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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Philosophical Theology

The Existence of God: An Exposition and Application of Fregean Meta-Ontology by Stig Børsen Hansen (Quellen Und Studien Zur Philosophie: De Gruyter) This study breaks new ground on the question of the existence of God. It innovatively combines biblical scholarship with an analysis of existence drawn from the writings of the philosopher Gottlob Frege. It shows that the strength of Frege's approach is its emphasis on the notions of proper name and predicate; this in turn sheds new light on important elements of theological language. Finally, the Fregean approach in this book is defended against objections drawn from readings of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

Excerpt: The question of the existence of God involves two questions. What does one mean by "existence" and what does one mean by the word "God"? While this study treats both questions, the emphasis is on the former. The use of the term "meta-ontology" is meant to designate the treatment of the meaning of "existence" quite generally. Since the 17th century, "ontology" has been used as a name for the Aristotelian study of things qua their existence. Since then, "ontology" has come to be used to designate a list of what exists, and there has been a tendency for the more systematic considerations, such as those introduced by Aristotle, to recede into the background. The recently introduced prefix, "meta", indicates the reintroduction of the wider question of the nature of ontology.

This study motivates the presentation of an explicit meta-ontology by surveying recent discussions of realism in two otherwise unconnected areas: philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of religion. What emerges from the survey is a widespread practice of insisting on differences in the meaning of different instances of "object" or different instances of "existence" and related terms. Such an insistence has recently been dubbed "quantifier variance" by Eli Hirsch. The position is also found in Wittgenstein's later philosophy, and versions of it are presented and confronted in Aristotle's Metaphysics. Aristotle rejected the view that the notion of "existence" varies across subjects. This study presents a standpoint to the same effect.

The use of "Fregean" in the title of the study is likely to strike the reader as a very broad characterisation. My use of it echoes Fraser Mac-Bride's (2003) excellent study of neologicism. MacBride reserves the notion "neologicism" for the widely discussed position that arithmetic falls within the domain of logic. This position is of no consequence to what MacBride calls Fregeanism. This is a rather different and independent doctrine about language and reality, characterised by having linguistic categories be prior to ontological ones, while the question of truth is left for various sciences to settle. It is this aspect of Frege's thought we shall focus on in what follows.

Thus, as far as meta-ontology is concerned, the emphasis in this study will be on Frege as well as the young Wittgenstein who spoke of "the great works of Frege". Throughout his authorship Wittgenstein would cite, with

approval, versions of one of Frege's fundamental principles, namely what was called by Michael Dummett the "context principle". The principle has served in various capacities, but for more than two decades, it has been revived and defended as the main driving force behind a language-driven approach to ontology. I shall present the context principle — to ask for the meaning of a word only in the context of a proposition — as a guide to settling a question of what there is. The principle has largely been appealed to in connection with ontological questions regarding the existence of numbers or abstract objects generally, but nothing in the principle demands such a restriction. Thus, the overall approach of this study can be presented as follows. Had Frege, and those who have developed his approach to ontology, been interested in the existence of God rather than in numbers or abstract objects generally, what would their overall approach to this question be?

In short, the chapters progress as follows. Chapters 1 and 2 motivate, present and defend the Fregean meta-ontology. Chapter 3 applies the meta-ontology to theology. The following two chapters outline and treat a problem with the Fregean approach to ontology that has been raised on Fregean grounds, but predominantly treated in the context of commentary on Wittgenstein's Tractatus.

In slightly more detail: Chapter 1 takes measure of the battlefield made up of the debate over realism in mathematics and theology. I locate what I take to be a crucial weakness in all camps: the lack of a clear concept of an object. The uses of "object" in these discussions nevertheless offer a set of desiderata for a meta-ontology with which chapter 1 concludes. In chapter 2 I take a stand and go on to defend and elaborate a concept of an object derived from Frege's works. According to this position, the category of object is derivative of the syntactical category of singular term. I defend this position against a range of objections, both those already formulated and those one might reasonably imagine being put forward in response to the Fregean approach. By employing primarily inferential tests, I seek to restore and refine the criteria of singular terms, and I conclude by holding up the Fregean approach to ontology against the desiderata from chapter 1.

A significant consequence of the Fregean meta-ontology, so clearly perceived in an early article of Dummett's, is that a lot of traditional philosophical questioning is exposed as having little depth to it: questions of existence rarely are the proper domain of a philosopher. However, this is not to say philosophy, here in the shape of ontology, cannot provide significant clarity of a subject, and this is what is attempted in the following chapter. Chapter 3 makes for an application of the syntactic criteria to language about the Judeo-Christian god. Essentially, I show how the Fregean categories of predicate and proper name are of central importance in critical reflection on the ontology and wider nature of Christian theology. I shall engage in reflections on the structure of both Old and New Testament use of the relevant words with a view to make sense of the claim, found in the New Testament, that there are many gods. This claim remains oddly overlooked in much contemporary philosophy of religion that tends to understand itself as dealing with monotheistic religions. I explore how the concept "king" is central to an understanding of Christian theology, and I mount a defence of the meaningfulness, and indeed, the theological relevance of speaking of a true F — with "King" being a central example of predicates used about God. Rejection of such talk (i.e. "a true F') has been made on the background of strands of thought from Wittgenstein's later works. Speaking of a true F serves to confront another case of widespread insistence on "difference in meaning" as we see it in chapter 1. This insistence is frequently made in biblical studies, where one sees the claim that different religions merely inherit or borrow signs (such as "king") from each other, while the meaning of these signs is utterly transformed in different contexts. It is the semantic underpinnings of this position that we shall confront.

After treating a specific ontological question in a largely Fregean manner in chapter 3, chapter 4 returns to the theme of meta-ontology. Unlike the challenges posed in chapter 2, Fregean meta-ontology is now being challenged on Fregean grounds. The focus in the literature with respect to this essentially Fregean challenge is similar to the treatment of the liar paradox. The latter has concerned itself far more with the sentence that says of itself that it is false, rather than the equally problematic "truthteller". In the case of Fregean meta-ontology, far more attention has been devoted to a paradox that arises from speaking about Fregean concepts (it is known as the paradox of the concept "horse"), while saying that something is an object has been largely left untouched. In Frege's works, both the notion of an object and the notion of a concept are derived from syntactic features of propositions, and I show how the two notions are in fact equally problematic. Given the concept of object that I have defended, peculiarities arise when one tries to say that so-and-so is an object. Chapter 4 shows how these kinds of peculiarities feature in several ways in Frege's writings. Having rejected some attempts at a solution, I argue that they should be understood in the context of what Frege called "a logical discussion".

