Thursday, August 21, 2008

D'Souza on Pascal's Wager: Part II


D'Souza uses Kant and Pascal to argue that it’s reasonable and very good to have faith, especially faith in God. God and the things of God are not accessible to science; thus faith-things are neither proven by science nor can they be critiqued by science, since noumenal reality is, Kant-like, beyond phenomenal reality. D’Souza writes: “Empirical evidence is unavailable because the senses cannot penetrate a realm beyond experience.” (194)

I pause here to note that I am interested in but not so sure of where D’Souza is heading. From my Christian viewpoint there is an empirical ground to my faith; viz., in the Jesus story. And, I am personally influenced by arguments for God’s existence such as, e.g., the fine-tuning argument. Re. such arguments they only have inductive probability, and so can be doubted.

With that in mind D’Souza brings in Wittgensteinian fideism. Wittgenstein wrote, famously, that “we don’t get to the bottom of things, but reach a point here we can go no further, where we cannot ask further questions.” So, when asked what happens when we die, “Wittgenstein refused to answer one way or the other.” (194) For D’Souza this is significant in that Wittgenstein did not and would not give the answer, as would Dawkins and Sam Harris, “There is nothing.” Wittgenstein “couldn’t say this because he didn’t know.” (194)

Pause again. That’s a good point to make, is it not? Consider:

1. Noumenal reality exists. (True, acc. to D'Souza)
2. Miracles are possible. (True, acc. to D'Souza)
3. Science can say nothing about noumenal reality. (True, acc. to D'Souza)
4. Therefore science can say nothing about life after death.

D’Souza then states that, for a religious person such as myself, this is something I can embrace. He cites Hebrews 11:1 which states that faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” D’Souza writes: “Faith says that even though I don’t know something with certainty, I believe it to be true.” (195)

Then, to the surprise of many atheists (I’m not so sure of this; but surely village atheists), and even a few Christians, one affirms that: “doubt is the proper habit of mind for the religious believer.” (194) D’Souza writes: “The Christian has faith even though he is not sure, while the unbeliever refuses to believe because he is not sure. But they agree in being unsure. The skeptical habit of mind is as natural to Christianity as it is to unbelief.” (195)

I suspect Christian fundamentalists would disagree with D’Souza here, but I affirm it. Maybe, because I’ve been a musician since age 5, the idea of “mystery” is not problematic for me. In this regard I remember, e.g., years ago reading B.F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Skinner wrote that the purpose of science is to reduce all mystery to knowledge. To which I thought, at that time, what a truly futile purpose. Skinner had a scientistic paradigm in which mystery had no place. I did not believe Skinner then, nor do I now.

Next D’Souza states that “religious faith is not in opposition to reason.” I’ll begin my next D'Souza post with that.