finally someone that gets what I'm saying, thanks Nicholas.

          Gabo, that's great that you are stubbornly persistent with this, but "faith is inherently irrational" is a false statement. Maybe the statement "some faith is inherently irrational" makes more sense according to the English language. If you wanna make a distinction in such a way that you either have faith or rationality, the two words meaning two opposites that are mutually exclusive then you can redefine faith as the OP did but that is not how it has been traditionally used in academic and philosophical literature, and this new definition reflects an politically ideological distinction, which in my opinion is much closer to the "trickery" you are accusing me of.
        • Sep 15 2012: Budimir,

          "Faith" has "traditionally" been used in many different ways in academic and philosophical literature. If you looked carefully you would also notice that in those works the kind of faith to be discussed is defined at the get go.

          If someone wants to talk about the faith as commonly referred to in religions, I do not see how trying to figure out if it is inherently irrational or not is making a "politically ideological distinction." It looks to me as if the person wants to talk about this kind of faith and about rationality, not about how you can level terms off by playing semantics.

          Be well.
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        Sep 15 2012: Ah no, he suggest that Joe's definition of rationality is on a parallel to faith.
        "This makes the dictionary's definition of faith much like your definition of rationality."

        Which THEN his argument is welcoming to Joe's interpretation but on the grounds (terms) Joe recognizes that can be faith-based too. Not the definitions in general. So again, your opinion of him being fallacious is misleading.

        And Joe is CLEARLY talking about religious faith, hence his 'related videos' and history of arguments - which are available to view via his profile. (Edited: OH and his latest comment on this thread is evidence also.)

        Your position on what faith is as being "inherently irrational" this is false. That is a belief because it is not true to everyone, obviously. Please reference my original post on this conversation.

        Also note, humans are naturally irrational creatures with the potential to be rational, thus faith-based thoughts are more common than otherwise. So if irrational thoughts are the normal, what is most likely the base for the rational? (Note: without consensual (empirical) knowledge, reasoning would take much longer to permeate even the slightest absolute truth.)

        You cannot be objective or absolute without the subjective or relative first.
        • Sep 15 2012: Nick,

          Yes, he "suggests" so based on equivocations. First by changing the faith originally referred to into one with a "wider" definition, then by "levelling off" rationality to this redefined "faith" arguing about/against absolute proof. That's equivocation, again, by all standards.

          That not everybody is convinced about something does not make such something a "belief" (further equivocation as I predicted).

          Whether humans are inherently irrational or not is an aside. Here you are committing a non-sequitur fallacy that disguises as a genetic fallacy. If irrational thoughts are the "normal" it does not follow that rational ones have irrational ones as a basis. Humans being naturally irrational does not change anything. It might justify that faith is inherently irrational, but will not make it any less so, will it? I know that what you pretend is to level rationality with faith, but that's mere rhetorical trickery.

          Finally, objective and absolute are not synonyms. Subjective and relative are not synonyms either.
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        Sep 15 2012: There is no deception here (or at least intentionally), as the premise of this entire argument is the semantic nature of 'faith'. Budimir suggestions were based on him trying to be objective while, again, recognizing Joe's subjective opinion. Budimir intentions are not to be 'correct' but to allow more ideas to put down and taken off the table - it isn't just logic, it is better, it's more procedural; many-valued logic.

        Recognizing the above, Budimir and I are coming from the position of being argumentative with the premeditation of allowing and requiring more ambiguity to accept all interpretations of the terms 'faith' and 'rationality'. You call it fallacious because it makes logic more difficult, we would call it being a well-rounded philosopher because it makes logic more difficult.

        "That not everybody is convinced about something does not make such something a "belief" (further equivocation as I predicted)."

        Please take a moment to search the term 'belief' - okay, now - since your comment indicated a "yes" to faith being inherently irrational - that is a knowledge claim i.e. a belief. Perhaps you are offended by my diction choice? Too bad, I speak from a broad use of words on purpose, because I am no elitist with thoughts and words, like you. (Evidence: your attempts to point out fallacies)

        Epistemological concerns are a must to be referenced here Gabo, the question being concerned with 'knowing' and 'knowledge' which is consistent with terms such as 'truth' and 'faith'. Therefore the ideals of the objective and absolute must be called into question.

