The Phrase "Put your faith in..."

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RichardGarfinkle

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A little background first. In the midst of a complex and interesting P&CE discussion (not a flame war at all, I deny that completely), the phrase "put your faith in..." was employed.

It's a common English usage and a pointed rhetorical device, but it troubled me. As far as I can tell, I don't have faith to put in anything.

The phrase implies that the strongest and deepest of mental processes is the depositing of faith.

To me the strongest and deepest mental process is the mistrustful application of tools to reality, the observation of the effects and the changing of the tools based on those effects.

It struck me that the phrase itself carries a heavy weight of assumptions about the way people think and that that weight is biased in favor of a particular kind of religious thinking (since not all religions are faith based).

This leads me to wonder:
a) whether I'm talking through my fedora.
b) if not, in what other ways does this bias appear encoded in modern English.
c) what if anything to do about it.
 

Maxx

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This leads me to wonder:
a) whether I'm talking through my fedora.
b) if not, in what other ways does this bias appear encoded in modern English.
c) what if anything to do about it.

I'd say you're sort of barking up the wrong tree by introducing a (spurious?) imagery of "depth" to a mixed bag of questions and concerns. First, remember that religions and ideologies are powerful precisely because they posit something deep and natural about a more or less random grab-bag of linguistic and behavioral resonances. Second note that these ideological constructs tend to become more strident just before they collapse into utter nonsense -- ie when they really had some resonance (eg. certain forms of Christianity in the Medieval West) they had a very differnent set of rhetorical devices.

In sum, I'd say there's not all that much encoded about the depths of different mental processes in languages -- my favorite point along these lines being that both Hopi and Nahuatl (Aztec) are Uto-Aztecan languages and one became the language of a rather sadistic empire and the other didn't.
 
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RichardGarfinkle

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I'd say you're sort of barking up the wrong tree by introducing a (spurious?) imagery of "depth" to a mixed bag of questions and concerns. First, remember that religions and ideologies are powerful precisely because they posit something deep and natural about a more or less random grab-bag of linguistic and behavioral resonances. Second note that these ideological constructs tend to become more strident just before they collapse into utter nonsense -- ie when they really had some resonance (eg. certain forms of Christianity in the Medieval West) they had a very differnent set of rhetorical devices.

In sum, I'd say there's not all that much encoded about the depths of different mental processes in languages -- my favorite point along these lines being that both Hopi and Nauhatl (Aztec) are Uto-Aztecan languages and one became the language of a rather sadistic empire and the other didn't.

I'm not sure I'm talking about actual depth so much as linguistic presumption of depth.

The phrase "put your faith in" sounds to me like a deepclaim of mental action, more so than the word "trust" or the word "rely" in the same way that the word "love" implies a deeper mental act than "like" or "be fond of"
 

Maxx

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I'm not sure I'm talking about actual depth so much as linguistic presumption of depth.

The phrase "put your faith in" sounds to me like a deepclaim of mental action, more so than the word "trust" or the word "rely" in the same way that the word "love" implies a deeper mental act than "like" or "be fond of"

The notion of mental action may be confusion you. Presumably "put faith in" would be something like giving yourself some kind of positive self-reinforcement for reminding yourself of what you had told yourself. One might get more effect with rearranging the refrigerator magnets on your refrigerator according to some mystical schedule. It's worth reminding yourself that there is no other repository of mental action: either you are imagining things or you are showing yourself images. Of course you can add some kind of emotional or physical stimuli -- BUT timing is crucial even with self-reinforcement. One must be careful lest one trigger some kind of relgious ecstasy during a time one usually reserves for grumbling about the Federal Government, which is probably what happened to St. Theresa (Bernini's Ecstacy of St. Theresa)
 
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mirandashell

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Richard, there is a lot of religious imagery and bend because of the history of English. A lot of phrases now used have lost most of the religious baggage they had when coined.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Miranda, I think put your faith in is more than imagery.

For example, the statement, "You put your faith in science." Shows up repeatedly in arguments, and usually requires an explanation of why and how science is not an act of faith. This is often met with disbelief or incomprehension.

By the way, Maxx, please shrink that image to no more than 400x400
 

mirandashell

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Ah... I think we may be having a cultural misalignment. Over here, religion isn't as much a major part of discourse the way it is in America. Or that's my impression, anyway.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Richard, re your set of questions: DO you wear a fedora?

