‘Why Do We Believe What We Believe’ Brings Together Skeel and Oberdiek

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

“Belief and Knowledge: Why do we believe what we believe?,” a conversation between David Skeel, professor of corporate law at the University of Pennsylvania, and Swarthmore Philosophy Professor Hans Oberdiek, was hosted by the Swarthmore Christian Fellowship as part of the Veritas Forum on April 16.

Skeel and Oberdiek discussed the formation of their own beliefs and the ways in which tolerance comes into play during times of disagreement. The discussion was later opened to the entire audience.

“As Swat students, it’s great to see professors who are really different in their beliefs, to agree on so much,” said Sarah Gonzales ‘15.

“At points, I was worried we were going to agree too much. So I’m glad there were a few things we didn’t agree on. I think we almost completely agree on the topic of toleration,” Skeel said of Oberdiek.

Skeel said that he believes that Christianity is most equipped to explain the complexities of the world. He argued that there is a moral structure of the universe, which is a reflection of God.

Oberdiek, on the other hand, concluded that there is no factual information that proves the existence of a God.

In regard to tolerance, Skeel said that everyone is of equal worth, even if they hold beliefs that differ from his own. He said that tools of persuasion, not coercion or manipulation, should be used in times of disagreement. Oberdiek said that tolerance occurs in situations of deep diversity where agents could interfere.

“There were a lot of unanswered questions which I think is a good sign that this was productive,” said. Chris Geissler ’13. “I think it was a wonderful event and am happy for the discussions this will spawn.”

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