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Preface and acknowledgements 
A Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion 

Index of names 




Preface and acknowledgements 

Aims, scope and target readership 

he following selection of subject entries has been shaped in the light of 

many years of feedback from my own students. I have asked them 
what themes, thinkers and problems in philosophy of religion they have 
found most stimulating or rewarding, and also where they have needed 
most help, clarification and explanation. Their answers have been both 
formal and anonymous, and informal and personal. 

In addition to the criterion of ‘professional competency’ in philosophy 
of religion, I have explored issues where pressing problems arise from 
arguments for or against belief in God, and from differences between 
diverse religious traditions. For many, this subject combines academic 
rigour with personal and practical issues about religious belief. I have aimed 
to set out the arguments of major religious traditions and the counter- 
arguments of their critics with fairness and integrity, even if I myself find 
nothing irrational about belief in God, to express this as a bare minimum. 

It is my hope, therefore, that this volume will not only fill a needed gap 
as a student textbook, but that it will also provide a ready work of reference 
and explanation for those readers who wish to explore issues of belief for 
their own sake. To this extent, I admit to writing for the general enquirer as 
well as for students who seek a clear, useful textbook for essays and 

At what level is this aimed? Most of my own classes in philosophy of 
religion have been for second-year degree students. However, they have 
included also first years and final years. Most have been honours students 
in theology and/or in philosophy, but many have majored in other 
subjects. I have been sufficiently impressed by the standards of incoming 
students who have taken philosophy of religion at ‘A’ level to have no 

vii Preface and acknowledgments 

doubt that the following pages will also provide them with a readable 
textbook. I point out below that the regular use of cross-references will 
explain virtually every unfamiliar technical term, and will introduce 
unfamiliar thinkers. 

Style, structure and more on level 

I have made a particular point of keeping to short paragraphs, and as far as 
possible to short sentences. Normally all entries except those of less than three 
hundred words have been divided by the use of sub-headings, so that no 
reader need feel intimidated by long, unbroken, pages of argument. The sub- 
headings also provide easy maps of where arguments lead. 

This is the first of my eight books (written to date) without substantial 
footnotes. This is for the purpose of simplicity and clarity. However, those 
reference books that fail to identify significant sources for major quotations 
or arguments lack, to my mind, a resource that may prove to be helpful. 
Where precise sources are appropriate, authors, titles, publishers and page 
numbers are cited in brackets in the text. This both relieves the reader of 
having to take everything on trust, and allows the student to follow up 
important issues independently. 

The system of cross-references and of dates of thinkers or other sources 
is a key feature. These cross-references assist those readers who need instant 
explanations of terms, or quick information about the further consequences 
of arguments under consideration. Dates provide appropriate historical 
contexts for the accurate understanding of thought in the light of the times. 
Theologians and philosophers often place different weight respectively 
upon these: they are more frequently emphasized in theology, but their 
inclusion prejudices no argument. A further chronological chart is added, 
without any pre-judgements about the importance of what names may 
feature in it. 

Acknowledgements and thanks 

Mrs Carol Dakin has typed this manuscript onto disks throughout. I am 
deeply grateful to her for this magnificent and excellent work. I regularly gave 
her unclear handwritten material, which she returned promptly, efficiently 
and with constant good judgement where guesses must have been inevitable. 
My former secretaries observed that over the years two qualifications for my 
Professorship and Headship of Department at Nottingham were required for 
this post: first, to have taught previously in the University of Durham; and 
second, to have illegible writing. I was duly appointed. 

A Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion viii 

My weakest points of expertise, I concede, relate to the articles on 
Islamic philosophy, on Hindu philosophy, and on Buddhist philosophy. I am 
deeply indebted to Dr Hugh Goddard, Reader in Islamic Theology in the 
University of Nottingham, for advice on the entry on Islamic Philosophy, 
and related Islamic thinkers. Likewise, I am very grateful to Dr Philip 
Goodchild, Senior Lecturer in this Department, for advice and correction 
on Buddhist philosophy. Dr Brian Carr, Reader in the Department of 
Philosophy at Nottingham, has given me valuable help, for which I thank 
him warmly, on Hindu philosophy and Hindu thinkers. He is also co-editor 
of the Encyclopaedia of Asian Philosophy. 

During the final month before the submission of the manuscript, I was 
Scholar in Residence for 2002 in Union University, Jackson, Tennessee. I 
should like to thank Union University, Dr Randall Bush, and his colleagues 
for giving me every possible facility to complete the manuscript on time, 
including my sending quantities of faxed handwriting to Mrs Dakin, and 
edited e-mails to my wife at home. My time at Union University was a very 
happy one. 

Home life often suffers during these undertakings, and my wife 
Rosemary continued to put up with my working every day into the late 
evening even though my previous book of some 1,500 pages had made the 
same relentless demands for several years without any interval between 
these books. She went the second mile of reading typescripts for errors, 
checking through disks, typing revisions, and undertaking related tasks. I 
am so grateful for this forbearance and for her work. As before, Mrs Sheila 
Rees also undertook some proof-reading at a period of high pressure, and I 
thank her most warmly. 

Finally, I value immensely the encouragement received from colleagues, 
from one or two close friends, and from some former students, to persevere 
with yet another book which they generously encouraged me to think was 
worthwhile, in spite of other wide-ranging professional and church 
commitments. Their encouragement has been a special and needed gift. 
Ms Victoria Warner of Oneworld Publications has also been among these 
encouragers, and I thank her for her patient advice and support. 

Anthony C. Thiselton, 
Department of Theology, 
University of Nottingham 

Good Friday, 2002 

a fortiori 

The term denotes an argument that applies 
‘all the more’, or ‘with greater force’. In 
LOGIC, if a given consequence follows 
from a case that is actually weaker, a 
fortiori that consequence will follow ‘from 
a stronger’ (Latin, a fortiori) argument. 
This logical notion has been used since 
ancient times. Traditionally it features in 
Rabbi Hillel’s seven ‘rules of interpreta- 
tion’ concerning what may be inferred 
from a biblical text. 

a posteriori 

Beliefs or truths that are established by a 
posteriori arguments or knowledge are 
derived from evidence, experience, or 
observation of the world. The term stands 
in contrast to A PRIORI, which denotes that 
which is prior to, and independent of, such 
experience or observation. 

A posteriori arguments depend upon 
empirical evidence, which subsequently 
confirms or disconfirms what has been 
asserted as true, or as possibly true. In 
philosophy of religion the COSMOLOGICAL 
ARGUMENT for the existence of God 
characteristically begins with experience 
or observations about the world, in con- 
which turns on logical questions about 
the concept of God. 

Clearly what is true merely by defini- 
tion, or what is entailed entirely by logical 
reasoning, belongs to the realm of a priori 
argument; while inferences drawn from 
empirical observations of the everyday 
world (including the natural sciences) 
belong to the realm of a posteriori argu- 

a priori 

The term (Latin) denotes that which is 
prior to, or independent of, human experi- 
ence or observation. It therefore stands in 
contrast to what is argued A POSTERIORI, 
i.e. from what is confirmed or discon- 
firmed from subsequent experience or 
observation. The clearest examples of a 
priori propositions are ANALYTIC STATE- 
MENTS, i.e. those that are true (or those 
that are justified) on the basis of a priori 
conceptual definition: e.g. ‘all bachelors 
are unmarried’, ‘all circles are round’. 
These remain incontestable independently 
of observations about particular bache- 
lors, or about a circle that I might try to 

Thus a priori (from first principle) may 
be applied to arguments or to propositions 
or statements. However, their logical 
currency is often either merely formal 


(true by definition) or negative (the argu- 
ment or statement does not depend on 
what is subsequently experienced or 
observed). In philosophy of religion the 
tence of God characteristically operates 
on the basis of a priori reasoning, in 
contrast to the COSMOLOGICAL ARGU- 
MENT, which utilizes a posteriori infer- 
ences from our experience of the world. 

Abelard (Abailard), Peter 

As a major French philosopher and 
theologian of the twelfth century, Abelard 
made his chief contribution to Locic and 
ONTOLOGY. In particular he attempted a 
mediating position between NOMINALISM 
(the view that UNIVERSALS are merely 
linguistic signs or names (Latin, nomen) 
for classes or particular entities) and 
REALISM (universals are realities in them- 

Each side, Abelard argued, was right in 
what it affirmed, but wrong in what it 
denied. Nominalists are right to insist that 
logic and SEMANTICS operate in the realm 
of signs and concepts; they do not trade 
directly in realities themselves. Realists are 
right, however, to insist that logic and 
semantics do not merely chase other signs 
and concepts that never engage with 
realities, even if they are wrong to confuse 
the two levels. 

Abelard’s mediating position is often 
known as CONCEPTUALISM. He rejects a 
merely subjectivist account of meaning, as 
if meaning had no ‘controls’. Yet his 
attacks on naive realism are even sharper. 
He insists that logic operates in its own 
domain. Logical validity is not identical 
with truth about a state of affairs. 

This emerges most forcefully in Abe- 
lard’s attention to propositions. Proposi- 
tions are true or false, i.e. the property of 
being true-or-false belongs to proposi- 
tional content. In spite of having access 

to Latin translations of only some of 
ARISTOTLE’s words (especially to 
BoETHIUs’ translations of his Categories 
and On Interpretation), Abelard devel- 
oped Aristotle’s propositional logic in 
creative ways. 

In relation to Christian theology and 
religion, Abelard rejected any blind appeal 
to sheer authority as such. His contem- 
porary, Bernard of Clairvaux 
(1091-1153), denounced him for so exalt- 
ing reason and logic as to make faith and 
revelation, in effect, irrelevant. Parallel 
debates may be observed in ISLAMIC 
PHILOSOPHY of this period. 

It is difficult to argue that Abelard 
discounted biblical revelation. After all, he 
produced an Exposition of the Epistle to 
the Romans. However, he rejected any 
exclusive claim for the authority of the 
Bible or the Church Fathers, arguing that 
ancient Greek philosophy was often closer 
to the New Testament than the Hebrew 
Bible or Old Testament. 

Abelard also emphasized the impor- 
tance of thinking for oneself. He disagreed 
with both of his own very different 
teachers, Roscellinus (himself unortho- 
dox) and William of Champeaux. Like 
Socrates, he saw doubt (rather than 
certainty) as the path to knowledge 
through exploration and discovery. 

In theology Abelard’s accounts of the 
Trinity and of the atonement have both 
been severely criticized. He is credited 
with expounding a theology of the atone- 
ment through Jesus Christ which rests 
upon ‘moral influence’ or ‘example’, 
rather than on any notion of Godward 
sacrifice as held by ANSELM and Calvin. 
His attempt to expound Romans 3:19-26 
entirely in terms of a demonstration of 
God’s love hardly does justice to this 
Pauline text. 

However, it was for his logic and 
ontology, rather than for his theology, 
that Abelard attracted large numbers of 
students to Paris. From the twelfth to the 
sixteenth centuries, it has been said, logic 
occupied the position of privilege and 


esteem that the nineteenth century 
recorded to the sciences. Paris became an 
important centre of philosophy, and the 
conceptualism of Abelard influenced such 
figures as ALBERT the Great and Thomas 
Aquinas. He constitutes a major influence 
on mediaeval Western SCHOLASTICISM. 


In its widest, most popular sense, the 
Absolute denotes that which is uncondi- 
tional and complete in itself. It stands in 
contrast to all that is relative. In the broadest 
terms it denotes what is unqualified, inde- 
pendent of conditioning influences, and the 
ground of its own being (ASEITY). 

In more technical terms, the word has 
different nuances within different philoso- 
phical traditions. In German IDEALISM, 
Kant (1724-1804) uses the term to 
denote what is unconditionally valid. 
SCHELLING (1775-1854) postulates an 
Absolute which is that prior ground before 
selfhood comes to perceive the world or 
reach self-awareness in terms of subject 
and object, or spirit and nature. TILLICH 
(1886-1965) is partially influenced by 
Schelling in his insistence that God is not 
an existent being, but is ‘Being-itself’. 

It is with HEGEL (1770-1831) that the 
term is most often associated. Hegel 
rejected Schelling’s account, and identified 
the Absolute as Spirit. As Absolute, Spirit 
finds self-expression within the world 
through a DIALECTIC process of logical 
and historical NECESSITY. 

This is because Hegel’s Absolute Idea 
embraces within itself a unity that is also 
self-differentiating. In his philosophical 
theology Hegel postulated a coherence 
with the Christian doctrine of God as 
Trinity: God is an unqualified unity who 
has nevertheless expressed self-differentia- 
tion in a historical dialectic as Father, Son 
and Holy Spirit, in successive modes of 

In the English-speaking world BRAD- 
LEY (1846-1924) of Oxford argued that 
differentiation presupposes the reality of 

the Absolute as wholeness. Diversity is 
mere appearance; only the whole is real 
(Appearance and Reality, 1893). The 
Absolute is unconditioned by time or 
change, for supposedly even time is unreal. 

Josiah Royce (1855-1916) represented 
American IDEALISM. He identified the 
Absolute both with God and with the 
spirit of the great, final, ‘community of 
persons’. An organic whole is presupposed 
by the differences of human experience 
(The Conception of God, 1897). 

In identifying the Absolute with God 
(against Bradley) Royce was returning to 
the early tradition of Nicholas of Cusa 
(1401-64). Nicholas argued that God is 
‘absolutely infinite’. God so clearly trans- 
cends whatever is relative and CONTIN- 
GENT that God even holds together as the 
Absolute a ‘coincidence of opposites’, just 
as infinity moves similarly beyond char- 
acterization in any specific, limited or 
relative form. 

In spite of these technical nuances in 
Schelling, Hegel, Bradley, Royce and 
Nicholas, the term Absolute is often used 
more broadly to stand in contrast with all 
that is relative or conditioned by other 
agents or forces. Especially in ETHICS the 
term is used to exclude cultural, historical 
or social relativism. 

While the broader notion of uncondi- 
tionedness, ultimacy, self-subsistence and 
aseity retains a place in the philosophy of 
religion (see GOD, CONCEPTS AND ‘ATTRI- 
CENDENCE) the more technical claims of 
German and Anglo-American idealism are 
less prominent today than they were 
during the nineteenth century. However, 
in Ascent to the Absolute (London: Allen 
& Unwin, 1970) J.N. Findlay has argued 
for the unconditional basis of all things. 


Used as a technical term in Aristotelian 
and in SCHOLASTIC philosophy, accident 
denotes a CONTINGENT quality that hap- 
pens to inhere in some underlying sub- 


stance. The ‘substance’ remains an endur- 
ing supportive substratum, while the 
apparent quality or accident ‘happens’ 
(from the Latin accidere, to happen). 

Traditional Roman Catholic theology 
utilized the Aristotelian and Thomist 
distinction to defend the notion of trans- 
ubstantiation. The underlying substance 
changed to become the body and blood of 
Christ, while the observable accidents 
remained perceptible to the eye as bread 
and wine. 

AQUINAS writes: ‘It is through the 
accidents (per accidentia) that we judge 
the substance (de substantia) ... The 
accidents of the bread ... remain when 
the substance of the bread (substantia 
panis) is no longer there’ but the substance 
has become the body and blood of Christ 
under the outward appearance of the 
‘accidents’ of bread and wine (Summa 
Theologiae, III, Qu. 75, art. 5). 

Much recent Catholic doctrine, how- 
ever, does not remain tied to the formula- 
tion of Aquinas in the thirteenth century. 
The Reformers vigorously opposed it. 
Both traditions today tend to seek a more 
dynamic understanding of how the death 
of Christ is ‘proclaimed’ or ‘called actively 
to mind with effects’ in the Lord’s Supper 
or the Eucharist. (See also ARISTOTLE.) 


The broadest, mainline meaning of this 
term is drawn from ARISTOTLE, in whose 
writings it stands in contrast to potenti- 
ality or ‘possibility’. Finite entities have 
potentialities which become actual when 
they are realized. Aristotle applied actu- 
ality to form; potentiality to matter. 
Thomas Aquinas developed this further 
in his Five Ways of argument concerning 
the existence of God. Potentiality is the 
basis of his Kinetological Way (argument 
from motion) in contrast to God’s ASEITY. 

Existentialist writers, however, apply 
the contrast between actuality and possi- 
bility differently. HEIDEGGER, MARCEL 
and SARTRE tend to apply ‘actuality’ for 

‘things’ or objects, and to reserve ‘possi- 
bility’ to denote an existential mode of 
being distinctive to persons and agents. 
Sartre contrasts being-in-itself (étre-en-soi; 
cf. actuality) with being-for-itself (étre- 
pour-soi; cf. possibility). Possibility 
denotes a mode of existence in which 
openness to the future may be realized by 
decision, whereas actuality denotes an ‘it’ 
which is ‘closed’ to such active decision 

In TELEOLOGICAL contexts actuality 
denotes the fulfilment or realization of 
purpose. This brings us back to Aristotle’s 
contrast between the possibilities of mat- 
ter which find expression in the ‘actuality’ 
of form. 


At first sight agnosticism is often perceived 
as being less dogmatic and more open than 
either THEISM or ATHEISM when applied to 
the belief-systems of religions. It appears 
to suspend the acceptance or rejection of 

In practice, however, thoroughgoing 
agnosticism denotes the belief that to 
know whether a belief-system is true or 
false is impossible. Such knowledge lies 
beyond the enquirer (from Greek a-gnosis, 
no knowledge). This amounts, however, to 
no less dogmatic a position than theism, 
atheism or the belief-system in question. 
For it invites the rejoinder called ‘the 
paradox of scepticism’: ‘How do I know 
that I cannot know, if I cannot know 
whether I know?’ 

Agnosticism as a world-view or atti- 
tude to theism, therefore, differs from the 
more pragmatic use of the term to denote 
a suspension of belief about some parti- 
cular claim to truth. The latter may be 
deemed more reasonable if it is not a 
generalized, systematic attitude towards 
religion or towards the denial of religious 
truth. Certainly agnosticism must be 
clearly distinguished from atheism, which 
raises broader and more fundamental 
historical and logical issues. 


Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus, 
c. 1200/06-80) 

Albert taught in the University of Paris 
(1245-8) and at Cologne (from 1248) in 
his native Germany. He is known chiefly 
as the teacher of Thomas AQUINAS, and as 
a major interpreter of ARISTOTLE to the 
medieval West. 

Albert’s method of inference from 
observation of the CONTINGENT world 
anticipated the approach that Aquinas 
developed in his Five Ways. In common 
with most leading Islamic interpreters of 
Aristotle, Albert endorsed the argument 
from motion (or from ‘possibility’) to a 
First Mover or Uncaused Cause. He 
rejected the notion of an infinite chain or 
caused causes (see CAUSE; COSMOLOGICAL 

In addition to his contribution as a 
commentator on Aristotle, Albert was a 
Dominican theologian. He produced bib- 
lical commentaries, and also a commen- 
tary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences. He 
regarded scriptural revelation and human 
reason as complementary. 

Albert’s drive towards synthesis and the 
ultimate reconciliation of differences 
allowed him to combine the dominant 
influence of Aristotle with diverse elements 
from PLATO, NEOPLATONISM, and such 
Islamic philosophers as AL-FaraBi. He 
perceived the world as a created mystic 
harmony, which emanated from the One as 
Prime Mover, or the Ground of all Being. 

Albert’s encyclopaedic drawing 
together of multiple sources (from the 
Bible, Aristotle, Plato, Arabic philosophy 
and the natural sciences of the day) 
provides a context for the founding of 
the ancient European universities of the 
thirteenth century. His belief in the com- 
patibility of revealed scripture with human 
reason also provides the background to 
the work of Thomas Aquinas. 


This term has a broader and a more 
technical use. More broadly it denotes a 

formal operation, or following of set steps, 
in LOGIC or in mathematics, especially 
when symbolic logical notation rather 
than everyday language is used (e.g. If x, 
then y ...). The use of general, abstract, 
symbolic notation permits a formula or 
algorithm to remain strictly in the realm of 
logic or mathematics without specific 
reference to the CONTINGENT or empirical 
world of everyday life. 

These set steps or formulae in calcula- 
tion or in problem-solving may take the 
form of rules or instructions for opera- 
tions. The term is derived from the Latin 
translation of the Arabic name of a logical 
mathematics of the ninth century. 

More technically and narrowly, the 
term is applied in computation where an 
understanding of the operation verges on 
the deterministic or mechanical. Hence, 
for broader philosophical views of the 
world, algorithms are perceived as strictly 
instrumental processes, i.e. as performing 
specified tasks in logic rather than yielding 
broader understandings of the world. 


Traditionally the term denotes a selfless 
concern for the well-being of others 
(Latin, alter, other), in contrast to the 
self-interests of egoism. The term is 
narrower than DEONTOLOGY, which 
denotes an ethic based on moral obliga- 
tion or duty more generally. 

From HOBBES to NIETZSCHE, and most 
recently in more radical postmodernist 
writers, doubt has been expressed about 
the possibility of genuine altruism in 
human life. Nietzsche and many postmo- 
dernists have suggested that this motiva- 
tion is illusory, and merely disguises the 
interests of the self under the pretence of 
caring only for others. IDEOLOGICAL 
CRITICISM seeks to unmask and to expose 
these interests. 

In many religions, including especially 
the Christian tradition, a distinction may 
be made between the practical difficulty of 
genuine altruism for fallen humanity 


unaided by divine GRACE and the altruistic 
love for others that may spring from the 
grace of renewal by the influence of the 
Holy Spirit of God. (See also POSTMODER- 


The wider context of the use of analogy in 
LANGUAGE IN RELIGION is set out in detail 
under that separate, broader entry. The 
use of analogy is one of the most 
important primary linguistic resources 
for talk of God. It permits an extension 
of meaning or logical grammar beyond 
that of everyday uses of language, while 
retaining everyday language as its vehicle 
or vocabulary-stock. 

Analogy, however, is not the only 
resource of this kind. The roles of sym- 
are also considered under LANGUAGE IN 
RELIGION, as well as under separate 

The classical formulation of the use of 
analogy in talk of God comes from 
Thomas Aquinas (1225-74). In thir- 
teenth-century debate analogy was seen 
as a middle way between equivocal (or 
ambivalent) language, which applied 
everyday language to God without genu- 
ine currency, and univocal language (i.e. 
language that conveys the same literal 
meaning in a one-to-one match). Further, 
it also offered a middle path between the 
language of negation (VIA NEGATIVA), as 
advocated by the German mystic Meister 
EckHarT (1260-1327), and language that 
conveyed a positive, determinate, cogni- 
tive content. 


Aquinas firmly excludes any suggestion 
that everyday words can be applied to 
God with exactly the same meaning as 
they carry in contexts of everyday life. He 
writes: ‘It seems that no word can be used 
literally of God’ (Summa Theologiae, Ia, 

Qu. 13, art. 3 (Blackfriars edn, vol. 3, 
57)). However, he does not agree with 
PsEuDo-Dionysius that on this basis ‘it 
would be truer to say that God is not good 
or wise ... than to say that he is’ (ibid.). 
For analogical uses of language one should 
steer between over-confident univocal uses 
and over-reticent insistence on the via 
negativa only. 

Moreover, to use analogical language 
of God is not to equivocate. Language 
would be equivocal (Latin, aequivoca) 
only if there were no resemblance (Latin, 
similitudo) between how the word is used 
in everyday language and how it is applied 
to God (ibid., art. 5 (Blackfriars edn, vol. 
3, 63)). ‘Wisdom’, for example, can be 
applied to God without undue ambiguity 
or impropriety, because there is at least 
some degree of resemblance, however 
inadequate, between what it is to ascribe 
wisdom to God and what it is to ascribe 
wisdom to a human person. Aquinas 
agrees that this is not ‘univocal’ in mean- 
ing (ibid.). 

Aquinas sums up his general view in 
this way: ‘Some words are used neither 
univocally nor purely equivocally of God 
and creatures, but analogically, for we 
cannot speak of God at all except in the 
language we use of creatures ...’ (ibid. 

(Blackfriars edn, 65)). 


Even during the thirteenth century DuNs 
Scotus (c. 1266-1308) argued that Aqui- 
nas tried to hold together two incompa- 
tible views. For when confronted with any 
claim for a univocal use of language in 
talk of God, Aquinas emphasized the 
value of the via negativa in excluding even 
the barest hint of a one-to-one match 
between language about created beings 
and language about God. He did not reject 
the use of negation: God is infinite; God is 
immortal. However, he insisted that the 
way of negation could not offer a com- 
prehensive or exhaustive linguistic 


resource, but played its part only in 
complementing analogy. 

This marks Aquinas off from the 
mystical tradition of Meister Eckhart, 
from the approach of the Jewish philoso- 
pher Marmonipes (1135-1204), from 
Plotinus (c. 205-70) and NEOPLATONISM, 
Pseudo-Dionysius (c. 500) and strands 
within Eastern Christian theology. 

On the other side, however, Duns 
Scotus questioned the reliability and stable 
basis of analogical language, believing that 
it risked making clear and determinate 
concepts of God and divine action too 
vague and indeterminate to convey a 
reliable content. Such concepts as truth, 
unity and goodness may be applied, he 
argued, univocally. Otherwise, in what lies 
knowledge of God? 

All the same, Aquinas believed that 
analogy, rightly applied, could serve to 
convey cognitive truth about God. He 
appealed to an analogy of ‘attribution’ 
and an analogy of ‘proportionality’. A 
quality or characteristic can be attributed 
to someone in a derivative sense. A further 
more radical qualification emerges from 
proportionality: whatever is analogically 
common to two or more beings is pos- 
sessed by each not in the same way but in 
proportion to its being. 

Thus ‘God is wise’ is not merely an 
analogy with ‘Socrates is wise’ or ‘Paul the 
Apostle is wise’; it also entails the proposi- 
tion that ‘wise’, as applied to each, carries 
a meaning that accords with the distinctive 
being of each. 

This, in turn, implies that an analogy of 
language rests on an analogy of being 
(analogia entis), and it is this aspect that 
BarRTH (1886-1968) attacks as presuppos- 
ing a Thomistic ‘NATURAL THEOLOGY’. 
Recently, however, Alan J. Torrance has 
questioned how far this emphasis rests on 
an interpretation of Aquinas that became 
dominant through the writings of Thomas 
Cajetan (1468-1534), Italian cardinal and 
philosopher (Torrance, Persons in Com- 
munion, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996, 

Interpretations of Aquinas on analogy 
are controversial and too technical for 
further discussion here. Fundamentally 
Aquinas appealed to various logical 
devices to avoid on one side the collapse 
of analogy into ANTHROPOMORPHISM and 
on the other a logical grammar that 
retained no real currency. The problem, 
however, that he did not fully solve was 
that of establishing criteria for appropriate 
uses of analogy. 

Aquinas attempted to refine some of the 
issues by identifying an ‘analogy of pro- 
portionality’ in which an analogy is held 
formally, but in proportion to the nature of 
the analogue. Thus human fatherhood has 
analogies with divine fatherhood, but is 
also limited in scope because of the 
finitude and fallenness of human nature. 
Hence the ‘attribution’ of analogy is 
bound up with its proportionality. 


It is, in effect, the basis of Thomas 
Aquinas’s appeal to the currency of 
analogy that Karl Barth attacks, rather 
than the use of analogy as a purely 
linguistic or semantic tool within the 
framework of Christian theology. Barth 
rejects the notion of ‘a common denomi- 
nator’ to which God and the created order 
may ‘both be reduced’, like species that 
belong to a common genus (Barth, Church 
Dogmatics Il: 3, Eng., Edinburgh: T & T 
Clark, 19, 102). 

Thus, while he questions the whole 
notion of an analogia entis as a metapho- 
rical or ontological notion supposedly 
independent of theology or revelation, 
Barth is nevertheless willing to allow for 
a analogia operationis, i.e. for its actual 
Operative currency within theology. The 
basis lies in God’s sovereign act of self- 
disclosure, which is appropriated as an 
‘analogy of faith’. 

Barth’s arguments take us beyond the 
realm of philosophy. Nevertheless, within 
philosophy of religion there is room to 
explore the entailments of a theology of 
God that perceives God as sheer self-gift. 

analytic statements 

The medieval and traditional notion of 
analogia eminentiae, of working from the 
lower to the higher, may address issues of 
intelligibility, provided that it is not 
transformed into an ontology that trans- 
poses the TRANSCENDENCE of God into 
what Aquinas seeks to avoid, namely a 
projected anthropomorphic construct. 

Philosophical controversy about simi- 
larity and difference and theological 
beliefs about ‘the image of God’ and the 
incarnation of the Word in the person of 
Jesus Christ as person cannot be held 
apart. Further, the issue of criteria for the 
valid use of analogy cannot be separated 
from the wider issues examined under the 
these detailed questions emerge in their 
proper context. 

analytic statements 

Analytic statements are true A PRIORI, i.e. 
by virtue of the definition of their concepts 
or terms, rather than on the basis of states 
of affairs in the world. The statement ‘all 
bachelors are unmarried’ or ‘all circles are 
round’ depends on what constitutes the 
concept of a bachelor or of a circle. It does 
not depend upon observations about 
particular bachelors or circles in the 

Kant used the term ‘analytic proposi- 
tion’ for those statements in which the 
predicate is covertly contained in the 
subject, e.g. ‘six is a number’. While the 
early work of WITTGENSTEIN treated such 
statements as purely formal, i.e. in effect 
as logical tautologies, in his later work 
Wittgenstein observed that even a formal 
tautology might perform some additional 
function in everyday life, e.g. in directing 
attention to what might otherwise be 
neglected or unnoticed. 

AYER exempted analytical statements from 
the need for empirical verification, i.e. 
they could convey logical meaning even if 
their truth could not be verified by 
observing states of affairs in the world. 

ARGUMENT for the existence of God.) 

analytical philosophy 

The term serves as a broad and vague title 
to denote the methods and explorations of 
those philosophers mainly in the Anglo- 
American traditions of the twentieth 
century who seek to clarify the logical 
forms and sometimes the grammar of 
CONCEPTS used in philosophy. It character- 
istically denotes a rigorous examination 
and clarification of logical forms which 
might have become obscured by sentences 
of natural languages. 

It is easier to name the specific philo- 
sophers with whom the analytical move- 
ment is most closely associated than to 
suggest a list of features. These include: 
RussELL (1872-1970), George E. Moore 
(1873-1958), AYER (1910-89), and the 
earlier work of WITTGENSTEIN (1889- 
1951). However, more broadly the term 
is sometimes extended to include the 
‘informal’ logical explorations of RYLE 
(1900-76) and Austin (1911-60), among 
others, although Austin represents what is 
more often called ‘Ordinary Language’ 

Since ‘analysis’ is derived from the 
Greek analuo, to loose, or to untie, it is 
tempting to cite Wittgenstein’s aphorism 
that we should ‘look closely at particular 
cases’ and avoid any ‘craving for general- 
ity’ (The Blue and Brown Books, Oxford: 
Blackwell, 1969, 16 and 17). However, in 
his later work Wittgenstein expressed 
reservations about the logical atomism 
that served to break down complex 
propositions into their most logically 
primitive building-blocks of meaning (Phi- 
losophical Investigations, Oxford: Black- 
well, 1967, sects. 39-63). 


Although Russell favoured a more radi- 
cally analytical method, Wittgenstein was 

analytical philosophy 

concerned more especially with avoiding 
those generalizing propositions that 
removed words and concepts from the 
settings in everyday life that gave parti- 
cular cases their logical and linguistic 
currency. The problem about such grand- 
iose questions as ‘What is time?’; ‘What is 
language?’ or ‘What is a proposition?’ is 
that ‘the language-game in which they are 
to be applied is missing’ (ibid., sects. 92 
and 96). We must avoid ‘super-concepts’, 
such as ‘language’ or ‘world’, unless we 
pay attention to their specificities of 
contexts-in-life (ibid., 97). 

Early in the twentieth century G. E. 
Moore posed such a question in response 
to the grandiose metaphysical claims of 
BRADLEY. If ‘time is unreal’, why do we 
take breakfast ‘before’ lunch? If reality is 
‘spiritual’, are chairs and tables more like 
us than we may think? Moore wrote ‘A 
Defence of Common Sense’ which con- 
tained propositions that seemed to conflict 
with many of the more grandiose claims of 

Russell shared with Wittgenstein a 
‘distrust’? of the surface grammar of 
language. His work on logic provided 
formal logical devices for re-formulating 
statements which in ordinary language 
appeared to make a truth-claim about an 
entity while the formal logic of the 
utterance or sentence could be shown not 
to do so. 

Thus in his Principia Mathematica (3 
vols. 1910-13, with A. N. Whitehead) 
Russell developed a theory of descriptions 
that allowed for the logical re-formulation 
of such sentences as those containing the 
phrases ‘the King of France’ or ‘a round 
square’ to ‘analyze out’ what were strictly 
not ‘referring’ expressions at all. In tech- 
nical terms an ‘existential quantifier’ could 
be used in logical notation to separate out 
whether or not truth-claims about one 
entity entailed truth-claims about another. 
(The notation would take some such form 
as (Ex) (Ex ...):) 

Russell pressed his drive toward ana- 
lyses to postulate a theory of ‘logical 

atomism’ (lectures in 1918, based on 
earlier work). However, his understanding 
of the smallest possible components out of 
which propositions were built differed 
from that of the early Wittgenstein. 
Russell linked his theory with a quasi- 
materialist view of the ‘elements’ of the 
world; in Wittgenstein’s view these ‘atoms’ 
were purely LOGICAL postulates. 


and the principle of verification is dis- 
cussed separately. A more constructive 
version of ‘linguistic’ philosophy emerged 
with the work of Ryle. In The Concept of 
Mind (London: Penguin, 1949) he under- 
took a logical exploration of the relation 
between language respectively about the 
mind and the body in the Dualist tradition 
of Descartes, which he called ‘the myth 
of the ghost in the machine’ (ibid., 17). 

Ryle perceived the Cartesian doctrine 
as portraying life lived ‘through two 
collateral histories’ (ibid., 13). However, 
logical analysis exposes ‘a category-mis- 
take’ (ibid., 17), for the logical currency of 
what is stated about each differs. This 
‘double-life’ theory generates logical puz- 
zles that are illusory. If body and mind 
‘exist’, each ‘exists’ in a quite different 
logical sense (ibid., 24). A fresh logical 
analysis of the vocabulary relating to 
intellectual action is needed, including 
exploring dispositions (see BELIEF). 

In Dilemmas (Cambridge: CUP, 1954) 
Ryle applies these methods of logical 
analysis to a series of traditional logical 
puzzles. Thus the phrase ‘It was to be’ 
need not express fatalism, as soon as we 
understand the difference between pro- 
spective and retrospective logic, or ‘ante- 
rior truths and posterior truths’ (ibid., 26; 
15-35). The paradox of Achilles and the 
Tortoise, first formulated by Zeno, 
depends for its force on the difference 
between the logic employed by an observer 
and the logic employed by a participant in 



the race. Only if we confuse logic that 
applies to ‘the total course’ with the 
participant perspective of the runner does 
the possibility of a ‘paradox’ emerge (ibid., 
36-55). Again, however, this approach is 
more strictly ‘linguistic’ philosophy than 
‘analytical’ philosophy. 

In his final essay, ‘Formal and Informal 
Logic’, Ryle contrasts ‘the logic of insu- 
lated and single concepts’, which often 
take the centre of the stage in formal logic, 
with ‘the logical dynamics of apparently 
interfering systems of concepts’ (ibid., 

In the 1950s a spate of collections of 
essays (mainly articles from journals) 
appeared under such titles as Essays in 
Conceptual Analysis (1956) edited by 
Antony Plew, with contributions from 
STRAWSON, G. J. Warnock, John Hospers, 
J. O. Urmson, Stephen Toulmin and 
others. However, enough has been said 
to indicate the varied methods and ethos 
that the umbrella title ‘analytical philoso- 
phy’ serves to denote. 


Animism denotes the belief that many 
instances of natural phenomena (plants, 
trees, stones) possess ‘souls’ (Latin, anima) 
or life-spirits. These may then be perceived 
as quasi-personal and capable of address. 
In animistic religion these may become 
objects of reverence or worship. 

Two aspects are especially significant 
for philosophy of religion. First, animism 
may be said to extend unduly and 
uncritically the use of ANALOGY and 

Second, in Primitive Culture (1871) 
Edward B. Tylor argued that all religion 
originated as primitive animism. However, 
today it is widely recognized that Tylor’s 
work rests on flawed assumptions. In the 
first place, primitive religion did not 
function like a primitive pseudo-science 
to explain the world. Its function is 
different, and does not compete with 
‘science’. In the second place, Tylor was 

too heavily influenced by the almost 
obsessively evolutionary climate of the 
late nineteenth century. Robert Segal 
presses both criticisms (‘Tylor’s Anthro- 
pomorphic Theory of Religion’, Religion, 
25, 1995, 25-30). (See also EVOLUTION.) 

Anselm of Canterbury 

In philosophy of religion Anselm is most 
widely known for his formulation of the 
tence of God. Anselm sets out this 
approach in two distinct forms in the 
Proslogion 2—4. However, the title Proslo- 
gion denotes ‘address’, and especially in 
the first formulation, as BARTH among 
others insists, the supposed ‘argument’ is 
an address on the part of a Christian 
worshipper or believer expressing adora- 
tion, praise, and confession of faith to 
God. The significance of this mode may be 
stylistic (recalling the style of AUGUSTINE’s 
Confessions), but it may significantly 
shape how the ‘argument’ is meant to be 
understood. Moreover it reminds us that 
Anselm writes primarily as a philosophical 
theologian, and not simply as a philoso- 
pher. He stands in the broad tradition of 
Christian Platonism. 

Anselm is known under three titles. He 
is sometimes called Anselm of Aosta, since 
he was born at Aosta in Italy. He is also 
known as Anselm of Bec, because prior to 
1093 he served as a Benedictine monk at 
Bec in Normandy. However, in 1093 he 
became the second Norman Archbishop of 

In his period at Bec Anselm wrote the 
two well-known philosophical works 
Monologion (Soliloquy, 1078) and Proslo- 
gion (Address (i.e. to God), 1079). The 
Monologion includes Anselm’s version of 
existence of God, in which he infers the 
existence of the Source of all good things, 
the Supreme Being, from experience of 
that which is good within the world. The 
Proslogion (sects. 2—4) and the later Liber 



Apologeticus pro Insipiente include his 
two versions of the ontological argument 
for the existence of God. The heart of his 
first formulation is that God is ‘that than 
which nothing greater can be conceived (a 
liquid quo nihil maius cogitari potest)’. 

This gave rise to controversy, even in 
Anselm’s day, represented by the monk 
Gaunilo’s ‘reply? to the effect that 
Anselm’s application of maximal greatness 
to ‘God’ proved not the existence of God, 
but something about the status of the 
concept of God. (In more detail, see the 
oF.) This led to a second formulation 
(Liber Apologeticus), the distinctiveness of 
which has been underlined in modern 
discussion by HArTSHORNE (The Logic 
of Perfection, La Salle: Open Court, 1962) 
and more broadly by PLantinca (The 
Nature of Necessity, Oxford: Clarendon, 
1974). Maximal greatness cannot logically 
apply to such CONTINGENT examples as 
those cited by Gaunilo (Gaunilo’s island), 
since these (unlike God) can be ‘conceived 
not to be’. 

During his period at Bec, Anselm also 
wrote treatises On Truth, On Freedom of 
Choice and On the Fall of the Devil (De 
casu diaboli). This last work is important 
for the problem of eviL. Following Augus- 
tine, and anticipating Thomas AQUINAS, 
Anselm viewed evil as a lack, or privation 
of being. It denotes the absence of good. 
Injustice is a lack of harmonious justice. 
The identification of, for example, telling 
a lie with lack of truthfulness, or corrupt- 
ibility as lack of perfection enables Anselm 
to ascribe to God maximal almighty-ness 
which also excludes the capacity to lie or 
the capacity for corruption, since these are 
negatives that detract from maximal flour- 

The period of nearly twenty years from 
the Monologion (1078) to Anselm’s con- 
secration as Archbishop of Canterbury 
(1093) was one of mainly philosophical 
production. At Canterbury, however, 
Anselm produced one of the lasting 

classics of Christian theology, Why God 
Became Man (Cur deus homo, completed 
in 1098). Anselm argues that atonement 
for human sin is a matter that concerns 
God as God, not merely humankind (Book 
I: 5). Redemption flows from divine grace 
as gift through the voluntary sacrifice of 
Christ (ibid.: 8, 9). 

Sin, Anselm insists, is not mere failure, 
but failure to render to God ‘what is due’ 
(ibid., 11-15). God’s ‘honour’ is therefore 
at stake, since loss of honour implies that 
‘God would seem to fail in governance’. 
On the analogy of ‘satisfying honour’, in a 
medieval feudal system, the greater is the 
lord, i.e. God, the greater the ‘satisfaction’ 
that is ‘fitting’ (ibid., 19-24; cf. ‘maximal 
greatness’ in Proslogion 2-4). 

Book I, on atonement and satisfaction, 
leads on to Book II, on the incarnation of 
God in Christ as an INSTANTIATION of 
humankind (homo, human person, not vir, 
man). If the ‘fitting’ satisfaction is of infinite 
value, only God can offer it: ‘No-one but 
God can make the satisfaction’; but it can 
be a satisfaction on behalf of humankind if 
it is offered ‘only [by] the God-man’, Jesus 
Christ (II: 6-9). This work on the cross is 
offered not by compulsion, but through the 
self-consistency of the God who is gracious, 
just, almighty and self-giving in love (ibid., 

This work takes its place as one of the 
major classic models of the atonement. Its 
importance, not only for theology, but no 
less for philosophy of religion, lies in its 
coherence with Anselm’s understanding of 
the ‘maximal greatness’ and non-contin- 
gent ASEITY of God, from the Monologion 
and Proslogion (1076-8) to Cur deus 
homo (1098). For a specialist account of 
his life, see R.W. Southern, Saint Anselm: 
A Portrait in a Landscape (rev. edn, 
Cambridge: CUP, 1990). Anselm’s works 
appear in various editions. 


The term denotes the projection of merely 
human qualities and characteristics onto 



God or gods by (often) an undue extension 
of ANALOGY. Human characteristics may 
also be projected onto objects, as when a 
small child describes the operation of 
vacuum brakes as a train’s ‘sneezing’. In 
word history the term is derived from the 
Greek anthropos, humankind, with 
morphe, form. 

An over-ready, uncritical use of anthro- 
pomorphic imagery may be seen in ANI- 
MISM, in which ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ is read 
into inamimate objects, thereby endowing 
them with personal qualities. Edward B. 
Tylor notoriously ascribed to primitive 
religion the status of a pseudo-science 
which explained mechanistic processes by 
animistic causes. An incisive critique of 
Tylor has been offered by Robert A. Segal 
(‘Tylor’s Anthropomorphic Theory of 
Religion’, Religion, 25, 1995, 25-30). 

Traditionally philosophical theologians 
have been wary of attributing emotions to 
God as anthropomorphic, but the Hebrew 
Bible, or Christian Old Testament, often 
does this in spite of its sensitive awareness 
of divine otherness, or divine TRANSCEN- 
DENCE. MOLTMANN insists on the attribu- 
tion of feeling and suffering to God, 
provided that this capacity is understood 
as the result of God’s own free, sovereign 
decision to love in voluntary vulnerability 
and inter-personal rapport. 

HEGEL views anthropomorphism as 
part of a ‘religious’ use of language as it 
is applied to God by means of SYMBOL, 
MYTH, METAPHOR or ‘representation’ 
(Vorstellung) in contrast to the purer, 
more rigorous ‘concept’ of philosophy 
(Begriff), with its greater critical aware- 
ness. A constellation of such issues emerge 
in the work of TILLIcH and in RAMSEy’s 


The English term is derived from the 
Greek apologia, defence, or speech of 
defence. According to Acts 22:1 and 1 
Corinthians 9:3, Paul the Apostle offers a 
reasoned defence to those who seek to 

criticize him. Traditionally apologetics has 
come to denote a reasoned defence of a 
belief-system (characteristically but not 
exclusively Christian THEISM, or theism 
in general) in the face of non-theistic, 
atheistic, or agnostic objections to such 
beliefs (see AGNOSTICISM; ATHEISM). 

Pato offers an account of the Apology 
of Socrates, and Cardinal John Henry 
Newman (1801-90) wrote Apologia pro 
Vita Sua (1864) in defence of his own 
religious and theological journey. The 
name ‘the Apologists’ usually denotes the 
Christian writers of the second century 
who defended the coherence of Christian 
belief against non-Christian charges of 
falsity and inconsistency, e.g. Justin’s 
Apology to the Emperor Hadrian and 
Marcus Aurelius. 

In the modern era TILLICH (1886-1965) 
aimed to produce an apologetic or 
‘answering’ theology, in which Christian 
theology sought to address the questions 
of philosophers or, more widely, of think- 
ing people. He proposed a ‘principle of 
correlation’, whereby questions about 
reason, being, existence, ambiguity and 
history were ‘answered’ by five respective 
responses concerning revelation, God, 
Jesus Christ, the Spirit and the kingdom 
of God. Many have challenged whether 
these ‘correlations’ are genuine ‘questions’ 
and ‘answers’, even if, however, as Tillich 
insists, ‘apologetics presupposes common 
ground, however vague it may be’ (Sys- 
tematic Theology, vol. 1, London, Nisbet, 
1953, 6). 

In many Protestant circles, especially in 
Barthianism and in pIETISM, the whole 
enterprise of apologetics is thought to rest 
too heavily on the persuasive powers of 
human reason. However, a long theistic 
and Christian tradition underlines the 
value of attempts to defend the coherence 
and REASONABLENESS of religious or 
Christian belief. 

In the philosophy of religion, a theistic 
presentation of such issues as arguments 
for the existence of Gop, the currency of 
LANGUAGE IN RELIGION and issues about 


Aquinas, Thomas 

the problem of Evit and the being of God 
overlap prominently with traditional 
theistic or Christian apologetics. To argue 
that a belief-system is not irrational does 
not necessarily entail an appeal to RATION- 
ALISM. (See also LOCKE.) 

Aquinas, Thomas (1225-74) 

Born into an aristocratic family in the 
region of Naples, Thomas was educated 
first in a Benedictine monastery and then 
at the University of Naples (1239-44). He 
then became a Dominican friar, and from 
1248 to 1254 studied under ALBERT the 

At the University of Naples and under 
Albert, Aquinas was exposed to the full 
range of philosophical and logical pro- 
blems formulated and explored by Arts- 
TOTLE, but as a Dominican monk he 
remained above all a philosophical theo- 

Thomas Aquinas’s greatest achieve- 
ment was his Summa Theologiae, begun 
in 1266. It ranks as one of the greatest 
theological classics of all time. In the 
English and Latin edition of the Domini- 
can Blackfriars, commended by Pope Paul 
VI (1963) it runs to sixty volumes. ‘By 
official appointment the Summa provides 
the framework for Catholic studies in 
systematic theology and for a classical 
Christian philosophy’ (Preface, vol. 1, xi). 

Thomas not only adapted Aristotelian 
philosophy to the service of Christian 
theology in the thirteenth century. Build- 
ing on the earlier work of Islamic philo- 
sophers (see ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY) and 
Albert the Great, he did more than any 
other single writer to ensure the revival of 
Aristotle for the medieval period and 
beyond. He is generally regarded as the 
leading figure in SCHOLASTIC PHILOSOPHY. 

It is unnecessary to include in this entry 
a detailed account of Thomas’s main 
philosophical themes, since these are 
described and evaluated in several more 
specialist entries (see ANALOGY; COSMO- 
LOGICAL ARGUMENT for the existence of 

God; Five Ways or THOMAS AQUINAS; 

Prior to the commendation of Pope 
Paul (1963), Pope Leo XII (1879) urged 
that Thomist philosophy be made the 
basis for education in Roman Catholic 
schools, and Pope Pius XII (1950) identi- 
fied it as the surest guide to Roman 
Catholic theology. Thomas’s influence, 
however, spreads far beyond the Catholic 
tradition, and touches on a multitude of 
philosophical, theological and ethical 

In addition to his magisterial Summa 
Theologiae (1265-72) Aquinas produced 
On Being and Essence (1242-3), On truth 
(1256-9), Summa contra Gentiles (1260) 
(‘Gentiles’ in the sense of ‘unbelievers’), 
On Evil (1263-8), On Separate Sub- 
stances (1271) and up to eighty other 
works. It would be misleading to empha- 
size his role as theologian at the expense of 
recognizing his genuine stature as a 
philosopher; but equally, he remains a 
theologian grounded in the Bible and 
Christian doctrine, alongside his respect 
for Aristotle and other Greek, Jewish and 
Islamic philosophers. 


(1) Since for Thomas, Christian revelation 
and human reason complement each 
other, any working distinction 
between theology and philosophy is 
not clear-cut. For some, knowledge of 
the existence of God may come in part 
through drawing reasonable influences 
A POSTERIORI from the created order. 
For others, revelation is essential. 
However, reason can never reach 
through to grasp such distinctively 
Christian truths as that of the Incarna- 
tion, the Trinity, or the nature of 
salvation. These demand faith and 
revealed truth. 

Language in religion operates largely 
through the use of analogy, although 
the via NEGATIONIS, while inadequate 




on its own, nevertheless helps to 
prevent analogy drifting into ANTHRO- 

Aristotelian philosophy provides an 
impressive and constructive range of 
logical and conceptual resources for 
religion and for life. Aquinas sides 
with Aristotle against PLATO on sev- 
eral issues, including Plato’s notion of 
Forms. Only ‘beings’ exist. Aquinas 
respected the logical and conceptual 
insights of Arabic and Islamic philo- 
sophers as well as those of the Jewish 
philosopher MAIMoONIDES. In effect, in 
spite of their differences of attitude 
towards Christian scripture, all shared 
the same fundamental task, he 
believed, of formulating a coherent 
philosophical theology. 

In particular Aquinas drew on Aristo- 
tle’s concepts of potentiality, POSSIBI- 
LiTy and movement in his exposition of 
his Five Ways, as well as the contrast 
between the CONTINGENT and the 
NECESSARY. The notions of efficient 
and final cause also constituted a 
constructive resource for Thomas. 
Aquinas also developed the Aristote- 
lian notions of individual substances, 
of definition by class and sub-category 
or distinction (genus et differentia) 
and the notion of a hierarchy, or 
levels, of being. These provide a back- 
ground for his view of creation, of the 
nature of good and evil, and of ethics 
and virtue. The traditional Greek 
cardinal virtues are supplemented by 
the ‘theological’ virtues of faith, hope 
and love (Summa Theologiae, Ila, Qu. 
1-35, on the theological virtues; ibid., 
Qu. 36-43, on providence, justice, 
courage, temperance and socio-politi- 
cal virtues). 

Aquinas is often said to have taken 
over the Stoic and Aristotelian notion 
of natural law. All types of law derive 
from the Divine law (ius divinum, 
ibid., Ia/Ilae, Qu. 90-105). However, 
it may be less misleading to ascribe to 
him a wider notion of the ‘ordered- 

ness’ of creation and of civil states as 
that which builds upon, and reflects, 
the orderedness of the mind of God. 
Although Thomas’s masterpiece 
includes most of the topics discussed 
in a philosophy of religion, Aquinas 
goes further than this in the scope 
of his work. His first main part 
includes such topics as God, lan- 
guage, creation, humankind, will and 
intelligent mind, providence and the 
world. The second main part 
includes issues of ethics and virtue, 
as we have noted. 

Part III includes more distinctively 
theological doctrines, notably the 
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ 
and the sacraments. Yet philosophy is 
not left behind. His work on the 
Eucharist or Lord’s Supper appeals to 
the Aristotelian categories of sub- 
stance and ACCIDENT for what 
became, from the thirteenth century 
onwards, the doctrine of transubstan- 
tiation (ibid., Il, Qu. 75, art. 5, 
accidentia ... substantia). The range 
of thought is magisterial and monu- 
mental, whether or not some sections 
remain more controversial than 


Aristotle (384-322 BCE) 

Aristotle is widely regarded as among the 
half-dozen most influential philosophers 
of Western thought, and as one of the two 
most important philosophers of the 
ancient world. He made lasting contribu- 
tions to LOGIC, to METAPHYSICS and to 
ETHICS. His metaphysics, or ONTOLOGY, 
includes what may be called a NATURAL 
THEOLOGY of God and of the ‘ordered’ 
structure of the world. His metaphysics 
aimed to construct a unified ‘science of 
Being qua Being’. 

Born in Stagira in Macedonia, Aristotle 
came to Athens at the age of eighteen, to 
study at PLato’s Academy for the next 
twenty years. After Plato’s death he 
travelled to Asia Minor, and returned to 



Macedon where Philip appointed him 
tutor to his son Alexander (Alexander 
the Great). In 335 BcE he returned to 
Athens to found his own philosophical 
school. This he held in the Lyceum or 
Peripatos, which also came to serve as 
names for the Aristotelian school. He 
taught for twelve years until 323 BCE, a 
year before his death. 

In contrast to Plato’s theory of Forms 
(or Ideas), Aristotle began from observa- 
tions about particular objects or cases, and 
reasoned A POSTERIORI towards a unified 
understanding of the world and of reality. 
In one of the senses of the term ‘inductive 
reasoning’, Aristotle followed an inductive 
method, although he also formulated a 
rigorous formal DEDUCTIVE logic. His 
twofold emphasis on the diversity of the 
world and a unified theory anticipated an 
approach that would lead in due course to 
medieval sCHOLASTICISM. 


‘Reality’, for Aristotle consisted not in 
Plato’s universal, abstract, Forms or Ideas, 
but in a hierarchy of Being which began 
with particular objects in the world. 
Stones, trees, animals and people consti- 
tute the building-blocks that instantiate 
types or species, or ‘forms’ in Aristotle’s 
own non-Platonic sense of the term. 

Aristotle’s notion of causality offers a 
helpful introduction to his metaphysics or 
ontology. A cause (Greek, aitía) may be 
of four kinds. In the construction of a 
statue, for example, the material cause 
(Greek, hýlē, matter or material) may be 
marble or brass. The efficient cause 
(Greek, archè tês kineseōs, commence- 
ment of the motion) is the blows of a 
chisel. The formal cause (Greek, ousía, 
being or substance) is the pattern or 
distinctive idea in the mind of the 
sculptor, or a given architectural style. 
The final cause (Greek, telos, end) is the 
purpose for which the statue is made; the 
end that it will serve). 

This paves the way for understanding 
both the complexity and plausibility of 
Aristotle’s concept of reality. Substance 
constitutes a basic, underlying category, to 
which ATTRIBUTEs may be predicated. 
These modes of existence may be char- 
acterized in terms of quantities, qualities, 
relations, location in space, location in 
time, and action or being acted upon by 
another object. 

Aristotle inherited from Empedocles 
the ancient notion that the basic ‘elements’ 
which combined to form the material 
world were earth, water, air and fire, 
characterized also as hot or cold, wet or 
dry. This is closer to modern thought than 
the Greek terms in English translation 
might suggest. For they represent respec- 
tively solid, liquid and gas; and a lumi- 
nous, incandescent, hot, gas capable of 
serving as a catalyst or to produce change. 
Thus the application of fire differentiates 
the solid, liquid and gaseous state of ice, 
water and steam. 

This state of affairs underlines the 
point that matter is mutable and exists as 
‘POSSIBILITY’. Possibility, however, points 
not to a chain of infinite causal regress, but 
in due course to an Unmoved Prime 
Mover (Greek, préton kinoun akineton). 
This logic is fundamental to most versions 
existence of God and especially to the first 
three of the Five Ways of Aquinas. 

Aristotle’s concept of an ‘ordered’ 
world suggested to him that the ontologi- 
cal ‘primary existent’ is neither merely 
‘universal’ nor a material particular. This 
cannot be ‘matter’ (Greek, bylé) as such, 
because matter is merely potential. The 
primary existent is the ‘form’, but not in 
Plato’s sense of an Idea outside the world. 
Within Aristotle’s emphasis on a unifying 
system of particulars within the world, his 
‘form’ amounts to the full sum of the 
characteristics of the species to which the 
particular thing belongs. An apple tree, for 
example, is defined not in terms of a 
specific, solitary tree; but as an organism 
that together with others of its type or 



species has its own distinctive ‘unity of 
end’ as a full life-process in relation to 
other life-processes. 

Behind this, Aristotle infers a Prime 
Mover who is Unmoved (Greek, préton 
kinotin akineton). This Unmoved Mover is 
‘Mind’ (nods) or ‘God’. ‘God is perfect ... 
is One ... Therefore the firmament that 
God sets in motion is one.’ Aristotle’s 
universe therefore has a divine ‘ordered- 
ness’ and coherence that also embodies 
diversity, as AUGUSTINE, AQUINAS, and 
AL-FARABI sought to expound and to 

Aristotle sets out this ontology in part 
in the Categories and mainly in the 
Metaphysics, as a First Philosophy. In 
effect it is almost a natural theology. 
‘Reality’ is a teleological hierarchy of 
existents, a graduated scale of forms, 
looking toward the more rational and 
more complete. This is the Prime 
Unmoved Mover, who is Mind. (See 
ARGUMENT for the existence of God.) 

Aristotle’s concept of ‘God’ is set out in 
his Physics, books VII-VIII, and in Meta- 
physics, book XII. As actuality, not 
possibility, God is changeless and imma- 
terial (On the Heavens, 279A, 18). God 
moves in a non-physical way (Metaphy- 
sics, 1072B, 4). Aristotle anticipates later 
for the existence of God. However, 
although God is final and efficient first 
cause, this is mot a doctrine of ‘creation’, 
since Aristotle perceives the world itself as 


Many regard Aristotle’s work on formal 
logic as his greatest contribution to philo- 
sophy. He regarded deductive logic as 
fundamental, and provided what amounts 
to the first formulation of a logical syllo- 
gism in his Prior Analytics. Together with 
his work on the philosophy of language in 
On Interpretation and in Categories, this 
inspired the logical enquiries of ISLAMIC 

PHILOSOPHY, for which the syllogism 
retains primary importance, as well as the 
Augustinian-Thomist Christian tradition. 

In his work on the syllogism Aristotle 
distinguished between the ‘three terms’, of 
which there must not be more than three, 
in the major and minor premises and the 
conclusion that must ‘necessarily follow’. 
The ‘middle term’ is the term that occurs 
in both premises, and forms a bridge 
between them. It must not change its 
meaning through re-definition (Prior Ana- 
lytics, 25B, 32-7). DEFINITION, therefore, 
occupies no less an important place in 
Aristotle’s logic. 

We may illustrate the logical principle 
with reference to one version of the 
cosmological argument, which is 
unmasked by the formal syllogism as 
involving a strictly invalid step. The 
syllogism may superficially run as follows: 

Major Every state of affairs has a 
premise: cause. 

Minor The universe is a state of 
premise: affairs. 

Conclusion: Therefore the universe has a 


On the surface the three terms ‘state of 
affairs’, ‘world’ and ‘cause’ appear to 
represent no more than three terms. 
However, ‘cause’ and ‘state of affairs’ 
in the major premise mean ‘caused 
cause’ and ‘caused state of affairs’; while 
in the minor premise the term ‘state of 
affairs’ has changed its meaning. Further, 
if the conclusion alludes to God, ‘cause’ 
here denotes ‘uncaused cause’. Hence as 
a formal logical syllogism it breaks 

The example itself is not drawn from 
Aristotle, but if logical notation is used to 
replace the examples, it can be seen that A, 
B, Bz, C and Cy amount to at least A, B, C, 
D. Symbolic or, notational logic thus 
exposes the fallacy. Aristotle used symbols 
to represent logical variables, and this 
transposed arbitrary language into a for- 
mal logical ‘science’. 



Definitions are clarified by Aristotle 
through genus et differentia. For example, 
‘a human being is a rational animal’ 
defines ‘human being’ through the genus 
of the animal kingdom and the differentia 
of human rationality. Aristotle elaborated 
further forms of predication: in addition 
to genus and difference, also species, 
rather than necessary predications). 

Propositions remain the basic units of 
Aristotle’s formal logic (propositional 
logic). The standard form, as today, may 
be represented by the symbols S (subject) 
and P (predicate). Their relation may be 
one of affirmation or denial (Prior Analy- 
tics, 24A, 16). In turn, the affirmation or 
denial may be universal (‘All S...’ or ‘No 
S...’); or particular (“Some S ...’ or ‘Some 
S is not ...’). These four logical forms are 
(Greek) schemata (forms or figures). It 
would take us beyond the scope of this 
entry to include Aristotle’s explorations of 
‘necessary’ and ‘possible’ influences (see 


Aristotle’s special attention to proposi- 
tions and his theory of definitions cohere 
with his view of truth. This is firmly a 
correspondence view of truth. A noun 
(Greek, onoma, name) and verb (rhema) 
combine as REFERENTIAL and attributive 
components to form a proposition, state- 
ment or assertion, which either corre- 
sponds or fails to correspond with the 
state of affairs to which it refers, and 
which it represents. 

This exposition in On Interpretation 
specifies the truth-conditions of various 
types of proposition. However, in Poster- 
ior Analytics there is a hint of a broader 
notion of truth and knowledge. ‘Scientific 
knowledge’ does not merely concern 
assertions that certain states of affairs are 
the case, but more especially explores ‘the 
causes of things’ and their explanations. 
Yet deductions and formal syllogistic logic 
remain in play, since the principles of 

‘science’ must be necessary, invariant and 

Aristotle does not remain in the realm of 
theory, however. His Nicomachean Ethics 
and Politics address issues of decision, 
ethics and action. The ‘good’ is ‘well-being’ 
(Greek, eudaimonia), which transcends 
mere pleasure, honour, or wealth, but is 
the fulfilment of that end (telos) for which 
humankind and the world exist. To discuss 
this requires the use of REASON and the 
exercise of patience. All structures, includ- 
ing the structures of the world and of 
human life, are organized for the end for 
which they exist. 

In more concrete terms, choices toward 
the good, when habituated, become vir- 
tues. The four cardinal virtues represent a 
relative mean between two less construc- 
tive extremes: courage (between rashness 
and cowardice); moderation (between 
profligacy and apathy); generosity 
(between extravagance and miserliness); 
and greatness of soul (between boastful- 
ness and meanness of soul). Hence Aris- 
totle addresses issues of human choice, the 
will, and character, as well as questions of 
ontology and logic. 

Yet all are woven into a unifying 
system within which each branch of 
philosophy plays its part. Aristotle’s 
‘ordered’ philosophy reflects his ‘ordered’ 
view of the world as a hierarchy of 
particularities derived from a First 
Unmoved Mover. Augustine, Islamic phi- 
losophy, and Thomas Aquinas draw on 
this legacy. 


The term denotes an order of being that is 
‘from itself? (Latin, a se esse). It most 
usually denotes the uniqueness of God, 
Allah, or a ‘Prime Mover’, as evs a se in 
contrast to all CONTINGENT, or finite, 
beings or objects. These, but not God, 
are dependent on an agency or CAUSE 
outside themselves. 

existence of God presupposes that God is 



a NECESSARY Being in this sense. The 
existence also postulates this different 
order of Being as a fundamental alter- 
native to the need to assume an infinite or 
endless chain of caused causes, all of 
which depend in turn on some external 
agency or source of causation. 

ANSELM’s designation of God as a se is 
to be logically distinguished from SPINo- 
za’s notion of a ‘self-caused’ Being. This 
concept would fail to meet the criteria for 
a genuinely necessary Being, as in Anselm 
and in the third of the Five Ways of 
Thomas Aqutnas. In the modern era 
TILLICH maximizes this distinction when 
he insists that God is ‘Being-itself? in 
contrast to the more reductive assertion 
that ‘God exists’. The latter may risk 
compromising divine aseity. 


In the broadest terms, atheism denotes the 
denial of the existence of God. Broadly 
also, it is to be distinguished from 
AGNOSTICISM, the belief that to know 
whether or not God exists is impossible. 


Many distinguish between atheism as a 
view of reality or ONTOLOGY (often called 
‘theoretical atheism’) and atheism as a 
view that no effective difference in life or 
in the world is entailed in the proposition 
‘God exists’ (‘practical atheism’). 

Another distinction may be drawn 
between ‘avowed’ atheism that positively 
affirms the assertion ‘God does not exist’, 
and a broader atheism that negatively 
denies the existence of a deity or divine 
beings. LOGICAL POSITIVISM stands some- 
where between this second approach and 
Agnosticism by denying that the assertion 
‘God exists’ has any genuine currency. It 
merely expresses an emotive attitude or 
recommends such belief. 

There are many examples of ‘fringe’ 
atheism. Socrates (c. 470-399 BCE) was 

accused of atheism, but he merely denied 
the existence of God or the gods in the 
form such belief took in the ‘superstitions’ 
of the state religion of Athens in his time. 
Kant (1724-1804) affirmed the reality of 
God as a presupposition behind the 
categorical moral imperative, freedom 
and immortality, but denied the personal 
God who could act within the world-order 
as ‘ecclesial’ religion (Religion within the 
Limits of Reason, 1793). 

TILLICH (1886-1965) affirmed the rea- 
lity of God as ‘Being-itself? and as 
‘ultimate concern’. However, he resolutely 
insists, ‘God does not exist. He is Being- 
itself, beyond essence and existence. 
Therefore, to argue that God exists is to 
deny him.’ Tillich did not deny the 
ontological reality of God as the ‘Ground 
of our being’, but rejected the ascription of 
‘existence’ to God, as implying that God is 
merely one existent entity among others 
(Systematic Theology, vol.1, London: Nis- 
bet, 1953, 261). 


While ‘practical’ atheism goes back into 
the dawn of history (‘The fool says, 
“There is no God”’, Psalm 14:1, i.e. makes 
no difference in life) ‘theoretical’ atheism 
is a more recent phenomenon than is 
usually widely assumed. Epicurus (341- 
270 BCE) was not an avowed atheist, for 
he challenged not the existence of the 
divine, but the divine nature: might the 
divine exist within the spaces between 
worlds, perhaps as atoms? 

Most identify the dawn of theoretical, 
ontological atheism with the second half 
of the eighteenth century, although some 
question whether Hopses (1588-1679) 
propounded avowed atheism. In Levia- 
than (1651) Hobbes made the pronounce- 
ment on religion that is most frequently 
quoted: ‘In these four things, Opinions of 
ghosts, Ignorance of second causes, Devo- 
tion towards what men fear, and Taking of 
Things Causall for Prognostiques, consis- 
teth the Naturall seed of Religion.’ 



Nevertheless more than half of 
Leviathan is concerned to defend ‘true’ 
religion against the manipulative abuse of 
religion to promote conflict within the 
civil order, e.g. between Catholic and 
Protestant England. Fear and superstition 
were the causes not of authentic belief in 
God, but of religious manipulation. God is 
‘first and eternal cause of all things’, and 
source of ‘irresistible power’. Hobbes was 
not an atheist. 

Voltaire (1694-1778) is regularly cred- 
ited with supposed atheism. He attacked 
many manifestations of religions and 
religious authority, including the theodicy 
of Lerpniz. Nevertheless, he perceived 
evidences of design in the world from 
which he inferred the existence of a 

supreme Being, and attacked the atheism 
of d’Holbach. 


The impetus towards ‘avowed’ atheism 
derived its force from two occurrences in 
the late eighteenth century. First, the 
French ENLIGHTENMENT and French revo- 
lution nurtured a mind-set which, in 
effect, gave an obsessively high place to 
AUTONOMY. It was not in fact the progress 
of science as such that turned a tide. Many 
leading scientists were committed theists, 
including, for example, NEWTON 

The obsession with ‘autonomy’ encour- 
aged the view that scientific method could 
be extended to constitute a self-contained 
autonomous theory of the world, or 
world-view: a comprehensive account of 
all possible knowledge. Thus d’Holbach 
(Paul von Holbach, 1723-89) published 
his Systéme de la nature (1770), in which 
he proposed an entirely mechanistic 
account of the world as a ‘system’. This 
excluded the need to postulate ‘God’, and 
Voltaire denounced its atheism. In Eng- 
land R.B. Shelley would soon make a 
similar logical jump (1811-12) by claim- 
ing that God could not exist because God 
was incapable of ‘visibility’. 

