Thursday, 20 August 2015

Whately's Evidences



A consistent theme of Whately’s is ‘evidences’. A couple of his books that I’ve come across are composed of annotations appended to what he considers seminal texts. Generally these annotations are chapter length reflections on the previous chapter of the mother text. Paley’s A View of the Evidences of Christianity is one and Bacon’s Essays is the other.

Evidences is the short form of ‘evidences for the truth of the Christian religion’ or a quasi-rational justification. Though he is represented as having been at odds with John Henry Newman even while the latter was in his Anglican phase I find that both of them really did not believe that there were knock-down demonstrative proofs available in the domain of religion. In the early working out of what later became the illative sense Newman spoke of implicit reasoning and they both would I think have recognised that a prior cultivation of the heart was necessary for the living reception of ‘evidences’. For Whately the fact of miracles was central for faith. Without miracles the establishment of the faith as a world-wide phenomenon would be impossible. Google have his Easy Lessons on Christian Evidences with several chapters on that theme. His amusing retorsion on/of/to Hume on miracles cf. Doubts Relative to Napoleon Buonaparte is quite serious in intent.

Men were not to become his disciples in consequence of their knowing and perceiving the truth of what He taught, but in consequence of their having sufficient candour to receive the evidence which his miracles afforded, and being so thoroughly of the Truth as to give themselves up to follow wherever that should lead, in opposition to any prejudices or inclinations of their own; and then knowledge of the truth was to be their reward. There is not necessarily any moral virtue in receiving truth; for it may happen that our interest, or our wishes, are in the same direction; or it may be forced upon us by evidence as irresistible as that of a mathematical demonstration. The virtue consists in being a sincere votary of Truth;—what our Lord calls being 'of the Truth,'—rejecting 'the hidden things of dishonesty,' and carefully guarding against every undue bias. Every one wishes to have Truth on his side; but it is not every one that sincerely wishes to he on the side of Truth.
(from annotation to Bacon’s Essay Of Truth)

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