Is faith an epistemology? Is faith a way people come to know things? I was thinking about religion and god and also the book written by a modern philosopher Peter Bogohsian (a manual for creating atheists). Personally it seems that people say that they have "faith" in their religion or their God and from then on they don't question it anymore. Thus, this type of behavior would make me suspect that people are using faith as a way to know things though, I am also not at all an expert in philosophy or epistemology so I wanted to ask the experts to give me the best answer they could (hopefully with justifications). I guess also the reason I care about this is because if its not a epistemology, wouldn't Peter's book be based on a false premise? Also, I don't want to think people are being misrepresented because of something false, so I'd like to clear that up in my head. Though, it seems rather convincing to me that because people have "faith" then they have no doubts (which could be a sense of "knowing").

So essentially in my head it is way to know things because it removes all doubts in one's mind (which to me seems a sensible way of knowing things. Sure one can know things partially, but if you know it 100% then its unambiguously a piece of knowledge [at least for you]...or am I wrong?).

Is faith an epistemology?

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    Major gap in the question. Please define "faith". It's harder to do than you might think. Clearly some uses of the word faith are epistemological; others less so; some even anti-epistemological.
    – virmaior
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 0:02
  • @virmaior I wasn't even aware that was an issue but thanks for pointing it out! Personally I wish to understand faith better so I'd love as many interpretations discussed if possible though that could make it to broad (which is fine with me). Though, I think I did allude to a definition which to me seemed epistemological which is reducing ones doubt to zero. I guess a good place to start could be to address that definition, but thats something I just made up by thinking myself. If there are more official ideas, thought out more than just a mere second by philosophers, I'd love to hear them. Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 0:05
  • Don't know what you mean by "official" but to make your question sufficiently narrow, I suggest you include (by editing it): (1) a definition of knowledge, (2) a definition of faith, (3) because it seems like it's a term you intend to use a definition of doubt.
    – virmaior
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 0:35
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    In a similar vein, knowledge is also a term which is important here. If one uses the definition provided in that SEP link I just provided, the mere act of removing all doubt in one's mind does not make knowledge, it makes "belief." Calling something "knowledge" by these definitions calls for additional constraints.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 15:38
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    This is a good question imo, it's just unwieldy. I think that it's good you have this all down in one place. Try to keep it if you can. It would be interesting to explore the different meanings and shadings of faith here.
    – Gordon
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 21:04

6 Answers 6


I define faith as believing in something in the absence of evidence. Of course, because of faith, many would argue about qualifying evidence. However, faith would seem to be the opposite of an epistemology for lacking scientifically verifiable evidence.

It seems more common that people use science in efforts to validate objects related to faith, as a form of justification, without providing tangible evidence toward the main focus of the faith.

  • Why the opposite? Epistemology is the study of knowledge, there is nothing about "scientifically verifiable" in the definition. Even in science verificationism is largely discredited, most of theoretical science is not "verifiable".
    – Conifold
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 3:43

Typically for a believer, "faith" is not exactly equivalent to "belief." If I have faith in God, it doesn't just mean I believe God exists, it also means I trust in God, a trust that is typically viewed as sustained through some sort of active, ongoing relationship. So if I say "my faith tells me death is not the end," what that might be intended to convey is that my trust in God (as founded on, or combined with my relationship with God) gives me a belief that death is not the end.

So, considered this way, faith could be said to be a kind of epistemology, in a way that plain belief could not be. "My faith tells me death is not the end" is a different statement than "I believe death is not the end."

"My beliefs tell me death is not the end," is somewhat of a midground case. Here, what I am saying is that I have an elaborated set of beliefs, and they teach me death is not the end. This is arguably a justification, but perhaps a more tautological one if I don't give any external reason for my beliefs. Its worth here noting, however, that critics of religion often speak as if religious belief has no foundations at all, but most believers do reference their beliefs to something, whether that might be a personal religious experience, an unbringing in a faith tradition, or trust in a specific religious leader.

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    In some of the most recent literature this is often called "faith-in" (or trust) whereas the other faith about prepositions is called "faith-that"
    – virmaior
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 3:45

One book that can quickly clear your doubt regarding this topic is Fides et Ratio.

This book tries to distinguish between reasoning and faith, and tells to what extent one can combine both.

We use to think -and is generally right- that faith is against epistemology. However, epistemology is more like a knowledge management discipline, which has nothing to do with the mean of acquiring such knowledge. Said this, the opposite of faith is not epistemology or reason, but empirism.

The sciences we use to consider useful are all based on empirism: they tend to describe our real world. Such world is described through experience (which is directly or indirectly derived from our perception).

But while empirism is the choice to assert as true what your perception brings to you, faith is the choice to assert as true what you read somewhere or someone with authority tells you. Said this, we hold faith most of the time: at least I did not experiment anything which is said about Quantum Mechanics. Let me call that empiric faith.

The Faith we are used to (you know: religions), however, lacks of something the empiric faith doesn't: the ability to experiment, measure, and perhaps discard (in a quite cunning way, that topic is never mentioned in Fides et Ratio!). This means: you can contrast the empiric faith with experience, and share it with the only effort, from the other side, of just watching the repetition of the experiment or measure.

