Category Archives: Faith and Reason

Metaphysical Bloviation?

Over at talkingphilosophy blog Jeff Mason has an elegant essay on metaphysics that takes the Kantian view that the physical sciences are the source of all knowledge and everything else is mere speculation. My problem with this essay, and Kant’s critique, is that they are the worst examples of the very thing that they are complaining about—making, as they do, grandiose excessively-general statements about the nature of reality that are quite immune from empirical or logical examination, the most extravagant metaphysical conceit of them all. The genre really should be called metametaphysics as it installs itself as the last arbiter on truth and preemptively disqualifies, tout court, anything that could offer an alternative to its dogmatically positivistic understanding of reality.

Continue reading

Faith and Reason in the Dharma

[This article is quite technical in parts but as I am not qualified to write on Buddhist philosophy I have been careful to try and repeat what my teachers have told me, but the reader should investigate other sources before placing too much weight on what I say here. If you find this topic interesting I recommend reading the compact Four Noble Truths, with the original teachings available on line in four parts: 1, 2, 3 & 4.]

In the Dalai Lama’s recent Nottingham teachings (see this article for a report) H. H. reminded us of the way faith and reason works in Buddhism and I think it is worth saying a bit about this as there is much confusion about the proper place of faith in religion. In the case of Buddhism it is caught up with epistemology and causation so please bear with me; it does come together in the end. (Incidentally I recommend Pope John Paul’s Fides et Ratio encylical on how faith and reason work together in Catholocism.) Buddhism classifies knowledges into three categories: truths that are manifestly true and can be verified by direct sense perception, truths that can be verified through reasoning and truths that require the testimony of an authority. For example, to get a general picture of the weather here in Madrid I can just look outside the window, but I can tell through direct sense perception what is happening with the wind as I could outside (by feeling the movement of the air), but I can see from the motion of the trees that it is quite windy. However I would have to rely on some authority to tell me about the weather in Brighton. Note that the boundary between the first two categories isn’t always clear as the sight of the trees is a direct sense perception and the inferential step from here to wind is trivial, but you get the idea.

Continue reading