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Forum Philosophicum

Volume 17, Issue 2, Autumn 2012

Dale Jacquette
Pages 141-173
DOI: 10.5840/forphil201217211

Faith as a Mustard Seed

This investigation of the concept of faith is divided into two parts. Part One evaluates a topical philosophical interpretation of faith as irreducibly disjunctive, collecting the best fragmented ideas as to what constitutes faith in a recent family resemblance exposition as an objective for an adequate essentialist analysis of the concept of faith to achieve. Part Two offers a more extended essentialist analysis of the concept of faith as unconditional patience in the eventuality of a positive future state, and a detailed reduction of six supposedly disparate family resemblance senses of faith to this single definition. Criteria for a satisfactory analysis of faithfulness are considered and defended. In contrast with what has become a standard doxastic-epistemic interpretation of faith as persistent unjustified or even unjustifiable belief, a concept of faith is advanced that appears to satisfy the necessary and sufficient criteria identified. Systematic comparison with a variety of usages of the word “faith” suggests that the analysis agrees with many and arguably most applications of this sometimes loosely understood term. Implications of the analysis of the concept of faith are considered and defended against anticipated objections. Pascal’s wager is critically examined in relation to matters of religious faith, along with positivist meaningfulness requirements that seem to conflict especially with epistemically ungrounded belief, the power of faith, and the metaphorical size of mustard seeds. The inquiry concludes with a synthesis of five aspects of six supposedly distinct senses of faith under the single essentialist reductive umbrella of unconditional patience in the eventuality of a positive future state.