Religious Belief and the Problems of Cognitivity and Commitment: A Reappraisal Based on Contemporary Philosophy of Science

Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1991)
Chapter One surveys two prominent perspectives, each held by representative philosophers and theologians: a neo-positivist perspective that religious belief is not rational and a neo-Wittgensteinian perspective that RB may be rational but only as determined by criteria internal to RB. Both perspective sharply differentiate religion from science, maintaining that religious beliefs are either not cognitive or cognitively different and that religious commitment must be absolute. I suggest that both perspectives utilize inadequate and unnecessary perceptions of science as well as religion. ;Chapter Two exposes some prominent problems with the views of science utilized by the neo-positivists and neo-Wittgensteinians. It examines Thomas Kuhn's ideas on objectivity, commitment, incommensurability, and theory preference and Karl Popper's thoughts on falsifiability, rationality, justification, and theory choice. It offers some preliminary possibilities regarding how the changing picture of science might affect the issues of cognitivity, criticizability, and justification within the philosophy of religion. ;Chapter Three focuses on the cognitive content of RB. It advocates the idea that some core beliefs, in some religious traditions, are "comparably cognitive" to scientific theories. It discusses the cognitivity of metaphors, models, and paradigms; and it explores the cognitive similarities between "God" and scientific theoretical entities. It maintains that some religious traditions include empirically testable core beliefs due to their "semantic entailment" and due to the heuristic nature of theological doctrines . ;Chapter Four analyzes the character of RC. A theological objection developed by Karl Barth against viewing RB as rationally criticizable or defensible is presented, and the view that ligitimate RC may be strong but not unconditional is defended. It rejects the ideas that RB is not supposed to be falsifiable and that neither science nor religion has empirically testable first-order principles . W. W. Bartley's theory of rationality as criticizability is adapted and directed toward RB/RC. Some specific lessons learned from the philosophy of science are applied to RB/RC in an effort to avoid both foundationalism and fideism. It concludes that the "leap" to RB/RC need not be irrational or blind
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