Big Questions Live: When to Take a Leap of Faith

If you read enough bestseller books on how to succeed in life or business and you will start to recognize patterns in the advice that’s given: Learn to fail, take big risks, do what no one else is doing, and — above all — believe in yourself and in your product. Sometimes you’ve got to “fake-it-till-you-make-it,” to believe before you’ve got proof. William James, famed philosopher and the “Father of Modern Psychology,” observed that having this kind of faith is crucial to many aspects of life in a world filled with uncertainties.

But there’s a dark side to such advice, as well. True believers can create cultures based on wishful thinking, and — as cases like Elizabeth Holmes’s ill-fated blood testing company Theranos illustrated — the line between “faking it till you make it,” and just plain “faking it,” can be dangerously thin. What does it mean to have rational and morally grounded faith in a business enterprise? What about when we talk about having faith in other people? In institutions? In God?

In this discussion, we’ll take a philosophical look at the question of when to “take a leap of faith.” We’ll distinguish between visionary faith and just plain fraud. We’ll ask whether religious belief requires a “leap of faith,” and whether this is rational. And, we’ll present some of the best evidence philosophers have given in arguing that faith is an essential part of living a good life. This evening of interactive discussions and activities builds on Professor Meghan Sullivan’s “What Makes a Life Good” micro-course and sets up Dr. Paul Blaschko’s “What to Believe in Uncertain Times,” which launches in early 2020. If you haven’t engaged with the Big Questions course, don’t let that stop you from watching, you will find the discussion engaging and inspiring.


Meghan Sullivan (Bio)
Rev. John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy; Director of Notre Dame Institute of Advanced Study

Paul Blaschko (Bio)
Assistant Director of Research and Outreach at Notre Dame Institute of Advanced Study

November 21, 2019

Religion and PhilosophyPaul BlaschkoBig Questions LiveCollege of Arts and LettersFaithInstitute for Advanced StudyMeghan SullivanPhilosophy