Symposium on Joshua Golding’s “The rationality of being a traditional religious Jew” (13-20 January)

Religious Jew

The symposium on Golding’s paper has now commenced.

For comments by Silvia Jonas, please click here

For comments by Matthew Benton, please click here

For comments by Shira Weiss, please click here

For Joshua Golding’s replies to the above comments, please click here

The symposium is open to all interested parties. Please feel free to post your comments/questions/suggestions/thoughts below.

8 Comments
  1. Dani Rabinowitz

    Many thanks to Joshua for a very interesting and thought-provoking paper. I have the following comments:

    1. On pg. 407, Golding writes, “Stated simply, as long as I have some reason to think p is true, and no definitive proof that p is false, then it is rationally defensible for me to believe there is a live possibility that p.” Here are two worries about such a definition, the first minor, the second more troublesome. (A) As the skeptic has been at pains to argue, there is no such thing as “conclusive/definitive proof,” for our evidence for p in the good case is identical with our evidence in the bad case (this argument rests on certain conceptions of evidence e.g. phenomenal conservatism). As such, the second condition cannot be satisfied. (B) It is rational for me to give up my belief that p when the evidence for not-p outweighs my evidence for p. This applies even when the evidence for not-p is not conclusive or definitive. Golding’s second condition would have me retain my belief in p when the evidence for not-p outweighs the evidence for p but when the evidence for not-p is not conclusive or definitive. This seems to be the incorrect result.

    2. I am fascinated by Golding’s claim that the good relationship with God necessitates a community. I would love to hear a lot more about this. There is already early disdain in Halakha for one who voluntarily separates herself from the community.

    On another point, what about those who did not have communities to be a part of e.g. Abraham or someone isolated?

    3. On pg. 402 Golding writes, “Put simply, a person who is disposed never to take into account the implications of ‘God exists’ on his behaviour is either a highly confused and irrational religious Jew, or is not a religious Jew at all.” Now there are Jews who consider themselves religious Jews yet are atheists. I’m under the impression that such Jews are termed “orthoprax.” Might Golding’s conditions be overly strong were they to rule out orthoprax Jews as being religious and/or traditional?

    4. As I understand Golding’s conditions, a child or ignoramus cannot count as a traditional religious Jew nor can they count as being rationally defensibly so since they are neither committed to the beliefs that lie at the center of several of Golding’s conditions nor do they have the necessary conceptions. Might this indicate that Golding’s conditions are overly strong?

    5. On pg. 403 Golding writes, “Let us next consider category 2, namely, those Jews who regard themselves as pursuing the goal of maintaining a relationship with God. To what beliefs is such a Jew committed? Based on the framework sketched above, such a Jew must not only believe that God exists; he must also believe that he knows or is cognitively aware of God’s existence. And, if he considers himself to know that God exists, it follows that he must have a very confident belief that God exists.” Here are some clarificatory questions. Firstly, why must said Jew also believe that he knows that God exists? In other words, why is the second-order belief required? Secondly, knowledge and cognitive awareness are, supposedly two very different things. While “cognitive awareness” goes undefined, I assume it is not a factive mental state whereas knowledge is. Thirdly, why is it assumed that knowing p entails very high confidence in p? The relationship between knowledge and degrees of belief is a contentious one and it would be great to hear why Golding goes for the above entailment.

    6. On pg. 405 Golding writes, “A position is ‘rationally defensible’ if an argument can be marshalled to support that claim or position, and if criticisms and objections to that argument can be rebutted.” Here are some clarificatory questions. Firstly, need the marshalled argument be sound, valid, or even good? Two, who does the marshalling? Who is bringing forward these criticisms and objections? I assume Golding is aiming for some objective measures on his take on “rationally defensible,” but a more thorough explication of that concept is needed for the entire paper rests upon it.

