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There is a story about a certain cardinal du Perron, who lived in France during the seventeenth century AD. Once his majesty the king invited the good cardinal to his own table during a formal dinner. Ever anxious to entertain the king, du Perron started to present logical arguments against atheism, based on his own arguments, which proved the existence of God. The king was pleased with the cardinal's speech and gave it much praise.

Flustered - and probably more than a little giddy - du Perron got carried away and said: "Tomorrow, if it please your majesty, I should like to prove with equally good arguments that there is no God." The king got wroth, the cardinal was thrown out of the palace and logic was officially banned in the realm.

Ok, maybe I made some of it up. There really was cardinal du Perron though, and he seems to have been a fideist.

Cardinal du Perron of the story didn't think that he could have accurate information about the existence of God. Arguments on both sides were simply all valid. Thus, human understanding is too weak to solve such a question.

However, according to our cardinal, faith should not need logical arguments to exist. If a Christian truly believes in God, no argument can - or should - shatter that faith. Obviously the king wasn't so well versed in matters of philosophy. The King did not think it possible that a Christian could amuse himself by trying to prove scientifically that there is no God. For the cardinal, however, there was no clash.

Du Perron's way of understanding true Christianity is called fideism (from Greek fides, 'faith'). He thought that faith and knowledge are separate entities and do not necessarily have to have anything to do with each other. Matters of personal belief should not be appraised by rational means. During the twentieth century, this view of faith and information has been shared by many Christian philosopher, the most famous of them being Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Fideism is faithism, a reliance upon faith - absent of reason or logic. It's an epistemological theory which maintains faith is independent of reason. Example: The classic belief that there is a God, based on faith, not on logical reasoning. Religious arguments are more appealing when phrased in fideism because it deals away with skepticism in such a manner that one could be called a heretic for divulging a logical discrepancy.

Besides the powerful French Catholic bishop mentioned by rahmat as Cardinal du Perron, there was another erudite who spent most of his entire life reading. Pierre Baye, a French-speaking Protestant erudite, philosopher, and theologian, was exiled in Holland. Both of our scholars believed that any event can have an infinity of possible causes. What I would dub the anti-thesis to fideism. (There can only be one cause, God planned it.)

You cannot prove or disprove God exists with reason according to fideism. You can choose to believe or disbelieve that there is a God. The Black Swan contends that human reason is debunk. The turkey that is fed by its master for 1,000 days can never use its past experience to actually predict what will happen come that Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It will be slaughtered by the same hand that fed it for nearly 3 years. Human reason does not account for Black Swans, the impact of the highly improbable. It is not a stretch to say that we are all fideists, because we all believe, without certainty, that the next day will bring similar events to our past experience. We cannot predict with certainty when an earthquake will hit and change our lives forever.

However, those labeled fideists do not self proclaim themselves in such a manner. It's actually a derogatory term used by opponents of a fideist. Support of fideism is most commonly ascribed to four philosophers: Pascal, Kierkegaard, William James, and Wittgenstein.

"Plantinga writes, a fideist is someone who 'urges reliance on faith rather than reason, in matters philosophical and religious'." (Standford) You should not use this framework in say economics. But tying that into the Black Swan, that's exactly what Taleb says we do. That's why we're so blind to predict stock market crashes, or unforseen events that dramatically redirect the course of history.

"In contrast to the more rationalistic tradition of natural theology, with its arguments for the existence of God" (Standford) fideism is the only framework that does not allow for the existence of reason, ie standard arguments of Gods existence. Even the Catholic Church contends there are logical reasons that prove Gods existence.


Sources: The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fideism
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fideism/

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