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419

C. Conditionalization

Still, she may perfectly properly pay attention to it, and may even join in the game. Perhaps, for example, she is convinced (mistakenly, in my opinion) that any enterprise (like traditional biblical commentary) that makes religious or theological assumptions isn’t really science; and perhaps she thinks it is important to engage in science in this area. Perhaps she likes to pursue scripture scholarship in conjunction with her friends who don’t make the assumptions she does; or perhaps she thinks much of interest may emerge from a venture pursued by people of very different assumptions. Perhaps she concurs with the Thomist of Etienne Gilson’s The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy530530   (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1940; republished, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), the first couple of chapters. in thinking that science and philosophy are purely rational pursuits; they involve no assumptions that are not deliverances of reason alone. Then she might think it important to engage in Spinozistic or Duhemian science, even if the results are pretty slim.531531   But see my The Twin Pillars of Christian Scholarship (Grand Rapids: Calvin College, 1990); I argue that a common Thomistic reason for so thinking is not, in fact, a good reason. So she might sensibly take part in Duhemian scripture scholarship.

Can traditional biblical commentary also be pursued in Duhemian fashion? The traditional Christian wants to know the answer to various questions about the Bible, among others, the questions to which traditional biblical commentary addresses itself. Now the sensible thing to do, in pursuing the answer to a question, is to use all that you believe or think you know (insofar as it is relevant); that will give you the best shot at reaching the correct answer. But suppose you are also convinced that it is important to investigate these matters scientifically, and that if you employ beliefs you accept by faith, the resulting inquiry will not be science. Suppose you decide you want to do science, but also want to work on these questions. What can you do?

You can conditionalize.532532   To borrow a term from Bayesian epistemologists, who use it to mean something quite different. See Warrant: The Current Debate, p. 122. Instead of addressing a given question, ‘What is the best way to think about x, employing all that you know including what you know by faith?’ you address instead the question ‘What would be the best way to think about x, if in fact the deliverances of faith were true?’ This question can then be approached Duhemianly (or Spinozistically), using only beliefs that are among the deliverances of reason; no theological assumptions or deliverances of faith need be involved. In pursuing this enterprise you are doing Duhemian scholarship. Your results can be displayed as a conditional if F, then P; where F represents the deliverances of faith. When you work at this conditional, you are doing Duhemian science. Of course when you affirm the antecedent of the conditional and detach its consequent, then you have left Duhemian (and Spinozistic) science for theology; but that’s no problem. You have the dual aim of working Duhemianly while also trying to discover 420the best way to think about the topic at issue from the perspective of Christian faith: in this way you can accomplish both. Indeed, this will be a project in which people who don’t share your faith can sensibly cooperate, just as a Christian might engage (questions of frivolity aside), in this conditional fashion, in Troeltschian HBC.533533   For more on conditionalization, see my “On Christian Scholarship,” in The Challenge and Promise of a Catholic University (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994). I hope to go into greater detail on these matters in a book on Christian philosophy.


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