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Faith and Doubt: Emotion’s Place in Epistemology

By Daniela Ortiz, V Form

Faith and Doubt: Emotion’s Place in Epistemology

 In this paper, I will argue that faith is comprised of knowing God without certainty. I will argue that this kind of faith does more good in the world than absolute certainty in God. People of faith must face doubt to strengthen belief. Although this seems paradoxical, the outcome of continuously facing doubt is a stronger commitment to looking beyond one’s self and following through on a commitment to treat all other people with respect. 

Can we know God? Let us first define knowing. 

Knowing is split into two categories- the logical knowing and emotional knowing. Logical knowing is what is certain and can be derived from the senses. In this, I agree with Hume. Knowledge of this kind is about the physical world around us and is known through data of the empirical kind such as our sensory information. There are limitations to what our senses can have us knowing. If a person’s senses deceived them, for example, by seeing a fake oasis in a desert, then this knowing may be faulty. But a singular type of incident should not be taken to alter the whole principle that logical knowing is defined by what we can perceive and what we can think. Also, logical knowing is similar to the way mathematics is used to model occurrences in the world. The use of logic conduces one answer. When there is only one answer, we shall call this certainty. When there are multiple answers, uncertainty begins. The category of emotional knowing often resides with uncertainty because our emotions are hard to maintain a grasp on long enough for one answer and train of thought to be maintained from the impression of the emotion. In section 2, paragraph 12, Hume makes a clear distinction between our thoughts and our impressions. Ideas are limited only to what we can expand upon from our sensory information, or from our desires and feelings. The argument here is sound. In paragraph 14, Hume explains that every thought we have is copied from a similar, earlier impression. Emotions may be short-lived, but they are more vivid, and all of our ideas about the world are formed from them (Hume 2). To bring it to a point: although emotions are fleeting, the emotional knowing should not be discounted as our impressions are stronger and more vivid than the ideas they will eventually inform.