James F. Ross


This paper is as much about knowledge in general, as it is about the particular inquiry that occasions it.

Philosophical theology has altered along with wider changes in philosophy during the last four decades, with surprising improvements in the situation of religious belief, when compared to the odium in which logical positivists and verificationists held it. I trace three respects: a change in the notions of and role of "proof" in philosophy generally, so that it is recognized to be fully rational and indeed required by practical wisdom, that we form life-structuring convictions on grounds far less than demonstration; secondly, the rehabilitation of faith as a source of knowledge, and its having been found to be at the very core of the edifice of science; and thirdly, the recognition that reliance of various kinds, but particularly upon refined feeling, configures and confirms rational judgment.

Moreover, there are various degrees of proof, short of demonstration, available to philosophers in all areas of thinking, that are adequate grounds for certainty: for example, "proof beyond a reasonable doubt", "proof by clear and convincing evidence", and "proof by a preponderance of evidence". Yet none of these is required for rational commitment to our life-shaping convictions.

Rather, there are sources of rational conviction that have nothing to do with proof, and little to do with probabilistic weighing of evidence, or any other mere accumulation of evidence, and have far more to do with various kinds of satisfaction from reliance, the most important being one's reliance upon one's educated, refined, emotional response to situations and prospects, and particularly upon what are usually considered the aesthetic features of simplicity, elegance, coherence, beauty, and plausibility, but are actually kinds of satisfaction to be gained from commitment. Thus, cognitive voluntarism, our willing reliance upon people, feelings and outcomes, directed to our own fulfillment, has reemerged as a basis for rational certainty, not only in empirical cognition generally, but in the most important commitments of our lives.


James Ross

Prospects for natural theology have brightened since the midcentury. The climate in philosophy and the skills of the philosophical theologians have improved. Several subjects have significantly changed shape and new options have opened.[1]

Rational certainty about God is more plausible than was believed in the Fifties.[2] The notions of rational certainty are better understood now, in particular, how vast a range of rational certainty in no way depends on proof of any sort, and how much of rational certainty, even in the most important matters, has a significantly "emotional" and "voluntary" base. For example, neither demonstration nor any proof at all is needed ( or available) for rational certainty about the most general life-structuring convictions, whether it be that rational clarity of conviction enriches one's life, that respectful love of others is an intrinsic value, that scientific inquiry into nature is justified and successful, or that God exists and has the sorts of traits believers expect. In some of those cases no one even pretends to offer demonstrations. In others, including God's case, "proofs" far less elaborate than demonstrations[3]are satisfactory for theoretical certainty, though even they are not necessary for rational practical conviction.

Furthermore, faith has been rehabilitated. Faith is willing reliance on others thought better placed to know, as well as willing reliance on the regularities we find in nature and people, to indicate what we should believe. Faith is undeniably a source of knowledge, often more efficient than finding out for oneself, as the telephone book makes clear. And where faith falls short of knowledge, it often supplies rational certitude, even about the most expensive and conservatively entered human undertakings, especially in engineering (bridge and theater design), naval architecture (hull design), applied science (nuclear power plants), and sometimes even in our formal logical and mathematical disciplines.[4] Faith is a foundation for rational certainty, maybe not a rock-bottom one, but an indispensable one. In fact, trust is the very fabric of social conviction and the golden thread of science.

There is no longer a responsible debate about whether there can be knowledge by faith[5], that is, knowledge by way of our willing reliance on others and on some of the regularities we discern, but only about what sorts of things are best or better known that way[6]. To think we do not know that PCB's are dangerous in the water supply because WE have not established it or even read the "proof" is just being foolish, not philosophical. There is a societal conviction, that varies in quality,depending upon how much internal scrutiny it contains as a cognitive institution, on which we rely to find out,without strict reasoning and even without any conscious inquiry[7] at all, about fusion, fission, the benefits of fluoride, the dangers of chlordane, the age of galaxies, whether we need vaccinations or flu shots, and AIDS: fides ex auditu, said St. Paul.

Many people find out about God by taking the wise ones seriously: Gautama the Buddha, Abraham, Moses Jesus, Socrates and Plato, as well as their own parents,and families, and communities. Such construals of life are typically reinforced by a culture that construes the world as the arena for a divine drama, in terms of which individuals conceive themselves (as workers, martyrs, leaders, ideologies, the faithful, the chosen people, etc.), having a place,a character or role in history, so that belief is strengthened into "gut instinct." Greek Orthodox spiritual teachers talk of one's belief, as conviction matures, "descending from the head to the heart", and before that, not being worth very much toward enlightenment.[8] The fact that hideous falsehoods can be believed that same way--just as gross falsities are believed as a result of science-- does not make the social institution that causes conviction less a source of rational belief. Similar convictions are generated the same way about how to understand one's own history (e.g as of opportunity or repression). The animism of Native Americans did not amount to knowledge (if taken literally and not metaphorically),we think; the pantheism /animism of seventy percent of living humans is not, we think, literally correct. But that says nothing about the rationality of their convictions, or the rationality of the "sociology of knowledge" by which their convictions were generated. A social system that hands along truths about food and mixed truths and errors about health and how to live, and superstitions about God and "science", might do perfectly well to hand along an improved product. Because of the "garbage in, garbage out" principle, a social transmission system that has perfect integrity as a means of rational belief, when judged by its product,may be unjustly ridiculed. Besides, philosophers think the "reliability" of the system has something to do with the rationality of relying upon its outputs, proposing to measure reliability by the truth of the product. But for many products there are not alternative sources. As Augustine pointed out about the Christian faith, and we would have to point out to Hottentots resisting our teaching them science, "unless you believe, you will not understand"."There is no way to get to see that this process works, without first becoming an initiate and making it work."

You cannot get into a position to evaluate until you become an insider. There is no access to the reliability of the "system" from the outside, not any more than there is access to the standpoint of musical,philosophical or aesthetic mastery of judgment, except by discipleship, first. Augustine told a Manichee friend who wanted everything proved,"You are suffering from an illness only God can cure."[ God's cure would be to move the friend to belief]. You simply cannot get into the position of competent cognitive appraisal of the most important channels of belief, without talent matured as an apprentice, journeyman and master (and thus a disciple) of the "way", whether it be how to play the piano, construct arguments, live justly and humanely, or live a fulfilled life.

So faith emerges as a means, a universal and effective means of knowledge. That is news, recent news in philosophical theology, and in epistemology in general. Of course, it is no news to Aquinas, Augustine, and Cicero, that the fabric of human knowledge is the woof of trust and the warp of independent inquiry. But even they would have been reluctant to assign trust a major place in any science but divine science, (theology). Moreover, there came a time, after Descartes had to clean out the hand-me-down prejudices that clogged the way of the new science, when an extreme of scientific caution required doing (or trying to) everything for oneself, taking nothing on faith, relying on no one. That myth is still handed to HIgh School students who are simultaneously "cooking" the results of their lab assignment so as to get the textbook's results, and not to have to repeat it. Extreme self-reliance was just a wave in the sociology of science. Parallel processing is the wave of the future. Thus,the basic currents for human knowledge remain two: faith (reliance) and reason (finding out for oneself).[9]

There is an even more important advance going on now, the recognition that feelings function cognitively to ground rational certainty[10]. Feelings are knowledge-making. Yet feelings are not reasons, though their happening may be (a serious stomach-ache is reason to call a doctor). Against the background of our beliefs, feelings convert glimmerings into convictions and determine, supplement, and transfigure appearances[11]. Further, the satisfaction and stability of deep feeling hardens belief into rock-bottom commitment. That can, unfortunately, produce stubborn opposition to the truth just as easily as steadfast support for it. For only refined feeling correlates directly with quality of conviction. By stabilizing, configuring and even supplementing the "presentation" of things, feeling does for cognition what glossy advertising does for desire.

Feeling functions cognitively both in our relying on others (faith: " I feel I can trust her;" " I feel secure relying on him".), and in our finding out for ourselves (reason: "Yes, that argument is elegant, satisfying." or "No, that hypothesis is flimsy, tinsely."). Feelings, especially refined feeling (see III below), (1) disclose the quality of things and sometimes their real natures, by transforming appearance into meaning, for instance, by making a mark on clay or a faint rustle cry "Danger!, (Snake)"; and (2) they configure convictions, that is make the content emerge, by drawing the supporting pieces into a pattern, the way we detect a conspiracy. But they do even more than that, as I will explain below.

As a result, cognitive voluntarism[12], seems to be the most plausible general account of experiential knowing, one that opposes "evidentialism", "representationalism" and "foundationalism", and holds, instead: that on the whole, we believe what we want and because we want to, (allowing both for compulsion by 'evidence' and compulsion by want), within a cognitive-voluntary system that has a targeted finality (the survival-then-fulfillment of the active person, in a basically hospitable environment)[13]. So "believing what you want to" is not the pathology of religion and madness; it is also the engine of adapted cognition. Instead, mad, irrational belief is wilful and compulsive, out of touch with the conditions of environment and the aims of our cognitive system.[14]

Believing, not at will, but willingly, is both the form[15] of empirical knowledge (and so, of induction, of all pattern discernment, as well as of abstraction and genuine conception), and the form of reliance on others, which involves the additional element of personal trust. Thus religious faith, even strictly divine faith[16] is not structurally deviant among cognitive states; it is typical of the cosmic extensions of experience we have to make in a universe too large to explore by oneself: we make cosmic-construals to fit the targeted finality of our having knowing powers[17]; for example, our belief that scientific inquiry will disclose, or approximate, the meat and bones of the material world.

