Tok Essay

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TOK ESSAY
8. Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of using faith as a basis for knowledge in religion and in one area of knowledge (ETHICS) from the ToK diagram.

Faith comes from the latin terms fides and its etymological meaning is related to trust, (to trust is “fideres” in Latin). Faith is an understanding, a confident belief in a person, idea or thing that can’t be proven that does not rest on logical arguments or evidence. Faith is frequently related to the action of believing firmly in the truth of revelation or religion. (1)

The concept of faith in the Catholic religion was theorized among others by St. Thomas Aquinas, who lived in Italy in the XIII century, and was not only a priest but also important philosopher who belong to scholasticism, a method of knowledge that imposed dialectical reasoning in medieval Universities. Aquinas thought that the two main sources of knowledge, revelation (faith) and reason, do not contradict each other and both lead to the truth.

Another important Catholic philosopher and Theologian, St. Augustine, who lived in Northern Africa between the years 354 and 430, had the opposite view and made a clear distinction between the natural and divine world in his City of God. This is, again, in opposition to Aquinas thought who made no sharp distinction between the natural and divine worlds, and thought that all of creation — natural and supernatural — and all truth, revealed (faith) or rational, emanated from God and therefore revelation does not contradict reason. (Source: Faith and Reason by Kenneth Shouler, Ph. D.) (3)

What St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine represent respectively is actually the two different points of view between philosophers and theologians. As Kenneth Shouler explains: “While philosophers based their conclusions on reason, theologians base their demonstrations upon the authority of revealed knowledge. Still, philosophy and theology are two separate and independent disciplines. Wherever faith is capable of knowing something, faith, strictly speaking is unnecessary. And what faith knows through revelation cannot be known by natural reason. Both philosophy and theology deal with God, but the philosopher can only infer that God exists and cannot by reflecting upon the objects of sensation understand God's essential nature. There is a connection between both disciplines, however, since they are both concerned with truth.” (http://www.netplaces.com/philosophy/late-medieval-thought-st-thomas-aquinas/faith-and-reason-2.htm) (3)

Ethics, is the science that studies, systematizes and defines concepts of right and wrong behaviour, and for many is. Ethics is a branch of philosophy sometimes known as “moral philosophy” (source: http://www.iep.utm.edu/ethics/). Religion, on the other hand was defined by Clifford Geertz, (Religion as a Cultural System, 1973), as collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.

Taking the above mentioned definitions into account and also the opposite points of view of “philosophers” and “theologians” (respectively represented by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine), we can infer that the teaching of catholic scholars (and thus, catholic religion) related to faith, varies subject to which of the two main school they are attached to. For St. Thomas and scholasticism faith and reason, as the two main sources of knowledge, need to be in now contradiction and therefore there is no hierarchical difference between one and the other, and if there is one, it is faith that will be submitted to dialectical reasoning as a method of knowledge. For St. Augustine and the theologians, put the authority of revelation in the first place as a source of knowledge, making a distinction between revelation and reason. (That does not mean, however, that they have to be in contradiction).

I am not sure whether there is a real conflict...
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