Chapter 5 locates the idea of "a logical discussion" in the setting of Tractarian commentary. The purpose of introducing Wittgenstein's Tractatus is not to provide an interpretation of this work. The introduction is made with the conviction that some Fregean strands of thought reach a Conclusion in early Wittgenstein's use of them. While those inspired by

Frege in their meta-ontology arguably have been slow to acknowledge the problems with the concept of an object, Tractarian commentators have been very quick to deem sentences like "A is an object" nonsensical. If one makes nonsensical claims in a general defence of the priority of the syntactic over the ontological, as well as in attempts at describing particular, formal features of religious language, there remains the task of addressing the question of what point there might be in speaking this particular kind of nonsense — what communication might take place?

This is a pressing question for Fregean meta-ontology. Answering this question is the task of the final chapter. The importance of answering this question is attenuated by the charge, made by Cora Diamond and others, that there is but one kind of nonsense, mere nonsense and that there is, therefore, no relevant difference between statements of the form "A is a singular term" or "A is an object" and "Piggly Wiggle". The charge must be taken seriously, as it is motivated by the context principle: the very principle that drives the Fregean meta-ontology. Part of my defence against the charge consists in pointing to important differences between Frege's and early Wittgenstein's use of the concept "object". While Frege most frequently used the term in a survey of what seems a restricted region of language (in his case, language that contains numerals), Wittgenstein employed the term with full generality, about any linguistic representation. I argue that the Fregean use is indeed useful, manages to communicate, but has a different purpose than early Wittgenstein's. Thereby, an instructive role for the term "object" is reserved in face of the problems raised in chapters 4 and emphasised by Cora Diamond and others.

This study does not attempt to settle the question of the existence of God. It presents a way of going about answering the question. This may strike the reader as unambitious, but the reader ought to be persuaded otherwise when taking into account the wide-spread insistence on "difference in meaning" found in discussions in ontology as well as in theology. Elizabeth Anscombe once wryly remarked: "Where we are tempted to speak of 'different senses' of a word which is clearly not equivocal, we may infer that we are in fact pretty much in the dark about the character of the concept which it represents" (Anscombe, 1963, p. 1). If philosophy can help us out of the dark, this remains a worthwhile task.

Being an exploration of meta-ontology, the study has relevance for three areas: Firstly, those parts of philosophy that are engaged in discussions over the existence of any given kind of thing. Secondly, an analysis of key claims made in theology is provided, including an analysis of the logical forms of the sign "God" as both a name and a general term. Finally, the study provides a contribution to the discussion of meta-ontology in the context of Tractarian commentary. Given the breadth of topics that are treated, the study will quite naturally be incomplete on account of not answering all challenges to the Fregean meta-ontology, just as it will treat only a few, but nevertheless central, aspects of language about God. The hope is that the study will achieve more than to preach to the choir, whether in philosophy or theology, and succeed in displaying the Fregean approach to ontology as a genuinely useful way of attaining clarity on a

given subject matter.

Let us sum up what should emerge from this chapter. We have located a common question in two different areas of enquiry that can be phrased "Is there an x?" or "are there x's?" or "is x real?". We recognised that for this, and indeed any enquiry to proceed, there must be some agreement on the language that is being employed. When there is something we cannot or have not explicated, we must rely on a meeting of minds. While charity is usually a good method, we have found reason to question any meeting of minds in the two areas under scrutiny when it comes to the central notion of an object or that of existence. While we found confirmation — perhaps most succinctly with Poincaré — of the Aristotelian intuition regarding the variety of what exists, and consequently the possible variety of the meaning of "existence", "object" and "real", there has been too little effort to say what this variety is a variety of That is, if numbers or God exist in some different sense of that word, we are entitled to ask what the relation is between these different senses. Emphasising the differences was dubbed the "disambiguation strategy", and I suggested that, while faithful to certain linguistic intuitions about the variety of the things our language purports to be about, the strategy renders a debate about realism futile on the grounds that it generates endless fragmentation. If all we do to explain


the reference of a word is to say that there is an object in the world that corresponds to it, we should accept Wittgenstein's laconic characterisation of the exercise: "'A reality corresponds to the word "two"'. — Should we say this? It might mean almost anything" (Wittgenstein, 1976, XXVI).

Let us for now observe that the concern that has been raised here is not without precedents both in logic and theology. The concern finds expres-

sion in TLP:

We may not first introduce [primitive ideas of logic] for one class of cases and

ilk then for another, for it would then remain doubtful whether its meaning in the two cases was the same, and there would be no reason to use the same way of symbolizing in the two cases. (In short, what Frege ("Grundgesetze der Arithmetik") has said about the introduction of signs by definition holds, mutatis mutandis, for the introduction of primitive signs also.) (TLP 5.451)

Wittgenstein is likely to have had in mind Bertrand Russell's and Alfred N. Whitehead's practice of introducing the operators "and" and "or" more than once, at the cost of the unity of logic. One introduction would have been made in connection with quantificational logic, another for propositional logic. Frege was concerned with the practice of piecemeal definition of symbols for different kinds of numbers, leaving the mutual relations between the symbols unaccounted for. These concerns very much mirror the ones I have raised here about attempts at a piecemeal understanding of the expressions "there is", "object" and "existence", which are often understood to be a primitive and basic notion in logic. We saw how Parsons and Devitt explicitly subscribe in their different ways to the view that the relevant terms are basic, and Putnam has explicitly described these terms in ways reminiscent of the Tractarian complaint: "[T]he logical primitives themselves, and in particular the notion of object and existence, have a multitude of different uses rather than one absolute 'meaning' (Putnam, 1990, p. 71).

