Monday, January 24, 2011

Giving Nietzsche Eyes

In my previous post, commentator Nietzsche made the following comment:

"I'll provide another scenario. A secluded island of peoples that have no contact with Christian missionaries or the bible. Are they born Christian? Do they believe in Jesus or Jehovah? No, again goes to prove that without teachers or missionaries, Christianity like other pagan religions will die out. The only people who perpetuate the "faith" is its followers." 
Consider a community of blind men who are strict empiricists. From their perspective, lacking the sense of sight, they would be unable to verify the existence of colours, and any statements with regard to colour, shape or pattern would be,from their point of view, unempiric and hence unscientific.  Statements concerning visual phenomenon would be unable to be verified and hence would be articles of faith; a body of knowledge belonging to the category of superstition.

Now suppose a sighted man, literally a visionary, told them about the phenomenon of colour, how could they discern if they were telling him the truth or not? They can't, because they lack the sensory capacity to confirm the subject in question.

The core idea behind empiricism is that perception is the window to reality, and that any understanding of reality must be perceptually confirmed. 

People say that seeing is believing. But seeing is not believing; thinking is believing. Seeing is knowing; everything else is emotive hope, probabilistic guess or reasoned theory.

Commentators Brockmann and Neitzsche have put forward the argument that without sensory input of any kind, a man would fail to be Christian, and that religious belief is conditional upon personal circumstances. Their view is partially correct. Men inherit their faith from their ancestors and certainly, for the unreflective man, faith is a circumstantial habituated practice.

The reflective man however has a problem. He questions and challenges his faith, and if logically consistent, finds that there is nothing in the Universe which supports his view. Thieves prosper, the good are murdered,  and the completely innocent suffer tremendously.  Empirically, there is no way he can confirm that Gay Marriage and Adultery are objectively wrong.  Statistically he may be able to find data that supports a respective religious vision, but he cannot find any data the confirms a creed. As commentators Brockmann and Neitzsche imply, ought cannot be derived from is and hence the implication that transcendent truths are unknowable, and therefore arbitrary fairy stories; cognitive products of the imagination for whatever reason.

They are, of course, logically correct.

And yet they are wrong.

Because their understanding of the human perceptual capacity is in error.

I wish to illustrate what I mean by starting off with a passage of biblical text. Not because I want them to believe in the veracity of the Bible, but because the text succinctly explains the difference between believers and non-believers and problem of Modernity.
As it is written: God hath given them the spirit of insensibility; eyes that they should not see; and ears that they should not hear, until this present day

(Romans 11:8 Douay-Rheims)
Note the term insensibility, the inability to sense or perceive. This is not a play on words, as different translations of text refer to same phenomenon. The Christian fathers did not think of faith as a cognitive process but a sensory modality. In their view,  unbelief was not the product of faulty thinking, it was the product of insensibility; a perceptual failure.

To them, faith was a sixth sense; an eye or ear-like faculty which allowed us to perceive non-physical realities. When the Christian fathers asserted that men should not commit adultery, they were not plucking something out of thin air or making a rational calculation based up their value preferences; they were being empirical.

Where the strict empiricists(and quite a few Christians) go wrong, is in assuming that the phenomenon of faith is a cognitive process, the end point of some form of emotive or faulty rationalisation, instead of a sensory phenomenon.

A great example of this "perception"sense in operation, as opposed to cognitive effect, was the motive force behind C.S. Lewis' own conversion to Christianity:
"You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England" (Surprised By Joy, ch. 14, p. 266). (My italics)

Lewis was no gullible idiot. Here, what we see in this passage, is  Lewis wanting to rationalise away a perception or experience that he was having. Like someone suffering  a sore tooth, which forces itself to their attention,  Lewis was being nagged by some form of unwilled sensory stimulus.  His conversion was not the product willed rationalisation but of an unwanted experience: The intruding sense of "Him" was felt/percieved rather than willed. Lewis had no choice in the matter, in the same way he had no choice in choosing the colour of the sky.

When a man of faith says murder is wrong, it's akin to him saying an apple is red or the sky is blue. It's a statement of fact rather than opinion. Of course to the "blind" man who believes that all men are blind, there is no such objective thing as redness, saying that the apple is red or the sky is blue is purely arbitrary.