We have to have convictions that go beyond all the data, and yet are not necessarily true, in order to make sense of the data we have: e.g. we have beliefs about the origin of the earth, about inertia, relativity, that there were homo sapiens from 35,000 to, perhaps, 90,000 years ago (but much less than the quarter of a million or even two million years we had thought, mistaking homo erectus for our species),--at most a millisecond in the "hour" of earth's life. We think the cosmos is about 17.5 billion light years in "diameter", with a single "evolution" of heavy elements from hydrogen in supernovae, and so forth; ( though some of us postulate dark galaxies which have accelerated past that fraction of the speed of light where their mass captures all their light, thus accounting for the "missing 90% of the matter" of the universe, but requiring that the cosmos be much "older" than the visible (from earth) slice appears.). Some even believe the "gaia" hypothesis, that the earth is a single living system where the lives of its living parts depend wholly on the health and life of the whole, just as cell-life, normally, depends entirely on our whole bodily life and cannot long outlive it.[18] Others believe history is targeted on the return of Jesus, on a unification of consciousness (Teillard de Chardin) and a post-historical community of saints.

For many, such convictions are a paradigmatically rational. And that might well be true, depending on how conviction was reached and with what sort of trust.[19] We habitually and willingly believe that physical reality is mathematically intelligible and that the future will be like the past (though there is no reason in principle why that should be so, any more, say than that thought-reality should be mathematically intelligible--which very few people at all believe, or even care about[20]). How firmly we hold one or another of those usually implicit convictions depends on what explanatory power we accord it and how deeply we need it, what the "payoff" is.

Such beliefs are not immune to refutation by experience, among the sensible, anyway. Still , adherents will simply replace those disconfirmed, with the nearest tenable facsimile, --unless all trust has suddenly "gone down the drain", as when love is disillusioned-- just the way we adjust metaphors to new technology.[21].

Advances in philosophical theology met setbacks too. The modal arguments for the existence of God, that advanced like Chicago commodities through the late Seventies, bottomed out in the Eighties, when a few people realized that the "possible worlds semantics" for Quantified Modal Logic,[22] used for the more highly touted versions, is a hideous platonistic fairytale[23] which conflicts with the divinity it is used to demonstrate. Nevertheless, the classical insights of Avicenna, Duns Scotus, and Leibniz, underlying the modal arguments, are innocent of the malignant ontologies and of the extensionalist basic logic, and will survive, after extensionalist quantified modal logic has gone the way of the hula hoop[24].

There is,however, a dangerous threat to the hard won clarity and care earned in philosophy over the decades; that comes from a new salient: the abandonment of disciplined thought-in favor of rhetorical flourishes and slogans-- because of the "futility of philosophy" as R. Rorty[25] disclosed it, and as a few others deconstruct the bipolar opposition of "true or false" to make a "postmodern" hermeneutics, in which science has no more access to truth than palm reading or poetry.

Granted, the promises of analytic philosophy were mostly get-rich schemes with watered stock. Granted that diligent acolytes tried for decades to achieve the analyses, definitions, and reductions promised by the vague schemes of Russell, Carnap, Quine, Goodman, Putnam, Chomsky, Davidson, Sellars, and Chisholm, to name just a few of the thinkers of quality, ambition and dedication. Granted, the scandalous failures to explain counterfactuals and to analyze "S knows that P", or anything else of significance, justify disenchantment. And even allowing that the new "puritans" of "epistemology naturalized" (Quine), of evidentialism, and foundationalism and "explanatory coherence" in epistemology, and the "new methodists" of computationalism, functionalism, and connectivism in philosophy of mind (cognitive science), will also fail because of thin blood inherited from "logical fundamentalism"[26] and an archaic and anachronistic formulation of their problems. Still, that's no reason to give up clarity for clamor. It is better to make radical realignments of analytic convictions,than to join the "philosophy is dreck" evangelists, toking mantras, and making intellectual significance into a contest of clamor, cliques and political posturing[27]. That is near enough to happening in History, Literary Criticism,and Philosophy to deserve a warning.


Some obstacles to faith have gone away. Before saying more about proof, faith and the cognitive function of feeling, I want to say something about the lost obstacles.

Some obstacles died out, the way verificationism did, after generating a vast theological literature[28]. Some obstacles became kinky, the way thoroughgoing religious skepticism did, displaying some disorder of the understanding (as I think Wittgenstein regarded any challenge, or response to one, for the justification of a cognitive practice as a whole, whether of knowing, science, religion, aesthetics or mathematics). Skepticism and non-cognitivism are not a going industry in philosophy at the moment, except for a recrudescence in "post-modern" deconstruction that I mentioned, which is much more targeted against claims for science than on religion.

Other obstacles were coopted into advantages. The sleek scientific discourse of the logically literate, like David Lewis, was also cultivated by philosophical theologians like Alvin Plantinga, in the upperclass accent of symbolic logic, in particular, in the moued tones of quantified modal logic, along with an ontology of abstracta to interpret the logic. God was given a scientized description as the being that exists in all possible worlds and is maximally great in every one[29]. Done well, the argumentation looks formidable. Philosophical theology made a comeback[30]. By using the scalpels of its disdainers, it achieved the glitter of neurosurgery and even made TIME (April 7,1980).

Another obstacle became an advantage: the decline of evidentialism. Scientific knowledge had been considered superior to religious conviction just because belief was kept proportionate to the evidence2[31]. This is "evidentialism" as Locke first stated it, a position that triggered a long "ethics of belief" debate,[32] and laid down principles taken as "obvious" and "not worth arguing about", until they were pulverized in the course of unconnected roadbuilding in philosophy of science.

The new story from Harvard about the underdetermination of hypotheses by data (Duhem-Quine), the inscrutability of reference (Quine, Putnam) , that "entrenchment" of predicates is the basis of induction (Goodman's reworking of Hume's "custom"), and the "many versions, many worlds" of Goodman[33], said unequivocally that scientific commitment goes beyond the evidence. [Of course, every ordinary true predication,e.g.,"My sweater is torn," does too, and in the same way, as Duns Scotus noticed around 1300.] In fact, Goodman's Languages of Art 1968 made it basic that visual, and all other sensory perception, "goes beyond the data," as did Jerome Brunner in Beyond the Data Given; perception is constructive (supplementing, modifying, ignoring and rearranging the sensory "data"), and both conception and judgment are constructive too. Paul Kolers experiments with reading (some published in Scientific American) display similar construction, [ a notion since appropriated by hermeneuticists ]. Those were the watchwords of Goodman's (and Gombrich's) new aesthetics, based on perceptual psychology. That led to a larger metaphysical doctrine: "the world is the product of art and discourse", that we build the experienced world[34].

Still, as Putnam said, the success of science is not a miracle. There must be an explanation of it. How can we succeed by going beyond the data? There are two main options, (combinable, too): (a) that science is a self-refining activity we take on trust, revising it by its outcomes (predictions, unifications, applications, etc.), the way we learn to steer a boat or play a violin, toward "satisfactory" understanding of wider and wider fields of phenomena. That position goes circular about the "data" for revising our science. Or (b) we make it up, making reality along with our versions of it, like stage designers perfecting their craft where the object is believability, convincing substantiality[35]. That's the new pragmatism, trying to get such a tight fit between prediction and outcomes that there is no room for a relevant competitor to what OUR theory "refers" to.[Internal realism]. Thus, we made "careers in plastics" (The Graduate) and "careers in microchips", and in arbitrage, not from "pregiven" reality, but by thought-architectonics in plastic reality. That is Goodman's "well-made worlds" in Ways of Worldmaking.

Regardless of the prospects for such accounts of the success of science, as I said, the new story from Harvard dynamited the principles for "evidentialism" and for "foundationalism" to explain successful science. Philosophers, with no interest in religion, noticed that faith, trust, reliance on others better placed to know, is integral to science as a communication system, as well as a source of the premises in the discovery process itself.[36] For example, we rely upon the laws of nature to be the same everywhere, regardless of the position or motion of the observer, an article of Einsteinian faith whose confirmation depends on our accepting it first.[37] Moreover, we rely on processes of measurement and experiment that are the best at hand and are vindicated by their outcomes, or replaced. So faith was rehabilitated, brought in from the cold and recognized to be a way of getting knowledge. The integrity of science demanded it. Science depends on faith, as the betrayals proved.

"Faith" is no longer the paradigm of "unjustified belief" or "belief that contravenes the evidence", or "belief held against the demands of reason" as Locke and Hume, and even C.J. Ducasse (Nature, Mind and Death. 1948) thought, but rational trust in those who ought to know and, equivocally but relatedly, reliance on the patterns in things. Even non-thinking animals display what Santayana called "animal faith", staking their lives hour by hour until they lose.

It does not matter that the new irrealism (Goodman) or Putnam's internal realism, or Quine's naturalized epistemology (with its subtended behaviorism) is itself hopeless. They dislodged the evidentialist's keystone. The arch of evidentialism collapsed, and with it, foundationalism, and obstacles to rational faith as part of religious epistemology. Now we can incorporate the much older tradition that divine faith perfects natural faith[38], and critically reappraise the longer history of cognitive voluntarism (whose key elements were employed by Augustine and Aquinas[39], and remained in the bloodstream of philosophy as late, at least, as Descartes's account of error as due to the will, Meditations, and were reintroduced by William James (The Will to Believe), after having been unceremoniously ousted by British empiricism (Locke and Hume).

We trust because we want something[40]. Reliance is, itself, a mode of satisfaction. That's the basic psychological mechanism for "taking someone's word for it" as well as for "relying on what they do". A hunter relies on the flight pattern of turkeys because he wants to eat some. We trust even an unprepossessing stranger for directions, going long distances on slight word, if there is no one else to ask. Need overrides caution. We distrust strange meat, strange shapes, and strange tastes. But hunger can countermand disgust, making us eat the native's unidentifiable food and even eat the all too clearly identifiable snake, lizard, ant, maggot, or eye. We can, even against resistance, trust people we don't like when we want something badly: medical care, banking, home repairs; sometimes, amazingly, to get love and intimacy. We can even trust people we do not trust, in desperation or passion.

