Faith as opposed to evidence

Sometimes we know something for ourselves and other times we trust that others know it, e.g. sometimes I know where the bathroom is other times I ask someone in a position to know where it is. Call the first act knowledge and the second one faith. So I have faith in P when I trust someone else knows P.

So taken, knowledge and faith do not differ in certitude since certitude is nothing but to take P as known as opposed to mistaken and both take P in this way. I can’t have faith you know P and believe that it is mistaken or false. Note that faith won’t arise from my believing you have an opinion about something. If I ask you where the bathroom is and you respond in a way that I take as being merely your opinion the discussion is superfluous, since if all I wanted was an opinion I could have thought one up myself. Our discussion might suggest new ideas to me about how to act, or suggest certain things could be be the case, but it won’t terminate with me having in faith in you.

So faith is like knowledge because we take P as certain, but the one with faith does not have the evidence that P is true, since the evidence of this is, for example, a memory of just where the bathroom is supported by having been there many times. You have evidence of P when the truth of P is evident or obvious to you.

Faith is therefore by definition certitude without evidence, and viewed on this axis demanding evidence for faith or seeking to proportion faith to evidence fails to understand faith at all. To take the position seriously is to deny faith altogether, which would make most learning impossible since most of the time we learn things by asking others we take to be in a position to know, whether we ask them directly or indirectly though reading their books.

Another sense of demanding evidence of faith is to look for some reason to trust someone. This is an extrinsic motive for belief, where extrinsic means the evidence we get to believe the guy knows P is not the proper evidence of P. As soon as one gets the proper evidence of P he ceases to have faith and proceeds to know the matter for himself, though his very act of coming to know gives him an additional extrinsic motive to trust the guy about a matter sufficiently like P.

The theological virtue of faith is nothing more than to believe that some P is known by God. Like all acts of faith it has certitude without evidence, though in this case the certitude one can have is so great as to give the faith a properly scientific character, since it is logically impossible to believe some premise is known to be true by God and that it could be mistaken.

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