    7. On pg. 405 Golding writes that, “There are two criteria by which we may judge whether it is rational for some person to regard some conception as a theoretical possibility. The first is whether the given concept is internally or logically coherent. The second criterion is whether the concept is externally coherent, that is, whether the concept coheres with other related concepts held by the same person.” I wonder if these criteria are too weak for it permits someone holding outlandish conceptions so long as they involve no internal logical inconsistencies and cohere to her other concepts. Surely we do not want the concept “God” to be held on so slender a basis? Alternatively, why go for such a liberal take on the rational defensibility of conceptions of God?

    8. On pg. 406 Golding writes, “In any case, until and unless it can be shown otherwise, it is rationally defensible to regard the conception of God as the Supreme Person as logically coherent.” Why is it that the conception of God as the Supreme Person remains logically coherent when there have been hundreds of years debate on this very point? Surely the epistemically responsible position to take would be to be agnostic about the appropriate conception for the proper name “God.”

    9. On pg. 409 Golding writes that, “Some philosophers claim that value judgments cannot be rationally defended or critiqued.” A reference to the identity of said philosophers would be helpful to readers who wish to learn more about this position.

    10. Finally, one may wonder at the rationale for proposing that being a traditional religious Jew is rationally defensible. Suppose it turns out that Judaism does not turn out to be rationally defensible on all accounts of rational defensibility. Ought such a conclusion provoke the ideally rational person to jettison his Judaism? Or force someone interested in becoming a traditional religious Jew to reconsider? There are those who may even say that faith underpins religious commitment, not rational defensibility. It would be great to hear more about the project of rational defensibility vis-à-vis religious commitment as a whole.

  2. Joshua Golding

    Thanks to Dani Rabinowitz for posting his own responses. I have responded point by point below. As I mentioned in my responses to the others, a more fully developed version of the argument in my article is presented in my book, Rationality and Religious Theism. I encourage those who are interested in the article to consider the book.
    1. I don’t understand objection (A). If there is never any conclusive evidence for not-p, that means the second condition is always satisfied for any p! In other words if the skeptical position is right, it only makes my argument easier to make, not harder. As for objection (B), Rabinowitz writes that “Golding’s second condition would have me retain my belief in p when the evidence for not-p outweighs the evidence for p…” But that’s not accurate. I say rather that it is rationally defensible to maintain one’s belief in the live possibility that p even when the evidence for not-p outweighs p. For example, even though the evidence is overwhelming that I will not win the lottery, it can still be rationally defensible to believe that there is a live possibility that I will win the lottery. This seems to be entirely correct to me.
    2. My claim about the need for community grows directly from classic Jewish sources. The shechinah can dwell only in am yisrael, who collectively keeps the Torah. Numerous scriptural and rabbinic teachings make this same point. As great as individuals may be (Avraham, Moses, etc.), their greatness as individuals is limited compared to the greatness achieved in that bond with God which is inherently social. To clarify, I am not asserting that one cannot have a ‘good relationship’ with God of some sort while not being a member of the community of am yisrael. Rather, I am suggesting that the goal of the religious Jew (as I have defined him/her) is to pursue that special, unique relationship of bonding with God which is only possible as a member of am yisrael.
    3. See my response to Shira Weiss on this point. Surely, under some definition of ‘religious’ these people count as ‘religious.’ I admit that there are different ways of conceiving what it is to be a religious Jew. I have worked out one conception of the religious Jew, and then I claim that such a religious Jew is committed to certain beliefs. It does not affect my argument if there are other conceptions of what it is to be a religious Jew that allow for….God knows what!
    4. I believe we underestimate children if we think they don’t have religious beliefs. Perhaps Rabinowitz has in mind infants? If so, they are indeed not ‘traditional religious Jews’ or perhaps they may be said to be traditional religious Jews in training. Also, I’m not sure what you mean by an ‘ignoramus’. Indeed many ignorami are not traditional religious Jews; alternatively one could say that if they identify with a group (klal yisrael) who are (self-consciously) committed to certain beliefs and practices, then, the rational defensibility of their beliefs and practices ‘piggy-backs’ on the rational defensibility of those who are (self-consciously) committed. The same could be said for children and also adults who are not themselves able to articulate a rational defense for their practices, but who are members of a community wherein scholars (and philosophers) are able to articulate such a defense.