Augustine says, "nemo credit nisi volens" ("no one believes unless he wants to"); not that you can believe at will or even disbelieve at will,though the power of the unconscious is awesome at rejection, and impressive at accommodation, regardless of the evidence. Nevertheless, the will is the engine of believing, not the understanding (except in the few cases of the "manifest vision of truth", of compelling obviousness, as Aquinas explained it). And even the compelling obviousness of one's mortal wounds can be willed away, say, as a medic urges one to live, sometimes with success. The rest of the time evidence does not compel belief, the will supplies the commitment.

Aquinas says it is reasonable to believe someone for the good to be gained from doing so. That is, to believe for profit; that was Augustine's view in his On The Profit of Believing (De Utilitate Credendi). In fact Augustine says the unbeliever is in extremis,suffering from a sickness only God can cure, exactly in the position of the patient who must trust the doctor or die. (m How else could such savage medicine have been practiced on England's Charles II in 1685 [see, Great Medical Disasters,by Richard Gordon, 1976, Dorset)? In particular, Aquinas says it is reasonable to believe Jesus for the sake of attaining eternal life:

thus we are moved to believe what God says because we are promised eternal life as a reward if we believe. And this reward moves the will to assent to what is said, although the intellect is not moved by anything which it understands.De Veritate, 14.1.

Aquinas clearly thinks "believing for profit" is a natural paradigm on which grace builds. [41]

Seventeenth Century science idealized finding out for oneself,Descartes's antidote for groundless and false received opinion. The success of science wore out the ideal by making parallel processing part of the very energy of discovery and proof.(See James Watson The Double Helix). We now know you cannot do science by yourself or by watching everything everyone does. You cannot even guarantee the size of the spoons you buy, much less calibrate the beakers,read the x-rays, or measure the accuracy of electronic measurers, or replicate every important experiment you depend upon. Science is a web of dependence and trust. That's why we regard faked results with such horror.[42] As Aquinas reported Cicero, the reason every lie is against reason is that it tears the fabric of community. A fortiori, for lies in science. In science,public rational certainty is only incidentally a function of the evidence you have for it, and much more a matter of the process by which you derived it, and how it fits into what "everyone" is confident to say.

So evidentialism died, and foundationalism along with it--though plenty of philosophers still promenade those corpses in the wheelchairs of argument. And faith, rehabilitated as a means of knowledge, coordinate with one's own inquiry, now stands as a source, not only of rational certainty, but even of scientific knowledge. That's how most of us get most of our scientific knowledge. The knowledge of God is gradually moving into configuration with our knowledge of universal inertia and of the gravitational effects of dark matter.

Another obstacle died out because the game was not worth the candle, after causing a vast literature, as I said[43]: namely, the irritating, ignorant wrangle over whether religious discourse is somehow meaning-impaired. To those who reflect on how information is conveyed in natural language, it is certain that main-stream religious discourse meets stringent conditions for cognitivity, though much of the discourse is craftbound. Religious discourse shares meaning-differentiation features, like analogy, metaphor and denomination, that are universal in both unbound and craftbound discourse. We can even explain how nonsense is generated from sense[44], accounting for the vast sub-text of religious talk, (as there is in stock-market appraisals, psychobabble, science, philosophy, art, music and everywhere else), that is as loony and contentless as you could ever imagine. So much, then, for the longstanding non-cognitivist annoyance[45]. But enough on the resurrection of faith, for now.


Demonstration and other kinds of proof need to be reconsidered. Demonstration is a very restricted kind of proof because it has to eliminate all counterpossibilities. I mean not only that the conclusion has to follow validly: "not possibly ... [the premises], and not ..[the conclusion]." The reasoning has to exhaust the field of relevant possibility (usually by allowing a contradiction to be deduced from the negation of the conclusion) or by providing for a construction of the conclusion from the premises entirely by permutations permitted in the logic. Thus, a demonstration has to eliminate every relevant "Suppose, instead..". Demonstration is like cabinet-making; it requires a lot of tools, very skilled craftsmanship and a devoted and cultivated clientele, and can't be used in iron bridge building.

Being demonstrated is a special status for something certain, a kind of public and impersonal certification. Exactly what that certification amounts to, what it adds to personal and collective sureness, was never crystal clear, even in days when philosophy had Euclidean science as a model. What it would amount to now, is even more puzzling, when we know that being demonstrated (e.g. a Euclidean theorem or a theorem of Newtonian mechanics) does not amount to being unqualifiedly true, and assures no particular grip on the real world.

One thing has been obvious all along (though it gets overlooked often enough): "being demonstrated" is not a necessary condition for "being known" or for "being the object of rational certainty", not even in mathematics, much less in religion or science. In fact, "being demonstrated" is not a well-traveled path into scientific status. There is not one (non-formal, non- trivial[46]) point in the whole of philosophy that is regarded by philosophers generally as having been demonstrated. That, after two and a half millennia! So demonstration can't be what we are after generally; why, then, in the case of God?.

Why does anyone insist that the existence of God be demonstrated, especially people who never try to demonstrate anything? It seems to be the fault of believers (including Plato's and Aristotle 's broad THEOS) who offered to provide the assurances; among Christians Augustine offers an argument in Book II of "De Libero ASrbitrio", and Anselm surprises practically everyone with the force and clarity of his reasoning. Still,why should anyone who grants that nothing of importance can be demonstrated in philosophy, or seldom attempts such a feat, ask that the existence of God be demonstrated, as a condition for believing it?[47] There seems to be a confusion over what it is reasonable to believe, even to be strongly convinced of in structuring one's life, and what is a proper part of our world-science.

When Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Anselm, Avicenna, Averroes, Maimonides, Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham, Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Spinoza, Berkeley, Newton, Kant and Peirce[48] construct their formidable reasoning, their objective is not religious but scientific, to make a coherent world-picture based on rigorously thought our principles.. [Notice, where the question of God's existence has been answered negatively, even taking Empedocles,Lucretius, Hume, Nietzsche and Sartre into account, nothing remotely approaching the rigor and discipline of a demonstration is offered. Why?]

The inquiry among the main philosophers was not over what to believe about the being of God, but over what reasoning to accept as decisive on the issue. [They mostly seemed to think decisive reasons on the issue available, despite their vast range of other differences.] Not decisive as to what to believe,--for most thought they already knew that-- but decisive as to carrying the "scientific" burden of proof, decisive in settling the matter without leaving any uncovered counterpossibilities.

Many of the philosophers' ontologies required the being of God (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Aquinas,.etc.) and some philosophers based their whole theories of knowledge on the veracity or illumination of God, as did Augustine (De Lib. Arb.) and Descartes (Med. III and VI), and so, needed demonstrative certainty about God. Others base their whole physical science on the divine order of nature resulting from divine wisdom, as did Leibniz and Newton. Others think "God is a Geometer" as Keppler did, to account for why the simplest and most orderly of scientific hypotheses are to be expected to be true. Some think God is a rational spirit "who does not play dice with the world," as did Einstein, explaining why "messy" hypotheses, like the Heisenberg indeterminacy principle, are not the basic truth. Even if, unlike those thinkers, you do not intellectually employ belief in God as a foundation for scientific knowledge, or otherwise live in theistic conviction, you might still appreciate (more notionally and less existentially than they, no doubt) why the great thinkers seek rationales to decide the issue by exhausting the possibilities.

Besides, the case that there is not rational certainty, objective and well-founded, about the being of God is virtually a "non-starter".[49] For mistaken arguments, carefully constructed, do ground rational conviction; they can even have true conclusions. What if they failed to eliminate all the counterpossibilities? Rational certainty does not require that, any more than a justification for a perceptual claim has to eliminate all counterpossibilities. The whole issue of whether believers in God have rational certainty, of the sort, say, that AIDS is a fatal disease, is a recent invention, framed in evidentialist assumptions and assigning the classical "demonstrations" a role both less than, and irrelevant to, the one they served. The issue still remains for philosophers to find rationales for, or against, the existence of God that actually exhaust the options and do so decisively.

There is nothing knowable by a demonstration that cannot be known with certainty without one, and that includes mathematical and logical theorems. So demonstrability is not a gateway condition of knowability. Not for anything. Therefore, showing that a purported demonstration fails (or that all of them do), does not discredit the claim to natural knowledge of the existence of God.[50]

Moreover, many people think God's existence is recognized and encountered, that it is known by a kind of awareness, whether or not it is demonstrable. In fact, recognition of God's reality is a matter of educated construal, something like the insight by which we recognize that the cosmos is mathematically intelligible. That kind of cognition is more a matter of training and refinement than a particular group of considerations; it is more like learning how to understand the music of J.S. Bach or acquiring historical understanding.[51] So "demonstration" is not even appropriate for vindicating the knowledge claims typical of certain believers in God.[52]

Arguments that meet my conditions for demonstration,[53] [namely: (1) validity, (2) and true premises (3) that are publicly accessible, (4) without epistemic circularity, and (5) reliably and methodically decidable, and (6) which also exhaust all counterpossibility for the conclusion], if there are any for the existence of God, may have nothing whatever to do with changing minds. In fact, that is to be expected. Something else is needed.

Demonstrations need a lot of level ground among the parties. That's why they are not good persuasive devices from "insiders" to "outsiders". Demonstrations require too much in the way of shared knowledge to serve parties who have opposed commitments about a very important conclusion. They serve even less well when parties opposed over the conclusion are also opposed over the underlying considerations, for instance, over whether an infinite regress of inclusive causes is impossible or whether the movement of material things has to begin with a first movement (like winding a clock).

A genuine demonstration rules out all counterpossibilities. Thus, a heavy investment of feeling in an anti-theistic outcome will raise a "counterpossibility", no matter what consideration is offered[54]. There is always something a dedicated non-believer would rather deny than accept the conclusion. For instance, a teacher of mine said that if I could derive the existence of God from the principle of non-contradiction, that would amount to a reason for him to doubt that principle. Such regression of doubts from conclusion to premises is not unreasonable; it is a device for inquiry. Thus, the better the argument you offer, the more the ignorant you may make your opponent.[55]

We cannot find a large enough field of common assumptions to exclude such a trade-off of doubts, not even for the sincerely inquiring and somewhat inclined unbeliever, especially if he or she is "smart" but not an expert. So we have to talk about what causes conviction.

