The chief difficulty in regard to knowledge does not arise over derivative knowledge, but over intuitive knowledge. So long as we are dealing with derivative knowledge, we have the test of intuitive knowledge to fall back upon. But in regard to intuitive beliefs, it is by no means easy to discover any criterion by which to distinguish some as true and others as erroneous. In this question it is scarcely possible to reach any very precise result: all our knowledge of truths is infected with some degree of doubt, and a theory which ignored this fact would be plainly wrong.
Bertrand Russell (from The Problems of Philosophy, 1912)
[Like many modern thinkers, Bertrand Russell does not recognize “faith” as a philosophical principle. It often happens, however, that what people resist is the word and not the idea behind it. In the case of the word “faith” we can be sure that its frequent use in connection with religious beliefs is what arouses the resistance. But in such passages as the one above, it seems to us that the concept of faith is the very thing that Russell needs in order to complete his thought. Since faith is believing rather than knowing, it is infected with doubt almost by definition. Yet, elsewhere Russell writes, ‘All knowledge must be built up upon our instinctive beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left.’ It follows then that some of our intuitive beliefs—Russell uses intinctive and intuitive interchangeably—ought to be considered articles of faith since they possess the two typical characteristics of faith beliefs, namely, 1) they have great value for us, 2) we trust them and are committed to them inasmuch as we act as if they were true. And therefore, could it not be argued that the ancient Christian maxim, ‘Faith is a kind of knowledge,’ qualifies as a valid, if paradoxical, insight on the road to a theory of knowledge?]
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