Most people breeze by figures of speech without paying attention to what those figures mean. People who "sing the praises" of [pick whatever] are rarely singing (says a lady who trained for opera) and rarely in a state of praise as defined by any particular religious tradition. They just want to tell everyone how good [pick whatever] is.

So, if you've actually got a fedora... :)

Oh, Mac put her faith in you to do a good job as a moderator in this very jumpy part of the cooler. Yes? Was that a religious act?

There's faith and there's faith. Faith in something beyond oneself or observable reality vs faith that something will (or does) work. The second applies to science; the first applies to religion, for those of us who drink that nectar.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

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I've been thinking about this since you and I discussed it earlier, Richard. (Yes, folks, I'm the perp, and Richard and I are just fine about it, thank you :)).

It seems to me it's more of an issue of sloppy writing rather than religious imagery. "Put your faith in" is simply cliche. I could have and should have done better. The phrase may have started out having religious overtones, but I expect they're long gone now for most of us. Anyhow, as a devout agnostic, I believe they are for me.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Actually, I have three fedoras, but I don't wear them often.

Figures of speech can carry a lot more weight than people often notice. Consider how much of the language of various prejudices has been unearthed over the last few decades.
 

Haggis

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I had a request to link to the post in question so the phrase could be read in context. I'll only ask that you pay no attention to the other three cliches in that post. :D

Click here.

Oh. And I'd look terrible in a fedora.
 

Mr. GreyMan

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Its more of a semantic question as to what you mean by "faith."

faith [feyth]
noun
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

Some people mean it only to be the first one, while others would claim it means only the 3rd. It really depends on the person saying it, I would expect. Ambiguity in language and all that.
 

rugcat

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I think it's true that certain expressions may have arisen in a specific cultural milieu, and contain specific assumptions.

But over time, they become so much part of the language that they also become cliches, and people use them without the slightest thought about what they originally implied.

To me, "put your faith in" is simply an idiom that means "strongly rely on" and has no other connotations.

RichardGarfinkle said:
To me the strongest and deepest mental process is the mistrustful application of tools to reality, the observation of the effects and the changing of the tools based on those effects.
But for some, the deepest understanding comes from another source -- religious people believe this, by and large, but so do mystics of all stripes. (And hippies taking LSD back in the day.)

Can you prove, through logical and rational steps, that your mother loves you?

There is an old bit of doggerel that sums this up very nicely, and is deeper than it seems:

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why - I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Certainly, language is important. We're all writers here. We scrutinize language the way a good carpenter will scrutinize a piece of wood.

For that reason, I dislike the use of the F word. Using it as a swear word makes the act it refers to (and by which all of us, with the possible exception of the in vitrio kids, were conceived) something ugly. Using a swear word for the act suggests that violence for that act is okay. Which it's not.

However, why would you want to do something about removing religious references from language? (As per your 3rd question.) And do you really think you'll get any of us religious types to join you in the endeavor? I used to shop at a store where one of the employees had a bumper sticker that read "Freedom FROM Religion." I found that so repugnant I avoided shopping there. I had the misfortune to be raised by people who hated religion. Believe me (if that's an okay phrase to use), it was just as bad as being raised by the worst sort of fundamentalists.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

benbradley

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I've been thinking about this since you and I discussed it earlier, Richard. (Yes, folks, I'm the perp, and Richard and I are just fine about it, thank you :)).

It seems to me it's more of an issue of sloppy writing rather than religious imagery. "Put your faith in" is simply cliche. I could have and should have done better. The phrase may have started out having religious overtones, but I expect they're long gone now for most of us. Anyhow, as a devout agnostic, I believe they are for me.
This seems more about the philosophy of language, or linguistics (I recall an AW forum on that sort of thing when I started here - it had a lot of high-fallutin' technical writing on language, but I found it interesting).

I've been reading Nate Silver's book "The Signal and The Noise" - it's a fascinating book for anyone with any interest in science, math, and/or economics, but that's not what prompts me to bring it up here. In the penultimate chapter titled "A Climate of Healthy Skepticism" he discusses various scientists' views on Global Warming/Climate Change (as opposed to reporters, who tend to only quote the most outrageous sentence they can find a scientist saying). He wrote that the scientists believed such-and-such. and it made me stop and think about the meaning of belief, and whether these scientists really believed in the sense that many people would use the word.
I had a request to link to the post in question so the phrase could be read in context. I'll only ask that you pay no attention to the other three cliches in that post. :D

Click here.