An argument is convincing about a hard point only when it goes right up to the edge at which you are not willing to doubt, and leans on that edge to leverage your belief. You can't do that with arguments about important things that make the whole meaning of your life. That is not a defect in the religious situation.[56] We simply do not rest such important matters on the thin reed of argument. The same holds in mathematics for those with a dedicated, lived-in conception of the subject[57].

There can be no demonstration of the existence of transfinite numbers for a mathematical intuitionist because the form of thinking that yields the conclusions, "indirect proof"[58], comes into doubt just because it yields such conclusions. The intuitionist "needs" no such numbers. ("God made the natural numbers, man made the rest"). So, one side uses indirect proof to establish the existence of transfinite numbers by deducing a contradiction from the assumption that there are no such numbers, just the way I would prove that there is a prime that is the immediate successor of ten and argue, in the same form, for the existence of God. The other side says the argument is invalid because "indirect proof" is invalid to prove existence; only construction amounts to existence[59].

Demonstrations are commendations in a "scholarly" world. They are orderly arrangements of considerations so as to command the conclusion, from those sharing enough to be disposed to be commanded. So, purported demonstrations of what one does not believe, based on diversely interpreted considerations[60] one already knows about, are just annoying. They dress up in formal robes just what we object to.

For instance, in the discussion of the reality of "the external world", no "demonstration" will settle a real dispute. Both sides know all the considerations and all their patterns. Neither side can make a new ad hominem circumstantial argument whose price is some principle the opponent cares about and assigns the same weight as does the other. So some other sort of proof may be far better for changing minds.

There are also other kinds of proof:(i) what puts the matter beyond the reasonable doubt; (ii) what makes the matter clear and convincing; (iii) what tips the scale of belief. From Law for example, we can find non-demonstrative "proofs' that are high in persuasive power as well as reliability. In fact, that is the basis for their comparative ranking into: proof beyond a reasonable doubt; proof by clear and convincing evidence, and proof by the preponderance of the evidence. Even the latter, as the victories of tobacco companies have made clear, can require an enormous body of scientific evidence and expertise and can be weakened or discounted by all sorts of challenges.

Nevertheless, sometimes wholly circumstantial evidence can amount to a proof "beyond a reasonable doubt", even of a capital crime. I mean that without a "smoking gun", and without eyewitnesses or even a corpse, enough evidence of means, motive and opportunity and the absence of any other reasonable hypothesis can cause conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Circumstantial evidence can accumulate against our background knowledge to "proof beyond a reasonable doubt", like snow blowing against a fence till we can walk over on it.

A proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not shaken by one's showing there is a semantically consistent counterpossibility. For one thing, semantic consistency is not sufficient for real possibility[61]. For another, bare possibilities don't engage doubt[62]. Nor do remote ones. Relevant possibilities have to compete for likelihood with the judgment under inquiry in order to raise doubts. You might have been vaporized between the time the light leaving your face was processed by my brain, and so, no longer exist when I "see" you; this is a bare possibility, but does not lead to reasonable doubt.

Second, a proof by clear and convincing evidence generates conviction (and often certainty when the elements are true) even when one may admit there are other relevant, and not wholly unlikely, possibilities. One might wonder about other possibilities not entirely unlikely, whose likelihood is worth taking into account. So maybe the colors of things are not in the things, as some scientists say. Yet, I think the case is clear and convincing that they are (despite significant counterarguments), just as that the air around a dead animal smells. That the case is clear and convincing means I am sure the conclusion is true; not that the sureness guarantees truth. Moreover, that the case is clear and convincing, means I am objectively justified in my certainty (but not that my opponents will agree on that or on the grounds that I accept).

The order of the universe, the unsettling idea that ours is the only intelligence, even the only life[63] in the universe, that our understanding is not the product of any other intelligence but only transient and without final meaning, all may converge to create a clear and convincing case that reality has to have one cosmos-explaining, intelligent being. For a philosopher to say this cannot amount to a case of clear and convincing evidence (even though not beyond reasonable doubt) is simply to legislate in the face of the facts.

You may have a clear and convincing case for something, without having independent clear and convincing evidence for the non-occurrence of each defeating condition.[64] Philosophers often mix those things up. Thus you may allow that the mysteriousness of evil, the unrelieved oppression of the innocent and the apparent triumph of the unjust are reasons for doubting what you are certain of, without sharing those doubts yourself, but only wondering about how it all "goes together".

Third, considerations can configure into conviction even though they do not put the conclusion beyond reasonable doubt or make a clear and convincing case, but simply tip the scale so that the balance of belief shifts to affirmation, though with some fear error. Many who do not think there is a clear and convincing case for genuine human responsibility, not defeated by psychophysical determinism, may still find the preponderance of evidence from personal experience sufficient to cause affirmation. That is called proof by the "preponderance of evidence". Preponderant evidence is not just "more", it tips the scale so that it settles to affirmation, to belief. This is a success situation.[65]

This discussion of proof beyond reasonable doubt, by clear and convincing evidence, and by tipping the scale of belief, displays how there can be fully rational conviction, even knowing, that is less than scientific demonstration.

Ordinary conviction, taken as a whole, is a tissue with threads of solid knowing [with many different bases of the sorts I have mentioned and others to come] and some small webs of our having found things out for ourselves, but generally held together with various kinds of faith (reliance on others or on social processes for faithful reports of actual findings out). Our responsible believing is not, for the most part, knowing, though a far larger portion of it is knowing than philosophical accounts usually allow. For they confound the standards of objective science with the conditions for individual cognition.

Within such a general approach, rational conviction about the existence of God can come from convergent wondering about the mystery of the being of the cosmos, about the fact that in the trillions of galaxies there is only evil here on our planet (as far as we can tell), about the mysterious exhilarating obviousness of intelligent life and love visible on the bloody face of a newborn human, and about whether something as marvelous as human love and understanding could come about without intention and be extinguished, one by one, and finally and forever with death of the species. Convergent disbelief in the thought-out alternatives, based upon their violation of a "good scientific story", requiring simplicity and beauty and economy, is a pretty fair basis for rational conviction, perhaps amounting to knowledge, but in any case, to a justified conviction about God, just as such reasoning can be in art, science, music, and even investments.

These are considerations that transfigure[66] our world and can configure the galaxies into manifesting God just as knowing how to read can turn mere marks into "Do not infest your mind with beating on the strangeness of this business" (The Tempest, V.1), or the right understanding can detect the Dies Irae in a wedding march, or find the faces of the Presidents in a scattering of dots. It is not argument that carries the day, but discernment that satisfies the rational appetite.

More important than anything I have said yet, is that feelings function cognitively at all levels, to disclose considerations, to connect the elements of proof short of demonstration, and even, to reveal the logical connections to us, and even what are the relevant factors. Above all, feelings configure experience into conviction. Let's discuss that, now.


Feelings Function Cognitively in the Basis for Certainty Most people don't ever ask why we have to train feeling as well as understanding. Why sensitize young people's responses by exposure to pets, poets, painting, architecture, theater, novels, decoration, decorum, dance, argumentation, law, and even wilderness and zoos? And why teach them the critical appraisal of some or all? Many suppose it is for the young to "appreciate" and perhaps "enjoy", get pleasure from such things, and in a few cases be able to tell good from bad. That's the romper room version of refinement.

A "person of refinement", even as that notion was understood in the Eighteenth Century and surely in much of the Nineteenth, is a "person of taste", a person who habitually tells the good from the bad, the excellent from the rest and finds enjoyment in the best. A person of refinement enjoys the excellent by second nature, but is able to transfer such judgment to all human activities. Refinement is the ability to detect quality virtually anywhere, whether or not one is able to produce it, explain it or teach it[67].

Training makes for refinement, whether in thought (philosophy, mathematics, history, physics, sociology or law), expression (writing, dance,painting, drawing, sculpture), action (statesmanship, politics, business), or any other mode of excellence. Some refinement of understanding, (literature, languages and philosophy) and of feeling (art, history and music) is more general and more easily transferred than others (formal logic, accounting, engineering). But the object of all is the same: the integration of feeling and understanding into effortless excellence of judgment, performance, expression and enjoyment. That holds whether we are talking of an olympic diver who does not need to word-out his actions, but plans them by imaginary prevision with feeling, and, so, only has to notice the feeling to achieve the previsioned actions, or of the writer who has to smash words around in bunches to make edges that will express his thoughts. The philosopher is worse off, working hardest, because he/she has to battle with the words like a writer, but fight their beguilement[68], their tendency to appear to do the work once they fit together,instead of revealing how little work has been done, and how arthritically.

The cognitive refinement of feeling can only be learned by apprenticeship because it require mimesis. It requires that fully invested "doing the same" with which an infant son walks like his father (from first walking onward to last), and with which all children learn their parent's language. Mimesis is the only path to refinement of cognitive feeling.

Beyond detection of features of things, and being an elaborate analogue computer (the way a diver's feeling monitors and modifies a performance too elaborate and too rapid to think about), feelings configure disclosures ("I could see he was lying" ; " He infuriated me; I suddenly saw he did not care at all.") Beyond that, feelings transfigure events, creating meaning, making as great a change as meaning does from mere marks to "If the eye were an animal, sight would be its soul". Making that sort of meaning IS conviction, operative conviction.

Feelings configure considerations into convictions. That's how we arrive at the most important and the most general, basic and stable convictions by which we live and die.

Do you think you could ever solve the basic disputes about the foundations of morality, the role of heterosexual love, the place of family, of children, of religion, of loyalty and love in one's life, of the extent of individual liberty, respect for law, of deliberate opposition to the law, and of rebellion against love, of the place of personal power and physical force, of desire and lust, cruelty, pride, punishment, revenge, forgiveness, neighborliness, speculation science and wonder, poetry and health, inquiry, work and play, making and using, and enjoying, and the time to be allocated to each, fast enough and well enough to live rationally as long as you have? And yet every one of those commitments, once habitual, is final, irrevocable, life-determining, and more important than your money.