Frege took the piecemeal definition of a sign as an indication that it was halfway known, halfway unknown. He compared such a use of the sign to operating in a kind of twilight zone with the goal of making a conjuring trick — and he did not consider this trick to be possible purely when seeking to define "equality". His concern was that one sign was being used for what were in effect different symbols, and he in fact encouraged the introduction of new signs as an aid to clarify the mutual

relation of the symbols.26 Introducing different signs is only the first and philosophically insignificant part of the job. The importance lies in giving an account of the newly introduced sign, including its relation to the meaning of other relevant signs.

While the history of philosophy and theology is littered with examples of attempts to insist that language, including the use of "existence", is of a certain and different nature when applied to God, we should also note how this view was confronted in the writings of theologian Karl Barth:

We are speaking of the human knowledge of God on the basis of this revelation [of the knowledge of God] and therefore of an event which formally and technically cannot be distinguished from what we call knowledge in other connections, from human cognition. (Barth, 2004, II/1 §27)

Karl Barth is unlikely to have had in mind exactly the kind of problem we have outlined in the present chapter. Nevertheless, it is significant that in theology we see the same insistence on a level playing-field — here called human cognition as such — when it comes to language about God, and we may for present purposes take the formality and technicality that Barth mentioned to include the basic kind of logical vocabulary that we have surveyed here. In short, the language with which we speak about God is logically no different from the language with which we speak about tables, electrons, football matches and all the rest.

This chapter leaves us with the need for a clear concept of an object — a meta-ontology — with the following desiderata:

1) The concept should be global and so not restricted to any particular region of language, characterised by being about a particular (kind of) object. Restricting your notion of realism to the kind of object you are interested in will make your position irrelevant to others.

2) The concept of an object must leave cases out — the concept must in this way be informative.

Ideally, the concept and its implications should be amenable to an account of the different philosophical intuitions and convictions that we have surveyed. They are:

3) The Aristotelian suggestions that "existence" comes with different meanings as applied to different kinds of objects. A 4) Insistence on ordinary, physical objects having a paradigmatic status as instances of objects.

5) In addition to (2), the concept of an object does not result in a wildly counterintuitive ontology.

I will conclude by flagging what I take to be Frege's and also Wittgenstein's answer to the tendency to disambiguate basic notions, while substantiation of this solution must await the treatment of the topics the solution includes. The answer is short and lies in the proclamation that "We cannot give a sign the wrong sense" (TLP 5.4732). As such, that may seem like an unjustified statement of what we could call linguistic luck, but it features as an essential part of Wittgenstein's early philosophy as well as Frege's remarks on problems he encountered in his discussion of logic. In TLP, Wittgenstein holds that "[logical syntax] must admit of being established without mention thereby being made of the meaning of a sign" (TLP 3.33). The general theme is that of trying to speak about the meaningful parts of our language, and possibly laying down rules for their use. Wittgenstein's observations are of relevance to the present chapter, in so far as we see the continued attempt to prescribe meanings for "object", "there is" etc. The insight that Wittgenstein took to be of fundamental and profound importance found its first expression in a letter to Russell, where Wittgenstein suggests that "a correct theory of symbolism must render all theories of types superfluous". What Wittgenstein proposed in the place of a theory of types were the early "caretaker slogans": that propositions of colloquial language are logically completely in order; that logic must take care of itself and we only need to recognise how language takes care of itself — we cannot make mistakes in logic.

However, such remarks introduce notions of logic, syntax and symbol-
ising that are alien to the discussions we have been surveying in the present
chapter. The following chapters will attempt to make clear the relevance of
Wittgenstein's fundamental insights about logic and language, and in this
case, their source in Frege's meta-ontology. In the next chapter, I will fill
the void that has been suggested in this chapter by introducing and defend-
! ing a relatively clear-cut notion of what to understand by the word "object"

as used in a discussion of what there is. This account will be informed by Frege's context principle, which in turn influenced much of Wittgenstein's thinking about logic, syntax and symbolising — the topics of subsequent chapters.

The Divine Lawmaker: Lectures on Induction, Laws of Nature, and the Existence of God by John Foster (Oxford University Press) presents a clear and powerful discussion of a range of topics relating to our understanding of the universe: induction, laws of nature, and the existence of God. He begins by developing a solution to the problem of inductiona solution whose key idea is that the regularities in the workings of nature that have held in our experience hitherto are to he explained by appeal to the controlling influence of laws, as forms of natural necessity. His second line of argument focuses on the issue of what we should take such necessitational laws to be, and whether we can even make sense of them at all. Having considered and rejected various alternatives, Foster puts forward his own proposal: the obtaining of a law consists in the causal imposing of a regularity on the universe as a regularity. With this causal account of laws in place, he is now equipped to offer an argument for theism. His claim is that natural regularities call for explanation, and that, whatever explanatory role we may initially assign to laws, the only plausible ultimate explanation is in terms of the agency of God. Finally, he argues that, once we accept the existence of God, we need to think of him as creating the universe by a method which imposes regularities on it in the relevant law-yielding way. In this new perspective, the original nomological-explanatory solution to the problem of induction becomes a theological-explanatory solution.

The Divine Lawmaker is bold and original in its approach, and rich in argument. The issues on which it focuses are among the most important in the whole epistemological and metaphysical spectrum.

The Divine Lawmaker is a slightly revised version of a series of lectures that Foster gave at the University of Oxford under the title of `Induction, Laws of Nature, and the Existence of God'a title that explicitly indicates the topics that form their subject matter.

Foster covers quite a lot of philosophical and theological ground. And, on the face of it, diverse ground. But there is a connection between the different topics. One of his main aims is to provide an argument for the existence of Goda personal God of a broadly  Jewish Christian type. Foster develops his arguments in four stages that include the topics of induction and laws of nature.

Foster begins by looking at the familiar problem of induction, claiming that certain ways of attempting to solve it do not work. The idea of induction occupies the first two lectures. Nextat stage two Foster introduces and defends what he asserts is, in its core, the right solution to the problem of induction. It is a solution that the Australian philosopher David Armstrong has also proposed independently at virtually the same time Armstrong presenting it in his 1983 book What is a Law of Nature?, Foster in his 1983 paper to the Aristotelian Society entitled `Induction, Explanation, and Natural Necessity'. Armstrong and Foster are at opposite ends of the metaphysical spectrum. Armstrong is the foremost modern champion of total materialism. Foster is one of the few modern defenders of a Cartesian conception of the mind; and, more exotically, Foster combines this mind-body dualism with an idealist view of the physical world (though claim is not developed in the context of this book). Both Armstrong and Foster find it amusing, and in a sense reassuring, that, with such contrasting metaphysical outlooks, they manage to converge on the same view in this understanding of induction and natural law.

