In September 28, henry bugbee writes what is probably his most difficult to comprehend entry so far. It is an entry about the possibility of using belief (or faith)1 as a tool for understanding. He first acknowledges that the statement “believe in order to understand” is unclear and invites dishonesty. The statement presupposes that we can believe on something we do not understand.

Bugbee proposes that to make sense of the statement, we must let go of our preoccupation of forms of knowledge and the methods of yielding them. Instead, we must shift our attention to the “inner activity” of the person yielding the knowledge. This consideration of the thinker’s inner activity is something the West is devoid of, especially in disciplines like science and mathematics where the subject-matter is not experience but those abstracted from concrete experience. However, Bugbee suggests that when analyzing the epistemological basis of scientific and mathematical knowledge, the experience of the scientist or mathematician cannot be completely removed from the equation, otherwise, they are not revealing what they presupposed, suggesting they are believing to understand.

Bugbee then turns to the question of philosophy’s subject matter. Philosophy seems to be strictly devoid of one, forcing it to have a parasitical status, borrowing subject-matters from other disciplines or becoming an arbitter or systematizer of methods and results produced by other disciplines with their own subject-matters. But philosophical reflection is bound with human experience, and experience is not susceptible to objective representation or control. To make sense of the statement “believing to understand,” one may need to let go of the supposition that believing is something we do to attain a result (understanding). Treating belief this way is objectionable because it seems to suggest that it has to be done for the sake of a result which is necessarily obscure. In Bugbee’s words, “Believing itself must be answerable to something more authoritative than someone’s say-so if it is to be a condition of understanding.” Bugbee warns us that if belief is a condition for understanding, we must not treat the connection as causal. Faith is not arbitrary. For Bugbee, it is abhorrent to agree with the idea that faith is favoring a set of beliefs that can neither be established nor disapproved because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain if they are true (by belief) and if we believe them to be true even if they are not.

For faith to be a condition for understanding, it must be as authentic and non-arbitrary as the understanding it yields. “Faith cannot be recommended; it can only be called upon.” In conclusion, Bugbee suggests that the nature of faith can be clarified by thinking throug the idea of responsibility.

2022-10-12 seeds: Now I get what bugbee is saying. You can’t use faith for a practical purpose. You arrive into it. You cant recommend it. Its like when you arrived at the unmoving mover. Faith is the end. You can no longer use reason. But there is nothing beyond faith. There is no understanding after it. Faith is the end.



  1. The Inward Morning Commentary 1952-08-28