Junior Fellow: October 2019–July 2020
Research Project: Scepticism, Certainty, and Belief in Medieval Jewish and Christian Philosophy
When should we not be sceptical? And when should we be sceptical? This research project will investigate how medieval Jewish and Christian philosophers answer these questions. In particular, it will aim to provide careful analyses of two notions that play important roles in their answers to these questions: the notion of certainty (yaqīn/certitudo) and the notion of belief (‘emunah/fides).
(1) Is certainty absolute or gradable?
Regarding the concept of certainty, the project will investigate two different conceptions held by medieval Jewish and Christian philosophers: first, the absolute conception of certainty, according to which certainty allows no degrees; second, the gradable conception of certainty, according to which certainty allows degrees. After examining the arguments for these two conceptions of certainty, it will show how they can address the sceptical challenge.
(2) Is belief voluntary or involuntary?
Regarding the concept of belief, this project will particularly focus on Hasdai Crescas’s defence of involuntarism about ‘emunah in the Jewish tradition. After analysing his arguments for involuntarism, it will compare Crescas’s view with a similar view held by the fourteenth-century Dominican philosopher Robert Holcot, according to which fides cannot be achieved by our will alone.
Philip Choi is a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder (USA).