On the Extents of Faith

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by Jeffrey Drake

We walk a path with deceit on the left and truth on the right. At the fork in the road, does one follow the swindler with a healing touch or the medic with a bandage? How can we choose between the two? We can choose to test each option, but we cannot test everything. The only option is to rely on someone else’s attestation.

How are we to choose what to take as truth?

In ancient Greece and Rome, a popular theory revolved around the supposed four ‘humors’. These were black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Physicians supposed that an imbalance in these humors caused disease. With the advances of modern medicine, we have discovered disease has far more complex and subtle causes.

Nearly any city is home to clinics catering to so-called ‘alternative’ medicine. A raft of homeopathic nostrums, needles and wobbling are sold daily to the ill of the world. These have similarities to humorism, in that a disease is felt to be the result of an imbalance.

We place primacy on personal experience. If we try a treatment, and we feel better, we assume it is because of the treatment. This is not irrational. Generations of experience have moulded our minds to seek effect after cause. We have faith in this instinct, because it works most of the time. Our faith, however, leads us to conclude that it always works.

It is on the matter of faith that this becomes important, because our personal experiences extend to the religious. Believers can be swept away in religious ecstasy when they experience faith healing, speaking in tongues, crucifixion, and use of entheogens. Care must be taken when interpreting these events, because they alter the mind. It is for this reason that it is important to be flexible enough to accept new ideas, but not be so wobbly that we can’t reject the absurd.


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One response »

  1. A lot of interesting ideas there. Some of them sound like Soren Kierkegaard’s book Fear and Trembling, which basically argues that we’re all forced to make choices without having much knowledge about what the right or wrong choice is until after we make them. The last few lines reminded me of the famous quote, “Keep an open mind –but not so open that your brain falls out.”

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