Now this proposed solution to the problem of induction involves accepting the existence of laws of nature, and it involves recognizing these laws not just as regularities in the behavior of things (consistencies in how the world works in different places and times), but as forms of natural necessityas laws whose obtaining ensures that things behave and interact in certain regular ways. It is this that brings the discussion to its third stage in Fosters argument. Foster demonstrates that accepting the existence of laws of this kind, though facilitating a solution to the problem of induction, creates its own problem. The problem it creates is simply that, given the kind of necessity these laws involve, it is hard to see how to make sense of such lawshow the relevant notion of a law can be considered coherent.

It is in relation to this new problem that, in the fourth and final phase of the discussion, Foster constructs an argument for the existence of God. For he argues that, given the problem of unintelligibility or lack of coherence, one can only achieve a satisfactory account of the of the coherence of laws if we entertain that there is a God of the relevant (broadly Jewish and Christian) type, and that it is God who is the creator of the natural world and the source of its laws. With the argument for theism in place, Foster concludes the discussion by looking again at the issue of induction, and showing how his earlier proposal needs to be reworked, in certain key respects, in response to the theistic necessity of holding moral and natural law. Foster's arguments, if one is able to follow them, may bolster faith and might seems irrelevant to those with nonthestic neutrality.

Global Philosophy of Religion by Joseph Runzo (Oneworld) What is religion? Is every religion different? Is there life after death? What do we define as faith? As long as religion has existed, so too have these questions. A new and sophisticated addition to the 'Short Introduction' series, Global Philosophy of Religion addresses these and other key questions. Accessible debates allow readers to consider each area creatively and coherently, while including and thoroughly exploring each major religion's respective thoughts. In this stimulating new introduction, Joseph Runzo addresses the fundamental questions of life to present a uniquely global perspective on the philosophy of religion. Comparing and contrasting the philosophical insights offered by the different world religions, and examining their application today, this concise yet comprehensive book covers everything from the arguments for and against the existence of God to the problem of suffering and the possibilities of life after death. Balancing scholarship with a jargon‑free approach, Runzo makes even the most profound arguments accessible to readers of all levels.

Sophisticated, authoritative, yet thoroughly readable, this contemporary study encourages readers to arrive at their own informed and global understanding of the great religious ideas of humankind. It will fascinate students, scholars and the general reader alike.

Global Philosophy of Religion does not espouse a global theology -- as for example Wilfred Cantwell Smith has proposed -- not only because this book is not a theology, but also because a global theology is a philosophically impossible ideal. Global theology is an attempt to produce a single, universal religious perspective which all humans could hold. This necessitates obviating the specific doctrines of each tradition which, if true, would conflict with other traditions. For example, Jesus could not be the unique incarnation of God for Christians if Christians were to subscribe to a global theology which included Muslims, Buddhists, and Baha'is, just as Buddhists could not continue to hold the conception of anatman (noself) if they were to subscribe to a global theology with those who hold that humans have souls. Moreover, precisely what does give a religious worldview its power as an action guide for a meaningful life is the specificity of the doctrines and moral directives that it sets out. Hence, the idea of a global theology does not really designate a religious worldview, for it is not a theology so much as a vision of general religious principles which humankind does, or could, hold in common. But such an abstraction, while having a certain philosophic interest, is of no practical interest for a lived religious life.

Likewise, this book does not set out a global philosophy of religion. There are global issues in the philosophy of religion, and a number of those are addressed here. But the idea of a single global philosophy of religion is specious. First, since there can be no global theology, there can be no correspondent global philosophic inquiry into that purported theology. Second, there are a multitude of philosophic approaches, and it seems highly unlikely that any one single philosophic approach could triumph over all others and so form the basis of a global philosophy. It simply does not follow from the commonality of humankind that there is a single, distillable essence of human philosophic inquiry. In short, both theology and philosophy certainly seem to be irreducibly plural, much as the world's religions, while sharing characteristics that make them all religions, are irreducibly plural.

This brings us to the perennial question of whether, if there is a way to the Transcendent, it is a way of knowledge -- i.e., a purely philosophical path -- or a way of love. Typically, those who conceive of the way (or the mystical path) to the Transcendent as a perfecting of the intellect, think of humans as sharing common intellectual capacities that enable all humans to follow this same ascent to the Transcendent. In a general sense this is, to use a Western term, "gnosticism." As a specific historical movement prevalent during the first centuries of the Christian Church, Gnosticism was the view that gnosis or knowledge is the way to salvation for humans, where humans are seen as sparks of the divine spirit, who are trapped in this world in the prison of the flesh. However, the later medieval domination of Aristotelian thought among Christian, Islamic, and even Jewish thinkers led to a form of gnosticism in the broader sense, where intellect was thought to take precedence over the heart.

The first half of Global Philosophy of Religion focuses more on the way of the intellect, or jnanayoga (though the fulfillment of this path in Hinduism would also require meditative realization). In the later chapters Runzo turns more to a consideration of the way of love or bhaktiyoga. Thus, as we turn to the considerations of chapter I and the question of why religion needs philosophy, we should keep in mind that pure philosophy or gnosis or the intellect may not be the final way to the Transcendent.


edited by Stephen T. Davis

Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion

General Editor: D.Z. Philips

St. Martin’s Press

$59.95, hardcover, 232 pages, notes, index



At one time in Western intellectual history the philosophers and the theologians were pretty much the same sets of people. But the two disciplines drifted apart in the modern period, and for centuries the conversation between them has been negative and polemical. In the first half of the twentieth century, philosophy and theology were scarcely on speaking terms. But times have changed. One of the most interesting movements in recent Christian thought in Great Britain and the United States is the participation of professional philosophers in theological conversation. What has brought about the recent change?

First, in the 1960s, from within analytical philosophy broadly conceived, some philosophers began to question the widespread assumption that attention to our ordinary usage of concepts showed that religious belief is confused. They argued that the use of religious concepts was as ordinary as the use of other concepts and that they, like them, awaited conceptual elucidation.

