Christian Re enchantment VIII, Hiding behind “I believe”

My exploration of how to re-enchant the world so that the Christian narrative accurately describes reality is progressively exposing to me weakness in my faith. There is a building resistance to letting myself be a participant in reality so described. I fear that being a participant in a Christian reality with its miracles and entities beyond the scope of natural science is a much stronger faith than mine. I am convinced that a Christian description of reality is consistent with natural science and that there are good reasons for accepting that such a description tells the truth about reality. Nonetheless, my Christian faith is holding a theory about reality rather than living in a Christian reality.

This post touches on some topics much discussed by professional philosophers. I do not cite the professional literature because what I write is rather elementary and contributes nothing to the professional literature. I am always glad, though, to discover how useful the apparently verbal issues of professional academic philosophy are to clarifying, to me at least, fundamental issues of existential concern.

In this post I draw implications about the weakness of my faith from my preference for expressing my faith with indirect discourse statements of the form of [I believe that P,] where P is some direct discourse statement about a religiously significant reality such as “Jesus rose from the dead” or “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.”

In the previous post, I alluded to how an indirect discourse statement such as “I know that I love you” is emotionally weaker than the direct discourse statement “I love you.” What makes indirect discourse weaker? With indirect discourse you talk directly about what you think and indirectly about that to which your thought refers. So, with “I know that I love you” you talk about your thought of loving and the person referred to with the pronoun “you”. With the direct discourse “I love you” you talk of yourself in relation to the person you love. Talking directly of your thought of love instead of the beloved weakens the declaration of love. Why say that indirect discourse is about thoughts?

Let me use some terminology which would need more precise definition if this were a professional philosophical discussion. What our words stand for are their extensions Thus me and to whomever I declared my love are the extensions of “I” and “you” respectively. The meaning of our terms, what we think when using them, especially full sentences are the intension of terms. Thus the thought of my loving that person to whom I declare my love is the intension of “I love you.”

The object of an indirect discourse statement is an intension in which terms stand for extensions. So intensions are different from the extensions which usually are our primary concern.

There are a wide variety of indirect discourse statements using terms such as “know,” “believe,” “hope,” “wonder,” etc.,. I focus on “believe.” These terms are often called “propositional attitudes” because they say how someone thinks about a proposition which I have here called intensions

Why say that the indirect discourse statement “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead” is about the intension of the sentence “Jesus rose from the dead” instead of Jesus and his rising from the dead?

Here’s where we touch on a topic much discussed by professional philosophers. I adopt an argument style frequently used by professional philosophers.

Assume that it is a fact that Jesus is a man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim.

Consider the following argument where the conclusion validly follows from the two premises.

1] “Jesus rose from the dead” is true..
2] Jesus = the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim.
3] “The man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim rose from the dead” is true..

The conclusion follows because, when we are referring to extensions, equals may be substituted for one another without changing the truth value of claims into which they are substituted. This is because when we are talking about the extra mental facts the terms used to pick out the components of those facts don’t change the facts.

Now consider this next argument where substitution of equals fails. The argument is invalid.

(1) “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead” is true
(2) Jesus = the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim.
(3) “I believe that the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim rose from the dead” is true.

It may be a fact that I believe that Jesus rose from the dead while I do not believe that the man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim rose from the dead. I may not believe anything about a man whose maternal grandfather is Joachim because I may never have thought about who Jesus’ maternal grandparents were.

Substitution of coreferential terms fails when we substitute such terms in the propositions or intensions in indirect discourse statements; or, in the sentences after propositional attitudes. This is because what is thought about in indirect discourse claims are something which depends upon how we think about it. Something which depends upon how we think about it, certainly is not something which exists independently of our thinking. It is reasonable to classify such things as mental.

A reason professional philosophers find propositional attitudes so problematic is that it seems that science, let alone ordinary thinking cannot be carried on without use of some propositional attitudes. We need to think critically. Critical thinking requires attention to what we believe. So the careful thought of science requires attention to something mental, viz. our beliefs. Yet the mental is not subject to full treatment by natural science. So those who hold the ideology of scientism would like somehow to avoid any use of indirect discourse. (Scientism is an ideology which holds that there is nothing but what can be explained by natural science.)

I am not upset that use of indirect discourse leads me to accept a realm of mental events not fully explained by natural science. I do not hold scientism. I am only disturbed by the fact that use of indirect discourse, in particular by use of the propositional attitude [I believe that P], enables me to express completely my Catholic faith without directly encountering the beings, events and processes about which I have beliefs. I do not speak directly of them. I fear that I am afraid to speak directly of them. Do I unconsciously accept scientism?
My book on sexual morality requires no narrative about enchanted realities other than the everyday one about our thoughts and feeling. But the traditional sexual morality I justify on purely secular grounds receives more motivation if placed in a Judeo-Christian framework.

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.

To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
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