    5. I confess I have not given these issues much thought. I believe that ‘to know x’ entails that ‘one strongly believes x’ and that if one knows x, then, as long as one engages in a little reflection, one also believes that one knows x. I have no elaborate defense for these assertions.
    6. Of course, the argument marshaled should be sound and valid. If it is not a good argument then it does not ‘support’ the claim in question. But of course, any argument could have people who dispute its premises or find its conceptions incoherent or untenable for various reasons. To answer the other questions, the philosopher or theologian does the ‘marshalling’. Philosophers and theologians, skeptics, etc. are the ones who bring forward objections. I don’t think it is my duty to explicate the notion of ‘rational defensibility’ any more than I have. I think that expects too much from the article. One simply needs to look at the argument I gave and see whether one agrees with it or not. If a person gives an argument to the effect that e.g., it is rationally defensible to believe that abortion is in some cases seriously immoral, one does not also expect the person to give an elaborate account of rational defensibility. One looks at the argument and sees whether one is convinced or not.
    7. Rabinowitz asserts that the criteria I suggest for the rationality of having certain conceptions is too weak and too liberal. But why? What is ‘weak’ or ‘liberal’ about them? What else would make a concept irrational to hold unless it is incoherent or held incoherently in some way (given the person’s related conceptions)?
    8. My position is that until and unless some concept is shown to be incoherent, it is safely regarded as coherent. Hundreds of years of debate has not shown the concept of God to be incoherent. Millions of people have some kind of concept of God as the Supreme Person. Are they all crazy? (Granted this is not a proof for God’s existence.) The responsible position is to assume that if it was incoherent it would have been demonstrated by now.
    9. I had in mind Hume, Ayer, etc.
    10. See my response to Shira Weiss, toward the end. Also, in my book, Rationality and Religious Theism, I discuss this issue more fully. I would argue that both from a human standpoint and a Jewish standpoint, the effort to articulate a rational defense for religious commitment (to the extent that we are able) is not only legitimate but praiseworthy. As humans, rationality is at least one guide in life, if not the only guide. As philosophers, we attempt to come up with reasons to support our views, even if in some cases we recognize the limits of reason. If one is going to ask the question “why be rational ?” or “why behave rationally?” I would respond that the question is incoherent. The reason to be rational is…because it is rational to do so! From a Jewish standpoint, religious Jews pray three times a day that God should give us knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Jewish philosophy has a long tradition of rationalistic endeavor, starting with Mishlei. Fideism pops up in Jewish thought here and there, but even in Kabbalistic and Chassidic literature, there is a strong preference toward a rationalistic approach (again, within limits). I believe that the combined cognitive-pragmatic strategy which I have offered in this paper grows naturally out of Jewish sources.

  3. Joshua Golding

    Thanks to Dani Rabinowitz for posting his own criticisms. My responses are below. Please also see my book, Rationality and Religious Theism, Ashgate, 2003.

    1. I don’t understand objection (A). If there is never any conclusive evidence for not-p, that means the second condition is always satisfied for any p! In other words if the skeptical position is right, it only makes my argument easier to make, not harder. As for objection (B), Rabinowitz writes that “Golding’s second condition would have me retain my belief in p when the evidence for not-p outweighs the evidence for p…” But that’s not accurate. I say rather that it is rationally defensible to maintain one’s belief in the live possibility that p even when the evidence for not-p outweighs p. For example, even though the evidence is overwhelming that I will not win the lottery, it can still be rationally defensible to believe that there is a live possibility that I will win the lottery. This seems to be entirely correct to me.
    2. My claim about the need for community grows directly from classic Jewish sources. The shechinah can dwell only in am yisrael, who collectively keeps the Torah. Numerous scriptural and rabbinic teachings make this same point. As great as individuals may be (Avraham, Moses, etc.), their greatness as individuals is limited compared to the greatness achieved in that bond with God which is inherently social. To clarify, I am not asserting that one cannot have a ‘good relationship’ with God of some sort while not being a member of the community of am yisrael. Rather, I am suggesting that the goal of the religious Jew (as I have defined him/her) is to pursue that special, unique relationship of bonding with God which is only possible as a member of am yisrael.
    3. See my response to Shira Weiss on this point. Surely, under some definition of ‘religious’ these people count as ‘religious.’ I admit that there are different ways of conceiving what it is to be a religious Jew. I have worked out one conception of the religious Jew, and then I claim that such a religious Jew is committed to certain beliefs. It does not affect my argument if there are other conceptions of what it is to be a religious Jew that allow for….God knows what!
    4. I believe we underestimate children if we think they don’t have religious beliefs. Perhaps Rabinowitz has in mind infants? If so, they are indeed not ‘traditional religious Jews’ or perhaps they may be said to be traditional religious Jews in training. Also, I’m not sure what you mean by an ‘ignoramus’. Indeed many ignorami are not traditional religious Jews; alternatively one could say that if they identify with a group (klal yisrael) who are (self-consciously) committed to certain beliefs and practices, then, the rational defensibility of their beliefs and practices ‘piggy-backs’ on the rational defensibility of those who are (self-consciously) committed. The same could be said for children and also adults who are not themselves able to articulate a rational defense for their practices, but who are members of a community wherein scholars (and philosophers) are able to articulate such a defense.

