Bricks and Mortar: Your Mind

Bricks and Mortar

(Reason and Faith)

In the year 1637, René Descartes wrote the famous phrase “Cogito ergo sum”  or in English “I think, therefore I am.” (French: Je pense, donc je suis), found in part IV of his Discourse on the Method. This phrase in turn has helped earn him the title of the “Father of Modern Philosophy”. Now even though this statement opens the doors to a hyper skepticism, it is not a new thought. The ancient sophists were among the first to question all of reality, including that of the philosopher Gorgias, who seems to have argued that there is nothing and even if there was something nothing can be known of it. However, to begin thinking like this, on the matrix and the post modern era, one might agree that this type of hyper skepticism leads to a paralysis. A prison of solipsism. In this egocentric predicament, all logic and reason is stopped, because nothing more can be known. Still, logic and reason have and do progress, despite some people arguing only the self exists, and this can be attributed to the fighting team of faith and reason.
(Side note: “I think therefore, I am ” is in itself illogical. It takes the fallacy of Self-Referential Incoherence, how can one think without first being? We are therefore we think. Only God can think and therefore be, be the infinite, eternal, omni-present.)
It was the philosopher David Hume who said that “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions” (A Treatise of Human Nature) which can be explained in a metaphor saying that our axiomatic roots are in the soil of personal and emotive faith and the flower of reason grows from that soil (A Private Conversation). In other words all men have to start somewhere to arrive anywhere.
In searching for a balance, a perfect starting point in which all men travel down their journey of conscious life, it seems to most likely begin with the self (Cogito ergo sum). However, the next step must be in turn be a belief of some kind, otherwise one will
be trapped in the dungeon of only self existence as stated before. Now this next step, this belief, is often our natural belief in our senses. However, this is a belief nonetheless. This claim that a human being has hands, eyes or feet, that one can smell or taste is not a rational claim from speculation. It is actually a belief, and that is because all speculation comes from the senses making them incapable of sensing themselves. This trust in your senses, it is a belief. There is no objective way to prove through reason that a man is not living his life in something comparable to the 1999 film, the Matrix.
However, just because a man cannot know something through reason with one-hundred percent certainty, this certainly does not mean humans cannot still reason and progress with the use of both faith and reason. As Blessed Pope John Paul II said “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” (Fides et Ratio).
Now, the metaphor one might like to use to fully understand this harmony of faith and reason is that of a wall. In masonry, when building a brick wall, both bricks and mortar must be used (Tuckpointing / Repointing Masonry Walls). If the wall were made entirely out of bricks it could easily collapse, and even more so if one tried to make an entire wall out of mortar. In this one can say both must be together in harmony, the same way as faith and reason must be in harmony. 
Mankind begins with the knowledge of the self and the selfs existence, “Cogito ergo sum”, and from this first “brick” man chooses to make the leap of faith and lays down the mortar (after man lays enough bricks, he can look back and see that the first brick of self existence thinking “Cogito ergo sum” rests on the steady ground self existence itself “I am, therefore I think”) . This leap of faith is the act of believing in or accepting something intangible or unprovable, or without empirical evidence. A concept given to mankind by the philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard. However, he himself did not use the term, as he called the leap of faith, a leap to faith. In his book Concluding Unscientific Postscript, he characterizes the heart of the leap of faith, the leap. He has said “Thinking can turn toward itself in order to think about itself and skepticism can emerge. But this thinking about itself never accomplishes anything.” This is Kierkegaard addressing, once again, that one does not want to be trapped in the prison of solipsism, agnosticism or the prison of neutrality; being paralyzed and never moving forward.
In addition, it is just as important to keep in mind that taking a reckless leap of faith is not good either. In this one can get lost in a sea or web of untruths and lies. The famous saying tells mankind “You cannot always believe what you read.” This stands true, as bias and agendas roam this earth. One of the best examples of this may be the infamous website titled “Martin Luther King, Jr.: A True Historical Examination” (http://www.martinlutherking.org/). On this site is an abundance of hateful and slanderous actions that are claimed to have been performed by Mr. King. However, when one does a little research one finds that the site is operated by Stormfront, a community of White Nationalists (http://www.stormfront.org/forum/).
Now even despite the lies of this world one must continue to think and take leaps of faith. Mankind does not want to be trapped in solipsism nor the web of treacherous lies. This is finding the balance between keeping an “open mind” and “closed mind”. If man has a 100% open mind, any person can put anything in it, truths and falsehood alike; yet the other extreme is having a purely closed mind and never leaving your prison of solipsism. However, how then does one know what to place their faith in if nothing is certain. How does one know where one can close their mind and not just close it, close it on the truth.
The answer is that of using the same method that scientist and historians use to conclude on the universal facts in their realm of expertise. It is a balance of reasoning and odds that can let one know where to place one’s faith, other than this there would be no motion in thought. It is the most productive and prudent way of making conclusions.
A good example of this would be the argument for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the early first century. The Gospel of Basilides objected to the reality of the passion saying that there was no suffering of Jesus Christ leading up to and including the crucifixion. It in turn works with the Islamic belief that Jesus was never crucified as stated in the Qur’an, “And because of their memesaying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.” (Sura 4 Verse 157). However in contrast to this claim, there are many works that say Christ was crucified. For example, all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in the Bible claim that Jesus Christ was crucified. In addition, the story of the Crucifixion is backed by the historians Josephus and Tacitus. This and the abundance of claims saying that the crucifixion did occur is contrasted to the claims that it did not. In addition to the reliability of the sources saying it occurred versus the reliability of the opposers is also contrasted. Historians then use this information to say it is safe to say that Jesus Christ lived and was crucified.
Now the question is, “is there a chance Christ was not crucified” and the answer is of course there is a chance. However, with what one can know using tiny leaps of faith along the way one can believe. It is with these tiny leaps of faith that mankind can build their wall of faith and reason. It is with this that humanity does not have to be trapped either in a web of lies or paralysis of solipsism. In Aristotle’s model of virtue, in which he uses it to find the golden mean between two vices, mankind can use this in order to find the mean between the two vices of hyper skepticism and gullibility, full open mind and a never open mind. This golden mean is that of the two wings Faith and Reason, Brick and Mortar.
The supreme function of reason is to show man that some things are beyond reason.
-Blaise Pascal
*** Leave some comments below and like the article if you, well, like the article. Suggestions for more topics would be great.
God Bless,
Dominic
Wow so you read that entire thing? Here is an interesting video as your reward!

