Sunday, July 31, 2011

Between faith and faith

Exponents of the “New Atheism” flatter themselves as “skeptics.” But real skepticism is very different. Here’s a paradigm-case:

It is especially noteworthy in Hume’s case that he is not being any rougher on religion than on science!–for science also rests ultimately on faith in inductive principles incapable of non-inductive substantiation. Faith which, in the latter case, has a mechanism consisting in custom; but this is no justification. Anything has some mechanism.
There is such conflict, and, insofar, it is a conflict between faiths; not between faith and reason, or between faith and science, but between faith and faith; for scientific method itself goes back to faith of its own kind, in the form of acquiescence in the mechanism of custom.
Which is right it is, presumably, impossible to say except from a scientific point of view or from a religious point of view. We may prefer one, insist on it, despise those who deviate from it in favor of the other; but there is no higher court. Such is Hume’s skepticism. W. V. Quine, “Lectures on Hume’s Philosophy,” Confessions of a Confirmed Extensionalist (Harvard 2008), 112-113 (emphasis his).


  1. Thanks for including this. I made a comment in the form of a question about this subject in another group and a militant atheist went kinda ballistic. But then he went on to say he despised philosophers if I remember correctly so this post would be meaningless to him.

  2. While he despises philosophers, he himself, unwittingly, is one... Irony?

  3. From the little exposure I have had to this angry atheist there is more than a little irony at work with him.

    A whole lot of anger for one.

    Yet on his own blog, one of his essays which I read was quite good.

  4. Interesting.

    There is, of course, a "higher court" for Christian believers than their own autonomous reasoning, which is the Word of God.

    Being God's Word, it is thus the norm that norms, and since God is God it seems quite reasonable to conform one's thinking to His Word, and extremely unreasonable (foolish) to do otherwise.

    In Christ,

  5. There are numerous truths that non-believing scientists assume and take for granted that strict materialism fails to ground. Some of Hume’s work can be mined to reveal that this is the case and expose the weakness of materialism as well as skepticism.