Newman makes a crucial distinction between "notional assent" and "real assent." To determine a belief using your philosophical head alone is to give notional assent. But when it comes to religious questions, that's an inadequate way to proceed because it engages only the rational part. Real assent requires more, Newman argues. It's a convergence of the full assortment of evidences and experiences we have – rational, emotional, observational, cultural. Each, in themselves, may not be wholly compelling. But added together, they support a belief that powerfully rings true. Newman likens it to a cable: a single strand is easily broken. But wound together, strands form a cable that is strong. So, real assent implies that God is not a hypothesis.Mark calls himself an agnostic, but his agnosticism -- which seems to me more the practice of apophasis -- is but one strand in his "cable of belief." What would he call himself in terms of the entire cable and not just that one strand, I wonder?
Monday, November 29, 2010
James and Newman ...
... and more: William James, part 7: Agnosticism and the will to believe.