Second, beginning in the 1970s, a group of philosophers, most of them practicing Christians, seemed almost simultaneously to tire of writing about general issues in theism or the philosophy of religion, and began to address themselves to various topics in Christian theology, albeit from different philosophical and denominational perspectives. Most philosophers in this group seem to be either Roman Catholics, Anglicans-Episcopalians or Christians from the Reformed tradition, but there are also Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals and many others.

While some professional theologians look with approval on this second movement, others have reservations and even objections to it. There are ‘turf’ issues involved whenever people from one field write about another. Legitimate concerns have been expressed. Are philosophers well enough trained in the foundational discipline of biblical exegesis to do theology well? Do they know the history of theology well enough? Aren’t they too inclined to read theological statements as timeless truths (or falsehoods) rather than being sensitive to the historical and social context of those statements?

Nevertheless, the conversation between theologians and interested philosophers about theological concepts is going to continue. Indeed, it appears to be gaining momentum. Some of the contributors to the present collection come from the first philosophical development just mentioned, but most come from the second; others cannot be placed in either category. For example, the collection contains timely reminders that Christian theology cannot be done without firm grounding in both biblical exegesis and the history of doctrine and the Church, and of what can happen to theology, under philosophical influence, when this is forgotten. The collection also contains contributions from the perspectives of process thought, feminist and liberation theology. Yet despite differences, philosophy, as an unending search for clarity, must surely be of assistance to theology.

The nine symposia contained in this volume revolve around three large topics. Part I, Classical Theism and the Theological Given, contains discussions of three grand assumptions or ‘givers’ on which Christian theology is often said to rest: its metaphysical assumptions, the Church and Scripture. In Part II, Changing Concepts of Theological Doctrines, there are discussions of ways in which philosophical reflection, in different centuries, can clarify, motivate or even radically change what theologians have to say. Twentieth century theologians cannot simply repeat what their predecessors in the third or sixteenth century had to say. Part III, the Ethical and Social Dimensions of Theology, deals more specifically with the ethical dimensions of theology facing us today. Let me comment on these essays in a little more detail.

In Part I, Paul Badham, an Anglican theologian who serves as Dean of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Wales, St. David’s Lampeter, defends the view that Christian theology presupposes the metaphysical beliefs of philosophical theism. Badham argues that recent Christian theology and practice have neglected the doctrine of God, and that the task of arriving at a coherent and theologically satisfying concept of God ought to be one of the Church’s foremost tasks. D.Z. Phillips, Danforth Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at the Claremont Graduate School and Professor of Philosophy in the University of Wales, Swansea, strongly opposes this claim in his response. Arriving at a coherent notion of God cannot be logically prior to Christian practice, since it is Christian practice which gives sense to the Christian notion of God.

In the second symposium, the relation of Christian theology to the Church is discussed. Theology does not exist in a vacuum; the Church is the context of Christian theology and practice. Jack Verheyden, Richard Cain Professor of Ecclesiology and Theology at the School of Theology at Claremont, notes critically that despite these seemingly obvious points, ecclesiology (systematic theological reflection about the Church) has been virtually absent in twentieth-century Protestant theology. He argues that there is an urgent need of a reclamation of the centrality of the Church in theology, and that philosophical influences have much to answer for in creating the problem.

In his reply, Anselm Min. Professor of Religion at the Claremont Graduate School, agrees that the crisis Verheyden has described exists, but wants to deepen our understanding of the reasons for its existence. In today’s world, where we witness a crying out for justice and the alleviation of suffering, it is not surprising that the Churches are more concerned with what they are doing rather than with what they are in themselves. He thinks that the contemporary exploration of what is meant by Christian praxis, though it may not result in formal theologies, may itself constitute a reworking of our idea of the Church. What is now needed in relations between Catholicism and Protestantism is a gathering together of these insights in a nonabsolutizing catholicity.

In the third symposium, Stephen T. Davis, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Claremont McKenna College, argues that there can be no serious theology without authority and that that authority is found preeminently in Scripture. While tradition is necessary for the interpretation of Scripture, it cannot take precedence over it. Davis defends this conclusion in the light of formidable objections.

The reply to Davis is by Frank Rogers Jr., Associate Professor of Religious Education at the School of Theology at Claremont, a practicing Roman Catholic whose theological perspective is informed by Karl Barth. He argues that neither Bible nor Tradition is infallible, but can become authoritative sources when they mediate God’s presence in our lives.

In Part II, the first symposium gives us an example of the impetus that philosophical reflection can give to radical theological change. John Hick, Danforth Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, emeritus, at the Claremont Graduate School, argues that important changes need to be made to the traditional doctrine of atonement. When atonement is associated with ideas such as inherited guilt, expiation, satisfaction, penal substitution and imputed justification, philosophical reflection can show the doctrine is mistaken. Hick’s positive theological recommendation is that we need a transformational model of atonement, similar to the notion of ‘deification’ in Eastern Orthodoxy, involving a transformation of our lives into the paths of love and forgiveness.

In his reply, Robert M. Adams, Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Yale University, agrees with Hick in his rejection of certain traditional conceptions of atonement. He too emphasizes the transformational character of atonement, but insists that Christ’s acts amount to a reconstitution of our relationship with God.

In the second symposium, William P. Alston, Professor of Philosophy at Syracuse University, discusses the relation of doctrine of the Trinity to the Holy Spirit. Usually, discussions of the Trinity centre on difficulties concerning the Incarnation, or of how God can be a plurality of persons. Alston considers the question whether there are functions of the divine which need the conception of the third person of the Trinity and which could not be attributed to God the Father or God the Son. Although he holds that it makes little difference to the Christian life whether we conceive of God in binatarian or trinitarian terms, he does conclude with a qualified endorsement of the traditional notion of the divinity, and the distinct personhood, of the Third Person of the Trinity.

In his reply, Joseph Runzo, Giset Professor of Religion and Professor of Philosophy at Chapman University, disagrees with Alston’s conclusion. He argues that religious experience, the belief that God is no deceiver and the praxis-forming power of our religious conceptions should all give us good reasons for not jettisoning the notion of the Holy Spirit.