Works Cited
  • Descartes, René, Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane, G. R. T. Ross, David Eugene Smith, William Hale White, Marcia L. Latham, Amelia Hutchison Stirling, René Descartes, René Descartes, René Descartes, and Benedictus De Spinoza. Rules for the Direction of the Mind. Discourse on the Method. Meditations on First Philosophy. Objections against the Meditations and Replies. The Geometry. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1955. Print.
  • Eddy, Paul R., and Gregory A. Boyd. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007. Print.
  • Ganeri, Anita. The Quran. London: Evans, 2002. Print.
  • Grant, Robert M. Gnosticism; a Source Book of Heretical Writings from the Early Christian Period. New York: Harper, 1961. Print.
  • Habermas, Gary R., and Gary R. Habermas. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin, MO: College Pub., 1996. Print.
  • Hannay, Alastair, and Gordon Daniel Marino. The Cambridge Companion to Kierkegaard. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.
  • The Holy Bible: Translated from the Latin Vulgate : Diligently Compared with the Hebrew, Greek, and Other Editions in Divers Languages : With Annotations, References, and an Historical and Chronological Index : The Whole Revised and Diligently Compared with the Latin Vulagte. Rockford, IL: Tan and Pub., 1971. Print.
  • Hume, David, and L. A. Selby-Bigge. A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume. Oxford: Clarendon, 1897. Print.
  • John, Paul. Encyclical Letter, Fides Et Ratio, of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II: To the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Relationship between Faith and Reason. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1998. Print.
  • Kierkegaard, Søren, David F. Swenson, and Walter Lowrie. Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript;. Princeton: Princeton UP, for American Scandinavian Foundation, 1941. Print.
  • Long, Zachary. “A Private Conversation.” 2013 Conversation. Springfield, Virginia. 16 Apr. 2013. Conversation.
  • The Matrix. Prod. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. By Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. 1999.
  • Russell, Bertrand. A History of Western Philosophy. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1972. Print.
  • “Tuckpointing / Repointing Masonry Walls.” Tuckpointing / Repointing Masonry Walls. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.
  • Van, Voorst Robert E. Jesus outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2000. Print.meme
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2 comments

  1. John Henderson · · Reply

    Excellent article. In a philosophy of religion class I was in once, the Dominican priest started the whole thing with that very same quite from JP II. I can assure you the rest of the class was excellent.
    My only comment is on the following excerpt. “This trust in your senses, it is a belief. There is no objective way to prove that a man is not living his life in something comparable to the 1999 film, the Matrix.
    However, just because a man cannot know something with one-hundred percent, this certainty does not mean humans cannot still reason and progress with the use of both faith and reason.” When phrased this way, one is given the impression that empirical knowledge is the only way of knowing something with 100% certainty. I would say that you can know something 100% through faith as well, just not in the same way you know something 100% through a rational deduction using empirical data.
    Think of the quote from Hebrews:”Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is not a wager, or just a really good guess. It is a sense, and just like one of our five physical senses, it (as the video says) brings the outside in, but in an even more substatial way, considering that, through it, the person of Jesus Christ is REALLY made present in the one who has faith.
    I think this minor distinction better illustrates the parallel nature of faith and reason (which this article so excellently affirms). They work together simultaneously as wings, not successively like steps in a proof.

    1. I understand what you are saying and thank you for the comment. I believe I found myself caught in the middle of that quote from St. Paul to the Hebrews and Pascal’s Wager. However, regardless that is a good clarification to make. Once a leap of Faith is made there is no turning back, the odds must be weighed, but after that leap you have entered the realm of knowledge. Faith together with Reason – simultaneously- things are a made known.

      The only reason I lean so close to the wager side of presenting faith is because many, many, many times faith is placed in falsehoods, just look at every other religion that is not Catholic. Some of the Truth is there, but faith is then placed in falsehoods and this is why I think I lean toward presenting wager.

      I hope you keep in touch and would love to read more comments/posts from you.

      IN Christ,
      Dominic

      Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.”

      Pascal’s Wager

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