They are just a few things we live and die by. Do you think you could ever figure out enough about all those and more to make your conclusions the framework of your [only] life? You have to live by reliance, not what you figured out, just to make scope enough for reason to be of any use to you, to do anything significant for you. You have to live basically by refined feeling, by the product of mimesis. No wonder there is no real luck for the ill-reared.[69]

Practical wisdom, the knowing how to live well and what for and having the means and resolution to do it (Augustine), is the product of refined feeling functioning cognitively, not of speculative reason (for which feeling functions too), even at its best, entangled in a web of disputes.

Now to explain the epistemological importance of all this, I have to remark that rationalist conceptions of knowing have finally been rejected. The conception, found in Plato, Augustine and Descartes (and one that sneaks back into every discussion about skepticism) is this: "S knows that P if and only if p is true, and it is not possible that S believe P on the grounds or in the conditions in which S does, when P is false". As long as that notion dominated, there was not much point in talking about the cognitive functions of feeling.

Now we know that most ordinary knowledge is of a kind where, though we might in indistinguishable circumstances have believed the same thing when it was false, because our believing is reasonably grounded (evidentially or by reliance) and is true, it is knowing (absent defeating conditions). I cannot forbear pointing out that if that is what ordinary empirical knowing is, then the only thing that could prevent ordinary religious believers from actually knowing that God exists, after they have given it the sort of thought I mentioned above and become convinced, is that the belief is false. In a word, they know God exists, if God does exist. And that is by the most stringent test put up by their opponents.

We acknowledge an indefinite list of "defeating" conditions, conditions whose presence or absence will defeat what is otherwise sufficient for knowing. So, if it turns out I was tricked into belief, even when it would otherwise be all right, or that there was an accidental correlation of truth and my believing without orderly causation, or there was a betrayal by a trustworthy person or a loss of fidelity in a transmitter, then what would otherwise have been knowledge is defeated, even if the belief is true. Adequately based true belief, without defeating conditions, is ordinary cognition.

Undefeated justified true belief is ordinary empirical knowledge, but not all of it. Ordinary cognition is the knowledge by which we live and die. It is the kind of knowledge we use to decide the matters of greatest import, requiring the care of a noticing person disposing of his most important interests; the knowledge that the stove did not relight after we shut it off, that a building is reasonably safe, that a dog is not going to chew the electric wires, that poisons are not present in food or air, that a baby is positioned to breathe freely.

The prudent person settling his most important business with a high degree of risk aversion and a loathing of uncertainty, except over small things, wants little of articulated argument and more of satisfaction with his expectations. He is a cognitive voluntarist, ripe for both grace and temptation. That's how salespersons prey on the greedy, through the very cognitive devices, wishful thinking, that customers use to find a bargain. The difference between the dupe and the smart shopper is in how much desire distorts reality.

When the outcome of our consideration is supposed to be stable and coherent as a basis for our life, we rest far more on feeling than on argument of any kind. It is amazing how many things we "bet our life" on, with only habitual reliance and no other thought. Yet, how much hesitation a small change of conduct designed to gain eternal life, calls up in those who have not divine faith.

Practical wisdom, the ability to live wisely and well is the product of good training and example, internalized by your mimesis of refined understanding, feeling and even passion. Yes, passion. A life without passion is feeble and furtive. Passion has to be made part of refinement; then, made to reveal and to found conviction; not just sexual passion, but envy, anger, fear, hope, eagerness, energy, excitement, exaltation, joy, sadness, sorrow, and despair. The violent feelings have to find place in refined cognition[70]. So, too, philosophy without feeling is philosophy without springs. It's like bicycling with training wheels. Words milled in fury, that sputter a little, convey comprehension better than mincing passionless professional patter.

Practical wisdom is more reliable and more appropriate than science for making a life. Even in philosophy, wisdom counts above cleverness and mere intelligence. So when David Lewis tells us there are all the ways things might have been, and all the things,too, ranged in other worlds unreachable physically from ours, but otherwise like ours and just as real as ours, the elegance of his argument, the adroit way he avoids traps others are gored in, avail nothing to persuade us. The idea is a non-starter. It offends wisdom; it does not have the "feel" of quality. The same is true of platonists about mathematical objects who are physicalists otherwise; theirs is polyester ontology. So in the end, even in intellectual matters, there is a dispositive appraisal (at least for a time) in which our training and acquired refinement count far more than any argument. We arrive at conviction: Lewis's plurality of worlds is, at bottom, science fiction, not philosophical science.

Many intelligent people rest their theistic convictions on divine faith (on the confident expectation that the promises of Jesus will be fulfilled). They look at theistic argument less for conviction than for a scientific schematism for things, the way they would read an explanation of electrical-generators, already sure the electric company produces electricity, but wanting to know in a schematic way, how. Since they believe the cause of religious conviction is divine grace, they need no argument to reinforce its rationality. But they do get satisfaction from having an explanation, something which is undeniable to anyone "who understands electricity" in contrast to one who does not. So argument and explanation don't increase certitude or substitute for revelation, they supply another kind of satisfaction: the understanding that is one of the rewards of believing for those who seek to understand what they have first believed (Augustine).

Finally, when practical wisdom evaluates the considerations about God, some believers find the force of the case against God, based on evil, to be reversed. They notice that: (a) There is no religiously neutral description of what is problematic about evil. (b) It cannot be evil for a good God to make death, pain, the mindless destruction and cruelty of the animal world, or wrong to make animal consciousness with its dominating rages, terrors, and rapaciousness;otherwise yhe case is closed from the statemnt of the problem: res ipsa loquitur. Besides, God's relationship to creaturely pain cannot be a determined exercise of omnipotence to get rid of it, as the life of Jesus makes clear. He healed only a token among sufferers and raised few dead. (c) They notice that it cannot be evil for God to make free creatures who do monstrous evil, otherwise the case would be closed; (d) They notice that there can be no genuine problem of evil if God does not exist; for then what is there to complain about and to whom? So the conviction of believers and non- believers alike about the mystery of evil and the "broken" condition of mankind who "contrive evil from their infancy" (Genesis), testifies to the being of God, and to the divine mystery and transcendence. The problem of evil is not a problem for God; it is our problem with understanding God. If there were no God, there would be no problem of evil. But there is; so?

The same can be said of the "silence" of God at Golgotha, on the beaches of Japan in the Sixteenth Century, and at the Holocaust in the Twentieth. If there is no God, there is nothing missing; there is nothing to wonder about, nor anything else to expect, except worse, later. And if God exists, God must share and transform evil so that the good are truly not harmed, and the evil are damaged in ways only divine love can repair. (See similar remarks by both Marilyn Adams and Eleanor Stump).So the problem is that we cannot see how that is to be done; the problem is ours.

Is there any world so replete with evil that a good God could not create it? Is there any world made impossible by the evil in it? Which one? Why? If none, then how could the non-being of God be entailed, or even made probable by the evil on earth?

The general subject of configurations into conviction is not part of post-Seventeenth Century epistemology. Yet, we need to go beyond talk about faith, central though it is in the life of the mind and life in general, to consider how feeling functions in conviction.

Feeling creates conviction by combining satisfaction (fulfillment in some respect) with reliance (which is itself a kind of satisfaction in dependence, like lovers holding hands) into an outcome that is our conviction.Two kinds of satisfaction suffuse something we assent to. That's how we, those who did not discover anything or even repeat the inquiries, know that there are micro-particles, electrons, molecules, atoms. We rely on the community that says it did find out, and we get satisfaction and rewards by doing so. Thus we are convinced.

That is faith that amounts to knowledge, when the social institution is integral. So also is your conviction that the heart pumps blood, that oxygen is brought to the brain by the blood, that cells somehow communicate to one another directions to differentiate into diverse organs, so that liver cells don't produce kidney cells. Such convictions come from natural faith, assisted by (but not transformed by) feeling, configuring the assertions of others into conviction.

But you have other devices far more powerful, vast inputs of feeling that atomize and rearrange the pieces of "data" for belief. Call them conviction capacitors, convictors. We have "operative beliefs" that convert data ("evidence" is too restrictive a word because feelings count too) into conviction (both as to content and as to assent).

The capacitors are operative beliefs that are not objects of belief, but accumulate data and feeling until a cognitive threshold is reached and a conviction is discharged, arranging belief into a new pattern ( say, accepting the view that there is a personal redeemer, or forming a deep distrust of beared men), often almost undislodgeable thereafter. Frequently these convictions are impervious to all evidence, changeable only by a bleeding away of feelings, of the satisfactions gained from the viewpoint; e.g., "that I care about him/her" or "success is increasing my eealth and power"; convictions like that can hemmorhage; for example, when one becomes crippled, unjustly imprisoned or the victim of malice.

Convictors (such operative networks of energy and structure) work like neuroses. Neuroses are actually only cognitively deviant convictors; they generate physical movement, desires, feelings and belief, but in a framework where feeling is not a well-founded test of truth. You can identify neuroses from the pattern and compulsion toward disorderly outputs, like compulsive handwashing, pointless sobbing, false laughter, pointless lying. You can acquire powerful intellectual software, (even convictors which may not be consistent with one another) in favorable circumstances, just as you can acquire neuroses in unfortunate ones. Similarly, there are disorders of the understanding, intellectual convictors, that function in philosophy and science the way neuroses do in personal interactions.

Consider some ordinary examples. A certain amount of repetition and peer pressure may convince you the "Porsche NNN" is the car to own, the best, most prestigious,etc., while someone else is wholly unaffected. A whispered hint from the social doyen may convince you that Beacon Hill is the only place to live. Someone else is repulsed by such conspicuous materialism. A sarcastic high school teacher embroiders on the Inquisition, giving a wrong story about the Church's repressing science, and "presto," "organized religion is bad", becomes a lifelong certainty impervious to argument.

