Boghossian Flails Away at a Straw Man

Peter Boghossian has a YouTube video where he defines faith as “Pretending to know things you do not know.” According to Boghossian, when I say that I have faith that God exists, I am pretending to know that God exists when I do not.

Now, Boghossian also claims that this topic has occupied virtually every moment of his waking thought for the past 22 years. So he must be right, right? Okay, let me take 5 seconds to refute the philosopher’s life work below the thread.

Professor Boghossian would accuse me of pretending to know God exists when I don’t know that he exists.

Wrong, professor. I do not pretend to know that God exists precisely because I am fully aware that I do not know God exists. That is why I have faith. If I knew God exists, I would not need faith. I would know. By acknowledging my faith, I am acknowledging the limits of human reason and knowledge.

Y’see, professor, just because I believe X is true does not mean I think know X is true. And if I know, and acknowledge, that I do not know for sure that X is true, I can hardly be pretending to know X is true. So your definition crashes and burns.

Ironically, I have found that the people who tend to pretend to know things they do not know are those who posture as if they rely solely on reason and evidence. Such people easily delude themselves into pretending to know things they do not know. They think they are being led by reason, but in reality, reason is being used solely to rationalize what they already believe. This is a trait that is commonly seen in atheists.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in atheism, Faith and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Boghossian Flails Away at a Straw Man

  1. You shouldn’t say these things loud to your fellow Christians, as they tend to talk much about truth, etc. and would be pretty disappointed if you told them, that it may not be true after all…

  2. Crude says:

    You shouldn’t say these things loud to your fellow Christians, as they tend to talk much about truth, etc. and would be pretty disappointed if you told them, that it may not be true after all…

    Everyone talks about ‘truth’. We’re talking about people who *know* – no caveats – the truth. Even people who believe they have logical proofs of God’s existence will qualify that it’s possible (though they know not how) that they missed something, and are wrong after all. On the flipside, you have guys like PZ Myers and Michael Shermer who claim there can be no evidence for God’s existence, and they would explain away any apparent evidence they’d receive.

    Really, if Petebog’s thrust here is ‘attacking people who are certain they know The Truth’, he’s going to catch up quite a lot of atheists, and not as many Christians as he thinks.

  3. Bilbo says:

    The question of religious epistemology has a long and varied history. As just one example, Alvin Plantinga would categorize belief in God as a properly basic belief, such as belief in an external world or other minds: things we believe but cannot prove. No one doubts that an external world or other minds exist. But no one can prove they exist, either. Plantinga thinks that belief in God should be in the same category. I wouldn’t know if he is correct. But the point is that knowledge of something is not necessarily dependent upon proof of it.

    Meanwhile, if someone really wants to know if God exists, then I suggest that they ask Him.

  4. I think you have an interesting concept here. The key is we’re not really holding God to any particularly unfair standard. To say we don’t KNOW he exist doesn’t mean that we’re not pretty damn sure.

  5. TFBW says:

    One of the great difficulties here is that of agreeing what constitutes “knowledge” in the first place. Even if we settle on the old philosophical chestnut of “justified true belief”, we have to take the “true” as given for the sake of argument (or else engage in endless question-begging), and then quibble over what satisfies “justified”. This is further complicated by the fact that justification is domain-specific, but not always recognised as such. My justification for believing that the square root of two can not be expressed as the ratio of two finite integers is entirely different from my justification for believing that oranges are edible, which is in turn entirely different from my justification for believing that I exist.

    So, if we grant, for the sake of argument, that God exists, then what would justify holding such a belief? If we can’t answer that, then it’s impossible to say whether someone who believes that God exists also knows that God exists. I sometimes describe myself as technically agnostic, but, on reflection, I think I have to take a step back to meta-agnostic, because I don’t seem to have a well-defined belief about what counts as justification for belief in God.

    Boghossian, on the other hand, can’t be making the kind of claim that he’s making unless he has a well-defined belief about what justifies belief in God. He’s supposed to be a proper philosopher and all, so he should have addressed this somewhere, like Plantinga has. Does anyone have a citation for Boghossian’s position on the matter? Based on what I know about his position, I suspect that he demands an empirical justification, but hasn’t specified the details. Details or not, does he offer justification for his chosen criteria?

  6. Michael says:

    Funny thing about that is while the cartoon merely peddles stereotypes, the Cult of Gnu members will lap that up as knowledge.

  7. Dhay says:

    Looks like Peter Boghossian has an idiosyncratic definition of faith, even amongst New Atheists. ‘Horseman’ Sam Harris got his definition in first, in his “The End of Faith”, and here it is, as quoted from Pete Hartwell’s review of that book:

    The subject of faith ties the book together, as the title suggests. Harris is careful to establish what he means by faith. Prompted by his American culture he uses what he calls the ‘scriptural sense’ of faith, referring to the Bible. He says that faith is ‘belief in, and life orientation toward, certain historical and metaphysical propositions’ (pp. 64-65). The individual not only intellectually accepts these propositions, but the way they live is also affected by them. Harris removes any distinction between religious faith and other beliefs that we hold.

    http://www.bethinking.org/atheism/the-end-of-faith-by-sam-harris-a-review

    So, Harris defines faith very differently from Boghossian’s video’s “Pretending to know things you do not know.” For Harris, religious faith is intellectually accepted and it is no more make-believe than any other beliefs that we hold.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s