The Church fathers recognised that the "faith-sense" was the weakest of all senses, through which we saw "through a glass darkly", much like looking through a cataract affected eye; broad shapes can be detected but the detail eludes us. I imagine that a very undeveloped form of this faith sense is what explains humanity's default morality.  All people have a crude understanding that murder and theft are wrong, and they understand that they are wrong at a deeper level than cognitive explanation, they percieve them to be wrong.

It's this lack of sensory acuity which probably explains the profusion of religions, men have felt the pull of transcendence or mistaken an experience as transcendent, and interpreted the sensation incorrectly, in the same way that a group of nearly blind man can discern human forms but disagree with regard to the identity of them.

The atheist mistake is in assuming that the divisions amongst the religious are due to differing rationalisations instead of differing interpretations. To use our nearly blind group of men analogy, the atheist or rationalist blind man thinks that the man affected with the severe cataracts is making things up, whilst the man with the cataract is trying to understand what is going on. If you were to take a group of men with cataracts and present them with a the image of a person at a distance, one will say its Fred, some will say its Bill and the others will say its Judy, they will all know that they have percieved something even if they are not sure what it is, but the blind men, being unable to perceive, will assume that the cataract affected, are making things up.

What separates the  Moderns from the rest of humanity is in this perception of "something else" beyond the five-sense barrier. And Christians ,in particular, should understand that from the atheist perspective (those who lack the faith sense), religion is logically ridiculous. And it is this fact that poses a huge practical problem for conservatives and it also gives an inkling of what we are up against.

When Christopher Hitchins or his ilk argue that faith is just superstition and "fairy stories", they are absolutely correct from their objective point of view.  You see, Hitchins et al, live their life assuming with certitude, that there is no such thing as "faith-sight" and any statements with regard to "faith-colours or forms" are arbitrary. The honest ones amongst them are like blind men, who truly and honestly believe that there is no such thing as sight, and any statements regarding such are rubbish. Trying to convince these men, by rational argument, of the existence of transcendent moralities is by logical necessity, going to fail. In order to get the get the militant atheists on side you've got to get them to "see". They literally can't think their way towards religion because good thinking without faith is irreligious.   Or to put it another way, arguing with them is like arguing with a blind man about the nature of colour, there is no way you can get him to "see" red.

This "faith-sense", not being a renationalisation process, cannot therefore be experienced by acts of rationalisation. Blind people cannot experience colours by study or by rational argument; they have to sense them.

The only way past this impasse is by some way granting them the ability to "see". The Church fathers also recognised that this faith sense was not "intrinsic" to our being but was rather a bestowed gift of God.* That means petitionary prayer; asking God to give our enemies "sight". This is why there will be no HBD or atheistic conservative revival (they may be able to give the appearance of conservative revival but it will eventually degenerate into leftist decay, it's a movement trying to empty a bathtub with a seive). They are operating within the same sensory frame of reference as do the atheists.
The West is doomed unless men start praying to God for revival and conversion of their enemies.  When the monasteries start reappearing, that's when you know it'll all be right.

*(Personally I'm not so sure of this,  I sometimes wonder if we all have this sense but that it becomes dulled either by Divine will or by evil human habit or will, i.e the sense is intrinsic to our being.)


Ben said...

Colors can be detected by blind people.

Put out two metal containers. Coat them with a variety of glazes, polishes, paints (if paints exist in a blind world), and coverings.

Measure the thickness and density of the coats, try to control to keep them as similar as possible.

Leave the containers in the sun. Measure their temperature and size accurately.

Some will be slightly larger and significantly hotter than the others. Why?

Eventually you can conclude there is a distinction about certain coatings - they differ in how they accept heat rays from the sun.

Voila, color. Color is a detectable physical phenomenon.

On the other hand, there is no physical evidence of God beyond that billions believe in one (or more). Certainly certain minds are structured so that they believe in one, or are even predisposed to believe in one, but that means that God(s) are an emergent property of our minds, not necessarily a detectable thing.

There does not need to be a force that we 'detect.' God is simply an idea that occurs to many people and makes sense to many people.

We're tuned for language, music, and social hierarchy in the same way that we're tuned for worship.

Jonathan said...