The second major factor was KANT’s 
Critique of Judgement (1790). Even 
Hume’s Dialogues of Natural Religion 
(1779) had been sceptical rather than 
atheistic. However, Kant now claimed 
that the sense of ‘order’ that had 
impressed Newton and Voltaire was not 
‘there’ in the universe, but part of our 
human categories of understanding 
through which we made sense of the 
world. They are construals or projections 
imposed by the human mind. 

Each of these two factors encouraged 
further atheistic arguments. First, the view 
that natural science provides not simply a 
method of enquiry but a comprehensive 
world-view appeared more plausible in the 
light of developmental and evolutionary 
theories of the world and human life. 

HEGEL (1770-1831) held together a 
philosophy of progress and evolving his- 
tory with belief in God, but FEUERBACH 
RELIGION) turned this into a humanist or 
socio-economic principle. DARWIN 
(1809-82) formulated a theory of natural 
selection, which others used to attribute 
biophysical causes to all natural change. 
SPENCER (1820-1903) applied Darwin’s 
biological principle to issues of selfhood, 
intelligence and ethics, and was agnostic 
on the question of God. 

Second, Kant’s notion of projection 
was developed by Hegel’s pupil Feuerbach 
(1804-72) to account for ‘God’ in terms of 
a human projection of the infinite. The 
role of projection is developed further by 
Marx, by NietTzscHeE, and by Freud (see 


Feuerbach began his journey with a quasi- 
theistic world-view, but (in his own 
words) moved from ‘God’, through atten- 
tion to ‘reason’, to ‘humankind’. He 
concluded that ‘God’ is a name for 
humankind’s highest aspirations, which 
are ‘projected’ upwards and outwards. 



These human values are ‘objectified’, i.e. 
transposed into an objective entity ‘out 
there’ (see OBJECT). 

Feuerbach’s notion of a ‘non-objective’ 
God has come to be known as an ‘anti- 
realist’ or ‘non-realist’ concept of God, as 
advocated in the writings of Cuprtt (b. 
1934) (see NON-REALISM). Feuerbach 
insisted that by projecting human ideals 
and human dignity onto this ‘God’ 
humanity reduces its own stature. 

In response, theists perceive this spec- 
ulative theory as a reductionist view of 
God. God has become a mere human 
construct (discussed under FEUERBACH, 
below). The I-Thou interpersonal rela- 
tionship explored by BUBER has been 
dissolved. Prayer is talking to oneself. Is 
a non-realist ‘God’, God? 

In his work The German Ideology 
(1845-6) Marx (1818-83) draws upon 
Feuerbach’s materialist world-view to 
serve his own promotion of socio-eco- 
nomic forces as the driving motivation of 
ideas as well as history. In particular he 
perceived religion as a repressive, reac- 
tionary and oppressive force which threa- 
tens the struggle of the working classes for 
socio-economic emancipation. 


The work of Nietzsche (1844-1900) is 
atheistic. The basic drive of humankind is 
the ‘will to power’. However, religion, and 
Christianity in particular, promotes a 
manipulative ascription of power to 
priests and to hierarchies, while ensuring 
(like democracy) that the masses are 
characterized by the ‘slave’ mentality of 
humility, mediocrity and self-denial. 
Nietzsche anticipates later anti-theists 
by arguing that religious language relies 
on ‘a mobile army of metaphors’ that can 
be manipulated to serve interests of power. 
This is worked out especially in The 
Twilight of the Idols (1889) and The 
Antichrist (1895). ‘God forgives him who 
repents’ means ‘him who submits to the 

priest’ (The Antichrist, aphorism 26 (in 
Complete Works, 18 vols., London: Allen 
& Unwin, 1909-13, vol. 16, 161)). To 
experience ‘salvation’ means ‘the world 
revolves around me’ (ibid., 186; aphorism 

Freud (1856-1939) always saw human 
nature in biophysical, neurological terms, 
as the metaphor that he uses for ‘forces’ 
within the self shows (the ego, the super- 
ego, and the id in its unconscious depths). 
The problem of neurosis reflects conflicts 
between these forces deep within the self. 
However, these can be projected out- 
wards, so that, for example, conflicts 
between guilt and aspirations of self- 
worth may be ‘objectified’ into the face 
of a fatherly God who both judges and 
gives grace. 

Freud’s theories are complex, and the 
above summary is too simple. He viewed 
religion as an ‘illusion’, although he did 
not go as far as calling it a ‘delusion’, 
which is plainly false. Like Nietzsche and 
Marx, he saw ‘God’ as performing an 
instrumental role to serve particular 
human interests. This conflicts with theis- 
tic beliefs in God as a ‘Beyond’ who is 
transcendent and the Ground of all being 

Atheistic critiques of religions from 
France, Germany and Austria may seem 
to be more powerful, at least at an 
existential level, than Anglo-American 
accusations about the logical problem 
entailed in arguments for the existence of 
God, or the problem of evt. What kind of 
God should we expect to be capable of 
logical demonstration or observable as an 
empirical entity? 

All the same, the critique of religion as 
serving power-interests (Nietzsche) or a 
way of coping with the inner conflicts of 
neurosis (Freud) need not logically apply 
to all religion and all claims about belief in 

Indeed, many theists find Nietzsche and 
Freud constructive in facilitating the sift- 
ing out of inauthentic from authentic 
truth-claims in religion. Among Christian 


Augustine of Hippo 

theologians, MOLTMANN, Dietrich Bon- 
hoeffer, and Hans Kiing have addressed 
these issues head-on. RICOEUR, (b. 1913) 
utilizes Freud’s work on self-deception for 
HERMENEUTICS, without subscribing to his 
non-theist, mechanistic world-view. (See 


In the most general terms, an attribute is a 
characteristic, feature or trait, ascribed to 
a person or object (in word history, Latin, 
ad, to, and tribuere, to ascribe). In 
philosophy the classical exposition of an 
attribute emerges in ARISTOTLE. He 
divides the world into substances, each 
of which can be characterized by its 

Strictly, Aristotle understands these 
attributes to receive their characterization 
under the categories of time, place and 
relation. In Thomas Aqurnas the term 
becomes extended. 

In classical THEISM it was long custom- 
ary to speak of the attributes of God (e.g. 
holiness, wisdom, sovereignty, love). 
However, many modern theologians 
believe that this fails to take due account 
either of the TRANSCENDENCE of God as 
Other, or of the dynamic purposiveness of 
divine action. It risks encouraging the 
distorted notion of God as a static object, 
even as a mere object of human thought, 
rather than as an initiating Thou who is 
‘Beyond’. (See also BUBER; MOLTMANN; 

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) 

Together with PLATO, ARISTOTLE and 
Thomas Aquinas, Augustine may be 
counted among the four most influential 
thinkers who shaped Western philosophy 
before the Renaissance. He is widely 
viewed as the first great Christian philo- 
sopher, and his theology permanently 
influenced Catholic and Protestant theol- 
ogy in the West. He produced the largest 

body of Christian writings of the first 


Augustine was born in Thagaste, North 
Africa, and was educated, and taught 
rhetoric, in Carthage. He did not come 
formally to Christian faith until the age of 
thirty-two. In spite of the influence of his 
Christian mother, Monica, he had found 
Christianity insufficiently compatible with 
reason to be credible. In early years he fell 
under the influence of Manichaeanism, 
which he found more intellectually accep- 
table than Christianity. However, disillu- 
sion set in. He remained closer to 
NEOPLATONISM, even if as a Christian 
who viewed the Incarnation as decisively 
distinctive of Christian faith. 

Augustine taught rhetoric also at Rome 
and Milan, and came to Christian faith 
(386-7) partly through reading the Bible 
(the famous tolle, lege, ‘take up and read’, 
which prompted his reading of Romans 
13:13-14), and partly through the influ- 
ence of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. He 
returned to North Africa (388), was 
ordained in 391, and was made Bishop 
of Hippo in 395 until his death in 430. 


The enormous range and scope of his 
writings may invite possible misinterpreta- 
tions if specific treatises by Augustine are 
cut loose from their context and purposes. 
Many of his works attack ‘heresies’. Thus 
much of his material on EVIL and CREATION 
forms part of his polemic against Man- 
ichaeanism; many observations on habit, 
will, GRACE and the Church form part of 
his attacks on the group known as Dona- 
tists; and much, but not all, of his work on 
FREE WILL and FREEDOM features within 
his attacks on a Pelagian notion of freedom 
as autonomous free choice. 

Probably the least shaped by polemic 
are his widely read Confessions (397- 
400), written in first-person narrative 
style, and the later Enchiridion (423), 
written as a ‘little handbook’ on Christian 

Augustine of Hippo 


belief and discipleship. The framework 
chosen is that of the Creed and Lord’s 
Prayer. Also in this late period Augustine 
produced his classic City of God (twenty- 
two books, 413-26), which addressed 
pagan interpretations of the fall of Rome 
to Alaric the Goth in 410. His philoso- 
phical theology can be seen in De Trinitate 
(On the Trinity, fifteen books, 400-16). 
Other works include numerous biblical 
commentaries and doctrinal treatises as 
well as letters and dialogues. 


The Soliloquies reveal an indebtedness to an 
earlier reading of Cicero’s (lost) Hortensius 
for kindling Augustine’s early interest in 
philosophy (consolidated in Confessions II: 
4 and 7) as a search for wisdom, or 
‘blessedness’. A passion for intellectual 
enquiry remains common to philosophy 
and Christianity, and in his earlier works 
Augustine sees in this a close affinity in 
Neoplatonism. The Soliloquies are a dialo- 
gue between the writer and reason. 

Nevertheless, Augustine argues, knowl- 
edge of God is unique. It is distinct both 
from knowledge of the sensual and from 
mathematical knowledge: ‘My question is 
not what you know but how you know. 
Have you any knowledge that resembles 
knowledge of God? (ibid., I: 5: 10). 

Even in this very early work a perspec- 
tive emerges which is common to such 
later Western thinkers as DESCARTES and 
KIERKEGAARD: the issue of knowing 
relates to a first-person ‘T’, whether it be 
the suBJEcT in Descartes or subjectivity in 
Kierkegaard. ‘It is impossible to show God 
to a mind vitiated and sick. Only the 
healthy mind ... will attain vision’ (ibid., 
6: 12). REASON is the power of the soul to 
look, but it does not follow that everyone 
who looks, sees ... ‘Virtue ... is perfect 
reason’ (ibid., 6: 13). 

Truth, therefore, thereby concerns the 
will as well as the intellect (ibid., Il: 5: 8). 
Augustine now moves into the area of 

Plato, Neoplatonism and PLotinus. What 
the senses perceive of the material world 
can be deceptive and false. ‘Truth is 
eternal ... truth cannot perish’ (ibid., 15: 
27, 28). Truth, he then infers, belongs to 
the realm of ‘the soul and God’ who are 
‘immortal’ (ibid., 18: 32). 

TEACHER (389) 

Augustine later expressed dissatisfaction 
with the Soliloquies as simplistic and 
confused. He develops his EPISTEMOLOGY 
further in De Magistro (The Teacher), but 
this time perceives the importance of 
issues about the currency of language. 
Some early sections may offer hostages to 
THEORIES of meaning and OSTENSIVE 
DEFINITION. Yet even here Augustine 
recognizes that the circularity of explain- 
ing signs by other signs may reach firmer 
ground when we ‘carry out action’ (ibid., 
4: 7). 

Anticipating SCHLEIERMACHER and 
Wittgenstein, Augustine appeals to teach- 
ing, learning and training for understand- 
ing how we come to know meanings of 
signs in experience. Indeed, contrary to 
Wittgenstein’s example from Augustine, 
‘pointing with the finger can indicate 
nothing but the object pointed out ... 
I cannot learn the thing ... nor the sign... 
I am not interested in the act of pointing’ 
(ibid., 10: 34). However, Augustine does 
perceive here the notion of ‘Universals’ as 
truth presiding over the mind. 


De Libero Arbitrio (On Free Will) attacks 
the Manichaean account of the origin of 
evil. Augustine rejects their metaphysical 
DUALISM, as if evil were a positive entity at 
war with God. Evil has its origin in an evil 
act of will: ‘God is not the author of evil’ 
(On Free Will, I: 1: 1). Evil stems from a 
misdirected will behind the evil act (ibid., 
5: 7). Contrary to some of his later anti- 
Pelagian writings, Augustine is here so 


Augustine of Hippo 

concerned to emphasize the voluntary 
nature of evil acts that he portrays ‘the 
rule of human mind’ as able to resist the 
pull to evil (ibid., 10: 20). ‘It is in the 
power of our will to enjoy or to be 
without ... a good’ (ibid., 12: 26). 

If God punishes evil deeds, ‘that would 
be unjust unless the will was free not only 
to live aright but also to sin’ (ibid., II: 1: 
3). Even divine foreknowledge does not 
constrain free will. For divine OMNIS- 
CIENCE means only that ‘no future event 
[is] to escape his knowledge’, not the 
imposition of compulsion to accord with 
some ‘fixed’ scenario (ibid., III: 4: 11). 

All of this underlines the goodness of 
God. God’s gifts are good, whether or not 
humankind chooses to misuse them. ‘Why 
did you not use your free will for the 
purpose for which I gave it to you, that is, 
to do right?’ (ibid., II: 1: 3). 


This first-person narrative offers a retro- 
spective interpretation of past moments 
and key issues from a theological perspec- 
tive, in which God is addressed as Thou 
(see BUBER). Such first-person style places 
philosophy in a new key in terms of such 
issues as SELF, freedom and hedonism, 
subject and OBJECT, subjectivity and SELF- 
INVOLVEMENT and the experience of TIME. 
RYLE has illustrated the differences 
between ‘observer’ logic and ‘participant’ 
logic not only in such areas, but also in the 
generating of supposed paradoxes. 

Augustine offers a sternly ethical and 
theological interpretation of the drive of 
the self for self-gratification and desire. 
The self is ‘narrow’ and capable of self- 
deception (Confessions, I: 4: 4; 5: 6). A 
child learns language to express the 
desires of the self (Wittgenstein’s selective 
example of ostensive definition comes in 
ibid., 8: 13). Desire led, in his sixteenth 
year, to the theft of pears when ‘my 
pleasure was not in what I stole but in 
the act of stealing’ (ibid., II: 9: 17; cf. II: 4: 
9; 6: 12). 

Books III and IV recount Augustine’s 
interest in philosophy, sparked by Cicero’s 
Hortensius, his involvement with the 
Manichaeans, his study of Aristotle’s 
Categories, and his first reflections on time 
as duration and timeliness (ibid., IV: 6 :11; 
8: 13). Books VI and VII trace his journey 
through serious engagement with Neopla- 
tonism to his eventual openness to the 
Epistle to the Romans and Scripture. 
While Platonism is right that ‘God is for 
ever the same’, God chooses to become 
humble and accessible through the bodily 
enfleshment of Jesus Christ (ibid., VII: 9: 

The theme of praise reiterates the 
privative view of evil. No one can ‘find 
fault with any part of thy creation’ (ibid., 
14: 20). Yet this language closely parallels 
Plotinus and Neoplatonism. ‘The evil 
which overtakes us has its source in self- 
will ... in the desire for self-ownership’ 
(Plotinus, Enneads, V: 1: 1). ‘The 
unchangeable was better than the change- 
able ... The mind somehow knew the 
unchangeable ... It arrived at that which 
is’ (Confessions, VII: 17: 23, where 
Augustine recalls a visionary experience 
along Plotinian lines). Nevertheless, his 
Christian experience of revelation remains 
rooted in the Incarnation (ibid., 18: 24, 
19: 25). His ‘full’ conversion comes in 
Book VIII, especially when a child’s song 
(tolle, lege) takes him to Romans 13:13 
(ibid., VII: 12: 29). 

The character of God is now perceived 
as transformative: ‘Thou hast pierced our 
heart with thy love’ (ibid., IX: 2: 3). 
Augustine has no philosophical difficulty 
about the effectiveness of the intercessory 
PRAYER of his mother Monica on his 
behalf (ibid., 10: 26), and her passing 
through death to life shortly after their 
fulfilment (ibid., 13). 

In books X-XII Augustine leaves the 
events of his life to explore, still in first- 
person narrative before God as ‘Thou’, the 
themes of self-awareness, memory, time, 
the mode and time (or temporality) of 
creation and of God as ‘Creator of all 

Augustine of Hippo 


times’ (ibid., XI: 13: 15). In his last Book, 
form and differentiation are perceived in 
relation to divine creation. 

‘In what temporal medium could the 
unnumbered ages Thou didst not make 
pass by, since Thou art the Author and 
Creator of all the ages?’ (ibid., 13: 15). 
‘Thou madest that very time itself, and 
periods could not pass by before Thou 
madest the whole temporal procession. 
But if there was no time before heaven 
and earth, how, then, can it be asked 
“What wast Thou doing then?” For there 
was no “then” when there was no time’ 

Wittgenstein’s quotation ‘What is 
time?’ (ibid., 14: 17) has as its target 
Augustine’s formulation of a generalizing 
“‘super-question’ in the abstract. Yet just as 
Wittgenstein’s critique of Augustine’s allu- 
sion to ostensive definition tells only half 
of the story, the Confessions books XI are 
more subtle than we might imagine from 
the quotation. 

Augustine raises the issues of time 
because it appears to raise problems about 
creatio ex nihilo, i.e. the doctrine that God 
has created all things without resort to 
‘earlier material’. Yet how can creation 
have its ‘beginning’ in and through God if 
time permits us to ask what was ‘before’ 
this beginning? 

In practice Augustine shares with Witt- 
genstein a recognition of the logical 
muddle imposed by conceiving of time 
either as a receptacle into which the world 
was placed, or as a flowing river which 
permits the application of ‘before’ and 
‘after’ to all events. Augustine allows that 
we may speak of ‘before’ in relation to 
given sets of events, but not to denote 
temporal priority before all events. 

Human awareness conditions how we 
perceive time. For the past, the present no 
longer exists; the future is not yet; the 
present vanishes in the very moment of 
our reflection upon it. It is therefore not 
‘a thing-in-itself’, but is present to the 
mind in memory, attention (strictly 
‘experience’) and expectation (ibid., 20: 

26). However, to deny its independent 
“existence as an object’ does not entail its 
unreality. The mind is conscious of 
duration and succession. ‘Time ... is 
nothing else than extension (distentio), 
though I do not know extension of what’ 
(ibid., 26: 33). Hesitantly he wonders 
whether this distentio, or ‘stretching’ 
extension, is the mind; yet he concedes 
that movement and measurement remain 
applicable to duration. 

Augustine has reached as far as the 
logical tools of the pre-modern era will 
permit in appreciating the different logical 
currencies of time in relation to different 
contexts and questions. He lays a founda- 
tion for modern theories of narrative time, 
as RICOEUR shows through his use of 
Augustine’s distentio in his Time and 
Narrative (Eng. 1984-8). 


In the later period important sources 
include the Enchiridion (423), On the 
Trinity (400-16), the series of anti-Pela- 
gian writings (411-28); and the City of 
God (413-26; already introduced above). 

In the later writings Augustine under- 
lines even more heavily the privative view 
of evil. ‘If you try to find the efficient cause 
of this evil choice, there is none to be 
found. For nothing causes an evil will’ 
(City of God, XII: 6). His exposition (in 
partial or ‘weaker’ form) of the principle 
of PLENITUDE draws on the visual analogy 
that for light to be seen as light pre- 
supposes shadow (ibid., XI: 23). 

This is not unrelated to the Neoplato- 
nist and Plotinian view of form as 
presupposing difference in the process of 
creation. The ‘orderedness’ of the created 
world yields necessary variety and uneven- 
ness: ‘What is more beautiful than a fire? 
What is more useful, with its heat, its 
comfort ...? Yet nothing causes more 
distress that the burns inflicted by fire’ 
(ibid., XII: 4). The world as such is good, 
but it contains potential for the possibility 
of evil when evil choices misuse it. 


Austin, John L. 

The theme of structured order, in 
contrast to the chaotic and contingent, 
finds coherent expression no less in On the 
Trinity. The Divine Trinity exhibits unity- 
in-diversity. The Trinity exemplifies Being, 
Knowledge and Love. God is One; how- 
ever, God chooses to become visible and 
knowable in the Incarnate Word, God the 
Son. Just as in Plotinus, the eternal One 
who is ‘beyond Being’ nevertheless reaches 
expression as Mind (Nous), but is both 
bound into a unity and yet becomes 
accessible as Soul or life. Against the 
Arians Augustine insists (with Athanasius) 
that the Son is co-eternal with the Father, 
while the Holy Spirit exhibits the potenti- 
ality of ‘gift’ or ‘giveableness’ (On the 
Trinity, V: 3: 4; and 14: 15; 15: 16). 

The anti-Pelagian writings sharpen 
Augustine’s rejection of definitions of 
human freedom in terms of autonomy or 
equipoise. Human fallenness yields a habi- 
tuated bondage which can be redeemed 
only by divine grace. Hence the emphasis 
shifts from his earlier work On Free Will in 
such treatises as On Nature and Grace 
(415), On the Spirit and the Letter (412) 
and On Grace and Free Will (426-7). 

This distinguishes him sharply from 
Kant: ‘ought’ does not presuppose ‘can’ in 
ethics. The issue is whether the will and its 
habituated acts are orientated towards 
self-gratification or towards God. In com- 
mon with Neoplatonism, this is related to 
the constraints of the temporal and con- 
TINGENT as against fulfilment and blessed- 
ness in the eternal and the true. 

It will thus be seen that Augustine 
wrestles with a wide range of the philoso- 
phical problems that have occupied minds 
especially in the West over centuries. In 
some cases, including his work on self- 
hood, knowledge and time, he moved 
almost ahead of the pre-modern world. 
In other cases, the Platonic philosophical 
frame, within which much of his thinking 
developed, yielded constraints. Thus many 
would detect too great a readiness to 
accept, and to work within, a mind-body 
dualism, and an over-sharp contrast 

between the contingent and the universal. 
Yet his theology served to qualify this. The 
Incarnation and resurrection of Jesus 
Christ stood as the rock that separated 
Christian faith from Neoplatonism. 

Austin, John L. (1911-60) 

Austin was a leading exponent of ‘ANALY- 
TICAL’ or ‘Ordinary Language’ philosophy. 
He taught at Oxford for most of his life, 
and practised this method there from 1945 
until his death in 1960. His essay ‘Other 
Minds’ (1946) introduced the category of 
guishing such first-person utterances as ‘I 
promise’, ‘I warn’ from merely descriptive 
sentences (in Philosophical Papers, 
Oxford: Clarendon, 1961, 44-84, esp. 
65-74). His 1955 Harvard lectures on 
performative utterances are published as 
How to Do Things with Words (Oxford: 
OUP, 1962; 2nd edn, 1975). 

An utterance such as ‘I promise’ per- 
forms an action in the very saying of it: ‘by 
using this formula ... I have bound myself 
to others, and staked my reputation’ 
(Philosophical Papers, 67). Similarly ‘I 
know’ also entails giving ‘others my word; 
I give others my authority for saying “S is 
P”? (ibid.). ‘I promise’ or ‘I know’ is ‘quite 
different’ from ‘he promises’ or ‘he 

Nevertheless ‘the term “performative” 
will be used in a variety of cognate ways’ 
(How to Do Things with Words, 6). 
Performatives are effective or ineffective, 
‘operative’ or void, rather than true or 
false. ‘We do not speak of a false bet or a 
false christening’ (ibid., 11). Most perfor- 
matives presuppose accepted conventions 
and regimes that words are uttered to 
appropriate persons in appropriate cir- 

It no longer constitutes an operative 
performative to say, ‘My seconds will call 
on you’ if or where the conventions of 
duelling are no longer accepted. Would the 
utterance ‘I baptize this infant 2704’ 
constitute an operative act of baptism? 



(ibid., 35). Since presuppositions are 
entailed ‘for a certain performative utter- 
ance to be happy, certain statements have 
to be true’ (Austin’s italics, ibid., 45). 

Like WITTGENSTEIN, Austin notes the 
‘asymmetry’ in logical terms between first- 
person uses and third-person uses of such 
verbs as ‘I believe’, ‘we mourn’, ‘I give and 
bequeath’, ‘I bet’, ‘I forgive’ and ‘I 
promise’ (ibid., 63). These cannot be 
detected, however, by grammar alone. 

At the heart of Austin’s work lies the 
destination between ‘locutions’ (roughly 
uttering a sentence with a meaning), 
‘illocutionary acts’ (which perform acts 
in the saying of the utterance) and 
‘perlocutionary acts’ (which perform acts 
by the saying of the utterance: ibid., 1-10, 

Perlocutions often, perhaps always, 
involve the use of quasi-causal power 
rather than convention. Thus ‘I persuade’ 
usually embodies perlocutionary, rather 
than illocutionary, action. Austin rightly 
focuses on illocutions as most fertile for 
philosophy or conceptual clarification. 
Thus ‘I praise’, ‘I welcome’, ‘I repent’, ‘I 
promise’ come within this latter category. 
These require and repay clarification con- 
cerning the conditions for their operative 
currency or effectiveness. 


The consequences of Austin’s work for 
LANGUAGE IN RELIGION are too numerous 
to list in a short article. First, he offers a 
semantic or performative approach to 
TRUTH. ‘It is true’ is more like adding my 
signature than stating a fact. 

Second, much religious language is 
indeed the performing of an action. 
Sincerely to say ‘I repent’ constitutes an 
act of repentance; it is not an attempt 
to inform God of a state of mind that 
God may already know. ‘We believe’ 
constitutes a declarative act of nailing 
one’s colours to the mast, as well as a 
declaration of cognitive content. It 
depends on and exhibits (to use the term 

employed by D.D. Evans) the logic of 

Third, it also entails what WOLTER- 
STORFF calls ‘count-generation’. An utter- 
ance may count as the performing of an 
action, as when the raising of an umpire’s 
finger may count as a declarative verdict. 

Fourth, Austin established the huge 
variety of types of illocutionary acts that 
language may perform. Verbs such as 
reckon, grade, assess, rank, rate, may, in 
the first person, constitute ‘verdictives’. 
I command’, ‘I proclaim’, ‘I pardon’, 
‘I announce’, ‘I appoint’ may function as 
‘executives’. ‘I promise’, ‘I covenant’, 
‘I pledge myself’, ‘I guarantee’ are ‘com- 
misives’. ‘I thank’, ‘I welcome’, ‘I bless’, 
‘I curse’ are behabitives (ibid., 150-60). 

However, post-Austinian critics have 
offered improved and more coherent 
clarifications (notably John SEARLE). 
Further, Austin has been severely criticized 
for classifying logical force in terms of 
English verbs. Performatives cannot ade- 
quately be grouped in accordance with 
stereotypical examples or verbs in the 
English language. 

Even so, nothing can detract from the 
foundation laid by Austin. SEARLE, Wol- 
terstorff, F. Recanati, Daniel Vanderveken 
and many others have built upon, and 
modified, his work. 

Some American and German writers on 
biblical HERMENEUTICS (e.g. Robert Funk 
and Ernst Fuchs) have over-loosely used 
the term ‘performative’ to denote any kind 
of dimension of action or force without 
taking account of the rigour and care with 
which Austin distinguishes different types 
of force and action and their basis-in 
situations, conventions and life. He has 
opened a fruitful field for further research. 


In the era of ENLIGHTENMENT rationalism 
the concept of authority appeared to 
generate conflict, or at least tensions, 
between some religions or theological 
doctrines and philosophical enquiry. 



Almost all religions entail such notions as 
the lordship or kingship of God (or of 
Christ or of a divine figure) who has 
authority to decree, to require obedience, 
to commission agents or to forgive sins. 
On the other hand, philosophical thought 
has often assumed the importance of the 
AUTONOMY of the self (with KANT), and 
accorded it special privilege. 

Neither the concept of autonomy nor 
the concept of authority is as simple as 
might appear to be the case. If it means 
anything to call God, Allah, or Christ 
‘Lord’ or ‘King’, Christians, Jews and 
Muslims thereby accord to God a de jure 
authority, i.e. an authority of legitimate 
right. If they accept this authority in 
practice, this is also a de facto authority. 

Problems arise, however, when agents 
or intermediaries, often in the form of 
sacred writings, clergy or other ecclesial 
officers, are invoked. What kind and 
degree of authority are these ‘penultimate’ 
writings or persons to be accorded? 

WOLTERSTORFF points out that in 
everyday life we are familiar with the 
‘delegated authority’ of a vice-chairperson 
or even personal assistant who acts on 
behalf of a director, chairperson or pre- 
sident (Divine Discourse, Cambridge: 
CUP, 1995, 37-54). Thus sacred texts 
and apostles may be authorized or ‘com- 
missioned to speak in the name of God’ 
(ibid., 41 and 51, his italics). Judaism, 
Christianity, Islam and some other reli- 
gious traditions view sacred writings as 
holding effective and justified power if and 
when they speak as the word of God. 

This does not remove from religious 
communities the freedom and responsibil- 
ity of interpretation, practical application, 
and examining issues that arise from the 
recontextualizing of sacred texts in a later 
age. In part this entails the discipline of 
responsible HERMENEUTICS. The notion 
that sacred texts are to be read like 
engineering or scientific textbooks is 
broadly a ‘fundamentalist’ tradition 
within several of the major world reli- 

Moreover, the ready abuse of appeals 
to authority has been unmasked with 
relish by NrieTzscHE (1844-1900) and 
other philosophical critics. Kant 
(1724-1804) held to the notion of the 
absolute authority of the categorical 
(moral) imperative, but urged that divine 
authority is not merely one of raw power 
and threat, since God respects the dignity, 
responsibility and freedom of human 

KIERKEGAARD (1813-55) represents a 
way of thinking that readily holds together 
the importance of religious obedience with 
an insistence that religious faith is not a 
matter of responding to second-hand 
inherited doctrines and rules, but of 
appropriating faith for oneself in personal 
self-involvement and suBjEcTiviry. The 
two emphases are not incompatible. 

On the other hand, FREEDOM of 
enquiry and freedom to respond are not 
sheer ‘autonomy’. TILLICH (1886-1965) 
argued for a middle path between ‘hetero- 
nomy’ (a law imposed by another from 
without) and autonomy. To accept as ‘a 
law’ only what come from within one’s 
own nature (autonomy) constitutes a 
denial of the transformative nature of 
religion, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer so 
strongly urged. Tillich calls this middle 
way ‘theonomy’. 

Freedom of philosophical enquiry 
denotes not a ‘liberty of indifference’ as 
if the enquirer began always a PRIORI with 
a blank sheet. Freedom of thought allows 
for a personal integrity that resists the 
oppression of social, religious, political or 
secular totalitarianism. Nevertheless it 
does not preclude a careful assessment of 
the claims of TRADITIONs and communities 
in relation to individual consciousness. 

GADAMER (1900-2002) perhaps did 
more than any to rehabilitate the rational 
basis of respect for authority. In con- 
scious opposition to the complacent 
individualism of Enlightenment rational- 
ism, Gadamer asserts: ‘Authority ... is 
ultimately based not on the subjection 
and addiction of reason but on an act of 



acknowledgement and knowledge 
namely, that the other is superior ... in 
judgement and might ... It rests ... on an 
act of reason itself which, aware of its own 
limitations, trusts to the better insights of 
others’ (Truth and Method, 2nd Eng. edn, 
London: Sheed & Ward, 1989, 279). 

Gadamer alludes primarily to what has 
been tested in historical traditions. How- 
ever, in religion the principle may apply to 
prophetic or apostolic witnesses as well as 
to traditions of wisdom, narrative and 
sacred teaching. Much of the old, now 
dated, over-sharp dualism between 
authority and reason has dissipated with 
the recognition of the part played by 
communities and traditions. However, if 
individual reason is undervalued, the issue 
reaches a self-contradictory situation of 
the kind that emerges in more radical 
versions of POSTMODERNISM. Both 
authority and reason are placed under 
radical criticism and undervalued. 


In the broad, popular sense of the term 
autonomy denotes freedom from external 
constraints to set one’s own norms or rules 
of conduct, or in social applications of the 
word self-determination or self-govern- 
ment. It derives historically from the 
Greek auto-, self, co-joined with nomos, 
law, rule, norm or principle. 

A decisive influence in the history and 
use of the term was Kant (see below). 
Prior to the eighteenth century the term 
largely functioned in a communal, social, 
or institutional context to denote the self- 
government of a city-state, state or guild. 

(1) Prato (428-348 BcE) expounds the 
self-supporting autonomy of the city- 
state in the Republic, where it is clear 
that autonomy does not apply to 
individuals. This would create anarchy. 
There has to be law or rule, but as 
against tyranny, where the criterion is 
raw power; against democracy, where 
it is mere popularity; against oligarchy, 

where it is wealth and social influence; 
aristocracy (Greek, aristos, best) pro- 
motes what is best for society as a 

The ideal state in the Republic (bks 
II-V) is ruled by intellectuals who 
undergo a rigorous philosophical 
training in order that the rest of the 
city-state (boi polloi, the many) may 
be governed in accordance with truth, 
wisdom and justice. Yet book VI 
concedes that in practice philosophers 
are regarded very differently. 

Locke (1632-1704) represents a tran- 
sitional point towards the individual- 
ism of modernity. In his Two Treatises 
on Government (1689), especially in 
his Second Treatise in Civil Govern- 
ment Locke proposes that the indivi- 
dual has God-given ‘rights’ to life, 
liberty and property. However, in 
effect by an implicit social contract, a 
power of government must be con- 
ditionally assigned to a group of 
governmental agents to ensure a just 
distribution of the rights and liberties. 
‘Pure’ autonomy would be anarchy, 
when sheer might and power deprive 
individuals of these rights. 

Kant (1724-1804) extends autonomy 
to the will and moral decision of the 
individual. This is part of his rejection 
of the compromise with ‘freedom’ that 
is imposed by ecclesial and social 
traditions and authorities which 
undermine the ethical status of the 
individual to determine will and action 
in free, unconditioned, moral decision. 
A will is ‘good’ only if it derives its 
‘law’ from itself alone, i.e. in sheer 

SCHLEIERMACHER (1768-1834) per- 
ceived that Kant’s TRANSCENDENTAL 
PHY, raised new questions which 
theology had to address. However, he 
also perceived that autonomy struck at 
the heart of religion and religions. For 
religion is characterized by an imme- 
diacy of awareness or feeling of ‘utter 



dependence’ upon God (schlechthinig 
Abhängigkeit, The Christian Faith, 
2nd edn, sect. 4). 

TILLIcH (1886-1965) subjects both 
‘autonomy’ and ‘heteronomy’ to a 
forceful critique. If autonomy is to be 
viewed positively, ‘autonomy does not 
mean the freedom of the individual to 
be a law to himself’ (Systematic 
Theology, vol. I, London: Nisbet, 
1953, 93). At best, it denotes ‘obedi- 
ence to the law of reason’ (ibid.). 

All the same, individual-centred 
autonomy remains ‘shallow’, just as 
heteronomy (law imposed by another) 
can be oppressive. What is needed is to 
avoid the ‘catastrophe’ of autonomy 
and the ‘destructive’ impact of hetero- 
nomy by rooting both in ‘theonomy’: 
the threefold interaction or DIALECTIC 
between individual reason, social con- 
straint and divine order, provide a 
balancing ‘depth’ which one of these 
alone fails to yield (ibid., 92-96). 
Controversy about the status of auton- 
omy has divided the two broad intel- 
lectual approaches that might 
provisionally be described as the 
modern and the postmodern. 
Modernity inherits a philosophy of 
individual capacities and rights inher- 
ited through Locke and Kant. Post- 
MODERNITY inherits from HEGEL, 
(1889-1976) and FOUCAULT 
(1926-84) the view that against the 
enormous power-shaping factors of 
social and communal forces, indivi- 
dual autonomy is illusory. 

Religions, including the Christian reli- 
gion, tend also to underline the power 
of the social structures into which the 
individual is born, and to be less 
optimistic than secular modernity 
about the powers of individual reason. 
Nevertheless, within a context of a 
doctrine of divine GRACE and of 
human dependence upon God, they 
do not share the pessimism of some 
postmodern thinkers. They do not 

agree that the individual is utterly 
helpless to make responsible decisions 
which affect his or her own destiny. 
They do not see humankind as deter- 
mined decisively or entirely by social 






Axioms are self-evident propositions or 
principles. They provide a premise or 
foundation on the basis of which inference 
may be deduced. ARISTOTLE defined 
axioms as indemonstrable propositions 
that cannot be doubted. They are akin to 
postulates, except that postulates are 
capable of demonstration. KANT regarded 
axioms as A PRIORI principles of intuition. 
strongest views of axioms as ‘innate’ to the 
human mind, but the term may also be 
used in a less ABSOLUTE sense to denote 
what is commonly held to be true. 

‘Axiom’ should be distinguished from 
‘axiom of choice’ as a technical term for a 
mathematical postulate about sets, and 
also from ‘axiology’ which explores issues 
of value. (See also DEDUCTION.) 

Ayer, (Sir) Alfred Jules (1910-89) 

A.J. Ayer became Professor of Mind and 
Logic at the University of London 
(1946-59) and subsequently Wykeham 
Professor of Logic at the University of 
Oxford (1959-1978). However, he made 
his name through the publication of 
Language, Truth and Logic (1936), later 
revised in the light of criticism in a second 
edition (London: Gollancz, 1946). This 
established his reputation as the leading 
British exponent of LOGICAL POSITIVISM. 




Ayer argued that all propositions are 
derive their truth from formal or ‘internal’ 
logical validity, or statements about the 
world which can be verified by observa- 
tion and experience, i.e. are empirically 
verifiable. He expounded this as a theory 
of meaning. 

Propositions that are neither analytic 
nor empirically verifiable, Ayer argued, do 
not communicate genuinely propositional 
meaning. It does not make sense to ask 
whether they are true or false, since all 
true-or-false propositions fall into one of 
these two specified categories only. 

Propositions about God or about ethics 
are ‘non-sense’, since their meaning can- 
not be tested and demonstrated by the 
principle of verification. Such statements 
as ‘To steal is wrong’ are not true-or-false 
propositions; they are recommendations 
concerning the adoption of values or 
emotive expressions of approval or dis- 

Ayer defines ‘non-sense’ as being 
‘devoid of literal significance’ on the 
ground that the content of a supposed 
proposition neither meets the criterion of 
verification nor depends on the validity of 
internal logical relations within an analy- 
tical proposition. In the latter case, ‘the 
validity depends solely on the definitions 
of the symbols it contains’ (Language, 
Truth and Logic, 2nd edn, 78). 

characteristically employ sentences that 
purport ‘to express a genuine proposition, 
but ... in fact, express neither a tautology 
nor an empirical hypothesis’ (ibid., 41). 
Hence they do not match up to the 
proposed criteria of meaning. Ayer rejects 
‘the metaphysical thesis that philosophy 
affords us knowledge of a reality trans- 
cending the world of science and common 
sense’ (ibid., 45). 

Ayer asserts: “The criterion which we 
use to test the genuineness of apparent 
statements of fact is the criterion of 

verifiability’ (ibid., 48). Until we know 
how a proposition would be verified, the 
speaker ‘fails to communicate anything’ 
(ibid., 49). 

Although he had earlier demanded a 
principle or criterion of ‘verification’, Ayer 
recognized in his 1946 edition that it was 
sufficient for a proposition to be capable 
of verification ‘in principle’. Thus, for 
example, in the era before space travel 
the proposition ‘There are mountains on 
the far side of the moon’ remained 
verifiable in principle, even in the era 
when space technology had not reached 
the point where it could be verified in 
practice. In principle the proposition was 
capable of verification, given the appro- 
priate technology. 

In his introduction to his 1946 edition 
Ayer states the point negatively: ‘If... no 
possible experience could go on to verify it 
[the proposition], it does not have any 
factual meaning at all’ (ibid., 15). 


Logical positivism looks back for its roots 
to the VIENNA CIRCLE, with its exagger- 
ated respect for the physical or natural 
sciences and its extreme distaste for 
metaphysics. First, as many have 
observed, not only metaphysics and theol- 
ogy, but no less ‘every single moral and 
aesthetic judgement, any judgement of 
value of any sort, must be regarded as 
meaningless’ (G. J. Warnock, English Phi- 
losophy since 1900, Oxford: OUP, 1958, 
45). This excludes a wide range of 
discourse which seems to have genuine 
communicative currency for very many 
people, above and beyond merely expres- 
sing mere personal preferences or emo- 

Second, Ayer is unclear about why he 
gives such a privileged status to the 
principle of verification when it fails to 
meet its own criteria of meaning. For as a 
proposition it is neither verifiable by 
observation of the empirical world nor is 
it an analytic statement. J.L. Evans 



described its self-defeating status as like 
that of a weighing-machine trying to 
weigh itself. 

Third, most seriously of all, Ayer 
purports to be formulating a theory of 
meaning and language but in practice 
merely presents a positivist or materialist 
world-view disguised in linguistic dress. In 
the end it is no more than raw positivism 
dressed up as a theory of meaning. 

Fourth, in addition to these three 
weaknesses, logical positivism too readily 
divides all language into a simplistic 
dualism. Apart from propositions of logic, 
language allegedly either describes obser- 
vable states of affairs (verifiable at least in 
principle) or expresses emotions, recom- 
mendations, approval or disapproval. 

However, as virtually the whole of 
WITTGENSTEIN’s later work clearly shows, 
language and uses of language reflect a 
‘multiplicity’ that is ‘not something fixed’, 
but functions with the diversity of a 
repertoire of tools in a tool-box to operate 
in many ways (L. Wittgenstein, Philoso- 
phical Investigations, Oxford: Blackwell, 
Germ. and Eng., 1967, sects. 11 and 23). 

mands, declarations, promises, PRAYER, 
decrees, pronouncements, parables, and 
many genres which are best understood as 
performing a variety of SPEECH ACTS. To 
ask which are either verifiable or analytic 
propositions, and to dismiss the rest as 
‘non-sense’, ignores the genuine operative 
currency with which such language per- 
forms meaningful communicative acts. 


Although his reputation is most popu- 
larly known through his Language, Truth 
and Logic, Ayer also addressed problems 
concerning EPISTEMOLOGY (the nature of 
knowledge) in The Problem of Knowl- 
edge (1956); and issues concerning per- 
sonal identity, freedom and CAUSATION, 
and the relation between language and 
states of affairs in Thinking and Meaning 
(1947) and Philosophy and Language 

Heavily influenced by the EMPIRICISM 
of Hume and the world-view of RUSSELL, 
Ayer came to represent a confident, 
‘common-sense’, empiricist world-view in 
the English philosophy of the 1950s. Yet 
he also recognized the logical limitations 
and fallibility of many empiricist claims to 

In The Problem of Knowledge Ayer 
writes: ‘Claims to know empirical state- 
ments may be upheld by a reference to 
perception, or to memory, or to testimony, 
or to historical records, or to scientific 
laws. But such backing is not always 
strong enough for knowledge. Whether it 
is so or not depends upon the circum- 
stances of the particular case’ (London: 
Pelican, 1956, 31). This allusion to the 
particular case holds together the various 
approaches associated with Ayer, RYLE 
and others, which often used to be called 
‘OXFORD PHILOSOPHY’ in the 1950s and 
early 1960s. 

Barth, Karl (1886-1968) 

Many regard Barth as a towering figure in 
Christian theology of the twentieth cen- 
tury. A Swiss theologian and pastor, Barth 
opposed Hitler and Nazism in Germany. 
From 1935 he was professor at Basle, and 
is most widely known for his massive 
work Church Dogmatics. Although this 
was never fully completed, the four main 
‘Parts’ run to some fourteen large volumes 
in English translation (Edinburgh: T & T 
Clark, 1956-77). 

In the context of philosophy of religion 
Barth made an impact in several areas. (1) 
He attacked ENLIGHTENMENT rationalism 
as a mind-set which exercised reductive 
and distorting influences on Christian 
theology, especially in conjunction with 
oy. (2) He emphasized the part played by 
REVELATION in knowledge of God, and the 
infinite qualitative TRANSCENDENCE of 
God as ‘Other’. (3) He drew attention to 
the nature of ANSELM’s formulation of the 
of faith rather than as a philosophical 
argument. (4) He questioned the way in 
which Thomas Aqutnas had formulated 
the role of ANALOGY in the use of 

Nevertheless, some works on philoso- 
phy of religion tend not fully to appreciate 

the subtlety and complexity of Barth’s 
thinking. Thus H.J. Paton portrays him as 
placing a ‘theological veto’ on language 
about God in philosophy of religion (The 
Modern Predicament, London: Allen & 
Unwin, 1955, 47-58). 

Whereas in classical high modernity the 
paradigm of ‘knowing? is that of the active 
human SUBJECT scrutinizing ‘OBJECTS’ of 
knowledge, Barth anticipates the view that 
‘objective’ apprehension is not value-neu- 
tral. Rather, it is that which accords with 
the nature of the enquiry and its ‘object’. It 
is not to be shaped exclusively by the 
agenda of the human ‘subject’. In theology 
this exploration should be, as far as 
possible, in accordance with God as ‘God’. 


Barth does not simply reject all use of 
‘reason’. His target is the method 
employed widely in theology in the late 
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries 
associated with such thinkers as A. Har- 
nack. In one respect Barth anticipated the 
post-modern perspective that rational 
enquiry is seldom value-neutral (see POST- 
MODERNITY). Because of human fallenness, 
he did not entirely reject FEUERBACH’s 
claim that all too often people project their 
wishes and ideals onto a ‘God’ who is 
merely an idol of their own construction. 


Barth, Karl 

Liberal theology, in which Barth had 
been educated and trained, largely focused 
on Jesus as a teacher of ethical truths. In 
Harnack’s view, the heart of Christian 
teaching lay in ‘the fatherhood of God, the 
brotherhood of humankind and the infi- 
nite value of a human soul’. 

Barth found that this approach cut 
little ice in his early work as a pastor. It 
also underestimated human sin, and the 
outbreak of the First World War 
(1914-18), even endorsed by some of his 
German teachers, seemed further to ques- 
tion any optimism about ‘progress’. He 
turned to a repeated and intensive reading 
of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and 
discovered what he called ‘the Strange 
New World within the Bible’ (1917), in 
The Word of God and the Word of Man, 
(1924, Eng. 1957, 43). 

In 1919 Barth published his ground- 
breaking Commentary on Romans. This 
emphasized the distance between human- 
ity and the transcendence and grace of 
God. A second edition (1922) drew more 
explicitly on KIERKEGAARD. The only 
valid starting-point is revelation: ‘God is 
known through God and through God 
alone’ (Church Dogmatics, Il: 1, sect. 27, 
Eng. 179). 


‘Objectivity’ in knowing God is deter- 
mined by revelation in accordance with 
the nature of the ‘Object’ of knowledge. 
Or, conversely, God, not humankind, is 
the subject who addresses humankind. 
‘Religion’ in the sense of human religiosity 
may be about discovery and attempting to 
reach ‘upward’, but in authentic address 
God’s Word is free, sovereign, and ‘from 
above’. In his earlier work (later modified) 
Barth had urged that God is ‘wholly 

This gave rise to the debate to which 
Paton alludes. Is there a ‘point of contact’ 
(German, Ankniipfungspunkt) between 
God and man? Emil Brunner, Barth’s 

former collaborator, appeared to affirm 
as much in God and Man (1930) and in 
his work on ethics, although he also 
emphasizes human guilt and fallenness. 
This opened their debate about the legiti- 
macy of ‘natural theology’. 

When Hitler came to power in 1933, 
Barth led the stand of the Confessing 
Church in Germany under the theme 
‘Christ alone; Scripture alone’, stated in 
the Barmen Declaration of May 1934. It 
was in Rome, in deep concern about the 
apparent blind eye of the Vatican towards 
Hitler in 1934 that Barth attacked Brun- 
ner in his work No! (Nein!). By making 
theology more broadly based than ‘Christ 
and Scripture’ wider traditions seemed to 
leave room for compromise and manip- 

In Church Dogmatics Barth also argues 
that sin has so marred the image of God in 
humankind that no ‘point of contact’ 
survives (I: 1, 273). Nevertheless, in GRACE 
and in faith such ‘contact’ may occur in 
times and in ways of God’s choosing. This 
is not to demand ‘a complete sacrifice of 
the intellect’ (Paton, The Modern Predica- 
ment, 51), or to ‘veto’ human language 
about God by ‘theological positivism’ 
(ibid.). It is not ‘rejection of reason’ (ibid., 
49). It is affirmation of the free sovereign 
choice of God when or whether to speak 
through human reason or any other 
means. Barth approves of ‘critical’ reflec- 


Four years earlier Barth wrote Anselm: 
Fides Quaerens Intellectum (Faith Seeking 
Understanding, 1930, 2nd edn, 1958). In 
his preface to the second edition he states 
that this study provides a ‘vital key’ to the 
Church Dogmatics. Anselm does not 
perceive knowledge of God as a human 
striving upwards. Hence he does not use A 
POSTERIORI arguments. Rather, knowing 
God is a process that begins from, and 
ends in, God. 



This process is not irrational or illogi- 
cal, but derives from ‘inner’ necessity 
rather than external persuasion. Thus its 
logical coherence serves to mark God as 
‘Other’ and transcendent. God is not part 
of the empirical world, and cannot be 
‘discovered’ within it. Nevertheless God 
‘speaks’, but ‘where and when’ God wills 
(Church Dogmatics, I: 1, sect. 4, 120). We 
do not say ‘God by saying “human 
person” in a loud voice’. As we observed 
in our introductory remarks for Barth, 
‘knowledge’ must be in accordance with 
the nature of its object, not imposed by the 
human subject ‘externally’. This is ‘objec- 
tivity’ in Barth’s sense. 


Barth’s Church Dogmatics covers a huge 
range of topics: revelation and the Word 
of God; the doctrine of God, the Trinity, 
and Christology; creation and humankind 
(four large volumes in the English transla- 
tion), yet more on reconciliation and 
redemption. Yet a constant theme remains 
‘the Godhead of God ... God is God’ 
(Church Dogmatics, IV: 2, sect. 64, 101). 
Such a God is self-giving. Thus we see 
glimpses of his self-giving Fatherhood in 
the derivative concept of human fatherli- 

Because God as Father loves and gives 
himself, a child of God may ‘model his 
action on what God does’; yet ‘he cannot 
give what God gives ... The divine love 
and the human are always two different 
things’ (ibid., sect. 68, 778). Thus human 
qualities may reflect what God reveals 
through divine actions, but Barth is 
hesitant to endorse Thomas AQUINAS’s 
exposition of analogy, lest it risks extra- 
polation ‘upwards’ in too strongly 
anthropomorphic terms (see ANTHROPO- 

Barth therefore accepts the notion of an 
‘analogy of faith’ but rejects ‘analogy of 
being’. ‘This is not similarity of being, an 
analogia entis. The being of God cannot 
be compared with that of man (ibid., III: 

2, sect. 45, 220). This does not, however, 
exclude communicative interaction. For in 
an analogy of relation a human being may 
address God as ‘Thou’, rather than sub- 
suming God within an analogy of being by 
over-ready uses of ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘it’. This is 
not mere description but ‘encounter’ 
(ibid., 243-59). 

Even among admirers or followers of 
Barth, some express reservations about 
whether his insistence on the transcendent 
otherness of God has perhaps introduced a 
confusion of categories into the issue of 
language in religion. As RAMSEY urges, 
MODELS have an important place, 
provided that they are qualified with 
sufficient care, and their validity rigor- 
ously assessed. 

As a system of Christian theology, 
Barth’s thought cannot be ignored, and it 
has profoundly influenced later European 
theology. In the four areas in which it most 
clearly impinges on philosophy of religion, 
it offers corrections to some shallow 
assumptions, but at times may also risk 
‘talking past’, rather than with, some 
contrary approaches. It remains challen- 
ging, if also provocative, on method in 
theology and in EPISTEMOLOGY. 


Some distinguish between behaviourism as 
a strictly scientific method in psychology 
and behaviourism as a philosophical or 
psychological doctrine. The term was 
introduced in 1913 by J.B. Watson 
(1878-1958) to denote a view of the self 
in psychology that abandoned all data 
derived from introspection or from sup- 
posed mental states to account for the self. 
Rather, he approaches the self wholly and 
exhaustively in terms of what can be 
observed (ideally as if under laboratory 
conditions) concerning the selfs beha- 

Watson’s works Behaviour (1914) and 
Behaviourism (1924) provide classic expo- 
sitions of this view. A starting-point 
concerning the fallibility of introspection 



is understandable, but Watson effectively 
perceives the human self as a mechanism 
the activities of which may be reduced to 
biophysical, neurological responses to 
stimuli of an empirical nature only (see 

This becomes still more pronounced in 
the work of Watson’s fellow American B.F. 
Skinner (1904-90). Skinner presses Wat- 
son’s school of psychology into ‘radical 
behaviourism’, arguing for the elimination 
of ‘mind’ as a philosophical and psycho- 
logical doctrine. 

Skinner argued that the shaping of the 
self was primarily by ‘operant condition- 
ing’, which reinforces behaviour patterns 
through stimulus and response especially 
through pain and pleasure. In popular 
thought Pavlov’s experiments in Russia 
with the application of stimulus and 
response to dogs provides a well-known 
model of this approach. 

While Skinner introduced a level of 
rigour into his scientific work, to reduce 
the mind, in effect, to instrumental com- 
putation based on neurological processes 
risks committing what Lovejoy termed 
‘the paradox of materialism’: how can 
materialism claim a rational basis if 
‘rationality’ means only bioneurological 
processes or pragmatic success with 
immediate ‘local’ enterprises undertaken 
by the self (see PRAGMATISM)? 

The philosophical doctrines of Rudolf 
Carnap (1891-1970) and Ayer (1910-89) 
also offer reductionist views of the self. 
This is to be distinguished from the more 
strictly genuine logical analysis of RYLE 
(1900-76), who avoids ‘dogmatic’ beha- 

Although some regard WITTGENSTEIN’S 
attack on ‘private language’ as evidence of 
his sympathy with behaviourism, Wittgen- 
stein attacks only the traditional logic 
applied to ‘mental states’. He seems to 
deny that he is a behaviourist, and stands 
aloof from both sides in terms of a 
doctrine or world-view (cf. Philosophical 
Investigations, Oxford: Blackwell, 1967, 
sects. 281-317). 



In everyday life we are familiar with a 
contrast between belief and knowledge. 
Life abounds with practical examples of 
the need to act upon beliefs for which 
evidence of their validity or truth is less 
than conclusive. In management theory, 
the manager who delays action until 
budget forecasts, opportunities, or the 
capacities of personnel can be known with 
exactitude does not function as a compe- 
tent, efficient manager. Humankind con- 
stantly needs to act with a judicious 
margin of risk. 

The issue is whether such a margin of 
risk is reasonable. CERTAINTY is not 
secured by mere psychological certainty, 
as if sheer intensity of conviction could 
guarantee the truth of a proposition or 
state of affairs. Locke (1632-1704) 
addressed this issue. ‘REASONABLENESS’ 
generates an ‘entitlement’ to belief; sheer 
intensity of belief does not. 

Locke spoke of ‘assurance of faith’, but 
distinguished it from knowledge. Even if I 
have full ‘assurance’ of faith, ‘I assent to 
any article of faith, so that I may steadfastly 
venture my all upon it, [yet] it is still but 
believing. Bring it to certainty, and it ceases 
to be faith’ (Works, 12th edn, London, 
1824, III: 274-5). Belief, for Locke, is based 
On REVELATION. ‘Faith is to assent to any 
proposition ... upon the credit of the 
proposer, as coming from God ...’ (ibid., 
IV: xviii, 2). Knowledge, on the other hand, 
depends on perceptions of the world. 

WOLTERSTORFF convincingly argues 
that book IV of Locke’s Essay Concerning 
Human Understanding is Locke’s ‘centre 
of gravity’. This seeks to offer ‘a theory of 
entitled [i.e. permitted, responsible] belief 

. There are norms for believing ... 
Beliefs are entitled if they do not violate 
these norms.’ Locke therefore sought to 
produce a ‘regulative ... epistemology ... 
what we ought to do by way of forming 
beliefs’ (John Locke and the Ethics of 
Belief, Cambridge: CUP, 1996, xv—xvi). 



This is a very different account of 
‘entitlement to believe’ from that sug- 
gested by W. K. Clifford (1845-79) on 
‘The Ethics of Belief’ in his Lectures and 
Essays (1879). He argues that it is 
immoral to believe without sufficient 
evidence. He uses the example of a ship- 
owner who sends people to sea in a ship 
concerning the seaworthiness of which he 
has well-founded doubts. Supposedly he 
persuades himself to ‘believe’ that a kindly 
Providence will guard this against mishap. 
It is ‘wrong to believe on insufficient 
evidence’. In principle Clifford rightly 
underlines, with Locke, the responsibility 
and public effects of belief. However, his 
criteria go beyond Locke’s ‘reasonable- 
ness’ to a virtually positivist demand for 
unambiguous empirical evidence (see 


An anti-rationalist tradition within Chris- 
tian thought flows from KIERKEGAARD 
(1813-55) to BULTMANN (1884-1976). 
Kierkegaard blamed AucusTINE for con- 
fusing faith with belief, and thereby 
transposing it into an intellectual system 
of propositions. In Kierkegaard’s view 
faith is a voluntarist act, a venture, in 
which the person of faith stakes his or her 
self. This is the meaning of his aphorism 

Bultmann likewise perceives faith as 
‘venture’ and obedience. His view that 
historical research into the life of Jesus is 
misguided as a basis for faith stems from a 
particular way of interpreting the pietist 
legacy of nineteenth-century Lutheranism, 
which sees rational argumentation in 
support of faith as an ‘intellectual work’. 
Faith is trust in the bare Word of God (see 

The truth that Kierkegaard and Bult- 
mann seek to convey, but with misleadingly 
one-sided formulations, is that faith and 
belief operate with a logic of SELF-INVOL- 
VEMENT. Faith is not value-neutral assent 
to supposedly value-neutral descriptive 

propositions. Bultmann uses the ambiva- 
lent term ‘existential’ to convey this point 

V. H. Neufeld, The Earliest Christian 
Confessions (Leiden: Brill, 1963) and D. 
M. High, Language, Persons and Belief 
(New York: OUP, 1967) bring out the 
theological and philosophical dimensions 
(respectively) of self-involving creeds and 
confessions. These are both self-involving 
or existential (the speaker is nailing his or 
her colours to the mast) and declarative 
truth-claims about states of affairs (the 
speaker is endorsing the proposition, for 
example, that Jesus of Nazareth was 
crucified and raised, or that God created 
the world). Often the self-involving 
dimension (e.g. living as a responsible 
steward) presupposes a prepositional truth 
(e.g. that God created the world). 


H.H. Price begins his classic work Belief 
(London: Allen & Unwin, 1969) with a 
recognition that ‘I believe’ and ‘We 
(see AUSTIN). A mere descriptive proposi- 
tion may simply be stated (‘p’) without the 
preface ‘I believe’ or ‘I know’. The latter 
pledges the speaker to guarantee or at least 
to ‘stand behind’ the utterance as credible. 
There is a valuationial aspect: ‘and I 
attach importance to this’. 

Belief, Price urges, is not primarily to 
be understood as a ‘mental state’ as such. 
It may more accurately be viewed as a 
disposition to respond in certain ways to 
certain circumstances. Thus I do not cease 
to ‘believe’ if I fall asleep or become 
unconscious. However, I will seek to 
respond with reasons to the contrary if 
someone presents to me arguments against 
my belief, and seek to ‘live out’ the 
practical entailments of my beliefs. 

Price observes, ‘This “spreading” of 
belief from a proposition to its conse- 
quences is one of the most important ways 
in which such a disposition is occurrently 
manifested ... Our beliefs are like stable 


Berkeley, George 

landmarks’ (ibid., 293). The disposition 
presupposed by a declaration of belief ‘is a 
multiform disposition, which is actualized 
or manifested in many different ways: not 
only in... actions and inactions, but also 
in emotional states such as hope and fear; 
in feelings of doubt, surprise and con- 
fidence’, and also in intellectual operations 
(ibid., 294). 

Such an approach goes back not simply 
or primarily to RYLE but more especially 
to the later WITTGENSTEIN. ‘What does it 
mean to believe ...? What are the 
consequences of the belief, where it takes 
us ... The surroundings give it its impor- 
tance’ (Philosophical Investigations, 
Oxford: Blackwell, 1967, I, sects. 578 
and 583). ‘I believe’ is not giving a report 
on my state of mind. ‘Believing ... is a 
kind of disposition of the believing person 
... shown ... by his behaviour’ (ibid., II, 

Price includes a plausible account of 
‘half-belief?. How is it that some believers 
act in certain ways consonant with their 
beliefs ‘on some occasions’ but act very 
differently ‘on other occasions’ (Belief, 
305)? The primary cause is that of keeping 
beliefs ‘in a watertight compartment’ 
where they fail to engage with the whole 
of life (ibid., 311). Sometimes the path to 
maturity is a gradual one, as a full 
integration of the self gradually emerges. 

All of the above aspects, with the 
possible exception of Clifford’s over-harsh 
demand for empirical criteria, contribute 
something of value to our understanding 
of the conceptual grammar of belief, and 
of why it is not simply a ‘weaker’ form of 
knowledge. Issues of ‘entitlement’, reason- 
ableness, self-involvement, and the visibi- 
lity of belief in the public domain all 
belong to the grammar of belief in 

Bergson, Henri Louis (1859-1941) 

Bergson’s philosophy expounds the pri- 
macy of process and change over against 
the place of static or solid objects in space. 

God, he urges, works in and through the 
process of EVOLUTION. God is a creative, 
dynamic force, a vital impetus (élan vital) 
for livingness and movement. 

In philosophy of religion Bergson calls 
into question a ‘static’ THEISM, but offers a 
way of understanding God in dynamic 
terms compatible with evolutionary the- 
ory. God and humanity act with a creative, 
purposive, freedom that transcends the 
model of the machine. His works include 
Creative Evolution (1907) and Thought 
and the Moving (1934). 

Bergson’s work resonates with that of 
subsequent thinkers who stress the priority 
of temporal over spatial categories in 
biblical theology (e.g. Oscar Cullmann, 
b. 1902) and in philosophical theology 
and narrative theory (e.g. RICOEUR, b. 
1913). His initial concern with evolution 
owed much to the influence of SPENCER 
(1820-1903), but he rejected Spencer’s 
POSITIVISM and mechanistic world-view. 
‘Duration’ is more than ‘clock-time’ (Time 
and Free Will, 1890). 

Bergson’s most lasting legacy is his 
careful critique of Darwin’s theory. He 
reaches the conclusion that biological 
evolution, far from substantiating a 
mechanistic or positivist world-view, 
transcends it and exposes its inadequacy. 
This provided an impetus, in turn, for the 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. 

Berkeley, George (1685-1753) 

Berkeley built upon the philosophy of 
perception in Locke (1632-1704), to seek 
to establish an idealist METAPHYSICS of 
‘immaterialism’. He claimed that nothing 
material exists, but only the ideas that 
constitute what is perceived. An Irishman, 
Berkeley was a philosopher and theologi- 
cal teacher, and also became a bishop. 
Locke had allowed that observations 
of solidity, extension, motion and num- 
ber were sense-impressions (i.e. percep- 
tions mediated through the five senses, 
including sight, hearing and touch) and 

Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus 


were derived from the external world. 
However, he argued that ‘secondary’ 
qualities (e.g. colour, sound, taste) are 
subject-dependent, or shaped entirely by 
how the mind perceives them. Berkeley 
extended Locke’s ‘secondary’ category to 
include every object of human percep- 
tion. Existence is co-extensive with per- 
ception, for ‘to be is to be perceived’ (esse 
est percipi). 

Berkeley did not assume that all ideas 
are merely a creation of the human mind. 
Some ideas force themselves upon us as 
unwelcome. These originate in sensations 
or experience perceived through the senses 
because they are derived from an infinite 
divine mind. 

For those unfamiliar with EMPIRICISM 
and IDEALISM it may seem initially puz- 
zling that Berkeley was both an empiricist 
and an idealist. However, the latter rests 
on the former. As an empiricist Berkeley 
based his theory of perception on the view 
that the mind receives sense-impressions 
through the avenue of the senses, but as an 
idealist he believes that these impressions 
enter the mind as ideas. 

Nevertheless Berkeley’s ‘subjective ide- 
alism’ (his own term was ‘immaterialism’) 
is to be distinguished from the German 
idealism of FICHTE, SCHELLING and 
HEGEL. They began from different start- 
ing-points and asked different questions. 
Two of the titles of Berkeley’s works 
illustrate his angle of approach: An Essay 
Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709) 
and A Treatise Concerning the Principles 
of Human Knowledge (1710). 

Berkeley’s claim in the second work 
that trees, tables, houses and lead weights 
are no more than complex collections of 
‘ideas’ does not founder upon the com- 
mon-sense objection that to kick a stone is 
to feel its impact through pain (ascribed to 
Samuel Johnson). For pain itself is a 
perception, which, in Berkeley’s world- 
view, finds its ground, like all perception, 
in the mind of God. Berkeley’s aim was to 
produce a serious philosophy that coun- 
tered the scepticism of the day. 

Boethius, Anicius Manlius 
Severinus (c. 480-525/6) 

Boethius is widely regarded as a bridge 
from the ancient philosophical legacies of 
ISM, to the medieval Latin writers and 
ScHotasTicisM. A Roman patrician of 
high standing, he was accused of treason 
and imprisoned. While awaiting execution 
he composed his work On the Consola- 
tion of Philosophy (524-5). He attempted 
to bring together aspects of Hellenistic and 
Roman philosophy with Christian 

One of the most important conceptual 
influences bequeathed by Boethius for 
philosophy of religion was his formulation 
of a logic of ETERNITY. Eternity was not to 
be conceived of as ‘human’ time stretched 
out in both directions. Boethius recog- 
nized that it belonged to God. Eternity is a 
mode of reality that grasped ‘the whole’ of 
past, present, and future as a whole. 

Eternity constituted most especially 
God’s own mode of existence. This is 
‘the complete possession all at once (totum 
simul) of an illimitable life’. Although 
strictly eternity is not ‘everlastingness’ in 
the human sense of this term, because 
God is ‘infinite’, eternity remains ‘illimi- 
table’, and in this special, qualified sense 

A greater conceptual problem is raised 
by the use of ‘simul’, at once, at the same 
time. Is it conceivable that the living, 
dynamic, purposive, God would exclude 
‘succession’ from eternity? Boethius might 
see this as implicit in simul, but what 
currency remains? Yet the formulation of 
Boethius has remained the classic formu- 
lation in the tradition of classical Christian 
theism (see GOD, CONCEPTS OF). 

Further contributions of Boethius 
include his identification of the Greek 
term hypostasis with ‘person’. He also 
places the transitory evils and sufferings of 
life in the light of the eternal values of 
RELIGION and philosophy. This ‘relativiz- 
ing? of EVIL provoked the protest of 


Buber, Martin Mordechai 

DosToEvsky’s Ivan, who sought a more 
existential and less abstract approach to 
the problem of evil (see EXISTENTIALISM). 
There are themes in Boethius that may 
owe more to Neoplatonism than to 
Christian tradition (e.g. on the flight of 
the soul). For a judicious assessment see 
H. Chadwick, Boethius (Oxford: Claren- 
don Press, 1981). 

