Faith, knowledge and cosmopolitanism: an inaugural lecture given in the University of Rhodesia
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The familiar opposition between faith and knowledge is quite unsatisfactory when the terms are taken to represent mutually exclusive means of cognition. Knowledge involves faith and faith involves knowledge. A person cannot have faith in something of which he is not aware, and he would scarcely claim to identify a certain object unless he had faith in the reliability of his powers of apprehension. Some such truth would seem to apply to the systematic refinements of knowledge, as well as to rudimentary forms of awareness, for both science and scholarship have their unproved presuppositions which constitute indispensable conditions in any research enterprise. Recognition of this circumstance can serve to check the tendency to slip into excessive dogmatism and help to preserve mental flexibility. Cock-sureness is usually born of narrowness — habitual concentration on our successes in the way of demonstration to the neglect of what we fail to demonstrate. We have been conditioned to prize tidiness in our thinking and perhaps find it disturbing to attend to the existentialist possibility that no set of generalisations can explain any individual entity in its concrete uniqueness. Our prompt reaction might well be to dismiss such a disquieting notion as expressive of mere romantic obscurantism. We might harden our minds in resistance, settling down more securely in an assurance of the sufficiency of our generalisations.