    5. I confess I have not given these issues much thought. I believe that ‘to know x’ entails that ‘one strongly believes x’ and that if one knows x, then, as long as one engages in a little reflection, one also believes that one knows x. I have no elaborate defense for these assertions.
    6. Of course, the argument marshaled should be sound and valid. If it is not a good argument then it does not ‘support’ the claim in question. But of course, any argument could have people who dispute its premises or find its conceptions incoherent or untenable for various reasons. To answer the other questions, the philosopher or theologian does the ‘marshalling’. Philosophers and theologians, skeptics, etc. are the ones who bring forward objections. I don’t think it is my duty to explicate the notion of ‘rational defensibility’ any more than I have. I think that expects too much from the article. One simply needs to look at the argument I gave and see whether one agrees with it or not. If a person gives an argument to the effect that e.g., it is rationally defensible to believe that abortion is in some cases seriously immoral, one does not also expect the person to give an elaborate account of rational defensibility. One looks at the argument and sees whether one is convinced or not.
    7. Rabinowitz asserts that the criteria I suggest for the rationality of having certain conceptions is too weak and too liberal. But why? What is ‘weak’ or ‘liberal’ about them? What else would make a concept irrational to hold unless it is incoherent or held incoherently in some way (given the person’s related conceptions)?
    8. My position is that until and unless some concept is shown to be incoherent, it is safely regarded as coherent. Hundreds of years of debate has not shown the concept of God to be incoherent. Millions of people have some kind of concept of God as the Supreme Person. Are they all crazy? (Granted this is not a proof for God’s existence.) The responsible position is to assume that if it was incoherent it would have been demonstrated by now.
    9. I had in mind Hume, Ayer, etc.
    10. See my response to Shira Weiss, toward the end. Also, in my book, Rationality and Religious Theism, I discuss this issue more fully. I would argue that both from a human standpoint and a Jewish standpoint, the effort to articulate a rational defense for religious commitment (to the extent that we are able) is not only legitimate but praiseworthy. As humans, rationality is at least one guide in life, if not the only guide. As philosophers, we attempt to come up with reasons to support our views, even if in some cases we recognize the limits of reason. If one is going to ask the question “why be rational ?” or “why behave rationally?” I would respond that the question is incoherent. The reason to be rational is…because it is rational to do so! From a Jewish standpoint, religious Jews pray three times a day that God should give us knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Jewish philosophy has a long tradition of rationalistic endeavor, starting with Mishlei. Fideism pops up in Jewish thought here and there, but even in Kabbalistic and Chassidic literature, there is a strong preference toward a rationalistic approach (again, within limits). I believe that the combined cognitive-pragmatic strategy which I have offered in this paper grows naturally out of Jewish sources.

  4. Thanks to Dani Rabinowitz for posting his own critical points. My responses are below, point by point. For those who found the article interesting and/or problematic, please consider my book, Rationality and Religious Theism, 2003. The book is much fuller version of the argument of the original article published in 1999.

