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Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?
Posted: May 16th, 2011, 9:50 pm
Sometimes when scientists or empiricist-leaning laymen are debating the existence of a thing or truth of a proposition, a believer in the thing being doubted will admit to disregarding the evidence and instead believing the thing on faith. It can even happen as easily as when one person simply asks a second person why the second person believes a certain thing and the second responds along the lines of, "I just have faith." Consider the following examples of what I mean:
Example 1: A woman who is head over heals for her husband starts finding very strong evidence that he is cheating. Maybe she finds other women's underwear when she comes home from work. But despite the overwhelming evidence that her husband is cheating, she says, "I want to believe he is not cheating. I choose to believe he is not cheating. I have faith that he is not cheating."
Example 2: An under-qualified man goes to a job interview and bombs. He even overhears on his way out somebody talking about some of the other applicants who are much more qualified. The interviewer told him that they would make their decision Wednesday because they needed the job filled and they would call him before that if he got the job. It's Friday, so all the evidence indicates overwhelmingly that the man didn't get the job. When he calls his mother to break the bad news, she tells him that she believes they chose him because she has "faith" that he got the job.
My question is simple. Is faith just another word for self-delusion? Or in another way of saying, if someone claims to believe something merely out of faith, is that person simply admitting to being in denial?
Let's look at it like this. If a person believes a proposition because the person believes the personally known evidence indicates that the proposition is true, then the person does not believe it out of faith but rather because of the evidence. Alternatively, if the person admittedly thinks the evidence warrants a contrary belief, can the person actually believe? They can say they choose to believe despite the evidence or despite the lack of evidence, but what does it mean to choose to believe? It's one thing when a person is so biased or stubborn or even delusional that they allegedly misinterpret the available evidence or biasedly seek out any evidence supporting them while ignoring the other evidence. But when a person genuinely admits that they do not have enough evidence to support their position, what is that? We may call it faith, but is it not self-delusional, a peculiar form of denial in which the person is not only in denial but is actually admitting that they are in denial?
Posted: May 17th, 2011, 4:46 am
The faithful wife and the faithful mother in the examples are people who trust their relatives in question either because the mother and wife are optimistic about their relatives basd on past experience with them, or because they have so much to lose if the relatives are actually untrustworthy, or because the trusting wife and mother are unable for some other reason to assess the evidence.Perhaps a combination of several of these factors.
Trust in God has sometimes seemed to me to be naive optimism that the world is basically a good place,as Dr Pangloss believed. In olden times, approximately before the Renaissance and Reformation, everybody believed in God and although there were 'atheists' they were not unbelievers in the existence of God but were unorthodox or blasphemous believers.
Some people's religious experience of God is nothing to do with being rational but is ecstatic and mystical to some degree or other.This ecstasy and myticism seems to me to be like the feelings of a devoted spouse or a mother. I am about to join a study group with one other person to study philosophy of religion and we are beginning with William James's book which contains much psychological observation, which James says is at least as relevant as rational philosophising about religion.
Posted: May 17th, 2011, 7:43 am
Faith is a form of delusion, but so are most (maybe all) of the things in which we 'believe'. i.e. I believe I exist as a conscious entity, I believe I have free will, I believe I have inherent rights, I believe we are all created equal etc.
Posted: May 17th, 2011, 11:20 am
When talking about the faith that might steer someone towards a religion, and the faith which tells them that their son got the job he just interviewed for, I really think it talks about two different things. They may use the same word, and have a lot of comparisons, but the kind of delusion you are asking about is the kind I beleive which is restricted to deluding over facts.
There's a lot of controversy over religion and things surrounding it, many of the issues because of "faith". However when talking about "faith" in religion, I would say there are two categories. I know some people--many--who, specifically, just beleive whatever they were told in kindergarten. And as much as I wish otherwise, that's just the way it's going to be. Theirs is a blind faith. But I've also met a few (not surprisingly much, much fewer) who had a faith, but not a blind faith. As in, they wouldn't throw away facts, but they didn't need to have every answer (which is why, I suppose, they keep to the beliefs they currently have).
It might seem ridiculous or even excessive to create those categories when it's really so similar, but for me, it is the only way I can think about it. And it's not as if the world doesn't already have ridiculous categories that shouldn't have to exist. But for that issue, and this topic, they're what seems to make sense for me.[/b]
Posted: May 17th, 2011, 3:20 pm
It seems to me fairly obvious that faith isn't synonymous with self-delusion, because not every example of having faith is an example of self-delusion.
For example: my friend is accused of stealing. He denies the claim. I don't know that he didn't steal, but - based on my knowledge of his personal integrity - I say I have faith in him and believe he didn't do it. In such a case, where all I have to go on is the bare accusation and my assessment of my friend's character, why on earth should my attitude be called "self-delusion"? Indeed, even if it subsequently turns out my friend did steal that still doesn't necessarily mean I was self-delusional. It might well be felt that, given the evidence open to me at the time, my faith was entirely understandable.
