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Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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James195101
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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by James195101 » May 18th, 2012, 7:29 pm

'When we look at the world, we decide (based on the evidence that seems best to us) what that world is like.' Do you support the miracles and Jesus rising from the dead? I don't, but we still need faith to live our human lives - faith that our lives are worth living.

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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Ecurb » May 18th, 2012, 7:31 pm

Muddler wrote:If faith is based on fear of death, then it's synonymous with wishful thinking. If it's based on a desire to be accepted into a believing society, then it's synonymous with surrender. If it's based on a logical argument, then the logic is faulty.
I have faith that the square of the hypoteneuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. I base this faith on the logic of Euclidean geometry -- and I dispute that the logic is faulty.

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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Muddler » May 18th, 2012, 7:38 pm

I too have faith in the Pythagorean theorem. I was talking about faith in the supernatural, religious faith. Isn't that what this thread is about?

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Prismatic
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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Prismatic » May 18th, 2012, 8:03 pm

I would call faith belief in the absence of evidence and delusion belief despite evidence to the contrary.
Everywhere I have sought peace and never found it except in a corner with a book. —Thomas à Kempis

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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Muddler » May 18th, 2012, 9:16 pm

So, if I believe in fire-breathing dragons, that's faith and not delusion?

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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Prismatic » May 18th, 2012, 9:34 pm

Muddler wrote:So, if I believe in fire-breathing dragons, that's faith and not delusion?
If you only believe that such creatures might possibly exist somewhere, yes, it's faith. If you make friends with them and feed them in your back yard, that's delusion.
Everywhere I have sought peace and never found it except in a corner with a book. —Thomas à Kempis

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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Scott » May 18th, 2012, 9:47 pm

Prismatic, assuming you are actually talking about evidence and not proof, then why is it not delusion to believe something without evidence but is delusion to believe something when there is slight evidence in opposition but not proof. Why would so little evidence to the contrary be the difference between delusion and faith?

In any case, in most contexts dealing with ontologically positive assertions, the absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence however slight -- like if I look in most of my fridge and do not see milk that is evidence albeit not proof that milk does not exist in my fridge. So in practice 'belief NOT based on logical proof or material evidence' would still almost always be delusional even though they would not be synonymous.
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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Prismatic » May 18th, 2012, 10:19 pm

Scott wrote:Prismatic, assuming you are actually talking about evidence and not proof, then why is it not delusion to believe something without evidence but is delusion to believe something when there is slight evidence in opposition but not proof. Why would so little evidence to the contrary be the difference between delusion and faith?

In any case, in most contexts dealing with ontologically positive assertions, the absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence however slight -- like if I look in most of my fridge and do not see milk that is evidence albeit not proof that milk does not exist in my fridge. So in practice 'belief NOT based on logical proof or material evidence' would still almost always be delusional even though they would not be synonymous.
When evidence is slight, the degree of delusion may be slight too, but nevertheless it remains delusion because you ignore the only evidence you have. We usually think of delusion as a major psychotic symptom, but I think people delude themselves in small ways every day of the week and in larger ways on weekends.

I agree the absence of evidence often equates to evidence of absence—in those cases where you can inspect all possibilities as in the contents of your refrigerator. However, this next sentence does not seem to follow:
So in practice 'belief NOT based on logical proof or material evidence' would still almost always be delusional even though they would not be synonymous.
I'm not sure what you meant to say.
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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Scott » May 18th, 2012, 10:34 pm

Prismatic wrote:I agree the absence of evidence often equates to evidence of absence—in those cases where you can inspect all possibilities as in the contents of your refrigerator.
What about when I cannot see all of my refrigerator? What if I can see only most? If I could see all, I'd have proof. If I could see most, I'd have evidence but presumably not proof.
Prismatic wrote:
Scott wrote:So in practice 'belief NOT based on logical proof or material evidence' would still almost always be delusional even though they would not be synonymous.
I'm not sure what you meant to say.
I meant to say this: If you are right that it is not delusional to believe something without evidence if there is also no evidence to the contrary, then 'belief not based on logical proof or material evidence' (which is the particular definition of the equivocal word faith in question) is not synonymous with self-delusion. However, in practice, it would still almost always be delusional to believe something without evidence since the absence of evidence would be evidence of absence in the case of any ontologically positive claims such as there being milk in my refrigerator.
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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Prismatic » May 18th, 2012, 10:57 pm

Scott wrote:
Prismatic wrote:I agree the absence of evidence often equates to evidence of absence—in those cases where you can inspect all possibilities as in the contents of your refrigerator.
What about when I cannot see all of my refrigerator? What if I can see only most? If I could see all, I'd have proof. If I could see most, I'd have evidence but presumably not proof.
Your evidence would apply only to the part of the refrigerator you could see. You would be justified in believing there was no milk in that portion, but you would have no evidence of what was in the part you could not see and so belief about what was there would be an instance of faith.
However, in practice, it would still almost always be delusional to believe something without evidence…
It depends on what weight you give to inductive evidence—past experience of similar situations. For example, your wife comes home from work at 6 PM everyday. One day she does not arrive at 6 PM and there is no phone call to say why.

