Philosophy Club Meeting

January 25, 2022
Submitted By: Brian D. Skelly

Please join us for our first Spring Semester meeting of the University of Hartford Philosophy Club this Wednesday, Jan. 26 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. as Brian Skelly presents for discussion: "How We Know Persons, and the Romance of Faith". 

This semester we are playing it safe and returning to the online-only format. Please join us at the following link:

Meeting Password: ACwqT3MBG33 Toll-free call-in number: 1-877-668-4493 Meeting Number (in case calling in): 171 628 0135

The question of faith revolves around whether we have a personal relationship with divinity. This seemingly divides into two further sequential questions: first, does divinity exist, and second, what kind of relation can we have with divinity if it exists. But really, as far as relationships are concerned, it is just one question. For I do not in any other case of a relationship with a person withhold my consent to interact until I have proven the existence of that person. Rather, I begin relating to that person in faith that the person really exists. That faith, of course, is not blind, but is supported by evidence.  

In all cases, it is my interactions with persons itself that is my main source of evidence – personal evidence - of their existence. What could be called non-personal evidence of persons is meager and pales in comparison to personal evidence. Were I ever to withhold from relating to persons until I had amassed enough non-personal evidence about them from which to infer personal existence, even if such an inference could be made, which I doubt, I would never know much about them at all, and would be much more prone to being largely deluded about their existence, about who and what they are.  

As far as living human persons are concerned, all this goes without saying. We even typically continue relating to deceased persons in our hearts, so much so that our relationships with them continue to develop after their death – not according to sheer fictional projection, but according to the ordinary course of friendship. Except in the most extreme and dysfunctional of cases, no one lurks in the shadows studying persons based on impersonal evidence alone, with an aim to deciding whether one day to engage in personal interactions with them.  

So why do some of us insist on doing just that when it comes to God?  The only way to know persons, including God, is to have personal interactions with them. Moreover, it is not irrational to have personal interaction with a being of whose existence or personhood one is unsure, since the evidence you will need to ever be sure of personhood is personal evidence. Probable cause suffices to initiate the process, and that much has already been established by longstanding anthropological tradition, in which the awareness of the possibility of providence has demonstrated itself to be ubiquitous. Now the awareness of the possibility of providence implies the awareness of the possibility of the providential being, i.e., the unlimited being, commonly referred to as God.  

Even in the toughest of cases, if the person exists, it will become evident over time, and usually only a very short amount of time.  If I accidentally address a mannequin for a shirt size at the department store, I will quickly come to realize it is not a person and be done with it. Suppose, being unsure of whether the figure in the corner of my eye was a mannequin or a person, I felt I should not inquire further, nor linger to peer and perhaps even poke, but simply slink away with my head bowed, I might then be shocked to hear a voice saying “sir, may I help you?”, turning back to find it was indeed a person all along! This happened to me once! 

It is eerie to think that this may well be what we are doing to the divine personhood...

(Complete essay attached.) 

 An ongoing weekly tradition at the University since 2001, the University of Hartford Philosophy Club is a place where students, professors, and people from the community at large meet as peers. Sometimes presentations are given, followed by discussion. Other times, topics are hashed out by the whole group.     

Presenters may be students, professors, or people from the community. Anyone can offer to present a topic. The mode of presentation may be as formal or informal as the presenter chooses.    

Please be a part of us as we continue this great tradition live and online.

Brian D. Skelly, Philosophy