Thursday, July 18, 2013

Doubt is essential to faith?

Lesley Hazleton has a talk in which she thoughtfully asserts the importance of doubt.

I see her point, but I think she misstates things when she says that the absence of doubt leaves behind nothing but fanaticism. I think a willingness to entertain doubt to far more important than doubt.

It doesn't particularly matter at any given moment whether I doubt a proposition, say, the reality of my own mind as an actual mind (as distinct from "the brain": a stimulus-response system constructed from neurons and governed entirely by physical laws) as long as I am willing to entertain doubt if and when it becomes appropriate. (Say, someone manages to build a device which can control my mind.)

I understand the Pythagorean theorem well enough that I have zero doubt of its truth (in the Euclidean domain). Hazleton's formulation would make that lack of doubt a statement of arrogance, fanaticism, and self-righteous zeal, but in fact it's nothing of the kind. It is simply knowledge. I am willing to allow challenges to that knowledge, but I know full well that those challenges will be met. I have comprehended it and it is true.

Faith is what you do while you are waiting for either falsification or comprehension.

Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.
Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him.
Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place.
Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.
Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.

I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not Honor more.

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