In Defense of Secular Belief

Yuval Avnur

in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Volume 4

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199656417
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191742163 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Volume 4

In Defense of Secular Belief

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This chapter discusses the idea that, even if there is no evidence or argument in favour of belief in the external world or religious belief, there is a pragmatic justification for believing in the external world but not for religious belief. It turns out that, ultimately, this pragmatic approach is not satisfying. However, as Austin (1956) famously noted, justifications have had more than their fair share in philosophy. Accordingly, alternative strategies are considered that appeal to a defence — which need not necessarily involve a justification — of our belief in the external world. This chapter considers a defence that appeals to an exemption. The various versions of this strategy, including Strawson's attempt on behalf of Hume and Wittgenstein, are not entirely satisfying. It then considers excuses that are not pleas for exemption. It offers a Hume-inspired, ‘natural’ excuse for our belief in the external world. This excuse constitutes a much better defence of our belief in the external world than any similar excuse for religious belief, so the secular criticism of religious belief is cleared of inconsistency. This solution is independent of any appeal to epistemic justification.

Keywords: religious belief; secular inconsistency; secular criticism; external world; pragmatic justification; Austin; Hume; Strawson

Chapter.  10464 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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