Whether all knowledge requires faith?
Objection 1: It seems that all knowledge requires faith because faith is to be the rule and measure of our entire life and conduct. Knowledge falls under human life; therefore, it must come under its proper rule, faith.
Objection 2: We know that our perceptions can be faulty; therefore, we must believe what we perceive; therefore, all perception requires faith
Objection 3: All that we know, we can also know-that-we-know, and thus assent to. Assent is an act of the will. Therefore, all knowledge requires faith
Objection 4: Many sciences, arts, facts, and achievements would be impossible without faith, for no man can search out the whole universe, or all that men know, or get to the foundations of every art or science for themselves. Therefore, all that is known is known by faith.
Objection 5: Human society and relations depends upon trust, covenant, promise, and expectation. All of these are forms of belief. Therefore, all knowledge is dependent upon faith.
Objection 6: When the Apostles and Holy Writers speak about our knowledge of God and the articles of faith, they speak of what is known by faith. Therefore, our knowledge is dependent upon faith.
Objection 7: Faith is natural to man for it perfects him. Therefore, it is proper to suppose we should see examples of natural faith or analogies of supernatural faith in the life of man. Man cannot do without what is natural to him. Therefore, all men have faith and thus all knowledge is accompanied by faith.
Objection 8: Perhaps men know nothing and only believe or opine.
Objection 9: We can doubt anything; therefore, we require faith for all belief.
On the Contrary: Faith depends upon knowledge and presupposes it. Therefore, not all knowledge requires an act of faith, but on the contrary, some knowledge is indeed the foundation and material cause of faith.
I Answer that: Faith can be taken in several senses. The theological virtue of faith is the assent of the intellect moved by the will. Its object is God’s character, promises, and singular identity, as well as his existence (although this last may be known by natural reason). This act by which we participate in the divine life presupposes that we know things about revelation and the created universe. For instance, we must know the meaning of the words which have been preached to us. Without which, faith would not be a human act made possible by grace, but rather an act of wishfulness, guesswork, whim, or stubbornness, or it would not be our faith but God’s. It would thus have no merit or pleasingness to God.
Theological Faith is an act of the intellect moved by the will. In such a case, all that is known by faith is indeed accompanied by and caused by faith. In such Faith, we do not see thing which we believe, for faith is not by sight. Yet we apprehend something of their goodness, and by this we believe in their reality. In particular, we apprehend the goodness of God himself. Therefore, we believe in part because we love. A love of One so good gives us hope of attainment. Thus, the three virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love are united.
Faith may also refer more generally to any act of trust. The term ‘pistis’ is related to ‘peithws’ in the Greek and refers to the fact that one has been persuaded interiorly. In such cases, we generally trust in things which are potentially knowable to a human being by means of natural knowledge (such as a fact of history or truth of a science), but are not know to a certain individual, or we refer to something that cannot be known naturally (such as what someone will do in the future). We may speak even more loosely of what we hope for (that it will turn out well for so and so) or what we acknowledge is opinion (that a certain cookie is superior to another).
But again, no such faith, whether supernatural or natural, would be possible without knowledge. One needs to know cookies, or the existence of certain things, or people, or the desirability of certain events, or even one’s own dispositions to believe. But also, no such faith could occur if the thing was wholly known.
Further, to evaluate this very argument, one needs to be able to reason, to know the difference between what is logically valid and what is not.
But perhaps someone would argue that such an argument is evaluated not merely by what is known, but rather also by the fact that one already holds to (already believes certain prior principles). This may be true if the person indeed does not know but only believes certain logical principles or conclusions. However, a person may also understand logic. Such a person does not properly believe in, but relies upon these truths. To rely upon is not always to believe, but to use what one sees as apt.
Further, it is only in belief that we rely upon what we do not know, however rightly or with whatever good reason we hold to such a faith. But most significantly to this argument, those things known (prior principles or facts) were not arrived at by believing in them, so that one’s reliance on them is not itself what causes knowledge of them. There is reliance upon first principles, but these are not objects of faith, but things seen or known.
For instance, when I come to know that two and two make four, I do not have faith that such is a fact. I intellectually apprehend this fact, and I am not capable of gainsaying it, without making myself a liar.
Or, if I know the directions to my house and walk home, I may not know if I shall ever arrive, but I know if I am headed home. I know what home is, what near and far are. No belief or faith is required to know such things.