Bonaventure (c. 1217-74) 

Bonaventure (John of Fadanza) developed 
a philosophy within the framework of 
Christian faith, which combined elements 
of NEOPLATONISM with a Christian Mys- 
TIcIsM that culminated in POsT-MORTAL 
union with God. Philosophy may enhance 
happiness, provided that it is directed by 

Bonaventure studied at the University 
of Paris, and in 1257 was appointed 
professor there (with Thomas AQUINAS), 
but the same year became Bishop of 
Albano and subsequently Cardinal. He 
belonged to the Franciscan Order, and 
published the Commentary of the Sen- 
tences of Peter Lombard (1250-1), On the 
Mystery of the Trinity (1253-7) and The 
Journey of the Mind to God (1259). 

Every person, Bonaventure maintained, 
has an implicit knowledge or awareness of 
God. Philosophical and theological reflec- 
tion may make this explicit, including the a 
POSTERIORI arguments from the world to a 
First Cause (see COSMOLOGICAL ARGU- 
MENT for the existence of God). ANSLEM’s 
ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT rightly expresses 
the perfection of God. Mystical contempla- 
tion nurtures a less fallible, less CONTIN- 
GENT, vision of divine ideas. The Journey to 
the Mind of God traces an ascent of the 
mind from contemplation of the world to 
contemplation of God. 

Bradley, Francis H. (1846-1924) 

Bradley taught at Oxford for most of his 
life, and did not shrink from viewing 
philosophy as an exploration of the nature 
of reality. Surface appearances give rise to 

contradictions. However, philosophical 
enquiry should aim at coherence. Behind 
the partial and ever-shifting lies the 
ABSOLUTE as the ground of reality. 

Bradley shared with HEGEL (1770- 
1831) the notion of an Absolute revealed 
in and through the finite, and also the 
belief that only the ‘Whole’ is real. This 
led to some insights, but also to certain 
incautious utterances. For example, if 
‘time is unreal’, why, G.E. Moore asked, 
do we usually take breakfast ‘before’ 

The relation between diversity and an 
underlying unity is largely the subject of 
his work Appearance and Reality (1893). 
He also wrote works on ethics, logic and 
truth. Some called him ‘the English Hegel’. 

Buber, Martin Mordechai 

In philosophy of religion Buber is most 
widely known for his relatively short but 
influential masterpiece I and Thou (Ger- 
man, Ich und Du [1923], Eng., New York: 
Scribner, 2nd edn, 1958). This expounds 
the core of his philosophy of relationality. 
‘The attitude of man is twofold ... One 
primary word is the combination I-Thou. 
The other primary word is the combina- 
tion I-It ... For the I, the primary word I- 
Thou is a different I from that of the 
primary word I-I?’ (ibid., 3). 

In other words, the human self, or the 
T, plays a different role, and is trans- 
formed into a different kind of self, 
depending on whether we construe ‘the 
other’ as a mere object of knowledge (I- 
It), or as an Other who addresses us as 
subject-to-subject (I-Thou). The latter 
nurtures reciprocity, dialogue, mutuality 
and respect for the Other. 

Buber was born in Vienna, and, in early 
years, influenced by the works of KANT as 
well as drawn to religious mysticism. The 
influence of Kantian ethics can be seen in 
his appeal to the I-Thou relation as 
treating persons as ends rather than as 
means (or as [-It objects). Equally, God is 

Buddhist philosophy 


no mere ‘object’ of human thought, but 
One who commands. When he was a 
student in Berlin, Wilhelm Dilthey also 
influenced him, and this laid foundations 
for a hermeneutical understanding of self 
and the Other. 

As a Jew, Buber involved himself in 
Jewish affairs. He became Professor of 
Jewish Religion at Frankfurt until Hitler’s 
rise to power in 1933. His earlier work on 
mystical relations of immediacy gave way 
to a more dialogical relation with God as 
Other, and as Thou. In 1938 he left 
Germany to become Professor of Social 
Philosophy of Religion in the Hebrew 
University in Jerusalem, until his retire- 
ment in 1951. 

The I-t relation is typical of scientific 
or empirical methods of observation (see 
EMPIRICISM). However, this attitude never 
tells the whole story. Persons may be 
viewed as objects in as far as they bear 
physical properties in the public world. 
They may be ‘observed’ in scientific study. 
But persons are more than objects or 
things. A person is a ‘Thou’ who addresses 
me, whom I encounter as a subject. 

It is fundamental for Buber that the 
two different attitudes affect the kind of ‘TP 
who I am. To regard all persons and 
objects in I-It speech and attitude is 
thereby to remain isolated and self-centred 
in interpersonal terms. A non-relational ‘P? 
is not fully a human ‘I. Respect for life 
may even imply an I-Thou relation to 
certain objects in the world. ‘Without It 
man cannot live. But he who lives with It 
alone is not a man.’ 

While human persons are primarily 
Thou but in certain contexts also It, God 
is ‘the eternal Thou’. God is always 
Subject who addresses us. God is never 
an It; never the mere object of observation 
or reflection. This is why Buber dismisses 
arguments for the existence of Gop as 
‘foolish’ (cf. KIERKEGAARD’s ‘shameless 
affront’). God can never be the object of 
speculative thought. Personal involvement 
and openness to be addressed and com- 
mended are required. 

Speaking ‘Thov’ and being in encoun- 
ter with the Other are ontological (see 
ONTOLOGY): ‘reality? appears between 
persons, or between God and human 
persons in their address and response, 
reciprocal listening and respect for the 
Other. This comes close to the core of 
HERMENEUTICS. Dilthey, Buber’s teacher 
in Berlin, spoke of understanding the ‘P in 
the ‘Thov’, and subsequently RICOEUR 
would speak of understanding the other- 
ness of the Other, and of Oneself as 

Buber develops his philosophy further 
in Between Man and Man (1947), Eclipse 
of God (1952) and other works. There are 
resonances with other Jewish thinkers on 
‘the Other’, notably Franz Rosenzweig 

His respect for ‘the Other’ led Buber 
to co-found the Yihud movement to 
promote not only Arab-Israeli under- 
standing, but also the ideal of Israel- 
Palestine as a bi-national state for Jews 
and Arabs. 

Love is the responsibility of the ‘T for 
the ‘Thov’. Divine love is elective: God 
‘confronts me ... being chosen and choos- 
ing ... in one’. REVELATION of God is not 
the transmission of ideas about God, but 
an event in which God speaks. Buber’s 
later work on the Bible stresses relation- 
ality and encounter in terms of a herme- 
neutic of narrative. The Holocaust is a 
moment when we witness an Eclipse of 
God (1952). ‘We await his voice’ (On 
Judaism [1952], New York: Shocken, 
1972, 225). 

Buddhist philosophy 

The title ‘the Buddha’, ‘the Enlightened 
One’ is given primarily to the historical 
founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gau- 
tama. Estimates of his date of birth vary 
between 563, c. 485 and c. 450 BcE He 
addressed as a main issue how to avoid 
suffering and dissatisfaction by escaping 
the cycle of rebirth. Buddhist philosophy, 
especially in Indian traditions, is largely 


Buddhist philosophy 

derived from this concern. It seeks 
enlightenment based on an understanding 
of human nature. 


Indian forms of Buddhist philosophy 
flourished especially during the early 
medieval era until the eleventh century. 
Like some traditions in Graeco-Roman 
SroicisM, this philosophy seeks to elim- 
inate the ignorance that places too much 
value on that which causes and nourishes 
desire, or too much attention on that 
which invites aversion. Such desires and 
aversions breed frustration and dissatis- 

The Buddha himself refused to address 
speculative questions about the nature of 
reality, since these were thought to lead to 
an attachment to views that were not 
conducive to Enlightenment. Philosophi- 
cal questions were first developed in 
various schools of the Abhidharma, 
which expanded the early teachings of 
the Buddha into an analysis of all the 
elements of experience and their inter- 

The Buddha’s dying words are said to 
have been: ‘I take my leave of you. All the 
constituents of being are transitory; work 
out your salvation with diligence.’ Central 
to the early teachings was the view that 
there is no abiding self apart from the 
arising of experience, and that transitory 
experience arises through an interdepen- 
dent cycle. 

The extinction of all unproductive or 
worldly desires is known as nirvana 
(Sanskrit, ‘blown out’). This is related to 
the elimination of greed, hatred and 
delusion. It is a permanent liberation from 
the cycle of rebirth. Although it is 
regarded as release, the Buddha pro- 
nounced that nothing can be positively 
predicated about it that is true. In 
Mahayana Buddhism nirvana is thus 
regarded as indistinguishable from the 
cycle of rebirth. The emphasis of ‘Enlight- 
enment’ is in realizing the emptiness of 
constituents of existence. 


More explicit philosophical investigations 
emerged in the Yogacara school of Bud- 
dhism (fourth century BCE), also within 
the Mahayana school. The Yogacara 
school, however, explores the nature of 
consciousness, perception, knowledge and 
ONTOLOGY. It concludes that in a nuanced 
sense consciousness is real only in terms of 
convention, and is the cause of karma. 
External objects do not exist, but are 

This school produced the most devel- 
oped and complex theory of perception 
and EPISTEMOLOGY in Buddhist philoso- 
phy. Sacred texts bore such titles as 
‘Elucidating the Hidden Connections’, 
and a notion of three natures of the self 
was formulated. 

The link between theoretical and prac- 
tical philosophy is clearest in the concept 
of dharma, a Sanskrit term that covers a 
range of meanings including ‘teaching’, 
‘law’, ‘custom’, ‘justice’ and ‘religion’, as 
well as the order of reality, or even the 
constituents of that order. Suggesting 
perhaps certain resonances with Western 
thought in ARISTOTLE, this is like a 
principle of ‘orderedness’ in the world; a 
cosmic, and perhaps even (loosely) divine, 
principle. To follow dharma is the path to 
Enlightenment: perhaps also release from 
karma and reaching nirvana. 

Buddhist philosophy in most of its 
forms retains themes of cessation of desire 
through disengagement from causes of 
desire in the world, and the further goal 
of a cessation of ignorance, suffering and 
death. Yet there are also positive affirma- 
tions of a life of ‘balance’, for example 
between ascetic self-denial and self-indul- 
gence. These also resonate with Aristotle’s 
ethic of the Mean, just as dharma may 
resonate perhaps with his notion ‘ordered- 

Yet there are also entirely contrary 
themes. Consciousness is not understood 
as a stable individual consciousness in the 
sense held by Aristotle, AUGUSTINE, 

Bultmann, Rudolf 


Aquinas, Descartes and Locke. A phi- 
losophy of the transitory and continuous 
change applies to the sELF, to personhood 
of RESURRECTION, rebirth may take place 
in a number of different realms resembling 
different heavens and hells. 

The continuous rise and fall of the 
being is determined by its karma, the 
results of its intentional actions. Only in 
‘Pure Land Buddhism’ is the goal not 
nirvana as such, but rebirth in a heavenly 
realm created by one of the Buddhas, 
achieved through calling on the Buddha to 
transfer his merit. (See also MYSTICISM; 

Bultmann, Rudolf (1884-1976) 

Bultmann exercised a very large influence 
on mid-twentieth-century Christian theol- 
ogy. His greatest significance for the 
philosophy of religion lay in his proposals 
for a programme of DEMYTHOLOGIZING 
the New Testament, his devaluation of 
history as a basis for religious faith, his 
dualist approach to faith and knowledge, 
and the COGNITIVE or descriptive and 
existential dimensions of LANGUAGE IN 

Bultmann studied at Tübingen, Berlin 
and Marburg, and inherited from his 
teacher W. Herrmann a Kantian disjunc- 
tion between fact and value. Relatively 
early he published his History of the 
Synoptic Tradition (1919, 1921; Eng., 
1963), which ascribed various settings 
and forms to the material of the first three 
Gospels on the basis of their function in 
the life of the earliest churches (their Sitz 
im Leben), in contrast to any historical 
role in recording facts about Jesus. 

This material, Bultmann insists, serves 
such existential functions as proclamation 
(kerygma), pronouncement, or challenge; 
it did not serve any interest of historical 
report. In historical terms, Bultmann 
believed, the sources reveal little more 

than that Jesus lived, proclaimed the 
kingdom of God, called followers to 
follow him, and was crucified. 

Bultmann was not troubled by this, 
since for him faith cannot rest on histor- 
ical reconstruction. This would make faith 
dependent on intellectual success or 
achievement, which would be equivalent 
to ‘justification by works’ in the intellec- 
tual sphere. Bultmann’s thought is domi- 
nated by a nineteenth-century version of 
Lutheranism, which goes further in this 
reapplication of justification by GRACE 
through faith alone than perhaps Luther 

On this basis, Bultmann urges, the 
language of the New Testament must be 
‘demythologized’. It must be extricated 
from any hint of serving to describe or to 
report. It ‘must be interpreted ... existen- 
tially’ ("New Testament and Mythology’ 
[1941], in H.W. Bartsch, ed., Kerygma and 
Myth, vol. 1, London: SPCK, 1964). ‘God’ 
is not a ‘given’ object (eine Gegebenheit) 
within a system of ‘knowledge’ (Erkennt- 
nissen), as the ‘mythical’ form might seem 
to imply (‘What Does it Mean to Speak to 
God’ [1925], in Faith and Understanding, 
vol. 1, London: SCM, 1969, 60). Hence 
‘demythologizing’ is to remove a ‘false 
stumbling-block’ for the reader. 

Bultmann rightly seeks to restore the 
nature of the New Testament as self- 
involving address and existential chal- 
lenge. He uses HEIDEGGER’s conceptual 
scheme, which distinguishes the human 
(Dasein, being-there) from the language of 
mere ‘objects’. However, he fails to 
recognize that these modes of language 
are not competing alternatives. Often 
language may address us and challenge 
us precisely because it also embodies 
truth-claims about states of affairs. 

Bultmann’s positive aims are vitiated 
and flawed by a dualist view of language, 
and by a neo-Kantian dualism of fact and 
value. ‘Religion’, for Bultmann, belongs 
almost inclusively to the latter category. 
He also failed sufficiently to recognize the 
ambiguities and differences embodied in 


Bultmann, Rudolf 

uses of the word ‘MYTE’. As a result he 
oscillates between contradictory uses of the 
term. Sometimes it denotes analogy; some- 
times it denotes a primitive world-view; at 

other times it denotes an ‘objectifying’ use 
of language that needs to be ‘de-objecti- 
fied’. This last reaches the heart of his 
concerns most closely. (See also Kant.) 


This term is one of the most slippery and 
variable in philosophical thought, because 
it has been used in a variety of (often 
technical) ways by different major thin- 

ARISTOTLE (384-322 BCE) used the 
term to denote a list of basic classifications 
in ONTOLOGY. ‘Being’ itself could be 
classified most basically as substance 
(Greek, ousia, being), to which other 
categories served as ATTRIBUTES, for exam- 
ple, quantity, quality, location in time, 
location in space, action or being affected 
by action. These are expounded in his 
work Categories, but the list is extended 
and developed further in his Topics. 

Kant (1724-1804) believed that the 
structures that we perceive and of which 
we conceive within the everyday (‘phe- 
nomenal’) world are construed and shaped 
by the human mind. The mind uses reason 
as a ‘regulative’ tool to organize the raw 
data of sense and sensation into an 
understandable order. We construe cate- 
gories by means of which everything is 

Kant postulated twelve categories, 
grouped as those of quantity, quality, 
relation and modality. Thus unity, plur- 
ality and totality are categories of quan- 
tity. Positive, negative and limited are 

categories of quality. Substance-acci- 
DENT, CAUSE-effect and reciprocity are 
categories of relation. POSSIBILITY, actu- 
categories of modality. Kant used the term 
‘categorical imperative’? to denote the 
ABSOLUTE claim of the moral imperative. 
HEGEL, Peirce and RUssELL use differ- 
ent systems of categories. RYLE expounds 
particular logical clarifications designed to 
expose ‘category mistakes’. In mathe- 
matics yet another nuance of the term 
denotes structures and transformations. 

cause, causation 

Traditionally a cause has been regarded as 
the necessary antecedent to an effect. This 
view was refined by ARISTOTLE (384-322 
BCE), who distinguished between four 
types of causes. DESCARTES (1596-1650) 
believed that a cause must contain the 
qualities of the effect that it produces. On 
the other hand, Hume (1711-76) insisted 
that causality can never be the object of 
empirical observation. Hume noted that in 
strictly empirical terms we see only 
repeated examples of constant conjunc- 
tion (see EMPIRICISM). 

Kant (1724-1804) argued that cause 
constituted one of the categories by means 
of which the human mind organizes sense- 
data or objects of perception into an 


cause, causation 

intelligible and ordered world, alongside 
the other categories of time and space. In 
religious contexts some exponents of 
ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY together with more 
deterministic theologians in Christian and 
other (especially Islamic) traditions seek to 
relate an Aristotelian theory of causality to 
the status of God or Allah as General 
Cause (not merely First Cause), and verge 

Aristotle offers an analysis of cause 
(Greek, aitía) in terms of four sub-cate- 
gories. In building a house, for example, 
the material cause (Greek, bylé, matter) 
would be the wood or stone necessary for 
its construction. The efficient cause (archè 
tês kineseōs, commencement of the 
motion) would be the impact of the tools 
of the builders. The formal cause (ousia, 
being) is the design-pattern or style appro- 
priated by the architect. The final cause 
(telos, end) is the purpose that the house is 
to serve. 

The Greek terms do not correspond 
exactly with English parallels. Thus aitia, 
cause, itself denotes that which is respon- 
sible for a condition, including ground, 
cause, reason, circumstances or basis. It 
approaches the modern notion of ‘condi- 
tions for’. Hylé denotes the stuff or 
material out of which something is made, 
i.e. ‘material’ in both senses of the modern 
English word. Ousia denotes what exists 
and has substance. 

Hume exposes the fallacy that causality 
is evidenced by strictly empirical observa- 
tion. All that we can actually observe is 
constant conjunction. In other words, so- 
called ‘laws’ of causality are not them- 
selves based on the method of A POSTER- 
IORI scientific observation, even if 
successful prediction places causality at 
the very top of the scale of probability of 

Kant’s insistence that causality is an A 
PRIORI category of the mind (see CATE- 
GoRIES) may find less than uncontrover- 
sial acceptance outside firmly Kantian 
traditions of philosophy. However, Kant 
was dissatisfied with Hume’s account of a 

world of perceptions on the ground that it 
lacked coherence. Moreover, his approach 
serves as a reminder in philosophy of 
religion that just as time and space belong 
to the created order along with human 
understanding, so caused causal connec- 
tions and the cause-effect nexus of ‘nat- 
ure’ belong to this order. Yet this differs 
from such metaphysical concepts as that 
of an Uncaused (or First) Cause (see 

This difference serves also to question 
the validity of a logical step within the 
tence of God. The meaning of ‘cause’ in 
the major premise (caused cause) slides to 
that of another term in the conclusion 
(uncaused cause). 

Both narrowing and broadening under- 
standings of cause have found expression 
in the history of ideas. WILLIAM OF 
OckKHAM tended to narrow Aristotle’s 
fourfold analyses to focus on efficient 
cause as what we mainly understand by 
‘cause’. However, in modern scientific 
discussions the Greek term aitia used by 
Aristotle seems to have regained some of 
its original scope as that which provides 
necessary and sufficient conditions for 
certain effects. 

This recalls the formulation of LEIBNIZ 
(1646-1716) concerning ‘the Principle of 
Sufficient Reason’. Nothing occurs with- 
out sufficient reason for the occurrence. 
This derives in part, at least, from his 
ONTOLOGY of temporal continuity. 

More recent debates focus on how 
cause (in the sense of a specific cause of 
a particular event) relates to causality (as a 
postulate about how a diversity of condi- 
tions may produce different types of 
effects). On one side, ‘laws’ of causality 
are understood by some scientists and 
philosophers in a mechanistic sense, as if 
to imply a positivist world-view (see 
POSITIVISM). On the other side, ‘laws’ 
are regarded as ‘progress reports’ of an 
‘open’ universe; i.e. generalizations based 
On CONTINGENT events up to the present. 
A third group seeks to give due place to 

certainty and doubt 


‘order’ in the world, but may perceive this 
orderedness either as a ‘given’ in the world 
or as a ‘given’ of the human mind. 

certainty and doubt 

Many ordinary religious believers imagine 
that they are ‘certain’ about a set of beliefs 
or claims to truth, and that to doubt them 
would be blameworthy or less ‘religious’. 
Yet in the history of philosophical and 
religious thought, certainty, in the episte- 
mological sense of claims to knowledge, 
more readily characterizes those rational- 
ists who seek ‘clear and certain’ truths 
(even sometimes empiricist evidentialists) 
than most religious believers. 

Indeed, in the tradition of SOCRATES 
and the early dialogues of Prato, the 
purpose of DIALECTIC was to expose 
firmly held opinions as subject to doubt, 
in order to move from opinion (Greek, 
doxa) to knowledge (epistémé). Without 
the experience of doubt, a person may 
merely remain secure within entrenched 
convictions, without testing them or 
exploring further issues. 


Locke (1632-1704) explored grounds for 
reasonable BELIEF. In this process he 
observed that mere intensity of personal 
conviction need not entail the validity of 
what is believed to be the TRUTH. ‘Psy- 
chological’ certainty alone does not con- 
stitute grounds for ‘entitlement’ to believe, 
if such belief is not reasonable. 

Clearly ‘Iam certain’ in a psychological 
sense needs to be distinguished from a 
claim to certainty put forward on grounds 
of logical or epistemological demonstra- 
tion. The ‘certainty’ of the truth of an 
ANALYTIC STATEMENT is that of the logical 
validity of stating what is simply true on 
the basis of a definition of terms. 

This complexity of the different uses of 
‘certain’ and ‘certainty’ receives careful 
elucidation in WITTGENSTEIN’s On Cer- 
tainty (Oxford: Blackwell, 1969) written 

in draft as one of his last works (1951). 
Wittgenstein examines the ‘common 
sense’ claim of G.E. Moore that some 
everyday empirical truths are examples of 
what we can know with certainty. 

Wittgenstein questions whether the 
formula ‘I know ...’ in such sentences as 
‘I know that I am a human being’, or ‘I 
know that here is a hand ... for it is my 
hand that I’m looking at’ serves genuinely 
to identify an epistemological certainty 
(ibid., sects. 1, 4, 6, 12, 19). 


Against Moore’s arguments in ‘Proof of an 
External World’ (Proceedings of the Brit- 
ish Academy 25, 1939; repr. in Philoso- 
phical Papers, 1959) Wittgenstein ques- 
tions whether ‘I know’ constitutes a claim 
to knowledge based on ‘evidence’. It is, 
rather, the kind of belief for which 
‘grounds for doubt are lacking’ (On 
Certainty, sect. 4). In genuine claims to 
knowledge, one could say, ‘I thought I 
knew ...’, but not of Moore’s examples 
(ibid., sect. 21). 

In summary, Wittgenstein distinguishes 
three types of utterance about ‘certainty’. 
First, he calls ‘subjective certainty’ what 
above (in connection with Locke) we 
called ‘psychological certainty’ (ibid., sect. 
194). Mere intensity of a feeling of 
conviction does not necessarily entail its 
truth. There is no necessary correlation 
between these, even of degree or prob- 

Second, often we say, ‘I am certain ...’, 
or ‘It is certain that ...’, when to doubt the 
belief or proposition is simply inconceiva- 
ble. This is a conceptual point that moves 
beyond mere psychological description of 
feeling or innerness. In the case of some 
belief-claims, ‘doubt gradually loses its 
sense’ (ibid., sect. 56). We move from 
‘subjective’ to ‘objective’ certainty ‘when a 
mistake is not possible [because it is] 
logically excluded’ (ibid., sect. 194). 

Third, some expressions of certainty 
are to identify ‘hinge’ propositions. These 


certainty and doubt 

are convictions that have ‘belonged to 
scaffolding of our thoughts (Every human 
being has parents)’ (ibid., sect. 211). They 
are like ‘the proposition “It is written”’ 
(ibid., sect. 216). They are ‘hinges’ (sect. 
343) on which other propositions turn. 
For ‘all confirmation and disconfirmation 

. takes place already within a system’ 
(ibid., sect. 105). What is ‘certain’ seems to 
be ‘fixed ... removed from traffic’ (ibid., 
sect. 210). 


This leads Wittgenstein to explore a rela- 
tion with the logic of doubt. ‘The child 
learns by believing the adult. Doubt comes 
after belief’ (ibid., sect. 160, his italics). 
Doubt (no less than belief) requires 
grounds for doubting: ‘Doesn’t one need 
grounds for doubt?’ (ibid., sect. 122). 

Wittgenstein comes close here to 
Locke’s notion of ‘reasonable’ belief: 
rational suspicion has ‘grounds’, i.e. ‘the 
reasonable man believes this’ (ibid., sect. 
323). He is closer to Locke than perhaps 
he is to DESCARTES: ‘One doubts on 
specific grounds’ (ibid., sect. 458). Except 
for a purely methodological exercise, there 
needs to be reasonable doubt as well as 
reasonable belief. 

‘Negative’ activities (doubting, telling a 
lie) are parasitic upon belief and truth. 
They, too, are learned linguistic behaviour. 
They belong to ‘systems’ of belief and 
doubt. A belief-system is like a ‘nest of 
propositions’. Individual twigs can be 
doubted and removed; but if the system 
is an object of doubt from the first, the 
nest itself has collapsed, and there is 
nothing to doubt. 

We should not use the word ‘doubt’ of 
what had never been established. ‘Why is 
it not possible for me to doubt that I have 
never been on the moon? And how could I 
try to doubt it? ... The supposition that 
perhaps I have been there would strike me 
as idle. Nothing would follow from it’ 
(ibid., sect. 117). 

Our earlier allusion to Socrates now 
assumes a sharper significance. The 

‘doubt’ exposed by Socrates does not serve 
to promote SCEPTICISM, any more than 
Wittgenstein’s insistence that Moore does 
not address epistemological certainty 
forms part of a sceptical attack on knowl- 
edge. Quite the reverse is the case. Both 
Socrates and Wittgenstein see doubt and 
knowledge in operational terms for daily 

In the sacred writings of several reli- 
gious traditions, claims to certainty may 
be put forward in the ways described 
above. Constructive methodological doubt 
is often used to raise exploratory questions 
through such media as parables, aphor- 
isms, dialogue or questions. In the New 
Testament Paul asserts the quasi-Socratic 
maxim: ‘If any among you thinks they are 
wise (Greek, sophos) ... let them become 
a fool (moros) on order that they might 
become wise’ (1 Cor. 3:18). A measure of 
doubt may begin a journey from illusory 
complacency to wisdom. 

Friedrich Waismann examines the 
grammar of doubt and of questions. 
Sometimes ‘doubt is suppressed but not 
disarmed’ (Principles of Linguistic Philo- 
sophy, London: Macmillan, 1865, 17). 
‘The question is the first groping step of 
the mind in its journeyings that lead to 
new horizons. The great mind is the great 
questioner ... Questions lead us on and 
over the barriers of traditions’ (ibid., 405). 
On the other hand, ‘Questions seduce us, 
too, and lead us astray’ (ibid.). 


Cognition broadly denotes an act or 
process of knowledge. Cognitive denotes 
that which involves an act or process of 
knowing (Greek, gndsis, knowledge). The 
words occur in three main contexts of 

First, in some writers on SELFHOOD 
and the philosophy of mind, cognition is 
said to entail, or to presuppose, an act of 
judgement on the part of the self. To know 
x means that the suByEcT of cognition 
knows the OBJECT of cognition ‘as x’ (C.A. 
Campbell, On Selfhood and Godhood, 

Cohen, Hermann 


London: Allen & Unwin, 1957, 41, and 
more broadly 36-72). 

Many philosophers argue that cogni- 
tion involves perception, memory, intui- 
tion and judgement. This has implications 
for the nature of the self and for the 
formation of CONCEPTs. However, this 
claim remains controversial, and some 
empiricists would not ascribe to cognition 
all of these aspects (see EMPIRICISM). 

Second, another context of discussion 
arises from competing (or at least differ- 
ent) claims about cognitive and non- 
cognitive LANGUAGE IN RELIGION or in 
ETHICS. Often the terms are used to denote 
(respectively) language about facts or 
states of affairs and other modes of 
linguistic communication. 

Here, expressive language that ex- 
presses emotions, attitudes or choices is 
non-cognitive. However, expressions of 
BELIEF may include both a cognitive and 
non-cognitive dimension because beliefs 
usually presuppose, or claim truth about, 
states of affairs. 

In ethics ‘non-cognitive’ approaches 
frequently suggest that ethical approval 
or disapproval is a matter of mere 
preference, recommendation, convention 
or personal attitude. But a sharp polarity 
between fact and value, or between 
cognitive and non-cognitive, often over- 
looks more subtle interconnections 
between the two. This over-neat contrast 
vitiates otherwise useful explorations in 
such theologians as BULTMANN and 
George Lindbeck. 

Finally, a third distinct context is that 
of cognitive psychology especially in 
infants. It has emerged that conceptual 
development is often earlier, more com- 
plex, and more closely related to abstrac- 
tion than older empiricist theories might 
seem to suggest. 

Cohen, Hermann (1842-1918) 

Cohen was founder of the Marburg school 
of Neo-Kantian philosophy. The late nine- 
teenth century saw a revival of Kantian 

thought in Germany, but Neo-Kantianism 
tended to go further than Kant himself in 
questioning the notion of any ‘given’. 
Cohen rejected the role assigned by Kant 
to the concept of the ‘thing-in-itself’. He 
challenged Kant’s assumption that it is 
necessary to postulate a prior ‘givenness’ 
of sensations (Empfindung) that precedes 

With Paul Natorp (1854-1924) Cohen 
argued that Kant had confused psycholo- 
gical consciousness (Bewusstheit) with 
‘consciousness’ as the ground of knowl- 
edge in a purely logical sense (Bewusst- 

Neo-Kantian philosophy made a sig- 
nificant impact on mathematical physics 
and the sciences of the day. Thus Hermann 
von Helmholtz and Heinrich Hertz per- 
ceived the role played by ‘models’ (Bilder) 
rather than only ideas or physical data in 
scientific work. ‘Methods of presentation’ 
(Darstellungen) are carefully ‘constructed’ 
schemes that facilitate knowledge. Natorp 
declared: ‘Objects are not “given”; con- 
sciousness forms them.’ 

In theology, this radical Kantianism 
decisively influenced BULTMANN, who 
devalued the possibility of descriptive 
propositions in RELIGION: ‘God’ cannot 
be ‘objectively given’ (eine Gegebenheit). 


Almost any attempt to define ‘concept’ 
will invite criticism from some quarter. 
Even among philosophers (e.g. LOCKE, 
Kant, HEGEL, WITTGENSTEIN) there is a 
difference of viewpoint and approach, as 
well as areas of agreement. Further, the 
term also occurs in different contexts in 
psychology, SEMANTICS, linguistics, lexi- 
cography and LOGIC. 

Concept denotes more, but hardly less, 
than idea. While many reject a mentalist 
notion of ‘inner’ speech, in a more 
cautious and rigorous way the starting- 
point of Locke (1632-1704) remains 
initially constructive. He attributed con- 
cepts to the human capacity to discuss and 



to distinguish relations between ideas in 
the abstract. Thus human beings not only 
distinguish this book from that book as 
objects in the material, empirical, CON- 
TINGENT, everyday world, but also the 
concept ‘book’ from the concept ‘pamph- 
let? as categories or classes which this 
book or that pamphlet instantiates. 

Relations between ideas, Locke urged, 
give rise to complex concepts. Kant 
(1724-1804) drew a distinction between 
percepts and concepts. Conceptual thought 
is not merely the perception of objects or 
ideas but a structural ordering of what is 
perceived in terms of such CATEGORIES as 
those of unity, plurality (quantity); positive, 
negative (quality); substance, cause (rela- 
tion); and possibility, actuality (see also 
ARISTOTLE). Human imagination provides 
the schemata of quality and causality (and 
other categories) to make understanding 
(Verständnis) possible. 

Hegel (1770-1831) developed this 
notion of ‘critical ordering’ further. Con- 
cepts are the fruit of critical reflection 
upon difference and upon differentiation. 
Concepts (Begriff) operate at the level of 
critical self-conscious awareness, in con- 
trast to pre-conceptual SYMBOLS, or 
MYTHS, as mere representations (Vorstel- 
lungen). The task of philosophy is to 
enhance conceptual awareness critically. 

Wittgenstein (1889-1951) tends to use 
concept not to denote the phonetic or 
‘physical’ properties of language, but the 
logical grammar of language uses, i.e. how 
words and sentences are applied (Philoso- 
phical Investigations, Oxford: Blackwell, 
1967, sects. 104-8). Again, we return to 
the contrast between a logical understand- 
ing and its practical instantiation: ‘If a 
person has not yet got the concepts, I shall 
teach him to use the words by means of 
examples and by practice’ (ibid., sect. 
208). ‘The application is ... a criticism 
of understanding’ (ibid., sect. 146). 

This reflects the widely accepted dis- 
tinction, especially in ANALYTICAL PHILO- 
SOPHY, between words and concepts, 
sentences and propositions (or statements), 

and (in semantics) between token and type. 
We need not subscribe to a Platonic 
DUALISM between objects and forms to 
perceive that these represent two orders of 
language-users. The first of each pair is 
grounded in a particular instance of the 
second of each pair. 

As a child learns to use concepts, an 
awareness of generality, differentiation 
and categorization emerges that trans- 
cends the more elementary observation 
concerning differences between objects of 
different spatio-temporal locations. At its 
minimum, concepts presuppose a method 
of classification. At a higher level, con- 
ceptual analysis becomes the exploration 
of logical grammar. 


The term denotes a mediating position 
between more extreme forms of REALISM 
PHILOSOPHY. It is especially associated 
with the thought of Peter ABELARD 

Nominalists held that UNIVERSALS (con- 
cepts, ideas or definitions that transcend all 
particulars or specific cases, and have uni- 
versal application) constitute nothing more 
than linguistic signs or conceptual con- 
structs. Universals are thus not ‘real’ entities, 
but only logical or semantic ‘names’ (Latin, 
nomen). The opposite view is held by 
realists. Realists believe that universals 
possess a reality beyond mere thought and 
language (Latin, res, a thing, something of 
substance). (Realism also carries a second 
meaning: see REALISM) 

Between these two extremes a spectrum 
of intermediate views exists. While PLATO 
was a realist, ARISTOTLE and Thomas 
Aquinas held a moderate or modified 
realism. WILLIAM OF OCKHAM attacked 
realism and is generally regarded as a 

Abelard attempted a middle path, often 
called CONCEPTUALISM. This is the origin 
of his celebrated saying that each side is 
right in what it affirms and wrong in what 

contingency, the contingent 


it denies. Nominalists are right in perceiv- 
ing the role performed by SEMANTICS, 
LOGIC and conceptual construction. How- 
ever, realists are right to insist that reality 
consists in more than merely signs chasing 
(or denoting) other signs (see POSTMO- 
DERNITY). Reality is not exhausted by 
human concepts of reality, but concepts 
do indeed entail logical construal and 

It is just arguable that, for the philoso- 
phically informed, conceptualism offers a 
more ‘commonsense’ approach than either 
of the two extremes that it seeks to avoid. 
Although modern critical realism emerged 
strictly in the context of theories of 
causality, critical realism shares the view 
of conceptualism that there is more to 
reality than ‘what is known’ in concepts. 
Both perceive that description and con- 
ceptual construction are not entirely 
value-neutral, but also have some founda- 
tion in a reality external to the activity of 
the mind. (See also NON-REALISM.) 

contingency, the contingent 

Contingency may be said to apply to 
objects or to states of affairs or to 
propositions. The classic example of a 
contingent proposition in philosophical 
logic is: ‘It is raining.’ It might or might 
not be true, and its truth may be verified or 
disconfirmed by evidential empirical 

Some propositions, however, are 
NECESSARY. The statement that the sum 
of the angles of a triangle amount to 180° 
remains true irrespective of what triangle I 
draw. This is an example of an ANALYTIC 
STATEMENT, for it is true by virtue of the 
logic entailed in the definition of a 
triangle. In this case we are speaking of 
logical necessity. 

Can the terms ‘necessary’ and ‘contin- 
gent’ be applied to persons or objects 
rather to propositions? The COSMOLOGI- 
CAL ARGUMENT for the existence of God 
depends on the distinction between con- 
tingent, finite, caused causes within the 

world and a ‘Prime Mover’, First Cause, 
or Being of a different order, who is 
characterized by necessity and ASEITY. 

Under the cosmological argument the 
view is examined that if the whole of 
reality is contingent, we may in principle 
go back in time to a situation in which 
nothing (that which might not have been) 
gives rise to nothing. If all of reality is 
contingent, it appears that we postulate an 
infinite regress of finite caused causes, with 
no ground beyond such a chain. Similarly, 
existence of God hinges in part on what 
kind of necessity we ascribe to God, or to 
the concept of God. 

ARISTOTLE applied ‘contingent’ to 
objects and to events, in contrast to 
Necessary Being in the context of ‘possi- 
bility’ as against actuality. He also applied 
the term to propositions the truth or 
falsity of which are contingent. In LEIBNIZ 
and in Lessing this became modified in 
terms of a contrast between the contingent 
truths of history, or ‘facts’, and the 
‘eternal’ or necessary truths of REASON. 
In theology this had profound conse- 
quences for Christology. 

The term denotes the quality of being 
subject to subsequent correction, or the 
capacity to be corrected. It stands in 
contrast to that which is definitive and final. 
HERMENEUTICS poses a dilemma for 
many religious people. For many, a sacred 
text is perceived as definitive, but it is 
usually recognized that communities of 
interpretation are fallible. Hermeneutical 
theory since SCHLEIERMACHER has 
broadly underlined the progressive nature 
of hermeneutical understanding as a deep- 
ening process. Earlier understanding may 
be more partial (in both senses of the 
word) than later ‘divinatory’ and critical 
reappraisals and rereadings. Each act of 
understanding is corrigible in the light of 
subsequent engagements with the text, or 
with that which is to be understood. 

51 cosmological argument for the existence of God 

Historical understanding and prag- 
matic theories of knowledge also point to 
the corrigibility of progressive levels of 
apprehending truth. The main dilemma of 
PRAGMATISM is that what may seem to be 
justified to a community as a claim to 
truth may undergo substantial change and 
revision as history moves on. 

Martin Luther’s emphasis on the clarity 
(claritas) of scripture was arguably a 
functional use of the term rather than a 
claim to ‘final’ understanding. His opposi- 
tion to Erasmus provides the context for 
this Reformation discussion. Erasmus 
argued that since all biblical interpretation 
was corrigible, frequently inaction is 
advisable in the face of uncertainty. Luther 
insisted that scripture is always sufficiently 
clear for the next necessary step of action 
to be taken. 

cosmological argument for the 
existence of God 


The cosmological argument for the exis- 
tence of God begins with A POSTERIORI 
arguments from the nature of the world, in 
contrast to the ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT, 
which begins with an A PRIORI analysis of 
a CONCEPT, namely that of God (see Gop, 

The use of the cosmological argument 
is not restricted to Christian theism. 
Formulations can be found in PLATO and 
ARISTOTLE among the Greeks; in Islamic 
philosophers such as AL-KINDI, AL-GHA- 
ZALI and IBN Srna; and in Judaism (e.g. 
MaImonipEs) as well as in Christian 
theism (briefly in ANsELM but most 
especially in Thomas Aquinas). The most 
notable opponent of the argument was 


Plato (428-348 BCE) discusses good and 
evil, and in particular change and change- 
lessness, in the Laws. In Laws X he argues 

that motion within the world presupposes 
some source of motion which is itself self- 
moving and is not set in motion by some 
eternal agent or cause. This unmoved 
mover does not belong to realm of the 
finite or CONTINGENT. It belongs to the 
realm of soul, spirit, the gods or God. 

Aristotle (384-322 Bce) also distin- 
guishes between potentiality and actuality, 
and offers a careful analysis of the nature 
of CAUSE and causation. These two inno- 
vative and distinctive themes in his philo- 
sophy come together in his formulation of 
the cosmological argument. 

On cause, Aristotle distinguishes 
between efficient cause (in the example 
of a marble sculpture, the hammer and 
chisel); final cause (the purpose for which 
the sculpture is formed); the material 
cause (the potential of marble as matter) 
and the formal cause (the potential struc- 
ture and proportionality of the sculpture 
seen in terms of style or pattern). 

The causal agency that brings the 
potential into actuality cannot, Aristotle 
argues, presuppose an infinite chain of 
potentiality that never springs from, 
nor ends in, the actual. Otherwise the 
entire process is merely contingent or 
possible rather than actual. Hence there 
is an actual, unmoved, originating Prime 

‘If there is nothing eternal, there can be 
no becoming ... The last member of the 
series [i.e. of causes and effects] must be 
ungenerated ... since nothing can come 
from nothing’ (Metaphysics, 999b). The 
Prime Mover is ‘NECESSARY’. The argu- 
ment is a posteriori because everything in 
the world, according to Aristotle, points 
beyond itself to that upon which it depends. 


Al-Kindi (c. 813-c. 871) and al-Ghazali 
(1058-1111) reflect a revival of interest in 
Aristotle in medieval IsLaMIC PHILOSO- 
PHY. These two writers write within the 
kalam tradition of Islam, which shares 
with Aristotle (and later Thomas Aquinas) 

cosmological argument for the existence of God 52 

the view that an infinite regress of caused 
causes is impossible. The logical reason is 
that if such a chain were postulated, the 
whole of reality, or the universe, in 
principle may never have come to be. 
The reason in philosophical theology is 
that the universe is finite, and has a 
beginning. It is contingent, not ‘necessary’. 

This kalam argument reflects the dis- 
tinction already advocated by Plato and 
Aristotle that only an intelligence, an 
unmoved originating Mover, can possess 
the status of a necessary Being. This is One 
who is self-generated, or is characterized 
by ASEITY (Latin, a se, of itself). 

Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980-1037) and Inn 
RusHD (Averroes, 1126-98) did even 
more to lead to a revival of Aristotle’s 
thought in twelfth-century Europe. Ibn 
Sina stressed the importance of REASON. A 
study of the world reveals that contingent 
objects or agents are finite entities for the 
existence of which a reason can be 
postulated. However, contingent beings 
do not constitute an infinite regress of 
caused causes. 

Contingent beings end in a necessary 
Being. The difference from the kalam 
tradition of al-Kindi and al-Ghazali lies 
in the exclusive dependence of their argu- 
ment on logical inferences from the world 
without postulating any temporal dimen- 
sion. It does not require or presuppose the 
notion of ‘the beginning’ of the universe. 

Ibn Rushd aimed to integrate Aristote- 
lian philosophy with his Islamic theology. 
He is even more explicitly distanced from 
the kalam tradition in claiming that both 
God and the world are eternal. Never- 
theless, the world remains an effect of 
God’s power, created from eternity. Hence 
he presses radically the distinction 
between logical and temporal arguments: 
the world is eternal but caused; God is 
eternal and uncaused, since God is God’s 
own ground, unlike the world, and is a 
‘necessary’ Being. 

The emphasis thus falls upon the 
logical status of the One who controls all 
things. This comes close to the heart of the 

ontological argument, but strictly remains 
a posteriori. 

MAIMONIDES (1135-1204) 

This Spanish-born Jewish philosopher 
engaged directly with the two versions of 
the Islamic formulations represented 
respectively by the kalam tradition (Al- 
Kindi and al-Ghazali) and the arguments 
of Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina. On one side, 
the kalam tradition not only postulated a 
beginning to the world, but a version of 
OCCASIONALISM, i.e. that God is the only 
true causal agent of every event. Maimo- 
nides argued that this reduces the regula- 
rities of nature to an arbitrary view of 

On the other hand, Maimonides firmly 
rejected the view of Ibn Sina and Ibn 
Rushd that the universe had no beginning, 
since this flatly contradicts the biblical 
accounts of creation in Genesis, and is also 
rationally implausible and unnecessary. In 
Christian theology Thomas Aquinas also 
follows this middle way. 


Anselm (1033-1109) is best known in 
philosophy of religion for his two formu- 
lations of the ontological argument for the 
existence of God, and in Christian theol- 
ogy for his Why God Became Man. 
However, in the Monologion (Soliloquy 
or Meditation) Anselm argues from the 
existence of ‘good things’ in the world to 
the existence of the source of all good. In 
particular, ‘all that exists exists through a 
nature or essence that exists through itself 
(per se)’ (Monologion, 13). This is the 
argument from the contingent to the 

A fuller discussion of the Five Ways of 
Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) is set out 
under that entry, which need not be 
replicated. We may summarize certain 
selected features. The First Way takes up 
Aristotle’s arguments from the phenom- 
enon of potentiality. It is usually called the 
kinetological argument, i.e. an argument 

53 cosmological argument for the existence of God 

from ‘movement’. It argues to a Prime 
Mover. However, the Latin motus is 
broader than ‘motion’. Hence the argu- 
ment that all potential, or moving, objects 
presuppose what set them in motion is not 
wholly discredited by Newton’s law of 
motion and inertia. 

The Second Way begins from the 
phenomenon of efficient cause, and 
reflects the earlier arguments from Aris- 
totle. It comes close to the Islamic kalam 
argument. Appeal to originating causes 
has bequeathed the title ‘the aetiological 
argument’ to this Second Way. However, 
we also noted Thomas’s endorsement of 
the critique of the kalam tradition by 

The Third Way is the cosmological 
argument in the most specific sense of the 
term. If we look around us at the 
contingency of all finite events in this 
finite world, we are forced ‘to postulate 
something which is of itself necessary’ 
(ponere aliquid quod est per se necessar- 
ium) (Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 3, art. 
3). It is based ‘on what need not be (ex 
possibile [the contingent]) and on what 
must be (necessario)’. Aseity is self- 

On details and replies see entry under 
Five Ways, where the Fourth and Fifth 
Ways are also considered. Thomas appeals 
to the argument of Paul the Apostle in 
Romans 1 that the Being of God may be 
inferred from the works of God as 
Creator. This does not provide demon- 
strable proof of what God is, but has 
rational force for the question that God is. 


Samuel Clarke (1675-1729) defends the 
cosmological argument even in the light of 
NewtTon’s formulation of laws of motion, 
gravity and inertia. In his work A Dis- 
course Concerning Natural Religion 
(1705) Clarke argues that even if we 
postulate an endless chain of causes ‘’tis 

manifest the whole cannot be necessary’, 

since all are ‘dependent’ entities: only that 
which of itself is non-contingent and 

Locke (1632-1704), Newton himself 
(1642-1727) and Leibniz (1646-1716) all 
defend such an argument. Newton’s obser- 
vations about motion do not in the end 
dissolve the logical gap between contin- 
gent caused causes, and a necessary 
uncaused cause. 

Hume (1711-76) challenges the 
assumption that the argument can offer 
an a posteriori inference from empirical 
observation. We like to think that we 
observe cause and effect, but strictly in 
empirical terms all that we can observe is 
‘contiguity’, or ‘constant conjunction’. 
What leads us to connect two continguous 
events as cause and effect is merely habit 
or custom: that is our usual experience. 
We experience a succession of impres- 
sions; we do not experience the unifying 
framework that we term ‘CAUSATION’. 
‘Upon examination ... the necessity of a 
cause is fallacious and sophistical’ (Hume, 
A Treatise of Human Nature, 1739 (Cri- 
tical edn Oxford: OUP, 1978, 79-94)). 

Kant (1724-1804) pressed this attack 
further. Why should everything have a 
cause? Notions such as ‘cause’ (together 
with space and time) are merely ‘regula- 
tive’ principles in terms of which the 
human mind comes to order the world. 
Hence virtually every stage of the cosmo- 
logical argument falls under this critique. 

MILL (1806-73) saw value in the 
or design, but in common with Hume saw 
no reason to reject the possibility of an 
infinite regress of caused causes the exclu- 
sion of which lies at the heart of the 
cosmological argument. This rejection of 
an infinite series may reflect ‘our’ experi- 
ence, Mill concedes, but why should it be 
true of all experience at any time? It is our 
own minds that demand a resting place. 


Virtually all aspects of the debate continue 
to receive logical exploration. Thus, for 



example, W.I. Craig has revived consid- 
eration of the kalam tradition within 
Islamic philosophy concerning the finite 
history of the world (The Cosmological 
Argument from Plato to Leibniz, London: 
Macmillan, 1980). J.L. Mackie has 
attacked virtually every aspect of the 
argument (The Miracle of Theism, 
Oxford: OUP, 1982). G.E.M. Anscombe 
asks whether Hume’s claims about causa- 
tion apply to every kind of cause in all 
possible situations (‘*Whatever has a 
beginning of Existence must have a 
cause”: Hume’s Argument Exposed’, Ana- 
lysis, 34, 1974; repr. in G.E.M. Anscombe, 
Collected Philosophical Papers, 3 vols., 
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota 
Press, vol. 1). 

Some have sought to find new support 
or new criticisms in modern post-New- 
tonian physics, including the work of 
Hoyle and discussions of ‘steady state’ 
theory, ‘the Big Bang’, and the second law 
of thermodynamics and principle of 
entropy. This merely shifts the ground to 
what kind of cause introduces conditions 
adequate for matter to exist. 

Such discussions also tend to expose a 
fallacy of a purely logical nature if the 
traditional version of the argument is 
expressed in the form of a logical syLLo- 
cisM as follows: (1) major premise: every 
state of affairs has a cause; (2) minor 
premise: the world is a state of affairs; (3) 
conclusion: therefore the world has a 
cause. This fails because in a syllogism 
the terms of the three propositions must 
retain the same meaning. But in this major 
premise, ‘cause’ means ‘caused cause’, 
while in this conclusion (unless it refers 
to an infinite regress) ‘cause’ denotes 
‘uncaused cause’. This is a different logical 

Most recent and contemporary discus- 
sion, therefore, focuses on the issue at the 
heart of the argument, present in Aristotle 
and stated in Thomas’s Third Way, namely 
the relation between contingent being and 
necessary Being. We may set aside the 
criticism that necessarily can be applied 

only to propositions that assert logical or 
mathematical necessity. 

In the present context necessary Being 
relates to aseity. Is it more reasonable to 
postulate a contingent universe which 
might or might not have been (at any time 
whatever, but nevertheless is), or a con- 
tingent universe the ground of which is a 
Being who does not share this quality of 
contingency, but is of a different order? 
For most theists, the issue amounts not to 
‘proof’, but at the very least to ‘reason- 
able’ belief. 


The term denotes conditionals in which 
the antecedent, or protasis, is false. An 
example might be: ‘If America were as 
small as England, I would travel to visit 
you.’ Since the hypothetical condition is 
false, what is the truth-status of the 

Since in formal Loaic the inferential ‘if 
p, then q’ lies at the heart of logical 
calculus, logicians explore the differences 
of status between factual, open, unful- 
filled, and contrary-to-fact conditionals. 
Some also allude to the ambivalent status 
of counterfactuals in discussions of the 
OMNISCIENCE of God. The projection of 
contrary-to-fact conditional scenarios 
raises problems of its own in this area of 


Three main approaches to concepts of 
divine creation of the universe invite 
comparison. The traditional Hebrew- 
Christian-Islamic theistic view is that of 
creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing, 
in the sense that God used no pre-existing 
materials. A second view draws on NEO- 
PLATONISM and on some traditions of 
HiInpbu PHILOSOPHY. The world is seen 
as an ‘emanation’ of or from God (PLo- 
TINUS, c. 205-70), or as ‘the body’ of God 
(RAMANUJA, c. 1017-1137). 

A third view presupposes that TIME is 
infinite, and therefore (with ARISTOTLE, 



384-322 sce) that the world is eternal. 
Nevertheless, Aristotle infers from the 
distinction between POSSIBILITY and actu- 
ality that a Prime Mover imparts motion 
to the world as a Changeless Unmoved 
Mover or First CAUSE. 


In the Hebrew-Christian tradition God’s 
creation of the world from nothing is 
expressed implicitly in the Bible in Genesis 
1:2, but explicitly first in 2 Maccabees 
7:28; cf. Romans 4:17; Hebrews 11:3; 2 
Baruch 21:4; 48:8. The Genesis account 
alludes in onomatopoeia to the chaos 
‘without form and void’ (Hebrew, tohu 
wabhobhu ‘shapeless and without content’, 
Gen. 1:2). In Hellenistic Judaism this is 
accommodated to Greek philosophy as 
unformed primal matter (Wis. 11:17), as 
later in Justin (Apology, I: 10:2). 

If, as PANNENBERG states, the original 
point was ‘simply that the world did not 
exist before’, very soon in early Christian 
theology it functioned ‘to exclude the 
dualistic idea of an eternal antithesis to 
God’s creative activity’ (Systematic Theol- 
ogy, vol. 2, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 
1994, 14). 

No less important in the biblical 
accounts is the repeated act of differentia- 
tion. ‘God separated light from darkness’ 
(Gen. 1:4); ‘separated water ... under the 
firmament ... above the firmament’ (1:7); 
‘to separate the day from the night’ (1:14); 
‘created ... according to their kinds’ 
(1:21). HEGEL (1770-1831) is among 
those who associate ‘form’ with differen- 
tiation, while the reality of ‘difference’ is a 
point of disagreement between Sankara 
and Ramanuja in Hindu philosophy. 

Finally, in the Hebrew-Christian-Isla- 
mic tradition of THEISM, the acts and 
action of God call attention to a causal 
relation of dependency and origin; less, 
indeed very much less, on the ‘how’ of 
cosmological processes. These accounts 
have a quite different purpose from ‘scien- 
tific’ accounts of cosmological ‘origins’. 

Even if cosmology is to be traced to a 
‘big bang’ or a cosmic explosion, or to 
subatomic conditions, this would still 
leave open the philosophical and theolo- 
gical question of ‘Whence?’ and ‘Why?’, 
rather than ‘How?’ (see SCIENCE AND 
ZATION may well underestimate the role of 
states of affairs and description, but at 
least they have the merit of placing the 
emphasis on theology and relationship 
rather than cosmology. 

It was left in general to later theology 
to formulate in more detail than the 
scriptural sources the continuing work of 
God in preservation and in providence, 
apart from scattered texts (e.g. Colossians 
1:15-17). Thomas Aquinas devotes part 
of book III of the Summa Contra Gentiles 
(ch. 64-77) to the subject of providence 
including God’s use of ‘secondary causes’ 
(ch. 77). BARTH speaks of God’s ‘holding 
humankind from the abyss of non-being’. 
theme is implicit in ascribing God the 
attributes of Life, Power, Wisdom and 


Plotinus sought to remain faithful to 
Piato’s philosophy, but his Neoplatonism 
also embodies elements from Aristotle and 
the Stroics. God is indeed above or 
beyond the CONTINGENT world, and is 
ABSOLUTE, transcendent and One. This 
TRANSCENDENCE is preserved by a ‘bridge’ 
of intermediary agencies, who derive their 
being from God by emanation. Second- 
century gnosticism postulates a broadly 
similar notion to bridge a sharp DUALISM. 
Such intermediaries as Sophia play a key 
role in divine action, by descending into 
the world. 

In Hindu philosophy the tradition of 
‘modified’ or ‘qualified’? MoNism (the 
Visistadvaita school) represented espe- 
cially by Ramanuja, understands the 
world as the ‘body’ of the Supreme Being. 
This stands in contrast to the monism of 

critical philosophy 


Sankara (788-820), for whom creation 
itself is an illusion based upon lack of 
knowledge (veda). In as far as creation 
exists, for both schools it is perceived (in 
reality or illusion) as part of a cyclical 
process of rebirth and reincarnation. 
Whereas Genesis pronounces creation 
‘good ’, in Hindu philosophy it is more 
truly a source of imperfection, constraint 
and pain, as also in several Greek tradi- 

In Jewish philosophy, MAIMONIDES 
(1135-1204) was aware of the differences 
between the biblical account of creatio ex 
nibilo and the Platonic and Aristotelian 
traditions. In formal terms he adopts the 
first, but interpreters express reserve about 
whether he accepted one of these rather 
than another. 

In Islamic philosophy, at-Kinp1 (c. 
813-c.871) firmly stressed creation ex 
nihilo, but he also believed that this was 
compatible with ‘the One’ of Neoplaton- 
ism, and with Aristotle’s Prime Mover. By 
contrast, AL-GHAZALI (1058-1111) firmly 
accepted the Qur’an’s emphasis upon 
creation ex nihilo, and saw this as exclud- 
ing both a Neoplatonist and Aristotelian 
view of creation. His view of providence 
perhaps leans towards OCCASIONALISM. 
AL-FARABI (875-950) borders on an ema- 
nationist view (see below). 


Aristotle argues that the world could have 
no beginning — for every ‘now’ logically 
implies a ‘before’, ad infinitum. Hence he 
does not have a theistic view of creation in 
the usual sense. However, if time measures 
change, and change is eternal, motion 
presupposes the causal agency of a Prime 
Mover. In this sense a Supreme Being may 
be the Ground of Form within the world, 
since without the Prime Mover, everything 
would remain in a state of formless 

Against al-Kindi, in Islamic philosophy 
al-Farabi believed and taught that the 

world is eternal. His defence of this view 
in relation to the sovereign transcendence 
of Allah is that reality (including the 
world) for ever flows from God as the 
Source of all being. 

Aquinas believed that it was reasonable 
to believe in the ETERNITY of the world, 
but that faith taught a doctrine of creation 
ex nihilo. However, is the notion that 
every ‘now’ implies a ‘before’ a good 
reason for postulating the infinity of time 
and the eternity of the world? 

Kant (1724-1804) formulates this 
issue as his first antinomy. The problem 
may be explained more clearly with 
reference to space. Try to imagine the 
end or edge of space! Each time the 
attempt is made, we need to fence off 
the piece of further space the other side of 
the edge or boundary. Is this because space 
is infinite? Or is it not, rather, because 
human beings always think in spatial 
CATEGORIES? Might it not be the same 
with time? Does this not simply tell us 
that, in AUGUSTINE’s words, space and 
time were created along with the universe 
(cum tempore, not in tempore)? 

critical philosophy 

The most widely accepted use of this term 
is to denote the philosophical method of 
Kant (1724-1804). In contrast to the 
traditions of RATIONALISM and EMPIRI- 
CISM, Kant sought to re-establish the role 
of REASON by offering a critique of its 
scope and status. 

The issues are set out in the entry 
than asking simply ‘What do we know?’, 
Kant asked, ‘What conditions must obtain 
for the very possibility of knowledge?’ The 
term ‘critical’ reflects the three titles of 
Kant’s major works: Critique of Pure 
Reason (1781, revised 1787); Critique of 
Practical Reason (1788); and Critique of 
Judgement (1790). Critical philosophy 
dates from this period. 

A little-used meaning of the term 
originated with C.D. Broad (1887-1971). 


Cupitt, Don 

Broad reserved the term to denote the 
‘ordinary-language’ REALISM of G.E. 
Moore and RussELL, in contrast to the 
‘speculative’ philosophy of METAPHYSICS 
or IDEALISM. The term should also be 
distinguished from critical realism and 
from critical theory. 

critical realism 


Cupitt, Don (b. 1934) 

Don Cupitt’s work in philosophy of 
religion develops continuously, but may 
broadly be identified as emerging in three 
stages. The groundwork for what would 
eventually emerge as a non-realist view of 
God was laid out in works reflecting 
Kantian and Kierkegaardian themes 
(1968-79). The ‘middle period’ gave 
Cupitt some notoriety in Britain as an 
‘Atheist’ Anglican priest, with the pub- 
lication of Taking Leave of God (1980) 
and subsequent works (1980-85). Third, 
from Life-Lines (1986) and thereafter 
Cupitt has become involved in postMo- 
DERNISM and moves continuously in his 

Cupitt served as a curate in Salford 
near Manchester, but from 1962 has spent 
his entire life in Cambridge, mainly as 
lecturer in philosophy of religion and 
Dean of Emmanuel College. From the 
early years he endorsed NIETZSCHE’s 
maxim that there are no ‘givens’, only 

The Leap of Reason (1976) took up 
PLato’s allegory of the cave. However, 
whereas for Plato the shadows point to a 
greater reality of Forms, of which they 
are mere CONTINGENT or empirical 
copies, Cupitt’s cave is closed, and its 
inhabitants live on the basis of ‘as if ...’. 
They must make a ‘leap’ (since there is 
no opening) about how they are to 
construe or construct data. In effect, 
Cupitt offers a critique of the limits of 
reason, in the tradition of Kant and 

Cupitt’s middle period draws on the 
stock-in-trade of philosophy of religion 
lectures to promote the claims of 
FEUERBACH and FrEUD about the 
reductionism not of ATHEISM but of 
RELIGION. He endorses their critique 
about religion’s encouraging infantile 
dependency, or diminishing human dig- 
nity, at least in its traditional theistic 
forms. By exposing ‘God’ as a human 
projection, Cupitt aims to rehabilitate 
‘AUTONOMY’ and to de-objectify the 
notion of God. God is not a Being ‘out 
there’ (see NON-REALISM). 

During this period Cupitt gave a series 
of talks on British television under the title 
The Sea of Faith, which was immediately 
published (1984). He presented such 
figures as Kant, Kierkegaard, Feuerbach, 
Freud and WITTGENSTEIN in such a way as 
to make them appear partners who would 
support his own enterprise. Sympathizers 
subsequently formed a ‘Sea of Faith Net- 
work’ (from 1989). 

From the late 1980s, Cupitt seems to 
have had second thoughts about the 
possibility of human ‘autonomy’ in the 
light of a postmodern rhetoric of selfhood. 
He writes, ‘There is no substantial indivi- 
dual self? (Life-Lines, London: SCM, 
1986, 198). In Radicals and the Future 
of the Church (London: SCM, 1989) he 
observes: ‘We are anarchists ... we love 
mobility’ (112). He even promotes 
‘manipulative’ rhetoric and deceit (ibid., 
111) on the ground that literary theory 
exposes the ‘illusion’ of ‘absolute integrity’ 
as a MYTH (ibid., 107). 

The period of the later works combines 
postmodernity, social constructivism and 
radicalism and attacks, alike, the conser- 
vative and the liberal in religion. Litera- 
lism has ‘collapsed’ under the impact of 
postmodernist assessments of the self. 

Cupitt’s following is less marked 
among academic theologians and philoso- 
phers than among clergy and laypeople 
who are disenchanted with established, 
institutional, orthodox religion. The style 
of his work has changed from argument to 

Cupitt, Don 


rhetoric, in accordance with his postmo- 
dern re-appraisal of REASON. 

Most of Cupitt’s writings are, in effect 
and loosely, works of philosophy of 
religion. However, they presuppose a view 
of reason found more frequently in critical 

theory than in most university depart- 
ments of philosophy. They appear to 
promote pluralism; but in practice pro- 
mote a single voice, even if that one voice 
is ‘always on the move’. 

Darwin, Charles Robert 

Darwin formulated a theory of EVOLU- 
TION on the basis of postulating a process 
of selection by natural processes of ran- 
dom changes in biological species. He 
himself spoke of ‘descent with modifica- 
tion’, but this became known as evolution 
by natural selection. 

Two aspects of his thought identify the 
core of Darwin’s distinctive influence. 
First, he stressed that those mechanisms 
of change that proved to be useful for 
survival were not those of purposive or 
designed adaptation. Amidst the random 
variables of biological life, some changes 
led to degeneration and extinction. 
Others, equally the product of mere 
chance, had useful consequences which 
assisted survival and flourishing, some- 
times in ways that might not have been 
predicted. Survival and reproduction is a 
competitive struggle for existence, pro- 
geny and flourishing, although it was 
SPENCER (1820-1903) who popularized 
the term ‘the survival of the fittest’. 

Second, Darwin formulated a biologi- 
cal theory, which he sought to demon- 
strate in empirical terms. Thus, after his 
degree at Cambridge, he undertook the 
five-year voyage in the Beagle to amass 
data relating to various life-forms at 

different stages of development in differ- 
ent environments. 

Darwin published The Origin of Spe- 
cies in 1859, and The Descent of Man in 
1871, among other works. Massive con- 
troversy was stirred at the time not only by 
the suggestion that explanations in terms 
of design or teleology could be replaced by 
those of natural, chance processes, but 
also by his insistence that the emergence of 
humankind depended on the same chance 

Darwin’s theories paved the way for 
ethical theories based on evolution, and 
for formulations of BEHAVIOURISM. T.H. 
Huxley (1825-95) argued that human 
beings are biomechanistic systems in 
whom ‘consciousness’ is merely an epi- 
phenomenal or derivative byproduct. (See 

deduction, deductive 

Deduction denotes the logical reasoning in 
which a conclusion necessarily follows 
from the premises, especially but not 
exclusively reasoning from the general to 
the particular. The process is fundamental 
for the logical theory of ARISTOTLE 
(384-322 sce). Deduction may follow by 
inference from a series of propositions in 



sequence, from which in the final stage the 
conclusion is deduced. 

The notion that deduction strictly 
defines inference from the general to the 
particular reflects its conventional contrast 
with inductive reasoning. In this latter case 
reasoning begins with particular cases and 
seeks to establish a general principle. 
However, more strictly deductive logic 
need not begin with the general or axio- 
matic, as long as the conclusion follows 
necessarily from the antecedent proposi- 
tion as a valid inference. (See also AXIOM; 


Definitions remain important not only for 
avoiding misunderstanding and for sus- 
taining clarity, but also for ensuring 
validity in certain operations of LOGIC. If 
a logical term is used in more than one 
way, this may undermine the validity of 
the argument. 

Traditionally, as in the philosophy of 
ARISTOTLE (384-322 BcE), definitions 
operated on the basis of genus and 
difference. ‘A human being’ is defined as 
‘a rational animal’ on the basis of the genus 
shared with the animal kingdom, with the 
differentia of ‘rationality’ in the case of 
humankind. The definition seeks to iden- 
tify a common species or genus of a given 
type, but also specifies what is distinctive 
to the sub-type or to the particular. 

For Aristotle this process was closely 
bound up with a correspondence theory of 
TRUTH. A definition signifies the ‘essence’ 
of what is to be defined, and is therefore 
true or false. However, such a view may 
lose ground in the light of issues raised by 
NOMINALISM, with the recognition that 
relations between language and meaning 
rest upon convention, which may change. 

That which is to be defined, the 
definiendum, may relate to the terms in 
which it is defined (the definiens) in several 

Stipulative definitions state the propo- 
sal of a speaker or writer to define a word 

in a particular way. These are linguistic 
actions of assigning meaning for the 
purpose of a specific discourse or debate. 
There is no guarantee that the definition 
will be accepted, still less that others will 
accept it subsequently, unless it proves 
useful for future purposes. 

an entry under its name. WITTGENSTEIN 
and Friedrich Waismann argue that osten- 
sive definitions, for example ‘This is a 
pencil’ (as I point to it), presuppose a prior 
linguistic training or competency, and 
function only in limited ways with limited 
effects. This type of definition may work 
with ‘This is Jack’ (in an appropriate 
context), but ‘What about such words as 
“yes” and “no”, “can” and “may”, “true” 
and “false”? These need to be explained in 
a different manner’ (Waismann, Principles 
of Linguistic Philosophy, London: Mac- 
Millan, 1965, 94). The same principle 
applies to the word ‘God’. 

Persuasive definitions are the stock-in- 
trade of propagandist rhetoric, mass 
advertising and manipulation in politics 
or religion. In first-century Corinth the 
church evidently defined ‘spiritual’ (Greek, 
pneumatikos) in such a way as to link 
approval and self-affirmation with their 
own attributes. Paul the Apostle 
responded by redefining ‘spiritual’ as that 
which pertains to the work of the Holy 
Spirit (bagion pnetima). He could address 
them as ‘spiritual people’ when they were 
characterized by ‘jealousy and quarrelling’ 
(1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Politicians regu- 
larly define ‘moving forwards’ in terms of 
what they are advocating, while adverti- 
sers define ‘what everyone loves’ along 
similar lines. Both are examples of persua- 
sive definition. 

