The Allegory of Belief
“It fortifies my soul to know
That, though I perish, Truth is so-”
- Arthur Hugh Clough
Arguments for spiritual and religious belief has been in occurrence for thousands of years. Some of the most predominant and convincing arguments are as follows; The Contingency Argument which argues that God is the best explanation for why anything exists opposed to nothing. The second, The Kalam Cosmological Argument which argues why God is the best explanation for the origin of the universe in the finite past. The third, The Design Argument which holds that God is the best explanation for the incredible fine tuning of the initial conditions within the universe and it’s components which allowed for intelligent life. The forth, The Moral Argument, that God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values and duties in the world. The fifth, the Ontological Argument, which argues the very possibility for God’s existence implies his actuality, therefore if God is even possible it follows that God exists. The final argument which I will continue discussing in depth is the action of personal experience for the containment of ultimate truths. One must be open to belief based on insufficient evidence and spiritual perception. In doing so, you attain the possibility to discover of ultimate truth and enlightenment.
In “The Ethics of belief”, William Kingdon Clifford defends the rigid principle that we are always obliged to have sufficient evidence for every one of our beliefs. “Belief is desecrated when given to unproven and unquestioned statements for the solace and private pleasure of the believer” (38 Brody). Clifford also argues that belief and actions go hand in hand. Where it is not always the belief that is wrong, but the action which follows it. “He who truly believes in that which prompts him to an action has looked upon the action to lust after it, he has committed it already in his heart.” (31 Brody). The “Ethics of Belief” was so stern that in “The Will to Believe”, William James characterizes Clifford as a “delicious enfant terrible”. In his work, James elaborates on how one must experience in order to attain a particular belief, and that refusing to embrace a unique opportunity will ultimately has the same outcome as if you had tried and failed. There are some truths that cannot be attained through sensory experience nor do we have the scientific knowledge to experiment with all wonders and unanswered questions in existence. So, in the mean time, what are we to do when it comes to our beliefs based on the aspects of life that cannot be “proven” as truth? Elements which have a plethora of sufficient evidence are the more simple truths. Are we to live life as Descartes and reject all things until proven true and should we believe that the quest for knowledge must be based upon universal doubt?
A prime example of how we should consider this paradox is with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Being one of Plato’s most well known works within The Republic, the outcome affiliates with why ultimate truth and enlightenment based on insufficient truth must be attempted and trialed. In the allegory, humans are chained to the walls of a cave of which they were born and know nothing other than. They have nothing to look at but shadows that dance across the wall that are provided by a puppeteer and a roaring fire. One human decides to leave the cave to embark upon the unknown outside world for the first time. The brightness of the sun blinded the human at first, questioning whether to return to the cave, the humans eyes finally adjusted and saw the world for the truths that it really is. The human was, for the first time, basking in the sun, soaking in clarity, and encompassed with ultimate truth and enlightenment.
None of which would have been achieved if the human exclusively put belief in that the cave was the only possible way of life. This cave was the only