Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why do we make sense? (Part 2)

We are able to make sense and strive to make sense because we have faith. Fundamentally our pilgrimage to make sense of it all starts with trust. We trust that our cognitive and experiential faculties are properly functioning. We trust that the data we are exposed to are reliable.

If we don't have faith in our cognitive and experiential faculties, then we will have great difficulty to live through any day. We won't be able to come to any senses, not to mention that we can't even speak intelligibly. In order to express ourselves intelligibly, our cognitive and experiential faculties have to be assumed as functioning properly.

If we don't have faith in the fact that the data that we are exposed to are reliable, then we hardly able to make sense of the things we experience; such as the taste of the food we eat, the images we see, the sound we hear.

To make sense, we have to start with faith. This is basic to contemporary epistemology. Atheistic rhetoric that pegs 'faith' or 'belief' on one end while 'reason' or 'rationality' on the other end is a false equation. For example,
"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."
(Richard Dawkins, Untitled Lecture, Edinburgh Science Festival, 1992)

"The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simply unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry."
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene [UK: Oxford University Press, 30th anniversay edition, 2006], p.198)
Such rhetorics are popular. Those who adopt it think that it is sensible. But as I've tried to show in this and previous post, our ability and strive to make sense are fundamentally a step of faith.

Hence the belief in the existence of God is a question on where and why do we put our trust at? Whether we end with the belief or disbelief in God's existent, our starting point is always a event of trust. As for the question on how do we put our trust is sufficiently discussed in Nicholas Wolterstorff's little book 'Reason within the Bounds of Religion', Part 1.

Some great Christian apologists like to say that our trust in God is a reasonable faith (William L. Craig titled his book 'Reasonable Faith'). These apologists suggest that our trust in God's existent can come by through a journey of reasoning. And as we journey along, we will come to realize that it is reasonable to trust in the existence of God.

However, I am not primarily doing apologetics here. I am discussing epistemology (to which Christian apologetic is a by-product). I have come to see more and more that we are operating on faithful reason. The fact that we are able to make sense and strive to make sense is a long journey of trust.
"I don't know; I must believe."
(Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind [USA: University of Chicago Press, 1993], p. 155. Emphasis added.)


reasonable said...

A possible answer to Why do we make sense may be this:

Not because of Gods or God or Buddha or some higher intelligent beings, but because it just is.

Just like, why God is able to make sense of things? Perhaps the answer is: it just is

Why God is able to think, to decide, to communicate etc? Perhaps it just is.

Why God is able to exist eternally? Perhaps it just is.

So why are human beings able to make sense? Perhaps it just is.

Why non-living matter may be able to evolve into intelligent minds? Perhaps it just is. ("how" might be another matter - how the process of evolution leads step-by-step from non-living things to be evolved into living intelligent things)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

Perhaps it just is (pun intended), but any worthy skeptical inquiry would go further than just "it just is" to push for a more coherent and absolute level of explanation.

Saying that mere composition of matters, like humans, able and strive to make sense is "just is" is one thing.

Saying God able to exist eternally is "just is" is another thing.

The former is ontologically arbitrary while the latter is ontologically necessary. In other words, saying that matters are able and strive to make sense is saying that there can be an ontological order out of chaos without any imposition on that chaos. But that is not in our daily observation. Every orderly things (eg. laptop) we see everyday are not things that came out from chaos (eg. plastics & silicons), but things that came out from the imposition of order (eg. engineer).