How a Modest Fideism may Constrain Theistic Commitments: Exploring an Alternative to Classical Theism

Philosophia 35 (3-4):387-402 (2007)
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Abstract

On the assumption that theistic religious commitment takes place in the face of evidential ambiguity, the question arises under what conditions it is permissible to make a doxastic venture beyond one’s evidence in favour of a religious proposition. In this paper I explore the implications for orthodox theistic commitment of adopting, in answer to that question, a modest, moral coherentist, fideism. This extended Jamesian fideism crucially requires positive ethical evaluation of both the motivation and content of religious doxastic ventures. I suggest that, even though the existence of horrendous evil does not resolve evidential ambiguity in favour of atheism, there are reasonable value commitments that would preclude those who hold them from satisfying extended Jamesian fideist conditions for committing themselves to classical theism. I then begin a discussion of a possible revisionary theistic alternative (in the Christian tradition) which – one might hope – may meet those conditions. An earlier, shorter, version of this paper was delivered as a keynote address at the APA Pacific 2007 Mini-Conference on Models of God.

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John Bishop
University of Auckland