Is Peter Boghossian pretending to know what he does not know?

I have already taken issue with Peter Boghossian’s misuse of the word faith but given some of his recent comments on the Phil Vischer show I think it’s worth showing once more how badly he misunderstands Christianity.

Start by watching @11:42 – 17:20 (the discussion on ‘faith’ goes on to about half an hour into the programme):

Boghossian here attempts to draw a serious semantic divide between the word ‘trust’ and the word ‘faith’ even though most dictionary definitions of ‘faith’ will use the word ‘trust’! Vischer attempts to suggest to Boghossian that he ought to take into account how words are actually being used and Boghossian insists he is.

As evidence for his contention Boghossian suggests that preachers who openly admit they admit that they don’t really believe what they preach are evidence for his definition. But this is just an obvious category error. Just because there exist some people who pretend to be religious when they are not obviously does not mean that all religious people are in that same category. Just because some religious people might use the word ‘faith’ to mean blind faith does not mean that all religious people use the word this way. That is as absurd as suggesting that all atheists are communists because some atheists are communists or that all atheists are affirming the non-existence of God because some atheists affirm the non-existence of God (as opposed to merely defining atheism as a lack of belief in God)!

When Boghossian tries to make a huge difference in meaning between the word faith when applied to a friend and when applied to one’s religious beliefs he is now using the word in a different way than most Christians are using the word and yet, rather than admit that, Boghossian insists that his definition is the one which gets to be right. Boghossian does not cite any Christian philosophers at all in support of his view. [1]

If you listen to the rest of the conversation on the word faith Vischer and Boghossian end up having to agree to disagree on what the word means to them. But this completely supports my contention that Boghossian is setting up a linguistic barrier to serious discussions between atheists and theists by using the word in a different way and attempting to impose that meaning on his opponent.

In other words, half an hour of discussion time is wasted only for Boghossian to have to admit they will have to agree to disagree on the meaning of the word INSTEAD of actually analyzing and discussing what Christians really mean by the word. That is as ridiculous as me insisting that when atheists use the word ‘reason’ what they mean is philosophical rationalism (as in the epistemology after that name) and then demanding that they defend philosophical rationalism for the first half an hour of my discussion with them only then to concede we’re using the word in two different ways.

How Boghossian cannot see this is beyond me!


[1] In his book he attempts to do so and I have shown that he cherry picks and is, unfortunately, guilty of misrepresenting people in doing so here in part 3.1.


About aRemonstrant'sRamblings

I graduated in philosophy of religion many years ago and have since acquired my PGCE and now teach religion, ethics and philosophy.
This entry was posted in Atheist apologists, Faith, New Atheism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Is Peter Boghossian pretending to know what he does not know?

  1. labreuer says:

    The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language.

            – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    I found this quotation in Ideas Have Consequences; have you heard of/read it? By the way, I don’t mean to be trivial with “corruption of man”. The issue goes very deeply; another book is Josef Pieper’s The Concept of Sin, or more directly, his Abuse of Language ~~ Abuse of Power.

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      No I’ve not read any of those but they look most interesting. Added to my very long Amazon wishlist!!

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