What you write confirms the impression I've been getting from other stuff I've been reading lately. But yours is the first writing I've ever seen to come out and directly state this faith-as-sensory-organ-rather-than-as-belief-without-evidence idea.

Have you seen this written down anywhere other than the Bible? Is there somewhere I could look for further elaboration? (I leave out the Bible because it's written way too crypically for me to see any of this in it, like that Romans 11:8 Rorschach inkblot.)

namae nanka said...

"Voila, color. Color is a detectable physical phenomenon."

and next you tell them that if they had eyes they could tell the colors apart just like that. Not burn their hands by touching them but rather be enthralled by the display.
And though it's not color, but the surface that is the "detectable physical phenomenon" a fable grows of those who can truly see these so-called colors in all their glory.

Sounds familiar?

Tom said...

Thank you, SP. A thought-provoking and useful analogy.

JMSmith said...

Jonathan: The SP may disagree, but I think you can find a similar argument made by the philosopher Alvin Plantinga. He's written a great deal, but I'm thinking of an essay called (I think) "Is Belief in God Properly Basic."

Ben: The color analogy isn't offered as a proof of God's existence, so the fact that the analogy breaks down when pushed doesn't prove anything either (although you push it in a clever and interesting way). The point of the analogy, as I see it, is to explain why debates between believers and non-believers are frustrating, even futile. Religious beliefs are not inferences drawn from universally accessible grounds, so you cannot argue to them from facts everyone knows to be true. Here's another analogy. It's as if I (personifying the believer) look out the window and announce that there is a dog in the front yard, and then my wife (personifying the non-believer, and sitting away from the window) demands a logical demonstration why there must be a dog in the front yard.

Anonymous said...

The problem of modernity is, thus, explained succinctly by Pope Benedict XVI:

"We are no longer able to hear God -- There are too many frequencies filling our ears."

There is too much noise and too much distraction in modern society. No time to reflect, no silence, no time for finding Him.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the doom of Western civilization and its descent into barbarism, here's a quore from MacIntyre's After Virtue:

A crucial turning point in that earlier history [before the dark ages] occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman Imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of the Imperium. . . . What they set themselves to achieve instead—often not recognizing fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.

Novaseeker said...

This was an interesting piece, SP.

I’m reminded very much of some of the concepts we have in Eastern Orthodox spiritual thought. Much of EO spirituality revolves around the cleansing and retuning, if you will, of the “nous”. “Nous” is a word which is is seldom heard in contemporary Christianity, but which occurs often in the Greek text of the NT – typically translated as “mind” in our English translations. But the meaning of the word in Greek is more subtle, and generally in the Eastern fathers it’s used to refer to one’s faculty which is capable of perceiving/receiving spiritual reality, and is the way in which God communicates his presence to us. That is, man is considered to have intellecual/sensory perception and “noetic” perception, the latter being the capacity made possible by the nous – a faculty of the mind/soul.

The nous is considered to have become “darkened” by the Fall, rather than completely shut down. The process of growth in grace, of “theosis” in Eastern theology, is one of un-darkening the nous, so that one can perceive/receive God more fully and more perfectly, as the nous was created to do. The writer Frederica Mathewes-Green has descibed the nous as “a little spiritual radio” – which is mistuned after the fall, but not completely broken. Much of EO spiritual practice focuses on re-disciplining the nous so that the Holy Spirit may dwell more fully and more clearly in the soul.

In many ways I would say that atheists have a very clogged nous, to the point where they do not realize that they have this faculty.

Locard said...

Excellent as usual. This commentary makes me think of some paralels with Calvinistic thought, and the idea of the elect. I especially thought this after reading the CS Lewis quote, even though I realize that he was not a Calvinist. The Calvinism vs Arminism, TULIP, reformed vs not reformed church debate still rages strong here in the states.

The Social Pathologist said...

Thank you all for your comments. I'm very impressed with their quality.

Eventually you can conclude there is a distinction about certain coatings - they differ in how they accept heat rays from the sun.

Voila, color. Color is a detectable physical phenomenon.

No. All you can conclude that there is some distinction between A and B. For instance, if you could deduce that the glazes had different chemical compositions, you would conclude that the compositional difference explained the heat affect. The phenomenon of colour would be indifferent to an accurate understanding of the situation. i.e Carbon is a better heat absorber than titanium dioxide.