Reply 1: A rule or measure may be such that it is the formal condition of a thing, as tone and rhythm are the rule and measure of music. Or something may be considered a rule and measure because it has authority over a thing, although it does not formally govern it. For instance, an apartment contract may be the rule and measure of what music is played by someone, although it does not take responsibility for the formal nature of music itself. Further, music may be governed by something to which it can be properly ordered such as a church service, in which case, it is indeed informed by such a rule, although not under the formality of music science, but as to a certain end.
But what does not enter into the formality or essence of a thing should not define it; therefore, there may be church music, but not apartment music (at least in the case given). Similarly, there can be knowledge apprehend by faith, but knowledge itself and in particular that which is distinct from faith should not be defined by or considered to be caused by faith (unless accidentally, such as knowledge one sought out of obedience to faith or while one happened to be believing).
Reply 2: Properly, knowledge does not refer to perception. The senses are not themselves true or false; rather, it is our judgements regarding them which may be. Skepticism about the senses is indeed secondary. For the most part, they do not ‘mislead’ us. When they do, the fact that we ever come to know we have been mislead means that something about the world is indeed known and knowable. It is impossible that we could know we are mislead without knowledge. Nor could a shear act of faith make this known to us.
After discovering that we have been misled, we may become skeptical and only hesitatingly ‘trust’ the senses again. But it should be noted that it was not an act of faith by which we first trusted the senses. Nor does one live in continual faith in the senses. Rather one relies upon them. The proof of this is that we do not believe we see, or believe we taste, or believe we feel, but rather indeed see, taste, feel and see. The more complex act of judgement by which we attribute sensing to some reality is not an act of faith. This is shown by the fact that it is only skeptics who could make such a claim by a secondary or derivative act of imagination.
Ordinarily, we refer our sensing to reality without belief or doubt. All doubt is preceded by knowledge and occurs in the context of knowledge. The very condition of doubt is knowledge of and experience of some reality, even if only the distinction between appearance and complete reality. If faith is what is not seen, we cannot have faith in our senses.
Reply 3: Assent is an act not of the will but of the intellect. It is the very self-awareness of the intellect having arrived at truth (its affirmation or ‘yes’ to truth). If the intellect could not do this, we could not by any proper means be described as knowing or rational. Assent is concomitant with insight; it is our very inner perception of truth—it is our affirmation of its reality. Consent on the other hand is an act of the will by which we approve of a deliberation of the intellect regarding some choice. Yet, even consent is not faith, but appraisal of goodness or propriety.
Reply 4: Every man relies upon other men. Science, art, and history are communal realities which would hardly be possible or else be much reduced if a man could depend only on his own firsthand experience, much less his ability to prove everything he attains through them. God so chose to perfect man by reliance not only on God and the self, but on others.
Reply 5: This is indeed a matter for belief (or for the skeptical, what amounts to necessary risk). In this manner God has graciously bound us together.
Reply 6: This argument would be correct if the only things known were matters of faith. But such is both ridiculous (because there are things known which are not matters of faith) and impossible (because faith itself presupposes knowledge as has been said).
Reply 7: Natural may refer to species or essence, in which case man cannot exist without such. Or natural may mean fitting, perfecting, or proper, in which case it is not impossible for one to be without such a thing to some extent. But the argument is indeed correct, in that there is no mature man that believes nothing. Further, as objections 4 and 5 show, to lead a human life we must believe many things, and indeed the most necessary things for a human life are known by faith or by some analogy thereof. But this does not show that every act of knowledge depends upon faith. This only shows the necessity of trust and reliance. But as has been shown, reliance is not faith when the things relied upon is seen. Further, it is not supernatural faith when it could be known although it is not in a certain instance. But that we rely on truths we do know, that we trust truths known by others, and that we trust and believe other people, each reveal the relational and Trinitarian structure of human life.
Reply 8: If such is the case then one does not even know if the contrary argument (that all knowledge does require faith) be true. Further, the highest science would not be a science but an art (rhetoric), and this art would not be ordered to good or evil, for such would be a matter of opinion, but rather toward desire and utility only (and even such an ordering would be a matter of opinion).
Reply 9: Doubt is of several kinds. Somethings we doubt because we do not know them. Such matters could be matters of faith. Somethings can be doubted only logically. I can doubt that I exist in a body, but strictly I am not persuaded by such a doubt and so require no faith in such a matter. Finally, some maters cannot be doubted either experientially or experimentally (that A is A).