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School of Social Sciences

Finlay Malcolm

Philosophy PhD

What's the focus of your research programme?

My thesis focuses on the nature of faith in light of a very recent tradition in philosophy which aims to show that one can have a genuine religious faith without any propositional belief. This ultimately means that a genuine faith-response to religion could be one that is agnostic, or even atheistic. I argue that this view is mistaken. To do so, I develop an account of faith by looking at faith as both a propositional attitude, and what this entails, and as a fiducial commitment. In the former sense, I claim that faith is a compound of psychological attitudes, both doxastic and non-cognitive.

One argument I am developing for a doxastic condition to propositional faith, which brings in the important fiducial component, is to show that faith is a kind of hearer’s trusting response to divine testimony, and that this trust requires belief. Furthermore, I consider a number of common arguments made by theorists sympathetic to a ‘non-doxastic faith’ and find them all to be unconvincing and unpersuasive. In general, non-doxastic faith also looks strongly susceptible to charges of pretence and insincerity, leading to a kind of revolutionary fictionalism.

My research traces both historical accounts of faith, and uses contemporary theories from cognate areas of analytic philosophy. My topic is highly relevant to religious practices in the modern world today in which faith is a crucial element, and religious engagement is highly valued, but unbelief is becoming more common. The question of whether faith can be genuine in spite of belief addresses this modern issue directly.

What where you doing before you came to Manchester?

Before coming to Manchester I worked for two years in Research Development at University of Surrey, and another two years as a Youth Worker with the Prince’s Trust.