Wittgenstein and John Searle demon- 
strate the importance of contextual defini- 
tion. How we define the words ‘exact’ or 
‘inexact’, Wittgenstein observes, will 
depend on whether we are measuring 
distances in astronomy (between stars) or 
distances in joinery (between a dowling 
and a socket). RUSSELL observes that this 



becomes highly sensitive in recursive 
definitions, i.e. when a definition used in 
one context is reapplied and reused in 

Dictionaries regularly use lexical defi- 
nitions, which define one word or set of 
words in terms of another. These become 
less productive if such definition becomes 
circular, although specialists in theoretical 
linguistics insist that some degree of 
circularity in intra-linguistic definition is 
unavoidable. The habit of giving a ‘med- 
ical explanation’ by using a Greek term (as 
the professional name for the condition in 
question) may be useful only if both 
conversation partners presuppose the 
same linguistic ‘background’ of medical 

The subject is almost without limit, 
because different contextual situations in 
language render certain methods of defi- 
nition more constructive than others, or 
also more seductive than others. If we 
emphasize only the growth and fluidity of 
language, we may become daunted by a 
postmodern, Derridean desire endlessly 
to ‘defer’ indeterminate meaning. If we 
remain in the realm of purely formal logic 
Or REFERENTIAL language, we may expect 
a greater stability than living language 
can provide. There is room for middle 
ground. (See also DERRIDA; POSTMO- 


In the sixteenth century the term was 
sometimes used to denote belief in God 
(Latin, Deus, God) in contrast to ATHE- 
1sM. However, this was quickly overtaken 
by a more important meaning. In the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
deism postulated a view of God that stood 
in contrast to THEISM (Greek, Theos, 
God). Whereas theists believe in God’s 
active agency within the world, deism 
denotes a rationalist concept of God as 
the Source of Creation who remains above 
and beyond it, but is not immanent within 
it (see IMMANENCE). 

In keeping the mechanistic models of 
the universe in terms of a mechanism 
which God had set going, but in which 
God had no need to intervene. If the 
mechanism had been made well, it needed 
no correction or modification. ‘Miracles’ 
belonged to a naive view of the world 
(according to deists), since God leaves the 
universe to run as a well-made self- 
regulating machine. 

In ancient philosophy ARISTOTLE 
anticipates a deist view of God by insisting 
that God is above, beyond, and separated 
from material, CONTINGENT and changing, 
finite things (Metaphysics, bk XII). Con- 
versely, God is not immanent within the 
world. This latter notion belongs in 
unqualified form to PANTHEISM, and with 
qualifications also to theism. 

It is no accident that deism flourished 
in the era of rationalism. John Henry 
Newman describes the eighteenth century 
in England as the Age of Reason, when 
love grows cold. The nineteenth century 
would replace such rationalism, especially 
in Germany, with Romanticism, which 
nourished an organic, rather than mechan- 
istic, model of God’s relation to the world. 
Thomas Carlyle scathingly criticized the 
deist God as ‘an absentee God, sitting idle, 
ever since the first Sabbath, at the outside 
of his universe, and seeing it go’ (Sartor 
Resartus, 1834, bk II, ch. 7). 

Many trace the origins of deism to the 
writings of Lord Edward Herbert of 
Cherbury (1583-1643). Herbert enun- 
ciated five principles which later were 
known by some as the five articles of 
deism: (1) God exists; (2) as Supreme 
Being, God is worthy of worship; (3) piety 
and virtue characterize religion; (4) repen- 
tance expiates sin; and (5) justice demands 
reward or punishment in POST-MORTAL 
EXISTENCE. These are universal, rational 
‘common notions’ (communes notitiae) of 
‘natural’ religion (On Truth, 1624). This 
prepares the ground for a NATURAL 
THEOLOGY without the necessity of ‘spe- 
cial’ revelation. Reason leads on to faith. 

demythologizing, demythologization 


In the eighteenth century a more 
radical form of deism was promoted by 
Matthew Tindal (1653-1733). Tindal, like 
Herbert, was an English deist, educated at 
Oxford. He saw religion as eternal and 
universal. The title of his work Christian- 
ity as Old as Creation (1730) expounds 
even Christianity as an eternal, timeless 
‘natural’ religion, which is not dependent 
on special revelation, but only upon 
universal reason and morality. 

John Toland (1670-1722) sums up the 
deist outlook in the title of his book 
Christianity not Mysterious (1696). He 
insists that Christianity is fully compatible 
with reason, and indeed need be based 
only on rational reflection. 

During this period deism was mainly 
an English phenomenon, although in 
France Voltaire (1694-1778) was also 
influenced by the English deists, and 
Toland was of Irish descent. These writers 
reflect the rationalist and mechanistic 
spirit of the age. 

The movement paved the way for 
rationalist assumptions in German biblical 
criticism nearly a century later. In Eng- 
land, however, the deists were highly 
controversial. A counter-movement of 
reaction against a purely rational account 
of religion emerged in the PIETISM of the 
Wesleyan revivals. Pietism expressed a 
belief in, and longing for, the immediacy 
of a God who is not remote, but is active 
in human life. 


This term is associated closely with the 
work of BULTMANN (1884-1976). His 
seminal essay on demythologizing the 
New Testament (1941) proposed not the 
elimination of myth but its reinterpreta- 
tion in existential terms (see EXISTENTIAL- 

Bultmann defines MyTH in three ways, 
which may well be incompatible with each 
other. First, myth is ‘the use of imagery [die 
Vorstellungsweise, mode of representation] 

to express the other worldly in terms of 
this world, and the divine in terms of 
human life’ (“New Testament and Mythol- 
ogy’ [1941], in H.W. Bartsch, ed., Ker- 
ygma and Myth, vol. 1, London: SPCK, 
1964, 141; German, vol. 1, 23). This 
verges on the straightforward use of 
ANALOGY, as when God is spoken of as 
‘high’ or as ‘sending’ a word or ‘God’s 

Second, Bultmann regards myth as the 
explanatory pseudo-science of a primitive, 
pre-scientific, view of the world. ‘The 
cosmology [das Weltbild, picture of the 
world] of the New Testament is essentially 
mythical in character. The world is a 
three-storeyed structure, with earth in the 
centre, the heaven above, and ... the 
underworld’ (ibid., 1; German, 15). Here 
appeal to the agency of demons or to the 
intervention of God may be perceived as 
‘causal’ explanations for ills or for rescue 
from ill, supposedly equivalent in function 
to ‘scientific’ causes such as a virus or 
aspirin in the modern world. 

Third, and most important for Bult- 
mann, myth presents in descriptive or 
‘objective’ guises a form or content which 
is intended not to describe but to address, 
to challenge, to involve, or to transform. 
‘The real purpose of myth is not to present 
an objective picture of the world (ein 
objectives Weltbild) ... but to express 
man’s understanding of himself in the 
world in which he lives’ (ibid., 10; Ger- 
man, 23). Part of this understanding 
derives from his collaboration with the 
Jewish scholar Hans Jonas, but even more 
from his Kantian and Neo-Kantian back- 
ground (see KANT). 

The first and third definitions seem 
incompatible, as R.W. Hepburn argued. 
Analogy cannot be discarded; it is essen- 
tial (see LANGUAGE IN RELIGION). How- 
ever, it is intelligible to seek to replace 
language that is appropriate for the 
description of objects by language that 
calls the reader to respond by confession, 
change, affirmation or other self-involving 


Derrida, Jacques 

It is here that Bultmann draws on 
HEIDEGGER, who was also his colleague 
at Marburg. God is not an ‘object’ about 
whom discourse occurs; rather, discourse 
flows from being addressed by God. God 
is ‘wholly “Beyond”? (der schlechthin 
Jenseitige: Faith and Understanding, vol. 
1, London: SCM, 1969, 46; German, 14). 
Hence he draws on Heidegger’s concep- 
tuality (Begrifflichkeit) to find ways of 
avoiding ‘objectifying’ language about 
God or human persons. 

The aim is understandable, but it is 
false to suppose that existential or self- 
involving language can operate effectively 
if it is disengaged from other language 
that conveys cognitive truth. Thus the 
PERFORMATIVE illocutionary act ‘I forgive 
you’ depends on the state of affairs that 
the speaker has authority to forgive sins. 
This point is well made by AusTIN and 

Proposals about demythologizing may 
in some cases recover ‘the point’ about 
language in sacred texts. For example, 
most language about the End functions to 
call to accountability or to reassure; it is 
not usually a map of the sequence of end- 
events. However, the programme of 
demythologizing bases too much on a 
false linguistic dualism between descrip- 
tion and evaluation or expression. 
Thereby it tends to neglect the importance 
of history and the public world, and to 
ignore the multi-layered, multi-functional 
character of language in religion. 


The term denotes an understanding of 
ETHICS in which an ethics of duty or 
obligation is primary. The agent of moral 
decision and moral action is motivated by 
a duty to do what is right, in contrast to 
consequentialism, or an ethic based on the 
calculation of optimum consequences. The 
issues surrounding deontology are dis- 
cussed in detail in the long entry on ethics. 
(See also BELIEF; KANT.) 

Derrida, Jacques (b. 1930) 

Derrida, philosopher and literary theorist, 
born in Algeria and educated in Paris, is 
one of the most influential and notoriously 
controversial postmodernist thinkers. He 
is closely associated with ‘deconstruction’, 
a particular approach for undermining 
and transforming both texts and tradi- 
tional Western metaphysical systems of 
thought. His greatest influence is among 
American literary theorists. 

Deconstruction, as Derrida under- 
stands it, is not mere demolition: it is an 
‘enigma’ (Psyché, Paris: Galilée, 1987, 
391); but it involves exposing pseudo- 
stabilities in texts that presuppose an over- 
ready ‘presence’ of entities or determina- 
cies of language. 

In his key works of 1967, especially 
Grammotology and Speech and Phenom- 
ena, Derrida reveals the influence of 
NIeETZscHE (1844-1900), Freup (1856- 
1939), Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and 
the later HEIDEGGER (1889-1976). The 
illusion of stable language, he argues, rests 
on being centred on words as entities 
(‘logocentrism’). By contrast, he appeals to 
Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistics for the 
view that it is the differences between 
what this or that sign denotes on which 
meanings hinge. 

De Saussure illustrated the point with 
colour-words (see SEMANTICS). The seman- 
tic scope of ‘red’ is greater if its ‘difference’ 
marks it off from ‘yellow’ than if it marks it 
off from ‘orange’. But all this depends on a 
prior system of signs (French, la langue), 
from which the act or performance of sign 
selection for use (la parole) is taken. 
Derrida proposes that because this system 
is also variable, changing and interactive, 
signs are ‘indeterminate’. Meaning is 
‘deferred’. Prior meaning stands ‘under 
erasure’ (sous rature). 

Hence ‘difference’ (French, différ- 
ence) yields ‘deferment’ (Fr. differance). 
However, ARISTOTLE’s LOGIC and Wes- 
tern METAPHYSICS, Derrida insists, is 

Descartes, René 


‘logocentric’, and misleadingly conveys a 
stability that invites decentring through 
‘deconstruction’. Post-modern and Freu- 
dian suspicion of human consciousness 
leaves the variable sign-system, without 
the human subject, as that which generates 

Critics of Derrida argue that he 
neglects the role of the human subject in 
making choices about language uses. He 
subordinates la parole to la langue, the 
abstract system. He reduces literary lan- 
guage to a ‘play’ of indeterminate signs, 
and reduces propositional logic to ‘perfor- 
mances’ of roles or to mere semiotic 
operations. (See also POSTMODERNISM.) 

Descartes, René (1596-1650) 

It is difficult to exaggerate the impact of 
Descartes on the history of philosophy. 
Many date the beginning of the modern 
era from his work. He initiated a new 
rationalist philosophical method, in con- 
trast to the prevailing tradition of a 
POSTERIORI argument, which had domi- 
nated most philosophical systems from 

In an early debate with Chandoux in 
Paris in 1628, Descartes attacked the view 
that science could be based only on 
probabilities. He insisted that knowledge 
could be based on absolute CERTAINTY. He 
approached the sciences not primarily in 
terms of drawing inferences from empiri- 
cal observation, but as a distinguished 
mathematician seeking logical ‘clear’ 

In 1637 Decartes published his famous 
Discourse on Method, which was to serve, 
in effect, as a preface or prolegomena to a 
work on mathematics and the physical 
world. This contained three scientific 
treatises. Although Discourse on Method 
addressed foundational issues for his 
approach to EPISTEMOLOGY, his major 
work was to follow four years later, 
namely Meditations on First Philosophy 
(1641), together with a series of six or seven 
Objections and Replies to Objections. In 

1644 he expounded his Principles of 
Philosophy, which, he believed, showed 
that he did not contradict Aristotle. 
Finally, The Passions of the Soul appeared 
in 1649, a year before his death. 

Descartes was a French philosopher, 
who wrote in French. Jesuit teaching, for 
which he always retained a respect, 
influenced his education. For a period of 
years he also studied mathematics in 
Holland, and from 1649 gave philosophi- 
cal instruction to the Queen of Sweden in 
Stockholm. By 1619 he was already 
speaking of his aim ‘to finish ... an 
absolutely new science’. 


The full title is Discourse on the Method 
of Properly Conducting One’s Reason and 
in Seeking the Truth in the Sciences. In 
part 1, Descartes reflects on the multi- 
plicity and diversity of human opinions, 
which offer ‘little basis ... for certainty’ 
(Discourse on Method, London: Penguin, 
1968, 33). Theology (on the basis of 
REVELATION) and mathematics alone yield 
‘certain’ TRUTHs. In the case of other 
disciplines, ‘nothing solid could have been 
built on such a shifting foundation’ (ibid., 

In part 2, Descartes explains his aim: ‘I 
seek ... to reform my own thoughts and to 
build upon a foundation that is wholly my 
own’ (ibid., 38). He seeks to know of 
objects ‘clearly and distinctly’ (ibid. 43). 
Knowledge is also ‘ordered’ and interre- 
lated. To achieve this, however, it may be 
necessary to ‘demolish an old house’ 
(ibid., 50). 

Descartes introduces his famous 
‘cogito, ergo sum’ (‘I think, therefore I 
am’) near the beginning of part 4 (ibid., 
53). He is searching for truth that is 
‘absolutely indubitable’. That he is con- 
sciously aware of ‘thinking’ is ‘so certain 
and so evident that the sceptics were not 
capable of shaking it’ (ibid., 53-4). 

Now, upon this certain foundation, 
Descartes can begin to build the new 


Descartes, René 

‘house’ of a new system of established 
truths. This is done in the second half of 
part 4 and in part 5. He believed that he 
could establish the existence of distinctive 
human souls. To doubt this, he observes, is 
the worst kind of SCEPTICISM, next ‘after 
the error of those who deny the existence 
of God’ (ibid., 76). 

Descartes concludes in part 6 by 
expressing the hope ‘that those who use 
only their pure natural reason’ will be able 
better to judge his claims than ‘those who 
believe only the books of the ancients’ 
(ibid., 91). 


This brief work lays down Cartesian 
‘method’ for a new kind of approach. En 
route it appears to disparage tradition and 
is clearly individualistic. It also places the 
SELF of the knowing suBJECcT at the centre 
of the epistemological task. 

Yet Descartes retains the aim of refut- 
ing sceptics by this method, and he does 
not intend to erode theological ‘revela- 
tion’. He has begun a new era. Difficulties 
for THEISM or for RELIGIONS may more 
readily come from those who apply his 
method without the limits that he carefully 
defines. GADAMER exempts him from 
including all knowledge under methodo- 
logical doubt (H.G. Gadamer, Truth and 
Method, London: Sheed & Ward, 2nd 
edn, 1989, 279). 


In his second Meditation Descartes modi- 
fies his promotion of methodological 
doubt by stating, ‘once in a life-time’ we 
must ‘demolish everything and start again 
right from the foundations’ (Meditations, 
La Salle: Open Court, 1901, II, 31). Then, 
‘there remains nothing but what is indu- 
bitable’ (ibid.). This does not imply a 
constant dismantling of tradition. More- 
over, as Gadamer observes, he exempts 
‘God’ and moral values from this process 
(Truth and Method, 279). 

Some criticize Descartes for also arguing 
that ‘God’ is a clear, distinct and indubi- 
table idea, which God himself has placed 
within the mind. God is ‘infinite, external, 
immutable, all-powerful, by which I myself 
and everything else ... have been created’. 
There is ‘nothing that I should know more 
easily’ than God, except for human pre- 
judice (Meditation, V, 81). 

The idea of God is so perfect that it 
could not have originated with any agency 
other than God. Descartes formulates his 
own version of the ONTOLOGICAL ARGU- 
MENT for God’s existence. ‘I cannot con- 
ceive of God without existence 
Existence can no more be separated from 
the essence of God than the fact that the 
sum of its three angles is equal to two 
right-hand triangles can be separated from 
the essence of a triangle’ (ibid., 78). 

Nevertheless Descartes’ treatment of 
‘existence’ as a predicate at once provided 
a hostage for Kant’s critique of the LOGIC 
of this argument. Similarly, Descartes’ 
notion of CAUSE as potentially carrying 
its range of effects within it also raised 
critical questions about both the ontolo- 
God’s existence. 

The further argument that mind is a 
substance whose ‘essence’ is thought 
alone, while body is a substance the 
‘essence’ of which is extension alone, yet 
again brought its own problems. How 
does mind relate to body, and body to 
mind? Are we not on the brink of 
Cartesian DUALISM? 

Descartes did not doubt that a relation 
operates, especially in attitudes or emo- 
tions that involve both mind and body, 
such as love, desire, joy and sorrow. All 
the same, the dualism of thought and 
extension leaves a sufficiently quasi-dual- 
ist view to invite RyLE’s parody of the 
Cartesian ‘myth’ of the ghost in the 
machine. Today most approaches are less 
dualistic, certainly less individualistic, and 
probably less centred on the self or subject 
for an account of epistemology. (See also 




At its simplest, determinism denotes the 
belief that whatever occurs is determined 
by antecedent causes or conditions. It 
appears that the future is already fixed. 
SPINOZA (1632-77) believed that a lack of 
causal determination is an illusion. Every- 
thing ‘necessarily’ follows from the divine 
nature, which is also the ‘AIP. 

Some approaches rest upon logical 
arguments about the relation between a 
true proposition and a proposition with 
the same content uttered at a different 
time in the past or in the future. Some 
theological arguments rest upon a notion 
of predestination that places more weight 
upon divine decree than the nature of the 
end destiny that such language generally 
promises. Similarly, other versions of 
determinism view history as an irreversible 
mechanical process. Still others believe 
that determinism is entailed by divine 

‘Soft’? determinism leaves room for 
compatibilism (see FREEDOM; FREE WILL). 
Extreme or ‘hard’ determinism allows 
only for incompatibilist views, and some- 
times invites OCCASIONALISM. While some 
insist that actions can be ‘mine’ only if I 
freely choose to do them, (rather than to 
do other alternatives), J.L. Mackie and 
some others hold that action can be both 
‘free’ and predictable. 

Whether quantum theory, Heisenberg’s 
uncertainty principle and other develop- 
ments in post-Einsteinian physics provide 
new directions for this debate is still a 
matter of controversy. However, they do 
seriously question the older mechanistic 
models on which earlier eighteenth-cen- 
tury determinism was based. The mini- 
mum that needs to be said is that divine 
omniscience provides no necessary argu- 
ment for determinism, and that the human 
consciousness that certain actions are 
freely ‘mine’ has moral consequences for 
accountability that cannot be brushed 
aside. (See also LOGIC; SCIENCE AND 


Dialectic denotes a largely exploratory 
rather than demonstrative use of logical 
processes, especially those that involve 
contradiction, opposition or paradox, to 
take us beyond an initial assumption or 
opinion. The term is used in Greek 
philosophy, but probably the most widely 
known modern example is that of pro- 
ceeding from a thesis, through a contrary 
antithesis, to a ‘higher’ synthesis. This was 
first formulated in modern terms by 
FICHTE (1762-1814), and developed by 
HEGEL (1770-1831), Fichte’s successor at 

Hegel postulated a dialectical process 
that ‘raises’ (German, erheben) the finite 
and assimilates or ‘sublates’ it (aufheben) 
into the ‘higher’. Hegel distinctively pos- 
tulates a parallel historical and logical 
dialectic whereby what begins in radical 
historical finitude and particularity 
emerges as Absolute Spirit (Geist) unfold- 
ing itself into the Whole, which constitutes 
Reason, Reality and God as ABSOLUTE. 
Marx (1818-3) replaced Hegel’s Mind or 
Spirit by a dialect of socio-economic 
forces. This system is known as dialectical 

The term ‘dialectic’, however, first 
emerges in ancient Greek philosophy. 
ARISTOTLE attributed the origins of dia- 
lectic to Zeno of Elea (490-430 BcE). 
Zeno defended the view of reality as a 
changeless entity, as propounded by Par- 
menides, by postulating a series of para- 
doxes concerning space and motion. 

The most famous is that of Achilles and 
the Tortoise. If Achilles starts to run a race 
from a given distance behind the tortoise, 
Achilles can never (supposedly) catch it 
up, for if the distance between them is 
successively halved, the successive divi- 
sions never reach zero (see RYLE). Hence 
Zeno concluded that the notions of 
succession and division are arguably illu- 

In the thought of Socrates (470-399 
BCE) and PLato (428-348 Bce) dialectic 



becomes a logical method of exposing 
false opinion and initiating constructive 
exploration especially through conversa- 
tion (Greek, dialektos, debate) and ques- 
tioning. However, Aristotle (384-322 BCE) 
prefers the logic of demonstration and 
non-contradiction. Indeed henceforward, 
with exceptions, until Fichte it begins to 
carry the nuance of ‘sophistry’, as later 
represented by the Second Sophistic of the 
first century CE. Kant (1724-1804) also 
viewed it in a negative light. 

Dialectic also serves the heart of 
KIERKEGAARD’s work (1813-55) as facil- 
itating his method of ‘indirect commu- 
nication’. By presenting oppositions and 
paradoxes (even by opposing his own 
work through the device of pseudonymous 
authorship), he aimed to provoke his 
readers to active engagement, to participa- 
tion and decision, rather than mere passive 
assent or disagreement. This facilitated 
‘venture’ as the way of faith, and ‘sus- 
JECTIVITY’ as the ‘how’ (rather than the 
‘what’ of truth. 

In the second half of the twentieth 
century ‘the logic of question and answer’ 
became increasingly important in HERME- 
NEuTICS. The issue was made prominent 
especially thorough the work of GADAMER 
(1900-2002), who states that his work on 
hermeneutics owes much to his earlier 
work on Plato. Gadamer also draws on 
R.G. Collingwood for this ‘logic of ques- 
tion and answer’. 

Dostoevsky, (Dostoyesvsky, 
Dostoevskii), Fedor 
Mikhailovich (1821-81) 

Dostoevsky is well known as the writer of 
profound philosophical and social novels. 
His major works include Crime and 
Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1868-9), 
The Possessed (1871-2) and especially 
The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80). 

It may seem surprising that while 
Dostoevsky inspired religious writers in 
Russia (notably Nikolai Berdiaev and 
Sergei Bulgakov), some in the West, 

including Camus, viewed him as an anti- 
theist existentialist. The reason probably 
lies in his creative use of ‘polyphonic’ 
voices in several of his novels (see EXIS- 

This ‘polyphonic’ feature was noted in 
1929 by the Russian literary theorist 
Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (1895- 
1975). The mystery of God and the 
complexity of human life cannot be 
conveyed simply through the lips of a 
single narrator or a single character. Such 
complexity requires a more subtle harmo- 
nic interplay between the different ‘voices’ 
of diverse characters representing different 

In this respect Dostoevsky follows 
KIERKEGAARD’s method of ‘indirect’ com- 
munication. This also takes account of an 
existentialist concern with the individual, 
the CONTINGENT, the concrete, the parti- 
cular, or human ‘being-there’ (cf. HEIDEG- 
GER’s Dasein). 

From the first Dostoevsky offered a 
critique of social oppression (Poor Folk, 
1846), as well as expressing a disenchant- 
ment with the POSITIVISM or MATERIAL- 
IsM of FEUERBACH (Notes from the 
Underground, 1864; and Crime and Pun- 
ishment). In contrast to MILv’s utilitarian 
ETHICS, Dostoevsky portrays Prince Mysh- 
kin in The Idiot as the ‘saintly fool’ of 
Russian religious tradition, which reso- 
nates with some sayings of Jesus. ‘Good- 
ness’ entails a kind of ‘powerlessness’, 
whatever the consequences. 

In The Brothers Karamazov, a poly- 
phonic dialogue arises in the face of the 
problem of evil. The ‘voices’ come from 
Ivan, who expresses angry protest, the 
Christian Alesha (Alyosha) and the church 
elder Zosima. Dostoevsky’s own personal 
life was marked by too much suffering and 
tragedy to offer any glib, simplistic 
‘answer’. His father was murdered by 
serfs; his mother died when he was fifteen; 
he was imprisoned for supposed subver- 
sion; was condemned to death and repri- 
eved only at the very last moment; and put 
to forced labour in Siberia. 



Ivan rejects the suffering of one tor- 
tured child for the sake of some ‘higher 
harmony’ ( as AQuINAS or LEIBNIZ might 
have expressed it): ‘it is not worth the 
tears of that one tortured child’ (The 
Brothers Karamazov, New York: Norton 
1974, 226). 

Yet has not Ivan’s very ‘rebellion’ 
presupposed his compassion? If all were 
for ever well, what room could there be 
for compassion or active concern for the 
other? Only dialogue, in the very process, 
can dare to address these issues, as the 
writer of the book of Job was well aware. 

No single label can sum up the com- 
plexity of Dostoevsky’s thought. He may 
be called an existentialist, but he also 
seeks a fresh, independent and construc- 
tive exploration of Christian truth and 
ethics. This takes place broadly within the 
frame of the Russian Orthodox tradition. 

Dostoevsky, however, was never satis- 
fied with merely second-hand ideas. He 
was a creative and powerful thinker, 
whose novels yield incisive insights into 
philosophical and social issues. He never 
lost sight of the concrete in the universal, 
yet believed in that which is ‘beyond’ the 
finite and tragic also. 




This term may generate confusion because 
in philosophy of religion it may denote 
several different types of radical opposi- 
tion between two contrasting principles, 
qualities or agents. It may denote, for 
example, the sharp opposition between 
good and evil in Manichaeanism (see 
AUGUSTINE) or in gnosticism; a parallel 
opposition between Yin and Yan in Tao- 
ism (in Chinese religion); or the contrast 
between the realm of Ideas (or Forms) and 
objects in the material or CONTINGENT 
world in Pato. The dualism of mind and 
body is attributed especially to Des- 


Metaphysical dualism is a theory of the 
nature of reality that splits all reality into 
two independent orders or qualities of 
being. ZOROASTRIANISM (according to the 
Gāthās, c. 1200-1000 BCE revealed 
through Zoroaster, or Zarathustra) held 
the view that the Creator of the world 
(Ahura Mazdā, also known as Ormazd) 
was opposed by a power of EVIL, perso- 
nified as Angra Mainyu, the hostile Spirit. 
The former (the Creator) represents light, 
life, law, order, truth and goodness. The 
latter (the hostile Spirit) represents dark- 
ness, death, chaos, falsehood and evil. 

The world provides a stage for the 
battle between these two sets of opposed 
forces. However, since the forces of evil 
also represent and reflect negativity and 
are viewed as ultimately parasitic upon the 
good, it may be argued that Zoroastrian- 
ism offers only a relative dualism, not an 
absolute metaphysical dualism (see META- 

In more relative terms, Jewish and 
Christian apocalyptic verges on a dualism 
of cosmic conflict between the forces of 
evil and God as sovereign and good. The 
world may fall prey to domination by evil 
forces, but ultimately God and the good 
will triumph over them, and such vehicles 
of evil remain God’s finite creatures. 

A more thoroughgoing dualism can be 
found in second-century and third-century 
gnosticism, in which ‘God’ is opposed by 
the Maker of the Material World, or the 
‘Demiurge’. Marcion (c. 80-165) identi- 
fied the Demiurge with the Jewish God of 
the Old Testament in opposition to the 
God of Christ and the New Testament, but 
such a dualism was condemned by the 
Church Fathers as heresy, and as false. 


Plato (428-348 sce) laid the foundations 
of mind-body dualism by his metaphysical 
dualism between the realm of Ideas (which 
supposedly was universal, abstract, and 



the source and measure of truth) and the 
material, contingent realm of approximate 
representations or copies. The ‘soul’ 
belongs to the realm of Ideas, and is 
immortal; the body belongs to the imper- 
fect, contingent, finite realm of material 
objects. The former is correlated with the 
‘changeless’ and permanent; the latter 
with change and decay. 

Such an extreme of dualist principles 
was largely avoided by ARISTOTLE, who 
integrated form and matter in a different 
way. His definition of ‘form’ was different 
from Plato’s. Even NEOPLATONISM sof- 
tened dualism by postulating ‘emanations’ 
of the divine which in effect served as 
bridges between the two realms. 

Descartes (1596-1650), however, re- 
established a sharper dualism between the 
‘certainties’ of the realm of logic, mathe- 
matics, reason and ideas and the uncer- 
tainties that beset and characterize the 
material and contingent world. This is 
related to the difference between mind and 

Body is extended in space (as res 
extensa), and is conditioned by time and 
change. Mind is not ‘extended’, but 
‘thinking’ (as res cogitans). This relates 
to a metaphysical dualism also: ‘reality’ 
consists of thought and extension. 

Because he saw mind as rooted in a 
different order of reality from that of body, 
Descartes saw body and mind as logically 
independent of each other, although he did 
allow for some causal interdependence of 
the kind that in our own day is often 
thought of as a psychosomatic relationship 
(Greek, psyche, soul or life; soma, body or 
bodily mode of existence). 

‘Thinking’, Descartes wrote, is ‘an 
attitude of the soul ... This alone is 
inseparable from me ... I am, precisely 
speaking, only a thinking thing (res 
cogitans), that is, a mind (mens sive 
animus) ... or reason’ (Descartes, The 
Meditations, La Salle: Open Court, 1910; 
1988, II, 33). There is a relation of logical 
independence between mind and body, 
although causal dependence permits such 

phenomena as illness or pain to affect the 

All the same, ‘body’ amounts to a 
merely instrumental tool for transmitting 
information to the mind through signals, 
and conversely for obeying the directives 
of the mind in the public world. This gives 
rise, in turn, to a dualist EPISTEMOLOGY, 
or dualist theory of knowledge. Intellec- 
tual, logical and mathematical ideas arise 
in the mind; perceptions of the world 
emerge through the senses. It is not 
difficult to see why the certainty of 
Descartes’ ideas of God cohered, in his 
judgement, with the a PRIORI method of 
the ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT, rather than 
A POSTERIORI observations of the empiri- 
cal world. 


While the philosophical IDEALISM of the 
nineteenth century found relatively little 
difficulty with a relative mind-body dual- 
ism, this approach lost ground in the 
twentieth century with more rounded 
accounts of SELFHOOD. In biblical scholar- 
ship there was also a clear recognition that 
mind and body in the sacred writings of 
the main Judaeo-Christian religions 
denoted modes of being and modes of 
action of a single self rather than a 
composite dual entity. 

Rye (1900-76) attacked ‘Cartesian 
dualism’ in The Concept of Mind (Lon- 
don: Hutchinson, 1949). He parodies the 
view of Descartes as promulgating the 
myth of ‘the ghost in the machine’. In 
particular he attacks the ‘dogma’ of 
Cartesian dualism that ‘there occur physi- 
cal processes and mental processes ... and 
mental causes of corporeal movements’, 
like a pilot controlling an aircraft with 
levers and wires (in the pre-electronic era) 
(ibid., 21-4). 

Ryle perceives this as a ‘category 
mistake’ (ibid., 17-24) since it treats 
mental phenomena as ‘processes’ to be 
regarded in the same way as physical 
phenomena. ‘Mental happenings’ are not 
‘events’, Ryle urges, but adverbial ways of 

Duns Scotus, John 


describing how physical life in the public 
domain is ordered. He parodies ‘Carte- 
sianism’ (the legacy of Descartes) for 
presenting the self as one who ‘lives 
through two collateral histories ... The 
first is public; the second, private’ (ibid., 
13). The truth is that ‘mental’ language 
usually denotes a ‘complex of disposi- 
tions’, not a ‘happening’ (ibid., 33). 

Ryle’s method of approach was asso- 
ciated in the public mind with ‘ANALyTI- 
doubt his incisive exposure of confused 
uses of language through neglect of logical 
or conceptual grammar brought a new 
clarity and precision to language about the 
self. Nevertheless, Stuart Hampshire is not 
alone in asking whether Ryle tries to prove 
‘too much’ (‘Critical Review’, in O.P. 
Wood, ed., Ryle, London: Macmillan, 
1971, 17-44). 

Language that relates to the mind need 
be neither (with Descartes) construed in 
over-dualistic terms nor (with Ryle) 
reduced, in effect, to denote adverbial 
modes of human behaviour. The latter 
almost verges on BEHAVIOURISM, although 
like the later WiTTGENSTEIN Ryle avoids 
an explicitly materialist view of the self as 
a metaphysical theory. (See also LOGIC; 

Duns Scotus, John (c. 1266-1308) 

Duns Scotus was one of the most original 
and powerful thinkers of medieval scHo- 
LASTICISM. Born in Scotland, he taught at 
Oxford, Paris and Cologne, and was a 
priest of the Franciscan order. He brought 
together in a distinctive way the cosmo- 
CAL ARGUMENTS for the existence of 
God. Many see him as a key link in 
scholasticism between Thomas AQUINAS 
(c. 1225-74) and WILLIAM OF OCKHAM 
(c. 1287-1349). 

The writings of Duns Scotus include 
the expected commentaries on ARISTOTLE 

(384-322 BCE) and Peter Lombard, but his 
contributions to METAPHYSICS, theology, 
EPISTEMOLOGY and ETHICS were distinc- 
tive and highly technical. He engaged 
with, and endorsed, much of the work of 
IBn Sina (Avicenna, 980-1037), especially 
a realist understanding of essence and 

Scotus was a realist on the issue of 
UNIVERSALS. He conceded that these were 
derived from sEMANTICS, but that they 
nevertheless rested on the basis of the 
‘thisness’ (Latin, baecceitas) of individual, 
distinct entities. ‘Formal distinction’ 
applied still as an objective distinction to 
inseparable entities, and Scotus sought to 
apply this to the Christian doctrine of the 
Trinity. William of Ockham rejected this 
extended theological application. 

The reality of Being provides a uni- 
versal foundation for knowledge of God. 
Scotus endorses arguments about the 
CONTINGENCY of the world, in contrast 
to which God, as transcendent Prime 
Mover, acts as efficient CAUSE in CREA- 
TION. This paves the way for an integrated 
approach to the argument for the exis- 
tence of GoD. 

Duns Scotus defends the cosmological 
argument: God is Efficient Cause and First 
Cause. He complements this by appealing 
to the role of Final Cause, as well as 
Efficient Cause in support of the teleolo- 
gical argument. Yet the very contrast 
between the First, Efficient, and Final 
Uncaused Cause and the contingent world 
supports, in turn, the Locic of the 
ontological argument. For how could such 
a Being be conceived except in terms of 
perfection? Thus the arguments embody 
an integrated logic. 

The realist epistemology of Scotus 
disallows a disjunction between a univer- 
sal CONCEPT and the sum of a composite 
‘quidditative’ (or ‘what-ness’-quality) 
uniqueness that characterizes God as 
transcendent Being. (See also Five Ways; 

Eckhart, Meister Johannes 

Eckhart, German preacher and mystic, 
taught in Paris, and was influenced espe- 
cially by ALBERT the Great and by Thomas 
Aquinas. His spiritual writings include 
the Book of Divine Consolation (c. 1320). 
Eckhart’s mysticism finds expression in 
such utterances as ‘All things are a mere 
nothing.’ He speaks of the ‘emptiness’ that 
the soul may attain, which ‘gives birth to 

Eckhart’s philosophical significance lies 
in part in his exploration of union-and- 
difference in relation to God. He drew on 
the mystical traditions of NEOPLATONISM 
and PLotinus. Human persons are char- 
acterized by mere ‘is-ness’ in their relation 
to God as divine fulness of Being. 

The experience of ‘desert’ and ‘empti- 
ness’ belongs to the tradition of Christian 
MYSTICISM and mystical writers. Eckhart 
was nevertheless condemned as heretical 
by the Cologne Inquisition of 1327. All 
the same, his influence on such figures as 
Nicholas of Cusa and Martin Luther 
cannot be doubted. (See also VIA NEGA- 

At its simplest, empiricism denotes the 
view that all knowledge comes through 

‘experience’ (cf. Greek, émpeiros; also 
empeirikos, experienced). Usually the term 
more specifically denotes the view that 
knowledge is derived primarily from 
sense-data perceived or experienced 
through the five senses (sight, hearing, 
taste, touch, smell). 

In practice empiricism in EPISTEMOL- 
OGY stands in contrast to RATIONALISM 
and to CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY. Rationalists 
identify the primary source of knowledge 
as the human mind in rational reflection. 
Some versions of rationalism postulate the 
existence of ‘innate ideas’ within the sELF. 
By contrast, Locke (1632-1704) rejected 
the theory of innate ideas, arguing that 
human beings begin with a blank sheet, a 
tabula rasa, on which experience writes 

Kant (1724-1804) sought to change 
the terms of the debate by expounding his 
more complex critical philosophy, espe- 
cially in contrast with the empiricism of 
Hume (1711-76). Kant subjected to radi- 
cal criticism both the scope and limits of 
REASON and the status of empirical obser- 
vation. Neither is as straightforward as 
pre-Kantian empiricists and rationalists 
might suggest. 

Locke was an empiricist, but recog- 
nized that ‘experience’ itself represents an 
amalgam of sensation and reflection. 
What is ‘experienced’ is more than raw 



sense-data. The invention of the micro- 
scope, for example, showed that what was 
‘really there’ in the world, to be observed, 
depended at least in part on how and by 
whom it was observed. 

Changes of light affect how we ‘see’ 
colours; indeed, what colours we see. 
Hence Locke distinguished between pri- 
mary givens, such as solidity, extension, 
movement and numbers and secondary 
qualities such as colours, sounds and taste. 


Prior to Locke and the late seventeenth 
century, empiricism took the form of an 
emphasis upon A POSTERIORI observation, 
in contrast to A PRIORI logical explora- 
tions. Democritus (460-370 BcE) formu- 
lated an early version of empiricism by 
arguing that perception is a physical 
process occurring by means of ‘images’ 
mediated through the five senses. Epicurus 
(341-270 BcE) developed this approach 
further. WILLIAM OF OcKHAM (c. 1287- 
1349) represents a broadly empiricist 
approach in the medieval period. His 
advocacy of NOMINALISM on the ground 
that general concepts arise from language 
rather than reality led to his emphasizing 
so-called objective knowledge of particu- 
lar substances and qualities. 

Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) is often 
described as broadly ‘empiricist’, but he 
does not hold a consistently empiricist 
theory of knowledge. This would not 
entirely cohere with his work on knowl- 
edge of God. However, the source of 
CONcEPTs which we employ analogically 
to speak of God is our experience of the 
world. He attributes to ARISTOTLE 
(although the specific source is not clear) 
the maxim ‘There is nothing in the 
intellect which was not previously in the 
senses,’ and endorses this maxim. 

This ‘limited’ empiricism has led a 
number of philosophers to distinguish 
between ‘epistemological empiricism’ 
(Democritus, William of Ockham, Hume 
and AYER), and ‘conceptual empiricism’ 

(Aquinas and others) that appeals to the 
role of sense-experience for the grounding 
of intelligible language. Locke might be 
placed in either category, for he addresses 
epistemology, but has a carefully balanced 


Locke has an altogether more sophisti- 
cated approach. Although (as has been 
noted above) he believed that knowledge 
enters the mind through the senses as if the 
mind were a tabula rasa, or blank sheet, 
Locke acknowledges the relativities of 
how we observe what we observe, and 
addresses the wider issue of ‘reasonable’ 
belief. He seeks to enquire into ‘the 
certainty and extent of human knowledge’ 
including ‘the grounds and degrees of 
belief ... and assent’. 

Locke attacks the rationalist theory of 
‘innate ideas’ in book I of his Essay 
Concerning Human Understanding 
(1690). He comments, ‘When men have 
found some general propositions that 
could not be doubted, it was a short and 
easy way to conclude them innate’ (I: 1, 
5). This ‘concluding’, Locke suggests, is 
unfortunate because it tends to put an end 
to enquiry concerning doubt. Locke’s own 
agenda is both to curb the undue preten- 
sions of illusory claims to CERTAINTY, and 
to show the possibility of genuinely 
reasonable belief. Both are relevant to 
the prevalence of rationalism and English 

Where knowledge is knowledge of 
external ‘OBJECTS’, this knowledge is 
mediated through ‘sensation’ and sense- 
data. Perception of our own ideas, how- 
ever, depends upon ‘reflection’. Locke 
suggests the analogy of a window that 
filters light into a dark room (ibid.: II: 11: 
27). Ideas are then combined, so that 
‘from a few simple ideas’ can be generated 
a reservoire ‘inexhaustible and truly infi- 
nite’ (ibid.: ch. 7, 10). 

Locke, therefore, does not expect the 
exhaustive, unqualified, ‘demonstration’ 



sought by rationalists or by ‘extreme’ 
empiricists. Numerous criteria may deter- 
mine degrees of probability and the 
reasonableness of beliefs. Empirical obser- 
vations provide one of these multiple 
criteria. Locke’s empiricism is sometimes 
called that of ‘English common sense’. 
More detailed discussion occurs under the 
entry on Locke. 


Bishop George BERKELEY (1685-1753) 
built upon Locke’s empiricism. All the 
same, Berkeley is known chiefly as an 
idealist. In his own language, Berkeley 
sought to promote ‘immaterialism’, as a 
philosophical defence of THEISM. Yet how 
can empiricism embrace IDEALISM? 

In the case of Locke, Berkeley and 
Hume, the answer to the question, ‘How 
do we know?’ is formulated in empiricist 
terms. We know through sense-impres- 
sions, even if reflection is also involved. 
The answer to the question ‘What do we 
know?’ includes sensory experiences for 
Locke, but is more significantly ideas of 
what we perceive. Hence the second ques- 
tion may be answered in idealist terms. 

Berkeley reviewed Locke’s distinction 
between primary and secondary qualities. 
He concluded that perceptions are funda- 
mental not only for apprehending colour, 
taste and sound, but for solidity, motion, 
number and all objects of knowledge. If 
everything depends on perception, ‘to be is 
to be perceived’ (esse est percipi). This 
need not imply that the world is a 
construct of the human mind. There is a 
‘givenness’ about those ideas that is 
uncontrived, since they may seem at times 
unwelcome. Indeed, behind them Berkeley 
sees ‘the Divine Mind’. 

Hume agreed with Locke and Berkeley 
that ‘experience’ is a combination of 
sense-impressions and ideas. However, he 
reversed the flow of Berkeley’s thought: 
ideas are derivative from sense-experience. 
Sense-impressions ‘enter with most force 
... By ideas | mean that faint images of 

these in thinking’ (Treatise of Human 
Nature, 1739, I: I: 1). 

‘Nothing is ever present to the mind 
but perceptions’ (ibid.: II: 6). Hume’s view 
of cause and causality illustrates the 
difference between actual observation 
(only constant conjunction or contiguity 
can be observed) and the construal of 
what is observed by ideas (the principle of 
causality). In the end, Hume believes only 
habit and convention transpose these ideas 
into systems of belief. But the only point 
of reference remains that of sense-impres- 
sions derived from raw sense-data. 

Hume was an ‘extreme’ empiricist. He 
could not endorse Locke’s notion of ‘rea- 
sonable’ belief, for reason is merely the 
slave of the passions; it operates only 
instrumentally. He rejected Berkeley’s meta- 
physical idealism, for ideas are untrust- 
worthy copies of sense-impressions. He was 
sceptical about the self; for the self is merely 
a bundle of perceptions. Thus, as he 
concedes, his empiricism leads to a mod- 
ified scepticism, and verges on POSITIVISM. 


Among those modern writers who expli- 
citly own a kinship with the empiricism of 
Hume, one of the most widely known 
writers is AYER (1910-89). Ayer’s LOGICAL 
POSITIVISM is discussed under other 
entries (see LANGUAGE IN RELIGION). 
Ayers’ promotion of a positivist world- 
view under the guise of a theory of 
language and meaning neither enhances 
nor diminishes its status as ‘extreme’ or 
‘radical’ empiricism. It is close to Hume, 
and distant from Locke. In addition to 
Language, Truth and Logic (2nd edn, 
1946), Ayer published Foundations of 
Empirical Knowledge (1940) and The 
Problem of Knowledge (1956). 

William James (1842-1910) has been 
associated with the name ‘radical empiri- 
cist’, but this relates mainly to his formula- 
tion of criteria for his PRAGMATISM. His 
maxims, also cited and endorsed by RORTY, 
that ‘the TRUE is only expedient in our way 
of thinking, just as the right is only the 



expedient in the way of our behaving’, owes 
more to pragmatism than to empiricism. 

RussELL (1872-1970) argues that 
‘knowledge by acquaintance? is more 
certain than ‘knowledge by description’. 
Nevertheless, his philosophical thought is 
too complex to provide a model of 
empiricist philosophy as such. 

This sketch confirms that even within the 
narrower compass of ‘the British empiri- 
cists’ Locke, Berkeley and Hume, there is no 
single, easy, definition that can cover very 
diverse examples of empiricist philosophies. 
Almost always we need to ask: ‘Empiricist — 
in what sense?’ Locke writes as an empiri- 
cist with constructive questions for theists 
about BELIEF; Hume suggests a more 
reserved, at times sceptical, view of knowl- 
edge and selfhood. (See also METAPHYSICS; 


Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) formulated 
a classic definition of ‘the Enlightenment’ 
(German, Aufklärung) as ‘man’s exodus 
from his self-incurred tutelage ... [by 
learning] to use your own understanding’. 
This throwing off of dependency in 
second-hand authorities and traditions 
was based on a confidence in the power 
of human REASON, an optimistic view of 
human progress, and an agenda that 
questioned inherited political and religious 
structures and values. 

Many trace Enlightenment RATIONAL- 
IsM to the methodological role of doubt 
proposed by DESCARTES (1596-1650) in his 
quest for clear and certain knowledge. 
Helmut Thielicke and many theologians 
trace a line from Descartes to Lessing, but 
this approach is less readily adopted among 
philosophers. Descartes spoke of applying 
this method ‘once in a life-time’, and 
exempted ETHICS and knowledge of God. 


The Enlightenment reflected different 
emphases in England, France and 

Germany, as well as differences of histor- 
ical timing. In England seventeenth- and 
eighteenth-century DEISM exercised a sub- 
stantial influence on subsequent thought. 
LOCKE (1632-1704) combined EMPIRI- 
CISM with a moderate emphasis on ‘rea- 
sonableness’ of BELIEF, and this both 
encouraged individual responsibility in 
beliefs and remained fully compatible with 
THEISM. In order to avoid replication of 
material, readers are referred to the entry 
on deism for earlier English Enlightenment 


In France, Enlightenment thought was 
more explicitly anti-establishment in mat- 
ters of RELIGION and in politics. The 
eighteenth-century Encyclopaedists 
worked on material edited by Denis 
Diderot (1713-84). Diderot was influ- 
enced by Locke’s empiricism, but moved 
far beyond Locke towards a view of the 
world that bordered on MATERIALISM. The 
thirty-five-volume Encyclopaedia, which 
included articles on history, philosophy, 
religion, and political theory, finally 
appeared in 1780. 

Voltaire (1694-1778; pen-name of 
François-Marie Arouet) was influenced 
by Newton and by Locke. He shared 
their concern for empirical method, but 
arrived at more sceptical results. Newton 
applied the constancy and universality of 
rational ‘laws’ to the natural world, but 
remained a theist. Voltaire drew elements 
of SCEPTICISM from Michel de Montaigne 
(1533-92). They rejected theological 
dogma and philosophical METAPHYSICS. 

Voltaire’s humanism is based upon 
recognition of the fallibility of rationalist 
and empirical knowledge. Hence his poli- 
tical philosophy stressed tolerance and 
AUTONOMY. He retained belief in a good 
God, even if not in all the doctrinal and 
institutional commitments of the religion 
of his day. 

Voltaire’s position differs from that of 
the two French Enlightenment materialist 



philosophers, La Mettrie (1709-51) and 
Paul-Henri-Dietrich d’Holbach (1723- 
1789). The title of La Mattrie’s work 
Man the Machine (1747) exemplifies the 
extension of Newton’s empirical scientific 
method (appropriate to study of the 
natural world) to the study of humanity 
and a philosophical world-view. 

Similarly, d’Holbach, one of the Ency- 
clopaedists, published a materialist System 
of Nature (1770) from which Voltaire 
explicitly distanced his own views. D’Hol- 
bach derived all reality from motion and 
matter, and repudiated any metaphysical 
systems of thought. His Christianity 
Unveiled (1756) attacked Christianity, 
REVELATION, and theism as the product 
of MyTH and mythologization. ‘Science’ 
offers liberation from all this. 

It is a matter of debate whether we 
should include Jean Jacques Rousseau 
(1712-78) as a thinker of the French 
Enlightenment. He was a man of feeling 
rather than an arid rationalist. He did not 
attack religion, although he looks for a 
religion without priests or temples. It is 
‘the people’ who are sovereign, through 
‘the will of all’ (volonté de tous) or ‘the 
general will’ (volonté générale). His call 
for liberty and equality influenced Robe- 
spierre, but he was not an advocate of 
revolution, and in his Social Contract 
(1762) private rights had to be yielded 
for the good of all. Like Voltaire, he 
dissociated himself from d’Holbach and 
the Encyclopaedists. 


The beginnings of the German Enlight- 
enment are in general later than those in 
England, although Christian Wolff (1679- 
1754) drew on the rationalism of LEIBNIZ 
for his concepts of religion and philoso- 
phy. Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768), 
whose ‘Wolffenbüttel Fragments’ were 
published after his death by G.E. Lessing 
in 1774-7, took up the threads of an 
earlier English deism. This included a 
rejection of miracles and notions of the 

supernatural. Lessing (1729-81) also 
represents Enlightenment rationalism. 
There is an ‘ugly ditch’ between reason 
and the historical (empirical) reconstruc- 
tions of mere probability, at most. 

The Jewish philosopher MENDELSSOHN 
(1729-86) was a friend of Lessing and a 
follower of Wolff’s rationalism. He 
believed that human reason could lay the 
foundations for belief in God, and natural 
religion. Mendelssohn represents ‘the Jew- 
ish Enlightenment’, but arguably in Ger- 
many it led to the broader, more diffused 
development of Reform Judaism. 

Kant marks a distinctive moment of 
transition in Germany. On one side, he 
stresses autonomy, the decision of the 
human will, freedom and progress. These 
are core values of the Enlightenment. On 
the other side his work on the limits of 
reason, especially in The Critique of Pure 
Reason (1781, rev. 1787), does not present 
reason as the sovereign arbiter of the 
deists, or Enlightenment rationalism. 
Further, the relegation of ‘order’ in the 
world to a regulative principle of the 
human mind in his Critique of Judgement 
(1790) does not promote the kind of 
‘natural religion’ found among some 
Enlightenment thinkers. 

In spite of FICHTE and HEGEL, the age 
of ROMANTICISM would soon overtake the 
Enlightenment era after Kant. Further, by 
the mid-twentieth century a certain posi- 
tive revaluation of TRADITION would be 
explored by such hermeneutical writers as 
GADAMER (1900-2002), and a reappraisal 
of reason take place through postmodern 

In theology, rather than in philosophy, 
a reappraisal of the influence of Descartes 
is also important. Descartes, arguably, 
did not wish to establish the kind of 
doubt often ascribed to Enlightenment 
understandings of theism. (See also 
POSITIVISM.) This entry is intended to 
be read in conjunction with that on 




Epistemology embraces a variety of the- 
ories of knowledge (Greek, epistémé. It 
constitutes a core sub-discipline within 
philosophy, alongside ONTOLOGY, ETHICS, 
LOGIC and other subject-specific areas 
such as philosophy of language. It includes 
issues concerning the sources, limits and 
nature of knowledge, and modes of 

Special sets of issues within epistemol- 
ogy include BELIEF, SCEPTICISM and cri- 
teria for the justification of, or warrants 
for, belief. However, the three main 
streams of tradition at the heart of 
epistemology present the respective claims 


Empiricism investigates how knowledge 
derives from the sensory world outside the 
mind, how it is conveyed through the 
senses, and how it becomes processed as 
the OBJECT of perception, or as ideas or 
reflection involving acts of COGNITION. 

Locke (1632-1704), BERKELEY (1685- 
1753) and Hume (1711-1776) represent 
the major early modern empiricists. Locke 
and Berkeley accord greater place to 
reasonableness and to ideas, whereas 
Hume emphasizes perception. Their 
method is that of observation and a 
POSTERIORI inference. 

Rationalism ascribes the starting-point 
for knowledge to A PRIORI ideas, often 
regarded as innate ideas. Logical truth and 
the method of introspection provide a 
foundation for deductive inferences, 
rather than the less certain and fallible 
findings of sense-data gathered by obser- 
vation of the CONTINGENT world. 

(1632-77) and LerBniz (1646-1716) are 
the major early modern rationalists. Des- 
cartes sought to find ‘clear and distinct’ 
ideas which could not be doubted. Hence 
he began from the epistemological premise 

cogito, ergo sum, ‘I am [conscious of] 
thinking; therefore I exist.’ 

Critical philosophy emerged in Kant’s 
Critique of Pure Reason (1781). Kant saw 
the need to raise TRANSCENDENTAL ques- 
tions about knowledge, prior to addres- 
sing the traditional agenda. Hence he 
asked: ‘What are the necessary conditions 
for the possibility of knowledge?’ How is 
it possible to know? This must be 
addressed before we ask how we know, 
or what we know. It entails exploring the 
nature of knowledge and the limits of 

To explore the limits of reason is a 
constructive rather than a negative exer- 
cise. For scepticism may arise out of a 
sense of disillusion generated by over-high 
expectations of what reason might 
achieve. Locke, on the nature and grounds 
of reasonable belief, and Kant, on the 
limits of ‘pure reason’, both serve con- 
structive rather than sceptical goals. 

The details of this classic three-sided 
debate are considered more fully under the 
entries on empiricism, rationalism, critical 
philosophy, Kant and other individual 
thinkers within the empiricist and ration- 
alist traditions. 


WOLTERSTORFF argues convincingly that 
Locke introduced an ethical dimension 
into the ‘reasonableness’ of belief, or 
‘entitlement’ to believe, especially in book 
IV of his Essay Concerning Human Under- 
standing (Wolterstorff, John Locke and 
the Ethics of Belief, Cambridge: CUP, 

W. K. Clifford (1845-79) radicalized 
Locke’s concern by formulating a more 
brittle and inflexible ethical criterion for 
the justification of belief. He uses the 
analogy of a ship-owner who sends 
emigrants to sea in a ship which he knows 
is unseaworthy, but salves his conscience 
with the thought that Providence will care 
for the ship if necessary. His belief that it is 
in order to send the ship to sea is immoral 
because it flies in the face of empirical 



evidence. Clifford’s criterion in his Lec- 
tures and Essays (1879) has come to be 
known as Evidentialism, and in effect 
views belief as justified only when it may 
be grounded in virtually foolproof empiri- 
cal evidence. 

Roderick Chisholm has defended 
deontological (or ethically obligated) 
notions of justification for belief, although 
William P. Alston refuses to identify ‘what 
is epistemically good’, in the sense of 
maximizing rationality and TRUTH with an 
ethics of obligation. Foundationalists 
distinguished the justification of ‘basic’ 
beliefs from those beliefs that are deriva- 
tive from these. 


POSTMODERNISM has tended to encourage 
pragmatic criteria of belief. The American 
tradition of PRAGMATISM that can be 
traced from William James (1842-1910) 
through John Dewey (1859-1952) to its 
post-modern radical extreme in Rorty (b. 
1931) argues that in effect epistemology as 
theory is dead. It has given way to 
HERMENEUTICS ‘as a way of coping’ 
(Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, 
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 
1979, 356; and 315-56). Rorty not only 
quotes and endorses William James’s view 
that ‘the True’ is ‘only the expedient in ... 
thinking’, but adds that there is no such 
task as ‘getting reality right’ because ‘there 
is no Way the World Is’ (Truth and 
Progress, Cambridge: CUP, 1998, 21 and 

Almost needless to say, however, Ror- 
ty’s own pragmatic, postmodernist claims 
demand exploration from that area of 
epistemology that addresses scepticism. In 
spite of Rorty’s claims that this misses his 
point, it is relevant to compare his views 
with those that come to light in the history 
of scepticism since ancient Greek philoso- 
phy. We may also question whether his 
appeal to hermeneutics in practice turns 
hermeneutics upside down. (See also 


Almost all theists draw a contrast between 
the change and decay observable in the 
created order and the Being of God as 
‘eternal’, or not limited by the passing of 
time. Nevertheless the word ‘eternal’ may 
denote at least three different ways of 
understanding the point at issue. 

In the tradition of Parmenides, PLATO, 
and advaita (non-dualist) HINDU PHILO- 
SOPHY, many regard eternity as timeless- 
ness, or Being without change. Some, by 
contrast, regard eternity as embodying 
temporal sequence, but without limits of 
beginning or end. Others follow the classic 
formulation of BorTuHtus (c. 480-525) 
that eternity denotes ‘the complete posses- 
sion all at once (Latin, totum simul) of 
illimitable life’. 

Each approach brings its own pro- 
blems. If eternity denotes timelessness, 
how can God (or any being beyond this 
world order) experience duration, peri- 
odicy, sequence or progression? If eternity 
denotes time ‘pulled out’ infinitely at each 
end, does this not entail God’s being 
conditioned by time, rather than Creator 
of time? If eternity denotes totum simul, 
might this not be understood to impose a 
static mode of being onto God, who then 
cannot act, or interact, purposively as a 
living and promissory God? 


This approach has a long tradition in 
Eastern and in Western philosophy. It 
largely rests upon inferences drawn from 
a theology of CREATION. AUGUSTINE (354— 
430) laid down a valid theological axiom 
when he declared, ‘God created the world 
with time (cum tempore) not in time (in 
tempore)? A moment’s reflection on the 
correlative roles of time and space as 
CATEGORIES interwoven in the created 
order adds weight to this, especially in 
the light of post-Einsteinian notions of 

We know from the theory of relativity 
that time accelerates or decelerates 



depending on the direction of spatial 
motion of an object at extreme velocity. 
Yet few would claim that space was ‘there’ 
before God created the heavens and the 
earth, except for the minority who believe 
in the eternity of the world. 

In ancient Greek philosophical tradi- 
tions, Parmenides of Elea (fl. 510-492 
BCE) assigned change and motion to the 
realm of mere ‘appearance’. Reality was 
‘being’, not ‘becoming’. Plato (428-348 
BCE) separated a timeless, changeless 
realm of eternal Ideas or Forms from a 
CONTINGENT, temporal, changing, empiri- 
cal world which had the status only of a 
replicated or approximate copy of the 
non-temporal and eternal. 

Among Eastern philosophical tradi- 
tions, Sankara (788-820) and the ‘non- 
dualist? Hindu philosophy of Advaita 
Vedanta held that cycles of rebirth and 
reincarnation, along with ‘difference’, 
stood in contrast with ultimate reality as 
uncharacterizable and undifferentiated 
brahman. Distinction and difference, 
along with temporal change, belonged to 
the world of illusion or deception (māyā). 
If brabman-dtman is One and without 
inner differentiation, nothing can change: 
ultimate reality is timeless and eternal. 

This sits uneasily with Hebrew—Chris- 
tian biblical traditions, however, where 
God is conceived of in more personal and 
purposive terms. The living God of 
Hebrew and Christian scripture is a 
God who makes promises. (Ex. 12:25; 
Deut. 1:11, 6:3, 10:9, Hebrew, dabhar, 
‘speak’, but contextually, ‘promise’); 
waits, (Isa. 30:18, Hebrew, chakah); 
foreknows, (Rom. 8:29, 11:2, Greek, 
proginosko); and even reconsiders and 
revises plans of action (Judg. 2:18; Jer. 
15:6, Hebrew, nacham). Further, even 
allowing for the more objective, less 
mentalist meaning of ‘remember’ in 
Hebrew, what are we to make of dozens 
of allusions to God’s remembering 
(zakar) God’s covenant (Gen. 9:15, 16); 
or individuals (Gen. 8:1, 19:29; Ex. 
32:13); or pledges or promises (Neh. 

1:8); past sins (Ps.25:7) or past mercies 
(Ps. 98:3). 

While some references may be anthro- 
pomorphic or metaphorical, these verbs 
seem to play too great a part in disclosures 
of the nature of God to yield an exhaustive 
explanation of this kind (see ANTHROPO- 
BURNE regularly calls attention to such 
passages in various philosophical contexts. 
It seems too simple and too general (like a 
Wittgensteinian ‘super-concept’) to char- 
acterize God’s eternity as ‘timelessness’. 

Nevertheless some have defended this 
view in recent philosophical thought. Paul 
Helm argues that it remains fully compa- 
tible with an understanding of creation 
and of OMNISCIENCE, citing also the ear- 
lier tradition of ANsELm (1033-1109) 
‘that timelessness is among the greatness- 
making or perfection-making properties of 
God’ (Eternal God: A Study of God 
without Time, Oxford: Clarendon, 1988, 
11). Nelson Pike similarly understands 
this as a ‘value-making’ property (God 
and Timelessness, London: Routledge, 
1970, 137). Helm relates this to divine 
IMMUTABILITY, and argues that it offers ‘a 
metaphysical underpinning for God’s 
functioning as a biblical God’ (Eternal 
God, 21). 


The widespread unease shared by many at 
the identification of ‘eternal’ with ‘time- 
less’ finds a focus in the doubt about 
whether or how an event in the life of a 
‘timeless’ Being may ‘relate ... to any 
temporal entity or event’ (E. Stump and N. 
Kretzmann, ‘Eternity’, Journal of Philoso- 
phy, 78, 1981, 429-58). The dilemma 
appears to be: a ‘timeless’ God may seem 
unable fully to engage in the temporal 
drama of God’s world; a God ‘infinitely 
extended’ in time seems to share too much 
in the contingent qualities of what God 
has created. 

Richard Swinburne defends the ‘com- 
mon sense’ understanding of eternity as 



lack of temporal beginning and end, but 
not lack of duration. God pre-exists 
creation, but also: ‘There was no time at 
which he did not exist ... He is back- 
wardly eternal’ (The Coherence of The- 
ism, [1977] Oxford: Clarendon, 1988, 
211). God ‘exists at any other nameable 
time ... will go on existing for ever... he 
is forwardly eternal’ (ibid.). Swinburne 
argues that this view is entirely ‘coher- 
ent’, and Anthony Kenny shares a similar 


Augustine speaks of God as ‘the supreme 
hub of causes’ (summus causarum cardo: 
On the Trinity, Il: 9: 16). Henry Chad- 
wick comments, ‘Boethius suggests, there- 
fore, that as time is to eternity, so the circle 
is to the centre ... God looks out on the 
world and arranges what is best for each 
individual ... For us, events fall into past, 
present, and future time. God is outside 
time. For him the knowledge of temporal 
events is an eternal knowledge in the sense 
that all is a simultaneous present’ 
(Boethius, Oxford: Clarendon, 1981, 242 
and 246). 

Boethius contextualizes his concept of 
eternity then, within a doctrine of divine 
providence and governance and the pro- 
blem of divine omniscience (see entry on 
omniscience for details). God’s infinite 
awareness comprehends all at once what 
from a human standpoint is spread out in 
TIME as past, present and future. 

Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) endorses 
and develops this view. He declares, ‘The 
notion of eternity follows immutability, as 
the notion of time follows movement ... 
Eternity is nothing else but God Himself 
... His eternity includes all times, and not 
as if He Himself were altered through 
present, past, and future’ (Summa Theo- 
logiae, Ia, Qu. 10, art. 2). 

In contemporary Christian theology, 
however, the concept of divine immut- 

ability has undergone some criticism and 
modification. It is arguably a simplistic 
concept of ‘perfect’ if we argue that what 
is ‘perfect’ at Time One is the same as 
what is ‘perfect’ at Time Two. Indeed the 
Epistle to the Hebrews appears to imply 
that teleiosis, being mature or perfect, 
denotes a developing process (Heb. 2:10; 
5:9). These issues are expanded in the 
entry on immutability. 

Can a ‘perfect God act in ongoing, 
dynamic, purposive ways which express 
God’s own nature, whether we conceive of 
this as occurring ‘within’ this-worldly 
time, or in a ‘non-human’ sphere, such as 
‘after’ the general resurrection? To express 
it in a different way, does the heavenly or 
eschatological realm in the biblical writ- 
ings seem more akin to a crescendo of 
glory than to a constant, static, everlasting 
fortissimo? Can God no longer do ‘new’ 
things, as the God of Abraham, Isaac 
and Jacob, without thereby forfeiting 

The simple distinction between eter- 
nity and time is inadequate. In everyday 
life we distinguish between astronomical 
time, clock time, human time, narrative 
time, opportune time, the timing that 
reflects a sociology of power and so on. 
The issue is not whether God is condi- 
tioned by time. God is the Creator of 
time. However, creaturely human time- 
as-we-know-it is to be distinguished from 
that temporality from which is derived 
the very possibility of sequence, tempo, 
duration, periodicy and opportune time. 
(We may note that in HEIDEGGER Zei- 
tlichkeit (temporality) is the condition for 
the possibility of time). 

Perhaps it is logically possible to retain 
the basic contrast between human time 
and ‘eternity’ as that which characterizes 
God (as in Boethius), but with some 
accommodation to notions of progressive 
action and newness which are also neces- 
sary to the nature of the God in Western 
THEISM and the Bible. (See also Gop, 




Ethics may be defined as the study of 
concepts and criteria of individual and 
social human actions, attitudes and beha- 
viour in so far as these are deemed right or 
wrong, or good or bad. Ethics formulates 
systems of value, of the good, or of the 
right in so far as these are, or can be, 
instantiated in human lives or in social 


Those systems that focus mainly on 
criteria or goals of ‘right’ or ‘rightness’ 
generally explore issues of duty and 
obligation. Theories of necessary obliga- 
tion without regard to consequences are 
also known as DEONTOLOGY. Those sys- 
tems that focus mainly on criteria or goals 
of ‘good’ or ‘the good’ generally explore 
beneficial consequences. These may 
include self-realization, or utilitarianism, 
seeking the greatest good for the greatest 
number. However, utilitarianism may also 
be subsumed within a theory of the right. 

Many deny that any objective criteria 
can be found for establishing principles of 
right conduct or the widest good. Sub- 
jective theories of ethics often reduce the 
ethical to a mere expression of preference, 
or of approval or disapproval (see AYER; 
Rorty). Such theories are sometimes also 
called non-cognitive; but the latter term is 
broader since it may also denote intui- 
tionist theories. 

Ethical intuitionism reflects the view that 
‘good’ cannot be defined by referring to 
other concepts and to rational arguments. 
G.E. Moore (1873-1958) held this view. 
‘Good’ is a quality that cannot be analysed, 
but is simply intuited. Like the colour 
‘yellow’, it is supposedly ‘simple’ and not 
known through analysing arguments. To 
equate ‘good’ with some other quality is to 
commit ‘the naturalistic fallacy’. 

