Finlay Malcolm

Finlay Malcolm

My thesis sought to evaluate two current theories of faith, and to explore the prospects of each theory for responding to the perennial problem of faith and reason – the problem that faith is, roughly speaking, a matter of holding beliefs without having sufficient evidence for those beliefs.

The first theory of faith – the ‘non-doxastic theory’ – holds that faith does not require belief. This means that, for instance, someone can have faith that God exists without believing that God exists. This is a fairly recent theory, and despite how controversial it appears, the theory has become widely accepted amongst philosophers. The second theory of faith – the ‘divine testimony theory’ – holds that faith requires trusting the testimony of a divine being. That is, one can have faith by trusting what God says. This theory of faith has a much longer philosophical pedigree, but, I found in my research that it could be developed on significantly by drawing from the extensive resources in recent work in the philosophy of testimony.

The conclusions of my thesis were ultimately very critical of the first theory of faith, whilst being in favour of the second theory. I criticised the potency of the arguments defending the non-doxastic theory, whilst finding the divine testimony theory both plausible, and consistent with various religious traditions. Moreover, I found that the latter theory does benefit significantly from conversation with theories in the philosophy of testimony.

The philosophy department at Manchester is a vibrant and sociable place to study philosophy, with plenty of opportunities to discuss and present work at seminars and to gain valuable feedback from your peers. I found my supervision by Dr Michael Scott to be enjoyable and rewarding, and we continue to collaborate on work concerning faith and other topics.

My post-doctoral work at the University of Hertfordshire continues to focus on the nature and epistemology of faith. I am also using concepts in analytic accounts of faith to help facilitate applied research concerning university students with religious faith. In addition, I work on, and have published articles in the philosophy of testimony, and am now bringing topics from political philosophy to bear on the philosophy of religion.