Oh. And I'd look terrible in a fedora.
What's interesting is I had already read that post when I repped you asking for you to post the link. Reading over it again, I had read right over "put your faith in..." and didn't connect it to this thread, because what followed those words in your writing was something completely secular. It put the phrase in context of not religious faith, but trusting that a collection of people would properly do their jobs.

I think it's true that certain expressions may have arisen in a specific cultural milieu, and contain specific assumptions.

But over time, they become so much part of the language that they also become cliches, and people use them without the slightest thought about what they originally implied.

To me, "put your faith in" is simply an idiom that means "strongly rely on" and has no other connotations.

But for some, the deepest understanding comes from another source -- religious people believe this, by and large, but so do mystics of all stripes. (And hippies taking LSD back in the day.)

Can you prove, through logical and rational steps, that your mother loves you?

There is an old bit of doggerel that sums this up very nicely, and is deeper than it seems:

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why - I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.
That's reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, and looking it up (seeing how old it is and that it became a child's rhyme):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_do_not_like_thee,_Doctor_Fell
I can see where it could have been an inspiration:
"I do not like Green Eggs and Ham..."
 

Chrissy

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Interesting discussion.

Depends on one's frame of reference, I think.

One definition of putting faith in something or someone is that it's a last recourse... i.e., since I can't understand, or justify, or rationalize it, I'll just have to have faith.

But another way of putting faith into something or someone is just having a basic trust in that something or someone.... that they mean well, have good intentions, and though you might not understand a certain action clearly, at that moment, you rely on that thing or person because of your knowledge of/past experience with/understanding of that thing or person.

So, when it comes to government, if you generally feel that government is good and helpful, I don't see it as bad or negative (or a put down) to occasionally put your faith in the concept of government in general when things go awry in one aspect.

Although I personally cannot fathom why anyone would do such a thing. ;)
 
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RichardGarfinkle

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Interesting discussion.

Depends on one's frame of reference, I think.

One definition of putting faith in something or someone is that it's a last recourse... i.e., since I can't understand, or justify, or rationalize it, I'll just have to have faith.

But another way of putting faith into something or someone is just having a basic trust in that something or someone.... that they mean well, have good intentions, and though you might not understand a certain action clearly, at that moment, you rely on that thing or person because of your knowledge of/past experience with/understanding of that thing or person.

So, when it comes to government, if you generally feel that government is good and helpful, I don't see it as bad or negative (or a put down) to occasionally put your faith in the concept of government in general when things go awry in one aspect.

Although I personally cannot fathom why anyone would do such a thing. ;)

You've put your finger on exactly what prompted this thread. In the discussion I had with Haggis I did and do advocate that certain matters are best done by governments. He and you seem to be equating this with faith in government.

That is there is an implicit deduction that
Advocacy arises from Faith, i,e, one must implicitly trust something to advocate for it.

But that isn't true when one asks the question what's the best tool to do a particular job. Government is a tool, useful in certain areas, dangerous when misused. My position was from that perspective,

My premise for this thread was that the idea of faith was sufficiently strongly ingrained in the culture and/or the language that one would find it easy to make the jump from advocacy to faith rather than the jump from advocacy to reasons.

This then spawned the more general question I asked at the beginning.
 

ColoradoGuy

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The larger issue to me is that of the extent to which language, and words, affects the way we think; if we think using language, then the words in some way can influence our thought patterns. We've had other threads about that issue in the past (such as here and here).

In this instance, though, I think the construction is sufficiently shopworn that saying "I put my faith in" is mostly a roundabout way of saying "I trust."
 

RichardGarfinkle

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The larger issue to me is that of the extent to which language, and words, affects the way we think; if we think using language, then the words in some way can influence our thought patterns. We've had other threads about that issue in the past (such as here and here).

In this instance, though, I think the construction is sufficiently shopworn that saying "I put my faith in" is mostly a roundabout way of saying "I trust."

I'm not sure that doesn't reinforce my initial point. There are aspects of how we talk and think that point toward an ideal of something or someone we can trust completely.