Since these issues bring us into the 
logical grammar (see LOGIC), the study of 
conceptual problems in ethics, without 

necessarily exploring issues of ethical 
validity, sometimes called ‘meta-ethics’, 
has arisen. R.M. Hare (b. 1919) and P.H. 
Nowell-Smith (b. 1914) undertake such 


The era of the pre-Socratic Sophist philo- 
sophers included Protagoras (c. 490—420 
BCE), widely known for his maxim ‘Man is 
the measure of all things’ (Fragment 1). All 
ethical criteria are subjective matters of 
convention: what is lawful in Athens may 
be unlawful in Megara. Gorgias (late fifth 
century BCE) also extends his metaphysical 
SCEPTICISM to ethics. 

By contrast, SOCRATES, PLATO and 
ARISTOTLE expound a view of virtue. For 
Socrates, the acquisition of virtue begins 
with knowledge. Further, virtue has social 
implications, and transcends mere indivi- 
dualism. Plato bases his ethics on ONTOL- 
oGY, especially upon the ABSOLUTE 
‘Form’ of the Good, from which good in 
the CONTINGENT world is derivative. His 
four ‘cardinal virtues’ are wisdom, cour- 
age, moderation and patience. 

Aristotle approaches ethics in terms of 
teleology and a theory of virtue. Well- 
being (Greek, eudaimonia) lies not in 
pleasure, honour or wealth, but in the 
fulfilment of the purpose for which 
humankind exists, which expresses true 
human nature. In effect, this is explicated 
as ‘the exercise of reason according to 
virtue’ (Greek, areté). Thus ethical norms 
are not external to humankind, but entail 
self-realization. At the same time, Aristo- 
tles doctrine of the balanced ‘mean’ 
ensures that attention be given to will, 
habit and consequences for others. 


Hosses (1588-1679) argued that power 
is the chief regulating principle in ethical 
judgements. ‘Good’ denotes little more 
than the heightening of vitality in the self- 
gratification that is made possible through 
power. Yet the application of reason to 



this situation of universal self-interest 
results in a recognition of the need of civil 
law to impose an ‘orderedness’ through 
social contract. Hence a state of nature is 
replaced by a variety of social contracts, 
and power is passed to a monarch. 

If Hobbes had denied the possibility of 
disinterested action, Joseph Butler (1692- 
1752) explored the threefold relation and 
balance between ‘self-love’, ‘benevolence’ 
and ‘conscience’. Although the interpre- 
tation of these is debated, the first denotes 
regard to one’s interests and well-being; 
the second, a regard for others motivated 
by affection; the third, in Butler’s words, 
reflection by which human persons 
‘approve and disapprove their own 
actions’. Conscience is to ‘preside and 
govern’, but proves to be congruent with 
self-love and benevolence because of a 
divine providential ordering of the world. 

In the context of philosophy of reli- 
gion, while it may be more precarious to 
argue from ethics or moral obligation to 
God (see MORAL ARGUMENT for the 
existence of God), the different stances of 
Hobbes and Bishop Butler reveal the 
difference that a theistic foundation may 
make to the formulation of ethical theory. 
However, critics of Butler ask whether the 
weight that he places on conscience can 
account for the differing value systems 
found in the modern world. 

Hume (1711-76) regarded ‘the good’ 
exclusively in terms of consequences. How- 
ever, these consequences are defined in 
terms of ‘all things either directly pleasant 
or indirectly conducive to pleasure, 
whether in their owners or in other men’. 
This is a kind of subjective utilitarianism or 
Hedonism, but it is not egoism. Hume was 
unable to offer an ‘objective’ basis for 
ethics, since he regarded the sELF as, in 
effect, a bundle of sensations and emotions 
served by reason only instrumentally: 
‘reason is the slave of the passions’. 

An entirely opposite approach is 
adopted by Kant (1724-1804). In 
formulating his TRANSCENDENTAL PHILO- 
sopHy Kant places moral obligation on 

the footing of an Absolute. It is the 
‘categorical imperative’ that comes from 
beyond the world of the empirical and 
CONTINGENT that is ordered and construed 
by the human mind. ‘Ought’ expresses the 
relation of objective moral law to the 
human will. 

‘Good’ is not a functional, relative or 
abstract quality. Only ‘the good will’ can 
be called ‘good’, when it is directed by the 
moral law. The emphasis moves from 
consequences (Hume) to motive. What 
makes the good will ‘good’ is not what 
consequences it brings about, but its 
recognition of moral duty alone. The laws 
of ethical obligation apply to all univer- 
sally; hence they constitute a categorical 
imperative. This is the approach of deon- 

This may be instantiated through the 
application of a general moral law: ‘So act 
as to treat humanity in every case as an 
end.’ Other human persons are not 
‘means’ to the end of our own happiness. 

The early Romantics, Johann Schiller 
(1759-1805) and Friedrich Jacobi (1743- 
1819) were quick to criticize this resolute 
deontology of will as joyless and divorced 
from goodness guided by love. Schiller 
parodied Kantian ethics in satirical verse: 

‘Willingly serve I my friends; but I 
do it, alas, with affection. 

Hence I am cursed with the doubt, 
virtue I have not attained.’ 

‘This is your only recourse: you 
must stubbornly seek to abhor 

Then you can do with disgust that 
which the law may enjoin.’ 

Arguably, the more purely love guides, the 
less consciously is ‘good’ done through 


Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) returned to 
Hume’s emphasis on pleasure and pain: 
‘Man’s only object is to seek pleasure and 
to shun pain.’ He is, in effect, the founder 



of modern utilitarianism: ethical action 
aimed at the consequence of producing 
‘the greatest good’ (acquisition of pleasure 
and avoidance of pain) ‘for the greatest 
number’. This maximizes the principle on 
a social scale. 

Bentham explored a theory of govern- 
ment that would achieve this as far as 
possible by using potential punishment as 
deterrents, and reward for facilitating 
social happiness. 

However, the calculation of ‘greatest’ is 
problematic. Bentham took account of the 
intensity, duration, certainty, purity and 
extent of pleasure and pain. Yet what 
weight is to be given to each in relation to 
other, and how do we weigh intense 
pleasure for the few against diffused 
pleasure for the many? 

A further difficulty arises from our 
inability to know precisely what conse- 
quences will follow from a given act. 
Bentham recognizes the fallibility of such 
calculation, and even defines ‘vice’ as ‘a 
miscalculation of chances’. Many ethicists 
would view this as hugely understated. Is 
the notion of evil simply illusory? 

MILL (1806-73) also promoted ethical 
utilitarianism, but also attributed to a 
person of ‘properly cultivated moral nat- 
ure’ the motivation of a feeling of unity 
with fellow human beings. He was more 
optimistic than Bentham about an indivi- 
dual’s willingness to sacrifice happiness as 
an ethical obligation if this gains happi- 
ness for a greater number. 

Mill did not resolve the problems that 
face utilitarianism, however, in calculating 
the greatest happiness of the greatest 
number. BRADLEY, among others, criticizes 
the very logic of ‘multiplying’ happiness 
by replicating the same experience of a 
given level by the number of such experi- 
ences. It remains ‘this’ experience, even if 
it is replicated. 

SPENCER (1820-1903) 

SPENCER defined conduct as ‘good’ in so 
far as it served to promote ‘the contin- 

uous adjustment’ by which an organism 
(or a person) adapts itself to its environ- 
ment. ‘Bad’ conduct hinders such adjust- 

Harmony with one’s surroundings and 
environment brings pleasure; pain is a sign 
of maladjustment. In effect, Spencer had a 
utilitarian ethic. Since adaptation is 
always in process and never perfect, the 
good is not absolute but a relative 
preponderance over maladjustment and 

Evolutionary development works from 
the simple to the more complex or 
‘higher’. At the complex level of the 
emergence of human life, ethical goals 
entail co-operation to continue to adapt A 
happier race will be produced. Spencer, it 
seems, coined the explicit phrase ‘the 
survival of the fittest’. If there is ‘duty’, it 
is to be defined in these terms. 

Spencer attempted to apply DaRwIn’s 
biological theories of EVOLUTION to other 
areas of human life. Yet he left unan- 
swered questions about the human 
agent’s initiative in adapting the environ- 
ment to human benefit, rather than more 
passively seeking to ‘fit? contexts of 
nature. Can this provide adequate ground 
for a system of ethics, especially when 
‘complexity’ and ‘higher’ forms of life are 
defined in quasi-mechanistic terms? The 
routine problems of utilitarianism still 
face this theory. 


Many of the above approaches could be 
identified as placing emphasis on one side 
on motive and intention (with Kant), or on 
the other side on consequences (with 
Hume and Bentham). Both emphases 
bring their own problems. 

Motive and intention have often been 
dismissed as matters of psychologistic 
‘mental states’, the currency of which 
can be determined only in the light of 
public behaviour. However, intentions 
may also be defined in terms of what is 
willed, and what is reflected upon as an 



object of will. Motive may be rational 
and COGNITIVE: it arises from the thought 
of a desirable end. 

Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas expli- 
cate will in terms of habit or habituated 
qualities of will, namely as virtues. In 
recent thought G.E.M. Anscombe (1919- 
2001) and especially Alasdair MacIntyre 
(b. 1929) have proposed a return to ethical 
explorations based on a more serious and 
rigorous account of virtue-ethics. This 
includes continuity of habits of will and 
continuities of moral traditions. 

We have noted difficulties about the 
calculation of possible consequences. A 
narrower view, hedonism, holds that the 
goal of ethical action is that of seeking 
pleasure for the self or for the greatest 
number. A broader view, consequential- 
ism, holds that any beneficial consequence 
offers a criterion of ethical action. Never- 
theless, the notion of calculating ‘units of 
benefit’ seems impossible. It is also impos- 
sible to propose a criterion of what some 
term an ‘interpersonal utility comparison?’ 
to rank people affected. 

In addition to these problems, hedon- 
ism (seeking pleasure) may founder on 
the paradox identified by Aristotle. Plea- 
sure, he argued, emerges only as the by- 
product of ethical action, just as running 
produces the bloom on the athlete’s 
cheek. Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) 
similarly argued that ‘the best way to 
get pleasure is to forget it’, although he 
urged a modified utilitarianism based on 
ethical principles. 

Charles Stevenson (1908-79) rejects 
the view that differences of ethical criteria 
and action arise from differences of 
cognitive BELIEF. Rather, they reflect prior 
differences of attitude. Although ethical 
assertions may embody cognitive state- 
ments, the language of ethics is, he urged, 
primarily non-cognitive, expressing pre- 
ferences, emotions, approval or disap- 
proval and rhetorical re-valuations or 

This resonates closely with emotive, 
non-cognitive theories of LANGUAGE IN 

RELIGION. Hence this approach finds 
support from Ayer (1910-89), and in 
post-modern pragmatism from Rorty (b. 

Yet there are other conceptual under- 
standings of ethics. John Rawls (b. 1921) 
reformulates in terms of a more liberal 
tradition the notion of justice as ‘fair- 
ness’. R.M. Hare argues that ‘prescrip- 
tive’ ethics invokes universal principles 
that apply to classes of similar cases for 
the status of moral imperatives. To do to 
others what we wish them to do to us is 
both universalizable and applicable as a 
prescriptive rule. Alasdair MacIntyre 
(above) returns in part to an Aristote- 
lian—Thomist tradition of ‘virtue’, but in 
the context of late twentieth-century 


Sometimes the notion that ethical norms 
are to be transposed into subjective 
expressions of ‘preference’ or ‘approval’ 
are dressed up either as theories of 
language (as in Charles Stevenson and 
Ayer), or as entailments of a postmodern 
world-view (as in Rorty). 

However, since ethical relativism goes 
back at least to Protagoras, it is more 
likely that this approach is simply a 
correlate of a materialist or positivist 
world-view. If nothing is normative, stable 
or absolute except economic or military 
power, we should not expect to find any 
grounding for a normative ethic. 

Even consequentialist and hedonist 
theories, however, seem to imply a need 
for ethical rules or constraints. For in his 
insistence that self-gratification or pleasure 
yields a criterion of ethics, Hobbes is 
forced to recognize that only the con- 
straints of government, ideally of monar- 
chy, can prevent disintegration into 
anarchy. Only ‘civilization’ and political 
power can rescue humankind from a 
primitive level in which life is ‘nasty, 
brutish, and short’. 

Many who reject Kant’s notion of the 
‘categorical imperative’ nevertheless 



recognize the force of his maxim about 
treating fellow humans as ‘ends’, and not 
reducing them to mere ‘means’ to secure 
one’s own goals and interests. This coheres 
with notions of personhood as a Thou or 
‘Other’ in BuBER, Marcet and Levinas. 

‘Orderedness’ in the world finds a 
prominent place in the Aristotelian tradi- 
tion, and is developed by AUGUSTINE and 
Aquinas. It leads on to positive and 
constructive traditions concerning virtue. 
The potential of ‘virtue’ ethics is explored, 
we noted, by MacIntyre. 

Whereas non-religious systems of 
ethics often overlap with those of RELI- 
GION, in many cases the motivation and 
basis is different. Most non-religious 
philosophical theories formulate autono- 
mous value-systems that are, in effect, 
free-standing. By contrast, Christian 
ethics, for example, constitutes a response, 
to divine GRACE and the gospel. Given this 
difference, points of overlapping content 
also emerge. (See also METAPHYSICS; 


How can the reality and extent of evil and 
suffering in the world be compatible with 
belief in God as omnipotent and as 
perfectly good? How or why did evil 


Formulations of the problem of evil 
predate even the rise of Christianity and 
of Islam, although the Hebrew Bible (also 
the Christian Old Testament) expresses the 
problem in the book of Job. In the most 
widely quoted and used formulation of the 
problem, Hume (1711 —76) alludes to the 
awareness of the issues in the ancient 
Greek philosophy of Epicurus (341-270 

Hume writes: ‘Epicurus’ old questions 
are not yet answered. Is he [God] willing 
to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is 
impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then 

he is malevolent. Is he both able and 
willing? Whence, then, is evil?’ (Dialogues 
Concerning Natural Religion [1779], New 
York: Harper, 1948, pt. X, 66). 

Within theistic traditions the most 
influential classic expositions of the issues 
include especially those of AUGUSTINE 
(354-430) and Thomas AQUINAS 
(1225-74). This is the case, even if Terence 
W. Tilley argues that Augustine does not 
present a formal THEODICy. Their argu- 
ments turn on three focal points: (1) In 
what sense is evil an independent or 
positive entity, or is it primarily absence 
of good? (2) What logic is involved in 
calling God ‘perfectly good’? (3) What is 
entailed in ascribing to God ‘omnipotence’ 
or ‘Almighty-ness’? 

Hume similarly portrays the traditional 
Christian theist ‘Cleanthes’ in his Dialo- 
gues as affirming the Almighty-ness of 
God, God’s OMNISCIENCE and God’s 
perfect goodness, which acts as a foil for 
Hume’s own argument through the lips of 
‘Philo’. Philo argues that if all three of the 
propositions asserted by Cleanthes were 
true, evil would not exist. Yet evil does 
exist. Hence not less than one of these 
propositions is false or problematic. Alter- 
natively, the problem dissolves if God does 
not exist. 

The work of Hume illustrates a shift in 
perceptions of the nature of the problem in 
the eighteenth century. Up to the rational- 
ist ENLIGHTENMENT, in theistic traditions 
the main challenge presented by the 
problem of evil was to defend the coher- 
ence of THEISM, as a matter of under- 
standing. After the Enlightenment, with 
the rise of a more widespread ATHEISM, 
the problem of evil challenges the exis- 
tence of a sovereign and good God as a 
matter of credibility. Both challenges 
remain today. 


Responses to the problem of evil may be 
divided into (a) those that mainly address 



issues of logic and logical coherence; and 
(b) those that bring more practical or 
existential attitudes to the problem. We 
first consider the logical issues. 

Three broad strategies may be 
employed to try to soften the tensions 
or alleged inconsistencies generated by 
the simultaneous assertion of the sover- 
eignty of God, the perfect goodness of 
God and the reality of evil. Expressed 
crudely, each of these three foci of 
discussion may be qualified, modified or 
eroded in such a way as to dissolve 
tension between them. 

(A) Is God Sovereign and Omnipotent? 
At very least it must be pointed out that to 
call God ‘Almighty’ does not entail God’s 
performing logically self-contradictory 
acts. It is not an issue of sovereignty to 
ask whether God can create a stone so 
heavy that God cannot lift it, or whether 
God can divide odd numbers in half to 
leave two sets of integers (see OMNIPO- 
TENCE for details). However, this carries us 
only the part of the way. 

Mitt (1806-73) and subsequently the 
American philosopher Edgar S. Brightman 
(1884-1952) speak of God as ‘finite’ and 
‘constrained’. Divine sovereignty cannot, 
they urge, overrule human freedom. 
Affirming God’s ‘finitude’, Brightman 
asserts that God has to work with evil- 
as-given, to which he gives the name 
‘dysteleological surd’. 

Some types of evil (‘surds’) remain 
resistant to divine purpose (The Problem 
of God, 1930; A Philosophy of Religion, 
1940). Mill saw ‘God’ as like an artist 
limited by his medium (Three Essays on 
Religion, 1875). However, such a view is 
not readily held by such traditional 
Christian writers as Augustine and Aqui- 
nas, and not by most theists. It also 
contradicts doctrines of God in Judaism 
and Islam. 

In recent thought Peter Geach and 
Gijsbert van den Brink have perhaps 
softened some misleading logical entail- 
ments of sheer ‘omnipotence’ by preferring 

to use the term ‘Almighty’ (van den Brink, 
Almighty God, Kampen: Pharos, 1993). 
On the other hand, SWINBURNE (b. 1934) 
defends the traditional use of ‘omnipotent’ 
(The Coherence of Theism, Oxford: Clar- 
endon, 1977, 149-61). 

(B) Does ‘perfect goodness’ belong to 
God? Bradley (1846-1924) regarded 
God as the ABSOLUTE, in the tradition of 
HEGEL. If God is identified with Reality- 
as-a-Whole and with ‘the Wholeness of 
the True’, Bradley rejects the possibility of 
ascribing moral character to God. Divine 
will operates from the inner necessity of its 
nature, not from moral criteria, especially 
as human persons perceive these. 

Most mainline theists will readily 
acknowledge the need for caution in 
judging how divine goodness relates to 
human kindness. Hick urges that God 
wants humans to be holy, not simply 
happy (Evil and the God of Love, 2nd 
edn, London: Macmillan, 1977). BarTH 
insists that love on the part of God is not 
mere benevolence, but embodies election 
and covenant, and therefore also ‘jealousy, 
wrath and judgement, God is also holy’ 
(Church Dogmatics, I: 3, 351). 

(C) Is evil real or illusory? What role does 
it play? If it can be argued that evil is 
mere appearance or illusion rather than 
reality, the problem becomes dissolved. 
Hinayana Buddhism tends to view evil, in 
the sense of suffering, as a necessary part 
of life. To come to terms with it is to 
experience liberation, which leads to 

In the quasi-PANTHEISM of SPINOZA 
(1632-77) neither God nor the world 
could have been other than they are. 
Among ‘practical’ religious approaches to 
the problem Wert (1909-43) in her last 
years affirmed a mystical acceptance of 
God’s world in which the beauty of the 
storm at sea cannot but risk shipwreck by 
its very nature. God wants creation ‘to 
find itself good’ (Gateway to God [1939], 



Hick approaches the problem of evil in 
the world by seeing it as providing an 
arena for the growth of human maturity 
or ‘soul-making’ (the phrase is borrowed 
from Keats). He urges that we look not to 
the past, blaming the Fall for the origin of 
evil, but to the future. God seeks the 
maturity and holiness of humankind, but 
this presupposes the need for struggle, or 
at least awareness or encounter with evil. 

Yet this still might be said to suggest an 
unacceptably ‘utilitarian’ role for evil (see 
the criticism from David Griffin in the Hick 
entry). Is it acceptable that such extremes 
of human suffering have to provide the 
price for this goal that God, not human- 
kind, has freely chosen as the goal? 

The tradition of Augustine and Aqui- 
nas, from which Hick often distances 
himself, insists that evil is not an existent 
‘thing’ in its own right, and certainly not a 
‘thing’ created by God. God created only 
the possibility of evil, which human beings 
make actual by their choice and fallenness. 

‘Evil is the absence of a good’ (Aqui- 
nas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 49, art. 
1). ‘Evil has no positive nature, but is loss 
of a good’ (Augustine, City of God, XI; 
9). ‘Evil denotes the absence of good ... 
Thus privation of sight is called blindness’ 
(Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 5, 
art. 48). This ‘privative’ (negative) view of 
evil forms a major strand in the traditional 
Augustinian-Thomist approach to the 
problem of evil. 


(A) Origins of evil in creaturely will and 
choice, not in God. Evil, Augustine 
insists, was not created by God, but arises 
from ‘a wilful turning of the self in desire 
from the highest good’. ‘The defection 
(defectio) of the will is evil’ (City of God, 
XII: 7). God therefore created only the 
possibility of evil by permitting created 
beings to make choices and to direct their 
wills for better or for worse. 

Ought God to have granted this free 
choice? This allows creatures freely to 
choose God, but if their character becomes 
evil, their choices cannot but become evil 
(On Free Will, Il: 1). In his Confessions 
Augustine traces in terms of autobiogra- 
phical narrative that ‘self-will’ generates 
evil; evil is ‘borne of self-interest which 
generates conflict and competitiveness’. 
Even a child has ‘a wish to be obeyed’ 
(Confessions, I: 6: 8). Augustine has 
embarked on an argument which has come 
to be known as the FREE-WILL DEFENCE. 

Aquinas argues that God bestowed 
freedom to angels and to human beings 
as a gift, ‘for free choice expresses human 
dignity? (Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 59, 
art. 3). Freedom from sin is ‘true’ freedom. 
If ‘freedom’ were merely an illusion, 
exhortations, commands and prohibitions 
would be ‘in vain’ (ibid., Qu. 83, art. 1). 
Only by Grace can their freedom become 

(B) The ‘privative’ view of evil. This 
subject was introduced above. Evil is a 
falling from the best. ‘Each single created 
thing is good ... as a whole they are very 
good ... What, after all, is anything we 
call evil except the privation of good?’ 
(Augustine, Enchiridion. ch. 3). The Latin 
deprivatio is paralleled elsewhere by nega- 
tio, corruptio and defectus (negation, 
degeneration, defect). Evil is not ‘a thing’ 
that God has created. 

Evil is a parasitic upon the good. For 
example, telling a lie achieves its end only if 
truth is normally presupposed. ‘Evil is not a 
positive substance’ (City of God, XI: 11). 

Aquinas also argues that ‘If all evil 
were prevented, much good would be 
absent ... A lion would cease to live if 
there were no slaying of animals’ (Summa 
Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 49, art. 2). Creation 
would be reduced to dull uniformity if 
there were no ‘grades of goodness’ (ibid, 
Qu. 48, art. 2). 

(C) The principle of plenitude. The 
principle of creation was ‘difference’: 



‘God divided day from night, light from 
darkness, earth from water’ (Gen. 1: 4, 7; 
cited by Aquinas, ibid. Qu. 47, art. 1). 
‘The Divine Artist produces complexity, 
diversity, hierarchy, inequality’ (ibid. art. 
2) ‘Difference’ transforms formless chaos 
into order. Strictly in formal terms the 
‘principle of PLENITUDE’ suggests that 
every genuine possibility is actualized. 

In everyday life we use analogies 
about the ‘tapestry’ of life and history 
to account for unexplained darkness or 
sorrow as part of a wider many-coloured 
whole. Augustine writes: ‘What is more 
beautiful than a fire? What is more useful 
with its heat and comfort ...? Yet 
nothing can cause more distress than 
the burns inflicted by fire’ (City of God, 
XII: 4). 

Hick, however, attacks this view as an 
‘aesthetic’ response to the problem of evil, 
which places the ordered differentiation of 
the universe above the well-being of 
human persons. ‘The traditional analogy 
was based upon the visual arts 
contrasts arising from ... the dark ... the 
beauty of the whole’ (Evil and the God of 
Love, 192; see 170-98). 

Hick attributes this approach to an 
over-concern about ‘orderedness’ in NEO- 
PLATONISM and ARISTOTLE, but it is also a 
biblical theme in Genesis, Leviticus, 1 
Corinthians and elsewhere. (For further 
details, see the entries on Hick, LEIBNIZ 

(D) Criticisms and developments of the 
Augustinian—-Thomist view. To trace even 
the outlines of the debate would over- 
extend this single entry. Hence some of the 
major criticisms are discussed in other 

The most fundamental and far-ranging 
of these is the criticism of A. Flew and J. L. 
Mackie that ‘God’ could in principle have 
created free beings who always choose to 
do what is right. We might be able to 
predict with CERTAINTY, for example, that 
Mary would marry Tom, yet they could at 
the same time do this freely. 

Many, including PLANTINGA and Swin- 
burne, provide counter-replies to this 
claim. Would such a prediction be neces- 
sary and certain? If we are speaking of 
God and the possibility of evil, certainty 
and necessity would have to be of this 
kind. However, if such could be imagined, 
would FREEDOM still be ‘freedom’, and 
would human persons still be ‘humans’? 
Swinburne places several issues in the 
context of omniscience and its logic. 

Hick’s alternative account is drawn in 
part, he argues, from Irenaeus and from 
SCHLEIERMACHER on the image of God 
and the Fall. Schleiermacher comes close 
to viewing the ‘Fal? as a loss of naïve 
innocence that signals an acquisition of 
positive maturity. Hick suggests that this 
anticipates his own view that to focus on 
the future goal of divine providence rather 
on a ‘mythological Fall in the past 
provides a more satisfactory way forward. 

We have not distinguished here 
between moral evil and natural disasters 
that cause suffering. Traditionally there 
have been many diverse responses to such 
phenomena as animal pain or destructive 
floods. That pain forms part of a learning 
process for avoiding destructive situations 
and forces may advance the argument. Yet 
we still face the problem of seemingly 
disproportionate pain. Some theologians 
allude to cosmic dimensions of the Fall, 
while others dismiss this as a SYMBOL for 
structural evil. 

A more theoretical criticism concerns 
the alleged extent to which Augustine 
draws on Neoplatonism, and Aquinas 
draws on Aristotle. However, origins of 
ideas are less relevant than their validity, 
and these claims, at least for Augustine, 
are often exaggerated. 


Vincent Briimmer points out that to 
present to someone the Augustinian—Tho- 
mist approach in a time of affliction would 
be to exhibit ‘moral insensitivity’ 



(Speaking of a Personal God, Cambridge: 
CUP, 1992, 128-51). He concedes that 
this approach remains fundamental to 
retain as a background of understanding 
in more normal times. However, in 
moments of crisis, as well as in mature 
thought, practical and existential 
approaches may offer more to those who 
are in the process of experiencing evil. 

(A) Mystical resonances: Meister 
Eckhart (1260-1327) and Simone Weil 
(1909-43). ECKHART emphasizes the full- 
ness of God’s being. The human self is to 
empty itself like a desert, to become ‘full’ 
of God. Protest on behalf of the self is 
therefore excluded. Although God is 
‘good’, because God is beyond speech 
God is also ‘beyond’ goodness. ‘If my life 
is God’s being, God’s existence must be my 
existence ... my “is-ness”’. 

Eckhart is content to let ‘what-is’ 
disclose itself. The heart of his concern is 
for ‘letting-go’ and ‘letting-be’; a letting-go 
of the interests of the self and a letting-be 
of things as they are. 

Although she was well equipped to 
lecture in philosophy in Paris, Weil chose 
to experience ‘affliction’ that ‘crushed the 
spirit by factory work and in wartime 
sacrifice and self-deprivation. In her last 
years she wrote of the need to ‘consent’ to 
the world as it is. The sea is ‘no less 
beautiful’ because ships are sometimes 
wrecked because it is what it is. Weil 
suggests that ‘God is not satisfied with 
finding his creation good, but rather wants 
it to find itself good’. Evil is not illusory, 
however (see ‘The Love of God and 
Affliction’, in S. Weil, Waiting on God 
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951), 
63-78; also ‘Love of the Order of the 
World’, ibid., 97-116). Simone Weil died 
in wartime London of malnutrition and 
tuberculosis in 1943 at the age of thirty- 

(B) Suffering God? Wiesel, Camus and 
Moltmann. The Jewish novelist Elie 
Wiesel survived the Holocaust and 

narrated his experiences in his autobio- 
graphical work Night. A central episode is 
that of a young Jewish boy who was 
hanged at Auschwitz in front of thousands 
who were compelled to file past the bodies 
of the child and two adults hanged with 
him. The child’s torment lasted longer 
than that of the adults, prompting a 
spectator to exclaim: ‘Where is God 
now?’ Wiesel felt a voice within him reply, 
‘He is hanging here on this gallows.’ 

Wiesel’s narrative may be understood 
as a reply of protest, implying (with 
NIETZSCHE) the death of God: God does 
not exist in such a world. If this is its 
meaning, it is akin to the ‘protest’ response 
of the Algerian existentialist atheist Albert 
Camus (1913-60). Camus also interprets 
Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov 
as a protest against theism. Humankind 
devises its values from human solidarity, 
not from such external values as ‘God’ 
(but see Dostoevsky). 

The Christian theologian MOLTMANN 
(b. 1926) expounds a theology of God 
who co-suffers with the prisoner, the 
oppressed, the tortured. His answer ‘God 
is hanging on the gallows’ offers a 
profoundly Christian post-Auschwitz 
theodicy. On the cross God co-suffers 
with Christ as Trinity, in solidarity with 
all that is ugly or shameful. Thereby it 
becomes possible to enter a new world of 
promise and new creation, inaugurated by 


In The Evils of Theodicy (Washington, 
DC: Georgetown University Press, 1991) 
Terrence W. Tilley substitutes an approach 
based on SPEECH ACTS of confession, 
narrative, prayer, lament, commitment, 
or declaration for the abstract third- 
person propositional discourses usually 
called ‘theodicy’. 

Tilley argues that ‘theodicy’ is a modern 
notion ‘initiated in the seventeenth century 
(coined by Leibniz in 1710). This ‘dry, 
measured, cool, calm, abstract’ discourse 



threatens to marginalize all other more 
constructive approaches (ibid., 2). 

Tilley easily shows that the Hebrew- 
Christian classic source, the book of Job, 
does not belong to this theoretical genre. It 
embodies accusation, lament, reproach, 
confession, declaration and so on. These 
are speech acts that transcend mere 
propositional content. More distinctively 
Tilley contextualizes Augustine’s varied 
writings. The Confessions, for example, 
are acts of confession. Perhaps only the 
Enchiridion is instruction through propo- 
sitions; but it remains an exposition, not a 
‘defence’ of belief in God. ‘It is not an 
argument but an instruction’ (ibid., 121). 

Boethius, Tilley continues, offers a 
therapeutic medicine against the poisons 
of falsehood. He redirects the mind-set of 
his reader, but this is not a ‘theodicy’. He 
helps the reader to overcome a self- 
dramatizing grief and despair, to be freed 
to contemplate the Good (ibid., 152). 
Again, this is a speech act, not an 


It is agreed for the most part that while 
traditional logical theodicies and more 
recent ‘practical’ responses may soften 
aspects of the problem of evil, no single 
approach can solve it. In the end, as 
Plantinga asserts, it does not follow logi- 
cally that if God has reasons for permitting 
evil, humankind should assume that we 
therefore know what the reasons are. 

At the same time, we may be open to 
hints and clues. These may require pro- 
cesses of exploration and listening, and the 
preferred mode of genre for sustained to- 
and-fro questioning is a dialogue between 
‘voices’. To explore possible scenarios 
these voices may belong to fictional 

Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov 
may be understood in this way. There is no 
indication that Dostoevsky himself wished 
to use Ivan Karamazov as his mouthpiece, 
or indeed that Ivan expresses a merely 

negative response of protest. He does, 
however, underline that a single, simple 
appeal to ‘the higher harmony’ is not good 

The dialogues of Alyosha, the priory 
monk, Dimitri, the debauchee, Ivan, the 
supposed rebel, and Father Zozima, the 
priest, move through paradox and com- 
plexity, dark and light, evil and compas- 
sion. ‘We are each responsible to all for 
all? Dostoevsky commends neither athe- 
ism nor passive assent to Russian Ortho- 
doxy. It is through the dynamic wrestling 
that a form of theistic belief and value may 
perhaps emerge. 


A popular but well-argued version of the 
traditional approach has been the small 
but influential non-technical book by C.S. 
Lewis, The Problem of Pain (1940). Lewis 
discusses the extent to which God’s self- 
consistency brings logical constraints to 
God’s freedom. What kind of world would 
it be if God repeatedly intervened to make 
a wooden beam become soft every time we 
chose to hit someone with it, but let it 
maintain its hardness as long as it was used 
for buildings and furniture? What would it 
be if God made air refuse to vibrate 
whenever we speak a lie? (ibid., 21). 

God is good, Lewis affirms, but that 
does not mean that God is content with 
humanity as humans are. God’s ‘goodness’ 
is not simply human goodness. However, 
if ‘goodness’ bore no relation whatever to 
what we conceive of as ‘goodness’, we 
might as well worship the devil. 

Evil is real, Lewis adds, but we should 
not assume that every individual, as an 
individual, experiences all the combined 
corporate weight of every evil in every 
time and place. Lewis thus addresses in 
popular modern form the traditional three 
foci of divine sovereignty, divine goodness 
and the nature of evil, as expounded more 
philosophically in the Augustinian—Tho- 
mist tradition. 

evolution, theory of 


In more technical philosophical terms 
the free-will defence has been attacked by 
A. Flew and J.L. Mackie, and defended by 
Plantinga and Swinburne. Swinburne pro- 
vides sophisticated discussions of God’s 
omniscience as well as God’s omnipotence 

God is entirely free to act in sover- 
eignty, Swinburne argues, provided that 
we recall that ‘a perfectly free person can 
only perform an action if he believes that 
there is no overriding reason for refraining 
from doing it’ (The Coherence of Theism, 
158-59). To apply Plantinga’s caveat to 
Swinburne’s arguments, there may be rea- 
sons why God refrains from certain actions, 
but there are no grounds for assuming that 
if we do not know them they do not exist. 

evolution, theory of 

‘Evolution’ may be used in a number of 
distinct senses. It does not necessarily 
denote the particular version of evolu- 
tionary theory formulated by DARWIN 
(1809-82). However, in widespread 
usage the term most often denotes the 
theory that he expounds in The Origin of 
Species (1859), although greater tensions 
with theistic BELIEF probably emerge 
from his later work The Descent of Man 


Darwin claimed that his theory depended 
on inferences from empirical observations 
of data concerning different life-forms at 
different stages of development in differ- 
ent environments. A large amount of 
empirical data was collected during the 
five-year voyage of ‘The Beagle’. 

It is difficult to assess whether the key 
point of the theory, namely that these 
changes were purely random variables is 
genuinely demanded by nothing other 
than empirical observation and deduction: 
at very least a measure of inductive 
reasoning and degree of probability is 

entailed. Darwin argued that these ran- 
dom variables lead either to degeneration 
and extinction or to survival and enhance- 

In place of ‘design’ or ‘purpose’ the 
criterion of usefulness for survival and 
flourishing moved a species forward in 
securing the best provision for its future. 

Historically controversy became heated 
because on one side sacred texts were 
interpreted as if they offered competing 
theories of ‘how’ creation emerged, while 
on the Darwinian side empirical method 
became transposed into a world-view 
offering competing answers to the ques- 
tion ‘Why?’ (The distinction between these 
two agendas is identified under SCIENCE 

Yet the most significant protest against 
Darwin arose from his later work The 
Descent of Man, in which Darwin expli- 
citly stated that humankind had evolved 
through the same naturalistic random 
processes as those of more primitive 
biological life-forms, and was descended 
from them. It is arguable that a certain 
narrowness and brittleness on both sides 
about the incapacity of empirical data to 
arbitrate on the uniqueness of human 
personhood as bearing the divine image 
added confusion rather than light. 


Darwin’s publications appeared to many 
to explode the ‘Why?’ explanation of 
purpose behind the empirical data of the 
world. The Psalmist could say that God 
‘filled every living thing with plenteous- 
ness’ only because starving creatures died 
or became extinct. PALEY could say that 
the eye was designed (like a watch) as a 
mechanism for sight only because he was 
unaware that creatures who could not see 
had once lived and perished. 

Yet this is too hasty. TENNANT in his 
Philosophical Theology (2 vols., Cam- 
bridge: CUP, 1930) and W.R. Matthews 
in The Purpose of God argued that 
‘gradualness of construction is in itself 


evolution, theory of 

no proof of the absence of ... design’ 
(Tennant, Philosophical Theology, vol. 2, 
84). Design may be seen in the provision 
of necessary conditions for the emergence 
of designed effects by whatever route. 

Today philosophers and physicists con- 
firm the issue of how many ‘lucky 
accidents’ have to occur for the hypothesis 
of sheer randomness to seem to verge on 
the unreasonable. Tennant anticipated 
these kinds of phrases in 1930: ‘Lucky 
accidents and co-incidences bewilderingly 
accumulate’ until the idea of purpose may 
seem no more unreasonable than a 
‘groundless contingency’ (ibid., 79, 92, 

John Polkinghorne and SWINBURNE 
review this kind of argument in the light 
of more recent knowledge. ‘Lucky acci- 
dents’ mount up. If the force of gravity 
were slightly stronger, all stars would be 
blue giants; if a little weaker, red dwarfs. 
There is an infinitesimal, small balance 
between ‘the competing effect of explosive 
expansion and gravitational contraction 
... at the very earliest epoch ... (...10\-43 
sec. after the big bang) ... a deviation of 
one part in 10 to the sixtieth’ (Polkin- 
ghorne, Science and Creation, Boston: 
New Science Library, 1989, 22). 

Swinburne compares the potential for 
‘temporal order’ (regularities of succes- 
sion) and ‘spatial order’ (regularities of co- 
presence) with the more mechanistic 
understandings of ‘order’ or ‘design’ that 
shaped the thought of Paley and his 
generation (The Existence of God, 
Oxford: OUP, 1979, 36). Even if Darwin’s 
theories seem to explode ‘design’ as Paley 
conceived of it, ‘evolution’ as empirical 
observation and hypothesis does not 
exclude design as an ultimate principle in 
response to the question ‘Why?’ 


Yet after Darwin many empiricist ‘scien- 
tific’ thinkers attempted to promote a 
world-view based on Darwinian theory. 
T.H. Huxley (1825-95) argued for an 
entirely mechanistic view of humankind. 

‘Consciousness’ is merely a derivation 
‘epiphenomenon’ or by-product thrown 
up by increasing ‘complexity’ in the 
evolutionary process. It is a short step 
to the BEHAVIOURISM of Watson and 

SPENCER (1820-1903) applied the 
notion of optimum adaptation to environ- 
ment to an ethical goal of pleasure. 
Pleasure is a sign of effective adaptation; 
pain is a symptom of maladjustment. Co- 
operation may be necessary because of 
evolutionary complexity. 

Richard Dawkins represents this nat- 
uralistic perspective today. ‘The only 
watchmaker in nature is the blind forces 
of physics, albeit deployed in a very 
special way ... It does not plan for the 
future ... It is a blind watchmaker’ (The 
Blind Watchmaker, New York: Norton, 
1986, 5). 

All the same, have Huxley, Spencer and 
Dawkins taken full account of what may 
be inferred from empirical data, or from 
scientific method, alone? There is a meta- 
physical ‘add-on’, namely that we can 
slide into assuming that the data of 
biology or physics provide a comprehen- 
sive explanation of the whole of reality, of 
all that is, and that the ‘level’ of explana- 
tion in question includes ‘why’ as well as 

It is as if a physicist explained to a 
musical audience that the sound-waves 
presented on an oscilloscope exhaustively 
explained ‘the whole of reality’ in a 
symphony performance. The musical 
forms, the will and mood of the composer, 
the joy or tragedy of the changing 
harmonies in major or minor key, are not 
‘there’, so they cannot be ‘real’. A musical 
audience would be inclined to think that 
such an explanation ‘misses the point’ of 
the concert, however accurate it may be at 
its own level of explanation (On ‘levels’ 
see J. Polkinghorne, The Way the World is, 
London: Triangle, 1987, 17). (See also 




Complex problems are raised by the 
seemingly common-sense notion of ‘exis- 
tence’. Much depends on the context of 

Traditional arguments for the existence 
of Gop serve to defend the validity of the 
BELIEF that God is ontologically real 
rather than a fictitious or functional 
projection or cipher of the human mind. 
However, TILLIcH (1886-1965) vigor- 
ously insists that ‘to argue that God exists 
is to deny him’ (Systematic Theology, 3 
vols. London: Nisbet, 1953, vol. 1, 227). 
God is, rather, ‘the creative ground of 
essence and existence. The ground of 
being cannot be found within the totality 
of beings’ (ibid.). 

The contrast between essence and 
existence reveals another problematic 
facet of ‘existence’. Those who follow 
PLATO in elevating a sphere of Forms, 
Ideas or Essences ‘above’ everyday exis- 
tence associate existence with mere CON- 
TINGENCY and transitions. On the other 
hand, existentialist writers from KIERKE- 
GAARD (1813-55) to SARTRE (1905-80) 
perceive ‘existence’ as the concrete stuff of 
practical life, while ‘essence’ remains a 
theoretical, remote, hypothesis, or at best 
a merely logical entity. 

Logical questions about whether math- 
ematical numbers or UNIVERSALS ‘exist’ 
raise issues in the debate between realists 
and nominalists. Further, in the ONTOLO- 
GICAL ARGUMENT for the existence of God, 
both sides of the debate address the issue 
of whether ‘existence’ constitutes a pre- 
dicate or attribute, or adds nothing to a 
proposition about the entity that is said to 
‘exist’. This set in train a complex logical 
discussion from Descartes (1596-1650) 
to RussELtt (1872-1970) and beyond. 
Russell’s theory of descriptions ‘brackets’ 
the phrase ‘and it exists’ into a QUANTI- 
FIER or prefix which removes it from the 
normal force of the proposition, and 
assigns a non-referential or non-predicat- 
ing role to it. 

Hicx constructively suggests that part 
of the functional currency of ‘exist’ is that 
the attribution of existence ‘makes a 
difference’. Yet even HEIDEGGER (1889- 
1976), who speaks of ‘existentialia’, pre- 
fers to speak of an ‘existent’ human being 
as Dasein (being-there), in contrast to the 
bare existence of objects in the world. (See 


The basic themes that characterize exis- 
tentialist writings include an emphasis 
upon the individual rather than the crowd 
(or tradition or community); and the role 
of active personal engagement and deci- 
sion for life and for TRUTH, as against 
passive assent to systems or doctrines. 
They include most especially an insistence 
upon starting from concrete human situa- 
tions (‘existence’) as against pretentious 
speculations about truth as universal or 
abstract (‘essence’). 

These themes can be found in Kierke- 
gaard (1815-55), who is often regarded as 
the first ‘existentialist’ thinker. However, 
Kierkegaard chose as his epitaph ‘That 
Individual’, and viewed with distaste any 
notion of founding a ‘school of thought’. 

Truth, Kierkegaard stressed, is not 
handed down at second hand. Authentic 
truth is that which the individual encoun- 
ters through wrestling, exploration, strug- 
gle, decision and venture at first hand. We 
encounter truth not by observing or 
speculating about what is abstract as 
passive spectators, but through first-hand 
engagement and participation as active 
human subjects or agents. In this sense 
‘SUBJECTIVITY’ becomes the ‘truth’ (Con- 
cluding Unscientific Postscript [1846] 
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 
1941, 306). 

Just as Kierkegaard wrote as an indivi- 
dualistic Christian Protestant with no love 
for the Church, so NiETZSCcHE (1844- 
1900) represents the atheistic and 



antitheistic side of existentialist writings. 
He claimed that ‘will to power’ is the most 
fundamental drive in human persons. 
‘God’ and ‘RELIGION’ are to be unmasked 
as manipulative devices which emerged 
only to serve the power-interests of priests 
or those who could work the system. His 
work was to ‘philosophize with a ham- 

Nietzsche’s suspicion of REASON and of 
METAPHYSICS as merely instrumental 
devices to serve the power-interests of the 
individual brings him close to the themes 
of other existentialist writers. All claims to 
arrive at a rational understanding of 
essences, or of reality-as-a-whole, are 
illusory, and produced by more basic pre- 
rational drivers. Since ‘God is dead’, there 
is no universal value or ethics. Each person 
must seek his or her own interests and the 
‘values’ that serve these. 


Kierkegaard’s journey of independent 
decisions against convention and against 
expected ‘ETHICS’ is traced as a vehicle of 
faith and obedience in his Fear and 
Trembling (1843). His analogy between 
the story of Adam’s ‘hiding’? from God 
among the trees of the garden and the 
‘evasion’ of ‘being hidden in the crowd’ to 
avoid an address from God (Purity of 
Heart is to Will One Thing, London: 
Collins, 1961, 163) explicitly finds a place 
in the existentialist theology of BULTMANN 

The very notion of ‘Christendom’ as 
the multitude of those who have given 
notional assent to an abstract system of 
doctrine in which they have no active 
stake is an illusion that verges on blas- 
phemy. Kierkegaard places the blame for 
such a misapprehension initially upon 
AUGUSTINE (354-430), for allegedly trans- 
posing personal ‘faith’ into intellectual 
‘belief’. He also blames HEGEL (1770- 
1831) for equating Christian faith with an 
abstract, universal ‘system’. 

Against Hegel, Kierkegaard reminds us 
of the sheer finitude of human ‘existence’. 
If truth could be viewed ‘theocentrically’, 
Hegel might have a point; but ‘I am only a 
poor, existing, human being’ (Concluding 
Unscientific Postscript, 190). He would 
follow the fashion of admiring the System 
‘if only I could set eyes on it’ (ibid., 97). As 
it is, humans in this finite situatedness as 
‘mere’ individuals can only venture, 
choose and obey. 

Nietzsche turns these themes upside 
down. There is no universal or ‘theo- 
centric’ system or word-view. However, in 
Nietzsche this does not imply a call for 
faith. It merely unmasks the illusory basis 
of THEISM, God and Christianity. God 
is ‘dead’; therefore humankind is free to 
choose its own destiny and identity. ‘The 
death of God’ reflects the unmasking of 
the cultural crisis at the end of the 
nineteenth century, which gives way to 
‘nihilism’ (Thus Spake Zarathustra, 

While such relativism and nihilism 
feature in The Gay Science (1882) and 
other works, Nietzsche’s most violent anti- 
theist attacks emerge in Twilight of the 
Idols (1889) and especially in The Anti- 
christ (1895). If rational philosophy and 
religion are ‘fictions’ and ‘lies’, what 
starting-point (or end) can there be except 
human situatedness and human will? This 
leads to a ‘re-valuation of all values’. 
Inherited value-systems are deconstructed 
under ‘the hammer’. 

Dostoevsky (1821-81) retained his 
Christian faith, nurtured in Russian 
Orthodox traditions, but sorely tried and 
tested in a series of personal tragedies not 
of his own making. He begins the great 
tradition of the existentialist literary phi- 
losophical novel. 

Dostoevsky’s experiences of life were 
too brutal and too contradictory to permit 
either a bland second-hand theism or 
merely an ATHEISM of protest, even if his 
The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80) has 
sometimes been interpreted as atheistic 
protest (with Albert Camus, 1913-60). 



By using at least three or more ‘voices’ 
in this profound novel, Dostoevsky shows 
that ‘solutions’ to the problem of evil 
cannot take the form of a single, neatly 
packaged system, but require address from 
various angles of finite human life. Among 
those often called ‘existentialists’, his 
work stands as more subtle and sophisti- 
cated than is usually allowed for. 


Although he rejected the designation 
‘existentialist’, HEIDEGGER (1889-1976) 
began from the human situation of ‘being- 
there’ (Dasein) in his earlier period of 
Being and Time (1927) which he char- 
acterized as Existenz, and to which he 
applied the German adjective existentiell 
and the noun ‘existentiality’ (ibid., Intro- 
duction, I, sect. 4). 

Ontological enquiry concerns Being 
(Sein) but this can be approached only 
by ‘oONTIC’ questions, i.e. questions about 
concrete, human, existent beings in their 
finite ‘thrown-ness’ (German, geworfen) 
into the world, their ‘facticity’ (German, 
Faktizitat) (ibid., pt I, ch. 5: Eng. Oxford: 
Blackwell, 1973, 174 (also Albany, NY: 
SUNY, 1996)). ‘Facticity’ is more than 
‘factuality’: it denotes historically finite 
‘situatedness’ in time, place and ‘world’. 
Heidegger entitles this section ‘The Exis- 
tential Constitution of the “There”’ 

In relation to religious thought Heideg- 
ger’s work underlines at least two key 
points. First, we cannot adequately philo- 
sophize about humankind, sELFHOOD or 
personal agency by drawing only on 
categories of substance observation as if 
we were concerned only with objects of 
description. The substantival categories of 
ARISTOTLE and LOCKE are more appro- 
priate to objects. Participatory language 
that begins from an EXISTENTIAL ‘there’ or 
‘here’ of the human situation takes us 

Second, all human interpretation of life 
and phenomena rests upon a HERMENEUTIC 

of understanding. This takes place within 
the horizon of TIME and operates through 
the principle of the hermeneutical circle. 
We begin with finite, corrigible, provi- 
sional working assumptions, but these 
become steadily corrected and filled out 
(even if they remain provisional) by 
further dialogue with that which we seek 
to understand. This circle is thus not ‘a 
vicious one’ that is to be avoided: ‘The 
“circle” in understanding belongs to the 
structure of meaning’ (ibid., I: 5, sect. 32, 

Against PLATO, Heidegger insists, “The 
“essence” of Dasein (being-there) lies in its 
existence’ (ibid., 42). There is no ideal 
realm of universal essences. We explore 
‘existentialia’. Human anxiety, care, fall- 
enness, guilt and the anticipation of death 
tell us more than substantival ‘categories’ 
that are more appropriate for the descrip- 
tion of value-neutral ‘objects’ of the 
natural sciences. 

Yet Heidegger cannot move beyond 
‘the human’ to ‘God’. Indeed, in spite of 
his aim eventually to produce a philoso- 
phy of Being, or ONTOLOGY, in his later 
work on ‘Being’, philosophy tends to 
merge into the more visionary, pre-con- 
ceptual disclosures of art and poetry. Here 
he moves beyond existentialism, but 
explicitly gives up the project of ontology. 

Jaspers (1883-1969) wrote not only as 
one well-versed in the history of philoso- 
phy, but also as one qualified profession- 
ally in medicine and in psychiatry. He 
wrote on selfhood, historicality (human 
situatedness within a historical time and 
place), identity and self-transcendence, i.e. 
the TRANSCENDENCE of the everyday self in 
particular revelatory experiences. 

Like Heidegger, Jaspers explores what 
it is for the individual, as an individual, to 
face suffering, loss, guilt, isolation or 
imminent death. The most extreme of 
these experiences he calls ‘limit-situa- 
tions’, or boundary-situations. When a 
human person is ‘on the edge’, second- 
hand, conventional assumptions often 
become stripped away as illusions. The 



individual finds what is authentic truth for 
him or for her. 

Although for Jaspers ontology began as 
‘the fusion of all modes of thought aglow 
with being’, such ontology ‘is rent’ (Phi- 
losophy [1931], Eng. 3 vols., Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1969-71, vol. 
3, 143). In existential terms, the ‘encom- 
passing’ reality of the world can be 
reached only indirectly through ‘polyva- 
lent’? or multi-functional, multi-layered 
language, which expresses the individual 
disclosures experienced by individuals. 

This pluriformity of language, mean- 
ing and truth prevents Jaspers from 
identifying too closely with any specific 
religious tradition, whether Catholic or 
Protestant. However, he values ‘religion’ 
as a liberating and often authentic truth. 
‘Freedom and God are inseparable’, even 
if the term ‘freedom’ is often abused and 
widely misunderstood. In the light of 
both, I can ‘be myself? (The Way of 
Wisdom, 1950). 


To include both MarceL (1889-1973) and 
SARTRE (1905-1980) is to see at once that 
‘existentialism’ is represented at every 
point on the Christian-theist—agnostic— 
atheist spectrum. Kierkegaard was a Pro- 
testant pietist; Nietzsche, an aggressive 
anti-theist; Dostoevsky, an independent- 
minded Russian Orthodox Christian; Hei- 
degger thought that the question of God 
could not be convincingly addressed; 
Jaspers valued ‘religion’, but not claims 
for any one tradition against another; 
Marcel was a convert to Roman Catholic 
faith (in 1929); and Sartre remained an 
atheist existentialist, although from 
around 1958 he turned increasingly to 
Marxist political thought. His existential- 
ist axiom ‘Man makes himself’ recalls a 
Nietzschean emphasis on individual will 
to power without reference or recourse to 


Like Jaspers and Heidegger, Marcel 
rejected the term ‘existentialist’, although 
he is also credited with coining the word. 
The reason why he is widely regarded as 
an existentialist thinker, however, lies in 
his emphatic and powerful emphasis on 
personhood. Persons are not things. They 
are not ‘statistics’ for the sociologist; they 
are not mere ‘cases’ for doctors, for 
psychiatrists or for pastoral care; they 
are not ‘numbers’ in a register or on a rota. 

Marcel calls attention to the dignity 
and sacredness of persons-in-relation-to- 
Being, and in relation to one another. Here 
he differs from Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, 
Heidegger and Sartre: persons are truly 
persons in relation to other persons. In the 
language of BuBER, a person becomes a 
person when he or she addresses another 
as ‘Thou’. 

In an incisive analysis of twentieth- 
century society in the West, Marcel sees 
the reduction of ‘persons’ to instrumental 
roles as de-personalizing them by eroding 
away their capacities, as active agents, to 
love, to hope and to wonder. Life 
becomes a journey without a goal. ‘Tech- 
nomania’ leads to ‘technolatry’, as if 
natural science offers the only way of 
knowing; the only path to reality. Tech- 
nology has its value for humanity, but 
only in its proper place. 

These themes are summed up in the 
titles of several of Marcel’s books: Being 
and Having (1935); The Philosophy of 
Existence (1949); The Mystery of Being 
(1950); Men Against Humanity (1951); 
and The Existential Background of 
Human Dignity (1963). 

SARTRE is widely regarded as the most 
prominent of the French existentialists. He 
became a member of the Underground 
during the Nazi occupation, and some of 
his philosophical themes through novels 
and literature reflect fear, suffering and 
dread. This aspect reveals the influence of 
Heidegger, as well as personal experience 
in war. 

Sartre’s emphasis upon the existential 
in contrast to the universal and abstract 



finds expression in his aphorism ‘Existence 
precedes essence’. He expounds this as 
meaning: ‘that man first of all exists, 
encounters himself, surges up in the world 
— and defines himself afterwards ... There 
is no human nature, because there is no 
God to have a conception of it ... Man is 
nothing else than what he makes of 
himself’? (Existentialism and Humanism 
[1946]; Eng., London and New York: 
Philosophical Library, 1948, 28). 

No value-system or ‘essence’ can be 
derived from God. For Sartre endorses 
Nietzsche’s declaration in Thus Spake 
Zarathustra that ‘God is dead’. Hence 
the individual creates the rules that shape 
his or her own decisions and identity. With 
Kierkegaard and with Nietzsche, Sartre 
stresses the role of active decision as 
against passive assent. Convention leads 
away from authenticity. 

Like Heidegger, Buber and Marcel, 
Sartre distinguishes sharply between the 
modes of being of persons and of things. 
An ‘object’ is complete, finished, and self- 
contained; it is ‘being-in-itself’ (étre-en-soi). 
A person is always in process of making and 
shaping themselves as a self and an identity; 
a person is ‘being-for-itself’ (étre-pour-soi). 

Dread and nausea arise when the 
individual is placed under pressure by 
society or a group by imposing upon that 
individual an already pre-shaped, mapped 
out, ‘closed’ future, which is not of the 
individual’s own making (see the entry on 
Kierkegaard). This submerges that ‘being- 

for-itself? (étre-pour-soi) into a viscous, 
sticky slime that engulfs, drowns and 
destroys it. Conversely, being-for-itself 
(étre-pour-soi) is the negation of being- 
in-itself (Being and Nothingness [1943], 
4th edn, Eng., New York: Citadel, 1966, 
55-81 and 535-46). 


This area is discussed under separate 
entries, especially those on Buber and 
Bultmann. In the case of Buber, it would 
not be accurate simply to call him an 
‘existentialist? thinker. For although he 
shares (e.g. especially with Marcel) a 
strong emphasis on the I-Thou dimension 
of the personal (in contrast to I-it lan- 
guage of ‘objects’), Buber’s thought has 
features that move beyond existentialism. 

BULTMANN is concerned to utilize a 
way of using language that does not 
‘objectify’ either God, humankind or 
divine or human action, but uses existen- 
tial modes of expression. This gives rise to 
his programme of DEMYTHOLOGIZING the 
New Testament. 

TILLICH is often described as an exis- 
tential thinker. However, while he formu- 
lates ‘existential’ questions, Tillich’s 
identification of Gop as ‘Being-itself’ and 
his concern for ontology renders this 
designation questionable as a description 
of his thought as a whole. (See also 


Fallibilism should not be confused with 
CORRIGIBILITY. Fallibilism denotes the view 
that a class or system of BELIEFs is not only 
open to correction and revision, but also 
that virtually any set of beliefs or proposi- 
tions falls short of CERTAINTY. Radical or 
extreme fallibilism attributes uncertainty to 
every belief: modified or relative fallibilism 
exempts such propositions as those of 

Both forms of fallibilism reject a ‘strong’ 
form of FOUNDATIONALISM which regards 
primary or fundamental propositions as 
certain. The enterprise of DESCARTES 
(1596-1650) and his requirement for ‘clear 
and certain knowledge’, in contrast to what 
is ‘obscure and confused’ (in The Medita- 
tions, 1641), would be rejected. 

Fallibilism is often associated especially 
with Charles S. Peirce (1839-1914). Peirce 
combined logical and semiotic theory to 
evolve his own version of PRAGMATISM. 
Part of a pragmatic approach entails the 
view that claims to truth may be justified 
in relation to given stages or situations. 
No system of claims to truth can be 
complete; hence there remains a provi- 
sionality and corrigibility 

Given that self-interest and a sense of 
exploration or journey are never left 
behind, absolute certainty cannot be 

found in the midst of this process. Peirce 
comes close to the more popular notion of 
‘fallibility’ as being unable to guarantee 
lack of error. 

falsification, falsifiability 

This entry presupposes a familiarity with 
the principle of verification, or verifiabil- 
ity, expounded in the entries on AYER and 
(more briefly) LoGicaL positivism. Fal- 
sifiability, likewise, developed in two 
different contexts: that of Vienna, 
although there more in terms of the 
philosophy of scrENcE than the VIENNA 
CIRCLE; and that of English EMPIRICISM, 
led by Ayer, and (on falsifiability) John 
Wisdom and Antony Flew. 

In Vienna, Karl Popper (1902-94) 
argued that in science falsification was a 
more constructive criterion of meaning 
and TRUTH than verification. To be true- 
or-false and meaningful, propositions 
must be capable of disproof by negative 
instances. ‘Confirmation’? merely repli- 
cates, more narrowly, discoveries of the 
past. ‘Falsifiability’ permits a process of 
exploration, conjecture and hypothesis, 
which remains open to rational criticism 
and the elimination of error (Popper, The 
Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934). 

This principle operates in parallel with 
the axiom in SEMANTICS and linguistics 



that meaning often derives its currency 
from what it excludes. It is less closely tied 
to a positivist or strictly empiricist world- 
view to ask of LANGUAGE IN RELIGION, 
‘What does this assertion exclude or 
negate?’ It serves to filter out purely self- 
affirming understandings of such an utter- 
ance as ‘God is on our side’, from a use of 
the statement which would permit coun- 

In the English context John Wisdom 
expounded ‘The Parable of the Invisible 
Gardener’. If two people disagree about 
whether in a jungle a less ‘wild’ area 
suggests the activity of a gardener, one 
strategy would be to want to make 
observations. If such a gardener never 
appears, the ‘believer’ may insist that this 
is because the supposed gardener is 
invisible. A series of tests now takes place, 
which reveal that the gardener is also 
inaudible, intangible and odourless. The 
‘unbeliever’ now responds: ‘So what does 
your assertion that there is a gardener 
amount to, if nothing whatever can count 
against it?’ 

Hicx points out that this constructively 
challenges those who use language in 
religion to identify its cutting edge. If 
God ‘exists’, ‘exists’ must somehow ‘make 
a difference’. If we cannot specify what 
would count against an assertion, what is 
it asserting? (See also POSITIVISM.) 

al-Farabi (Abu Nasr, 875-950) 

Like aL-KinpI, al-Farabi taught in Bagh- 
dad, and wrote at length on ARISTOTLE. 
He produced commentaries on Aristotle’s 
works. In contrast to al-Kindi, however, he 
praised the virtues of philosophy even 
above revelation in the Islamic tradition. 

Religious truth is expressed through 
symbols and images, and these may be 
relative to human situations and societies. 
The higher activity of philosophy brings 
conceptual precision and rigour to the 
mind, and brings an awareness of the 
conditions necessary for strict logical 
demonstration. It is difficult to avoid 

comparing the later Western contrast 
drawn by HEGEL (1770-1831) between 
the use of ‘representations’ (Vorstellungen) 
in religion and critical concepts (Begriff) 
in philosophy. 

Because in Islamic philosophy Aristotle 
was often called ‘the First Teacher’, al- 
Farabi’s close adherence to Aristotle 
invited the widespread designation of 
him as ‘the Second Teacher’. However, 
he also studied and expounded the works 
of PLATO, including the production of 
commentaries on the Republic and the 

His view of the relativity of religious 
expressions has led to the assumption 
that he supported the Shi‘ite sect or 
tradition within Islam; but he avoided 
giving any offence to the more dominant 
Sunnite traditions. He was careful to 
stress the affinity between the core under- 
standings of Allah in the Qur’an as One, 
as the First, as the source from whom all 
creation proceeds; and Aristotelian, Pla- 
tonic and Plotinian notions of a hierarchy 
of Being. 

Nevertheless against al-Kindi, al-Farabi 
believed and taught that the world is 
eternal, without beginning and without 
end. He attempted to hold this together 
with Islamic theology by arguing that 
reality (including the world) flows con- 
tinually from God as Source of all levels of 
Being. Whether this synthesis can be 
genuinely held together is controversial 
and doubtful. Such a synthesis was 
strongly opposed by al-Ghazali. A helpful 
resource is I.R. Netton, Al-Farabi and his 
School (London: Routledge, 1992). (See 

Feuerbach, Ludwig (1804-72) 

Feuerbach is the founding figure of the 
movement that interprets God as a projec- 
tion of the human mind. RELIGION in 
general projects the ‘infinity’ of human 
consciousness and the highest human 
values onto a figure ‘out there’. The 
Christian religion, Feuerbach proposed, 


Feuerbach, Ludwig 

projected a Trinitarian God from the 
‘infinite’ capacity of human reason, 
human will and human love. 

Although Kant (1724-1804) had ear- 
lier utilized the notion of projection, 
Feuerbach first formulated this approach 
as an explicitly anti-theistic, materialist 
(some would say non-realist) system of 
thought, which very heavily influenced the 
anti-theist accounts of the origins of 
religion of both Marx (1818-83) and 
FREUD (1856-1939). Feuerbach studied 
under, and was influenced by, HEGEL 
(1770-1831). His published works 
included Thoughts on Death and Immor- 
tality (1830), The Essence of Christianity 
(1841) and The Essence of Religion 


Feuerbach studied theology in Heidelberg, 
and in Berlin where Hegel taught. How- 
ever, he became disenchanted with Hegel’s 
identification of DIALECTIC and REASON 
with the ABSOLUTE as Absolute Spirit, or 
God. Hegel’s own school of disciples split 
apart into more theological or idealist 
‘right-wing’ Hegelians, and the more 
materialist ‘young left-wing’? Hegelians 
such as D.F. Strauss (1808-74), Bruno 
Bauer (1809-82) and Feuerbach, who 
rejected Hegel’s principle of IDEALISM or 
Absolute Spirit (Geist). 

Hegel had attempted to wrestle with 
the problem of how universal reason, 
mind or spirit was concretized in the 
dialectic of history, and, at another level, 
LOGIC. Feuerbach and Marx attempted to 
‘demystify’ this dialectical process in 
radically more concrete terms, as human 
(Feuerbach) or socio-economic (Marx) 
forces. The aphorism that Feuerbach and 
Marx turned Hegel upside-down is widely 
cited; in their view they put Hegel’s feet on 
the ground. 

Feuerbach began his critique of Ger- 
man (and Western) idealism (the primacy 
of ideas) with Thoughts on Death and 
Immortality, even before Hegel’s death. 
Because, like Marx, he suspected ‘ideas’ 

and rational coherence as such, his works 
often embody ‘aphorisms’ rather than 
elaborate arguments. For the same reason 
NIETZSCHE would follow the same 
method in many works. One such aphor- 
ism is: ‘Humanity is what it eats.’ Feuer- 
bach sums up his journey from theology to 
philosophy; and then from Hegelian ide- 
alism to humanistic MATERIALISM in the 
eloquent aphorism: ‘God was my first 
thought; reason, my second; humankind 
my third and last thought.’ 

Many of Feuerbach’s aphorisms were 
explicitly anti-theistic: ‘Faith does not 
solve difficult problems; it only pushes 
them aside’; (satirical comment on ‘Faith 
moves mountains’); ‘Religion once reigned 
as lord of the head; but its realm is now 
restricted to the pit of the stomach’ 
(probably aimed at SCHLEIERMACHER). 
‘What distinguishes the Christian from 
other honorable people? At most a pious 
face and parted hair’ (‘Epigrams’ in 
Thoughts on Death and Immortality, 
Berkeley: University of California, 1980, 
189, 191, 205); ‘Three things I would not 
like to be: an old hag, a hack in the 
academy, and finally a pietist’ (ibid., 216); 
‘Sin came into the world with Christianity’ 
(ibid., 224). 

Feuerbach found his studies at Berlin 
under Schleiermacher ‘odious to the point 
of death’. Schleiermacher taught that the 
heart of religion was an immediate sense 
of utter dependence upon God. Christian 
theology, Feuerbach claimed, simply 
masked the true human origin of religious 
belief. It deified a ‘God’ at the expense of 
reducing humanity to the unworthy and 
the finite. ‘God’ is a mere hypostatization 
Or OBJECTIFICATION of human needs (i.e. 
needs projected ‘out there’ onto a ‘Being’ 
as ‘real’ entities). 


Theology, then, must be transposed back 
into ‘anthropology’, i.e. into the study of 
humankind. ‘God’ is not a transcendent 
reality (‘REALISM’), but a product of 

Feuerbach, Ludwig 


projected human aspirations (‘NON-REA- 
LISM’). The status of God is not ‘objective’. 

In reaction against PIETISM and against 
Schleiermacher, Feuerbach rejected the 
entire notion of the ‘dependence’ of a 
finite humanity upon an infinite God: ‘The 
interest I feel in God’s existence is one 
with the interest I feel in my own 
existence.’ Feuerbach shared with Hegel, 
with Marx and with Nietzsche the view 
that critical thought should be liberating: 
‘God’ is to be unmasked as ‘a dream of the 
human mind’. 

