Mieszko Talasiewicz delivers his talk 'Imagery in Science and Religion' for the 2015-2016 Humane Philosophy Project/Ian Ramsey Centre seminar at the Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford.
Mieszko Tałasiewicz is Director of the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw. He has been the Editor-in-Chief of 'Filozofia Nauki' Quarterly for almost fifteen years. His interests include philosophy of language, philosophy of science, logic, semiotics and philosophy of religion in all of which he has published widely in Polish and English. His book, Philosophy of Syntax Foundational Topics, is available from Springer publishing.
Abstract: The title of my talk is a bit too narrow. The analysis of mental images (be they of pictorial or conceptual character) evoked by certain scientific or – respectively – religious considerations will serve just as an illustration – or a case study – for a discussion of something more general and deeper, namely, the relation of reason and faith. I will look at such images in association with ideas and theories like the moral sense (Marc Hauser), the so called God gene (Dean Hammer), and the discoveries of Benjamin Libet on ‘free’ movement. I will attempt to show that some imagerial associations connected with these cases, and respectively also with religious beliefs, not only fail to adequately illustrate the content of the theories they represent, but turn out incoherent on closer inspection. The conclusion of the talk will lean towards the claim that theism and atheism as beliefs about the nature of the universe are equally distant from any sort of proper justification by reasoning, but that faith cannot be reduced to any sort of belief (although it induces beliefs). This conclusion does not fall far from what Cardinal Newman said in his Oxford University Sermons: “Faith is an instrument of knowledge and action, unknown to the world before, a principle sui generis, distinct from those which nature supplies, and independent of what is commonly understood by Reason”. I will also discuss some implications of this conclusion for the notion of the rationality of faith, the account of the relation between science and theology, and the problem of agnosticism.