By John Dewey
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Extra resources for A Common Faith
It is deﬁned, in the Christian religion, as evidence of things not seen. The implication is that faith is a kind of anticipatory vision of things that are now invisible because of the limitations of our ﬁnite and erring nature. Because it is a substitute for knowledge, its material and object are intellectual in quality. As John Locke summed up the matter, faith is ‘‘assent to a proposition . . ’’ Religious faith is then given to a body of propositions as true on the credit of their supernatural author, reason coming in to demonstrate the reasonableness of giving such credit.
Naturalism, properly interpreted, seems to me a more adequate term than Humanism. Of course I have always limited my use of ‘instrumentalism’ to my theory of thinking and knowledge; the word ‘pragmatism’ I have used very little, and then with reserves’’ (Dewey to Corliss Lamont, Sept. 6, 1940, cited in Corliss Lamont, ‘‘New Light on Dewey’s Common Faith,’’ The Journal of Philosophy 58, no. 1 , p. 26). xxxiii INTRODUCTION 3. John Dewey, ‘‘From Absolutism to Experimentalism,’’ in The Later Works, vol.
I think he will be struck by three facts that reduce the terms of the deﬁnition to such a low common denominator that little meaning is left. He will note that the ‘‘unseen powers’’ referred to have been conceived in a multitude of incompatible ways. Eliminating the di√erences, nothing is left beyond the bare reference to something unseen and powerful. This has been conceived as the vague and undeﬁned Mana of the Melanesians; the Kami of primitive Shintoism; the fetish of the Africans; spirits, having some human properties, that pervade natural places and animate natural forces; the ultimate and impersonal principle of Buddhism; the unmoved mover of Greek thought; the gods and semi-divine heroes of the Greek and Roman Pantheons; the personal and loving Providence of Christianity, omnipotent, and limited by a corresponding evil power; the arbitrary Will of Moslemism; the supreme legislator and judge of deism.