Can it be Rational to Have Faith?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

76 Scopus citations


This chapter provides an account of what it is to have faith in a proposition p, in both religious and mundane contexts. It is argued that faith in p doesn't require adopting a degree of belief that isn't supported by one's evidence but rather it requires terminating one's search for further evidence and acting on the supposition that p. It is then shown, by responding to a formal result due to I. J. Good, that doing so can be rational in a number of circumstances. If expected utility theory is the correct account of practical rationality, then having faith can be both epistemically and practically rational if the costs associated with gathering further evidence or postponing the decision are high. If a more permissive framework is adopted, then having faith can be rational even when there are no costs associated with gathering further evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProbability in the Philosophy of Religion
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191741548
ISBN (Print)9780199604760
StatePublished - Apr 26 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Belief
  • Epistemic rationality
  • Evidence
  • Evidence-gathering
  • Expected utility
  • Faith
  • Good
  • Practical rationality
  • Rationality


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