Free «When Is Faith in Something Rational?» Essay

When Is Faith in Something Rational?


Though statements involving the province of faith are quite familiar with our normal discourse, faith and rationality are generally perceived to conflict. In many people’s thoughts the two have nothing to say to each other (Buchak 1). This paper will focus on the relationship between faith and rationality by taking into consideration both practical and epistemic rationalities. The argument will be pegged to the fact that faith should not contradict epistemic rationality, and in the same token establish whether faith can be practically rational. Faith demands a willingness to act as if something is true, at the same time as abstaining from collecting evidence for the rationale of inspecting its accuracy. Rationality calls upon us to gather as much evidence as it is practically possible in order to inform our decision making and our thinking.

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Faith and Rationality

An important element that forms a statement of faith is that it entails a proposition that the actor concerned acquiesces. This means that when an individual has faith in something, he or she acquiesces to it (Buchak 4). In order for faith to fall within the precepts of rationality, there are certain preconditions that need to be fulfilled. It is important that an individual thinks a claim is sufficiently likely and that the actions it supports are sufficiently beneficial. In other words, the anticipated utility of acting on the claim prevails over the anticipated utility of not acting on the claim. For example, if a person accords higher anticipated utility on marriage and has faith in their partner, it follows that such individuals have good reason to believe that their partner will, in fact, be faithful. This qualification supports the reasonableness of acting in a way that is congruent with one’s faith in the aforementioned example; one would, therefore, be expected to give up an opportunity to cheat on their partner (Birket 4). In this example the actors do not commit to having faith in their partner without recourse of more evidence. If they found it necessary, they would investigate to establish whether their partner is truly faithful.

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Epistemic Rationality and Faith

Based on the precepts of epistemic rationality theory, an individual should proportion their beliefs to their evidence. This means that one should not believe in only what will bring happiness or simply what one likes. In addition, an individual should never give false, but conducive reasons as the basis for belief (Buchak 14). Every believer should be pegged on the evidence that has relation to the proposition that informs one’s faith. In this line, a rational person can only adjust his degree of belief in relation to the underlying evidence. A person will, therefore, keep on updating their belief depending on the nature of evidence. A person will, therefore, continually conditionalie their beliefs depending on the flow of evidence, and as such the degree of belief between two distinct parties will vary, since they are likely to have different evidences that inform on a given proposition (Buchak 15). Faith exemplified using the epistemic approach is, therefore, irrational, since it does not require one to gather evidence, a feature that is an important element of the epistemic rationality.

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Practical Rationality and Faith

On the other hand, practical rationality entails choosing the apt, meaning to achieve one’s end. As a rational being, a person will choose a series of actions that are expected to yield the maximum utility. Acting in a certain way will result to a particular outcome (Lombrozo 1). Rational agents will always seek to maximize utility given the prevailing circumstance and set of conditions. Faith involves two key actions: making a choice among the available alternatives and not gathering for more evidence for the rationale for this choice (Lombrozo 15). Then, the question that arises from the foregoing is how to prove that the two actions are practically rational. The fits action entails making a choice among the available alternatives, and a rational agent would only choose the option that has a higher expected utility than all other options (Lombrozo 1).

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This will be pegged on an agent’s credence. In this vein, a rather clear restriction on when faith is rational is that an individual’s credence in anything should be sufficiently high, as making an action (choice) should be taken as a practically rational act. Gathering more evidence on a particular proposition would only serve to show that one has no faith in something. For example, in marriage, a man who has faith in his wife will not hire investigators or strike a conversation with her wife’s workmate to establish whether she is cheating on him. If a man does hire investigators, the wife would be right to complain that he does not have faith in her, even though he could be 100 percent sure that she is not cheating. The decision should only be informed by prevailing evidence (Buchak 11).

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In this paper, we have observed that the faith that an individual has in something (A), can only be rational if it meets two important preconditions. First, whether a person has a high credence in A (something), and most importantly, the nature and the character of the available evidence. In particular, faith in something (A) can only be rational if all the available evidence would inform conclusively against it. Therefore, when a person has a high credence of belief in a particular proposition, the chances that any given experiment, being such that it could significantly lower the degree of belief, reduces, the larger the collection of evidence a person already has. This means that faith in A is rational only to the extent that the actor’s degree of belief in A is already pegged on an exhaustive collection of evidence. Moreover, rationality of faith is hinged on the prevailing situation. This is because faith can only be rational to the scope that potential counterevidence cannot be very decisive with respect to the position in question, and to the extent that our choices and decision do not have any underlying postponement costs.

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