What the compounds look like would be irrelevant to an accurate understanding of the effect.

The Social Pathologist said...


Have you seen this written down anywhere other than the Bible? Is there somewhere I could look for further elaboration? (I leave out the Bible because it's written way too crypically for me to see any of this in it, like that Romans 11:8 Rorschach inkblot.)

Ummm No.

I've been mulling over this problem for several years now and it's only in the last few weeks that I seem to have developed some coherent thoughts on the matter. But once you start thinking along the faith as a perceptive phenomena, a lot of the cryptic stuff makes sense.

I tend to approach the matter not from a religious of point of view, but from an epistemological one. What got me started on the project was not a religious topic but a purely intellectual one.

I remember the original question quite clearly. How do you describe red to a blind person? It's in thinking about this problem that the faith issue became a bit clearer.

The Social Pathologist said...


Your understanding is correct, and I would assert that there seems to be some perceptual difference between believers and non-believers, that perceives transcendental truths. I think apologetics only work where there is some nascent faith sense, otherwise it is a doomed proposition. Your dog in the window analogy is very good.

Thanks for the Plantinga essay. I had a quick look at the Reformed Epistimologists.

Their close but they've missed the mark. Basically they want to change the rules of philosophy with regard to "basicality". Plantinga's pumpkin poisons the Reformed Epistomologist's position. Beliefs are only basic if they are grounded in reality. Plantinga's argument seems to be, if my brain is functioning normally I'm allowed to believe in anything as a basic belief. If I believe in God, therefore God exists. I'm not buying it. (It was a quick read and I may be doing him an injustice)

There are no basic beliefs, there are only basic perceptions. Beliefs are constructs based on perception. What is self evident is what is percieved.

I think Calvin was onto something with his concept of Divine-sense but it would seem to me that he corrupted the concept, seeing it as a cognitive instead of a perceptual faculty.

When Peter utters to Jesus that he is Lord, I feel that he making a perceptual statement, i.e similar along the lines of "the apple is red" , as opposed to it being a rationalised statement, i.e I recognise your Divinity secondary to the teachings and miracles you have performed.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Anon 6:27

There is too much noise and too much distraction in modern society. No time to reflect, no silence, no time for finding Him.

If He wants you He'll make himself noticed. He'll shout. The problem will be like Lewis's, trying to ignore him. Unfortunately for some people their culpability will be in their being too successful in ignoring Him.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Anon 6:34

I keep bleating on about this, but the fundamental question that we conservatives don't ask ourselves is why has conservatism failed? The right seems to ignore this question much to its detriment.

Diagnosis is the precondition to cure. And wrong diagnosis leads to wrong cures. I think the fundamental mistakes that conservatives have made is arguing their position on leftist terms. We've tried a secular revival of conservatism and it has failed. Time to change tack.

I think what the early Christians were concentrating on was not the continuation of Roman or Christian culture, but they concentrated on pleasing God. Get this priority right and all else will follow.

The Social Pathologist said...


I think the major problem with this Noetic sense is in its acuity. How to percieve reality with a cloudy eye is the issue. However what needs to be asserted by Christians is its legitimacy and its limits.

With regard to the Atheists, I think that there exist two kinds. Those who have not got the sense and are therefore inculpable, and those who have the sense but suppress it actively. I've read quite a few atheist biographies where the atheists have had nagging doubts about their atheism, they're the ones suppressing the noetic sense for whatever reason.

The Social Pathologist said...


Thanks for dropping by.

The concept of the elect is parallel to the concept of the called. I think that being open to this "noetic" sense is what makes us members of the club.

Ryan said...

You're basically right. Logic still has its use, of course. For one, you can use it to demonstrate the atheist's own faith. Everyone has degrees of faith (in certain authority, in logic, in his senses, etc.), but some people, somewhat arbitrarily, just cry, "Foul!" whenever it extends beyond the strictly empirical.

Once someone like Ben can be shown that he in fact must have what he claims to despise, namely belief in the super-sensible, he might begin to despise it less.

Ultimately, one has to see. But the Light Himself is available to all, and logic is a pretty damn good tool for clearing away a lot of those cataracts. Very many atheists reject God because they're convinced no educated, logical man could maintain His existence. And they really want to be bright; they want to consider themselves reasonable men. Who wouldn't? Then their vanity competes with their faith, and it usually wins. So if you simply show how and why there's no incompatibility between educated intelligence and faith, you've cleared a major blockage.