There are many possibilities here and in view of the regularity of her habits you would do well to be concerned. Yet you have no evidence of anything other than her absence at the usual hour. Would it be delusional to believe it possible that a) she has had an accident; b) her car has broken down; c) she was kept late in a meeting; d) she has been abducted by aliens; e) she has run away with someone richer than you.
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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Scott » May 19th, 2012, 12:57 am

Prismatic wrote:Your evidence would apply only to the part of the refrigerator you could see. You would be justified in believing there was no milk in that portion, but you would have no evidence of what was in the part you could not see and so belief about what was there would be an instance of faith.
If we were talking about proof not evidence, I would agree. But I think that if I search most of my fridge and do not find milk that that is evidence albeit not proof that there is no milk in my fridge.
Prismatic wrote:
Scott wrote:However, in practice, it would still almost always be delusional to believe something without evidence...
It depends on what weight you give to inductive evidence—past experience of similar situations. For example, your wife comes home from work at 6 PM everyday. One day she does not arrive at 6 PM and there is no phone call to say why.

There are many possibilities here and in view of the regularity of her habits you would do well to be concerned. Yet you have no evidence of anything other than her absence at the usual hour. Would it be delusional to believe it possible that a) she has had an accident; b) her car has broken down; c) she was kept late in a meeting; d) she has been abducted by aliens; e) she has run away with someone richer than you.
I think that the fact she didn't come is very weak circumstantial evidence for all those things, but of course it could become significant with corroborating evidence. (If the police found out the sudden irregularity in her regular habits, it might become a crucial piece of evidence in a hit-and-run trial regarding option a for example.) However, in the absence of corroborating evidence for any one of those specific possibilities to believe a single one of those possibilities with confidence would be delusional to the degree the confidence of the belief doesn't match the evidence. Regardless of my answer, I don't understand the point you are trying to make here. You are saying that it is not delusional to believe something without any evidence at all but only with evidence to the contrary, and I am saying it is. So what does an example where there is evidence -- albeit extremely slight evidence -- for the potentially believed thing have to do with that?
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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by James195101 » May 19th, 2012, 2:25 am

Faith that 'Jesus rose from the dead' is self-delusion (contrary to evidence), but faith that 'doing good works is worthwhile' is not self-delusion (species beneficial). So it is not synonymous - you just have to be specific about which faith aspect is being discussed.

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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Muddler » May 19th, 2012, 10:31 am

Prismatic, the words faith and delusion indicate more abut the observer than the believer. If the observer supports the believer, he will call his belief faith; if he doesn't, he will call it delusion.

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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Prismatic » May 19th, 2012, 11:42 am

Scott wrote: You are saying that it is not delusional to believe something without any evidence at all but only with evidence to the contrary, and I am saying it is.
I think it depends on what weight you give to inductive evidence that is, whether you consider it evidence at all. By inductive evidence I mean the accumulation of prior experience of similar circumstances. If you consider your prior experience to be circumstantial evidence applying to a current situation, belief might be viewed as delusional. If you do not consider it to be evidence at all, then belief in a new and different experience would be faith.

Thus in the situation of your wife's non-appearance, some would say that you have no evidence whatever, that her previous habits do not even constitute evidence. To imagine something is in this case faith—faith in the notion that your wife would not fail to come home without calling unless something had gone wrong. Others might insist that people follow habits and that failing to keep a usual habit is evidence something has gone wrong and you would be deluding yourself not to be worried.

The evidence we have against miracles for example is inductive—previous experience indicates they do not occur and belief in them is delusional. However, a person of faith might argue miracles are quite rare and previous experience devoid of miracles is not evidence they do not ever occur, but merely evidence of infrequency.

The general question of whether faith is self-delusional seems to me to hinge on precisely this point. At the time natural processes were not well understood, belief they were caused by supernatural forces was faith. It arose from ignorance of how things worked. Now that we understand things better, to believe disasters are the result of God's anger is delusion. What has changed is: the gradual accumulation of inductive evidence has shifted the ground away from faith.
Everywhere I have sought peace and never found it except in a corner with a book. —Thomas à Kempis

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Re: Is faith synonymous with self-delusion?

Post by Scott » May 19th, 2012, 9:58 pm

Prismatic wrote:Thus in the situation of your wife's non-appearance, some would say that you have no evidence whatever, that her previous habits do not even constitute evidence. To imagine something is in this case faith—faith in the notion that your wife would not fail to come home without calling unless something had gone wrong. Others might insist that people follow habits and that failing to keep a usual habit is evidence something has gone wrong and you would be deluding yourself not to be worried.
Again, I would say that the inductive evidence is very weak evidence that "something is wrong" so to speak. However, I think that is also a moot point. It seems to me like in the absence of any evidence that 'something is not wrong' it would be delusional to believe something is not wrong regardless of whether I had that little bit of evidence that something is wrong. (In reality, I think I would also have evidence even if equally weak that something is not wrong because I could induce from the fact that most days nothing goes wrong; her habits are regular but so is things not going wrong which seems to be two weak inductions that cancel each other out.) I just don't see why that tiny bit of evidence against the evidence-less belief turns it into delusion, particularly if the evidence-less belief is held confidently. Does someone who reasonably suspects something therefore believe it? If not, then the utter lack of evidence is so far removed from the probable cause that would warrant belief that the little extra evidence against isn't needed to make the person delusional because the person doesn't even have enough evidence to reasonably suspect the thing let alone have probable cause.
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