Of course, if I express faith in X when there's no evidence for it and compelling evidence against it then I may be thought to be self-delusional, but that's not the situation in every instance of "faith".
Also, "to have faith in" is sometimes closely related to "to hope that".
EG: "I have faith my friend will beat cancer". And here, even if the odds of my friend beating the disease were extremely slim one wouldn't necessarily call me "self-delusional" because "self-delusional" is a pejorative term and hoping (or having faith that) loved ones will not die is often held an admirable trait even when (or especially when) the odds are stacked against the loved one.
Posted: May 17th, 2011, 3:41 pm
But wouldn't they just be the same thing then, only one replaces the other over time? How do you consider those not somewhat synonymous?
Posted: May 17th, 2011, 4:40 pm
Lets say that a person chooses to believe in something with all possible evidence being contrary to his/her argument, yet when the above theory is tested, it is actually proven true. The evidence saying otherwise was wrong then. The individual had no proof that their idea was true but was still more correct than all others who provided what they thought to be evidence proving the contrary. This is known as 'good faith'. Such an argument can be implied (but not proven) for creationist opposed to those who believe the big bang/evolution theory. A creationsit must take their belief in faith because if God does exist, he/she does so without providing definitive evidence. Where as a Darnwinianonite?? provides what they believe to be evidence for their thoery. Evolutionist still possess faith but it is placed in the evidence rather than the possibility of an absolute (God). The party who is finally proven wrong (if that day ever comes) will have taken their belief in 'bad faith', because ultimately what they believed turned out to be false.
So, faith cannot be termed 'self-delusional', but may lead a person into denial if they claim their faith as absolute without evidence, even if that evidence is personal alone.
Best example of 'bad faith' today is the whack job promoting the idea that Judgement Day is this Saturday. He claims that through mathmatical calculation, he has discerned that May 21st is the day of rapture (which isn't in the Bible to begin with). He (Brother Camping) provides evidence (his math) and a belief which he proclaims as certain. If the world is here Sunday, this means that Camping preached his belief, while robbing others of their money, in 'bad faith'.
However, if his intentions were to take money from those he believed would be dumb or desperate enough to follow his words, he preformed his actions in 'good faith', because the radio station he speaks from (Family Radio) made a great deal of money from this lie. It depends on the deceptors frame of mind. And if his intentions were altruistic but his prophecy falls short, he is still a deciever by claiming the absolute and its not coming to pass.
Posted: May 17th, 2011, 6:07 pm
Faith can be right, despite the evidence against it. Faith is usually self-delusion but not always.
Faith is intellectual suicide but it is not synonymous with self-delusion.
Posted: May 17th, 2011, 7:38 pm
Maelstrom wrote:But wouldn't they just be the same thing then, only one replaces the other over time? How do you consider those not somewhat synonymous?
Because many examples of "having faith" quite obviously aren't examples of being deluded. If I express faith in something now
it doesn't necessarily mean I'm deluded if that faith later
turns out to be unwarranted. Being wrong and being self-deluded aren't the same things.
If I say "I have faith that the red-hot favourite will win this horse-race" it doesn't mean I was deluding
myself when a 200-1 shot ends up winning it. My faith was reasonable
even though things didn't turn out the way I thought they would.
But if I - knowing no more than anyone else - say "I have faith that the sun will not rise tomorrow" then I could be counted as delusional even if the sun does not rise the next day
. In such a case one might say "he deluded himself but was right by accident".
In any case, I think this whole discussion is hamstrung by the vagueness of the concept of "having faith". It means many different things in different contexts. Sometimes it's akin to "hoping", sometimes it's similar to making an educated guess, sometimes it expresses a blind leap where nothing can ever be proved either way. But in none of those cases is "having faith" automatically an example of deluding oneself.
Let me put it this way: if "having faith" and "self-delusion" were synonyms then there'd never be a case where lacking
faith was an example of self-delusion. But that's simply not true.
Posted: May 17th, 2011, 7:58 pm
All of this seems rather reduntant to be honest. Discussing definitions is one thing, but saying that they are the same is then just too extreme.
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 9:24 am
I think we need to put faith and self-delusion in perspective and with reference to the degrees of it. i.e.
A belief (99.9%) with 99.9% faith is 99.9% self delusion.
In this case, we say faith is synonymous with self-delusion.
These are the sort of supernatural beliefs without proofs and
are related to anything without any elements of sensibility, experience or evidence.
Examples are beliefs in god, soul-after-death, angels, ghosts, spirits etc.
A belief (99.9%) with 1.00% faith is 1.% self delusion.
A belief (99.9%) with 25.00% faith is 25.% self delusion.
In this case, faith is not a self-delusion
For example, if we believed the volcanologists' assertion in 1980
that Mt. St. Helen were to blow up vertically instead of horizontally, we would not call that self-delusion.
