Sunday, March 28, 2010

Faith and Force as Corrolaries: Part 1 - Faith and Reason

This is my first installment of an answer I have promised to a friend in answer to the following question: "What is the objective validation of the relationship between faith and force?" I don't think I can hope to do all of that in a single post so I will attempt to tackle it in pieces.

By the end of this post, I would like to establish a clear definition of what mystic faith is and in the process we will discuss reason.  But before we do that, I would like to talk about what faith is not.  A lot of people, when they talk about faith are really talking about a lot of different things.

For instance, the term faith can be used to mean hope or optimism.  I think most would regard hope and optimism to be part of a cheerful outlook based on positive thinking.  I would agree.  But these things are not what I mean when I talk about mystic faith. To be hopeful or optimistic about the future does not necessarily mean that you are naive about it nor that you have accepted some premise based on intuition, supernatural or otherwise.  I have experienced situations where people to come to the defense of faith, even if they don't believe in a god and I wonder if it is because there is some confusion of faith with hope and optimism.

I also don't mean confidence in your abilities or in the character of someone you are counting on, friend or family. What I mean when I talk about faith as a destructive force in our society, is when people talk about believing or knowing things for which they have no evidence.  That is, faith as a form of cognition.  That is, mystic faith.  The chief example of this is knowing or accepting that God exists.  This is the opposite of reason.

What is reason?  That's when you take the information provided by your senses and, with a focused mind, apply logic and integrate that data into conceptual knowledge.  Reason is the means by which we as human beings know anything that we can properly claim as knowledge.  It consists of the fundamental means, concept-formation, by which we break down and organize information and, ultimately, to discover how to live on this earth.  Every discovery and invention of value, which includes science, agriculture, industry, individual rights, have all been discovered by means of reason.

When a person claims to know something by faith, they have no sensory evidence on which their claim is based.  Or they claim some amount of sensory evidence with which they cannot logically demonstrate their claim.  There is no way to prove any claim that doesn't fundamentally rest on sensory data bound by logic.  Why is that?  I will quote Leonard Peikoff: "'Proof,' in the full sense, is the process of deriving a conclusion step by step from the evidence of the senses, each step being taken in accordance with the laws of logic."

So how can bona-fide agreement be established for something which someone claims know by mystic faith?  It can't.  It's impossible.  People may certainly have accepted the same premise on faith, but that does not constitute bona-fide agreement of a certainty established by reason.  And I would dare to claim that you cannot call it agreement when people are battered at a very young age by the two-pronged attack of social pressure to conform and moral commandments from their parents.  Employing the methods of the fraudulent intellectual who claims about some complex theory that either you understand it self-evidently or you are incapable, you are given a similar kind of shell game to play:  either you accept the existence of god on faith, or god has not granted his grace to you because you have displeased him. It is an exceptional youth that is able to weather the ostracism he will have to endure to have integrity at such a young age.

Proving faith-based claims is impossible because proof is a concept which belongs only to the realm of reason, and reason can only act on that which exists.  It has nothing to do with the make-believe.  The fundamental requirement to agreeing on something is an objective reality (existence) as a common frame of reference. That which you cannot prove, you cannot know.  That which you do not know, you cannot agree upon.   

Ayn Rand is quoted as saying that Reason rests on a single axiom: the law of identity.  This means that something cannot be and not-be at the same time and in the same way.  Or taken another way, that there are no contradictions.  This is a fundamental that makes logic and proof possible.  If there can be contradictions, then there can be no logic and no proofs. 

If to think is to live, then what does it say about those who claim to know by not thinking? Says Bill Maher: " Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith and enable and elevate it are intellectual slave holders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction."  We will go into lunacy and destruction in a future installment.

To be continued...

For anyone who desires a bit more material to digest on this matter, I would like to recommend an audio lecture by Ayn Rand entitled Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World, which I have quoted here and is also available in her book, Philosophy: Who Needs It

What is reason?  Reason is the faculty which perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses.  Reason integrates man's perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man's knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic -- and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.

What is mysticism?   Mysticism is the acceptance of allegations without evidence or proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one's senses and one's reason.  Mysticism is the claim to some non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge, such as "instinct," "intuition," "revelation,' or any form of "just knowing."

Reason is the perception of reality, and rests on a single axiom: the Law of Identity.

Mysticism is the claim to the perception of some other reality -- other than the one in which we live -- whose definition is only that it is not natural, it is supernatural, and is to be perceived by some form of unnatural or supernatural means.