    1. I don’t understand objection (A). If there is never any conclusive evidence for not-p, that means the second condition is always satisfied for any p! In other words if the skeptical position is right, it only makes my argument easier to make, not harder. As for objection (B), Rabinowitz writes that “Golding’s second condition would have me retain my belief in p when the evidence for not-p outweighs the evidence for p…” But that’s not accurate. I say rather that it is rationally defensible to maintain one’s belief in the live possibility that p even when the evidence for not-p outweighs p. For example, even though the evidence is overwhelming that I will not win the lottery, it can still be rationally defensible to believe that there is a live possibility that I will win the lottery. This seems to be entirely correct to me.
    2. My claim about the need for community grows directly from classic Jewish sources. The shechinah can dwell only in am yisrael, who collectively keeps the Torah. Numerous scriptural and rabbinic teachings make this same point. As great as individuals may be (Avraham, Moses, etc.), their greatness as individuals is limited compared to the greatness achieved in that bond with God which is inherently social. To clarify, I am not asserting that one cannot have a ‘good relationship’ with God of some sort while not being a member of the community of am yisrael. Rather, I am suggesting that the goal of the religious Jew (as I have defined him/her) is to pursue that special, unique relationship of bonding with God which is only possible as a member of am yisrael.
    3. See my response to Shira Weiss on this point. Surely, under some definition of ‘religious’ these people count as ‘religious.’ I admit that there are different ways of conceiving what it is to be a religious Jew. I have worked out one conception of the religious Jew, and then I claim that such a religious Jew is committed to certain beliefs. It does not affect my argument if there are other conceptions of what it is to be a religious Jew that allow for….God knows what!
    4. I believe we underestimate children if we think they don’t have religious beliefs. Perhaps Rabinowitz has in mind infants? If so, they are indeed not ‘traditional religious Jews’ or perhaps they may be said to be traditional religious Jews in training. Also, I’m not sure what you mean by an ‘ignoramus’. Indeed many ignorami are not traditional religious Jews; alternatively one could say that if they identify with a group (klal yisrael) who are (self-consciously) committed to certain beliefs and practices, then, the rational defensibility of their beliefs and practices ‘piggy-backs’ on the rational defensibility of those who are (self-consciously) committed. The same could be said for children and also adults who are not themselves able to articulate a rational defense for their practices, but who are members of a community wherein scholars (and philosophers) are able to articulate such a defense.

    5. I confess I have not given these issues much thought. I believe that ‘to know x’ entails that ‘one strongly believes x’ and that if one knows x, then, as long as one engages in a little reflection, one also believes that one knows x. I have no elaborate defense for these assertions.
    6. Of course, the argument marshaled should be sound and valid. If it is not a good argument then it does not ‘support’ the claim in question. But of course, any argument could have people who dispute its premises or find its conceptions incoherent or untenable for various reasons. To answer the other questions, the philosopher or theologian does the ‘marshalling’. Philosophers and theologians, skeptics, etc. are the ones who bring forward objections. I don’t think it is my duty to explicate the notion of ‘rational defensibility’ any more than I have. I think that expects too much from the article. One simply needs to look at the argument I gave and see whether one agrees with it or not. If a person gives an argument to the effect that e.g., it is rationally defensible to believe that abortion is in some cases seriously immoral, one does not also expect the person to give an elaborate account of rational defensibility. One looks at the argument and sees whether one is convinced or not.
    7. Rabinowitz asserts that the criteria I suggest for the rationality of having certain conceptions is too weak and too liberal. But why? What is ‘weak’ or ‘liberal’ about them? What else would make a concept irrational to hold unless it is incoherent or held incoherently in some way (given the person’s related conceptions)?
    8. My position is that until and unless some concept is shown to be incoherent, it is safely regarded as coherent. Hundreds of years of debate has not shown the concept of God to be incoherent. Millions of people have some kind of concept of God as the Supreme Person. Are they all crazy? (Granted this is not a proof for God’s existence.) The responsible position is to assume that if it was incoherent it would have been demonstrated by now.
    9. I had in mind Hume, Ayer, etc.
    10. See my response to Shira Weiss, toward the end. Also, in my book, Rationality and Religious Theism, I discuss this issue more fully. I would argue that both from a human standpoint and a Jewish standpoint, the effort to articulate a rational defense for religious commitment (to the extent that we are able) is not only legitimate but praiseworthy. As humans, rationality is at least one guide in life, if not the only guide. As philosophers, we attempt to come up with reasons to support our views, even if in some cases we recognize the limits of reason. If one is going to ask the question “why be rational ?” or “why behave rationally?” I would respond that the question is incoherent. The reason to be rational is…because it is rational to do so! From a Jewish standpoint, religious Jews pray three times a day that God should give us knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Jewish philosophy has a long tradition of rationalistic endeavor, starting with Mishlei. Fideism pops up in Jewish thought here and there, but even in Kabbalistic and Chassidic literature, there is a strong preference toward a rationalistic approach (again, within limits). I believe that the combined cognitive-pragmatic strategy which I have offered in this paper grows naturally out of Jewish sources.