The existence of God doesn't require much faith, anyway. That can be demonstrated using premises almost all sane men accept.

Black Death said...

More Detroit pix:,1518,739986,00.html

Anonymous said...

That's depressing, Black Death. But I want to see more.


Nietzsche said...

Great post SP. For the record, I am a WASP. I was taking that stance to test the authenticity and quality of this blog.

So mote it be.

mnl said...

@Jonathon: There is a further reference in Matthew (13:14) that gets at the same concept:
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: (KJV) ...Where "Esaias" is the Greek form of Isaiah (an entire book of verbal Rorschach tests if there ever was one).

See also Jeremiah (5:21) in the OT:
Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:

Moreover, there's a sub-theme throughout the NT that it's indeed a lack of sensitivity to this "sixth" sense that prevents spiritual understanding. Take Paul's (Acts 7:51) comment that, Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. ...Where the metaphor of (lack of) circumcision is a very graphic stand-in for (lack of) sensitivity and would've been clear to a (largely) Jewish audience.

I hope it helps.

JMSmith said...

SP: Thanks for all of your thoughtful responses. It's been a while since I read Plantinga, but I don't recall that he says a basic or incorrigible belief in God is proof of God's existence, only that one can hold such a belief while living up to philosopher's terms of "epistemic responsibility." In other words: I may be wrong, but I am not being irrational. This sort of argument will not convert anyone, but it can help reassure a person with what you call "nascent faith sense" that he is not loosing his mind, and it can help prevent the complete marginalization of Christian intellectuals.

I've been thinking a good deal today about "seeing" spiritual truths. This hasn't happened to me very often, and in some cases it accepts a naturalistic explanation; but then again, there are those other cases.

The Deuce said...

Seeing is knowing; everything else is emotive hope, probabilistic guess or reasoned theory.

I would go even further than that. Even seeing is not knowing, because there is always a gap between the experience of seeing something and that of forming a proposition about it (ie, the visual experience of a blade of grass is distinct from the proposition "There is a blade of grass there"). Something could always go wrong between the visual experience and the forming of the proposition, such as optical illusion, hallucination, or just plan poor judgment.

The only things that are known are those that can be known via pure basic logical intuition (mathematical truths, the non-contradiction principle, etc) - the first principles - and these are all abstract rather than empirical truths.

RobertT said...

Poignant and apropo.

Robert Brockman said...

Ok, now we're starting to get somewhere.

Working Hypothesis: accomplished disciples of the Jesus Training System (and possibly other analogous systems in other cultures) have specific enhanced observational powers that, when used properly, allow them to make decisions which benefit humanity.

Definitional Issue: we can call this sense "faith", but this can cause confusion. "Faith" is often times defined as "believing in things in the absence of evidence or reason" but in this case you are asserting that there is a different sensory modality at work which provides the evidence. (Note we're back to empiricism again, just with this new "faith" sense added to the sources of observation.)

Now we can attempt to "calibrate" our mutual understanding of this sensory modality. Some people here claim to have limited access to this sense, whereas I am unsure. I will begin by sharing some of my observations, and if you like, you can respond with "Yes, you're getting warmer, that seems like it involves this new sense" or "No, Robert, that seems rather irrelevant, and can probably be explained by something else."

Robert Brockman said...

Data Point 1:

One evening I was out at dinner with two dear friends of mine. They were ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, but had remained friends of a sort. The girl had been tormented by awful people for most of her life (raped hundreds of times, beaten, exposed to terrible insanity, etc.) but had somehow managed to survive. The guy had been her boyfriend for several years after the abuse and had done his dead-level best to be kind and respectful to her (and had wanted to marry her.)

That evening at dinner, for apparently no reason at all, the girl said some devastatingly horrible and vicious things to the guy. Really cruel and unfair things, if she had stabbed him in the chest with a steak knife it would have been nicer. The guy didn't react at all. It was so bad that I went home after dinner and sobbed for an hour. (I'm not generally a blubbering wuss, it really was that awful.) The next morning I woke up and sobbed for another hour and then went to work.