In the third symposium, Marjorie Suchocki, Ingraham Professor of Theology at the School of Theology at Claremont argues that a far more radical contextualization of theology is called for in our age than in any previous one. Former contextualizations were governed by the conception of the unknowability of God, whereas ours is governed by our perception of the social, historical, political and linguistic contexts in which we live. Influenced by the theology of Leondo Hoff, she argues for a new contextualization of theology in the contexts of liberation politics concerning gender and race. It is in these contexts that doctrines such as that of the Trinity must emerge anew, shorn of assumptions which no longer address our situation.

Axel Steuer, President of Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, raises critical questions about these conclusions. He asks whether the doctrine of the Trinity, if taken to be a correct interpretation of reality, should not determine the experiential directions we should take, rather than be regarded as a function of our soteriological needs. Boff’s theology is subjected to the same question. Are we prone to move too quickly from how things are to a prescriptive conclusion regarding how they ought to be?

In Part III, Philip Quinn, John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, raises the issue of the place of theology in debates over public policy. He is concerned about the marginalization of religious ethics in modern society. He considers two proposed solutions to this dilemma, one offered by Alisdair MacIntyre and the other by Jeffrey Stout. Quinn argues that a Thomistic tradition where differing parties are held together by a respect for each other in a common search for moral truths is not viable in our fragmented culture. By contrast Stout, noting our differences, says that all that can be achieved is a bricolage, a putting together of elements of different traditions to serve the purposes of the moment. The danger here is that of losing what is religiously distinctive. Quinn argues that religious moralists, while ready to learn from secular viewpoints, should not apologize for their own point of view. In the ensuing conversation, fanaticism is avoided if apologists restrict themselves to rational persuasion. In this discussion religious apologists should avoid the extremes of optimism or pessimism about the possible outcome.

In his reply, Richard Rice, Professor of Theology at La Sierra University, has some misgivings about Quinn’s solutions. He doubts whether religious ideas can offer an appropriate focus for public laws and emphasizes that while a society may be secular, it may nevertheless exercise religious tolerance. In this way, religious pluralism will be tolerated. To ensure these ends, Rice argues, official public policies should be based on secular reason above.

In the second symposium, Marilyn Adams, who is Professor of Historical Theology at Yale Divinity School, argues that a high Chalcedonian christology is crucial to providing a Christian solution to the problem of evil. Rejecting the solutions of traditional theodicies, she argues that God’s love for human beings is such that it will be shown in ultimate heavenly beatitude, in the light of which even victims of horrendous evils will not wish them taken away from their life histories.

In his reply, John B. Cobb Jr, Ingraham Professor of Theology, emeritus, at the School of Theology at Claremont, welcomes the emphasis on God sharing in human suffering in the experience of believers. He has difficulty, however, with the suggestion that this implies that people would not wish not to have suffered in the first place. Wouldn’t a mother who watches her child suffer prefer that child not to have suffered, and would it not have been better if the child had lived to experience adult life? Does any of this show that such suffering adds to the goodness of the world? Surely not. Cobb argues that these problems arise out of the conception of divine power which is assumed by advocates of traditional theodicies.

In the final symposium of the collection, Linda Zagzebski, Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, puts forward a moral notion of rational arguments for theologians based on Aristotle’s conception of phronesis, a reasoned and true state or capacity to act with regard to human goods. Linking these insights with Newman’s thought, and combating the charge of relativism, Zagzebski argues that here we have a model for rationality which is superior to any alternative, by which a belief is rational if it is accepted by a person with phronesis in the relevant circumstances.

In her reply, Professor Nancey Murphy, Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary, is worried by the fact that Zagzebski’s proposal could seem too individualistic to be offered as an alternative to models of rationality based on mathematics, sense perception or science. Zagzebski’s proposal is best seen as a valuable addition to those other models.

All the contributors to the collection take Christian tradition seriously. Part of that tradition has been the conversation between theology and philosophy. The nine symposia presented in this collection give informative and valuable insights into important aspects of that conversation in our time. This volume shows that a less polemical and more probing, even complementarity of approach may mark a greater reconciliation of philosophical and theological approaches to human problems.


Faith and Eternal Acceptance

by J. Kellenberger

Library of Philosophy & Religion

General Editor: John Hick

St. Martin’s Press

$49.95, hardcover, 150 pages, notes, index



Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were autobiographical writers who never wrote an autobiography. It was not the explicit intention of either to write about himself. Nevertheless their written works came to express and to embody much of their lives, especially their ma! inner lives. To be sure, the writings of any philosopher, like the r novels of a writer of fiction, flow from and express the life experience of the author. In some way, inevitably, what philosophers write reflects their experience - indirectly, if not directly, and perhaps as much in what they do not say as in what they do say. In at least this way the philosophical thinking of even the most formalistic analytic philosophers to a degree reflects their life experiences. For other philosophers, more inclined towards psychological reflection, the degree to which their thinking reflects their experience is greater. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were thinkers of the second sort, and at times their writings reflect in a fairly obvious way certain definite experiences in their lives. So it is that one can find in Kierkegaard’s writings echoes of his romantic relationship to Regina Olsen and can find in Nietzsche’s writings intimations of his relationship to Lou Salome. Such echoes and intimations, however, are merely autobiographical snippets. In another, more significant, dimension the substance of what Kierkegaard and Nietzsche wrote about religion and value flows from and reflects their life-experiences. It is not too much to say that Kierkegaard and Nietzsche came to live in and through their writings. Thus it is Kierkegaard’s own polyphonous voice that we hear in his pseudonymous works, when, for instance, he bodies forth the aesthetic, and it is Nietzsche’s voice we hear in the prophecy of Zarathustra.

In this respect these authors, who are so radically different in the way they see life and the significance of life, are exactly similar. In other ways too, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche share a deep similarity. Both are psychologists - in the sense that Dostoyevsky was a psychologist. (Nietzsche, incidentally, said that Dostoyevsky was ‘the only psychologist … from whom I had something to learn.’) )!Like Dostoyevsky, each author explores the hidden feelings and motives that can shape a human life. Again, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are profoundly similar in their absolute commitment to their writing, to their ‘work’, to use Nietzsche’s term. Each lived a life of rigorous solitude dedicated to his writing. Each was constantly writing: Kierkegaard immured in his rooms in Copenhagen - the city he never left except for an excursion within Denmark and several visits to Berlin, Nietzsche in lodgings in the Engadin in Switzerland or in northern Italy. During their intensely productive periods 1843-50 for Kierkegaard and 1878-88 for Nietzsche - they turned out a book a year, or, in the case of Kierkegaard, several books a year. Kierkegaard would take walks and carriage rides for diversion. Nietzsche too took the air to restore himself before returning for another bout of writing. In Ecce Homo Nietzsche tells us that all of Zarathustra came to him in 1883 on his walks around the Gulf of Rapello near Genca.

