To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
It is widely held that we can obtain beliefs and withhold believing propositions directly by performing an act of will. This thesis is sometimes identified with the view that believing is a basic act, an act which is under our direct control. Descartes holds that the will is limitless in relation to belief acquisition and that we must be directly responsible for our beliefs, especially our false beliefs, for otherwise we could draw the blasphemous conclusion that God is responsible for them. For Descartes and his followers judgment and assent are acts of the will which may be made both when they ought and when they ought not to be made. They are expressions of freedom of the will and as such we are directly responsible for the beliefs we acquire. Other philosophers who seem to espouse volitionalism include Aquinas, Locke, Kierkegaard, Newman, James, Pieper, Chisholm and Meiland.
In debate on faith and reason two opposing positions have dominated the field. The first position asserts that faith and reason are commensurable and the second position denies that assertion. Those holding to the first position differ among themselves as to the extent of the compatibility between faith and reason, most adherents relegating the compatibility to the ‘preambles of faith’ (e.g. the existence of God and his nature) over against the ‘articles of faith’ (e.g. the doctrine of the incarnation). Few have maintained complete harmony between reason and faith, i.e. a religious belief within the realm of reason alone. The second position divides into two sub-positions: (1) that which asserts that faith is opposed to reason (which includes such unlikely bedfellows as Hume and Kierkegaard), placing faith in the area of irrationality; and (2) that which asserts that faith is higher than reason, is transrational. Calvin and Barth assert that a natural theology is inappropriate because it seeks to meet unbelief on its own ground (ordinary human reason). Revelation, however, is ‘self-authenticating’, ‘carrying with it its own evidence’.1 We may call this position the ‘transrationalist’ view of faith. Faith is not so much against reason as above it and beyond its proper domain. Actually, Kierkegaard shows that the two sub-positions are compatible. He holds both that faith is above reason (superior to it) and against reason (because reason has been affected by sin). The irrationalist and transrationalist positions are sometimes hard to separate in the incommensurabilist's arguments. At least, it seems that faith gets such a high value that reason comes off looking not simply inadequate but culpable. To use reason where faith claims the field is not only inappropriate but irreverent or faithless.
It is a widely held belief that one can will to believe, disbelieve, and withhold belief concerning propositions. It is sometimes said that we have a duty to believe certain propositions. These theses have had a long and respected history. In one form or another they receive the support of a large number of philosophers and theologians who have written on the relationship of the will to believing. In the New Testament Jesus holds his disciples responsible for their beliefs, reprimands them for doubting, and speaks of the ability to believe as if it were optional. Paul makes it clear that he thinks propositional belief is a necessary condition for salvation. If a man confesses Christ as Lord with his lips and believes in his heart that God has raised him from the dead, he shall be saved (Romans 10: 9f.). The writer of Hebrews implies that unless we have certain propositional beliefs we cannot please God (Heb. II: 6). In the New Testament most cases of pistis (belief, faith) involve more than a propositional attitude. They involve the idea of trust and faithfulness. Nevertheless, a prima facie case for saying that the volitional theses can be found in the New Testament can be made. Forms of volitionalism can be found stated more explicitly in the writings of the early Church, in the writings of Irenaeus, in the Athanasian Creed, and in Augustine. Acquinas describes faith as an act of the intellect moved by the will. Descartes is perhaps the classic example of a volitionalist, holding that if we were not responsible for our beliefs (especially our false beliefs), then God would be - which is tantamount to blasphemy in that it makes God into a deceiver.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.