Sunday, 28 August 2016

Richard Whately: I respectfully demur Professor James

Whately on the suppression of the use of reason

Many people are led into the error of fancying that an irrational faith is even firmer than a rational one, by mistaking for a firm belief, a firm resolution of the will to believe. They seem to imagine that faith can be made firm only by a sort of brute force upon the understanding, and by brow-beating, as it were, their own minds, and those of others, into implicit submission. Now you never see traces of this kind of violence in the case of other truths which men really believe most firmly. You never hear a man protesting with great vehemence, that he is convinced that the angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, or that the earth is round like a ball, and not fiat, like a platter; and denouncing all who cannot see the proof. Good proof satisfies the mind of itself, and excludes reasonable doubt without any violent effort. When you are sure that the door is strong enough to keep out the intruder, you sit quietly by your fireside, and let him kick his heels against it till he is tired. But if you rushed over and clapped your back and shoulders to the bolt, that would imply that the door is really weak, or, at least that your faith in it is weak that is, that you had not full confidence in its strength.
(from Thoughts and apophthegms from the writings of Archbishop Whately)

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