Faith and Reason: The Double Sidedness of Faith and Reason and their Role in a Meaningful Life

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Addis Ababa University


The relation between faith and reason is a historically important philosophical problem discussed and debated among philosophers, theologians and scientists in the history of Western philosophy in general and philosophy of religion in particular. In spite of many attempts by many scholars to shed light on this philosophical problem, it is still a lingering question. Basically, different scholars that have worked on this philosophical problem categorize in one of the following approaches. The different approaches regarding this philosophical problem are fidesim, rationalism, pragmatism and critical rationalism. The two approaches, particularly, rationalism and fidesim advocate the extreme positions regarding the relation between faith and reason. They created a false dichotomy between faith and reason. I use the terms "faith-only position” and “reason-only position” to represent the epistemological positions of fideism and rationalism, respectively. However, faith properly understood, does not contradict reason. The alleged contradiction between faith and reason arises out of misconceptions that we have about the concept of faith. People believe that the investigations and findings of the natural sciences and beliefs held by faith are necessarily opposed to one another or can coexist. Others contend that if they can peacefully coexist it is, only in separate compartments, completely sealed off from one another. In this thesis, I argue that science and faith are not only mutually exclusive, but actually coexist well together. Indeed, the proper development of both is necessary for holistic personal growth and for an authentic humanity. There is also a wide spread and largely unquestioned tendency to assume that faith is confined to the province of religion, and that to have faith is necessarily to be religious. However, this way of understanding the concept of faith arises out of the belief that faith is the exclusive property of religious people. Faith is not the exclusive property of religious people; rather it is a basic feature of human life. Faith exits in its different forms and various types. There are both religious and secular forms of faiths. Faith, in this existential sense, is not opposed to reason rather they mutually support each other and work together. Therefore, I argue for the double sidedness of faith and reason in a meaningful life. By “double sidedness” I mean that there is a complementary relation between faith and reason. Therefore, we can talk about “reasonable faith” and “faithful reason” at the same time. Thus, a rationally examined life is perfectly consistent with a life that not only involves, but also requires, some kind of faith. Thus, faith and reason are not necessarily opposed epistemic states