Feuerbach was assisted in his project by 
Hegel’s questionable maxim that whereas 
philosophy employed the critical CONCEPT 
(Begriff), religions merely used ‘images’ 
(Vorstellungen) as proximate, uncritical 
ways of seeking to express what some- 
times lay beyond accurate expression. 
Thus such an image as ‘God is love’ may 
well be a ‘religious’ but deceptive way of 
celebrating the infinite power of love. 
However, this infinity remains a capacity 
of human nature; it need not be relegated 
to ‘God’, as if humanity were incapable of 
such power and infinite worth by its own 

‘Religion’ becomes a designed celebra- 
tion of humanness, in which infinite 
human consciousness becomes transposed 
into a finite consciousness of the infinite 
beyond humanity. Humanity’s wish-fulfil- 
ments result in ‘THEISM’. ‘Religion is 
consciousness of the infinite’; but this 
disguises a human consciousness ‘not 
finite ... but infinite ...’ (The Essence of 
Christianity, New York: Harper, 1957, 2). 

Like Marx, Friedrich Engels and 
Nietzsche, Feuerbach saw all this as a 
philosophy of liberation with social and 
political consequences for the future. The 
new gospel is true humanism: love of 
humankind; the unreduced dignity of 
humankind; faith and trust in unaided 
humankind only. On the basis of an 
uncompromisingly materialist view of 
reality, humankind would not be side- 
tracked from infinite progress by its own 
infinite capacities. 


A first problem, which also besets the 
theories of Freud, is the status of wish- 
fulfilment for issues of truth and reality. It 
is entirely the case that merely to wish for 
something does not bring it into being. 
Wishes do not amount to claims to truth. 
Yet the reverse is also the case. It is not 
true that something cannot exist merely 
because we also wish and hope for it to 
exist. In actuality, the status of human 
wishes remains irrelevant to the ontologi- 
cal status of God, one way or the other. 
Feuerbach would need to demonstrate 
that wishes, or projections of God, con- 
stitute the exclusive and exhaustive 
grounds for ascribing ontological reality 
to God, without remainder. 

Further, as BARTH and Dietrich Bon- 
hoeffer insist, a ‘God’ who accords with 
human wishes hardly corresponds with the 
God of the Jewish, Christian or Islamic 
scriptures. In particular, Bonhoeffer adds, 
a God who is ‘wished for’ is not the God 
of the cross of Jesus Christ: ‘If it is I who 
say where God will be, I will always find 
there a God who in some way corresponds 
to me, is agreeable to me’; but the true 
God ‘says where He will be ... That place 
is the cross of the Christ’ (Meditating on 
the Word, Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 
1986, 45). The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 
do not declare ‘Blessed are the powerful’, 
but ‘Blessed are the poor... the pure in 
heart’ (The Cost of Discipleship, London: 
SCM, 1959, 93-176). MOLTMANN simi- 
larly defines Christian discipleship as 
following ‘the Way of Jesus Christ’ (The 
Way of Jesus Christ, London: SCM, 1990, 

A second major problem arises from 
Feuerbach’s claims about the ‘infinity’ of 
human consciousness. Hans Kiing 
observes, ‘A real infinity of the human 
being or of the human species and its 
power ... cannot be accepted without 
question,’ especially since in other contexts 
Feuerbach infers that reality itself is finite. 
‘Nowhere did Feuerbach substantiate such 


Fichte, Johann Gottlieb 

an infinity of the human powers ... which 
would then have no limits ... he assumes 
it: it appears to be a pure postulate’ (Does 
God Exist? London: Collins/Fount, 1980, 

Third, it hardly corresponds to the 
facts to claim with Feuerbach (and with 
Nietzsche) that religion diminishes the 
stature of humanity. This is why Molt- 
mann, for example, insists that the gift of 
the Holy Spirit constitutes ‘a universal 
affirmation’ in the face of Nietzsche’s 
claims that the Christian religion is 
‘world-denying’ (The Spirit of Life: A 
Universal Affirmation, London: SCM, 
1992, throughout). Courage, venture, loy- 
alty and respect for the other are hall- 
marks of authentic religion, even if 
Feuerbach and Nietzsche can readily point 
to nineteenth-century and earlier historical 
distortions and abuses of religion. 

Barth strongly argues that true human- 
ness is discovered in relation to God. The 
Jewish philosopher BuBER sees religion as 
offering a paradigm or model for relating 
to ‘the Other’ as a ‘Thou’ in interpersonal 
terms of respect, listening and understand- 
ing, rather than as an instrumental ‘it’ in 
relation to the self. Does ‘religion’ genu- 
inely and necessarily detract from, and 
diminish, what is good or noble in human 

As a critique of idolatrous or manip- 
ulative religion, however, Feuerbach’s 
thought contributes a necessary critical 
dimension to the philosophy of religion. 
Alternative recounts of the ‘origins’ of 
religion to those of classical theism require 
serious respect and examination. 

Fichte, Johann Gottlieb 

Fichte not only confessed himself an 
unqualified admirer of Kant, but also, in 
spite of Kant’s apparent indifference to the 
ideas of the young Fichte at their meeting 
in 1790, set himself to extend Kant’s 
philosophy a step further. When his name 
was omitted from his first work (An 

Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation, 
1792) and it was mistakenly attributed to 
Kant, Fichte’s reputation as a philosopher 
was assured. 

Fichte became a Professor at Jena in 
1794 at the age of thirty-two, with the 
support of Kant and of Goethe. Develop- 
ing Kant’s notion of the categorical moral 
imperative, Fichte saw ethics and ‘practi- 
cal reason’ as the frame within which 
religion was to be understood. God 
remains a principle or presupposition for 
ethics, rather than a personal Being. ‘God’ 
is, in effect, a name for moral order. 

At the foundation of the University of 
Berlin in 1810, Fichte became Dean of the 
Faculty of Philosophy, when SCHLEIERMA- 
CHER became Professor of Theology. 
Pressing Kant’s Critique of Judgement 
radically further than Kant, Fichte saw 
even the notion of ‘necessity’ in the world 
as the creation and projection of human 
consciousness. SCHELLING described Fich- 
te’s thought as ‘subjective IDEALISM’ (as 
against his own ‘objective’ idealism) since 
the world assumes the status of that which 
the human mind posits as an act of 

Fichte explored the concept of the T as 
the principle of this Idealism. Supposed 
OBJECTIVITY is derived from the SUBJEC- 
TIVITY of human ideas as the condition for 
the possibility of any knowledge. Hence it 
would not be inappropriate to describe his 
philosophy as transcendental idealism; for 
by Kant) asks about the conditions under 
which knowledge or reason is possible at 

The most creative theme in Fichte 
occurs also in HEGEL and in Schleierma- 
cher, in spite of their large differences. 
SELFHOOD emerges as an intersubjective 
Phenomenon: the self emerges as ‘I’ only in 
relation to other finite rational subjects. 
This is a turning-point in the history of 
ideas, which is widely, if still insufficiently, 
taken for granted today. However, Fichte 
is often regarded first and foremost as the 
founder of German idealism. 




The term is generally used pejoratively to 
denote the view that a given system of 
religious BELIEFS cannot be tested by any 
criterion external to itself, including that 
of rational assessment. 

This view has been attributed to 
Tertullian (c. 160-225) and to KIERKE- 
GAARD (1813-55). It is possible that the 
term was first coined in a positive sense by 
the French protestant theologian Auguste 
Sabatier (1839-1901) to denote an 
emphasis on religious feelings and a 
relative indifference towards RATIONAL- 
ISM or the constraints of REASON. 

Controversially the term has also been 
applied to the theology of BarTH (1886- 
1968) on the ground mainly of his 
rejection of NATURAL THEOLOGY, and his 
principle that ‘God is known by God 
alone’. However, his emphasis on the 
critical function of theology and the 
complexity of his thought give grounds 
for hesitation. 

Similarly, some claim that WiTTGEN- 
STEIN’S view of LANGUAGE GAMES and his 
hostility to ‘theory’ rather than description 
provides grounds for fideistic belief. How- 
ever, his language games are not self- 
contained or autonomous, and it is doubt- 
ful whether this is more than a possible 
but one-sided interpretation of his 

A variant meaning of the term arises 
from the condemnation of ‘fideism’ by 
Pope Gregory XVI in 1840, against the 
quasi-mystical thought of Louis Bautain 
(1796-1867). Bautain rejected rational 
argument as a basis for belief, on the 
ground that faith and feeling alone are 
adequate for knowledge of God. (See 

Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas 

These have been introduced under Gop, 
which provides a broader introduction to 
this subject. We noted there his statement 

that ‘there are five ways in which one can 
prove that there is a God’ (Latin, Dicen- 
dum quod Deum esse quinque viis probari 
potest, in Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 2, 
art. 3). 

The five ‘ways’ operate as A POSTER- 
IORI arguments from our experience of the 
everyday world. The first three constitute, 
in effect, different, versions of the cosMo- 
LOGICAL ARGUMENT for the existence of 
God. The fourth way argues from grada- 
tions or degrees of being, to the notion of a 
‘superlative’, or ultimate, who is God. The 
fifth way argues from the ‘ordered’ or 
purposive character of the world to an 
intelligent creator or designer whom we 
call God. Thus the fifth way constitutes a 
for the existence of God. 


The first way is variously described as the 
argument from change or movement 
(motus) within the world, but in view of 
AQUINAS’S conscious revival of Aristote- 
lian thought may more accurately be 
regarded as an argument from potentiality. 
The Latin motus is broader than ‘move- 
ment’. The traditional name, the kineto- 
logical argument, simply reflects the Greek 
word for motion, from which our term 
‘kinetic energy’ is also derived. Whatever 
is in motion, or in a process of change, 
within the world, has been set in motion 
by something else. Thus, for example, 
wood has the potentiality to become 
heated and to burn to ash, but it is fire 
that causes this to occur. The actuality (in 
actu) of burning cannot at the very same 
time (simul) be the potentiality (in poten- 
tia). ‘We must stop somewhere, otherwise 
there will be no first cause of the change, 
and as a result no subsequent causes.’ This 
first cause of change or movement is ‘not 
itself changed by anything, and this is 
what everybody understands by God’ 
(Summa Theologiae, Blackfriars edn, 15, 
Ta, Qu. 2, art. 3). 

In his earlier work Summa contra 
Gentiles Aquinas appeals in more detail 


Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas 

to ARISTOTLE (Physics, H 241b-242b) for 
reasons why an infinite series of CON- 
TINGENT CAUSES cannot be postulated. In 
the pre-modern world this argument 
seemed to carry perhaps the most weight 
of the five, but it has been argued in 
recent times that NEwTon’s law concern- 
ing motion ‘wrecks the argument of the 
First Way ... Uniform motion of a body 
can be explained by the principle of 
inertia in terms of a body’s own previous 
motion without appeal to any other 
agent’ (A. Kenny, The Five Ways, Lon- 
don: Routledge, 1969, 28). Further, 
BERGSON (1859-1941) and WHITEHEAD 
(1861-1947) argue philosophically that 
process is fundamental both to the world 
and to God, and in Christian theology 
Mo ttTMann (b. 1926) argues that the 
ongoing living God of the Bible is not 
simply the static ‘changeless’ God of 
philosophical theism. 


This rests on an exploration of the relation 
between cause and effect. Strictly Aquinas 
appeals to efficient cause, as against 
formal or final cause, and this is some- 
times known as the aetiological argument 
(from Greek aitia, cause). Aetiology often 
seeks causes ‘behind’ effects, characteris- 
tically to do with origins. For Aquinas ‘a 
series of causes must ... stop somewhere’ 
(Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 3, art. 3): 
‘Non est possibile quod ... procedatur in 
infinitum.’ Therefore we are forced to 
suppose ‘some first cause, to which every- 
one gives the name God (aliquam causam 
efficientem primam, quam omnes Deum 

As first cause, God does not only 
initiate causal processes, but also keeps 
them in being. In Bartu’s language, God 
holds his creation ‘from the abyss of non- 
being? (Church Dogmatics, 1: 1, Edin- 
burgh: T & T Clark, 1975, 388). The 
rejection of an infinite chain of caused 
causes closely parallels the argument of 
the Islamic philosopher IBN SiNA (or 
Avicenna, 980-1037). 

On whether an infinite chain of causes 
can be plausible see the entry on the 
cosmological argument. One dilemma that 
emerges is that if ‘God’ as first cause is 
conceived of as the beginning or end of the 
chain of caused causes, God appears to be 
located conceptually ‘within’ the world; if 
God is ‘above’ the causal chain, how does 
God’s agency operate and have we now 
also changed the meaning of ‘cause’? 
Further, from an empiricist standpoint 
Hume (1711-76) argued that what we 
observe is not efficient cause but only 
constant conjunctions of events. 

From the standpoint of CRITICAL PHI- 
LosopHy, Kant (1724-1804) viewed 
cause-effect as structural categories 
imposed on what we observe in order that 
the human mind can order what it 
perceives by means of intelligible con- 
cepts. ‘CATEGORIES’ derive from human 
judgements. They are ‘regulative’, not 
‘constitutive’ of the world itself. Recently, 
Anthony Kenny has argued that the 
second way involves ‘equivocation 
between “first = earlier” and “first = 
unprecedented” to show that this series 
[of causes] cannot be an infinite one’ (The 
Five Ways, 44). 


The argument depends on the distinction 
between possible or contingent and NECES- 
sARY objects, persons or states of affairs. In 
the language of Aquinas, ‘the third way is 
based on what need not be (Latin, ex 
possibili) and on what must be (neces- 
sario}. If every object or event were 
contingent (ie. might or might not be or 
have been), or subject to generation and to 
corruption, we could in principle go back 
far enough in time to reach a state of affairs 
in which nothing existed. However, the 
totality of all that exists cannot be of this 
kind, for if this entailed the non-existence 
of everything at any point, however 
remote, nothing could subsequently have 
come into existence. ‘One is forced, there- 
fore, to suppose something which must be 
of itself (ponere aliquid quod est per se 

Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas 


necessarium)’. Such a thing (God) necessa- 
rily exists ‘of itself? (Latin a se esse gives 
rise to the philosophical notion of AsEITY 
(i.e. having its own necessary ground). 

The distinctions between the first three 
ways are fine. The first hinges on potenti- 
ality to become; the second, also on 
efficient cause to maintain in being; the 
third concerns all contingent, possible, or 
finite being as a whole. Kenny argues that 
their apparent failure lies in the extent to 
which they are rooted in the conceptual 
assumptions of the medieval cosmology of 
the day. 

All the same, by the beginning of the 
modern era some thinkers were still 
developing these arguments. Samuel 
Clarke (1675-1729) focuses especially on 
a re-formulation of this third way. He 
considers the status of ‘all things that are 
or ever were in the universe ... The whole 
cannot be necessary’. Hence he postulates 
‘one immutable and independent being’ (A 
Discourse Concerning Natural Religion, 
1705). More recently Richard Taylor (b. 
1919) has argued that whatever the 
argument might appear to claim about 
an act of creation, the heart of the matter 
is to expose the issue of dependence on the 
part of finite or contingent being (Meta- 
physics, 3rd edn Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 
Prentice Hall, 1983). In contrast to the 
phenomenon of dependence in the world, 
it is not irrational to conceive of a Being 
who is dependent on nothing other than 
itself. On the other hand Mitt (1806-73) 
insisted that an infinite regress of finite 
causes is more reasonable than the notion 
of a ‘first’ cause. 


This also begins (a posteriori) from our 
experience of the everyday world. In 
everyday experience we come across 
degrees of beauty, degrees of intelligence, 
degrees of truth, degrees of size or weight. 
The argument is based ‘on the gradation 
found in things (ex gradibus qui in rebus 
inveniuntur)’. This is often called the 
henological argument. 

Prato believed that relative degrees of 
gradation or attributes in the world 
pointed to a ‘superlative’ or perfect Form 
or Idea. However, for Artistotle things 
rather than Ideas or Forms exist, and 
Aquinas follows the logic of Aristotle to 
argue that the superlative ‘highest degree’ 
to which other things approximate 
(appropinquant) in varying degrees is 
‘therefore something that is the truest 
and best ... and most in being (igitur 
aliquid quod est maxim verissimum et 
optimum et ... maxime ens)’. “This we call 

This argument brings us at once into 
the complexities of an ancient logical 
debate about the status of UNIVERSALS 
(derived especially from Plato’s realm of 
Ideas). By contrast, NOMINALISM perceives 
these not as real entities, but as names or 
semantic constructs used to denote classes 
rather than particulars. The debate 
between nominalists and realists became 
acute in the Middle Ages. 

WITTGENSTEIN (1889-1951) suggests 
that Platonic Forms and Ideas (cf. Aqui- 
nas’s superlatives) may constitute para- 
digm cases of what makes the quality or 
attribute what it is. Many believe that the 
formulation of Aquinas owes too much to 
Plato’s theory, in spite of his normally 
Aristotelian sympathies. It has been 
argued that so great is his debt here to 
ANSELM’S prior notion of God as Uni- 
versal that this fourth way constitutes a 
(disguised?) version of the A PRIORI 
ontological argument, even though Aqui- 
nas begins with degrees of attributes 
within the world. 

Many theists regard the fourth way as 
failing to provide an argument for divine 
existence, but as underlining both conti- 
nuities and contrasts between the charac- 
ter of God and certain related qualities 
found within the everyday world. Other 
theists, however, question whether the 
‘bottom up’ use of analogy does adequate 
justice to the transcendence or otherness 
of God, from whom human qualities in a 
fallen world are both derivative and for 


Foucault, Michel 

the most part flawed (see ANALOGY; 


This is the version of the teleological 
argument for the existence of God advo- 
cated by Aquinas. It is ‘based on the 
guidedness (or governance) of things in the 
world (ex gubernatione rerum)’. Aquinas 
believed that events and states of affairs 
within the world do not occur by chance 
or accident (non a casu), ‘but tend to a 
goal (sed ex intentione perveniunt ad 
finem)’. Hence, just as a purposive occur- 
rence such as the flight of an arrow 
presupposes an archer, so everything in 
nature (omnes res naturales) is directed to 
its goal (ordinantur ad finem) by someone 
with understanding. 

Aquinas appeals to Augustine for his 
view of God’s ‘ordering’? the world in 
sovereign goodness (Enchiridion, XI). 
‘Nature (natura) works for a determinate 
end at the direction of a higher agent’, 
whom Aquinas identifies both as ‘God’ 
and as ‘the first of all causes ... unchange- 
able and self-necessary’ (immobile et per 
se necessariium). 

The validity of this approach is dis- 
cussed below in the entry on the tele- 
ological argument. The three most 
problematic general factors arise from 
Hume’s empiricist critique of causality 
(on which this argument still rests); on 
Kant’s notion that ‘order’ is seen to be an 
organizing or regulative category con- 
structed or construed by the human mind; 
and the developmental BEHAVIOURISM of 
which Darwin’s theory of evolution is the 
most influential popular example. 

More specifically to Aquinas is his 
notion of ‘natural law’, drawn in part 
from Aristotle and the Stoic notion of ius 
naturale. Aquinas expounds his notion of 
law as ‘an ordinance of practical reason’ in 
which ‘the whole universe is governed by 
the divine reason ... the eternal law ... 
natural law’ in Summa Theologiae, Ia/liae, 
Qu. 90-1, esp. Qu. 91, arts. 1-3 (Black- 
friars edn, vol. 28). The difficulties of this 

specific tradition should not, however, 
detract from the teleological argument as 
reformulated by more recent writers. 
Again we allude to Kenny’s claim that 
many of their limitations, even failures, 
arise from their rootedness in the medieval 
cosmology of the day. They represent a 
significant stage in an ongoing debate 
about the status of the three main argu- 
ments for the existence of God, which has 
not yet reached a definitive conclusion. 

Foucault, Michel (1926-84) 

Foucault, French postmodernist and phi- 
losopher, believed that systems of knowl- 
edge served, and were served by, systems 
of power. He was particularly concerned 
with systems of bureaucratic and social 
control, or ‘regimes’. He calls in question 
the ‘innocence’ of ‘thinking’ in DeEs- 
CARTES: ‘I think’ already operates within 
a pre-given situatedness that belongs to an 
‘order of things’, with its power and 
control (The Order of Things, New York: 
Random House, 1970, 324; French, Les 
mots et les choses, 1966). 

The way in which social control shapes 
concepts is illustrated in Foucault’s A 
History of Madness (1961) translated into 
English as Madness and Civilization 
(1965). In classical Greece and Rome, 
madness was perceived as ‘unreason’. 
Most ‘mad’ people were treated as irra- 
tional animals; a few were regarded as 
‘inspired’. By the nineteenth century mad- 
ness was perceived as a mental illness, and 
asylums were initially intended as places 
of sanctuary. In Marxist regimes in the 
Eastern bloc, ‘madness’ was attributed to 
those whose views deviated from sup- 
posed public norms of ‘reality’, namely 

In his middle period Foucault pub- 
lished Discipline and Punish (1975; Eng- 
lish, 1977). ‘Surveillance’ is the power-tool 
of the prison service, the police, the army, 
hospital authorities. Manipulation may be 



disguised by ‘the smiling face in the white 
coat’, but privileged information gives 
power for control. There is no room for 
negotiation, for bureaucrats hold all the 

The late period concludes with The 
History of Sexuality (3 vols., 1976-84). 
Individuals, Foucault argued, are con- 
trolled in part by self-perception and self- 
scrutiny, but these are distorted percep- 
tions inherited from society. A comparison 
with Greek and Roman sexuality reveals 
the socially CONTINGENT nature of sexual 
concepts. These are masked as ‘unsur- 
passable’ by those whose power-interests 
cohere with them. 

Much of Foucault’s work reveals the 
influence of NrerzscHE (1844-1900). 
This is strengthened with a rhetoric of 
POSTMODERNITY and a theory of social 
constructionism. All the same, Foucault 
takes his place alongside the ‘masters of 
suspicion’ (Marx, Nietzsche and Freup), 
in identifying a false innocence in much 
traditional EPISTEMOLOGY, and its indivi- 


The proper context of the word is that of 
epistemic justification, or issues in the 
justification of BELIEF. Foundationalists 
see a belief-system as like a building that 
rests upon a set of ‘basic’ or ‘foundational’ 
beliefs. These are self-evident or self- 
justifying. Hence other ‘non-basic’ beliefs 
will be justified beliefs (or ‘entitled’ 
beliefs) if they may be inferred from, or 
are otherwise supported by, these basic, 
foundational beliefs. The belief-system 
will, in effect, take the form of a tiered 


DescarTEs (1596-1650) provides a model 
for foundationalist RATIONALISM. He 
sought TRUTH that is ‘absolutely indubi- 
table’; ‘truth so certain that sceptics were 
not capable of shaking it’ (Discourse on 
Method, pt IV, 53-4). This begins from the 

‘self-evident’ knowledge that Descartes is 
aware of himself thinking (cogito, ibid., 
53), on the basis of which it is also 
demonstrable that he exists (ergo sum, 

By contrast, human opinions offer 
‘little basis for certainty’ (ibid., I, 33). 
Descartes in fact uses the very metaphors 
of ‘foundation’ and ‘house’. ‘Once in a 
lifetime’ we must demolish the house and 
‘start right from the foundations’ (Med- 
itations, La Salle: Open Court, 1901, 
II, 31). In principle belief in God is also 
‘an indubitable idea’, although this may 
be clouded by human prejudice (Medita- 
tions, V). 

Descartes is foundationalist in the full 
sense of the term. However, is his the only 
possible kind of foundationalism? 

PLANTINGA (b. 1932) and WOLTER- 
STORFF (b. 1932) see Descartes as a 
‘classical’, ‘narrow’, or ‘strong’ founda- 
tionalist. Plantinga points out that 
‘Reformed EPISTEMOLOGY’ arose as a 
response to the challenge of evidentialism, 
i.e. the demand that BELIEF is supported or 
warranted by demonstrable evidence. 
Otherwise, it was claimed, it is not 
‘reasonable’ or ‘entitled’ belief. Theists in 
the Reformed tradition argue that if 
theistic belief has itself to be ‘based upon’ 
some prior evidential or rational datum, 
belief in God has been redefined as other 
than ‘basic’ for the theist. 

Hence Plantinga proposes a ‘softer’ or 
‘broader foundationalism’ that postulates 
not prior or ‘basic’ beliefs of demon- 
strable certainty but a ‘basic’ belief in 
God which retains rationality or ‘REA- 
SONABLENESS’ on its own ground. WoL- 
TERSTORFF was earlier perhaps less 
committed to speaking positively of 
foundationalism, but by the 1990s 
expressed strong sympathy with the 
broader ‘foundationalism’ of LOCKE 
(1632-1704). Wolterstorff ‘had attacked’ 
classical foundationalism, but subse- 
quently observed: ‘Our attack remained 
too superficial’ (John Locke and the 
Ethics of Belief, Cambridge: CUP, 1996, 



xi). He adds, ‘In Locke’s foundationalism 
there is revealed, more clearly than in 
Descartes, that depth for which I was 
looking’ (ibid.). 

In spite of differences of emphasis 
between Plantinga and Wolterstorff, both 
might very broadly be described as 
‘broad’, ‘soft’, or perhaps ‘quasi’-founda- 
tionalists. They avoid the supposed 
‘demonstrable certainties’ of either 
RATIONALISM (which implies a NATURAL 
THEOLOGY) or of empirical evidentialism. 
Both of the latter would impose a ‘basi- 
cality’ more foundational than theistic 
belief. Nevertheless they reject the claim 
that belief in God is groundless or irrational. 


It might seem surprising that Plantinga 
and Wolterstorff seek so carefully to 
rescue a version of foundationalism, until 
we note what ‘anti-foundationalism’ and 
‘non-foundationalism’ usually denote in 
America. Anti-foundationalism is too 
often taken to imply either FIDEISM, 
relativism or a rejection of epistemology, 
often on the basis of POSTMODERNISM. 
Some promote a ‘narrative theology’ 
which transposes ontological and episte- 
mological truth-claims about God into 
narratives about theistic communities. 

This kind of shift is as far from 
traditional THEISM as ‘hard’ or ‘classical’ 
foundationalism is in the opposite direc- 
tion. In Britain regret is sometimes 
expressed that these terms are used so 
widely, and often in dubious contexts, in 
America. Yet, given their prevalence, it is 
valuable to have precision from Plantinga 
and Wolterstorff, and their attempts at 
what looks like a necessary middle ground 
for rational theists. 

It is not clear, however, what we might 
conclusively infer from Plantinga’s discus- 
sion of criteria for ‘basicality’. While he 
rejects the rationality of a hypothetical 
belief in ‘the Great Pumpkin’, he defends 
the theist’s ‘reasonable belief’, but ‘not ... 
on the basis of other propositions’ (A. 

Plantinga and N. Wolterstorff, eds., Faith 
and Rationality, Notre Dame: University 
of Notre Dame, 1983). 

While a ‘coherence’ view of TRUTH 
would normally not readily find room 
even for ‘soft’ foundationalism, other 
models have also been suggested. Witt- 
GENSTEIN’S model of the ‘nest of proposi- 
tions’ may allow for a ‘basic’ interweaving, 
to which more things could be added. The 
nest collapses if too much is taken away. A 
‘soft? coherence dimension holds it 
together, supported by the basic materials 
with which it began. 

Yet too much should not be read from a 
metaphor or simile. It is worth recalling that 
Descartes’ house and foundations also 
remain a metaphor. The tendency to use this 
terminology to force a heated polemic over 
epistemic justification may at times distract 
participants from the actual job in hand. To 
debate the status of natural theology or the 
grounds for reasonable BELIEF is the prior 
objective, and perhaps may not require these 
labels. (See also CERTAINTY AND DOUBT; 


Freedom is defined and understood differ- 
ently, sometimes by different thinkers, 
sometimes in different universes of dis- 
course. Freedom generally denotes the 
capacity to act without external compul- 
sion, constraint or coercion. Yet this does 
not address the question of whether a 
given individual, unfettered by external 
coercion, is also free to choose any course 
of action unfettered by internal constraints 
upon that individual’s will to choose. 
Larger philosophical issues are raised 
by the relation between freedom and 
DETERMINISM. Most people are likely to 
accept responsibility for an action only 
if they believe that they could have acted 
otherwise. Yet some hold a determinist 
view that whatever occurs is determined 
by a chain of antecedent CAUSES or 
conditions. ‘Hard’ determinists who 
believe that determinism excludes 

free-will defence 


freedom are often designated as ‘incom- 

By contrast, ‘compatabilists’ argue that 
sufficient freedom of action to give cur- 
rency to moral responsibility does not 
exclude every kind of determinism. Yet 
often determinism erodes the concept of 
freedom to some such concept (among 
some compatibilists) as ‘free to choose in 
accordance with the agent’s desires or 
character’. AUGUSTINE (354-430) sees no 
reason to ‘think our free will is opposed to 
God’s foreknowledge’ (On Free Will, II: 
4: 10). 


In practice, at least three distinct concepts of 
freedom are held. The liberty of indifference 
denotes the view that an agent is free to 
choose either of two or more alternative 
courses of action, in effect in virtual 
equilibrium. Augustine ascribes such a free- 
dom to humankind before the Fall, but 
argues that the presence of sin in the world 
suggests a need to modify this definition. 
Meanwhile, ‘it is a sufficient reason why 
[humankind] ought to have been given it 
[freedom], because without it humankind 
could not live aright’ (ibid., Il: 1: 3). Pelagius 
(c. 360-c. 420) believed that all persons 
possess this freedom of equilibrium. 

Liberty of choice (sometimes called 
liberty of spontaneity) denotes the free- 
dom to express the agent’s choice, desire, 
will or character, even if internal habits, 
predispositions or concerns shape the 
nature of this choice. This view is compa- 
tible with notions of AUTONOMY: the 
emphasis is upon self-direction. AQUINAS 
writes, ‘Man has free choice, or otherwise 
counsels, exhortations, commands ... 
would be in vain? (Summa Theologiae, 
Ia, Qu. 83, art. 1). 

The relation between character, habit, 
will, wish and desire makes this complex. 
An agent may make a ‘free’ choice, and 
observe, ‘I was not “myself” when I 
decided to do that.’ Do circumstances that 
encourage action ‘out of character’ con- 
stitute an external constraint? 

In theology and eETuHics freedom is 
often defined in terms of freedom to do 
the good, in contrast to that which proves 
harmful or self-destructive. Augustine 
defines as the ‘purpose for which God 
gave free will’ as ‘in order to do right’ (On 
Free Will, Il: 1: 3). Aquinas declares that 
GRACE enables choice; sin restricts choice 
(Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 83, arts. 2-4). 

free-will defence 

The free-will defence provides a response 
to issues that arise from the problem of 
EVIL, and finds classic expression in 
AUGUSTINE (340-430) and Thomas AquI- 
NAS (1225-74). Evil, these theologians 
argue, is not the responsibility of God, 
for it originates in ‘a wilful turning of the 
self in desire from the highest good ... It is 
the evil will which causes the evil act ...’ 
(Augustine, City of God, XII. 6). 

God gave free will to humankind as a 
gift to provide the possibility of doing 
right. However, by definition such free will 
thereby also permits the possibility (but 
not necessarily also the actuality) of evil 
choice. ‘God’s gifts are good gifts’, but 
humankind may choose to misuse them 
for purposes for which they were not 
given. ‘God compels no-one to sin... Our 
will would not be “will” unless it were in 
our power’ (On Free Will, Ill: 3: 8). 

Over the years, many, including espe- 
cially PLANTINGA, have supported and 
developed the free-will defence argument. 
Yet J.L. Mackie insists, ‘All forms of the 
free will defence fail’ (The Miracle of 
Theism, Oxford: Clarendon, 1982, 176). 
Mackie notes that reluctance to accept 
DETERMINISM often arises from the belief 
that if my actions were ‘predictable’ they 
would seem not ‘to stem from my will’, but 
to ‘be mediated through it’ (ibid., 169). 

Such an assumption, Mackie argues, is 
mistaken. An action is not ‘more mine’ if 
no causes that could make it predictable 
can be identified (ibid.). For example, a 
couple may freely reach ‘their own’ 
decision to marry each other, yet all of 


Freud’s critique of religion 

their close friends could have predicted 
what would occur. For God to create 
Adam and Eve was ‘a hell of a risk’, 
Mackie observes, when divine foreknow- 
ledge would tell what (at least) might 
occur, and a more restricted ‘freedom’ 
could have ensured conditions for ‘right 
action’ with less risk (ibid., 162-76). 

Nevertheless, others reject the notion 
of ‘freedom’ that would be entailed if ‘all 
people freely to choose to do the right’. 
Perhaps the analysis of ‘concepts’ of free- 
dom (above) does not go far enough. 
Colin Gunton argues that the ‘freedom’ 
given by God as gift entails ‘space between 
God and the world whereby God, by his 
action, enables the world to be truly itself’, 
but in terms of ‘personal integrity’ for 
human agents that ‘gives due place to the 
other’. For ‘freedom’ is most construc- 
tively defined ‘as for and (deriving) from 
the other’ (God and Freedom, Edinburgh: 
T & T Clark, 1995, 132, 133). 

Hick and Vincent Briimmer also retain 
a personal, or interpersonal, focus in this 
context, while Hick explores the related 
concept of ‘epistemic distance’ (Hick, Evil 
and the God of Love, London: Macmillan, 
1966 and 1977; Briimmer, Speaking of a 
Personal God, Cambridge: CUP, 1992, 
128-51). Briimmer believes that attacks 
upon the free-will defence are misplaced 
when they fail to see ‘that the free-will 
defence is based on the love of God rather 
than the supposed intrinsic value of 
human freedom and responsibility’ (ibid., 
144). (See also SWINBURNE.) 

Freud’s critique of religion 

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) developed the 
theory and medical practice of psychoana- 
lysis in Vienna, which centred on probing 
beneath consciousness and more shallow 
explanations of human behaviour to pre- 
conscious and unconscious drives and con- 
flicts. These seemed to offer more probing 
explanations for human desires and actions. 

Pre-conscious drives are construed by 
Freud in naturalistic or, in effect, 

mechanistic terms. He criticizes the view 
that people ‘make[s] the forces of nature 
... into persons ... [even] into gods’ (The 
Future of an Illusion, London: Hogarth 
Press, 1962, 13). 

Freud was led to psychoanalysis through 
a study of hysteria. In particular he 
explored the effects of hypnosis on this 
condition. His first main work was pub- 
lished co-jointly with J. Breuer under the 
title Studies in Hysteria (1895). This was 
soon followed by The Interpretation of 
Dreams (1899). Here Freud postulated that 
what rises to expression in dreams provides 
a mid-point of access to unconscious desires 
and conflicts through the interpretation or 
hermeneutical process of ‘unscrambling’ 
what a person recounts as ‘the dream’. 

The dream-as-dreamed, however (‘the 
dream-thoughts’), is transposed by the 
human mind into the ‘dream-as-remem- 
bered’ (‘the dream-content’). This serves 
to hide the true desires or conflicts that 
may become exposed in the dream. 
Thereby they are hidden both from the 
self and from the psychiatrist. 

Hence the dream-content may be a 
‘condensation’ of the dream-thoughts. It 
may be edited to make it ‘brief, meagre, 
and laconic’, and may embody ‘displace- 
ments’ of sequences and images for the 
purpose of disguise. ‘Psychoanalysis’ seeks 
to recover the deeper ‘text’? below the 
dream-content, or dream-as-recounted. 


In an incisive appreciation and critique 
of Freud, RICOEUR points out that Freud 
evolves, in an effect, a hermeneutics of 
suspicion (Freud and Philosophy: An 
Essay in Interpretation, New Haven: 
Yale, 1970). Freud takes psychological 
data that are capable of being inter- 
preted at a number of levels, in a number 
of ways, and sometimes many times over 
(technically, ‘overdetermined texts’) and 
seeks to get to the bottom of what is 
really being ‘said’ (the sub-text, or deep 

Freud’s critique of religion 


The problem, from the point of view of 
THEISM Or RELIGION, is that Freud regards 
these drives or disguised motivativations 
as purely ‘forces’, or the product of forces. 
Such psychological processes as repres- 
sion, displacement or the investing of 
energies in another are regarded as bio- 
physical forces. Hence Freud borrows 
such a term as ‘cathexis’ from economics 
to denote ‘investing’ sexual energy in 
another person. 

On the other side, Freud convincingly 
exposes the ‘opaqueness’ of human con- 
sciousness, even to the self. The self is 
driven by drives and desires that it seeks to 
hide and to disguise even from itself. This 
raises no difficulty for theism or for 
religion. The Hebrew scriptures and Paul 
the Apostle concur that the human heart 
deceives both itself and others about its 
motives and intentions (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 
7:11; 1 Cor. 4:4, 5). Freud saw the uncon- 
scious as ‘the centre of resistance of truth’. 

Why should the unconscious constitute 
a mechanism of disguise and deceit? This 
emerges in Freud’s middle and later works, 
including Totem and Taboo (1912-13), 
The Ego and the Id (1923) and The Future 
of an Illusion (1927). The ‘superego’ acts 
as a censor or moral judge that reflects the 
expectations of society (in childhood 
years, of parents and teachers). The ‘id’ 
is the source of the drives of the libido into 
the psyche. It energizes the self especially 
through sexual energy and desire. 

The third factor within the self is the 
‘ego’, the rational, conscious self that is 
torn by conflict and by pressure, on one 
side to obey the directions of the superego 
as censor and judge; on the other side, by 
the powerful drives of the id to seek 
satisfaction for the sexual energies and 
drives that power it. 

When this conflict becomes sufficiently 
acute to cause discomfort and potential 
damage, this condition is one of ‘neurosis’. 
The person needs treatment and therapy 
as a ‘neurotic’ patient. Although it may be 
healthy to ‘suppress’ (i.e. to channel, 
control or sublimate) desires that are 

unacceptable to society, the ‘repression’ 
of such desires and drives (i.e. pressing 
them down into pre-conscious depths until 
they are hidden from self-awareness) 
causes damaging neurosis. 

Psychoanalysis uses the interpretation 
of dreams, explorations of early childhood 
‘memories’, and ‘free association’, to 
trigger unconscious ‘give-aways’. These 
produce awareness of disguises and con- 
flicts. This process may be painful; but 
only if the source of neurosis and its 
condition are recognized can the neurotic 
conflict of opposing forces that saps the 
energies of the self begin therapeutic 

Without such psychoanalytical therapy 
the repressed content of the mind festers 
away, preventing sublimation (or creative 
re-channelling) of these frustrated desires 
into more fruitful goals pursued by a 
united self. Looking to his early work on 
hysteria, Freud diagnoses hysteria as a 
frequent effect of the emotional shock 
produced by a collision between deeply 
repressed wishes within the self. 


All of the above considerations set the 
stage for understanding the nature of 
Freud’s critique of religion. Religions, 
especially theism, provide a mechanism, 
Freud claims, for projecting the inner 
conflicts of neurosis upwards and out- 
wards away from the self. 

This cannot offer a ‘final’ or authentic 
solution, because in Freud’s view religion 
tries to solve a problem of disguise by 
means of the even deeper disguise that 
projects inner states into a god-figure. This 
occurs in religious MyTHs and stories. 
However, if religion appears to ‘comfort’ 
some, this is because it may soften, or 
seem superficially to soften, the neurotic 
conflict that would otherwise be unbear- 

By initial over-simplification (qualified 
below) we might say that in infancy the 


Freud’s critique of religion 

human person may project upwards or 
outwards on one side the sanctions and 
discipline represented by the figure of the 
father-parent, and on the other side the 
father-figure’s love and protection. The 
father’s affirmation of both the superego 
and also in part certain desires for the 
gratification of the self (food, protection, 
comfort, security) are projected onto a 
‘God’ of judgement and grace. The father 
who gazes into the cradle is magnified into 
infinity as ‘God’. 

However, Freud’s hypotheses are more 
complex than this. In accordance with the 
intellectual fashions of the late nineteenth 
and early twentieth centuries, Freud draws 
heavily on developmental and evolution- 
ary theories of the human race and of the 
individual. ‘Religion’ is associated with 
the ‘infantile’ stage of human person, and 
also with the stage of totem and taboo in 
the evolution of the human race. Each of 
these draws upon ‘myth’. 

In relation to the infant Freud appeals 
to the Oedipus myth, in which the ‘hero’ 
of the myth directs sexual desire (uncon- 
sciously) to his mother, and kills the father 
who stands in his way. The father-figure is 
ambivalent: on one side, a source of help 
and love; on the other, a threat to 
independence and self-gratification. Sub- 
mission and rebellion struggle. Hence the 
projection of the ‘God-figure’ permits 
‘forgiveness’ for sexual and self-centred 
desires and gives help and grace, while the 
‘worshipper’ regresses into childhood 


In his earliest writings Freud allowed 
himself to speculate about repressed mem- 
ories of pre-pubertal sexual assaults by 
fathers, which gave rise to hysteria until 
psychoanalysis yielded the ‘cathartic dis- 
charge’ of the disguised, buried conflict- 
traumas. He later abandoned this theory, 
but remained convinced that psychic 
energy arose primarily from sexual desire. 
Life-force is Eros. His theories demand the 

recognition of infantile sexuality. ‘The 
Oedipus complex’ denotes sexual feelings 
toward the parent of the opposite sex. 

Freud also elaborated a corporate 
socio-historical theory at the level of the 
human race rather than the individual. He 
acknowledged that he was attracted by the 
theories of Darwin and SPENCER on 
EVOLUTION. Further, the works of E.B. 
Tylor on cultural anthropology, W. 
Robertson Smith on totemism and J.G. 
Frazer on ‘primitive’ religion provided 
fertile soil for Freud’s theories. In 1907 
Freud argued that religious rites are 
similar to neurotic obsessive actions, 
working this out in Totem and Taboo. 

The ‘totem’ animal protects the primi- 
tive tribe or group; on the other side 
murder and incest constitute the main 
prohibited ‘taboos’. This appeared to 
Freud to offer an ethnological parallel to 
the duality and conflict of the infantile 
Oedipus myth and Oedipus complex. 

The strength and power of human 
wishes may generate ‘illusion’, but not 
‘delusion’ (difference explained below). If 
religion utilizes such illusion to soften the 
conflicts of neurosis, the price that is paid 
is the tendency towards infantile regres- 
sion. This may include ‘longing for a 
father ... [as] defence against childish 
helplessness’ (The Future of an Illusion, 
20). This may hinder genuine maturity 
and growth. 

Yet in his latest writings Freud does not 
presume to pronounce on the truth or 
falsehood of these ‘illusions’. Illusions are 
without foundation, but they are not false 
delusions. ‘To assess the truth-value of 
religious doctrine does not lie within the 
scope of the present enquiry. It is enough 
for us that we have recognized them as ... 
illusions’ (ibid., 29). 


It cannot be denied that many religious 
people show signs of regression into 
immature attitudes. Faith may serve as a 
psychological crutch, as NIETZSCHE also 

Freud’s critique of religion 


observed. However, it is not the case that 
this applies to all, or even perhaps to most, 
religious people, or that it begins to 
approach the stereotypical. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer insists that Chris- 
tian people, for example, would never 
choose a religion of the cross to gain 
‘comfort’; it serves the reverse: the nurture 
of courage, affirmation of life, and living 
life to the full in the service of the other. 
MOLTMANN responds in the same way. 
The life of the Spirit, he asserts, is one of 
‘universal affirmation’ to life; not of 
retreat or self-protection. 

Second, speculation about a father- 
figure cuts both ways. It is well known 
that Freud had a damaged relationship 
with his own father. Might his own 
account of religion, on his own premises, 
have something to do with expelling ‘the 
Father’ from the realm of ontological 
truth-claims as a wish-fulfilment? 

Third, a counter-reply would apply 
both to the second point and to Freud’s 
entire theories. As he came to see at the 
close of his career, does wishing either for 
the truth or for the falsity or of religion, 
make any difference at all to its actual 
status as true or false? Does it offer a 
criterion about ‘illusion’? 

Fourth, the first point may be extended 
to emphasize the enormous variety of 
temperaments, psychological conditions, 
expectations, personal histories and ethnic 
histories of those who are ‘religious’. Can 
all these diverse characterizations fit into 
the category of neurosis and obsession 
concerning which Freud speculates? 

Fifth, Freud is too heavily influenced by 
the naturalistic bioneurological explana- 
tions and metaphors which he assimilated 
from Breuer, and subsequently only mar- 
ginally modifies. Can the human mind be 
‘explained’ exhaustively as a neurological 
cause-effect mechanism? Even if Freud at 
times seeks to go beyond the neuro- 
physiological to the genuinely psychologi- 
cal, how far does he succeed in recogniz- 
ing the genuine agency of human persons 
as human persons? 


Freud does not carefully compare alter- 
native models of the nature of religion. His 
views remain selective and speculative. 
This does not detract from, or fail to 
recognize, the huge advance in under- 
standing that Freud made possible, and 
on which others have built. It cannot be 
denied that human wishes and motiva- 
tions are often disguised. Indeed religions, 
as we have noted, often agree on this 
point. Further, the dividing-line between 
‘child-like’ and ‘childish’ is often mis- 
judged in religion. 

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) and June 
(1875-1961) also offer very different 
accounts of the ‘drives’ and desires of 
human persons. Adler ascribes this not to 
the urges of the id which are in conflict 
with the superego, but to a striving for 
power. Neurosis arises from a sense of 
inferiority. Jung stresses even more 
strongly the interpretation of human 
‘wholeness’, and offers a more construc- 
tive account of religion as furthering this 

As in our assessment of Nietzsche, we 
may acknowledge the contribution of both 
thinkers as ‘masters of suspicion’ in 
exposing abuses and manipulative strate- 
gies in some forms of religion. This has 
provoked such thinkers as Bonhoeffer and 
Moltmann to respond with sober critiques 
of inauthentic religion. Nevertheless, as 
Freud seemed to recognize in his latest 
writings, it falls beyond the scope of 
empirical sciences to offer a definitive 
verdict on the truth or falsity of religion 
as an ontological world-view. Freud’s 
empirical observations remain valuable, 
but are certainly not an exhaustive 
account of ‘religion’. 

Although other schools of psychology 
and psychiatry have overtaken much of 
Freud’s theory, the clock can never be put 
back behind his influential work, whatever 
the evaluation of details. 

Constructive and sympathetic critiques 
of Freud’s critique can be found in 


Freud’s critique of religion 

Ricoeur’s Freud and Philosophy, and Hans 
Kiing, Does God Exist? (London: Collins/ 
Fount, 1980), 262-340; also Kiing, Freud 
and the Problem of God (New Haven: 
Yale, 1979). Kiing cites Freud’s own 
‘modest’ admission that he provides only 
‘some psychological foundation’ to FEUER- 
BACH’S materialist and anti-theistic theory 
of projection. 

Kiing comments, ‘Freud took over 
from Feuerbach ... the essential argu- 
ments for his personal atheism (Freud and 
the Problem of God, 75). Kiing adds, ‘No 
conclusions can be drawn about the 

existence or non-existence of God’. Even 
if some religions may be illusions, ‘it need 
not be’ (ibid., 77). ‘A real God may 
correspond to the wish for God’ (ibid., 78). 

Religion is more than a quest for the 
satisfaction of personal needs, and where 
‘religion’ is understood mistakenly in this 
way, a critique of such religion is 
required. We have noted that in the case 
of Christian religion, Bonhoeffer and 
Moltmann, among others, have provided 
such incisive critiques. (See also EMPIRI- 

Gadamer, Hans-Georg 

Together with RicoEuR Gadamer is one of 
the two most influential writers on HER- 
MENEUTICS in the twentieth century. His 
importance for philosophy of religion is 
manifold, but three points deserve parti- 
cular note. 

First, like HEGEL and HEIDEGGER 
(under whom he studied) Gadamer insists 
that knowledge and understanding are 
rooted in time and history. Second, he 
distinguishes between technical ‘reason’ 
for functional tasks and ‘wisdom’ (phron- 
ésis), which is generated by corporate 
historical experience and transmitted in 
terms of its effects within tradition. Third, 
he stands at the border between ENLIGHT- 
NITY, viewing neither as adequate. 

In his earlier writings Gadamer pro- 
duced a number of studies of PLATO, in 
which he emphasized the productive 
importance of asking questions. This also 
shows the importance of DIALECTIC in the 
sense of conversation. Bare propositions 
may lend themselves to abuse as propa- 
ganda; ‘the logic of question and answer’ 
gives rise to exploratory discovery. 

Gadamer’s most widely read and influ- 
ential work is Truth and Method ([1960]; 

Eng. 2nd edn (from Ger. Sth edn.), 
London: Sheed & Ward, 1989). He uses 
the word ‘method’ negatively and ironi- 
cally to indicate that the method of 
‘science’ from DESCARTES to the Enlight- 
enment lays down criteria of rationality in 
advance of specific historical situations of 
enquiry in life, and thereby restricts and 
distorts dimensions of understanding that 
may surpass these criteria. 

In part I of Truth and Method Gada- 
mer compares the shallower individualis- 
tic ‘Cartesian? or ‘Enlightenment’ 
rationalist tradition with deeper, commu- 
nity-orientated, historical understanding, 
from Roman times to Vico and beyond. 
Being immersed in a work of art or in play 
offers a richer paradigm within which the 
art or play ‘speaks’ as subject, unrest- 
ricted by the prior dictates of individual 
consciousness. ‘Art cannot be defined as 
an OBJECT of aesthetic consciousness ... 
It is part of the event of being that occurs 
in presentation’ (ibid., 116). ‘Play draws 
him [the player] into ... a reality that 
surpasses him’ (ibid., 109). Art, not the 
mind, becomes the active, transformative, 

In part II Gadamer traces the ‘pre- 
history’ of hermeneutics in ROMANTICISM, 
SCHLEIERMACHER and Dilthey, and its 
blossoming in Heidegger. The key notion 


al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid 

of the ‘history of effects’ of successive 
processes of understanding (German, 
Wirkungsgeschichte, often translated 
‘effective history’) takes account of histor- 
ical distance between different times, but 
also permits a partial ‘fusion of horizons’ 
between those of the person who seeks to 
understand (including his or her agenda of 
questions) and the horizons of that of 
which understanding is sought. This his- 
tory of effects traces a relatively stable 
core of TRADITION. 

In part III Gadamer explores the nature 
of language as that which is both inherited 
and transmitted as an ontological ‘given’ 
(as well as shaped and shaping) that is 
always on the move. It provides the 
‘universal’ horizon within which historical 
and finite particular events, texts, objects 
or persons are understood. 

It is widely recognized that Gadamer 
succeeds in calling into question a ‘ration- 
ality’ or RATIONALISM that is based on 
‘timeless’ individualism, or individual sub- 
jective consciousness alone. He anticipates 
the post-modern emphasis on ‘situated- 
ness’ and pluralism, but does not travel 
down a relativist road. He also emphasizes 
(against postmodernism) the stability and 
continuity of traditions as transmitters and 
filters of TRUTH. 

Nevertheless, it is also recognized that 
in spite of the magisterial stature of his 
work, Gadamer leaves virtually all 
questions about criteria of truth to be 
worked out retrospectively or post hoc 
from case to case in ways that too readily 
evaporate. Further, Jiirgen Habermas and 
others criticize his work for inadequate 
attention to social values and social 

Gadamer’s major contribution is to 
raise questions that arise from the relation 
of history and tradition to human under- 
standing, and to demonstrate that such 
questions are unavoidable. His work con- 
stitutes a turning-point (among others) in 
the history of ideas, and makes a funda- 
mental contribution to philosophical her- 

al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid 

Al-Ghazali was associated with the Bagh- 
dad centre of IsLAMIC PHILOSOPHY (see 
AL-Kinpr and at-FaraBi). However, 
within this tradition he strongly opposed 
al-Farabi’s belief in the eternity of the 
world, and any accommodation with the 
Plotinian and Neoplatonic notions of 
divine emanations. God created the uni- 
verse out of nothing, and gave it its 
temporal beginning. 

The eternity of the world, al-Ghazali 
maintained, was both contrary to the 
Qur’an and philosophically indefensible. 
involved not only the immortality of the 
soul, but also the resurrection of the body. 
The titles of several of his works exemplify 
his strong reaction against privileging 
philosophy over revelation, e.g. The Inco- 
herence of the Philosophers. 

Not surprisingly, therefore, al-Ghazali 
attacked with no less force the claims of 
al-Farabi to grant this privilege of philo- 
sophy over religion. In positive terms he 
aimed to reverse this error in such works 
as The Revival of the Religious Sciences 
and in his autobiography The Deliverance 
from Error. TRUTH, for which he spent his 
life in life-long quest, remains a gift of 
divine grace. 

The core of al-Ghazali’s philosophical 
theology remains, in harmony with the 
Qur’an, his emphasis on divine sover- 
eignty. He pressed this to its most radical 
limit, arguing that effects in the world 
spring not from mediate, efficient causes 
but directly from the will of Allah or God. 
This leads him into a formulation of 

Al-Ghazali’s quest for truth led him to 
resign from his post in Baghdad, to 
embark on the solitary life of the mystic. 
As a Sufi (the mystical strand within 
Islam), he wandered for some ten years 
through many centres of Islamic learning. 
Although in his last years he returned to 
teaching, he stressed especially divine 

God, arguments for the existence of 


grace and human fallibility. (See also 

God, arguments for the 
existence of 


Broadly, arguments for the existence of 
God have rested on either or both of two 
different approaches. The COSMOLOGICAL 
MENT begin from our experience of the 
everyday world, and draw inferences from 
these data and observations to seek to 
establish the reasonableness of the belief 
that God exists. This is an A POSTERIORI 
argument. By contrast, the ONTOLOGICAL 
ARGUMENT for the existence of God 
begins from the very concept of God as 
God, and seeks to show that by internal 
logical NECEssITy this concept carries 
with it divine existence or Being. This is 
an A PRIORI argument. 

These arguments may also be expressed 
in negative terms, and this may give them 
greater plausibility. The first approach 
postulates that the everyday world cannot 
constitute the ground of its own existence, 
unless we resort to the implausible hypoth- 
esis of an infinite chain of CONTINGENT or 
finite causes. The second approach postu- 
lates that if we conceive of God as God, 
the denial of God’s existence results in 
logical self-contradiction. 


The logical implications and complexities 
of these arguments have fascinated many 
thinkers who nevertheless remain uncon- 
vinced by them. They have even been 
turned on their head as disproofs of God’s 
existence. The first approach, however, 
finds a place in ancient Greek philosophy, 
and in Jewish, Christian and Islamic 

A number of theologians who reject the 
logical validity of the arguments as 
‘proofs’ nevertheless see value in them as 

emphasizing the ‘otherness’ or TRANSCEN- 
DENCE of God. They underline the logical 
impropriety, for example, of asking such a 
question as ‘Who made God?’ 

On the other hand, if ‘God’ is God, 
what kind of evidence might we expect to 
find for God’s existence? KIERKEGAARD 
(1813-55) declared that to try to prove the 
existence of the God who addresses us is a 
‘shameless affront’. BUBER declared that 
next to the foolishness of denying God is 
the folly of trying to prove God. If God 
were logically demonstrable, would such a 
God be God? 

Titt1cH (1886-1965) argued that to 
ascribe ‘existence’ to God amounts to 
reducing God to a mere object of thought. 
Rather, God is ‘Being-itself? (Systematic 
Theology, vol. 1, London: Nisbet, 1953, 
261). Where the arguments fail most 
sharply, some believe, they help to exhibit 
the peculiar way in which God is elusive, 
transcendent, ‘Other’ and Beyond. 

While the cosmological and other a 
posteriori arguments may fail because they 
risk embracing ‘God’ too closely within 
the chains of cause and effect that 
characterize the world, this approach 
may nevertheless help to underline the 
historical and temporal dimensions of 
God’s action within the world. 

By contrast the ontological a priori 
argument may seem to fail because it risks 
perceiving God as a timeless abstraction of 
logic, divorced from the real world. Yet 
this approach nevertheless presupposes the 
unique ‘otherness’ of the God who trans- 
cends all phenomena within the world. 
‘God’ is not the kind of Being who might 
be located’ by means of space flight or 
theories of cosmology. This would be a 
logical mistake. It is perhaps what RYLE 
would call a ‘category mistake’. 

One reason why Buber, Jewish philo- 
sopher of religion, regards these argu- 
ments as misleading is that he understands 
God as a ‘Thou’ or ‘You’ who addresses 
us, while seeking to prove God’s existence 
seems to turn God into an ‘It’, or passive 
OBJECT of thought. However, while many 


God, arguments for the existence of 

theists agree that ‘God’ cannot be logically 
demonstrable, the traditional arguments 
tend cumulatively to suggest that belief in 
God’s existence is not irrational. At very 
least, it is no less reasonable a belief than 


We often seek to draw inferences from 
everyday observations or experience to 
something which we infer from these (a 
posteriori). If on a walk, for example, we 
find a single glove on the ground, it is 
reasonable to infer 1) that a passer-by 
preceded us; and 2) that they dropped and 
lost a glove. Theists find many ‘clues’ 
within the world that point to divine 
agency, activity or Being. 

In ancient Greek philosophy PLATO, 
(428-348 BcE) in Laws X, and ARISTOTLE 
(384-322 BcE), in Metaphysics XII, 
argued that the finitude or contingency 
of objects or events in the world (objects 
or events that might or might not have 
been) could not provide adequate grounds 
for the world’s coming into being. An 
endless chain of contingent or finite 
causes, they argue, remains implausible. 
Similarly movement or change within the 
world points to a Being who is changeless, 
or the ground of change; to a Being who is 
‘necessary’ rather than contingent. 

Aristotle’s approach was revived in 
cenna, 980-1037) among others, and in 
Christian thought most notably by Tho- 
mas Aquinas (1225-74). Ibn Sina under- 
lined the implausibility of an infinite chain 
of contingent causes, in contrast to the 
more reasonable explanation that behind 
all finite causes stood the One Necessary 
Being, who is neither caused nor contin- 

Thomas Aquinas declares, ‘There are 
Five Ways in which one can prove that 
there is a Goď (Latin, quinque viis probari 
potest). Of these the first three argue a 
posteriori. “The first way is based on 
change’ (Latin, Prima via sumitur ex parte 

motus); the second on efficient cause 
(causae efficientis); and the third on the 
contrast between contingency (possible 
being) and necessity (ex possibili et neces- 
sario; Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 2, art. 
3, London: Blackfriars edn, 1963, vol. 2, 

‘A thing in process of change cannot 
itself cause that same change’ (ibid.). In 
the contrast between the potential and the 
actual ‘a series of causes must ... stop 
somewhere’ (ibid.). Strictly this ‘second’ 
way is accorded the term ‘the cosmologi- 
cal argument’, but all of the first three of 
the five ways are variant forms of it. God 
is God’s own ground (see ASEITY). 

DESCARTES (1596-1650) attempted a 
reformulation of the cosmological argu- 
ment, although few would accept his 
distinctive view of cause. Hume (1711- 
76) questioned whether efficient causality 
could be established by empirical observa- 
tion, and Kant viewed causality as a 
category in terms of which the human 
mind ordered the world. Hence neither 
Hume nor Kant accept the validity of this 

The fifth way of Thomas Aquinas 
represents a version of the teleological 
argument for the existence of God. Aqui- 
nas calls this the argument from the 
‘guided’ nature of the world (gubernatione 
rerum), or from purposive or ‘final’ causes 
that presuppose a goal (ad finem). 

In the eighteenth century the classic 
exponent was PALEY (1743-1805). How- 
ever, since Paley’s era, many argue that the 
combined force of Kant’s Critique of 
Judgement, which ascribed ‘order’ to a 
projection of the human mind, of DARWIN 
(1809-82) and of biodevelopmental the- 
ories of EVOLUTION, transposed the debate 
into a new key. 


The ontological argument for the exis- 
tence of God rests on purely logical (a 
priori) considerations, not on observations 

God, concepts and ‘attributes’ of 


drawn from experience of the world (a 
posteriori) arguments. In Proslogion 2-4 
ANSELM of Canterbury (1033-1109) 
declares that God is ‘that than which no 
greater can be conceived’ (Latin, a liquid 
quo maius cogitari possit). BARTH rightly 
emphasizes that this utterance occurs in 
the context of worship rather than of 
theoretical argument. Anselm continues: 
“You alone, of all things, exist in the truest 
and greatest way? (Latin, verissime et 
maxime esse). 

Nevertheless, Anselm begins to draw an 
inference from this paean of praise. The very 
notion of ‘maximal greatness’ in every 
respect must include existence in reality, 
since if ‘God’ were to exist only ‘in the mind’ 
this would not constitute maximal great- 
ness. Over the centuries some have endorsed 
the argument, provided that it is applied 
uniquely to God alone. Others perceive a 
logical fallacy that confuses existence of a 
concept with existence of a reality. 

Barth is typical of those theologians 
who perceive it not as an argument about 
God’s existence, but as primarily under- 
lining the transcendence or Otherness of 
the sovereign God in contrast to the 
world. For more detail see entries on 
cosmological, teleological and ontological 
arguments. (See also EMPIRICISM; LOGIC; 

God, concepts and ‘attributes’ 

This entry summarizes a number of key 
issues under this heading to provide a 
general perspective on, or overview of, this 
large subject. More specific and detailed 
problems that arise under each section are 
treated in other entries. Thus CONCEPTS of 
God may be differentiated in more detail 
under such headings and entries as 
butes’ of God include especially divine 


In theism the distinction between God and 
the created order finds expression in divine 
transcendence, namely the belief that God 
is ‘Other’, and ‘Beyond’ the world. Some, 
including Kant, argue that God is beyond 
human thought. Linked with this notion 
of transcendence as ‘other’ is the notion of 
God as holy and sovereign, but this takes 
us into the area of the ‘attributes’ of God. 
On the other hand, BARTH relates this 
divine transcendence to God’s surpassing 
of all human definition and characteriza- 
tion. Only divine self-REVELATION allows 
human persons to have even analogical 
concepts of God. 

emphasizes the prohibition of images or 
representations of God. In general Juda- 
ism and Christianity share this reserve on 
two grounds: first, God cannot be com- 
prehended or objectified in this way (see 
OBJECTIFICATION); second, God created 
humankind to show forth God’s image 
through holy human personhood. Many 
Christian theologians, notably Eberhard 
Jiingel (b. 1934), argue that the ‘think- 
ability’ or ‘conceivability’ of God turns 
ultimately on the enfleshment of God in 
Jesus Christ (God as the Mystery of the 
World, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, and 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983, 105- 

Yet if God is ‘beyond’ the world, God is 
also said to be near; indeed God is present 
‘within’ the world, animating and sustain- 
ing it moment by moment. This view is 
known as that of divine IMMANENCE (God 
remains, or dwells, within the world). 
PIETISM, MYSTICISM and warm devotional 
religion perceive God as closer than 
human heart-beats. 


The main traditions of theism in Judaism, 
Christianity and Islam, therefore, place a 
dual emphasis upon the transcendence and 


God, concepts and ‘attributes’ of 

immanence of God. For God is not to be 
equated with CREATION, even the whole of 
creation (as in pantheism); but God is not 
so far ‘above’ the world that God does not 
act within it (as in deism). 

Deist concepts of God tended to 
flourish in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries in conjunction with quasi- 
mechanistic models of the world. The 
world was viewed as if it were a machine 
that God had set in motion. To intervene 
in the workings (e.g. by ‘miracles’) might 
imply that God had created an imperfect 
machine that required repairs. Hence the 
deist picture is that of a God who watches 
the universe, as if from a distance, without 
taking further action within it. 

Pantheistic concepts of God tend to 
flourish either in Eastern religions, espe- 
cially Advaita Vedanta schools of Hindu- 
ism, or in conjunction with organic, non- 
mechanistic, models of the world. Thus 
Spinoza (1632-77) argued that we may 
speak either of ‘God’ or of ‘nature’ (Deus, 
sive Natura), since either term denotes an 
infinite reality. J.G. Herder (1744-1803) 
and Johann W. Goethe (1749-1832), at 
the dawn of the Romantic era, when 
RATIONALISM had passed its zenith, 
stressed the organic, anti-mechanistic 
aspect of Spinoza’s pantheism. 

In contrast to pantheism, PANENTHEISM 
stresses that God is present and active in 
all created things, although God is also 
more than God’s creation. PROCESS PHI- 
LOSOPHY offers one example of such 
thought, but such a notion is also 
expressed co-jointly by ancient Greek 
writers and the New Testament (Acts 
17:28): ‘In God we live and move and 
have our being.’ 

Even more fundamental, however, are 
the contrasts between monotheism and 
polytheism, and between theism and 
DUALISM. Theism has been defined as 
‘belief in one God, the Creator, who is 
infinite, self-existent, incorporeal, eternal 
... perfect, omniscient and omnipotent’ 
(H.P. Owen, Concepts of Deity, London: 
Macmillan, 1971, 1). 

Thomas Aquinas reflects the Hebrew— 
Christian-Islamic tradition when he 
asserts that to declare ‘God is One’ has 
practical consequences. To assert the 
Hebrew Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4, 
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one 
God’, carries three implications or corol- 
laries. ‘First, ... God is simple’, i.e. ‘to be 
God is to be this God’. ‘Second ... God’s 
perfection is unlimited’, in contrast to 
polytheism, in which ‘something belong- 
ing to one God would not belong to the 
other’. Third, the one God is ‘the primary 
source of unity and order’ (Summa Theo- 
logiae, Ta, Qu.11, art. 3). This coheres 
with the biblical emphasis upon the unity, 
coherence and integrity of life committed 
to one God as one Lord. 


No less fundamental a question concerns 
the basis of human concepts of God. 
FEUERBACH (1804-72) believed that 
Christian theology masked the true human 
origin and nature of belief in God. With 
HEGEL, he saw philosophy as a critical 
advance upon religion, which dealt with 
images rather than critical concepts. ‘Con- 
sciousness of God is self-consciousness ... 
Anthropology [is] the mystery of theology’ 
(Essence of Christianity [1854], New 
York: Harper, 1957, 12, 336). Human 
consciousness projects outwards and 
upwards ‘the infinity of consciousness’ to 
hypostatize or objectify a God-figure as if 
‘out there’ (ibid., 2, 3). 

As Hans Kiing observes, this is the first 
instance of a ‘planned’ ATHEISM (Does 
God Exist? London: Collins/Fount, 1980, 
192-216). It confuses claims about the 
force of wishing with truth-claims. Yet 
Feuerbach laid the foundation for Karl 
Marx (1818-83) and his account of 

Marx reinterpreted Feuerbach’s cri- 
tique of religion in social and political 
terms. The basic origins of concepts of 
God and the practice of religions lay in 
socio-economic conditions. Against 

God, concepts and ‘attributes’ of 


Feuerbach, Marx dismissed the primacy of 
‘consciousness’, and replaced it by the 
primacy of social and economic condi- 
tions, especially of labour, exchange-value 
and power. Religion provides a ‘moral 
sanction’ for oppression of the poor. 
Because of its other-worldly and illusory 
prospect of eternal ‘reward’, it serves to 
sedate the masses: ‘It is the opium of the 
people’ (Collected Works, vol. 3, New 
York: Lawrence & Wishart, 1975, 175). 
Marx, like NrETZscHE, ascribes the gen- 
esis or promotion of ‘God’ to vested 
interests of power and control. 

Marx correctly perceived the impor- 
tance of social forces as against mere 
theory or abstract ideas. However, as 
with Nietzsche’s analysis, the observation 
that many abuse religion for purposes of 
class interest or for socio-economic 
power does not invalidate authentic 
theistic belief as such. Marx’s views of 
history, economics and religion fall short 
through monolithic generalization. (For a 
fuller critique, see MARXIST CRITIQUES 

FREUD (1856-1939) perceived the 
origins of concepts of God to lie in the 
projection upwards and outwards of 
the inner conflicts of neurosis within the 
human mind. The conflict between the 
drive to fulfil personal gratification (espe- 
cially sexual drives) and the repression of 
these drives by society and moral con- 
ventions can be softened by projecting 
them ‘upwards’ onto a ‘God’ of judge- 
ment and grace. This ‘God’ is both judge 
and comforting father. Especially the 
projection of a perfect, affirming father- 
figure enables human persons to cope 
with these inner conflicts through this 
illusory device of projection and externa- 

A closer study of FREUD exposes the 
limitations and speculative nature of some 
of his theories of the human mind. He also 
confuses (like Feuerbach) what wish-fulfil- 
ment may project with issues of TRUTH. 
Can ‘wishing’ in itself make what is 
wished for either true or false? 


