Tim Keller on Strong Rationalism

“Strong rationalism assumes that it is possible to achieve ‘the view from nowhere,’ a position of almost complete objectivity, but virtually all philosophers today agree that is impossible. We come to every individual evaluation with all sorts of experiences and background beliefs that strongly influence our thinking and the way our reason works. It is not fair, then, to demand an argument that all rational people would have to bow to…Atheists and agnostics ask for this kind of ‘proof’ for God, but are not alone in holding to strong rationalism. Many Christians claim that their arguments for faith are so strong that all who reject them are simply closing their minds to the truth out of fear or stubbornness.”
–Tim Keller, The Reason For God pg.118

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2 comments

  1. There is a category error here, between moral, subjective issues, and objective, scientific issues. Strong rationalism means that the scientific corpus has indeed achieved the “view from nowhere”, in the shape of exhaustively verified facts and theories that have universal validity. One’s nationality or religion do not change one’s understanding of, say, quantum physics.

    This argument is about god, and whether god exists. The bare hypothesis is a scientific one, and as such lacks evidence. The proofs are absent, and continue to be more absent the more skeptically we look at nature and history. But if you ask whether religion is “wrong” in some more subjective or artistic sense, then there is no rational answer, since here you ask not a scientific question relevant to strong rationalism, but a subjective one of what works for a particular person- what serves to express their feelings about the world and their meaning in it.

    Anyhow, to the canard that follows in the book’s text, that one can not empirically prove that one should only believe that which has empirical proof, there is a simple answer. The unspoken issue is what form of truth one is interested in. If it is personal subjective proof, or something equally soft, then no- the statement makes no sense and can not be proven. On the other hand, if by truth you mean correspondence with reality, which is the typical measure in science and certainly relevant to the question of whether god “exists”, then the claim of needing empirical evidence (from reality) to confirm an empirical truth is nothing short of axiomatic.

    I found this book to be eloquent, dogmatic, and intellectually very light-weight.

    Best wishes!

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