The kinds of convictors are as varied as people and their experiences. They are modulated by attitudes to risk, to avoidance of cognitive dissonance, to love of symmetry, to fear of punishment, desire to be right, love of saying "I told you so", love of being praised, desire to be cuddly, satisfaction in repelling strangers. The modulating attitudes have as many "values" comparatively, as there can be diatonic melodies. In fact, there are so many convictors and so many threshold states and modifications, you wonder how we could ever get true beliefs about anything important (unless we were designed to).


In a word, cognition is more a corporate, collective state than we might have thought. We can read off collective behavior (say, the widespread certainty that bluejeans --or whatever the fashion is--are what one wears), the presence of awarenesses and desires that are generational, national, and even cultural, the result of the collective conscious and the collective unconscious. Convictors affect moral virtue, intellectual virtue and even mental health. For instance, things that are considered individual failings (for example, littering or cigarette smoking) may be caused--and improved--by manipulation the collective consciousness, as the success of anti-smoking displays, and the recent social turn against inebriation display. So there is a return to the idea that we should cultivate public emaples of virtue, and emphasize certain praiseworthy traits (like environmental care).

The idea that our cognitive powers are targeted, aimed at our own flourishing, and, by grace, targeted beyond at life with God, is part of what I call "cognitive voluntarism", a wholly distinct explanation of knowledge by experience (in contrast to the representationalist/evidentialist/foundationalist cluster of ideas for the last three centuries). Cognitive voluntarism is the view that humans, for the most part, believe not because they are compelled by the evidence, but because they want to (sometimes even being compelled by wants operating as "convictors"[71]) because assenting appears to advance their "apprehended good". Both Augustine and Aquinas (with differences) think our cognitive powers have basic drives (of which the rational appetite, the will, is the chief drive), and thus, have a targeted finality that is no natural end, but rather, life with God.[72]

Cognitive voluntarism may offer a better explanation of the rationality of religious belief and of the success of science than does any competing view. But that is promisory, requiring a separate essay about the objectives and successes of science and of what it is like to be "streetwise in the universe".

June, 1990

James F.Ross


[1]. Marilyn Adams and Eleanor Stump have renovated the discussion of the problem of evil by successfully challenging the illusion that there is some religiously neutral statement of exactly what the problem is. See Marilyn Adams "Redemptive Suffering: a Christian Solution to the Problem of Evil" in Rationality. Religious Belief and Moral Commitment, edited by Robert Audi and William Wainwright, Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1986. 248-267. Also her "Duns Scotus on the Goodness of God", Faith and Philosophy, October, 1987, pp.486-505; and "Hell and the God of Justice", Religious Studies, (1975), 433-447 and "Divine Justice, Divine Love and the Life to Come", Crux 1976-77, pp. 12-28. Eleanor Stump, "The Problem of Evil", Faith and Philosophy, October, 1983, pp. 392-420. They stimulated my reflection that the very fact that there is a problem of evil is a reason for believing in God. Further, I heartily agree that there is no significant problem of evil that can be described adequately in a religiously neutral way. One of the roles of religion is to tell us what the "brokenness" of man, visible even to secular philosophers, consists in.

[2]. Rational certainty is conviction that accords with standards of reasonableness, whether or not it is true.

[3]. I don't mean inductive versus deductive proof, as illustrated in R. Swinburne's The Coherence of Theism, and The Existence of God or in the framework of John Mackie's The Miracle of Theism but, as I explain below, (i) proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but short of demonstration, (ii) proof by clear and convincing evidence and (iii) proof by a preponderance of the evidence -- notions adapted from the law are more effective for changing minds.

[4]. What most philosophers know about logic, and why it is so, is taken on faith from teachers and texts. Even our notions of validity and formal reliability are packages of faith. For example, most philosophers do not know that the notion of "logical consequence" is seriously and responsibly disputed, so much so, that "relevance logics" and "deviant logics" are a growing industry; see John Passmore's, Recent Philosophy, Open Court: LaSalle, Illinois, 1985, annotated bibliographic notes 5, 6 and 7 on pages 126-7. Logicians who insist that the principles of quantified modal logic (Systems S-4 and S-5) are true, have the authority of white-coated actors in toothpaste ads.

See J. Ross, "The Crash of Modal Metaphysics", Review of Metaphysics, December, 1989. pp. 251-279. See also, Nathan Salmon, "The Logic of What Might Have Been",Philosophical Review, January 1989,pp.3-34, for arguments that the principles of modal logic are false. The interpreted modal logics simply provide ontologies for tinker toys.

Worse, the Baysean calculation of the probabilities of good and evil, used by Swinburne is philosophical costume jewelry. There is no world that is rendered impossible for a good God to create it, just on account of the evil in it.

[5]. I have argued several points about knowledge by faith that can bear repetition: (a) that faith leads to knowledge follows even from austere notions of knowing like Chisholm's Theory of Knowledge (Prentice Hall, 1969), see my "Testimonial Evidence", Analysis and Metaphysics, pp.35-56, ed. Keith Lehrer, Reidel: Holland, 1975; (b) that a correct interpretation of Aquinas requires that there be cognition (knowledge, short of scientific demonstration) by both natural and divine faith: see my "Aquinas on Belief and Knowledge", in Essays Honoring Alan B. Wolter, eds. William A. Frank and Gerard Etzkorn, Franciscan Institute Press: St Bonaventure, New York, 1984, pp.243-269, and the discussion of "Cognitive Voluntarism" in my "Eschatological Pragmatism", in Philosophy and the Christian Faith, ed. Thomas Morris, University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame, Indiana, 1988, pp. 279-300; (c) that the problem of "faith and reason" has to be analyzed with both faith and reason regarded as sources of knowledge without confusing "cognition" in general with "scientia" the output of Aristotelian demonstrative science: see my "Aquinas on Faith and Knowledge" cited above; and my earlier "Aquinas on Faith and Reason" in The Challenge of Religion Today, eds. J. Smith, F. Ferre and Joseph Kocklemans, Seabury Press: NY, 1982, pp. 83-103. See also Chapters 1 and 2 of Ross, Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Macmillan: New York, 1969; and (d) that faith is a proper and indispensable basis for knowledge in the most important matters, especially when one is motivated by what is to be gained from the believing (say, immortal life; see Aquinas, De Veritate 14, 1), and that this is the view of both St. Augustine and St. Thomas; see my "Believing for Profit" in The Ethics of Belief Debate, ed. G. McCarthy, AAR Studies in Religion, 41, Scholars Press: Atlanta, Georgia, 1986, pp 221-35; and (e) that there really are things that we can never come to understand without first beginning by believing; see "Unless You Believe You Will Not Understand" in Experience, Reason and God, edited by Eugene Long, The Catholic University of America Press: Washington, D.C., 1980, pp. 113-28. In fact, believing first in order to understand later, applies to every acquired human excellence, since without having the excellence one cannot see why it is satisfying to have, and why it is excellent, but at most that it is, and even that has to be taken on faith most of the time. By acquired excellence I mean olympic level skills at sports, at thought, at writing and even at being morally right or mathematically disciplined.

\[6]. For that is basically the difference between faith and reason as sources of cognition; the difference between relying on someone or something to tell us what is so, and finding out for ourselves.

The proper ambit of faith is not a patch of the cognitively deformed, but a realm not our unconditioned responsibility for finding out, for which faithful, reliable, perhaps knowledgeable spokespersons can be found.

[7]. For example, a person can know that AIDS is a dangerous disease, even a virus, without ever having inquired into what a virus is, or whether viruses are living things. Did you ever inquire? Is the AIDS virus a single molecule with less than 10,000 atoms? Is it a protein? Is it like a peptide? For all such knowledge there is no "thick foundation", and there never was any inquiry by you (where "you" are any of 99% of the 240 million American citizens).

[8]. You can observe for yourself that beliefs have locations, by noticing that certain beliefs have "head" associations and others are located in the chest and others in the stomach, detectably by the feelings associated.

[9]. See also my "Unless you believe you will not understand", cited above.

[10]. There have been a number of books and articles on the cognitive function of feeling, and emotion, recently. Most mistakenly treat feelings as no more than detectors, and the trained feelings as refined detectors of the presence of features in things. Feelings certainly are detectors. But the profound function of refined feeling is as cognitive transformers, as devices that configure the sensible and intelligible features of things into distinct intelligible patterns. For instance to reveal who or what sort of person one is meeting, or whether one is "comfortable" or not. So most of the recent work on the functions of feeling falls short of what I have in mind here.

[11]. Remember Sartre's saying "an emotion is an affective transformation of reality" something made clear in the fable of the Fox and the grapes?.

[12]. Cognitive voluntarism is explained in my "Believing for Profit", cited above, with further additions here. The heart of cognitive voluntarism is that belief is not the output of an evidence weighing machine (that can be thrown out of kilter by prejudice, illness, etc.,) but that, on the whole, we believe what we want (within limits), and, in large part believing what we want results in cognition ( or at least warranted belief that may, of course not be true) because of the targeted finality of our cognitive faculties, within a reasonably hospitable environment.

Of course, just because the system is one of believing for profit, "wishful thinking" can be a losing proposition for unrefined feeling and untrained understanding, ungoverned vice, or in a hostile environment. For instance, if almost everything (say in a jungle where we were suddenly dropped from our urban life) were bad to eat, our desire to "try it out," which increases the hungrier we get, by suppressing the behavioral control of our belief "what is strange or ugly is probably bad to eat", so as to induce us to eat worms, maggots, ants and termites, would soon lead to our demise. Short of divine revelation or incredible brilliance, there must have been a lot of stomach aches and death as humans, and prehumans, learned how to eat; even to know that rats are a better guide to what is edible than pigs, would take a lot of pain or a lot of insight (especially since rats now eat plastic and wire coverings and insulation, but not frozen fish, see M. Smith, Polar Star, Random House, 1989).

[13]. See my paper "Believing for Profit" and see also Aquinas, referred to therein.