More recently the English philosopher of 
religion CuritT has offered a ‘non-realist’ 
view of God, which shares with Feuerbach 
and with Freud the notion that ‘God ... 
and his attributes are a kind of projection’ 
(Taking leave of God, London: SCM, 
1980, 85). ‘I do not suppose God to be 
an objectified individual over and above 
the religious requirement’ (ibid., 87). His 
main difference from Feuerbach and Freud 
is that the projection is generated by being 
‘religious’, even if God is not ‘there’. There 
is ‘nothing beyond’ human beings (A. 
Freemen, Faith in Doubt: Non-Realism 
and Christian Belief, London: Mowbray, 
1993, 7). 

Nevertheless, all the major theistic 
traditions claim not that God is ‘reached’ 
by sheer intellectual effort alone, but that 
God initiates a relationship with human- 
kind by choosing to disclose divine pre- 
sence and action. Revelation unveils what 
would otherwise remain unknowable, as 
divine gift. This may occur through sacred 
writings, events in the world, disclosure- 
situations, or, for Christians, through Jesus 
Christ. Islam stresses the inspired gift of 
the Qur’an; Judaism, the Hebrew scrip- 
tures; Christians also stress the role of the 

It has been suggested that a ‘god’ who 
waits to be demonstrated by human 
reasoning from the nature of the world 
(A POSTERIORI), or a conceptual ‘god’ who 
emerges from purely axiomatic reasoning 
(A PRIORI) would not be God (see Gop, 
KIERKEGAARD, BuBER and Barth take this 
view. Barth further argues that a truly 
sovereign God who is ‘Other’ chooses 
where, when and how to disclose and to 
communicate God’s own Being and nat- 
ure. Such a God, he argues, has more 
authenticity as God than any projection 
from human consciousness. 

More precisely, PANNENBERG (b. 1928) 
insists that otherness and universality 


God, concepts and ‘attributes’ of 

belong so inextricably to the concept of 
God that ‘the term “God” ... serves to 
interpret what is encountered in it ... The 
situation is expressed as encounter with 
Another ... The word “God” is used for 
this Other’ (Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 
Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991, 67). 
Pannenberg concedes that part of this 
‘Otherness’ consists in ‘the unity and 
totality’ entailed in the concept of God. 
‘If the word [God] is like a blank face to 
us, it reminds us by its very strangeness of 
the lack of meaning in modern life, in 
which the theme of life’s unity and totality 
is missing’ (ibid., 71). However, he under- 
stands the concept of God as implying a 
‘totality’ that confronts and addresses 
humanity as ‘Other’, not merely as an 
extension of human consciousness. 


Our use of inverted commas signals 
reserve but not outright rejection of the 
conventional use of the term ‘attributes’ to 
denote features of distinguishing charac- 
teristics of God, especially those that are 
inseparable from, or internal to, God’s 
own nature as God. The problem about 
the word derives from its use by ARIS- 
TOTLE to denote the properties of objects 
understood as categories of space, time 
and relation. God, however, is not an 
‘object’; still less an object in space and 
time. Only when we exclude inapplicable 
static and objectifying overtones can the 
term properly be applied to God. 
Thomas Aqurnas follows his section 
on the ‘Five Ways’ (on the existence of 
God) by expounding God’s nature as 
(Latin) ‘simplex’, i.e. ‘simple’ in the sense 
of transcending all ‘classes’ (genera) of 
beings, and manifesting ‘perfection simple 
and single’ (perfectio ... in uno simplici: 
Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 3, arts. 6 and 
7). Further, ‘the perfections of everything 
exist in God ... He lacks no excellence of 
any sort’ (ibid., Qu. 4, art. 2). Aquinas 
notes that here he follows ‘Averroes’, i.e. 
the Islamic philosopher IBN RusHD. 

Indeed, ‘God alone is good by nature’, 
bonus per suam essentiam; ibid., Qu. 6, 
art. 3). 

The notion that God is infinitus (Latin) 
may be translated as ‘God is infinite’ or as 
‘God is unlimited’. Following Aristotle, 
Aquinas considers several objections to 
this assertion. How can the summit of 
perfection be ‘limitless’? 

This introduces what today we might 
call the logical grammar of the assertion 
that the infinity of God is internal to God’s 
nature as God. In an obvious sense, 
everything other than God derives from 
God. God is infinitus in the sense of 
ASEITY. God is also infinitus in the sense 
that God possesses unlimited power. This 
will be noted further in the next section 
(but see the entry on OMNIPOTENCE). 

‘Infinity’ finds expression in the tem- 
poral dimension through language about 
God as eternal. However, ‘calling God 
eternal does not imply his being measured 
by something extrinsic’ (ibid., Qu. 10, art. 
2). God has neither beginning nor end, 
and is not capable of decay into non- 
existence (ibid., art. 4). Yet eternity is 
more than ‘human’ time stretched out 
indefinitely at both ‘ends’. BOETHIUS 
offers the classic model when he insists 
that eternity belongs to God, since time is 
a property of the created order. 

Boethius conceived of eternity as ‘the 
complete possession all at once [Latin, 
totum simul] of an illimitatable life’. Past, 
present and future are grasped simulta- 
neously. This is a metaphorical way of 
accommodating the limits of human con- 
cepts and conceivability, for is there no 
succession, apart from within the created 
world order? In Hebrew-Christian theol- 
ogy God is living and purposive. 

Time, Aquinas asserts, is a measure of 
change; but he also argues (in opposition to 
serious questioning today) that God is 
incapable of change. In Aquinas’s view, 
eternity measures not time but existence 
itself. Like Boethius, he sees it as gathering 
together past, present and future. Such a 
view of the logic of ‘eternal’ is controversial, 

God, concepts and ‘attributes’ of 


but has the merit of distinguishing it from 
the time God has created, and by which 
God is not conditioned. Nevertheless, it is 
not without problems, and it tends to 
predetermine how Thomas Aquinas 
approaches the related problem of divine 
omniscience (see further on ETERNITY.) 

The belief that God is one also derives, 
as we have noted, from God’s nature as 
God. ‘To be God is to be this God’ (ibid., 
Qu. 11, art. 3). In the modern era, 
Pannenberg convincingly relates this to 
the dual use of Elohim, ‘God’, and 
YHWH, ‘this God’ (i.e. as a proper name) 
in the Hebrew scriptures. 


Traditionally in philosophy of religion the 
Almighty-ness or omnipotence of God, 
God’s presence throughout the created 
order, or omnipresence, and God’s full 
and complete knowledge of what can be 
known, divine omniscience, constitute the 
‘metaphysical attributes’ of God. Aquinas 
expounds God’s existence ‘in everything 
... everywhere’ following his exposition of 
God as infinite (ibid., Qu. 8). 

The logical complexities of these con- 
cepts are so great that we reserve detailed 
discussion for the entries on omniscience, 
omnipotence and omnipresence. If there 
are no logical constraints upon their 
scope, these terms result in self-contra- 
diction. For example, would it enhance the 
‘almighty’ power of the omnipotent God 
to assert that God can lie; or that God can 
divide odd numbers into two sets of 
integers; that God can change what 
occurred in the past; or that God can 
make a stone so big that God is unable to 
lift it? 

It is not part of the logical grammar of 
divine omnipotence to claim that God can 
perform logical contradictions, can per- 
form self-contradictory acts, or can act in 
ways contrary to God’s own nature as 
loving, wise and good. Hence Peter Geach 
and Gijsbert van den Brink insist that 
‘Almighty-ness’ is a preferable term. 

SWINBURNE retains the traditional term, 
but insists that it denotes ‘an ability to 
bring about any (logically possible) state 
of affairs’ (The Coherence of Theism, 
Oxford: Clarendon, 1977 and 1987, 150). 

When all has been said, however, a key 
factor is that God may choose to limit 
divine powers as a sovereign act of 
renunciation prompted by self-giving love. 
Barth and MOLTMANN underline this 
point. Any resultant self-chosen constraint 
is then not a denial of omnipotence but an 
expression of it. 

The logical complexity of omniscience 
becomes most problematic when it is 
applied to divine knowledge of a future 
that has not yet occurred. Is anything 
‘there’ yet, of which God can (logically 
can) have knowledge? 

If we answer in the affirmative we seem 
to risk presupposing DETERMINISM. If God 
knows that I will choose a given commod- 
ity or course of action, how can I be free to 
choose another? AUGUSTINE responds by 
insisting that my choice would still be 
‘freely mine’, even if God knows it and it is 
destined to occur. Aquinas distinguishes 
between the CONTINGENT NECESSITY of a 
state of affairs, and the logical necessity of 
a proposition that describes the state of 
affairs. RYLE suggests that a phrase such as 
‘It was to be’ simply confuses the ‘partici- 
pant’ logic of an agent with the retro- 
spective logic of an ‘observer’ (Dilemmas, 
Cambridge: CUP, 1954, 15-35). 

Swinburne eases the problem by apply- 
ing the same logic to omniscience as that 
which he applied to omnipotence. Omnis- 
cience, he urges, is not ‘knowledge of 
everything true, but (very roughly) 
knowledge of everything true which it is 
logically possible to know? (The Coher- 
ence of Theism, 175). ‘P. is omniscient if 
he knows about everything except those 
future states ... which are not physically 
necessitated by anything in the past’ 

Indeed, in Swinburne’s view, even God 
would not be truly free to make chosen 
sovereign decisions and decrees if the 



nature of every future decree were trans- 
parent at every point. Hence biblical 
passages use analogical language about 
God’s change of purpose (e.g. Gen. 18: Ex. 
32), especially in relation to human inter- 
cession or human repentance. Swinburne 
urges an ‘attenuated sense’ of the term 
‘omniscient’. HARTSHORNE adopts a simi- 
lar approach, but PLANTINGA takes a 
different path (see the entry on omnis- 

Omnipresence as a concept shares 
some of the logical problems discussed 
under ‘omnipotence’. Also placed else- 
where is the issue of the ‘personhood’ of 
God. Is such a term as ‘supra-personal’ 
perhaps less misleading, or would this lose 
more than it might gain? (See also 

God, transcendence of 



In the biblical writings the Hebrew chen 
and Greek charis denote respectively 

loving kindness and gracious, unmerited 
love-gift. As biblical theology develops, it 
becomes clear that this means not simply a 
gift of love separable from God, but God’s 
gift of God’s own SELF. 

In certain technical debates, for exam- 
ple that between AuGusTINE (354-430) 
and Pelagius (c. 360-c. 420) prevenient 
grace came to be seen as God’s granting of 
a power or capacity to respond to God’s 
love and salvation. In Aquinas and in 
Roman Catholic theology it became 
almost reified as an infused power. 

Since the active presence of God 
ultimately has this effect, this view simply 
shifts the emphasis in Christian theology. 
However, ‘divine grace is best understood 
as a mode of God’s action towards, or 
relatedness to, the creature, and not as 
some kind of substance that God imparts 
to the creature’ (Colin Gunton, God and 
Freedom, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995, 
126). In debates about grace and FREE- 
DOM, it is more helpful to ask how divine 
action relates to human freedom, than to 
speculate about the nature of some reified 

Hartshorne, Charles (1897-2000) 

An American philosopher, Hartshorne 
exercised wide influence as a distinctive 
thinker who combined a rational defence 
of THEISM with an advocacy of PROCESS 
PHILOSOPHY and the notion of God as 
‘always becoming’, rather than as ‘Being’. 
He was educated at Harvard, and taught 
at the University of Chicago, Emory and 
Texas University at Austin. He was influ- 
enced by WHITEHEAD (1861-1947) and 
by C.S. Peirce (1839-1914), whose Col- 
lected Papers he co-edited. 

Hartshorne is probably most widely 
known on both sides of the Atlantic for his 
logical defence of the ONTOLOGICAL 
ARGUMENT for the existence of God, 
together with those of Matcotm and 
PLANTINGA. Yet he also regarded the three 
classical arguments for the existence of 
Gop as mutually reinforcing one another, 
like strands of a rope. Further, he 
expounds a distinctive view of God, 
sometimes called a ‘neo-classical’ view. 


Alongside his defence of the ontological 
argument, Hartshorne also expounds a 
distinctive view of God as ‘di-polar’: God 
is ABSOLUTE, but this alone does not do 

justice to God’s ‘perfection’. ‘Theism’, he 
argues, tends to stress IMMUTABILITY and 
ETERNITY over against change and TIME; 
activity and sovereignty over against the 
capacity to experience and to respond. But 
‘perfection’ embraces both sides of these 
di-polar contrasts. 

Like MoLtmann, Hartshorne believed 
that there is a sense in which God co- 
suffers with the world, but as a necessary 
entailment of divine ‘perfection’. To 
restrict God to eternal ‘Being’, rather than 
to ‘always becoming’, is to reduce divine 
perfection. God is involved in the lack of 
symmetry between the past that has been 
actualized and the future that remains 

This points not to PANTHEISM, but to 
capacity to know what is ‘knowable’. 
God’s permanent ‘being’ consists in faith- 
ful, steadfast goodness exhibited through 
‘everlasting becoming’. 


Hartshorne addresses the nature of NECES- 
sity in the second formulation of 
ANSELM’sS argument. He concedes that 
Anselm did not have at his disposal the 
resources of modern Locic. However, 
Anselm’s second formulation states that 


Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 

God’s necessary existence is so self-evident 
that to deny it constitutes a contradiction. 
By MODAL LOGIC Hartshorne sharpens the 
negation: it is necessarily not true that 
‘God exists necessarily’ strictly implies 
that God does not exist. Hence either 
‘God exists necessarily’, or ‘it is necessary 
that God does not exist’. However, the 
proposition ‘God does not exist’ cannot be 
a necessary proposition (i.e. it is not 
‘necessary’ that God does not exist). The 
remaining unexcluded logical alternative 
is that ‘God exists necessarily’. 

The value of the ontological argument, 
Hartshorne concludes, is to show that it 
makes no sense to predicate ‘possible 
existence’ of God, while it is false to assert 
that God’s existence is of necessity not 
possible. Hence ‘God exists necessarily’ 
may be accepted as the only remaining 
option. This coheres with Hartshorne’s 
logic of perfection. (See also GOD, CON- 

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm 
Friedrich (1770-1831) 

Hegel’s dissatisfaction with KANT 
(1724-1804), especially with the status 
that Kant accorded to REASON, gave rise to 
a complex and highly original system of 
thought. Hegel rejected Kant’s separation 
of the rational from the universal or 
ABSOLUTE. The rational, for Hegel, is 
‘the real’ in its wholeness and universality. 

Hegel’s influence is seen mainly in his 
exposition of ‘historical’ reason, or, in 
other words, the notion of reason as a 
developmental process simultaneously 
anchored in processes of history but also 
exhibited in the dialectical process of 

Yet Hegel’s influence is also seen in his 
differences from those whom he opposed, 
or who opposed him. He opposed Kant’s 
notion that reason yielded only an ‘order- 
ing’ or regulative principle, which, in 
effect, operated only in terms of experi- 
ence of the phenomenal, or CONTINGENT, 
world. He opposed Kant and FICHTE’s 

identification of the absolute with the 
moral categorical imperative, rather than 
with reason or mind (German, Geist, also 

Hegel equally opposed SCHELLING’s 
beginning with human consciousness. 
This Hegel sees as too subjective for a 
unified theory of reality. He also attacked 
SCHLEIERMACHER’S giving central privi- 
lege to the immediate sense of absolute 
dependence upon God. This he saw as 
giving hostages to Romanticist ‘feeling’ 
as against the rigour of conceptual 

No less, however, KIERKEGAARD 
attacked Hegel’s emphasis upon a univer- 
sal ONTOLOGY as impossible, except in 
logic alone. He also attacked Hegel’s 
tendency to replace religious faith by 
conceptual philosophical thought. FEUER- 
BACH and Marx replaced Hegel’s notion of 
Absolute Spirit or Absolute Mind (Geist), 
with the notion of humanity (Feuerbach), 
or with the socio-economic forces of 
history (Marx: see MARXIST CRITIQUE OF 


Hegel’s attempt to offer a unified ontol- 
ogy, or theory of reality, can be under- 
stood most readily in the context of his 
two parallel notions of development: 
historical and logical. At the level of 
history, Absolute Reality unfolds its 
nature not only through individual enti- 
ties or persons, but through mental, 
social and political phenomena. Hegel 
shared this starting-point in part with 
Schelling in the early period of their 
collaboration. Their common question 
concerned the emergence of conscious- 
ness. Self becomes self-aware in relation 
to what is not-self. 

In his The Phenomenology of Mind 
(1807) Hegel uses Mind or Spirit (Geist) 
to denote the finite human being as an 
inter-subjective (or related-to-an-other) 
reality. Ultimate reality is God as absolute 
Spirit, and also as telos, or End. God (the 

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 


Absolute) is the telos of the process of 
rational self-awareness as this unfolds 
itself through the ‘ladder’ of historical 
development and logical DIALECTIC. 

The Phenomenology of Mind and the 
Science of Logic (1812-16) focus respec- 
tively on the historical and logical aspects 
of Hegel’s system. 

The term ‘phenomenology’ in the first 
title (from Greek phainomai, 1 appear) 
underlines that Mind or Spirit first appears 
in finite form in the contingent, historical 
or phenomenological world. This is partly 
also Kant’s phenomenological world, 
ordered by categories, but is at the same 
time in process, as moving beyond the very 
confines that Kant proposed as A PRIORI 
categories of the mind. 

Through historical and logical TRANS- 
CENDENCE beyond a prior constraint and 
finitude, the logical idea becomes trans- 
cended as the Universal Principle of 
Reason, in which only ‘the Whole’ is 
‘Reality’. As a wholeness, as a completed 
All, Reason is Reality, and Reality is 

If nature were absolute, this would be a 
reductive ‘naturalism’. If individual con- 
sciousness were absolute (as in Schelling) 
this would be supyectivism. If the moral 
imperative were absolute (as in Kant and 
Fichte), this would be moralism. However, 
the ‘objective IDEALISM’ of objective logic 
exhibited as the spiritual, historical and 
developmental principle of historical rea- 
son does lead on to reason as absolute 

However, ‘historical reason’ as such 
takes account of the radical historical 
finitude or ‘situatedness’ of human minds 
within the phenomenological ascent or 
‘ladder’ of dialectic. These ‘placings’ 
within history give rise to a dialectical 
process of differentiation, or even opposi- 
tion. Thus Hegel presses further the logical 
resources first proposed by FICHTE and 
Schelling of moving from ‘thesis? to 
‘antithesis’, and thence (in the light of this 
awareness of ‘the other’) to a synthesis 
which takes thought ‘higher’. Dialectic 

thus entails both opposition, negation, or 
separation (antithesis) and mediation 
(synthesis) that is a negation of negation. 
The process ‘raises’ (German, erheben) the 
finite and ‘sublates’ or assimilates it 
(aufheben) into what is ‘higher’. 


From the standpoint of the Christian 
theist, Hegel’s system is simultaneously 
an attack on religious faith (as KIERKE- 
GAARD judged it to be) and yet also a 
vindication of a Trinitarian philosophical 
theology of history. 

On one side, Hegel drew a contrast 
(already hinted at by Kant) between the 
simpler, less critical ways of representing 
God and religion among the devout 
through uncritical ‘representations’ (Vor- 
stellungen), and a more rigorous, critical 
use of the ‘concept’ (Begriff) in philoso- 
phical reflection. Philosophy is ‘higher’ 
than religion. 

The former (Vorstellungen) include 
images, MYTHs and stories. They relate to 
the mode of ‘immediacy’ of awareness of 
God advocated by Schleiermacher, which 
Hegel explicitly attacks as primitive and 
uncritical. The processes of historical and 
logical development lead to an entirely 
rational and conceptual differentiation 
between finite modes of expression, in an 
attempt to reach beyond them through a 
rigorous application of conceptual 
thought. D.E Strauss (1808-74) would 
later apply this contrast to biblical ‘myth’ 
with disastrously negative consequences 
for religion. 

On the other side, however, Hegel 
believed that a Christian doctrine of the 
Trinity entirely cohered with his philoso- 
phy of history, logic and reason. The 
‘thesis’ of creation and the religion of 
Judaism (God the Father) became 
‘negated’ in the ‘antithesis’ of the incarna- 
tion and the cross (God the Son). The 
cross, in a dialectical sense, was the ‘death’ 
of God. Resurrection and Pentecost, how- 
ever, now (historically and logically) begin 
the New Age of freedom (the Spirit of 


Heidegger, Martin 

God). The particularism of Judaism 
becomes universalized. 

These two respective attitudes toward 
religion are less contradictory than might 
appear. For Hegel writes, ‘In thinking, I 
lift myself up into the Absolute ... I am 
infinite consciousness while I remain at the 
same time finite self-consciousness ... It is 
in myself and for myself that this conflict 
and this conciliation take place’ (Lectures 
on the Philosophy of Religion [1832], 
Eng. 3 vols., London: Kegan Paul, 1895; 
vol. 1, 63-4 (my italics)). Religion moves 
from feeling (Gefühl) through representa- 
tion (Vorstellung) to concept (Begriff) and 
thinking (Denken) or knowledge (Wissen) 
(ibid., vol. 1, 155-99). 

Similarly, within the divine life of God, 
the Absolute as Spirit encounters the truth 
of historical, finite otherness in the incar- 
nation of God the Son and the cross. 
Thence God becomes the immanent and 
transcendent Spirit; the Spirit proceeds 
from God to work both within the finite 
world and beyond the finite as Universal 
Reality in relation to history-as-a-Whole. 
The key principle is teleology. 


Too often credit (or blame) for a develop- 
mental view of the world and of religion is 
given to the particular versions of biolo- 
gical evolution associated with DARWIN or 
ethical evolution associated with SPENCER. 
However, Hegel’s complex exposition of 
historical reason and historical dialectic 
reaches beyond the nineteenth century (in 
materialist form in Karl Marx) to our own 

In the 1950s the understandable atten- 
tion given to ‘the particular case’ in British 
and Anglo-American ANALYTICAL PHILO- 
sopHy did not find Hegel congenial as a 
dialogue partner (apart from J. N. Findlay’s 
work). Nevertheless Hegel remains a 
powerful influence upon European philo- 
sophy and modern Christian theology. His 
emphasis on ‘historical situatedness’ is 
presupposed in discussions of POSTMODER- 
NITY and even in gender studies. 

We do not have space to note the legacy 
of Hegel’s political and social philosophy, 
and we have already alluded to his impact 
on Strauss, and by way of reaction, on 
Kierkegaard and in a different direction on 
FEUERBACH. At the beginning of the 
twentieth century Hegelian thought was 
represented in England partly by BRADLEY 
(1846-1924) and in America partly by 
Josiah Royce (1855-1916). In Christian 
theology the panoramic scope of Hegel’s 
thought and his respect for the rational 
find powerful resonances especially in the 
work of PANNENBERG. (See also IDEALISM; 

Heidegger, Martin (1889-1976) 


Heidegger taught at Freiburg before 
becoming Professor of Philosophy at 
Marburg from 1923, where his colleague 
as Professor of New Testament was 
BULTMANN. He subsequently returned to 
Freiburg, one year after the publication of 
his most famous work Being and Time 
(1927). Initially he supported Hitler when 
he was Rector of Freiburg University 
(1933-4; cf. The Self-Assertion of the 
German University, 1933). However, with 
the occurrence of more radical political 
developments he withdrew from the Uni- 
versity, and worked in relative seclusion in 
the Black Forest. 

Heidegger’s work initially focused on 
the notion of human situatedness in time, 
place and history, for which he regularly 
used the term Dasein, Being-there. Under- 
standing and interpretation proceed from 
within the temporal and practical horizons 
that bound the ‘world’ of Dasein. This 
perspective is traced through his magister- 
ial Being and Time (Sein und Zeit). 

This work was originally intended as 
merely the first stage toward a philosophy 
of Being, i.e. an ONTOLOGY that drew its 
roots from existential givenness in human 
life and in time. Although he rejected 
Edmund Husserl’s concern with ‘essences’, 

Heidegger, Martin 


Heidegger was heavily influenced by his 
phenomenology, which featured promi- 
nently in Being and Time. However, how 
was he to move from Dasein (Being-there) 
in time to a genuine ontology of Being 

Heidegger began to wrestle with 
preliminary problems in What is Meta- 
physics? (1929) and Kant and the 
Problem of Metaphysics (1929). Never- 
theless, he became increasingly convinced 
that philosophical thought, as such, had 
become trapped in the DUALISM of the 
Platonic tradition. From PLATO to HEGEL 
philosophers were obsessed with ‘con- 
CEPTS’. Yet this generated only a self- 
constructed illusion whereby ‘technical 
conceptual moves only served to hide a 
tragic human ‘fallenness’ out of ‘Being’. 
Western philosophical language had 
fallen into a malaise of circularity and 
atomistic fragmentation. 

The more fruitful way forward was 
through the creative poets, who trans- 
cended ‘concepts’. The turning-point 
(Kehre) came with Hölderlin and the 
Essence of Poetry (1936), On the Essence 
of Truth (1947), What is Thinking (Eng- 
lish also as Discourse on Thinking (1954)) 
and especially On the Way towards 
Language (Unberwegs zur Sprache, 1959). 


Heidegger’s greatest contributions were 1) 
to explore a non-substantival, non-objec- 
tive mode of conceptual expression for the 
human in contrast to the language of 
objects and properties more appropriate to 
things; and 2) to explore the horizon of 
time (and ‘temporality’ as the basis for the 
possibility of time) as a fundamental 
dimension of human ‘existence’ and of 
the way of understanding this existence. 
Heidegger thus anticipates post-mod- 
ern and gender-related notions of human 
‘situatedness’. He began not with Being 
(Sein) but with existential Being-there 
(Dasein). Further, ‘Time needs to be 
explicated ... as the horizon for the 

understanding of Being, and in terms of 
temporality as the Being of Dasein, ...’ 
(Being and Time, Eng., Oxford: Blackwell, 
1962, 39). ‘Being cannot be grasped 
except by taking time into consideration’ 
(ibid., 40). 

In practice this means suspending 
ontological questions about being while 
we focus first on ‘ONTIC’ enquiring about 
concrete ‘existents’ in time; i.e. beings, 
especially human beings, not their being. 
This is the ‘mode of Being’ that charac- 
terizes the human. This requires the 
existential analytic of Dasein (ibid., 34). 

This leads to an exploration of philo- 
sophical HERMENEUTICS. ‘Meaning’ is a 
projected ‘upon which’ in terms of which 
we understand an entity or mode of 
existence as what it is, through anticipat- 
ing (as far as possible) a provisional and 
preliminary ‘seeing-beforehand’ (Vor- 
sicht), or pre-conception (Vorgriff), or 
‘pre-understanding’ ( Vorverstdndnis; ibid., 

Several features mark the difference 
between the language of objects (cate- 
gories) and that of the human being 
(existentialia). The latter (Existenz) does 
not have ‘properties’, but possibility. 
Moreover, objects can be replicated; but 
Dasein as human-being is in each case 
‘mineness’ (Jemeinigkeit), an ‘I’ (ibid., 68). 
In biblical studies Bultmann draws on this 
analysis to show (rightly) that ‘body’ and 
‘soul’ are not ‘components’ which human- 
kind ‘have’, but what they are, in the given 
modes of their existence. 

The ‘world’ of the human self is not 
merely physical or geographical, but is 
defined and bounded by given human 
interests, concerns and horizons of under- 
standing. Important experiences that 
relate to engagement with TRUTH include 
dread and confrontation by death. A new 
depth, taking us beyond KIERKEGAARD, is 
given to ‘SUBJECTIVITY’ and to the distinc- 
tion between OBJECTIVITY and objecti- 

In terms of a philosophy of religion a 
number of older questions are placed in a 



new light. For example, Dasein is char- 
acterized by potentiality-for-Being (Sein- 
können). Yet humankind begins from the 
situation into which they were born (or 
‘thrown-ness’, Geworfenheit, ibid., 74). 
Bultmann exploits a correlation between 
the existentialist notion that who a person 
‘is’ derives from their ‘thrown-ness’ into 
the world and their own subsequent 
decisions. This is related to ‘bondage’ in 
the Epistles of Paul, while the ‘possibility’ 
or ‘potentiality’ that lies ahead is related to 
‘freedom in the Spirit’. 


Many philosophers have little time for his 
works after 1936, although in Germany 
and among theologians they remain influ- 
ential, and contribute to the philosophy of 
art. Heidegger believed that the Western 
language-tradition had become flawed, 
and had sunk to little more than a 
technical, technological or instrumental 
vehicle of pragmatic communication. In 
short, ‘we have fallen out of Being’ (Sein: 
Introduction to Metaphysics, New Haven: 
Yale, 1959, 36-7). He accepts 
NIETZSCHE’S analysis of ‘evaporating rea- 
lity’ and cultural crisis: ‘the transforma- 
tion of men into a mass ... suspicion of 
everything free and creative’ (ibid., 38). 

The wonder of ‘Being’ has become 
stifled by ‘dreary technological frenzy’: 
by ‘gadgetry’ in America and by ‘regimen- 
tation’ in Russian Marxism. The result is 
‘the standardization of man, the pre- 
eminence of the mediocre’ (ibid., 42). This 
is largely due to the ‘chasm’ left by Plato’s 
dualism. Christianity settled down in it: 
‘Nietzsche was right in saying that Chris- 
tianity is Platonism for the people’ (ibid., 

Heidegger sought wholeness in place of 
dualism and fragmentation. Perhaps only 
art and poetry can bring ‘a new coming- 
to-speech’ of this Whole. Whereas ‘aes- 
thetics’ divides ‘concepts’ of beauty (still 
within the realm of Ideas) from sensuous 
representations of beauty (still within the 

CONTINGENT order), authentic art reaches 
back pre-conceptually to enact the whole 
work as an event in time. In summary, 
poetry and art may be ‘eventful’. This 
discloses Being not as a static entity 
(Seiendheit), but as dynamic being-as- 
event (Anwesen). 

Heidegger explores a number of exam- 
ples of eventful art. Van Gogh’s painting of 
a peasant’s boots, far from atomizing 
‘concepts’, brings together-into-one the 
‘world’ of the peasant: ‘her slow trudge 
through the ... furrows of the field swept 
by raw wind ... the silent call of the earth 

uncomplaining anxiety as to the 
certainty of bread’ (‘The Origin of the 
Work of Art’, in Poetry, Language and 
Thought, New York: Harper & Row, 
1971, 33-4). 

Whether this is ‘philosophy’ remains a 
matter of controversy. However, Heideg- 
ger has gone some way to show the 
potential circularity of some Western 
philosophical ‘concepts’. For philosophy 
of religion, the themes of ‘disclosure’ or 
REVELATION, of conceptual schemes 
appropriate to the human and the perso- 
nal, of ‘possibility’, of non-dualistic 
wholeness, and of eventfulness-in-time, 
offer resources for further exploration. 


Hermeneutics denotes much more than 
‘rules for the interpretation of texts’, even 
though it first emerged in this form in the 
ancient world and the pre-modern period. 
Philosophically the subject enquires into 
what conditions pertain for the under- 
standing of ‘what is other’; that is, of what 
lies beyond ‘my’ world of immediate 

The term ‘hermeneutics’ seems to have 
been used first by J.C. Dannhauer in his 
Hermeneutica Sacra (1654). As a method 
of interpreting texts, the subject goes back 
to first-century rabbinic thought, and to 
the interpretation of Homer by Stoic 



thinkers. SCHLEIERMACHER (1768-1834) 
extended its scope to found it as a discipline 
of the modern university. It explored the 
nature of human understanding. 

Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) used the 
term to denote the understanding of ‘lived 
experience’ (Erlebnis). He sought to 
replace HEGEL’s emphasis on Mind or 
Spirit (Geist) by a more concrete concern 
for ‘life’ (Leben). The importance of ‘life’ 
and ‘history’ for all understanding clearly 
emerges in the work of GADAMER. 

Anticipating Gadamer, Dilthey attacks 
EMPIRICISM with the comment: ‘No real 
blood runs in the veins of the knowing 
subject that LOCKE, HUME and KANT 
constructed’ (Gesammelte Schriftem, vol. 5, 
Leipzig: Teubner, 1962, 4). Dilthey’s applica- 
tion of hermeneutics to social institutions 
paves the way for its place in sociology. 

Schleiermacher asserts, ‘Hermeneutics 
is part of the art of thinking’ (Hermeneu- 
tics, Eng. Missoula: Scholar Press, 1977, 
97). All understanding is rooted in the 
concrete diversity of life. It requires a 
‘divinatory’ pole (divinatorische, denoting 
more, but not less than ‘intuitive’), and a 
comparative or rationally critical pole 
(ibid., 150). He called these the ‘feminine’ 
and ‘masculine’ poles, which were com- 
plementary for hermeneutics. 

Schleiermacher was perhaps the first 
fully to appreciate that understanding is 
not simply a matter of the human ‘subject’ 
mastering some passive ‘object’ of knowl- 
edge, but of inter-subjective, interpersonal, 
listening and evaluating. It is like seeking 
an empathy between two friends. Under- 
standing should not be reduced to ‘how I 
see it’. To understand one must step ‘out 
of one’s own frame of mind’ to engage 
with ‘the other’ (ibid., 42, 109). 

Both Schleiermacher and Dilthey stress 
the distinctive character of understanding 
(Verstehen) as against mere ‘knowledge’, 
since (for Dilthey) the former entails 
‘empathy’ (Einverständnis) or ‘re-living’ 
(nacherleben) the life-experience (Erleb- 
nis) of ‘the other’. 


GADAMER (1900-2001), however, attacks 
both of these thinkers for placing too 
much weight on the ‘SUBJECTIVITY? of 
human consciousness. This subjectivity 
can be ‘a distorting mirror’ (Truth and 
Method, 2nd rev. Eng. edn, London: Sheed 
& Ward, 1989, 276). Gadamer insists that 
the historical conditioning of traditions 
surround both the one who seeks to 
understand and that of which understand- 
ing is sought, and that these demand prior 
exploration, or ‘pre-understanding’ (Vor- 
verständnis) and ‘pre-judgements’ (Vorur- 
teile). He uses such analogies as the active 
impact of a work of art, a game, or a 
festival, to clarify his point. 

Ricoeur (b. 1913) takes a mediating 
position between Schleiermacher and 
Dilthey on one side, and Gadamer on the 
other. He convincingly criticizes Gadamer 
for collapsing the ‘critical’ or ‘explanatory’ 
axis wholly into that of ‘understanding’. 
His own hermeneutics revolve around the 
twin principles of ‘a hermeneutics of 
suspicion’ (which depends primarily but 
not exclusively on ‘explanation’) and a 
‘hermeneutic of retrieval’ (which primarily 
depends on ‘understanding’). 

Ricoeur states, ‘Hermeneutics seems to 
me to be animated by ... double motiva- 
tion: willingness to suspect, willingness to 
listen; vow of rigour, vow of obedience ... 
Doing away with idols ... to listen to 
symbols’ (Freud and Philosophy. An Essay 
on Interpretation, New Haven: Yale, 
1970, 27). 

Under the term ‘radical hermeneutics’ 
the discipline has entered into full engage- 
ment with POSTMODERNITY. However, 
more interpersonal and more traditional 
studies continue. These are bound 
together in a common recognition of the 
limitations of Enlightenment rationalism 
and empiricism, the importance of com- 
munity, traditions and history, and the 
dimension of the inter-subjective or inter- 
personal. Emilio Betti, another late twen- 


Hick, John Harwood 

tieth-century exponent, insists that herme- 
neutics nurtures tolerance and the capacity 
to listen żo ‘the other’ in mutuality and 

Hick, John Harwood (b. 1922) 

John Hick took degrees in law and 
philosophy at Hull and Edinburgh, and 
undertook research at Oxford under H.H. 
Price. He trained for Presbyterian ministry 
at Cambridge, where he was influenced by 
H.H. Farmer. Born in Yorkshire, he taught 
in England at the universities of Cam- 
bridge and Birmingham, and in the USA at 
Cornell, Princeton Theological Seminary 
and Claremont Graduate School, Califor- 

Hick’s first book, Faith and Knowledge 
(London: Macmillan, 1957) recognizes 
ambiguity in the world, and attributes 
theistic or non-theistic belief to experien- 
cing the world in different ways. More 
strictly, a cognitive decision is based on 
whether we ‘see’ the world as the creation 
of a good God, or whether we ‘see’ it as a 
chance product of material forces. This 
ambiguity generates more than one possi- 
ble way of seeing the world. However, it 
results, in Hick’s view (following Kant) 
from God’s respect for human freedom. 

Traces of the influence of Kant and 
STEIN on ‘seeing ... as ...’, can be 
detected here. He writes, ‘In each case 
we discover and live in terms of a 
particular aspect of our environment 
through an appropriate act of interpreta- 
tion ... [However,] the theistic believer 
cannot explain how he knows the divine 
presence to be mediated through his 
human experience’ (ibid. 118). 

Hick’s most widely read book, Evil and 
the God of Love (London: Macmillan, 1st 
edn 1966; 2nd edn 1977), also draws on 
Schleiermacher’s account of human fall- 
enness and human development, although 
Hick more especially emphasizes the 
influence of Irenaeus (see below). 

Since the 1970s Hick has become 
increasingly involved in controversial 
issues about Christianity, pluralism and a 
THEISM which, while respecting the role of 
Jesus Christ, also rejects any hint of 
Christocentric or Christogically exclusive 

Again, there is a link with his earlier 
works. In Faith and Knowledge he writes, 
‘In making a Christological study of the 
central data that God has revealed him- 
self to men in Christ, we are not asking 
which, if any, of the various Christologi- 
cal theories erected upon it is correct’ 
(p. 220). 

Hick’s book Evil and the God of Love 
embodies a doctrine of universal salvation, 
which is developed in Death and Eternal 
Life (1976). However, he goes further in 
his controversial work (ed.) The Myth of 
God Incarnate (1977), in God has Many 
Names (1980) and in An Interpretation of 
Religion (1989). 

Hick also produced a brief textbook on 
philosophy of religion under the title: 
Philosophy of Religion (Englewood Cliffs, 
NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963) with subsequent 
revisions. This remains a clear and useful 
introduction to the subject. We shall 
focus, however, on the book that has 
played the most influential role in this 


Hick’s central argument is that the pro- 
blem of Evit is best addressed not by 
following AUGUSTINE and Thomas 
Aquinas who look back to some ‘mytho- 
logical’ event of the past, the fall of 
humankind, to explain the origins of evil. 
Looking forward to the future, however, 
to the ultimate goal for which the experi- 
ence of evil may be a necessary condition, 
provides a better way. This good goal or 
end consists in a fuller relationship with 

Hick cites examples in human life 
where the experience of opposition, dis- 
appointment, frustration or suffering can 
contribute to the process of maturing 

Hick, John Harwood 


character. He borrows from the poet John 
Keats the allusion to life as ‘the vale of 
soul-making’ (2nd edn, 259, esp. n. 1; also 
253-61). He is content to describe his new 
starting-point as ‘an Irenaean theodicy’, or 
as ‘soul-making’ theodicy (see J. Hick, ‘An 
Irenaean Theodicy’, in S. T. Davis (ed.) 
Encountering Evil, Edinburgh: T & T 
Clark, 1981, 39-68, for an exposition, 
critique and reply; also Evil and the God 
of Love, 2nd edn, 259). 

This coheres with Hick’s account of the 
development of humanity from a state of 
naive innocence, which included an unself- 
conscious immaturity, through a difficult 
learning process, which entailed pain, to 
an ultimate goal of maturity and relation- 
ship with God. 

However, this does not fit easily with 
the Augustinian and traditionally ortho- 
dox notion of humanity prior to the Fall as 
fully in relationship with God (‘original 
righteousness’) followed by a fall into a 
state of alienation and sin. Hick rejects a 
‘historical’ reading of the Genesis account, 
which he regards as ‘MYTH’; ready-made 
goodness is a contradiction in terms. 

Hick appeals to what he calls ‘another 
and better way’, namely not the ‘majority 
report’ of the Augustinian tradition, but 
‘the minority report’ of the Irenaean 
tradition’ (Evil and the God of Love, 
2nd edn, 253). This ‘better’ picture allows 
for evolutionary development: ‘Man is in 
process of becoming the perfected being 
whom God is seeking to create’ (ibid., 

The parental analogy is suggested in 
which God, like a parent, delights in 
humanity, but does not merely desire for 
humans ‘unalloyed pleasure at the expense 
of their growth in such even greater values 
as moral integrity, unselfishness, compas- 
sion, courage, ... capacity for love’ (ibid., 
258). ‘This world must be a place of soul- 
making’ (ibid., 259). Hick insists that 
humankind begins not with ‘original right- 
eousness’, but with a lack of cognitive 
awareness of God as God, to which he 
gives the name ‘epistemic distance’. 


Hick presents his approach as an ‘alter- 
native strand of Christian thinking’, built 
on the ‘minority report’ of the nature and 
story of humanity (‘An Irenaean Theo- 
dicy’, 41). He claims to follow a two-stage 
distinction in Irenaeus (120-202) between 
humanity as created in the ‘image’ 
(Hebrew, tselem; Greek, eik6n) of God, 
and the goal of entry into God’s ‘likeness’ 
(Hebrew, demuith; Greek, homoiosis). 

Irenaeus distinguished ‘image of God’ 
as intelligence from ‘likeness to God’ as 
moral holiness or goodness. Crucially he 
writes that God could not give moral 
perfection to humankind ‘as the latter was 
only recently created’ (Irenaeus, Against 
Heresies, IV: 38: 2). At first humankind 
was ‘infantile’, because ‘not exercised in 
discipline’ (ibid., IV: 39: 1). 

Schleiermacher’s theology hinges upon 
a direct, immediate consciousness of 
dependence upon God. Yet this emerges 
in the context of development through 
fallenness and guilt. The Fall is part of a 
process leading to salvation. His critics 
have characterized it satirically as a fall 
‘upwards’. In Schleiermacher’s view sin is 
what ‘has arrested the free development of 
the God-consciousness’ (The Christian 
Faith, 2nd edn, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 
1989, sec. 66, 271). 

Without doubt Hick’s emphasis on goal 
and futurity brings fresh perspective to the 
problem of evil and complements some of 
the emphases of the Augustinian-Thomist 
approach. Hick also strenuously criticizes 
the privative account of evil as absence of 
good in the ‘major’ tradition, even if we 
may hesitate to dismiss it (with Hick) as 
no more than ‘a semantic conjuring trick’ 
akin to describing a glass of water as half 
full rather than as half empty (Evil and the 
God of Love, 2nd edn, 38-58). 

Nevertheless, Hick may at times over- 
state what he perceives as deficiencies in 
Augustine, including the extent of alien 
influences upon him and his use of the 


Hindu philosophy 

principle of PLENITUDE. Hick’s insistence 
that this ‘aesthetic’ approach is utilitarian 
has been turned on its head by his critics. 
Thus David Griffin attacks ‘the utility of 
soul making’ as presupposing God as 
inflicting pain in order to produce crea- 
tures who accord with God’s own goals, 
i.e. treating persons as means not as ends 
(‘Critique in Davis, ed., Encountering 
Evils, 53-55). 

Hick’s counter-reply is to underline 
that everything is for the ultimate welfare 
of humankind. Yet other critics ask 
whether the proportion of experience of 
evil is necessary for this end, and whether 
the argument could be sustained without 
the presupposition of a doctrine of uni- 
versal salvation. 

Hick may perhaps also overstate his 
differences from Augustine and Aquinas. 
In the end it is difficult to avoid seeing 
Hick’s critique of Augustine’s FREE-WILL 
DEFENCE as weakening his own case. 
Hick, it might be argued, has enriched 
the traditional approach with fresh strands 
of arguments, and placed question-marks 
against certain traditional assumptions. 
While the emphasis differs, we need not 
perhaps regard Hick’s approach as a 
fundamental ‘alternative’ rather than as a 
modification and supplement. 

Hindu philosophy 

The philosophical traditions of Hinduism 
address major issues of ONTOLOGY 
(including the respective claims of MON- 
ISM, DUALISM and the nature of ultimate 
reality), EPISTEMOLOGY (including the 
nature of perception), philosophy of lan- 
guage and the nature of inner SELFHOOD. 
They also concern the practical issue of 
‘release’ (moksha) from a cycle of rebirth 
and reincarnation (samsara). 

In spite of very wide differences of 
‘viewpoint’ or philosophical emphasis, the 
astika (Hindu) schools of philosophy find 
their common roots in the Vedas (c. 1500- 
800 BcE), which have the status of sacred 
scripture (Sruti). The Nastika schools 

accord less status to the Vedas, but are 
generally BUDDHIST or Jainist. 


The Vedas embody four collections of 
texts: the Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, Yajur- 
Veda and Athavna-Veda. Although early 
Vedic hymns address gods and goddesses 
and Vedic material includes rules about 
sacrifices, from around 800 BcE philoso- 
phical reflection begins to understand 
these not in explicitly polytheist terms, 
but either as symbolic representations of 
ultimate reality, or (in other traditions) as 
aspects of a supreme Being. 

The foundation texts for later philoso- 
phical reflections are especially the Upani- 
Sads (c. 800-500 BcE). These 108 Sanskrit 
texts count as Vedic scripture, but are 
primarily philosophical treatises concern- 
ing especially the relation between diman 
(true, inner, Self) and brahman, ultimate 
reality. ‘What is brahman? remains a 
central question, which provides a point 
of departure for later philosophical tradi- 

The Vedanta (‘end of the Veda’) focus 
particularly on dtman-brahman in terms 
of the question about ‘liberation’ or 
‘release’. These reflections are later devel- 
oped in two directions by the two most 
significant Hindu philosophers of the 
medieval age. SANKARA (c. 788-820) 
interprets brahman along the lines of a 
‘monist’, ‘anti-dualist’ philosophy 
(Advaita Vedanta); RAMANUJA (c. 1017- 
1137) develops the theme of the Vedanta 
in terms of a (clearly) ‘modified’ monism 
(Visista-advaita Vedanta). 

The Bhagavad Gita (‘Song of God’), 
emerging initially from around the third 
century BCE but perhaps edited over some 
five centuries, is a short philosophical 
dialogue in poetic form, also on the theme 
of liberation (moksha) of the true Self 
(atman). The divine figure of Krishna, 
disguised as a charioteer, urges Prince 
Arjuna to seek liberation by deeds of 
selfless action and by religious devotion. 

Hindu philosophy 


Although this has the status of post- 
scriptural sacred tradition (smrti), in 
practice it is treated as scripture (śruti), 
and is regarded as REVELATION. 

Again, the two schools that follow 
Sankara and Rāmānuja respectively adopt 
a different emphasis on the basis of the 
same source-text. Sankara, whose philo- 
sophical concern lies with an eventual 
identification of the sELF with brahman, 
stresses self-less deeds as the path that 
leads on to liberation. Ramanuja, whose 
philosophy allows for a more characteriz- 
able Supreme Being, emphasizes the path 
of religious devotion. 


The metaphysical question ‘What is brah- 
man? remains foundational for numerous 
less basic philosophical viewpoints and 
religious practices. If brahman is viewed, 
with Sankara and the Advaita Vedanta or 
monist tradition, as a virtually uncharac- 
terizable Ultimate Reality with which the 
true inner Self (atman) may be united, two 
consequences then follow. 

First, Ultimate Reality is an impersonal 
ABSOLUTE, with no personal defining 
qualities. It may be perceived as ‘undiffer- 
entiated consciousness’ (nirguna brahma). 
‘Difference’? within the Absolute is an 
‘illusion’ (avidya; sometimes also mdyd). 
Second, the way to find liberation from 
the pain and fragmentation of earthly 
existence, rebirth and reincarnation is 
through the identity of the self with 
brahman. This may come about, in due 
time, by attaining the ‘knowledge’ (vidya) 
that overcomes ignorance and sees illu- 
sion as illusion or ignorance (avidyd) or 
deception (maya). 

In this tradition, passion, emotion and 
strong desire nurture illusion. For exam- 
ple, a fearful concern for the self may lead 
to the misperception of a harmless rope as 
a harmful snake. By contrast, careful, 
disciplined, dispassionate habits of mental 
concentration and of disengagement from 

desire and passion, prepare the way for 
liberation in which the Self becomes 
identified with brahman. In Advaita 
Vedanta an appeal is made to the aphor- 
ism ‘You are that’ (Tat Tvam Asi) for the 
identification of the self with brahman (in 
the Chandogya Upanisad). 

By contrast, the strongly ‘modified 
monism’ (Visista-advaita) that finds nota- 
ble expression in Ramanuja accepts that 
differentiation and distinction need not be 
illusory. The early distinctions between 
different gods and goddesses in the Vedic 
hymns need not be understood in a 
polytheistic way. They may (to reapply 
Ninian Smart’s term) come to express a 
‘refracted’ THEISM; a theism that perceives 
God to have many characterizable faces or 
aspects, even if none characterizes God 
alone or fully. 

In most theistic religions, anthropo- 
morphic imagery is used to represent 
certain aspects of the character of God, 
even if these are duly qualified, in turn, 
either by negation or by other images. If, 
in monism, ultimate reality is ‘All’, in 
modified monism God may be, in one 
sense, all-pervasive, but as in PANENTHE- 
IsM rather than PANTHEISM. Moreover, re- 
birth may be release into the heavenly 
realm, rather than release into absorption 
in the All. 

Issues about boundaries of identity are 
complex. For example, some view the 
figure of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita as 
an incarnation of the deity Vishnu. Shiva 
is a destroyer god in Bhakti (devotional) 
Hinduism. Hinduism has retained a sacri- 
ficial system from earliest times, and 
numerous ‘representations’ of deities. In 
philosophical terms these may be regarded 
either as instrumentally useful but onto- 
logically illusory (broadly, Advaita 
Vedanta and Sankara) or as provisional, 
fragmentary, anthropomorphic and sym- 
bolic (very broadly, Visista-advaita and 

When we survey the spectrum of 
‘schools’ in Hindu philosophy, it emerges 
that Sankara, and Ramanuja do not 


Hindu philosophy 

constitute opposite ends of the spectrum. 
‘Radical’ or ‘Pure’ monism (Sudhadvaita- 
vada) goes further than Sankara; dualist 
(Dvaitavada) ontology (in Madhva) makes 
a more clear-cut differentiation than does 


Sankara offers some attempt to mediate 
between the two main traditions by a 
complex use of the contrast between 
appearance and reality. At a ‘lower’ level 
of knowledge, the level of mere appear- 
ance, religious devotion to gods or a God 
has a certain relative validity. Neverthe- 
less, ‘higher’ knowledge reveals that both 
the notion of God and religious devotion 
fall under the category of illusion (maya). 
Brahman is revealed as undifferentiated 
Reality with whom the dtman is identical 
and united as One, but perceived to be so 
only in a state of avidyd. Cognitive or 
conceptual discourse may obscure this 

In contrast to notions in the early Vedic 
hymns of release and rebirth into a 
heavenly realm of gods and ancestors, in 
this tradition ‘release’ (moksha) does not 
mean rebirth into a new kind of existence 
but escape from the cycle of existence and 
reincarnation altogether, to become undif- 
ferentiated dtman/brahman. Universal, 
ultimate, Reality has embraced the Self 
as itself. 

A third tradition, alongside those of 
Sankara and Ramanuja, emerges in the 
philosophy of Mapuva (c.1238-c.1317). 
Madhva is said to have founded the school 
of Dvaita Vedanta. Although technically 
this denotes a dualist ontology, it is 
‘dualist’ in the sense that Madhva asserts 
an absolute difference between God 
(iSvara) and human souls (jiva). This is 
not the difference between creator and a 
created order. As ‘souls’, humankind 
coexists as a second eternal principle. 
Nevertheless, it supports ‘devotion’ 
(bhakti) to a God who is transcendent by 
virtue of ‘difference’ (bheda). 

As we noted, however, a fourth posi- 
tion stands even nearer to absolute mon- 
ism than Sankara. Vallabhacarya (1479- 
1531), the last of the ‘classical’ Vedanta 
philosophers, promoted a ‘pure monism’ 
or ‘pure non-dualism’ (Sudhadvaita). Yet 
even so, he was more ready to speak of a 
Supreme Being than was Sankara. 

As traditions of Hindu philosophy 
developed, there emerged a number of 
‘schools’, which differed not only in where 
they placed the emphasis, but also in their 
specific range of interests or agendas. It 
has become conventional to identify six of 
these as the main schools, and usually they 
are categorized as three pairs. 

The Nyaya school, or the ‘Logic’ 
school, reflects an earlier era in which 
philosophical reflection grew out of oral 
debate. It is concerned with method, or 
method of proof, but still serves the 
liberating goal of practical ‘knowledge’ 
(juana or vidyd). It addresses the agenda 
identified below as epistemology, includ- 
ing the nature of perception. Linked as the 
other of a pair is the Vaisesika, or Atomist, 
school. This is concerned to identify 
irreducible constituents within the world 
that account for difference. ‘Distinction’ 
(vigesas) or distinctive characterization 
and its criteria, possibility and grounds 
provide the main, but not exclusive, 
agenda. The nature of CAUSALITY forms 
part of this agenda. 

A third school, Sankhya or the ‘Enu- 
merationist’ school, conceives of a self- 
sufficient universe, which leaves no need 
or room for God. The school is ancient 
and explicitly atheistic. It ‘enumerates’ the 
facts of the world or reality to explain 
components and categories. It is paired 
with the school of Yoga, which is arguably 
(the issue is disputed) not atheistic. Yoga 
explores disciplines of the body and the 
mind, with the aim of disengaging from 
distraction and attaining a disclosure of 
the essence of the soul (parusa). 

Of the remaining two schools, 
Mimāmsa is the ‘Exegesis’ school, con- 
cerned with Vedic texts and their 

Hindu philosophy 


significance for life and devotion. The 
traditions of the school with which it is 
paired, the Vedanta, have already been 
explored in some measure (above) with 
reference to the Upanigads and the differ- 
ent ontologies of monism and qualified 
monism focused by the themes of brah- 
man and ātman. This continues to be an 
important, major, tradition. Trevor Ling, 
among others, calls it ‘the most influential’ 
for modern Hindu philosophy. 


Hindu philosophy gives particular consid- 
eration to three sources of knowledge: 
perception, inference and first-hand verbal 
testimony. Perception may begin with 
sense-perception. However, most philoso- 
phical traditions recognize the contribu- 
tion of mental or intuitive perception, 
while some include the heightened percep- 
tion that may arise through mystical 
contemplation or ascetic techniques. 

Inference utilizes A POSTERIORI argu- 
ment when direct perception is excluded. 
Some perceptions may invite inferences 
about what is currently not perceived, in 
the way that ARISTOTLE in Greek tradition 
and Aquinas in Christian tradition drew 
inferences from observed occurrences or 
phenomena in the world. Some schools of 
philosophy elaborate syLLoGisms for 
valid inference. These include a five-term 
syllogism where two of the terms formu- 
late positive and negative examples, ana- 
logies or applications. 

First-hand testimony may include the 
testimony of sacred writings on the basis 
of their status as revelation. A problem 
may arise here, however, in relation to 
classical claims that the Vedic texts are 
timeless and without human authors. 

In the period of the fifth century 
Bhartrhari formulated a kind of philoso- 
phy of language. It includes, but goes 
beyond, questions of grammar. In positive 
terms he argues that COGNITIVE awareness 
of concepts depends on prior use of 

language. More questionably, he insists 
that the basis of language is ‘natural’, 
drawing on innate ideas, rather than 
resting upon convention. 

The Schools of Mimamsa (Exegesis 
school) and (in part) Nyaya (Logic school) 
formulated what amounts to criteria for 
the currency of meaning. Words convey 
meaning not only as words but also in 
terms of what Saussure, in the modern era 
(1913), would call ‘syntagmatic relations’. 
‘Tusk’ derives its meaning-currency partly 
from its contextual juxtaposition to ‘ele- 
phant’, and so on. The term ‘syntactic 
relations’ comes near to ‘syntagmatic 
relations’, with even a rudimentary hint 
of what in the modern era would be called 
linguistic ‘competence’, or, in John Searle, 

Questions relating to the self include 
debates about the stability or illusion of 
personal identity. Is it the same self who 
sleeps, dreams, wakes and reflects on the 
self? If someone is ill, is ‘the self? ill? Is the 
self ‘subject’ of all experience, or witness 
of all experience, or both? Does the self 
provide grounds for differentiated identity, 
or is the self a manifestation of a universal 
consciousness? Does the same ‘self’ 
experience reincarnation in successive 
modes of existence, as different as the 
existence of human persons, animals, 
demons or angels? 

This brings us back full circle to the 
discussion of the relation between dtman 
and brahman. Assessments of selfhood are 
bound up with ontologies: with monism 
with modified monism, with pure monism 
or with an eternal dualism. Similarly, the 
respective evaluations of appearance, illu- 
sion, deception and reality also serve as a 
major part of the framework for this 


It is widely accepted that Eastern philo- 

sophies repay study not only for their 
own sake, but also because they often 


Hobbes, Thomas 

formulate issues that resonate with pos- 
sible parallels in Western philosophies, 
from an independent and often unex- 
pected angle. Another ‘viewpoint’ may 
throw fresh light upon both sides. 

Although we may briefly mention 
Parmenides and Democritus on ontology, 
an outstanding example comes from 
PLATO (428-348 Bce), especially in the 
Phaedo. Plato writes: ‘The body (Greek, to 
sôma) fills us with passions and fears 
(epithymén kai phobon) ... It makes it 
impossible for us to think ... We must be 
free of the body to behold the actual 
reality with the eye of the soul apart from 
the body (he psyche ... choris tou 
s6matos) (Phaedo, 66, c and e). 

We noted above, by way of compar- 
ison, the passage in the Chandogya 
Upanisgad that desire and fear could 
nurture illusion (for example in misper- 
ceiving a rope as a snake), while the soul 
or inner, true self (dtman) belongs to the 
realm of brahman, or changeless, ultimate 
Reality. Release (moksha) from the body 
and from the cycle of rebirth and reincar- 
nation into any ‘body’ is sought by 
disciplines of the mind and by ‘knowl- 
edge’. Even the maxim of SOCRATES 
(470-399 BcE), that ‘virtue is knowledge’ 
has a loose resonance. 

Arguably, even if less closely, philoso- 
phical debates about ontology, including 
cosmic atomism and the nature of Being or 
Reality, find some parallels. Thales of 
Miletus (c. 624-546 BCE) and Democritus 
(c. 460-370 BCE) formulate an atomism 
that offers resonances with the school of 
Vaiśesika, the Atomist school. Parmenides 
of Elea (fl. c. 510-492 BcE) argued that 
ultimate Reality is Being, while ‘coming 
into being’ is illusory, on the ground that 
we can assert ‘that it is’, while to try to 
assert ‘that it is not’ presupposes or entails 
a self-contradiction from which ‘none can 

Bhartrhari’s question concerning 
whether language is ‘natural’, or based 
on convention, is the main subject in 
Plato’s Cratylus. Further, if we move from 

ancient Greek philosophy to the modern 
period, the debate about monism con- 
tinues in Spinoza (1632-77), while the 
distinction between Appearance and Rea- 
lity provides the title of a major work by 
BRADLEY (1846-1924). 

It would be misleading to see global 
philosophy as sustaining a broadly 
EMPIRICAL tradition even when we have 
exempted such ‘minority’ writers as 
Plato, Kant, Hegel and Bradley. Eastern 
traditions convey a different impression, 
as well as different methods and differ- 
ent approaches. (See also ANTHRO- 

Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679) 

An English philosopher, educated at 
Oxford, Hobbes made his most influential 
contributions to political philosophy, espe- 
cially through his work Leviathan (1651). 
This grew out of the earlier disputes 
between Royalists and Parliamentarians 
prior to the Civil War. 

In relation to philosophy of religion, 
however, Hobbes also promoted a 
strongly materialist view of the world 
and humankind. Mental phenomena are 
epiphenomenal. The idea of spirit or soul, 
Hobbes asserted, is self-contradictory, as if 
one were to postulate the existence of 
‘immaterial material’. 

The world and humankind are gov- 
erned, Hobbes believed, by causal forces. 
Humankind is moved by appetites and 
passions. It is ignorance of second causes, 
Hobbes asserted, that gives rise to notions 
of ‘RELIGION’, together with the effects of 
fear and superstition. However, some 
argue that in spite of his critique of 
‘popular’ religion, Hobbes merely found 
no place for ‘God’ within philosophy, but 
was not committed to an explicit ATHE- 
1sM. This issue remains disputed. 

ErHics can be formulated only in 
terms of the pursuit of self-gratification 

Hume, David 


and heightened vitality. Nevertheless, 
Hobbes concedes that an anarchy in 
which ‘might is right? would be destruc- 
tive. This is the context of his well-known 
dictum that in the distant past, before the 
rise of ‘civilization’, humankind lived 
lives that were ‘solitary, poor, nasty, 
brutish, and short’. 

A social contract is needed whereby 
‘natural’ powers to seize goods from 
others are replaced by a voluntary con- 
tract to subordinate personal power to a 
governing body, preferably a monarch. 
Thereby ‘order’ may be achieved, and 
provide a framework to constrain human 
appetites. This ‘sovereign power’ is the 
‘soul’ of Leviathan, the state, that is a 
‘mortal God’. (See also CAUSE, MATERIAL- 

Hume, David (1711-76) 

Hume is the most radical and thorough- 
going of the major British empiricists, 
following on the empirical traditions of 
Locke (1632-1704) and BERKELEY 
(1685-1753), but differing from both. 
He differs from Locke on the powers and 
scope of REASON, and from Berkeley on 
the latter’s ‘immaterialist? ONTOLOGY. 

Although he called his Treatise of 
Human Nature (1739-40) ‘sceptical’, 
Hume was too cautious in refraining 
from going beyond firm data to be 
called a ‘sceptic’ in the epistemological 
or fullest technical sense of the term. This 
is not to deny that he had a sceptical cast 
of mind. 

A Scottish philosopher and historical 
writer, Hume was born and educated in 
Edinburgh. He served as a librarian and 
administrator rather than as a professional 
teacher of philosophy. His central philo- 
sophical theme was that we cannot go 
beyond ‘experience’. He published A 
Treatise of Human Nature at around the 
early age of twenty-eight, to which he 
appended the sub-title ‘Being an Attempt 
to Introduce the Experimental Method of 
Reasoning into Moral Subjects’. He 

respected and admired natural science, 
including the work of NEwTon. 

Hume’s other works included An 
Enquiry Concerning Human Understand- 
ing (1748), The Natural History of Reli- 
gion and (published after his death) 
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion 
(1778). He also produced a six-volume 
history of England. He confessed to ‘an 
aversion to everything but the pursuits of 
philosophy and general learning’. 

The Enquiry Concerning Human 
Understanding is largely a re-working of 
the Treatise. The Treatise ‘fell dead-born 
from the press without ... excit[ing] a 
murmur’, and Hume was convinced that 
this was because of its presentation rather 
than its content. However, The Treatise, 
book I still stands in its own right, and 
book I, part 2 does not appear in the 


Hume begins both the Treatise and the 
Enquiries by distinguishing between ‘dif- 
ferent species of philosophy’. The methods 
of ‘natural’ philosophy (i.e. science) tell us 
most about ‘the objects of our senses’; 
speculative philosophy is ‘uncertain and 
chimerical’; ‘scepticism ... is subversive of 
speculation’ (Enquiries, 3rd edn, ed. P.H. 
Nidditch, Oxford: Clarendon, 1975, sect. 
I, para. 8). Sense-data enter the mind as 
‘impressions’ of sensation. Impressions are 
‘all our more lively perceptions’ (sect. II, 
para. 12). The ‘less lively’ are ‘Thoughts’ 
or ‘Ideas’ (ibid.). The core of Hume’s 
empiricist argument is ‘that nothing can 
ever be present to the mind but an image 
or perception ... the senses are the only 
inlets’ (ibid., sect. XII, pt I, para. 118). 

This leads to inferences about the sELF. 
‘The mind has never anything present to it 
but the perceptions, and cannot possibly 
reach any experience of their connexion 
with objects’ (ibid., para. 119). Hence 
Hume concludes that the ‘self’ is no more 
than a bundle of perceptions. 


Hume, David 

Even causality cannot be ‘observed’, 
only constant conjunction; while ‘reason- 
ing’ A PRIORI provides no knowledge of 
cause and effect (ibid., sect. IV, pt I, paras. 
23-6). Hume acknowledges that in prac- 
tice daily life depends on assumptions 
about causality, space and time, and the 
independent existence of the external 
world, but these things are not empirically 
demonstrable, and no other avenue of 
demonstration is available. 


Hume admits in his essay on MIRACLES 
that ‘he could not let alone’ issues of 
RELIGION, even though he did not assent 
to any version of received religion. He did 
not believe, in effect, in miracles, or in 
EXISTENCE. ‘God’ remained for him ‘a 
variable, an enigma, an inexplicable mys- 
tery’. The explicit aim of ‘Of Miracles’, 
however, was ‘to silence ... bigotry and 
superstition’. (Enquiries, sect. X, pt I, 
para. 86; cf. paras. 87-101). 

Indeed in The Natural History of 
Religion (1757) Hume expresses the view 
that ‘monotheism’ encourages intolerance. 
Sometimes more popular religion, he 
claims, by contrast remains more poly- 
theistic and more tolerant beneath its 
official formularies. Hume’s target is not 
so much ‘religion’ as ‘organized’ religion. 

The Dialogues were completed before 
1761, but waited seventeen years for 
publication. Hume preferred ‘to live 
quietly’. The characters in the Dialogues 
are based on Cicero. ‘Demea’ is an 
exponent of orthodox RATIONALISM; 
‘Cleanthes’ defends teleology and philoso- 
phical theism; ‘Philo’ probably represents 
a viewpoint similar to Hume’s own. 

Demea claims that by abandoning the A 
PRIORI ideas of rationalism, Philo and 
Cleanthes are selling out to SCEPTICISM, 
(Dialogues, pt I). Cleanthes appeals to 
observation of the world for inferences to 
the existence of design (ibid., pts H, MI). 

Philo questions whether Cleanthes rests 
(ibid., pt IV). As the Dialogues proceed 
Demea appeals, in vain, for some rational 
foundation (e.g. pt VI); while Philo insists 
upon the lack of ‘data’ on which any 
system may be built (pt VII). 

Part IX raises the question of a divine 
nature, and X-XI provide Hume’s classic 
discussion of the problem of EviL. Hume’s 
cautious ‘scepticism’ emerges: there simply 
is not enough firm evidence to establish an 
argument from design, although he cannot 
utterly exclude it; the problem of evil 
generates as many counter-arguments 
against design on the part of a good God 
as whatever ‘evidence’ Cleanthes may try 
to cite in its support. 

Evil is real: it ‘embitters the life of every 
living being. The stronger prey on the 
weaker and keep them in perpetual terror’ 
(ibid., pt X, 62). Hume observes: ‘Epi- 
curus’ old questions are yet unanswered. Is 
[God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? 
Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not 
willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both 
able and willing? Whence, then, is evil?’ 
(ibid., 66). 

In his essay ‘Of Miracles’ Hume is 
sceptical about the degree of genuine 
evidence offered in support of miracles in 
Judaeo-Christian tradition. He is overtly 
sceptical about evidence for the resurrec- 
tion of Jesus Christ as the foundation of 
Christian faith. 