Then something really odd happened.

All day at work, I had what I can only describe as "compassion for all sentient beings". When the users I was responsible for had problems for me to solve, I could really "perceive" their suffering and frustration and was powerfully motivated to work extra hard. When I encountered the boss, who most of the other employees disliked and feared, I could directly "see" that his outward appearance was just a front: he was terribly worried about keeping the company afloat, and if things went bad it would be his fault and he would have failed his employees, and that's why he rode everyone's asses so hard.

Needless to say, I got about 2x as much done that day as normal, and felt much, much better than I have ever felt before, or since. I was completely devoid of jealousy, worry, fear, anger, or basically any emotion other than love and caring for anyone within range.

This mode of operation lasted until the late afternoon, when I was trying to explain this state to my girlfriend at the time -- then it vanished and I returned to normal.

The Social Pathologist said...

R Brockmann

Working Hypothesis: accomplished disciples of the Jesus Training System (and possibly other analogous systems in other cultures) have specific enhanced observational powers that, when used properly, allow them to make decisions which benefit humanity. .

The sense may of may not make decisions which benefit humanity, since the sense has poor acuity.
and is prone to error.

but in this case you are asserting that there is a different sensory modality at work which provides the evidence. (Note we're back to empiricism again, just with this new "faith" sense added to the sources of observation.)

Correct. The problem isn't so much the empirical method, but empirical premise; that there are only five senses, instead of a inconsistent sixth.

I'm afraid I don't understand what you're trying to get at in your last paragraph.

Robert Brockman said...

SP, I suspect that you and some of the others here believe that you have this extra sense in some capacity. If you are correct, perhaps you can identify situations in which the sense was more active than normal.

Let's imagine a blind man who has just had his vision repaired. Now he's getting lots of new data into his skull, but he can't interpret it very well. He still has no idea what people are talking about when they use the words "red" and "blue". However, if we show him a blue piece of paper and tell him "this is red" then he will be in a better position to understand the concept of red.

Likewise, if I have a limited form of this extra sense, I should be able to describe a situation and then ask, "does this situation involve the extra sense?" You may have been in a similar situation and may remember some aspect of the new sense being present. Through this process we can come to a shared understanding of the sense.

Does this make sense?

Nietzsche said...


That would be totally different since the wife would already know when using the label "dog" it implies a four legged furry mammal.

As far as we know no one has seen God. So I guess it is more like Martians than dogs.

I'm interested to know SP's stance on evolution.

JMSmith said...

Nietzsche: My analogy would be the same if I wasn't at all sure what it was that I saw through the window. I could just as well say, "I have no idea what it is, but there is something in the front yard." My belief would be grounded on direct experience. My wife, who lacks the direct experience, says she will believe me only if I can ground here belief in a logical demonstration of the proposition "there has to be something in the front yard." This is impossible, since whatever it is that is out there is not out there necessarily--it doesn't have to be out there. What she should do, and probably would do, is believe that there is something in the front yard because she has good reason to believe I am a reliable witness or authority. And isn't this what we call faith?

The Social Pathologist said...

@R Brockmann

SP, I suspect that you and some of the others here believe that you have this extra sense in some capacity. If you are correct, perhaps you can identify situations in which the sense was more active than normal.

It doesn't work that way.

I think it confuses things by having an emotional association with the sense. I think this error is most easily demonstrated is with regard to new age spirituality. People here have "holy/spiritual" feelings and they link whatever their doing at the time with this sense and claim it as some type of insight. This isn't it.

It's a faculty that recognises the "truthfullness" of things, independently of how what feelings it engenders.

To take the C.S. Lewis example above. The constant nagging he was feeling about his beliefs was not the sense. That was a product of intellect, which was trying to reconcile what Lewis believed with what Lewis was sensing.

Think of it like one of those intellectual problems, where you have an explanation but you're not really happy with it. Your logic is good but something's not right. Where is the origin of this sentiment? Clearly, something is generating this sense of unsatisfaction, but it can only generate this unsatisfactory sentiment by sensing a difference between the the explanation and the reality of the thing. In other words, the priori perception is the instigating element.

I've got to go now but will reply later.

The Social Pathologist said...

@R Brockmann continued.

