Whether all knowledge requires faith?
Written in the style of the Disputatio
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, 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: Every judgment depends on a logical principles (the principle of non-contradiction or identity) or experiential principles (experience of cats, or food, or whatever the subject matter may be). But one needs to understand those principles and an infinite regress is not possible. Therefore, faith must be the foundation of every judgment.
Objection 6: 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 7: 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 8: 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 9: Perhaps men know nothing and only believe or opine.
Objection 10: We can doubt anything; therefore, we require faith for all belief.
Objection 11: Logic obtains in the real world and this we cannot understand without faith. Therefore it is inconsistent to not to first have faith and then knowledge.
On the Contrary: As Augustine states in Predestination of the Saints (I.V), “who cannot see that thinking is prior to believing?” Faith depends upon knowledge and presupposes it. Therefore, not all knowledge requires an act of faith, but on the contrary, some knowledge is rather prior to and necessary for faith.
I Answer that: Christ first made himself known to disciples and others by sense perception and experience. Faith in Christ is subsequent to this knowledge, even if sense experience is inadequate to cause faith.
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 latter may be known by natural reason). The 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 in any sense meaningful. It would not be a human act made possible by grace, but rather an act of wishfulness, guesswork, whim, or stubbornness. It would be random and meaningless and it would not matter if it were faith in Christ or in a stone. Or it would not be our faith but God’s own faith, which is absurd since he knowns himself. 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 govern the formal nature of music itself, such as the character of octaves and fifths. But there can be a case in which music is be governed by something to which it can be properly ordered such as a church service and directed to a further end. This is last manner is the way in which faith is to be the rule of our whole life.
What does not enter into the formality or essence of a thing should not define it. Similarly, there can be knowledge apprehend by faith, but knowledge itself and in particular that knowledge not laid hold of by faith is not 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. We can in fact be in a state of unbelief and yet experience sensation. 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 itself 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.
Further, if we cannot have immediate knowledge of some things such as that we sense or our understanding of first principles, then even in heaven we will never know we are there. Faith will disappear in heaven because we will have sight! But in such a case sight will not produce knowledge and so we will neither know nor believe we are in heaven. Therefore, it is absurd to believe that some things cannot be immediately known, even if doubt be ‘logically’ possible (though existentially absurd).
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 a truth it sees obtains). 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 the goodness or propriety of something.
Reply 4: Every man relies upon other men. Science, art, and history are communal realities which would hardly be possible or 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. These indeed require trust, but the character of this faith should be understood as analogical Faith in Christ, due to its certitude and source (nature judgment vs. grace/participation in the Spirit)
Reply 5: Every judgment indeed depends on first principles, but it is the nature of a first principle to be innate, even if one is not at first aware that one is employing them. But one could not even judge one’s own judgments or arrive at such principles unless they were already present. This is because one would still need to have means of understanding them in the the first place. It is precisely this understanding which must be innate. For one would need those very first principles in order to lay hold of and judge such principles (if not already there), and this would truly be an infinite regress. To be made in the image of God, I Am, is to be able to grasp not only something of good and evil, but also of that which is and is not.
Reply 6: 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 7: 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 8: 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 5 and 6 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 known in a particular instance 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, truly reveals a relational and Trinitarian structure of human life.
Reply 9: If such is the case then one does not even know if the contrary argument (that all knowledge does require faith) be true. or even know if they believe it to be the case, for even our awareness of belief is unknown to us! Further, the highest science (theology) would not be a science but merely the art of 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 10: Doubt is of several kinds. Somethings we doubt because we do not know them. Such matters could be matters of faith. But somethings can be doubted only logically or because of spiritual sickness. 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), but only expressed by those who fail to attend carefully to them and who nevertheless rely on such first principles.
Reply 11:Logic obtains to being because our mental thoughts concern being in one respect and the world in another. Another kind of world is in know way possible nor is another kind of thinking. The consistency of logic and experience is simply our minds ability to apprehend the world. We are not inconsistent in experiencing that consistency, but we are inconsistent if we ask the further question, why does this world exist or who is the source of all this consistency of mental and real being? But the understanding that there constituency is not itself depend on the understand of why. Knowledge or faith that God is the source of such consistency does not make the consistency is itself more consistent, but explains its source. Further, if faith did cause us to grasp the consistency itself, we would not indeed grasp it, but believe it to be consistent. We would need God to explain logical principles to us or that the world exists, or that mental and real being must be consistent in some respect. John 1:1-3 indeed reveals their radical source as an intelligible Word which is, but philosophers also apprehended the word-structure of being, although they never new that the Word itself would take on flesh.
One thought on “Whether all Knowledge Requires Faith?”
Quite a deep evaluation.