  5. Many thanks to Joshua Golding for providing a clarifying response to my objections!

    Regarding Qualitative superiority (pp. 395, 399):

    I am not convinced by Golding’s response to my objection. By calling God and the good relationship with God ‘radically better’ than other beings or goods, the problem of incomparability does not vanish. If something is radically better, it wins every possible comparison with every possible being, object, or relation, so one might also call it ‘always better’. It seems to me, however, that ‘always better’ is clearly an instance of ‘a lot better’, and also of ‘vastly better’ (399). But these two Golding explicitly excludes: God is “not merely ‘a lot better’ than every other possible being; rather, God is better in kind than every other possible being” (395). Likewise, the good relationship with God is “not merely […] ‘a lot better’ or ‘vastly better’ than any other goal, but […] qualitatively superior to any other goal” (399). Once again, I find myself unable to make sense of the concept ‘radically better’ if separated from the concept ‘a lot better’ – unless, of course, we take it to mean ‘incomparable’.

    Regarding Belief vs. Rational Commitment to Belief (p. 401):

    I agree with Golding that it is not the case that any person who engages in some Jewish religious observances (or even in many of them) is thereby committed to a belief in God. I take this to mean that something over and above mere practice needs to be given in order for such a person to be committed to a belief in God in Golding’s sense. But what it this additional ingredient? The only plausible candidate is, of course, ‘belief’ – but then it follows that commitment to belief does, in fact, entail belief.

    Commitment to Logical Consequences (p. 404):

    Granted that commitment to belief does not entail belief (a conviction I do not share), the fact that necessary truths in general are entailed by all propositions may not be very hard to accept. When it comes to the proposition “God exists”, however, this becomes problematic. If “God exists” is a truth, it is a necessary truth and as such, entailed by all propositions. So, again, how come so many people have such difficulty believing in it?

    Secondly, Golding states that he does not find it very unsettling that belief in a contradiction commits us to belief in all truths:

    “I would say that indeed if a person believes in a contradiction, then, since any contradiction formally implies all truths, indeed he is committed to all truths; if a person believes in any proposition, he is committed to all necessary truths (we all are so committed!). I don’t see what is so ‘bold’ about these positions.”

    However, what is paradoxical about material implication is of course not that contradictions imply all truths. The problem is that they imply all propositions, i.e. all truths and all falsehoods. So if, as Golding claims, a person is committed to the logical consequences of her beliefs, then believing in a contradiction commits her to any belief whatsoever. This I find quite unsettling.

    Regarding ‘live possibility’, Rationally Compelling vs. Rationally Defensible, and Internal and External Coherence:

    Golding holds fast to his conviction that, “if there is scant evidence for some proposition, a person is entitled to believe that there is a live possibility that the proposition is true”. I, on the other hand, hold fast to my conviction that this description renders the concept of rational defensibility very weak and therefore uninteresting: if rational defensibility has practically no consequences for people other than the subject holding the belief, then I don’t think it is a concept with a lot of philosophical relevance.

