Chapter

Believing Animals

Christian Smith

in Moral, Believing Animals

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780195162028
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849673 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195162028.003.0003
Believing Animals

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This chapter tries to explain that all human persons, no matter how well educated, how scientific, how knowledgeable, are, at bottom, believers. We are all necessarily trusting, believing animals, creatures who must and do place our faith in beliefs that cannot themselves be verified except by means established by the presumed beliefs themselves. Western thinkers have tried to identify a universal and certain foundation for human knowledge. Various movements within the 18th- and 19th-century “Enlightenment” in particular sought to specify an authoritative foundation of knowledge not based on the revelation, faith, and tradition of Christianity. This chapter seeks to identify a strong foundation for knowledge that would be secular, universal, and indubitable. One way to understand philosophical epistemology since Descartes is as a story of repeated unsuccessful attempts to identify this kind of foundation of human knowledge. As a consequence, there has emerged in recent decades a tendency that views this epistemological project itself as fatally flawed.

Keywords: human knowledge; Enlightenment; Descartes; epistemological project; tradition

Chapter.  6356 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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