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Buchak, Lara, , . Can it be Rational to Have Faith?
2012, in Jake Chandler & Victoria Harrison (eds.) Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press: 225-247.
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Abstract: This paper provides an account of what it is to have faith in a proposition p, in both religious and mundane contexts. It is argued that faith in p doesn’t require adopting a degree of belief that isn’t supported by one’s evidence but rather it requires terminating one’s search for further evidence and acting on the supposition that p. It is then shown, by responding to a formal result due to I.J. Good, that doing so can be rational in a number of circumstances. If expected utility theory is the correct account of practical rationality, then having faith can be both epistemically and practically rational if the costs associated with gathering further evidence or postponing the decision are high. If a more permissive framework is adopted, then having faith can be rational even when there are no costs associated with gathering further evidence

Comment: A great paper for an intermediate philosophy of religion course, especially because many arguments from students are to the contrary: it’s irrational to believe in God when we don’t have satisfactory evidence. It could be nice to set up a debate centering around this paper. It could work particularly well towards the end of the course.

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Buchak, Lara, , . Rational Faith and Justified Belief
2014, in Laura Frances Callahan & Timothy O’Connor (eds.) Reigious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. Oxford University Press: 49-73.
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Abstract: In ‘Can it be rational to have faith?’, it was argued that to have faith in some proposition consists, roughly speaking, in stopping one’s search for evidence and committing to act on that proposition without further evidence. That paper also outlined when and why stopping the search for evidence and acting is rationally required. Because the framework of that paper was that of formal decision theory, it primarily considered the relationship between faith and degrees of belief, rather than between faith and belief full stop. This paper explores the relationship between rational faith and justified belief, by considering four prominent proposals about the relationship between belief and degrees of belief, and by examining what follows about faith and belief according to each of these proposals. It is argued that we cannot reach consensus concerning the relationship between faith and belief at present because of the more general epistemological lack of consensus over how belief relates to rationality: in particular, over how belief relates to the degrees of belief it is rational to have given one’s evidence.

Comment: This could be a great paper to set for further reading, with Buchak’s ‘Can it be Rational to Have Faith?’ as a primary reading. If being discussed as a primary reading, it would be good to get very clear on Buchak’s four candidates for the relationship between belief and degrees of belief: perhaps by splitting the room into four groups, and getting each group to discuss one proposal – as well as what follows about the relationship between faith and belief according to that proposal.

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