We have no proofs ourselves, but we have faith in the scientists to believe they are right.
As it turned out, St Helen blew out horizontally and many were killed due to the wrong predictions.
As in the case of the cheating husband, the role on intuition may play a role in deciding whether the belief is a delusional or not.
In the absence of solid evidence and other doubts, it may not be delusional to insist that the husband is not cheating as she may be taking into account other past experiences and her intuitions.
If she sees the husband naked with the another woman in a room, and insist he is not cheating, it may not be delusional if her intuition and other experiences are strong. It may turned out the husband was kidnap and place there for a blackmail plot.
If the husband confesses (under no duress), then it may be a it would be a different story.
Thus whether a belief based on faith is delusion or not, it will depend on the combinations of their degrees.
Posted: May 19th, 2011, 12:44 pm
In the way the OP has been laid out faith is just another word for self-delusion. Not in all cases is faith self-delusion.
scott wrote:If a person believes a proposition because the person believes the personally known evidence indicates that the proposition is true, then the person does not believe it out of faith but rather because of the evidence
scott wrote:Alternatively, if the person admittedly thinks the evidence warrants a contrary belief, can the person actually believe?
scott wrote:They can say they choose to believe despite the evidence or despite the lack of evidence, but what does it mean to choose to believe?
Exactly that, they choose to believe. A person can belief whatever they want; logical or not.
scott wrote:It's one thing when a person is so biased or stubborn or even delusional that they allegedly misinterpret the available evidence or biasedly seek out any evidence supporting them while ignoring the other evidence. But when a person genuinely admits that they do not have enough evidence to support their position, what is that?
It means they do not have evidence to support their belief. Or they are simply uncertain and may want more evidence, depending on the case, but choose to continue to believe as they originally did.
scott wrote:We may call it faith, but is it not self-delusional, a peculiar form of denial in which the person is not only in denial but is actually admitting that they are in denial?
I believe this fallacy is called begging the question.
You have often times in the past answered many threads stating that the definition needs to be more precise for the scenario. What you seem to be doing here is that you have created a scenario(especially in the begging of the OP), and are asking whether it encompasses all things. Making a definition to suit your beliefs(ironically enough). Effectively doing the opposite of what you normally do to solve a problem, or at least focus on the real issue.
Posted: May 19th, 2011, 7:57 pm
Faith is betting that the outcome is what one wants it to be. It is more synonymous with optimism than with delusion because delusion implies that one's outlook does not match reality 100%. It is possible that one's faith is correct for how something will turn out therefore faith is not necessarily delusion although it could be.
Posted: May 20th, 2011, 8:42 pm
the OP has externalized a concept which is integral to consciousness.
Faith, without the perceivable religious implications, is inherent to understanding. one acquire information, finds out that is verifiable and reliable and then remembers it. the act of 'faith' is to trust one's own memory. we only believe we know the things we do in actuality. we do not re-verify our knowledge every time we use it. not needing to attempt to disprove veracity is an act of internal faith. admittedly, it doesn't take a huge 'leap' to accept that repeatedly proven ideas are likely to remain that way.
the external faith, as described in the examples, is the misapplication of the same cognitive process. we trust that results will be as we think them to be, but in these cases, have not verified anything. the emotive output of this version of faith is equally reassuring to the person. in fact, cognitively it is identical in where it fires in the brain and the emotional state which results. but, one can not simply invert their 'belief' response and get results. the reason is that by doing so, one can only find fulfillment in either the emotive response (which is convincing enough for dumb people), or by having their subjective expectations magically assert themselves over external processes. and that doesn't ever seem to work that way does it?
Posted: July 11th, 2011, 3:07 am
"self-delusion" in this context seems to be something like, 'a belief persisting in spite of contradictory evidence'; that or 'insufficient evidence'.
So yes, if someone is prematurely assenting to a belief without sufficient evidence, it would be. But I think its important to weigh this consideration which is more a point of analytic clarity.
Faith is something that is inherently irrational. 'Irrational' is not to be taken in a pejorative manner. Proper faith is held in diametric opposition with frameworks employing rationalistic standards. But faith itself does not pretend to be rational.
A good referential here is Kierkegaard.
If you are working within a framework that demands "evidence" and computational methods involving probabilities, a movement of 'faith' will inherently be unsatisfactory, but simply because you are asking it to interact or reconcile itself with systemic features that are entirely exclusive from it.
Now, what you may mean to ask is whether it's bad to assent to a belief in spite of insufficient evidence. ORdinarily, I'd say yes again. But there is much more to be said about it. The question soon arises, what is the benchmark of sufficiency? Pragmatically speaking, it would be easy here just to say whatever is most compelling or persuasive. But this again is not 'faith'. 'Faith' does not make persuasive cases. Persuasion is a function of rationality and as such should be kept to its camp.