        On the accord of human nature. We must learn rationality and must be taught how to reason and think. Those lessons are based on nurturing; societal and cultural, norms and ideals. However nature is never not there and our sciences suggest we are primarily irrational. My point: faith is prior to rationality.

        Finally, I never suggested they were, but rather that two are the prior for the other two, to exist.
        • Sep 16 2012: Part of being a good philosopher is precisely trying to use a precise word over a very open-to-interpretation one. Part of rather being a sophist is to use as much ambiguity as possible. That way you can keep moving around and never get anywhere. Being a good philosopher is not about trying hard to keep yourself in the dark, but rather being able to reach conclusions when necessary. To that end, your terms have to be precise. Does this sound philosophically sound to you at all? I hope so.

          During the times when I explored Buddhism I enjoyed the most the concept of illumination. At that time I had no idea about how misleading equivocations are. I thought they were puzzles, rather than fallacies. I thought they helped me get rid of restrains of thought. Anyway, I admire as much as the next the kind of poetry that equivocations can produce. The mental states so similar to those felt when we get to understand something. They look magical. Anyway, they are still tricks. Maybe the mind gets an orgasm out of the jumping of meanings. But that still does not make equivocations any more valid as arguments to attain any proper understanding. They just make discussion go round and round because people are talking about different things (while thinking that they are talking about the same thing), and thus reaching a conclusion is naturally impossible.

          Faith may or may not be prior to rationality. That still does not make faith rational, nor reason into faith.
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        Sep 15 2012: At this point I am attempting to be the well-rounded philosopher and be broad with interpretations... In doing so I must create more grounds for arguments, not to misdirect, but to essentially dictate that these issues are more grander than the original premises and conclusions can allow in brevity.

        My point of human's being naturally irrational and suggesting faith is more of a common occurrence than not. Is to again, open up the terms for argument to even allow religious faith to be apart of my idea in argument. Claim to support noted arguments: Human's have religious behavior - we cannot escape this, and by recognizing such we can be more rational.

        Yes it took me 5 comments to make a claim rather than just broaden the terms to preexisting ones.
        • Sep 16 2012: I bet you are enjoying the process of becoming a well rounded philosopher. It shows.

          All the best.

          (No sarcasm intended whatsoever. Clarification just in case any misinterpretation could arise.)
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        Sep 16 2012: I think the attempt to being precise with words that are in nature ambiguous i.e. the words HEAVILY repeated here, and if not, is asking for constant debate and arguments.

        That is why open source dictionaries are really essential to understanding how individuals and cultures in the sciences, arts and/or the relative enterprises - understand and are viewing the world. Allowing broad interpretation in words is procedural to also being able to interpret other works in literary respects.

        A single word can hold a bible of thought(s) if constantly reverted back to; why the word 'God' is so powerful to the psyche to those with faith in an omni-being.

        Existentialism, Nationalism, Science, Nature, Universe, Space, God - words that can be used in a multitude of manners should be treated as such - not because that is the best way, but that is because that is way it actually exist; to be a 'multicultural' philosopher is to be a well rounded philosopher.

        Seeing as how I find mythical/spiritual and Eastern philosophy just as valuable as Western philosophy - I have derived universal principles that can be acceptable to anyone, not because they are correct, but because they anticipate changes in meaning

        A conclusion is only as good as it's premises. No question, should have one answer - common sense is relative (pun)... Assuming absolutes is dangerous to dialectic thinking. Science in history was referenced more for the arts; today, science is an enterprise of consensual professionals involving in various levels of paradigmatic/methodical cultures - I never assume an empirical fact is the entire Reality of anything, but rather the best measure to the absolute, as a species, we have.

        Conclusion: At the time you began to believe this word had one definition, is the time where you appeal to an authority that is not your own. Rather than looking at various authorities to existentially 'nitpick'.

        Faith =/= rationality, but they derive from one another. Not opposites.
        • Sep 16 2012: I could counter a lot, and I see too easily many ways in which you have made your position worse. But I think that now we would be just going in circles. So I am done for now.

