Know How and Acts of Faith

In Matthew A. Benton, John Hawthorne & Dani Rabinowitz (eds.), Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 246-263 (2018)
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Abstract
My topic in this paper is the nature of faith. Much of the discussion concerning the nature of faith proceeds by focussing on the relationship between faith and belief. In this paper, I explore a different approach. I suggest that we approach the question of what faith involves by focussing on the relationship between faith and action. When we have faith, we generally manifest it in how we act; we perform acts of faith: we share our secrets, rely on other’s judgment, refrain from going through our partner’s emails, let our children prepare for an important exam without our interference. Religious faith, too is manifested in acts of faith: attending worship, singing the liturgy, fasting, embarking on a pilgrimage. I argue that approaching faith by way of acts of faith, reveals that faith is a complex mental state whose elements go beyond doxastic states towards particular propositions. It also involves conative states and – perhaps more surprisingly – know how. This has consequences for the epistemology of faith: the role of testimony and experts, the importance of practices, and what we should make of Pascal’s advice for how to acquire faith.
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