Thursday, December 18, 2008

Faith and Premises

It's hard to get much time to write these days, especially anything of substance. But I probably over-write things at time too, so maybe it is better to put something down and maybe figure out more about it later. Or not.

So for a while I've been thinking on how I would describe the difference between faith and premises.

It seems that there are a couple classifications I would make for faith. One would be faith in its original form and the other I might call practical faith and is close to just plain trust.

Practical faith would apply when something is taken to be true but could be proven or disproven if the time was taken. Of necessity there are all manner of this in everyday life. If we had to prove everything to ourselves it would leave no time to actually get anything done.

Naturally, we've developed ways to deal with this. Formal recognition of experts is one - where we trust something told to us by an expert on a subject because they are accredited by some institution that we trust (Medical Doctors are an example). Of course we have to also trust the institution, which might simply be based on the fact that other's do, or because we agree with their fundamental rules, and so on. It has to be recognized that all of this as described so far can be just a big pyramid of faith all the way down.

So with an idea of practical faith I may say something like, "I have faith in what my Doctor tells me."

But the more intereresting type of faith is the kind that addresses the "bottom of it all."

Faith, at the bottom of the pyramid, suffers from the problem of determining just where the logical bottom is. By it's definition it doesn't allow questioning.

It has seemed to me for a long time that if god existed he wouldn't have us rely on such a mechanism. What faith one holds is something that is largely culturally determimned. And it has to be to some extent - once you accept something on faith you are then not allowing it to be questioned, so we are naturally taken to what we're first exposed to.

Being born in the U.S. would likely mean having a Christian faith. Being born in Saudi Arabia would likely mean having a Muslim faith. Seen from the outside I don't think either side has more reason to be right than the other. Of course to each, within their own culture, things seem more obvious.

In fact I've come to think that a fair question to a Christian would be why they are not a Muslim. And of course vice-versa.

But, back to faith vs. premises. The fundamental difference, I think, is that premises can be questioned. A premise doesn't demand to be absolute, and based on new contrary evidence, premises should change. Where faith is concerned, new contrary evidence is seen as a test; and one that is only failed if you are "weak."

In an ironic way I suppose, I've thought even god (in the Christian conception of such anyway) would prefer the use of premises over faith.

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