[14]. Sanity requires a reasonable match between reality and desire, like a stone being skipped on water; psychopathology has desire skipping on images (reflections) labeled "the real", but actually on tangents.

[15]. By the "form" of reliance, here, I mean the "inner mechanism," the working structure. Enjoyment, "liking it", (that explains what we are doing, and which can be low level as well as intense) is what makes us rely. As Aquinas said, "delectation is the form of faith". For Aquinas "form" in this context means "the first act", that is, the activity exercised. See my discussion in "Believing for Profit", mentioned above.

[16]. By "natural faith in God" I mean a general reliance on the whole cosmos to be the work of God, a theistic conceptual (interpretive) set (see Ch. 2 of my Introduction to Philosophy of Religion) in contrast to divine faith, supernatural faith caused by sanctifying grace, a "Jesus the Savior" conceptual set. Interpretive sets can be carried far beyond their religious authorizations, for example, by those who see God's intentions in everything we like, and divine punishment and displeasure in what we do not. Nevertheless, the very excess exhibits the existence of such conceptualization.

[17]. Cognitive voluntarism can be epitomized as: "humans believe what they want (with some wants compelled, of course) controlled by (within the general magnetic field of) the targeted finality of the human cognitive system (like magnetic north), which unlike the animals' similar systems, is not directed to preservation of the species, but to fulfillment of the individual". The target, for Christians, is life with God.

Yet in the description of "the targeted finality of our knowing powers", I do not need to sneak "God" or "life with God" in; for ordinary purposes (with the exception of things that depend on human completion and real freedom, see my "Mindful of Man", forthcoming.) the cognitive powers can be treated as targeted on human flourishing, e.g. excellence in loving, learning, practical wisdom,etc.

[18]. The "Gaia" hypothesis is a scientific analogue of Plato's "World Soul" and of the many primitive religious ideas of the "EArth Mother" , and of "the living planet."

[19]. After all, millenialists and war-survivalists have similarly general beliefs, as do believers that apricot pits cure cancer, that most of us consider mad, and sad.

Traditional "scientific" medicine often considers "wholistic" medicine mad, though there have been notable convergences, especially in sports medicine, allergy medicine,and psychiatric medicine, where chiropractic, acupuncture, massage and physiotherapy have been given place, as well as nutritional and exercise therapy for all sorts of disorders. Everyone now recognizes that medicine, and science in general, puts money into testing what is fashionable, and not necessarily most fundamental. Thus NIH still funds bacterial studies of periodontics without ever having tested the Keyes treatment (baking soda and hydrogen peroxide) that tens of thousands found effective.

[20]. However, a study of Disney animators would reveal a mathematical intelligibility through and through, unless they all involve NP-complete outcomes.

[21]. When explanatory metaphors meet limits, we make new ones. That is what people did with mechanical models of the brain (animal spirits), then pneumatic models (pressure, etc) of the brain, then chemical, then electrical models, then electrochemical ones, then computational ones. We remake metaphors to save and renovate our basic convictions. So too that the cosmos is the carving, the claywork, the clockwork, the stage-design, the mis-en-scene, the story, the song of God.

[22]. J. Ross, "The Crash of Modal Metaphysics" cited above, and Ross, "God, Creator of Kinds and Possibilities", in Rationality, Religious Belief and Moral Commitment, edited by Robert Audi and William Wainwright, Cornell University Press: Ithaca, New York, 1986, pp. 315-334. I showed I think, that the principle "no things, then no names" commits all ontologies for extensionalist quantified modal logic (QML) to a world of abstracta (whether or not they are divine ideas), or to Lewis's parallel plural worlds of individuated possibilia. Both options require that 'being' be logically exhausted by limitation (by kinds and natures and individuals). But that principle is demonstrably false, indeed inconsistent, as was recognized from ancient times, e.g., by Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, and every later classical metaphysician, including Spinoza and Leibniz. Nor can that result be avoided by regarding 'being' as the logical product of individual possibilia. Furthermore, possibility cannot be prior to actual being; that would be an absurdity. The ontologies offered for the logic have no prospect whatever of being true.

[23]. Or an incoherent neo-Augustinian neo-Platonism.

[24]. The basic arguments are found in St Anselm, Avicenna, Duns Scotus, Descartes and Leibniz, without those ontological commitments, of course, though there is some reason to think St. Anselm thought there were Platonic Forms, at least as divine ideas, which makes rather fine company for Plantinga whom I criticize for that view.

The earlier contemporary adaptations by N. Malcolm (1960), Charles Hartshorne (1956: The Logic of Perfection) and J. Ross (1968: Philosophical Theology) do not commit to an ontology for quantified modal logic, as does Plantinga's later version (The Nature of Necessity 1974), though the earlier versions also seem committed to the false claims that whatever is necessary is necessarily necessary and whatever is possible is necessarily possible. There is a way to formulate the reasoning without those commitments and even without a commitment to the false "whatever is possible is necessarily possible." I explain that in "The Passing of the Modal Proofs" in Truth and Impossibility, forthcoming.

[25].Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and its sequels in papers and books.

[26]. Logical fundamentalism is an overextension of an impulse that from comes from Russell, Frege and Carnap, and can be epitomized in the notion: "if it can be given a representation in first order quantification, and not a simpler (say propositional one), then that is its "structure", no matter what "it" is. For instance, see Davidson on the logical form of English; Cf. S. Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, Blackwell: Oxford, 1982, for what I take to be disbelief at Davidson's idea. I explain "logical fundamentalism" in "The Crash," above, as the idea that first order quantification tracks the bones of reality, and that everything represented in the logic is to be given an element of the ontology. It is like biblical fundamentalism, with David Lewis the most fundamentalist of all.

[27]. See Vincent Descombes, Modern French Philosophy, Cambridge University Press: New York, 1982 for an entertaining, illuminating and richly quotational survey of the situation, which if anything, is worse than I describe it. My impression is captured neatly by Jacques Bouveresse's (whimsical? vitriolic?) essay "Why I am so very UnFrench", pp.9-33 of Philosophy in France Today, edited by Alan Montefiore, Cambridge University Press, 1983.

[28]. I list many of those books and papers in the notes to Chapter 7 of Portraying Analogy, Cambridge University Press, 1981, where I discuss the non-cognitivity attack.

[29]. Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1974. Also see Michael Loux, editor, The Possible and the Actual, Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1979, for a fine explanation of the relationship of ontologies to interpreting logic, an informative bibliography, and a representative set of essays by the persons involved in the subject. See also the more recent paper by Nathan Salmon, cited above.

[30]. I speak of a comeback measured against the situation at the publication of Flew and MacIntyre's New Essays in Philosophical Theology in 1958. Religion was said to be meaningless for the most part and false in the remainder by most of the essayists. Yet one third of all philosophers (about) in the Directory of American Philosophers (early Seventies) listed themselves as interested in or specializing in philosophy of religion, even though most publication through the Sixties was critical, either claiming religion is meaningless, nonsensical, non-cognitive, false, contradictory or "all of the above". Some well-written essays were very influential, like Mackie's and McCloskey's famous articles about the problem of evil in which Empedocles's and Lucretius's and Hume's charges were repeated.

Anthony Kenny's The God of the Philosophers in the Seventies, and J. Mackie's The Miracle of Theism are examples of good analytic philosophy against which opposition skills were rapidly developing.

There has been a marked shift. Being "pro-religion" is "in" among hundreds of philosophical theologians. Yet philosophical theology now falls outside the "establishment" in philosophy, as indicated by how few major analytic philosophy departments have specialists in philosophical theology (or philosophy of religion) and how unlikely they would be to look for one.

Still, two generations of very talented people have renewed philosophical theology and keep it strong now, with fine journals and conference-books as well as many new books on all areas, and a new thrust of philosophizing from the standpoint of religious faith, for which impetus Alvin Plantinga and William Alston and Thomas Morris, are especially to be praised. Moreover, among their notable accomplishments is the rehabilitation of thinkers banished by philosophy in general: Saint Augustine, Aquinas, Scotus, Calvin , Bonaventure and the Arabians who are almost totally ignored otherwise in philosophy.

[31]. "The bulk and weight of the evidence" was "increased by heating it with love",to use a phrase of Sir James Fitzjames Stevens,Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, London, 1894. p.344.

[32]. See McCarthy, The Ethics of Belief Debate, cited above.

[33]. This is not to be confused with D. Lewis's On the Plurality of Worlds, a theory of parallel but physically inaccessible "large objects like this one". Goodman's irrealism is the view that there is no "this" world, except relative to a "true version" of it.

[34]. There is much to say in behalf of the constructive aspects of perception, and even of judgment; after all, nature does not come equipped with its own classifications, say into "thermoplastics" versus "ectoplastics". Even one's lap is a projected object, based in the reality of sitting as opposed to standing or lying down. So is one's figure (as object of admiration or vexation). Still, wholesale irrealism --"there are as many worlds as there are true world versions"-- is neither compelled nor even invited by those considerations. Just the opposite, in fact: just as the perceptual illusions form a system that argues not against the veridicality of the senses, but which is both a condition for and a map of the veridicality of the senses, so our classifications are a [crude] map of the foundation in reality required for their success.

[35]. There is a lot to be said for both accounts, especially perception and art. But not enough for either to carry the day beyond being a small paragraph toward explaining the success of science. Some deluded writers (Rorty in his three articles in London Review of Books, 1987) say American and Continental thought have finally converged, that we make the world, and that we make the difference between "true" and "false"--a refined materialistic, conventionalized subjective idealism.

On the contrary,the success of science is a stable comprehension of things (expressible in mathematized abstractions), with the object of comprehending all of nature, with "reductions" where appropriate. The object of science is to be "streetwise in the universe", to comprehend it. For that we need a story about understanding that has been unfashionable since it last appeared in Descartes's wax example (Meditations, II).

[36]. See the heated assertions that lying, plagiarism, and faking results in science is a betrayal of the fabric of science. If old evidentialism were right, no one could justifiably rely upon anyone else, and so everyone could lie, because every scientist would have to do everything over. That illustrates how silly and unconnected to the actual practice of science, philosophical accounts of rationality can become.

