Secondhand Know-it-Alls and Third-Rate Believers
I began to wonder: what is the point of asking questions to someone who is intrinsically hostile to truth? Or in other words, who is an inveterate liar? Even if such an individual says something that happens to be true, he doesn't say it because it is true, so he's really no help at all.
You can never trust such an individual, so you still have to find out for yourself. You can never have faith in a known liar. Imagine Hillary Clinton asking Bill if he's been faithful. Who cares what he says? If you do care, then you're more defective than he is.
Of course, you can learn a lot second hand, so long as you have faith in the source. So much of what we "know" isn't actually known by us. For example, the typical believer in manmade global warming will exhaust his fund of knowledge of the subject within an awkward sentence or two.
Which again is fine, so long as the source is trustworthy and has genuine, and not just legalistic or conventional, authority -- so long as you get your information from the horse's mouth and not the horse's ass.
Speaking of the antiGore, the always clear and trustworthy Pieper writes of the classic distinctions between knowing, believing, supposing, and doubting. It is very easy to explain how and why one knows something, and equally easy to explain why one doubts. Belief is trickier, to such an extent that it probably isn't possible to render a full account of why one believes this or that. (We'll leave supposition to the side for the moment.)
For example, there may be characterological factors that go a long way toward determining innate preferences. A person with highly developed intuition obviously relies upon unconscious and supraconscious -- i.e., vertical -- faculties that cannot disclose their reasoning in a cutandry manner. It hardly means that intuition has no genuine object of knowledge.
Think of the doctrine of materialism, which no one can defend on any logical basis. And yet, there are people who believe it. Indeed, since their impoverished metaphysic banishes any faculties higher than raw perception, they will naively insist they have arrived at their belief through logic and fact, not just untutored feeling.
As such, these pretentious yahoos pretend that their belief is actually knowledge. But it is not knowledge and cannot be knowledge, on pain of self-refutation. Indeed, there is no "fact" called the cosmos, and if there were, you couldn't be separate from it, and therefore qualified to pass judgment on it. Even to say cosmos is to say transcendent order.
Importantly, "a fact which everyone knows because it is obvious can no more be the subject of belief than a fact which no one knows -- and whose existence, therefore, no one can vouch for. Belief cannot establish its own legitimacy; it can only derive its legitimacy from someone who knows the subject matter of his own accord" (Pieper).
In addition to the above four forms (knowing, believing, supposing, and doubting), there is also disbelief. This comes into play when a person has earned a total lack of faith in his ability or desire to tell the truth. Since 2008 I have considered Obama to be such a person, and subsequent events have only validated my disbelief. Especially lately.
How and when can you put faith in another knower, especially concerning inherently qualitative things that are impossible to verify empirically? To take a trivial example, if the crazy lady who lives across the street from me were to recommend a certain CD, or book, or television program, it would go in one ear and out the other. I have no reason to believe she has anything useful to tell me, although I'm always friendly and polite.
People attend college to learn things they believe cannot be acquired elsewhere, but why do they believe this? And why do they believe what they are told there? I did, and it nearly ruined my life. The university is full of believers masquerading as knowers, and of veridically bereft and beleft believers who are quite contemptuous of believers who actually know.
Pieper writes that "one who knows has insight into the facts being discussed," whereas the believer "can not know the actual event by his own experience." So how can belief ascend to knowledge?
Voegelin suggests that the passage in Heb. 11:1 has never been surpassed: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the proof of things not seen."
Importantly, faith is not only a kind of passive receptacle, but an active mode that is guided first and foremost by love -- love of truth. Now, as we just said, belief always involves someone else. It is always interpersonal, even if we pretend otherwise. Follow the chain backward, and somewhere there will have to be someone in whom we have placed our faith.
What is the official motto of the United States? In God we trust. This makes perfect nonsense, for if you trace our existence back to the origin, the US was founded by men who in turn placed their faith in God. It says so in our founding document. No one can empirically prove that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Hence, "in God we trust" for that little gem of wisdom.
To paraphrase Pieper, we put our trust in anOther who guarantees the facts; or in the Word who underwrites (or overwrites) them, I suppose. No, I believe. No, I know. With a certain faith, or a faithful certitude.
Unlike the knower, the believer is not only involved with factual circumstances but also and above all with someone, with the person of the witness in whom the believer puts his trust. --Josef Pieper