The best way to think about this sense is to think of it as a sense. For example, when your eye senses a chair, the mind recognises that existence of that chair; it recognises the fact of it. What ever feelings are generated by this act of recognition are independent of the act of recognition.

If a blind person were to ask me, "Slumlord, how do you know of the colour red?" I'd answer that I can't explain why red is red, it has to be experienced. The faith sense--(as opposed to knowledge of God)--in this regard is properly basic. (In the Plantinga sense)

If you are correct, perhaps you can identify situations in which the sense was more active than normal.

I can't identify a situation because it's not a situational thing any more than your hearing is situational. You don't feel "spiritual" by having the faith-sense any more than you might feel "optical" by having sight. What I see with my eyes may give me pleasure or grief but the faculty of sight is emotion free.

Think of the faith sense as a faculty which put convictions into your mind in the same way that your eyes transmit visual images.
What a man perceives through faith sense is independent of him in the same way he has no choice in the experience of redness: It just is that way.

But as the Christian fathers have alluded, the sense is prone to inaccuracy. But just because the sense may be inaccurate does not mean that all information gleaned from it is irrelevant. Furthermore, it does appear that some people have it an others don't. I've met several agnostics of good will who can see the logic lets say of the "prime mover" but ultimately aren't convinced. If I didn't have the faith, whilst I would probably admit that the existence of God is probable, I too, wouldn't be convinced either.

The Social Pathologist said...


I'm interested to know SP's stance on evolution

Logically plausible. Statistically improbable. Direct scientific evidence of evolution: scarce. Drosophila?

I believe that there was some form of Divine Agency in the origin of human life. But how it was expressed, I don't know. Do I believe in literal Seven Day Creationism? No.

jokey4all said...

"We are no longer able to hear God -- There are too many frequencies filling our ears."

True Talk...

Robert Brockman said...

Okay, more progress. Agreed, we have to separate the "feelings" one has about a sensory experience from the sensation itself. We can now also talk about some errors in this proposed sense in terms of "ethical illusions" (like optical illusions) as distinct from usual errors caused by more traditional forms of corruption (e.g. "X is moral because it makes me feel better about myself.")

Useful term/meme to refer to various New Age beliefs and practices: "newage" (rhymes with sewage) Example: "Barbara filled her head with newage and now she's completely crazy."

Question: Can you come up with a short list of statements, your knowledge of which comes largely or entirely through this extra sense, rather than through normal senses, indoctrination, etc?

Clearly there could be some statements which one person believes because of indoctrination -- "I believe Jesus rose from the dead because authority figure X told me to believe in it (or else!)" -- where another might believe because of the extra sense -- "Well, I read this old book, and this part about Jesus really seemed completely inescapable".

Hypothesis: Could this distinct sense be a property of thinking beings in general? Maybe even information processing systems in general?

Thursday said...

This is essentially the argument from religious experience. The problem is that such experiences do not interpret themselves. They may reflect something real, or they may be the mind playing tricks on itself.

There also seems to be the problem that such experiences seem to be artificially inducible. IIRC, scientists have induced mystical experiences through stimulating certain parts of the brain. But one need not refer only to modern science: the use of drugs in religion has a long history. Speaking from personal experience, not having touched alcohol until my early twenties, my younger self was really quite disturbed to when I went from skepticism to certainty in the existence of God merely by ingesting a bottle or two or wine.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a defense of irrationality: belief in God™ and superstitions; however, I think it is foolish to believe ultimate truths cannot be known or realized on Earth.

The color vision argument is a straw-man and fails to defeat your opponent's argument, because he with sight perception could tell one type of object from other, which differed only in color and interior contents, so the man with color vision could empirically prove color vision to his blind cohorts. I know of no such repeatably verifiable demonstrable evidence for the existence of God™, The Trinity®, or the correctness of any other desert (or non-desert) religion out there. Man's laws of physics, based experimentally on that which is perceptible and measurable, is what makes it possible for you to read this very sentence. Nothing in the Bible leads you to go from hatchet-in-the-forest to sending an e-mail quite like man's physical and computational laws.

Speaking of computation, have many of you thought that this superstition isn't just a brain-virus to keep you producing on the plantation? Boy, as a slave-driver, I'd sure want my cash-cows believin' they'd be going to the eternal fire-pit if they revolted against and murdered me...