    Regarding Religious Pluralism:

    What is self-stultifying about religious pluralism (and all other forms of relativism, be it about truths or about rational defensibility) is that it is unclear which truth-value (or rational status) we should ascribe to the pluralist’s claim itself: if we assign it the rational status of all other beliefs, then it holds just as relatively as other religious beliefs, not universally. If we assign it universal validity, then the question arises on what basis (with which justification) we can assign it a stronger epistemic status than other religious beliefs.

    1. Dani Rabinowitz

      POSTED ON BEHALF OF JOSHUA GOLDING
      —————————————————————

      Thanks to Siliva Jonas for clarifying her objections! I have responded below.

      Regarding Qualitative superiority:
      God is conceived as qualitatively superior to any other being. Indeed, God is comparable (= can be compared) to other beings, but God is qualitatively superior. Roughly, this means that no amount of the goodness in all other things, even when combined and multiplied over and over again, equals the goodness of God. The difference in goodness is qualitative, not quantitative. Similarly, the religious person conceives of the relationship with God as “qualitatively better” than any other good. Roughly, X is a better good in kind than Y if and only if any (even small or tiny) amount of X is better than any (even large) amount of Y. I don’t see what the problem is here. Just because something is better in kind than another does not mean they are incomparable.

      Regarding Belief vs. Rational Commitment to Belief :
      The thing that needs to be “given” is that the person is pursuing the goal of having a good relationship with God. If a person is pursuing this goal, he is committed to the belief that there is a God, or at least, the belief that there is a live possibility that God exists.

      Commitment to Logical Consequences:
      I don’t see why it is my obligation to have a good answer to your question in order to defend any claim in my paper. (The question was, if God exists is a necessary truth, why don’t more people believe it?) Anyhow, perhaps God exists is a necessary truth but not a logical truth. Some philosophers make this distinction. Alternatively, even if it is a logical truth, that doesn’t mean it is obviously true. Many logical truths are so complicated that it takes a logician to tell that they are true!
      Jonas writes that ” what is paradoxical about material implication is of course not that contradictions imply all truths. The problem is that they imply all propositions, i.e. all truths and all falsehoods. So if, as Golding claims, a person is committed to the logical consequences of her beliefs, then believing in a contradiction commits her to any belief whatsoever. This I find quite unsettling.” My response is, why do you find it unsettling? It is only unsettling on your view, namely, that if a person is committed to a belief, then he must believe in some sense. It is not unsettling on my view, since, even if a person is committed to a belief, it is still possible that he does not believe it.

      Regarding ‘live possibility’, Rationally Compelling vs. Rationally Defensible, and Internal and External Coherence:
      I make what I think is a very plausible and reasonable claim, namely, that if a person has some scant evidence for p, and no conclusive evidence for not-p, then she is entitled to belief in the live possibility that p. Do you disagree with this claim? Why? Also, how does this render the concept of rational defensibility “weak” or “uninteresting”? Why do you say that this concept has ‘practically no consequences for people other than the subject holding the belief?” For example, there may be some people in the world who have given up their religious practices because they have come to the conclusion that probably God does not exist. However, suppose these people would on reflection admit that there is some scant evidence for God’s existence, and no conclusive proof against it. My argument says that, despite their doubts, such people are entitled to believe in the live possibility that God exists, and such people might on reflection be persuaded by the pragmatic argument that the pursuit of a good relationship with God is worthwhile even in the face of their doubts. So, my argument would have ‘consequences’ for such people.

      Regarding Religious Pluralism:
      As I stated earlier, I am not a relativist about truth. I agree with Jonas that a certain kind of religious pluralism does suffer from self-stultification. For example, I would not endorse the claim that different religions are ‘true’ for different people. But I do believe that it is rationally defensible for different people to come to different conclusions about which religion if any they should practice. Because different people have different conceptions of God, the good relationship with God, and the religious way, they will naturally come to different conclusions about which religion they should adhere to. (Is this a boring or uninteresting fact? I don’t know, but I still think it’s true! ) Still, this does not entail the absurd proposition that all of these different religions are equally true or equally valid. Finally, my argument does not rule out the possibility that the day may yet come when one single religion will be shown to be more rationally defensible than any other. Or perhaps the day may come when one religion is shown to be rationally compelling.