          Keep the learning Nick. So will I.

          ("At the time you began to believe this word had one definition" I didn't. What I did was try and keep the definition that was under consideration instead of allowing the jumping from one definition to another, which is, again, fallacious.)
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        Sep 16 2012: Well Budimir's definitions were not jumping (this is what you are not comprehending from me and this maybe just as much my fault as yours) - rather he was linking two seemingly opposites in terminology and arguing they have relative natures... This is the procedural thinking I referenced.

        Further defended by the entire comment above suggest - which to me and many, is the best way to approach philosophy. Being multicultural, nitpicking from a variety of philosophies, learning from ancient belief systems, figuring out basic psychological determinations from mysticism/scientific sources, appreciation for science in general, knowing of different beliefs... (arguably)

        You say you read Buddhism... I would say you missed the mark, and/or did not grasp the holistic metaphysics that is foundationalism for the majority of Eastern thought, and arguably language..

        You suggest the logical fallacy, sometimes, logical fallacy is practical in arguments. Logic itself needs to be broaden in our Western practices of philosophy and science (this is a giant movement in art. historically and apart of contempt philo.). Biases exist in our natural function of thinking. Cognitive bias theory is brilliant. - What is intelligence, isn't even answered, let alone what is rational. All speculation, theory and/or culturally agreed upon definitions.

        We are limited by words. The words should not be our limit.
        I don't believe we exhausted this conversation.

        This conversation is about epistemology. What is knowledge? How do we know 'truth'? When is knowing - believing and believing - knowing?

        Faith was called into question. Knowing, in the sense 'knowing' without 'proof' - but KNOWING.
        Best argument: In longevity of actions, fundamental faith in thought - proves irrational (to a degree), biased, arrogant and/or refusal of alternative consideration.

        Who decides the line between 'positive' and 'negative' thinking? What is a positive s[spectrum of thinking? Rationality?
        • Sep 16 2012: I can't do much more Nick. Look carefully and you will see that you are just insisting on your kind of solipsism and on how right changing the definitions is, while I keep insisting about how wrong changing the definitions is. Everything else is interesting argumentation at times. Cheap pseudo-philosophy at other times, and et cetera.

          I embraced Buddhism but I did not renounce my own mind. I don't think I have ever embraced anything to the point of renouncing my own thinking. I was able to enjoy and criticize at the same time. You should try it. No wise man in the whole world has anything on you. Start by respecting your own mind. I am not saying that you should forget the respect for people who have thought deeper and longer than you. I am saying that you should still remember that you have your own mind. (Don't read this in haste.)

          I hope that was clear.
          See ya later alligator.
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          Sep 16 2012: Very nicely put Nicholas.
    • Sep 15 2012: 'Sure but the dictionary doesn't define faith like this'
      Faith is a rather nebulous concept, but much of what it covers is equally well served by other words and concepts:
      - I have faith (trust) that my brother will buy a nice present.
      - I am faithful (monogamous) to my wife.
      - We have to have faith (hope) that the rescue boat will come soon.
      - This is my faithful (loyal) friend, Lawrence.
      But the faith we are discussing here is that which is used as an explanation for a belief in supernatural phenomenon, e.g. gods, afterlife, reincarnation etc... You cannot trust someone you do not believe exists, monogamy does not apply, belief in god is not simply wishful thinking, and you cannot be loyal to someone, again, who you do not believe exists.

      It is a mistake to start talking about 'absolute proof' outside of pure mathematics. Any theory can be overturned with enough evidence, so none should be believed in 'absolutely'. However, not having absolute proof does not mean the evidence cannot be accumulated, or used to support hypotheses.

      Your point about 'one must place confidence and trust in available evidence', was interesting. Are you making the point that we must first make the assumption that the world is real before we attempt to study it?
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        Sep 16 2012: There you go, that's what I wanted to clear up, we are on the same page.

        I think there are numerous ways we can also define real, and discussing the nature of reality is quite a complicated debate but at the very least we can place confidence in available evidence and fact because it is useful to do so, what we can do and achieve is dictated by fact, not by celestial orders or other things we imagine might exist.

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