Another point of significant similarity: both are religious writers. Both address the religion of their fathers. Their common heritage is Christianity, but, moreover, they share Lutheran roots and upbringing. Both speak critically to the religion of their fathers, the Christianity of their fathers. Nietzsche was the son of a Lutheran minister and literally rejected his father’s religion. Kierkegaard, though he was never the pastor of a church, was qualified by theological training to be a pastor in the Lutheran Church of Denmark, the established church of the state. Neither believes that religion ultimately, as it expresses itself in the life of an individual, is merely a matter of holding a set of significant religious propositions to be true. They agree that religion’s subtler ramifications require the probing of a psychologist. Each is concerned with the connection between religious belief and ethics and between God and morality.

Both are religious writers - but not just because their writings share a religious target. Both authors can cite scripture and draw sustenance from biblical themes. Both know Christian sensibility from the inside. And each, out of his religious sensibility, speaks critically to his religious tradition - although they do so in different ways. Nietzsche challenges society to throw off the last vestiges of a half-consciously rejected Christianity. Kierkegaard challenges the society of ‘Christendom’ to become Christian. For Nietzsche, faith falsifies human potential and vitiates the will to power. For Kierkegaard, the members of Christendom affirm the doctrines of Christianity, but lack faith. For Kierkegaard, the fault is in the established and socially accepted forms of religion, precisely because they give no place to faith. For Nietzsche, the fault goes beyond the established and socially accepted forms of religion and lies at the very heart of religion, and of Christianity in particular.

In one way Nietzsche, who proclaims the death of God, is more a religious writer than Kierkegaard. It is not Kierkegaard but Nietzsche who speaks as a prophet. Zarathustra, through whom Nietzsche speaks, is the prophet of the Obermensch. As much as the prophets of the Old Testament, Zarathustra has a message to proclaim. However, he is not a prophet of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord, say Isaiah and Jeremiah. Thus spoke Zarathustra, says Nietzsche. Zarathustra speaks authoritatively, but on his own authority. Kierkegaard did not speak authoritatively - not as an apostle or as a prophet. In fact, in his pseudonymous works, he did not even speak ‘directly’, but ‘indirectly’.

Yet both authors share the existential language of passion. Both understand that religion, when it enters into the life of an existing individual, must affect that individual’s life through life-values that become internalized. For Nietzsche we are the slaves of a pervasive religious belief in God and must free ourselves of its baneful influence. For Kierkegaard, belief in God, religious faith in God, is something very different from the comfortable social belief of Christendom. For Nietzsche, God is dead and we have killed God, but we must bend our wills to accept our act, which, though our own act, is still distant from us. For Kierkegaard, faith is an entered God-relationship, filled with dread and joy, which is the highest passion a human being can attain, attainable by all, though - for all we can see - rarely attained. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche of course never met. Kierkegaard died in 1855, when Nietzsche was only eleven. But had they met as contemporaries they would have understood one another, they could have spoken to one another in a shared language.

A good part of the reason Kierkegaard and Nietzsche spoke the same language is that both probed beneath the surface of religion. Nietzsche accused religion of having hidden motives and springs: the secret motive of religion, or of Pauline Christianity at least, is revenge, and belief in all gods is created by ‘weariness [MudigLeit]’ .Kierkegaard would have disagreed, but he would have felt the force of the claim and seen it as striking at the heart of religion in a way that the animadversions of Hume and the Enlightenment did not. Kierkegaard spoke out of a religious sensibility that would not have dismissed such a claim as irrelevant to what is essential to religious faith and commitment. Of course for many what really counts in religion is, first, the truth of what is believed religiously and, second, the rational basis of religious belief. This is the perspective of much traditional philosophy of religion, going back to Hume, and much contemporary philosophy of religion done in the analytic tradition. Much analytic philosophy of religion is seemingly unaware of what both Nietzsche and Kierkegaard are acutely aware of: that if the concern with doctrinal truth and the concern with rationality have importance for the life of religious faith, they do so by virtue of the psychological dimension of belief - the side of faith that analytic philosophy is inclined to dismiss as irrelevant. I would argue, moreover, that in order to approach a resolution of the concerns of truth and rationality that does not violate a strain of religious sensibility deeply embedded in Judaism and Christianity, one must heed the sorts of psychological claims that animate the controversy between Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Our concern here, though, is a different one.

Here our concern is with joy, with the joyful acceptance of the world. For Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling, faith is joyful. A joyful acceptance of the world is allied with faith as a fruit of the spirit. Nietzsche, also, gives a central place to a joyful acceptance of the world. But Nietzsche sees joyful acceptance as possible only after the renunciation of all gods. At work here are very different intuitions, correlated with deeply opposed worldviews and with profoundly different conceptions of a fulfilled human life. A good part of our inquiry will be to explore critically the different intuitions and background views of these two thinkers, this being a necessary preliminary to the comparison of the joyful acceptance projected by Kierkegaard with that projected by Nietzsche. A not unimportant element of the opposition between Kierkegaard and Nietzsche is the precise affective character of the joyful acceptance that each proclaims. While in Fear and Trembling and in Thus Spoke Zarathustra Kierkegaard and Nietzsche respectively project visions of a fulfilled life that includes an enthusiastic - joyful - acceptance of the world, this is not to say that the affective character of this acceptance is the same for both. For Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling joyful acceptance is a part of faith in God. For Nietzsche it flows from a very different source. And this difference impinges on the subjective character of the acceptance of life.