    2. Dani Rabinowitz

      POSTED ON BEHALF OF JOSHUA GOLDING
      —————————————————————

      Thanks to Silvia Jonas for clarifying her objections! I have responded below.

      Regarding Qualitative superiority:
      God is conceived as qualitatively superior to any other being. Indeed, God is comparable (= can be compared) to other beings, but God is qualitatively superior. Roughly, this means that no amount of the goodness in all other things, even when combined and multiplied over and over again, equals the goodness of God. The difference in goodness is qualitative, not quantitative. Similarly, the religious person conceives of the relationship with God as “qualitatively better” than any other good. Roughly, X is a better good in kind than Y if and only if any (even small or tiny) amount of X is better than any (even large) amount of Y. I don’t see what the problem is here. Just because something is better in kind than another does not mean they are incomparable.

      Regarding Belief vs. Rational Commitment to Belief :
      The thing that needs to be “given” is that the person is pursuing the goal of having a good relationship with God. If a person is pursuing this goal, he is committed to the belief that there is a God, or at least, the belief that there is a live possibility that God exists.

      Commitment to Logical Consequences:
      I don’t see why it is my obligation to have a good answer to your question in order to defend any claim in my paper. (The question was, if God exists is a necessary truth, why don’t more people believe it?) Anyhow, perhaps God exists is a necessary truth but not a logical truth. Some philosophers make this distinction. Alternatively, even if it is a logical truth, that doesn’t mean it is obviously true. Many logical truths are so complicated that it takes a logician to tell that they are true!
      Jonas writes that ” what is paradoxical about material implication is of course not that contradictions imply all truths. The problem is that they imply all propositions, i.e. all truths and all falsehoods. So if, as Golding claims, a person is committed to the logical consequences of her beliefs, then believing in a contradiction commits her to any belief whatsoever. This I find quite unsettling.” My response is, why do you find it unsettling? It is only unsettling on your view, namely, that if a person is committed to a belief, then he must believe in some sense. It is not unsettling on my view, since, even if a person is committed to a belief, it is still possible that he does not believe it.

      Regarding ‘live possibility’, Rationally Compelling vs. Rationally Defensible, and Internal and External Coherence:
      I make what I think is a very plausible and reasonable claim, namely, that if a person has some scant evidence for p, and no conclusive evidence for not-p, then she is entitled to belief in the live possibility that p. Do you disagree with this claim? Why? Also, how does this render the concept of rational defensibility “weak” or “uninteresting”? Why do you say that this concept has ‘practically no consequences for people other than the subject holding the belief?” For example, there may be some people in the world who have given up their religious practices because they have come to the conclusion that probably God does not exist. However, suppose these people would on reflection admit that there is some scant evidence for God’s existence, and no conclusive proof against it. My argument says that, despite their doubts, such people are entitled to believe in the live possibility that God exists, and such people might on reflection be persuaded by the pragmatic argument that the pursuit of a good relationship with God is worthwhile even in the face of their doubts. So, my argument would have ‘consequences’ for such people.

      Regarding Religious Pluralism:
      As I stated earlier, I am not a relativist about truth. I agree with Jonas that a certain kind of religious pluralism does suffer from self-stultification. For example, I would not endorse the claim that different religions are ‘true’ for different people. But I do believe that it is rationally defensible for different people to come to different conclusions about which religion if any they should practice. Because different people have different conceptions of God, the good relationship with God, and the religious way, they will naturally come to different conclusions about which religion they should adhere to. (Is this a boring or uninteresting fact? I don’t know, but I still think it’s true! ) Still, this does not entail the absurd proposition that all of these different religions are equally true or equally valid. Finally, my argument does not rule out the possibility that the day may yet come when one single religion will be shown to be more rationally defensible than any other. Or perhaps the day may come when one religion is shown to be rationally compelling.

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    January 13, 2014
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