If I might expand on this in two directions.

1. We tend to want tools that we can rely on without having to understand (to many people the perfect computer is one that does what the user wants without the user having to know anything about what they are dealing with).

2. We also often equate love and trust, so the ideal is someone one can rely on, not necessarily someone to care for or someone to accept as they are.
 

Maxx

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Maxx, my point was that the language appears to have a cultural bias toward a certain bent of religious thinking.

Languages often appear to have chunks of earlier world-views embedded in them. For example, we say, "At sunrise" Do we mean ("literally" -- in ye olde Egyptian mode -- that the sun has traveled through the underworld and is now {"literally" -- or lingusitically} "climbing into the sky"?). No. However, I would suggest that ideologies use this built-in imagery or level of fossilized idioms to give themselves a (spurious?) pseudo-primordial kick. This is not a matter of culture or linguistics, but ideology and/or ideology in art. Bernini's work (and a lot of Baroque stuff and post modern things like Jeff Koons stuff) shows what this can look like.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Languages often appear to have chunks of earlier world-views embedded in them. For example, we say, "At sunrise" Do we mean ("literally" -- in ye olde Egyptian mode -- that the sun has traveled through the underworld and is now {"literally" -- or lingusitically} "climbing into the sky"?). No. However, I would suggest that ideologies use this built-in imagery or level of fossilized idioms to give themselves a (spurious?) pseudo-primordial kick. This is not a matter of culture or linguistics, but ideology and/or ideology in art. Bernini's work (and a lot of Baroque stuff and post modern things like Jeff Koons stuff) shows what this can look like.

You seem to be saying that the usages are always conscious and deliberate, rather than containing subconscious biases.

Also, that's a pretty radical correlation between Bernini and Jeff Koons. I wouldn't tend to equate their work.

Incidentally, as regards Bernini have you read and/or seen the TV series of Simon Schama's The Power of Art? I found his discussion of Bernini fascinating.
 

Maxx

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You seem to be saying that the usages are always conscious and deliberate, rather than containing subconscious biases.

Also, that's a pretty radical correlation between Bernini and Jeff Koons. I wouldn't tend to equate their work.

Incidentally, as regards Bernini have you read and/or seen the TV series of Simon Schama's The Power of Art? I found his discussion of Bernini fascinating.

Usage is not particularly conscious, but the use of usage (and anything else more or less habitual) is more than just conscious and deliberate -- it is all-pervasive and all-encompassing. It's the ideological crap-flood that comes at us so continually from all sides that we have a hard time imagining anything at all without it. Just to touch upon one of its nuggets there is this thing about "faith." Okay, so one of the ways this works is that the word can pretty much refer to any mental moment of vague expectation. Is that an accident or providential sloppiness? And how does it relate to "faithful" and "faithfully"? So far (perhaps) so innocent and linguistically induced (maybe), but notice how it gets linked with ideological propositions along the lines of "Everyone has some kind of faith/beliefs/expectations/dreams/hopes/fears/plans/prospects/mental events." How many times does one hear that? Why? What does repeating an utterly vacuous proposition like that do? What it does is allow people to tell you what goes on in your mind and insist it has whatever vacuous quality they want you to think you have that they can then define for you. It is a meta-rhetorical (ie ideological mechanism -- ie something like a propositional virus that propagates precisely because of its meaningless and utterly destructive potential) and its just a tiny sample of the rivers of utterly vacuous guff that pour out of all media all around one all the time. And each tiny bit of guff is the moral equivalent of an Ebola Virus targetted at rational thought.

Other gems (not particularly wrong in themselves, but very guffological when used meta-rhetorically):

"Science doesn't give the right answers about everything."
"History repeats itself."
"The more things change, the more they are the same."
"Science has its own myths."

And (along with those):
"Everyone has some kind of beliefs."
 
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Maxx

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You seem to be saying that the usages are always conscious and deliberate, rather than containing subconscious biases.

Also, that's a pretty radical correlation between Bernini and Jeff Koons. I wouldn't tend to equate their work.

I haven't seen anything on Bernini lately. And (in a typical Koonsian stroke of horrific guff) it is Koons who did the equating of Koons and Bernini. When Koons redecorated Versailles (oh boy), he took down the bust of Bernini and stuck up his own bust.
 
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