[37]. See remarks to similar effect in John Passmore's Recent Philosophy, cited above, pages 111-114.

[38]. That grace perfects nature.

[39]. See "Believing for Profit", cited above.

[40]. See papers on Aquinas cited above.

[41]. See the references in the articles cited above.

[42]. Robertson Davies in The Lyre of Orpheus (1989) says "Faking is the syphilis of art," p.465.

[43]. See notes to Chapter 7 in James Ross, Portraying Analogy, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1981, for books and papers representing the hundreds of efforts to accommodate that dead doctrine.

[44]. See Ross, Portraying Analogy, Chapter 7, cited above. Particularly look at the account of how nonsense is generated as "fallout" of the meaning-adaptation of words. Apparently anybody can do what madmen, preachers, poets (doctors and lawyers?) and phenomenologists do routinely.

[45]. There was a political factor too in the drying up of the cognitivity debate. It died out in ethics, aesthetics, and especially in metaphysics around the time other postwar figures, like Quine, Sellars, Davidson, Goodman, etc., firmly shifted interest to logic, philosophy of science, and "naturalized epistemology" (the explanation of knowledge by entirely physical processes). A. J. Ayer's favorite thesis that metaphysics, ethics and religion are meaningless was simply abandoned. The establishment got tired of it. Interest turned in the Sixties and Seventies to theories of meaning for whole languages (Davidson and Dummett, Grice), and to epistemology naturalized (Quine) as functionalism (Putnam), to accounts of personal identity (Bernard Williams and D. Parfitt), and to Rawls' Theory of Justice and allied subjects. "Establishment" philosophers lost interest in the discussion of religion, almost entirely.

[46]. The only formal results I know of that appear to have any philosophical significance are (i) that numerical infinities, infinite sets, classes, etc., have a subset in one-to-one correspondence with the whole; (ii) that there are truths of arithmetic (and of every system rich enough to be a model of arithmetic) that cannot be deduced from any axiomatization that does not include the truth in question, and (iii) some trivial notions about validity, the difference among material, formal and strict implication, the consistency of systems, and the like. In other words, nothing of substantive philosophical importance is demonstrable at all, and all demonstrations by philosophers (as when I say "it's demonstrable that your view is inconsistent") are framed in a narrow context of common assumptions, for the time not disputed. That's what I mean by saying "demonstration is tightly context-bound".

[47]. Could it be because you might risk (or fear to) so much by disbelieving it that we need a justification for unbelief (see Pascal).

[48]. There are still a few dozen "demonstrators" still living, like Charles Harthshorne.

[49]. A line of reasoning that succeeds at demonstration will of course, ground rational certainty, if it is appreciated. But it may ground it just as well without success at demonstration.It may even ground rational certainty when it is mistaken. For instance, I do not think Descartes's certainty that humans are a unity of distinct substances was irrational or in some way reprehensible; he was merely mistaken.

[50]. Some people misunderstood the First Vatican Council to have affirmed that our actively being able to demonstrate the existence of God, is a condition for our having natural knowability of God; e.g., I think Garrigou-LaGrange thought so; see my Philosophical Theology, Bobbs Merrill, 1969.

[51]. For instance, a chromatic scale played in fourths.

[52]. The ice has broken on whether unbelief is a reprehensible condition ethically: see Mark Talbot's " Is it Natural to Believe in God?", Faith and Philosophy, April, 1989, pp. 155-172, with its thought-provoking quotations from Calvin.

[53]. I wrote about the conditions for demonstrations in Philosophical Theology, Chapter 1; Introduction to Philosophy of Religion, Chapter 1, and "On Proofs for the Existence of God", The Monist, 1974, Aquinas Centennial Issue. I think by adding the requirement that "counterpossibilities have to be exhausted or blocked", the older rigid notion is clearer.

[54]. The antecedent probability of a semantically consistent hypothesis, for a particular person, depends partly on how badly he wants it to be true; otherwise doubt may be just transferred from the conclusion to whatever consideration is advanced for it.

[55]. The explanation of that point is to be found both in George Mavrodes's Belief in God and in my Philosophical Theology.

[56]. Or in the moral situation; or in our knowledge of the objectives or of the foundations of perception; or of mathematics; or of our certainty about the external world.

[57]. There does seem to be some irresolvable dispute between intuitionists and others that cannot be settled by any argument as to whether the principles of excluded middle and bifurcation of predicates are universal truths rather than local devices.

[58]. Indirect proof is deduction of the existence of something, say a prime larger than one million, by deduction of a contradiction from the denial that there is such a number.

[59]. Quantified reasoning with empty names, like 'unicorn' that deduces the existence of unicorns from the contradiction that would result from admitting that "all unicorns have only one horn" and asserting "there are no unicorns", is obviously mistaken.

That's analogous to the intuitionist's objection to the indirect proof: expressions are taken to be designative and put into phrases where a contradiction is made from a denial of the existence, say, of a real number larger than N (the number of the natural numbers). There can be no rapprochement between the parties, not by any demonstration, anyway.

[60]. See the discussion of "considerations" in Ross, "On Proofs for the Existence of God", above. Examples of considerations: "being cannot be accounted for by causation because causation supposes being"; "whatever is moved is moved by another"; "whatever begins to be is caused to be", "whatever possibly exists, exists necessarily or contingently." Notice, when you write the key consideration briefly, you can see that demonstrative form is simply an iron bridge to the conclusion. The real question always is "will I accept such a consideration as decisive, if the bridge can be made"?

[61]. I have given the reasons for that in Truth and Impossibility and "Aquinas's Exemplarism, Aquinas's Voluntarism", (Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 1990). Consider: "he talks faster than light". Consistent? yes; possible, no.

The basic consideration is that verbal possibilities (semantic consistencies) involve "overflow" conditions, conditions that go beyond the meaning of the words and are "incorporated" by their designative roles. So verbally, "thinking birds" are possible; but whether such are really possible depends on whether the "overflow" conditions required in nature for thinking things conflict with those for being a bird. Not sure? How about "thinking electrons"? If you are in doubt, you grant my point.

Thomas Reid made an argument for the same point based on the idea that there may be necessities in nature that we do not know about. I thank Josefine Nauckhoff for pointing out Michael Hooker's paper on Reid to me.

[62]. If 'ifs' and 'ands' were pots and pans, there'd be no need of tinkers. It is a common mistake in philosophy to say a person is going to doubt what he sees or says (or ought to), if we show him he might have been mistaken, and under these very conditions. Rather, he should say, "So what? I wasn't". (I might have been killed, too; but I wasn't.)

[63]. Arthur Clarke is said to have remarked that the most momentous scientific question is whether we are the only intelligent beings in the universe; equally momentous either way, a kind of apex of human existence when we first come on the answer. Suppose we are the only ones? Suppose there is another group? Or many? Why so many galaxies for so few minds?

[64]. You may know a minor took your car for a joy-ride because a neighbor says he saw him getting into it. Of course, the FBI might have commandeered it; gangsters might have used it kidnapping the minor; a "private eye" might have borrowed it; your wife may have persuaded the neighbor to lie because she ran out of gas, and so on, forever.

[65]. I bypass technical situations in law where the preponderance of evidence shifts to a defendant because plaintiff does not "carry his burden", "fails go to forward", presents the wrong sort of data or simply defaults. For these purposes, I am assuming there really is a contest of considerations supported by admissible evidence on both sides. In that situation, the failure of the plaintiff to persuade tips the scale against him and for the defendant. In a word, in civil cases, the plaintiff has the responsibility to win, to load the scale with enough admissible data to tip it in his favor; otherwise, it falls by operation of law in favor of the defendant. That's a more constricted system than we have in practical life.

In the theological case, considerations can tip the scale to rational conviction, short of clear and convincing evidence, but still not an exercise of faith in the conclusion, rather, a genuine cognitive construal of one's own, even if the result is only true belief (or rationally justified belief, leaving truth aside). I think the being of God is a suitable object of conviction on preponderance of the evidence (as weighed and sorted individually). It can come out both ways for different thoughtful persons. That's why, whatever the defects of unbelief (See Mark Talbot, Faith and Philosophy, 1989), it is a rational certainty for some people. That has nothing to do with whether the existence of God can be demonstrated to the suitably learned, or proved beyond a reasonable doubt or by clear and convincing evidence to some other class of rational inquirers.

Talbot's paper and the tendency of "reformed" epistemology and the long "ethics of belief" debate (see the Mccarthy book cited above) will now invite a backlash, because believing beyond the evidence, against God,s existence, will involve not so much a failure of evidencefor God, as a moral failure to develop the cognitive functions of feeling to discern and configure it, and will invite the charge that we have dulled our sensitivity with trash, like a soap opera addict who regards all serious stories as tedious and bad.

[66]. See Chapter 2 of Introduction to Philosophy of Religion, cited above.

[67]. The notion of "refinement" had popular corruptions,of course, in conformist, prissy, mannered dandies and worldlings, in foppish dilettantes, learned triflers, nincompoops and sage rubes. Breeding in horses, dogs and roses can be overdone, as well as "cultivation" of people, not just to being silly or outright mad, but to being perverse and evil. So we can "refine" feeling to cultivate the thrill of evil, self-regarding wilfulness, a craze of cruelty, the exaltation of fury, and the cold self-containment of disdain, contempt and contumely. But that takes nothing away from the real thing.

[68]. See Aristotle's remarks in The Topics and Wittgenstein's comments about the fly in the fly bottle, and the like, and Aquinas' remarks about imagination. See also, my "Mindful of Man" section on "The Imagination is the Master of Falsity",forthcoming.

[69]. Apart from the intervention of grace.

[70]. See Flannery O'Connor's "The Violent Bear it Away" and the poetry of Brother Antoninus.

[71]. As Aquinas explained the non-meritorious faith of the bad angels.

[72]. See "MIndful of Man", forthcoming.