Saving this difference (which is quite important in the real world, but less important in this theoretical discussion), both faiths are choices, and such choices are the starting point of what you will do later: learn more. This means that you can apply reason (intellegus fidei) over your faith (auditus fidei) in the same way you can apply reason over your experience. Said this: yes, theology is also a science: the science that studies the Bible and its content. So, yes: it could count in the same scope of epistemology, since it could (and quite frequently: it does) need some sort of knowledge management.

Let me go further: You could take the whole bibliography of Lord of the Rings, Magic the Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons, and make some sort of science (one different for each biblio set) out of them. As long as you need to manage knowledge, the concept of epistemology is valid.

  • Faith: conviction without proof
  • Epistemology: study of knowledge

So, no. Study is NOT conviction. They are not even similar.

But it seems the intention of your question is this: Is faith a form of philosophy?

And in this case, the answer is yes. Philosophy can be said to be the quest for truth, so, philosophy would be the search of knowledge, which goal is equivalent to that of religion.

For example: we come to learn that every consequence has a cause. So, we start finding previous causes for everything, and normally, we find them. But the question which causes trouble is:

What caused it all in the first place?

Some find a scientific (based on empirical proof) answer: the big-bang.

But for most, that is not a sufficient answer. Strictly, it is completely illogical that God would exist. But at the same time, it is completely illogical that God would NOT exist.

So, a lot of people choose a conviction based on religion: faith. Others prefer scientific knowledge. But both are normally incompatible (otherwise the bible would not have a single contradiction, or it could be proven scientifically).

Each type of approach, based on logic and science, or based on faith, has its advantages and disadvantages. I would say most remarkable men completely adhere to science, and prefer keeping the doubt about God, but that is debatable.


Epistemology is the study of knowledge, which is often interpreted as a question of how we get from the 'unknown' to the 'known'. But it's more subtle than that, philosophically speaking. Espistemology also deals with questions like:

  • What does it mean to 'know'?
  • Do we 'know' anything at all?
  • Is there anything we can never 'know'?
  • Is 'knowledge' based in individuals or communities?

An essential difference — perhaps the essential difference — between science and faith is that science is intrinsically solipsistic while faith is intrinsically communitarian. Science at heart is an assertion that:

I can see this with my own eyes, I can hear this with my own ears, I can do this with my own hands, therefore I can be assured that this is real.

This is a powerful mindset when held with reasonable dispassion and detachment, because it physicalizes knowledge: binds knowledge to sensory experience, precluding a lot of imagined and speculative nonsense. However, it can lead people towards a distrustful, cynical, jaded, even paranoid attitude towards communal knowledge, leading an overly skeptical view of the world.

By contrast, faith entails an acknowledgement of the limitations and implicit ignorances of human understanding. Faith (at heart) is an assertion like:

I don't know everything; I don't even know enough. I trust that others will provide what I lack, so I build relationships: family, community, society, congregation. I trust that the universe will do the same, so I build a relationship with the divine or the transcendent.

This too is a powerful mindset when held with reasonable compassion and attention, because it socializes and rectifies ignorance. Even science depends on a version of faith: faith in a community of peers trusted to review, correct, and expand one's work. However, this attitude can lean towards blind, rigid, dogmatic thinking and self-righteous anger.

With all this as preface, it's safe to say that faith is a kind of epistemology, if only in a backwards sense. Faith asserts that some knowledge is absent and other knowledge is unobtainable; and holds that we can only navigate these intrinsic lacunae collectively, in harmony with a community, divinity, or transcendent principle.


Nope. "An epistemology" is a study of knowledge, and knowledge is empirical verification of what is (else how do you know what is?)

Faith is a powerful psychological tool which may or may not have anything to do with the empirical verification of what is (the case, the world, states of affairs...) There is a vast epistemic difference between claiming, "I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow" and, "I reason from observation a prediction of when the sun will rise above the horizon again."

Where faith may contend with the imponderable, knowledge and the study of it are ponderable. That one has faith that exactly twelve angels dance on the head of a pin neither makes it the case, nor is verification of the case. Use of language to describe such conviction from faith is hermeneutical and the results of such endeavors nothing more than opinion to be either agreed or disagreed with.

By contrast, epistemology is heuristic and the study of it actionable towards heuristic acumen, rationally assessing the truth value of propositions, and the advancement of knowledge claims.

So essentially in my head it is way to know things because it removes all doubts in one's mind (which to me seems a sensible way of knowing things. Sure one can know things partially, but if you know it 100% then its unambiguously a piece of knowledge [at least for you]...or am I wrong?).

Certainty is a mood. Doubt is a double-edged sword blunted only by the recognition of unilluminating appeals to skepticism as logical fallacy. Knowledge is fallible, imperfect, incomplete, and not absolute. Despite this we land men on the moon, build skyscrapers and bridges across vast expanses, and replace human hearts with humble, imperfect, uncertain empirical verification of what is.

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