Perception of the History of Being

by D.G. Leahy


$19.95, 422 pages , notes, index




Matter the Body Itself

by D.G. Leahy


$24.95, paper; 696 pages, notes, bibliography, index



The phoenix has arisen anew from the ashes of the death of God theology and its apocalyptic flight blazes across the sky in these epochal works of D.G. Leahy. His mentor, Thomas J. Altizer, the famous death of God theologian has claimed that NOVITAS MUNDI "is quite simply the most important work of philosophical theology published in our century."

The "Prolegomena" sets out the fundamental perception of the history of being now operative in consciousness. The center of the book is comprised of a two-part "Reflection on the History of Being": Part I is an examination of the impact made on the shape of scientific philosophy by the fact of Christian faith. Aristotle, the sacra doctrina of Thomas Aquinas, and their relationship with the modern thinkers, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard are examined in this section.

In Part II the history of the conception of time becomes the measure of a prospective analysis of the limits essential to the modern enterprise. Augustine, Leibniz, Husserl, and Heidegger become the major figures here, and there is a specific delineation of the relationship of the phenomenologists to Kierkegaard and Hegel.



Prolegomena in Comprehension of the History of Being

Reflection on the History of Being


A Retrospect: Faith and Self-consciousness

Aristotle: The Paradox of Good Sense

Thomas Aquinas: A New Reality

Descartes: A New Thought

The Infinite Practical. I: Kant

The Infinite Practical. II: Hegel

Kierkegaard and Lessing: The Leap of Faith

The Prospect: Introductory Presentations In The Essential History of Thought

Augustine: The Knowledge of Existence

Leibniz: The Ideal of The History of Being

Hegel: The Absolute Truth

Clarification of The Absolute. I: Kierkegaard

Clarification of The Absolute. II: Husserl

Clarification of The Absolute. III: Heidegger

Epilogue: The Essential Anticipation of the Finality of the Fact

Appendix alpha : The Reality of Transcendental Historical Thinking

Appendix beta : The Now Existing Thought of Faith

Appendix gamma : Missa Jubilaea: The Celebration of The Infinite Passover


FOUNDATION manages to be the single most significant work of philosophical theology to be written in many decades. The epochal excellence of these books is the consummate vehemence and earnestness of practically every utterance. Leahy is an innovative thinker who writes to demonstrate the thinking he is trying to create anew. It is practically as demanding to read these works as it would be to write one's own. They require intense concentration and repeated rereadings to follow the argument, much less extract the implicit propositions and wild assumptions that underpin this effort. Novitas Mundi provides an original account of the history of being, in many ways more subtle and finely attuned than Heidegger's views of history. In Foundations, Leachy continues his critique but with a magnificent constructive and demonstrative metaphysics that is likely to be closely studied and controversially explored for decades to come. Novitas Mundi is a sort of prolegomena to this enterprise. It ordains the fundamental conception of the history of being that is now operative in consciousness, basically a culmination of past constructions and a relativizing of current ones, in other words, the problem of existence and of change. The core of Novitas Mundi is composed of a two-part "Reflection on the History of Being": Part I is an analysis of the effect made on the form of scientific philosophy by the event of Christian faith. Aristotle, the sacra doctrina of Thomas Aquinas, and their relationship with the modern thinkers, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard are examined in this section. In Part II the history of the idea of time befits the scale of a prospective analysis of the limits essential to the modern enterprise. Augustine, Leibniz, Husserl, and Heidegger become the major figures dealt with here, and there is an explicit depiction of the relationship of the phenomenologists to Kierkegaard and Hegel. With this summary critique of being and time, Leahy takes on the form of future thinking, a thinking without self in Foundation. He manages this remarkable feat by critiquing binary logics of Boole and Pierce, proposing a ternary logic where no term is an absolute nothing. This move is with great precision and logical sophistication drawn out for us. In many ways this work reinvigorates the theological idea and necessity of the Trinity. It also provokes important parallel ideas from classic Buddhist thought, generally the debates between the yogacarains, who defined a threefold logic in order the account for selfless consciousness and to refute the imputed extremism of the madhyamika, classically based upon the twofold dialectic of Nagarjuna. Though these connections with nonwestern thought are not recognized. Leahy's threefold logic has zero, not as nothing but as place holder, unuum, as possible being and one as actual being. This move provides a profound reinvention of the geometra of late antique neopythagorean and Jewish Kabbalah number and letter theory, in that the symbolic intervention of the signs themselves offer valid commentary upon the structure of absolute consciousness, that is selfless consciousness. However Leahy takes pains to remove himself from these traditional formulations, yet his own evidence reconfirms many of the traditional procedures and insights. Leahy invents a somewhat selfless thinking by taking the absolute seriously and effectively in a way that no philosopher has done since Hegel. This philosophical theology, Robert C. Neville says "is wild, but extraordinarily competent...truly brilliant work. Here we have a thinker who has used the resources of the Western tradition to think genuinely new and profound thoughts."

Contents for FOUNDATION


Critique of Absolute Contingency

Critique of Absolute World-Consciousness

1. Thought beyond Nietzsche: Foundation Itself

2. Ex nihilo the Angelic Word Totality Itself

3. Metanomy: The Quality of Being Itself

4. Revolutionary Metanoesis: Foundation of Society Itself

The Unity of the New World Order

1. The Law of Absolute Unity

2. Six Theorems Concerning the New Logic and Mathematics that Provide the Logical base for the Nothingless Fibonacci Sequence, the Geometric and Arithmetic Series, and Fermat's Last Theorem

3. The Geometry of the Infinitely Flat Structure of the Universe: The Logic of Rigid Structures

4. The Infinite Logical Lattice: The Direct Predictor of Rigidity in Grids

5. Transformation of World Consciousness: The New Atonement

6. Theorem Concerning the Natural Numbers, 1,784, and 82944, Factors of (9!/45)"superscript 2"

7. Theorem Concerning the Sets of Twenty-Two and Eight Natural Numbers whose Integral Products Equal Unit and Multi-Unit Fractions of Themselves the Denominators of which are Primary Digits of the Number System

Absolute Perception

1. American Thought and the New World Order

2. The Beginning of the Absolutely Unconditioned Body

The New Beginning

1. America after Death: The Universality of God's Body

2. To Create the Absolute Edge

3. The New Beginning: Beyond the Post-Modern Nothingness

Appendix: The De Trinitate of Augustine and the Logic


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