However, this merges into a second line 
of argument. Since we are considering not 
regularities within the world but, by 
definition, virtually unique effects alleged 
to be caused by a clearly unique Agent, it 
is difficult, if not impossible, to conceive 
of what might count as adequate evidence, 
even if it existed. We have no experimental 
analogies which would allow induction 
from experience. 

Yet the whole of Hume’s work con- 
cerns what may be based upon empiricist 
criteria alone. The question about religion 
boils down to the argument: granted that 
there is no revelation, what kind of natural 

Hume, David 


religion can built upon ‘experience’ since this 
is mediated solely through the senses and 
‘perception’? On the basis of Hume’s EPIs- 
TEMOLOGY, then, it is scarcely surprising that 

an undogmatic, cautious, scepticism ensues. 

Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126-98) 

Averroes is the medieval Latin name for 
the Arabic form transliterated as Ibn 
Rushd. He represents the greatest figure 
of Arabic or ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY in the 
context of its late Spanish school. He was 
born in Cordoba, and served as lawyer, 
physician, judge and diplomat in Cordoba 
and Seville. In his philosophical writing he 
produced an extensive range of commen- 
taries on texts of ARISTOTLE and a reply to 
AL-GHAZALI’s attack on the privileging of 
philosophy over revelation and religion. 
He entitled the latter The Incoherence of 
the Incoherence. 

Whereas in modern philosophical 
thought it is customary to note substan- 
tial differences between PLATO and Aris- 
totle, like AL-FARABI, Ibn Rushd drew on 
both traditions almost as if they were 
one. Like IBN Stna (Avicenna), he some- 
times drew on PLotinus and NEopta- 
TONISM, but he preferred Aristotle’s idea 
of the eternity of the world to Ibn Sina’s 
scheme of emanations flowing from the 
First Cause, Prime Mover, God or Allah. 
Plotinian Mysticism also features in 
positive terms. 

If al-Farabi was known among Arabic 
philosophers as ‘the Second Teacher’, and 
Ibn Sina as the ‘third Aristotle’, Ibn Rushd 

became widely known as ‘the Com- 
mentator’ (i.e. on Aristotle). Some of his 
commentaries are short paraphrases; 
others are detailed exegetical expositions. 
He also wrote a commentary on Plato’s 
Republic, again seeking synthesis or inte- 
gration between Aristotelian and Platonic 

A significant point of resonance 
between Plato, Aristotle, Ibn Rushd and 
the Christian philosophy of AUGUSTINE 
and Thomas Aquinas is their common 
emphasis on the ‘ordered’ nature of the 
universe as an organic, rational, purposive 
hierarchy embodying differentiations of 
form or levels of being. 

As for al-Farabi and Ibn Sina, such 
beliefs as the eternity of the world and the 
superiority of philosophical thought invited 
tension with the Qur’an. Hence Ibn Rushd 
postulated a HERMENEUTICS of sacred texts 
adapted to varying capacities of their 
readers. Philosophical minds could ‘see’ 
more than others in the Qur’an. He 
supports this by his philosophy of intelli- 
gence and of language. Not surprisingly, it 
appears that around 1195, three years 
before his death, a conservative reaction 
provoked his retirement. Nevertheless he 
remains a highly influential figure for 
medieval philosophy in the West. (See also 

Ibn Sina 


Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Abu ‘Ali 
al-Husayn (980-1037) 

Ibn Sina (the Arabic form of the name 
known widely in the West as Avicenna) 
was born in Persia, showed early brilliance 
of mind, and became vizier and physician 
to several sultans. He formulated a system 
of philosophy that reflects, but does not 
merely replicate, his careful reading of 
ARISTOTLE. Of all the medieval thinkers of 
IsLAMIC PHILOSOPHY, his is the most 
detailed, complex and probably, influen- 
tial work. The translation of his writings 
from Arabic to Latin had a huge impact on 
the revival of Aristotelian philosophy on 
the twelfth- and thirteenth-century West 
(see Thomas Aquinas). 

If AL-FARABI was often called ‘the 
Second Teacher’ in the Arab world (after 
Aristotle as ‘the First Teacher’), Ibn Sina 
was widely known as the ‘Third Aristotle’, 
even if his philosophy did not merely 
replicate Aristotle’s. He was also influ- 
enced by PLoTinus and NEOPLATONSIM, 
as well as by al-Farabi’s work on Aristotle. 

Much of Ibn Sina’s work was in the 
area of medicine. He was entirely familiar 
with the writings of Galen, and his work 
The Canon of Medicine attempted a 
synthesis of Greek and Arabic medical 
traditions expounded as a coherent 

Ibn Sina wrestles with the central 
problems of philosophy: with God and 
Being (ONTOLOGY); the nature of knowl- 
CREATION and LOGIC. Some argue that his 
distinctive development of Aristotle’s dis- 
tinction between ACTUALITY and POSSIBI- 
LITY even anticipates the more modern 
contrast between essence and EXISTENCE. 

REASON opens the way to travel 
through various levels of understanding, 
and ultimately may lead to God. Ibn Sina 
develops Aristotle’s contrast between ‘pas- 
sive knowledge (the reception of data 
through the senses and ‘active’ knowledge 
(relating data to construct ideas and 
concepts) into four elements: perception 

through the senses; retention and memory; 
imagination and evaluation. In effect, he 
allows for empirical and rationalist the- 
ories of knowledge supported by under- 
standing and judgement. 

The subtlety of Ibn Sina’s distinctions 
between UNIVERSALS and _ particulars, 
between possibility and existence, between 
the NECESSARY and CONTINGENT served to 
stimulate the high scHoLasTicisM of the 
West in the twelfth and thirteenth centu- 
ries. It is likely that this influence was felt 
in the University of Paris and perhaps 
Oxford in the thirteenth century. 

Possible beings, Ibn Sina argued, 
required a CAUSE that determines whether 
they exist. God, however, is uncaused and, 
in the sense suggested by this contrast and 
context, a ‘necessary’ Being. This is not to 
be confused with the merely conceptual 
necessity of Plato’s Forms. God is pure 
Intelligence, who is perfectly good and 
transcendent. Arguably Ibn Sina’s conces- 
sion to the notion of ‘emanations’ serves to 
underline divine TRANSCENDENCE, 
although it is difficult to reconcile with 
the Qur’an (or with Hebrew-Christian 
scripture). Doubtless Ibn Sina would reply 
that every level of being is derived from 
the One Being, God or Allah. 

Although he denied bodily RESURREC- 
TION, Ibn Sina argued for the immortality 
of the sout. A virtuous soul has actualized 
its possibility, and therefore continues to 
exist in this form. Ibn Sina remains closer 
to al-Farabi than to aL-KINDI or certainly 
AL-GHAZALI in his estimate of the privi- 
leged role of philosophy. It is scarcely 
surprising that al-Ghazali attacked his 
work as moving too far from Islam and 
the Qur’an. (See also EMPRICISM; POST- 
further details see L.C. Goodman, Avi- 
cenna (London: Routledge, 1992). 


Traditionally in philosophy the term 
denotes the school of thought that regards 
the mind and ideas as more primarily 



constitutive of reality than the material or 
empirical world. Leibniz (1646-1716) 
may have been the first to use the term 
as a philosophical designation, which he 
applied to PLato’s thought. 

One predictable problem arises from 
the different contrasts in relation to which 
the term idealism is used. When idealism 
stands in contrast to the phenomena of the 
material or CONTINGENT, Plato is rightly 
seen as an idealist. However, if idealism is 
allied with NOMINALISM against REALISM, 
the term would cease to apply to Plato, 
since in a broad sense he may also be 
regarded as a realist. 

In British philosophy, LocKEe (1632- 
1704) and more radically BERKELEY 
(1685-1753) regard the sense data that is 
empirically perceived as objects of reflec- 
tion as, in effect, constituting ‘ideas’. Thus 
their EMPIRICISM turns out to be compa- 
tible with, even to imply, idealism. Locke 
was both an empiricist and an ‘epistemo- 
logical idealist’. For Berkeley, however, all 
perception took the form of ideas: ‘To 
exist is to be perceived.’ He termed his 
own idealism ‘immaterialism’. Hence he 
might be thought of as ontologically ‘an 
immaterialist idealist’. 

In German philosophy, idealism 
becomes more dominant, following 
Kant’s emphasis (1724-1804) on the 
activity of the mind in shaping what we 
perceive through COGNITION and a struc- 
turing through the CATEGORIES that the 
mind brings to bear in order to understand 
and to ‘order’ perception and understand- 
ing. Although he produced a ‘Refutation 
of Idealism’, Kant’s postulating a reality 
external to the mind still remains a 
presupposition required by the mind. Kant 
is sometimes called a ‘transcendental 

The three most distinctive and char- 
acteristic German idealists are FICHTE 
(1762-1814) HeGEL (1770-1831), and 
SCHELLING (1775-1854). Fichte dispensed 
with Kant’s ‘things-in-themselves’ to pro- 
pose a more radical idealism than that of 
Kant. Fichte’s Attempt at a Critique of All 

Revelation (1792) and his work on the 
nature of philosophy (1794) expounded 
an idealism in which ‘reality’ is grounded 
in the SELF and self-consciousness. Schel- 
ling called this system, therefore, ‘subjec- 
tive idealism’. 

In spite of Fichte’s influence on Schel- 
ling, the latter sought to ground his system 
of idealism in a philosophy of nature 
(1797). This seemed to Schelling to be a 
more ‘objective idealism’. Nevertheless, 
Schelling’s version of idealism changed 
quickly, repeatedly, and radically, to the 
consternation of Hegel, who had been his 
collaborator in early years. Hegel criti- 
cized his lack of conceptual rigour and 
pantheist leanings, in which, by dissolving 
conceptual differentiations, he created ‘a 
night in which all cows are black’. 

HEGEL sought to ground his own 
idealist system in history and Locic. The 
ABSOLUTE, or absolute Idea, or ‘God’, 
manifests itself through a double DIALEC- 
Tic of history and of logic. There is also a 
dialectic between the finite and the Whole. 
Yet it was precisely Hegel’s identification 
of the Absolute with Mind or Spirit 
(German, Geist) that provoked the reac- 
tion of the ‘left-wing’ ‘young’ Helegians, 
FEUERBACH (1804-72), Strauss, and Marx 
(1818-83) to replace ‘Spirit? by human- 
kind or by material, socio-economic 
forces. Hegel is sometimes described as 
an ‘absolute idealist’. 

In England, BRADLEY (1846-1924) 
drew a contrast between the self-contra- 
dictions that constitute ‘appearance’, and 
‘Reality’, which comprises an all-inclusive 
totality, or the absolute (Appearance and 
Reality, 1893). ‘Only the Whole is Real’; 
‘the Real is the rational’. He has been 
called ‘the English Hegel’. Sometimes he is 
also classed (with Hegel and Royce) as an 
‘Absolute Idealist’. 

In America Josiah Royce (1855-1916) 
combined aspects of Hegel’s idealism with 
a pragmatic view of history and commu- 
nities. He held to the notion of ‘ultimacy’ 
in the sense of unsurpassability, and saw 
ideas as the moving dynamic of history. In 



theory, much rests on the premises of 
Hegel’s idealism. Yet Royce’s notions of 
progress as instantiated in community and 
‘interpretation’ may suggest that ‘prag- 
matic idealism’ might be a more revealing 
classification than ‘absolute’ idealism. 

Over-easy labels are often seductive 
rather than constructive, tempting readers 
towards a simplistic pigeon-holing of thin- 
kers. Nevertheless, to qualify different 
versions of idealism (after Plato) as episte- 
mological (Locke), immaterialist (Berkeley), 
transcendental (Kant), subjective (Fichte), 
objective (Schelling in his early-middle 
period), absolute (Hegel and Bradley) and 
pragmatic (Royce), serves to convey the 
major point that idealism is not a single 
philosophy, but a network of loosely 
interrelated systems. (See also EPISTEMOL- 


See SELF. 

ideological criticism 

In Marxist traditions the term ‘ideology’ 
is used pejoratively to denote systems of 
ideas or BELIEFS, or a ‘false consciousness’ 
that serves to perpetuate and to underpin 
capitalist attitudes and values. In the social 
sciences it is used more generally (either 
pejoratively or neutrally) to denote sys- 
tems of belief that are consciously or 
unconsciously invoked to underpin parti- 
cular political or social structures, institu- 
tions and practices. 

Hence ideological criticism denotes the 
epistemological and hermeneutical process 
of bringing these beliefs and the dynamics 
of their application to the surface. ‘De- 
ideologization’ belongs to the family of 
processes that includes DEMYTHOLOGIZ- 
ING (BULTMANN); demystifying (Roland 
Barthes, DERRIDA), deconstructing (Der- 
rida), ‘emancipatory critique’ (Habermas) 
and ‘criticism of ideology’ (T. Eagleton) as 
the exposure of deceptive or false beliefs 
drawn from society. 

In relation to EPISTEMOLOGY, ideologi- 
cal criticism (often written as the German 
Ideologiekritik) assumes that rational 
reflection is never value-neutral but always 
guided by ‘interest’. NIETZSCHE regarded 
this ‘interest’ as a manipulative power- 
interest; Habermas accepts a broader 
notion. In HERMENEUTICS it has become 
a tool used in the critical reading of sacred 
texts. (See also FREUD’S CRITIQUE OF 


In philosophy of religion this term is most 
characteristically applied to Gop in con- 
trast to divine TRANSCENDENCE. More 
strictly, in THEISM (especially in Judaism, 
Christianity and Islam) it complements 
divine transcendence. It moves in the 
direction of PANTHEISM, or more accu- 
rately PANENTHEISM, but is not to be 
identified with pantheism. It denotes 
God’s presence and action within the 
world and in the world order, in contrast 
to notions of divine action ‘from beyond’ 
or ‘without’. 

In a secondary sense immanence may 
be used more narrowly as a term in 
Kantian philosophy to denote what lies 
entirely within the limits of possible 
experience. Here ‘immanent’ stands in 
contrast not with transcendent but with 
transcendental. Also in SCHOLASTIC PHI- 
LOSOPHY ‘immanent action’ denotes that 
action the effects of which do not reach 
‘beyond’ the subject or agent of the action. 

Normally, however, immanence refers 
to divine presence and agency within the 
world, and often, but not always, goes 
hand-in-hand with a mystical, pietist, or 
modified pantheist approach to God. 
Fundamentally it denotes the nearness or 
indwelling of God, especially as animating 
an organic universe in OMNIPRESENCE. 

Theism holds together divine trans- 
cendence and divine immanence. For 
God is ‘beyond’ the world and any 
CONTINGENT network of causes within 
the world, yet God is also ‘within’ the 


immutability of God 

world working through such causal net- 
works. Expressed most sharply, a truly 
transcendent God remains free to choose 
to be immanent within God’s world, 
whereas a wholly immanent God would 
be caught up in determined patterns 
imposed by the world. (See also DEISM; 

immortality of the soul 


immutability of God 

If the immutability of God is defined as the 
assertion that ‘God cannot change’, in 
what sense are we using the word 
‘change’? When the sacred texts of Juda- 
ism, Christianity and Islam speak of God 
as ‘unchanging’, the emphasis seems to fall 
first of all upon God’s never-ending, ever- 
ready, presence, and God’s faithfulness to 
remain consistent with God’s self-REVELA- 
TION and character. 


PLATO (428-348 BCE) draws a sharp line 
between the realm of appearance, change 
and imperfection and that of Ideas or 
Forms, perfection and God. On this basis 
to say that God could change would 
logically imply that we locate God in the 
CONTINGENT, empirical, imperfect world 
of change, rather than to ascribe to God 
the changeless perfection that charac- 
terizes the realm of Ideas or perfect 

BoeEtTutus (c. 480-525) and AuGus- 
TINE (354-430) recognized that TIME 
belongs to the created order as part of 
that which God has created. Hence God 
cannot be conditioned by time, but is 
characterized by ETERNITY as the very 
condition and ground for time. If God is 
‘beyond’ time, how can God undergo 

Aquinas grounded the immutability of 
God in his doctrine that God is ‘simple’ 
and ‘perfect’ (Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 
3 and 4). The currency of divine ‘simpli- 
city’ is that ‘God is’ (ibid., Qu. 3, art. 4). 
Change would add to, or subtract from, 
this Being, and render it ‘becoming’. 
Further, God ‘lacks nothing of the mode 
of ... perfection’ (ibid., Qu. 4, art. 1). 
Change would imply either movement 
from ‘less than perfect’ or to ‘less than 


In contemporary discussion, however, it is 
customary to distinguish, with SwiIn- 
BURNE, between the ‘weaker’ sense of 
‘cannot change in character’, and ‘stron- 
ger’ sense of being, in effect, disengaged 
from time, or temporal succession, on the 
basis of ‘divine timelessness’ (Swinburne, 
The Coherence of Theism, Oxford: Clar- 
endon, 1977, 212-15). 

Swinburne argues that if God ‘fixed his 
intentions “from all eternity”, he would be 
a very lifeless thing, not a person who 
reacts to man with sympathy... pardon or 
chastening because he chooses there and 
then’ (ibid., 214). ‘The God of ... Juda- 
ism, Islam and Christianity ... is a God in 
continual interaction’ with human persons 

PANNENBERG similarly insists that the 
unity and eternity of God represents one 
of two dimensions: God is ‘intrinsically 
differentiated unity’ (Systematic Theology, 
3 vols.; vol. 1, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 
1991, 405). Pannenberg endorses BARTH’s 
emphasis upon ‘order and succession’ in 
the life of God. Barth called for ‘a revision 
of the traditional opposing of time to 
eternity. Eternity does not mean time- 
lessness’ (ibid., 407). 

MOLTMANN goes further. He speaks of 
God’s ‘giving himself’, even ‘serving’, and 
choosing to participate in the world’s grief 
and redemption in ‘the history of God’ (cf. 
The Trinity and the Kingdom of God, 
London: SCM, 1981, 33, 35, and through- 



out). ‘God empties himself in creation, in 
presentation and redemption ... God’s 
history with the world is played out ... 
in the changing efficaces of the divine 
Persons’ (Experiences in Theology, Lon- 
don: SCM, 2000, 310, 311). 

Many Thomist theologians will not 
wish to go as far as Moltmann. Further, 
those Islamic thinkers (see IsLamic Put- 
LOSOPHY) who also retain a more Aris- 
totelian approach will also tend towards a 
‘hard’ concept of immutability alongside a 
strong doctrine of the providential will of 
Allah operative within the world. In 
HINDU PHILOSOPHY the Advaita Vedanta 
tradition of ŜANKĀRĀ would reject any 
notion of ‘self-differentiation’ within, let 
alone differentiation from, brahman as 
Ultimate Reality. ‘Change’ would be illu- 


In the distinctive perspective of PROCESS 
PHILOSOPHY God is ‘always becoming’. 
HartTsHoRNE (1897-2000) argues that the 
notion of God as ABSOLUTE tells only half 
of the story. God is temporal as well as 
eternal, world-inclusive as well as trans- 
cendent. The ‘maximal greatness’ of Per- 
fection may be what it is at different times. 
As ‘di-polar’, God is both absolute and 
relative to change. (See also EMPRICISM; 


The term derives from the philosophy of 
science, notably from the earlier work of 
Thomas S. Kuhn (1922-96). In 1962 Kuhn 
published The Structure of Scientific Revo- 
lutions (2nd edn, Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1970). He interpreted the 
history of science not as a single linear 
development of observation and ideas, but 
as a series of scientific traditions shaped 
and moulded in terms of the prevailing or 
dominant ‘paradigm’ of the era. 

Kuhn’s work embodied the fundamen- 
tal insight that the history of science is not 
merely the history of a set of value-neutral 
observations of unselected, raw, value- 
neutral data, but includes a social dimen- 
sion that reflects the conceptual expecta- 
tions of scientists. These conceptual 
expectations or conceptual frames change 
particularly at the nodal points of scien- 
tific ‘revolution’ or ‘paradigm-shift’. 

The most familiar ‘revolutions’ include 
the transition from a pre-modern geo- 
centric concept of the universe after 
Copernicus (1473-1543) noted that data 
appear differently in accordance with the 
position of the observer, and after Galileo 
(1564-1642) noted that the sun, not the 
earth, is the centre of the solar system. 
Stars are perceived as other suns, and the 
relation between motion and force is 
explored. Similarly, the work of NEWTON 
(1642-1727) on gravity and motion pro- 
vided the overriding model or paradigm of 
gravity, mass and movement until Albert 
Einstein (1879-1955) demonstrated pio- 
neering work on the relativity of space and 

Einstein moved beyond the Newtonian 
concept of an ‘absolute’ space and time, 
and postulated their interdependence and 
theoretical unity. The energy of any mass 
is the product of the mass multiplied by 
the square of the speed of light (E=mc’). 
Mass increases as an object approaches 
the velocity of light, while time slows as 
velocity increases. 

This ‘special theory of relativity’ (dat- 
ing from 1905-7) also demonstrates that 
an event appears differently from within 
different systems. For example, within an 
inertial system measurements and even 
clock-time will become different from how 
they appear under conditions of extreme 
velocity. The General Theory of Relativity 
(1916) relates gravitational forces to 
space-time ‘curvature’. 

None of this suggests that Newtonian 
physics is ‘wrong’ for everyday observa- 
tions of space, time, gravity and motion. 
We still use Newton’s assumptions (or 



‘paradigm’) daily. However, Einstein‘s 
‘paradigm’ overtakes it when more sophis- 
ticated theories are addressed about the 
nature of the universe. 

Kuhn points out that there is no value- 
neutral external criterion of reference by 
which to adjudicate between such differ- 
ent paradigms. For the applicability of 
each paradigm largely depends on the 
nature of the system or agenda for which 
it is called into play. 


Kuhn’s work has often been misinter- 
preted in theology. It is often taken to 
imply that self-contained ‘conceptual 
schemes’ can operate side by side without 
any reference at all to a common ration- 
ality, on the basis of their ‘incommensur- 

To be sure, Kuhn argued that different 
paradigms in science ‘work in different 
worlds’ (ibid., 134). However, Kuhn him- 
self disowned the more radical relativistic 
and anti-rational implications that some 
draw from his work. He advises caution 
about its applications in his 1970 ‘Post- 
script’ to the second edition of his work of 
1962, and more emphatically in his work 
The Essential Tension (1977). 

Rorty takes up Kuhn’s notions of 
incommensurability and paradigms to 
argue that philosophical debate rests not 
on rational adjudication, but on a PRAG- 
MATISM of ‘nudging old problems aside’ 
(Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, Cam- 
bridge: CUP, 1989, 264). Yet Rorty seems 
to allude only to Kuhn’s earlier work, and 
it may be doubted whether Kuhn’s work 
as a whole provides currency for Rorty’s 
post-modern pragmatism. To replace 
argument by rhetoric does not strictly 
derive from Kuhn. 

Donald Davidson utilizes the argument 
from inter-translatability between the 
texts of diverse cultural communities to 
show that the radical version of incom- 
mensurability will not hold water. Even if 

words and vocabulary have different con- 
ceptual currency, there are ways of under- 
standing and overcoming these differences 
(‘On the Very Idea of a Conceptual 
Scheme’ in Davidson, Truth and Interpre- 
tation, Oxford: Clarendon, 1984, 183- 

A spectrum of philosophical thinkers 
take up a variety of standpoints on these 
issues. Paul Feyerabend is probably more 
relativistic than the earlier Kuhn. H. 
Sankey reviews the range of responses in 
The Incommensurability Thesis (Sydney: 
Averbury Press, 1994). However, whatever 
the pragmatic and relativist overtones, 
Kuhn succeeds in showing the condition- 
ing of scientific advances by the agenda of 
scientific communities and the illusion of 
entirely value-free knowledge. ‘Secular’ 
approaches are often no more value-free 
than ‘religious’ ones. 


Instantiation denotes providing instances, 
especially of a property or class. Some 
books on a desk may instantiate the 
property of being red or blue. 

RussELL (1872-1970) in effect con- 
firms KANT’s response to DESCARTES that 
in the context of the ONTOLOGICAL ARGU- 
MENT ‘existence’ is not a predicate. ‘Exis- 
tence’ is more strictly thought of as 
providing instances of that of which the 
word is predicated, i.e. by instantiation. In 
the ontological argument is ‘Being’ instan- 

The broader context is Russell’s work 
on logical form, which allows ‘exist’ to be 
bracketed in such a form as ‘For all x, x is 
y’. Instantiation is expressed in logical 
notation through the use of a QUANTIFIER. 

Instantiation need not be tied to re- 
formulations in Locic. Instantiation may 
clarify more general or abstract debate, 
such as claims for the principle of 
FALSIFIABILITY or the status of UNIVER- 
SALS. WITTGENSTEIN’S explanation of 
‘Now I understand ...’ as ‘Now I know 
how to go on...’ (in a mathematical rule 

‘lreanaean’ theodicy 


or formula) is not wholly unlike recogniz- 
ing the role of instantiation as a criterion 
of understanding. 

‘Ireanaean’ theodicy 
See Hick. 

Islamic philosophy 

The foundations of Islamic thought cannot 
be separated from the work of the Prophet 
(Muhammad) and the sacred texts of the 
Qur’an (broadly 610-32; sometimes in 
older works the Arabic word is Anglicized 
as the ‘Koran’). More details can be found 
under entries for leading Islamic philoso- 
phers, including at-KiNnpDI, (c. 813-c. 
871); AL-FaRABI, (875-950); IBN SINA 
(Avicenna, 980-1037); AL-GHAZALI 
(1058-1111); and Inn RusHD (Averroes, 

The great Islamic philosophers thus 
belong to the period from the ninth to 
the twelfth centuries, when Islamic influ- 
ence and culture flourished from Central 
Asia to parts of Spain and North Africa. It 
would be a mistake to limit ‘medieval 
philosophy’ to such Christian Western 
thinkers as ANSELM, Thomas AQUINAS, 
Duns Scotus and WILLIAM OF OCKHAM. 
Indeed it was Islamic and Arabic philoso- 
phy that rescued ancient Greek philoso- 
phy, especially Aristotelianism and 
NEOPLATONISM, from decline and obscur- 

Works by ARISTOTLE and Porphyry 
had been translated into Syriac by the 
school of Edessa in Mesopotamia, but 
more significantly these were translated, in 
turn, into Arabic, including some books 
by PLotinus mistakenly attributed also to 
Aristotle. Thus the ‘revived’ Aristotle 
represented an Aristotle who also embo- 
died Platonic and Neoplatonic elements. 


Al-Kindi held a position in the court of 
Baghdad and is widely regarded as the first 
great Arabic or Islamic philosopher. He 
emphasized the coherence of REVELATION 

and reason, and stressed the TRANSCEN- 
DENCE of God as the ABSOLUTE. Less 
clearly, there is a correlation, if not 
identification, of Allah as described in 
the Qur’an with the Supreme Being of 
Aristotle, and the One of Neoplatonism. 

Al-Kindi attempted to combine the 
Neoplatonic philosophy of emanations 
with the Islamic (and Jewish and Chris- 
tian) doctrine that creation arises by the 
sole initiation of the divine will, from 
nothing. He also expounded a broadly 
Aristotelian theory of the nature of human 

AL-FaRABI moved more clearly in the 
direction of Aristotle, except for his 
retention and development of the Neopla- 
tonic and Plotinian notion of emanations. 
He could accommodate the Islamic 
emphasis on divine transcendence by 
postulating that reality flows continually 
out of the One Source of perfection. 

If there are rudimentary anticipations 
of modern PROCESS PHILOSOPHY in this 
one simple aspect, it might be suggested 
also that in placing philosophy, or at least 
the rigour of logic, above religious reflec- 
tion, al-Farabi anticipated HEGEL on this 
issue. Those who are without philosophy 
understand truth only through symbols, 
in contrast to the strict logical demon- 
stration that rational philosophical 
thought can offer. Al-Farabi also 
expounded Piato’s Republic, perceiving 
the role of philosophical thought for 
politics and society. 


Abu ‘Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna) was born in 
Persia, and is often regarded as the great- 
est of the medieval Islamic philosophers, 
in spite of the high reputation of al-Farabi. 
His is the most detailed, complex and 
extensive account of the nature of God 
and Being (i.e. ONTOLOGY). He also 
worked out an EPISTEMOLOGY, or theory 
of knowledge, which coheres with this. 
Reason embraces sense-perception, mem- 
ory or retention, imagination, and evalua- 
tion, estimation or judgement. 


Islamic philosophy 

Ibn Sina also develops Aristotle’s dis- 
tinctions between the actual and the 
possible — almost, some have agreed, as 
if to hint at the more modern contrast 
between EXISTENCE and essence. A ‘NECES- 
SARY’ entity exists by virtue of its essence. 
The existence of possible beings implies 
the existence of a Necessary Being who is 
the existence of God; and Five Ways of 
Thomas Aquinas). God is, in effect, 
Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover. 

In combining this Aristotelian perspec- 
tive with Islamic theology Ibn Sina arrives 
at an ontology in which all events that 
occur do so necessarily. God remains 
beyond this kind of necessity as Ground 
of all (see AsEITY). 

Al-Ghazali, however, considered that 
Ibn Sina, and still more seriously al- 
Farabi, had assigned too privileged a place 
to philosophy over Islamic theology. In 
particular he rejected any attempt to 
defend the notion of the ETERNITY of the 
world as both philosophically self-contra- 
dictory and contrary to the Qur’an. 
Further, Ibn Sina’s notion of explaining 
‘necessity’ in terms of causal relations of 
notion of God’s universal causative will 
(see OCCASIONALISM). Almost anticipating 
Hume, but in a different context, al- 
Ghazali questions the very status of 
philosophical assumptions about CAUSE. 


The Islamic culture of southern Spain also 
provided a Western centre for Arabic 
philosophy. Among these philosophers 
Ibn Rushd (Averroes) was the most sig- 
nificant. He wrote a series of commen- 
taries on Aristotle. He attempted to 
disentangle a more authentic understand- 
ing of Aristotle from the lenses of Neo- 

platonism and theological motivations, 
which had clouded some of the work of 
his predecessors in Arabic philosophy. 

Ibn Rushd attended to the issues that 
impinged from Islamic theology by for- 
mulating a hermeneutical theory of ‘levels 
of interpretation’ of the Qur’an (see 
HERMENEUTICS). He therefore remains 
the closest to Aristotle of all the great 
medieval Arabic or Islamic philosophers, 
taking up especially Aristotle’s notion of 
the intellect in De Anima, book III. 


It is to these Islamic and Arabic philoso- 
phers that the Jewish and Christian 
philosophers of the Middle Ages (e.g. 
Maimonipes, 1135-1204; ALBERT THE 
GREAT, c.1200-80; and Thomas AQUINAS, 
1225-74) owe the climate of interest in 
Aristotle that their earlier translations had 
nurtured. Arabic texts were translated into 
Latin in Spain in the twelfth and thirteenth 

Other directions of Islamic philosophy 
during this period take their points of 
departure from concerns about medicine, 
science and LOGIC in ancient Greek philo- 
sophy, or in a different direction explora- 
tion of MYSTICISM, often related to the 
traditions of Neoplatonism and Plotinus. 

The main thrust, however, runs parallel 
with some of the later Christian philoso- 
phical concerns of Aquinas. Can the 
sacred texts of the faith be reformulated 
in ways that accord with some of the 
conceptual issues of Greek philosophy, 
especially with reason and wisdom as 
these feature in Aristotle? These centuries 
yield the golden age of Islamic and Arabic 
philosophy. (For a useful introduction, see 
Oliver Leaman, Brief Introduction to 
Islamic Philosophy, Oxford: Blackwell, 

Jaspers, Karl Theodor 

Jaspers graduated as a doctor of medicine 
at Heidelberg in 1909; practised psychia- 
try and lectured in psychology; and 
became Professor of Philosophy at Heidel- 
berg in 1921. He was deprived of his chair 
during Hitler’s years of power (1937-45), 
after which he was reinstated. He regarded 
his three-volume Philosophy (1932) as his 
major work, and wrote on NIETZSCHE, 

Although he was unwilling to accept 
the description ‘existentialist’, Jaspers 
began with the human situation. As a 
medical psychiatrist and academic psy- 
chologist, he was well aware that a human 
person could be considered as an empirical 
entity within the world, about whom 
observations could be made. However, he 
explored the distinctive nature of human 
consciousness (Bewusstsein), and most 
especially and characteristically how 
human finite incompleteness points to a 
transcendent ‘beyond’. 

More technically, the human subject, as 
empirical subject open to observation, as 
logical subject who thinks, and as agent 
who experiences freedom, yields ‘modes of 
encompassing’. Jaspers respectively desig- 
nates these as (1) Dasein (Being-there, 

empirical subject); (2) consciousness as 
being (Bewusstsein überhaupt); and (3) 
Geist (Mind or Spirit). All these are 
‘IMMANENT’ modes. However, beyond 
these basic experiences of givenness or 
situatedness within the world, lies the 
possibility of a transcendent mode. 

While he distanced himself from HE!- 
DEGGER, Jaspers wrote: ‘Existential philo- 
sophy has to keep consciousness free for 
possibility’ (Philosophy [1932], Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1969, vol. 2, 
342). Truth, for Jaspers is never static: 
‘Truth is not a property, but something 
that is present as we search for it’ (ibid., 
vol. 1, 37). 

Life involves ‘struggling and suffering 
... I cannot avoid guilt ... I must die’. 
Jaspers calls these ‘boundary situations’ 
(ibid., vol. 2, 178). Because such situations 
confront the human subject with ‘an 
indeterminate possibility, I must search 
for being if I want to find my real self’ 
(ibid., vol. 1, 45). The ‘object-like’ conven- 
tions and standardizations of the empirical 
world and repressive traditions of religion 
or other value-systems peel away as I face 
‘truth’ in the authentic mode ‘for me’. Here 
the transcendent impinges on the immanent 
with authenticity. 

Jaspers distinguishes between rigid, 
fixed, dogmatic forms of religious expres- 
sion and ‘the cipher [or symbol] that 


Jewish philosophy 

allows men’s boundless yearning for the 
real presence of God to be satisfied in an 
instant so to speak ... God remains 
inevocably hidden’ (Philosophical Faith 
and Revelation, New York: Harper & 
Row, 1967, 341). Authentic revelation of 
truth and authentic faith will never take 
away human freedom. 

A positive view of ‘God’ or ‘religion’, 
therefore, is held together with a pluriform 
view of truth and a multi-valent, or many- 
level, account of language. This and other 
features are noted under the entry on 
EXISTENTIALISM. In his later works Jaspers 
applies some of these issues to politics, 
where he defends ‘freedom and the rights 
of man’. The English title The Future of 
Mankind (1961) first appeared as a work 
in German as Die Atombome und die 
Zukunft des Menschen (1958). (See also 

Jewish philosophy 

Jewish philosophy has taken a variety of 
forms, ancient, medieval and modern, but 
in general has sought to integrate insights 
into the human, or into the relation 
between God and the world drawn from 
Jewish sacred writings, traditions and 
experiences, with wider systems of 
rational thought and philosophy. 

Among key Jewish philosophers who 
still retain considerable influence Marmo- 
NIDES (1135-1204) holds together the 
TRANSCENDENCE and perfection of God 
with issues arising from the problem of 
ANALOGY in Hebrew scripture (the Chris- 
tian Old Testament), debates about the 
nature of CREATION and the ETERNITY of 
the world, and issues of providence and 
human FREEDOM. 

In more recent years BUBER (1878- 
1965) and Levinas (1906-95) have 
explored the distinctively personal dimen- 
sion of human sELFHOOD, and the nature 
of God as the God who addresses human- 
kind as ‘Thou’, and who gives ‘without 
utility’ as well as in other ways. 


Puito of Alexandria (c. 20 BCE — 50 CE) 
was a well-informed intellectual, who led 
the embassy to the Roman emperor Gaius 
on behalf of the Jews of Alexandria. 
Modern estimates of him are divided. 
Yet without doubt he held together 
genuine loyalty to the traditions of 
Hebrew scripture with a firm desire to 
help the educated Graeco-Roman world 
of his day to perceive the rational 
coherence and value of these traditions 
for life. 

In order to facilitate this task of 
establishing the rational credibility of 
Jewish thought about God and the world, 
Philo drew upon a variety of Greek 
philosophical sources. He drew upon 
PLaTo’s notions of the eternal and of 
Ideas: upon Stoic views of the world, 
especially their method of allegorical read- 
ings of classic foundation-texts; and even 
on Pythagorean notions of the world, 
including theories of numbers. 

This is not simply, as some have 
claimed, the undisciplined ransacking of 
sources by an eclectic polymath, but an 
attempt to draw on a variety of conceptual 
and logical tools to expound Hebrew- 
Jewish texts and traditions in the most 
rational and intelligible light. 

It is no longer customary to draw a 
sharp dividing-line between ‘Palestinian’ 
and ‘Hellenistic’ Judaism, not only 
because of difficulties of terminology, but 
also because Martin Hengel and other 
scholars have demonstrated the fluidity of 
this line. Nevertheless, Philo has a very 
different approach from that of pharisaic 
and rabbinic Judaism, which flowered in 
the Mishnah and later in the Jerusalem 
and Babylonian Talmuds. 

A good example of Philo’s work on 
Tics is his treatment of anthropomorph- 
isms in the early chapters of Genesis. As a 
transcendent, spiritual Being, God did not 
‘walk’ in the Garden of Eden; indeed even 

Jewish philosophy 


tilling the ground has a secondary mean- 
ing in the cultivation of virtue. 

The book of Exodus and the legislative 
material in Leviticus, Numbers and Deu- 
teronomy, reveal Moses as the supreme 
philosopher before Plato. His directions 
are not, as they may appear, trivial 
comments about animal sacrifices, but 
underlying axioms for a healthy life of 
wisdom (see entry on Philo for details). 


In the early medieval period al-Favvumi 
Saadiah Gaon (882-942) brought together 
REASON, TRADITION and experience, to 
establish a systematic Jewish philosophy. 
These themes are expounded in his work 
The Book of Beliefs and Convictions 
(longer title, Critically Chosen Beliefs 
and Convictions). 

Saadiah attacked scepticism as self- 
defeating and parasitic upon BELIEF about 
the scope of experience and knowledge. 
Hence reason, sense-experience and tradi- 
tion constitute valid bases for an EPISTE- 
MOoLoGy. He convincingly expounds, 
long before a modern awareness of 
historicality and historical reason, the 
continuity of a tradition handed on by a 
people over time. 

These treatises also defend the unity 
and incorporeality of God, a doctrine of 
creation, human freedom and the phe- 
nomenon of evil in terms of trials or tests 
of character. 

Saadiah also undertook careful biblical 
exegesis based on both Hebrew lexicogra- 
phy and semantics, and accorded this a 
role in his philosophy. The multiform 
character of the scriptures, which combine 
political, intellectual, aesthetic, erotic, 
procreative and moral goods, reveals that 
human well-being lies in no single ‘good’ 
alone, but on this rich diversity of gifts of 
God. It was in the context of his work in 
Baghdad that Saadiah came to bear the 
title ‘Gaon’ (Hebrew, ‘Eminence’). 

Judaism in medieval Muslim Spain 
collaborated with ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY 

and its agenda to a remarkable degree. 
Solomon Ibn Gabirol (c. 1021-57) wrote 
in both Hebrew and Arabic, and 
explored NEOPLATONISM as his broad 
philosophical frame. Thomas AQUINAS 
and Duns Scotus were aware of his 
work Source of Life (Fons Vitae), written 
in Arabic. 

The importance of Ibn Gabirol’s philo- 
sophy is as an example of minimalist 
Judaism. Indeed, so broadly does it share, 
through Neoplatonist themes, a common 
agenda for philosophical discussion in 
Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, 
that for several centuries it was assumed to 
be either Muslim or Christian. It stands in 
clear contrast to Saadiah. 

Abraham Ibn Daud (c. 1110-80) also 
wrote in Spain, and in Arabic. He drew on 
the METAPHYSICS of Islamic philosophy, 
especially of IBN Stina (980-1037), but at 
the same time emphasized, with Saadiah 
Gaon, the distinctive continuity of Israelite 
and Jewish tradition. Yet again, however, 
the influence of Neoplatonism also makes 
itself felt. 


Here only the most general outline of the 
thought of Maimonides is offered, since a 
separate entry on him offers more detail. 
Abraham Ibn Daud is usually perceived as 
paving the way for Maimonides. 

Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed 
stands in the tradition of Philo as facil- 
itating a reconciliation between loyalty to 
the Hebrew scriptures and later rabbinic 
(Talmudic) traditions, and the search for 
rational coherence, integrity, credibility 
and intelligibility. 

Above all, in the tradition of Philo in 
the context of his own day, Maimonides 
draws not only on Greek philosophy but 
also on Islamic philosophy, and even on a 
composite synthesis of ARISTOTLE and 

That God is transcendent and perfect is 
not undermined by biblical anthropo- 


Jung, Carl Gustav 

morphism. These are accommodations to 
our human understanding. Thus, by the 
twelfth century, issues of cultural relati- 
vism were being explored, as Philo had 
anticipated more broadly. The philosophy 
of Maimonides became widely known, not 
least by LerBniz (1646-1716) and Spr- 
NOZA (1632-77). It represents the tradi- 
tion of Jewish RATIONALISM. 

Within the later pre-modern period, 
mention must also be made of Levi ben 
Gerson, usually known by his Latin 
name as Gersonides (1288-1344). 
Although much of his work was on 
scriptural texts, his main philosophical 
work, The Wars of the Lord, owed more 
to Plato than to Genesis for its under- 
standing of creation. 

Maimonides and IBN RusHpD (Aver- 
roes) were probably the two greatest 
influences upon Gersonides’ thought. Phi- 
losophy not only supplemented scriptural 
REVELATION; it was coextensive with it. 
Indeed he was less critically aware than 
Maimonides of the limits of human 
reason. Gersonides provided so extreme 
an example of Jewish rationalism that he 
provoked reactions against it. 


The modern period reveals a hugely wide 
range of interests, agenda, positions and 
outlooks among Jewish philosophers. 
MENDELSSOHN (1729-86) followed the 
rationalism of Leibniz and Wolff. He 
defended and developed the arguments 
for the existence of Gop. His philosophy 
is discussed under a separate entry. 

With Paul Natorp (1854-1924), 
CoHEN (1842-1918) led the Marburg 
school of Neo-Kantian philosophy, which 
influenced thought about ‘constructs’ and 
about ‘models’ in the natural sciences. 

Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) and 
Martin BUBER are sometimes known as 
Jewish existentialist philosophers, but 
their approaches differ, except in their 
shared rejection of IDEALISM. 

Rosenzweig wrote on HEGEL (Hegel 
and the State, 1920) with reference to his 

political philosophy. His work The Star of 
Redemption (1921) proposes that the 
‘givens’ of human experience are God, 
the self and the world. Divine revelation 
takes the form of a ‘presence’ rather than 
statements in sacred texts. 

Buber’s I and Thou (1923) is a pro- 
found, if brief, exposition of the distinctive 
dimension of interpersonal address and 
personhood. The SELF is SUBJECT, not 
merely OBJECT; and God is always subject. 
His subsequent works, including Between 
Man and Man (1947) and Eclipse of God 
(1952), make profound contributions to 
the interface between philosophy and 
RELIGION. Buber is discussed under a 
separate entry. 

Mordecai Kaplan (1881-1983) is an 
example of a philosophical thinker who 
saw the essence of Jewish identity more in 
terms of patterns of social life than in 
religious beliefs. Abraham Joshua Heschel 
(1907-72) has been an influential figure in 
American Jewish philosophical theology. 
Levinas offers profound philosophical 
reflection on human relationality to ‘the 
Other’, especially in relation to transcen- 
dental questions about the self in Other- 
wise than Being (1981). 

No single theme has dominated the 
modern period, except perhaps what it is 
to be human and to have a certain identity. 
Yet most of these philosophers have 
placed their questions within a firm frame- 
work of THEISM and Jewish tradition. (See 

Jung, Carl Gustav (1875-1961) 

Jung is regarded as one of three major 
founders of psychoanalytical theory, with 
Freup (1856-1939) and Adler. However, 
he broke with Freud in 1913, not least 
because of his more positive evaluation 
of RELIGION and broader understanding 
of the drives generated by the uncon- 
scious. Jung stressed the ‘collective’ 
unconscious as the repository of the 
archetypes and syMBOLs that are buried 
within it, but nevertheless transmitted. 

Jung, Carl Gustav 


He rejected Freud’s negative view of 

A native of Switzerland, Jung gradu- 
ated in medicine from Basle, and 
became Professor of Psychiatry at 
Ziirich. He believed that archetypal 
patterns and symbols precede the formu- 
lation of ideas and concepts. Like 
Ricoeur (b. 1913), he argued that 
symbols give rise to thought, rather than 
express thought. 


Symbols also combine ‘double meanings’, 
in the way that interactive METAPHOR also 
brings together two or more worlds. 
Integration, rather than fragmentation, is 
a positive concern of Jung’s ‘analytical 
psychology’. This drive towards whole- 
ness influenced TitticH (1886-1965), 
together with Jung’s estimate of symbol 
as pre-conceptual. 

Symbols allow us to explore beyond 
the finite horizons of thought to rise 
towards the Ultimate. Jung writes, 
‘Because there are innumerable things 
beyond the range of human understand- 
ing, we constantly use symbolic terms to 
represent concepts that we can’t define or 
fully comprehend’ (Man and his Symbols, 
New York: Doubledays, 1971, 21). 

In Jung’s view the sELF is not auton- 
omous. It has been created by what flows 
from the past history of the human race, 
including the archetypal patterns and 
imagery that cross the boundaries of 
times and cultures. Often the self’s own 
past needs to be recalled to integrate 
unbalanced fragmentation. One example 
would be the recovery and positive 
reassimilation of the ‘Shadow’ side of a 
personality that has been neglected or 


In contrast to Freud, who saw religion as a 
projection outwards and upwards of inner 
neurotic conflicts, Jung regarded religion 
positively, as a force for good. Also unlike 
Freud, he did not attempt to press 
scientific method into a theology or anti- 
theology. Empirical method, he insisted, 
cannot pronounce upon whether religious 
BELIEF is true, although it can note its life- 
enhancing effects. 

Religion is ‘one of the earliest and most 
universal expressions of the human mind’ 
(Collected Works, 20 vols., Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1953-78, vol. 
11, 5). Hence no serious psychology can 
avoid noting its importance for so many. 
The human psyche, in fact, is ‘natively 
religious’ (aturaliter religiosa)’ (ibid., vol. 
12, 13). Humankind needs ‘that which the 
living religions of every age have given’ 
(Modern Man in Search of a Soul, New 
York: Harcourt Brace, 1933, 229). 

Religions, no less, provide the pre- 
conceptual, pre-cognitive symbols that 
serve to heal the rift between conscious- 
ness and the unconscious, or between 
divided parts of the mind. Archetypal 
models include, for example, the image 
of the stone or rock, ‘eternally the same’, 
which may be found in ‘God’ or in other 
religious sources. 

Jung’s method stands in sharp contrast 
to that of Freud, especially in acknowl- 
edging the limits of empirical method. He 
contributes an enriching awareness of 
‘depth’ in the dimension of the human self, 
and of the healing potential for reintegra- 
tion through that which lies beyond the 
instrumental concepts of science and tech- 
nology. (See also AUNTONOMY; EMPRICISM; 

Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804) 

watershed in the history of philosophy. 
He moved beyond both Empiricism and 
RATIONALISM, by expounding a TRANS- 
Königsberg in Prussia, and taught at 
Königsberg University. 

Kant was influenced by the rationalism 
of LEIBNIZ (1646-1716) but appreciated 
serious difficulties which Leibniz had 
identified. Similarly, he respected the work 
of Hume (1711-76) in the empiricist 
tradition, but was even more dissatisfied 
with some of the sceptical inferences that 
had to be drawn from Hume’s conclusions 
(see SCEPTICSIM). Hume awoke him ‘from 
his dogmatic slumber’. 

The three great Critiques of Kant were 
all written in his mature years: The 
Critique of Pure Reason (1781); The 
Critique of Practical Reason (1788); and 
The Critique of Judgement (1790). The 
first critique is often published in two 
columns: the original 1781 edition as the 
‘A’ editions: and the revisions that led to 
the second main edition of 1787 as ‘B’ 
material. In between these Kant wrote a 
defence of his claims, Prolegomena to any 
Future Metaphysics (1783) in which he 
identified as his central issue ‘whether such 
a thing as METAPHYSICS is possible at all’. 

This also strikes the keynote of trans- 
cendental philosophy. Whereas traditional 
EPISTEMOLOGY asks, ‘How do we know?’ 
and ‘What do we know?’, transcendental 
philosophy asks: ‘What are the grounds 
and conditions for the very POSSIBILITY of 

Kant also stressed the notion of AUTON- 
omy. He defined the ENLIGHTENMENT as 
‘man’s exodus from his self-incurred tute- 
lage’ to a position of FREEDOM where 
persons are ‘to use your own understand- 
ing’. Freedom was a pre-condition for the 
moral ABSOLUTE expounded in his Cri- 
tique of Practical Reason. 


Kant agreed with Hume that some things 
seem neither to be analytical truths a 
PRIORI, nor synthetic, empirical truths a 
POSTERIORI. ‘Cause’, for example, cannot 
strictly be observed; only constant con- 
junction. Yet it is hardly a priori, since its 
denial is not self-contradictory. Are these 
things, then, partly ‘synthetic’ truths, and 
partly a priori truths? How could this be? 

It would not be acceptable, Kant 
argued, simply to postulate that synthetic 
a priori truths (both) are metaphysical 
truths. The issue is more complex. There 
are transcendental conditions: grounds or 

Kant, Immanuel 


conditions for the POSSIBILITY of experi- 
encing the world as we experience it. They 
express conditions for understanding the 
phenomenal world. 

Kant subdivided three conditions 
between correlations and types of under- 
standing. Thus synthetic a priori truths 
within the empirical realm provide condi- 
tions necessary for inferential or discursive 
thought. This was called ‘the transcenden- 
tal analytic’. Propositions within the 
‘metaphysical realm provide conditions 
necessary for regulative reason and under- 
standing in ordering the world. This is ‘the 
transcendental dialectic’. 

We experience the world as we experi- 
ence it because these regulative concepts 
and regulative ‘ordering’ are constitutive 
of the experience construed by our minds. 
Kant identified certain ‘antinomies of 
reason’ that illustrate what is at issue. 

One antinomy is ‘the beginning of 
time’, or ‘the edge of space’. How can 
we conceive of the edge of space or the 
beginning of time without being seduced 
into letting our ‘edge of space’ fence off 
‘more space’ beyond it, or seduced into 
asking, ‘What was going on “before” time 

The antinomy, paradox or self-contra- 
diction arises because it is our minds that 
insist upon ordering the world in spatio- 
temporal CATEGORIES. We cannot be 
otherwise. C.E.M. Joad once offered the 
over-simple but useful analogy of seeing a 
blue world through blue spectacles. Since 
we cannot remove the spectacles, we 
cannot know whether the world is ‘really’ 
blue; indeed, it is hardly possible to 
respond to the question. 

The Critique of Pure Reason, then, 
shows the limits of reason. In Kant’s view, 
it is an essentially regulative, ordering 
vehicle. Antinomies emerge when we try 
to push it beyond this function. Reason- 
ing about God yields the antinomy that 
God is either ‘outside’ the world as First 
Cause and Absolute, or inside the world 
as acting within it. Kant saw these as 


In the period between the first and second 
Critiques Kant produced Groundwork of 
the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), in 
preparation for his Critique of Practical 
Reason in 1788. Kant had been educated 
in the tradition of preTIsM and high moral 
duty, and it was in the realm of the moral 
imperative that he found the Absolute that 
offered a framework for his notions of 
‘God, freedom and immortality’. 

Kant regarded his Critique of Pure 
Reason as parallel with the ‘Copernican 
Revolution’. In relation to OBJECTS in the 
empirical world, and to REASON in the 
traditions of RATIONALISM, there was no 
longer any self-contained world, compar- 
able with a pre-Copernican world-view. 
This ‘pre-Copernican’ perspective treated 
objects as ‘things-in-themselves’ (Dinge an 

Only in the realm of ETHICS, Kant 
argued in his Critique of Practical Reason, 
do we leave the realm of the relative for 
the Absolute, unconditioned ‘Categorical 
Imperative’ of moral duty. This goes 
further in The Metaphysics of Morals 
(1797). The ‘absolute’, apart from the 
categorical imperative itself, is ‘the abso- 
lutely good will’. This is the autonomous 
will of ‘deontological’ ethics, or an ethic of 

Kant permitted the moral dimension to 
enter the realm of metaphysics because he 
viewed the ideas of God, freedom and 
immortality as POSTULATES of practical 
reason. The virtuous person, he believed, 
deserves happiness, and only God can 
resolve the disharmonies that appear to 
conflict with such an expectation. 

In Religion Within the Limits of 
Reason Alone (1793) it becomes clear 
how far Kant’s view of God differs from 
what he calls that of ‘ecclesial’ religion 
and ‘divinity schools’. God is not a 
personal agent who acts within the world. 
PRAYER is merely self-adaptation and 
mediation, without the hope of changing 


Kierkegaard, Soren Aabye 

states of affairs. That would be ‘ecclesial’, 
not ‘rational’ prayer; indeed it would be 

This coheres with The Critique of 
Judgement (Urteilskraft). The ‘ordering’ 
of the mind regulates the subjective as 
aesthetics, and the logical or objective as 
teleology. But these are how the world 
appears in ‘our’ experience. There is no 
‘experience’ that rests wholly upon what is 
‘given’; experience also embodies within it 
what the mind brings to it as categories of 
understanding and ‘order’. Hence Kant’s 
third Critique did much to undermine the 
himself still respected it. 


We cannot put the clock back to the pre- 
Kantian era. SCHLEIERMACHER recognized 
that Kant’s philosophy required new 
thinking in theology. For the philosophy 
of religion Kant raises complex questions 
about ‘experience’. Can we separate what 
we think that we experience from how our 
minds order and interpret that experience? 

Reason also plays an ambivalent role in 
Kant. On one side, Kant opens up the im- 
portance of transcendental questions. These 
have to be asked. Yet is there the difficulty 
that in the end Kant holds to a regulative 
and thereby ‘instrumental’ role for reason, 
not much different from HuMeE’s, except for 
the purposes that it serves? 

Finally, ‘God’ is squeezed into a role 
that performs what suits Kant’s philoso- 
phical system, including an implausible 
notion of providing a backstop for expec- 
tations about the reward due to the ‘good 
will’. Kant concedes that his philosophical 
God is hardly the God of the ‘divinity 
school’, let alone the God of most religious 
believers. (See also DUALISM; GOD, ARGU- 

Kierkegaard, Soren Aabye 

Kierkegaard is credited with being, in 
effect, the father of EXISTENTIALISM. This 

arises from his emphasis on the individual 
in contrast to convention; on will and 
decision, in contrast to abstract REASON; 
and on ‘SUBJECTIVITY’ in the sense of 
venturing one’s own stake in TRUTH, in 
contrast to objective content (see OBJEC- 
TIVITY). In the context of RELIGION, 
radicals lay claim to appeal to his attack 
on mere orthodox BELIEF, while pietists 
no less appeal to his emphasis on personal 
commitment rather than rational argu- 


Born and educated in Copenhagen, Kier- 
kegaard grew up under the influence of a 
domineering father, who encouraged him 
to read theology in preparation for ordi- 
nation. When this authority-figure became 
guilty of a serious moral lapse, Kierke- 
gaard determined to disengage himself 
from all second-hand inherited values, 
and to live life and seek truth for himself. 
Yet he found no fulfilment in moral 
decline, and by his own independent 
decision resumed theological studies. 

A crisis of personal confidence led 
Kierkegaard to break off his engagement 
to be married, precipitating a parallel 
withdrawal from initial pastoral ministry. 
He perceived this as following a path of 
obedience to God’s will which transcended 
the ethical obligations of promises. In Fear 
and Trembling (1843) he invoked the 
story of Abraham’s ‘sacrifice’ of Isaac in 
Genesis 22 as a supposed model. The 
command to slay the son through whom 
divine promise would be fulfilled seemed 
to contradict both ethics and logic, but 
still demanded obedience in face of all 

Kierkegaard eventually retreated into a 
measure of isolation from society and 
from the Danish Church. He saw suffering 
and obedience as his Christian vocation, 
believing that whereas HEGEL and other 
thinkers talked about Christianity, his own 
work was to live it. 

All this profoundly affected the style, 
method and content of Kierkegaard’s 

Kierkegaard, Soren Aabye 


many writings. To provoke decision rather 
than shallow assent to ideas he attacked 
his own work under pseudonyms (Point of 
View for my Work as an Author, Prince- 
ton: Princeton University Press, 1941). He 
called this ‘indirect? communication in 
continuity with Socratic irony and the 
subversive parables of Jesus. He also 
wrote from the contrasting angles of a 
shallow ‘aesthetic stage’ which centred on 
passing pleasure, a deeper ‘ethical’ stage, 
and a ‘religious’ stage that moved beyond, 
and even ‘suspended’ the ethical. Trans- 
formative decisions change life, and they 
lie beyond general rules. 


Kierkegaard rejects the way of searching 
for truth by following the crowd. ‘The 
most ruinous evasion of all is to be hidden 
in the crowd ... to get away from hearing 
God’s voice as an individual’ (Purity of 
Heart is to Will One Thing, London: 
Collins, 1961, 163). In Christian theism 
this approach is taken up by BARTH and 
BULTMANN, and in atheistic versions of 
existentialism by Camus and SARTRE. 

In his satirical Attack on ‘Christendom’ 
Kierkegaard insists that ‘Christianity has 
been abolished by expansion’. ‘These 
millions of name-Christians’ are merely 
those who passively assent to the rites and 
doctrines of the Danish state Church: 
‘God ... cannot discover that He has been 
hoaxed, that there is not one single 
Christian’ (Attack on ‘Christendom’, 
Oxford: OUP, 1940, 127). If a person 
can pay the priest’s fee for burial ‘there is 
no help for him — he is a Christian’ (ibid., 

However, all this has little to do with 
‘truth’. For ‘subjectivity is truth’ (Conclud- 
ing Unscientific Postscript [1846], Prince- 
ton: Princeton University Press, 1941, 306). 
‘Subjectivity’ does not mean the unfounded 
personal opinions of subjectivism, nor does 
it denote introspection. It is how and when 
an individual stakes his or her life on 
something in first-person decision. It is not 

being ‘dulled into a third person’ by mere 
passive assent to what is ‘objectively’ 
described (Journals, Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1938, 533). 

‘The objective accent falls on WHAT is 
said; the subjective accent on HOW it is 
said ... Thus subjectivity becomes the 
truth’ (Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 
181; Kierkegaard’s capitals). 


Kierkegaard passionately rejected the 1DE- 
ALISM of Hegel. Hegel, in effect, identified 
thought with reality. In Kierkegaard’s view 
this approach contained several flaws. 
First, it presupposed some detached, 
world-surveying, viewpoint from which 
‘the whole’ could be constructed as a 
system. Second, it substituted mere passive 
assent to a system of ideas for genuinely 
participatory and self-transformative 
engagement with truth. Thereby, third, it 
elevated intellect or reason above will and 
decision. Everything remains purely spec- 
ulative, without existential, concrete 

Hegel portrayed history-as-a-whole as 
Absolute Idea in a process of self-manifes- 
tation. Kierkegaard diagnosed this as 
‘world-historical absent-mindedness’: 
Hegel has forgotten what it is to be 
human. ‘I should be as willing as the next 
man to fall down in worship before the 
System, if only I could set eyes on it’ 
(Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 97). 
Kierkegaard observes drily that he might 
have been persuaded if the truth could be 
‘viewed eternally, divinely, theocentrically 
... [But] Iam only a poor, existing, human 
being’ (ibid., 190). 

A system of mere logical concepts is 
indeed possible. However, Kierkegaard 
continues ‘an existential system is impos- 
sible’ (ibid., 107). If humankind is 
grounded, located, and conditioned by 
‘existence’, we cannot assume that 
thought and reality are coextensive. Deceit 
generates such a view. 




Clearly Kierkegaard’s critique of thought 
and reason suggests the fruitlessness of 
arguments for the existence of Gop. 
Indeed, to use them is ‘a shameless 

Further, faith is seen in voluntarist 
terms as a matter of decision, will or 
existential commitment and venture. Kier- 
kegaard’s critics accuse him of FIDEISM, 
i.e. of separating the truth of religion from 
wider issues of rationality and truth. 

While his emphasis on the individual 
encourages active engagement and 
accountability rather than passive assent 
to conventional beliefs, Kierkegaard has 
underestimated the part played by the 
Church or communities of shared beliefs 
in maintaining and supporting TRADI- 
TIONS through TIME. Hence although his 
Journals record moments of Christian joy 
and assurance of faith, more often he was 
tortured by doubt in his lonely, self-chosen 
isolation from fellow believers. 

All the same, Barth recognized in 
Kierkegaard’s writings a prophetic witness 
to the TRANSCENDENCE of God and to 
human finitude. Concrete human exis- 
tence is creaturely. Barth’s aphorism that 
one cannot say ‘God’ by saying ‘human- 
kind’ in a loud voice reflects this resonance 
with Kierkegaard. 

Kierkegaard insisted that he did not 
wish to found a ‘school’, but to leave only 
the epitaph ‘That Individual’. Neverthe- 
less, he deeply influenced Christian and 
anti-theist existentialists, pietists who 
agreed about faith as decision and venture, 
radicals who attacked Church orthodoxy 
or belief-systems of ‘Christendom’, 
Barthian theologians who stressed trans- 
cendence and REVELATION, and the Bult- 
mann school, which combined Lutheran 
pietism with historical SCEPTICISM. 

Among nineteenth-century theological 
thinkers, Kierkegaard is widely regarded 
as the third major alternative to SCHLEIER- 
MACHER or to Hegel. Yet since his works 

were written in Danish, he remained little 
known outside Denmark until Barth drew 
attention to his writings especially in his 
second edition of his Romans (1922). 

al-Kindi Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub Ibn Ishaq 
(c. 813-c. 871) 

The first of the great Islamic philosophers 
of the classical period, al-Kindi, constitu- 
tes a bridge between Greek, especially 
Aristotelian, philosophy and Islam. In the 
court of Baghdad he served as tutor to the 
son of the caliph. He strongly advocated 
the importance of REASON, and urged the 
compatibility between Islamic faith based 
on the Qur’an and the philosophical 
concepts of ARISTOTLE and the drive 
towards a coherent Arabic ‘science’. 

Initially al-Kindi inherited access to 
Aristotle in part through Syrian transla- 
tions, which had included some works of 
PLotinus as if these were parts of the 
writings of Aristotle, although some texts 
were already in Arabic. Up to 250 works 
have been accredited to him, but some 200 
have been lost. In his work On First 
Philosophy, he argues that knowledge of 
the First Truth and First Cause constitutes 
the central and most blessed and noble 
part of philosophical inquiry. 

In contrast to many later Islamic 
philosophers, al-Kindi stressed the finite 
and CONTINGENT nature of the universe. 
God is ABSOLUTE and transcendent. God 
created the universe from nothing (ex 
nibilo), and in due course the universe 
would perish. Also in contrast to those of 
his successors who would privilege philo- 
sophy over revelation (notably aL-Far- 
ABI), al-Kindi stressed the importance of 
the Qur’an and its responsible interpreta- 
tion. However, the Qur’an’s witness to 
Allah is compatible with Aristotle’s 
Uncaused Cause or Prime Mover, and 
more broadly with the ‘One’ of NEopLa- 

Al-Kindi develops an ontological 
account of Aristotle’s CATEGORIES of form, 
matter, motion, place and time, as primary 



substances of the created world, i.e. 
categories of ‘what is’. He also utilizes 
Aristotle’s distinction between ‘passive’ 
intellect, in which the mind receives 
impressions of sense-data through the 
senses, and ‘active’ intellect, in which the 
mind relates such data coherently to form 
ideas and concepts. He also produced The 

Metaphysics in Arabic, and wrote on 
astronomy, astrology, mathematics, music 
and politics A useful resource is G.M. 
Atiyeh, Al Kindi: The Philosophy of the 
Arabs (Islamabad: Islamic Research Insti- 
tute, 1967). (See also Aquinas, Gop, 


The term ‘language-game’ was used by 
WITTGENSTEIN from 1932 onwards. It 
underlines that using language is an action 
or activity, and that language operates 
with constitutive ‘rules’, namely the con- 
straining regularities of logical grammar. 

In the Philosophical Investigations 
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1967) Wittgenstein 
writes: ‘The term “language-game” 
(Sprachspiel) is meant to bring into 
prominence the fact that the speaking of 
language is part of an activity (Tätigkeit), 
or of a form of life (Lebensform)’ (sect. 
23). A language-game is a ‘whole, consist- 
ing of language and the actions into which 
it is woven’ (ibid., sect. 7). 

The grounding of language in life and 
communal behaviour suggests that pro- 
blems arise when questions are asked in 
the abstract ‘outside a particular language- 
game’ (ibid., sect. 47). Sometimes Witt- 
genstein invents or compares model lan- 
guage-games for exploratory purposes, for 
example that of ‘Wittgenstein’s Builders’ 
(ibid., sect. 2). The term may have 
originated from Wittgenstein’s uses of 
analogies from chess. The point here is 
not the shape of the chess-piece, but the 
rules that define how the piece operates 
(ibid., sect. 31). (See also LANGUAGE IN 

language in religion 

Whether language about God has genuine 
communicative currency, and if so, how it 
acquires it, belongs to those core issues 
that lie at the heart of the philosophy of 
religion. It ranks in importance alongside 
arguments for the existence of Gop, and 
the problem and nature of Evi. 


(1) Some argue that ‘religious language’ 
bears no relation to the currency of 
language in ordinary life, since its 
function is merely expressive or com- 
mendatory. It may serve to express 
feelings of reverence, awe, or wonder, 
or commend religious attitudes appro- 
priate to finite, created beings. How- 
ever, it allegedly fails to communicate 
truth about events or states of affairs. 
In more technical terms, it is non- 
cognitive and expressive rather than 

This objection will be examined 
more closely below. It was advocated, 
for example, by the Cambridge philo- 
sopher R. B. Braithwaite in his work 
An Empiricist’s View of the Nature of 
Religious Belief (1955). Well-known 
examples of religious claims that may 

language in religion 


often lack cognitive context include, for 
example, ‘God is on our side’; ‘We shall 
overcome’. NIETZSCHE argued at the 
end of the nineteenth century that such 
uses of language were often manipula- 
tive: ‘The salvation of the soul’, he 
observed, may express a feeling of self- 
satisfaction: ‘The world revolves 
around me’ (The Antichrist, in Com- 
plete Works, London: Allen & Unwin, 
1909-13, vol. 16, 186, aphorism 43). 
The view that language in religion is 
without cognitive truth-content 
receives added force when questions 
are raised about criteria to determine 
what truths, events or states of affairs 
it communicates. 

The most widely known objection 
from this angle is that formulated by 
AYER (1910-89) in his Language, 
Truth and Logic (1st edn, 1939; 2nd 
edn, London: Gollancz, 1946). His 
view, known as LOGICAL POSITIVISM, 
and building on the positivism of the 
VIENNA CIRCLE, centres on the maxim 
that the meaning of a proposition 
must be verified (or verifiable in 
principle, 2nd edn) by observation or 
experience, unless it is logically true as 

While propositions of mathematics 
may be ‘true’ in this analytic sense, 
and propositions of sciences or of 
most everyday life are open to verifia- 
bility by observations of the states of 
affairs to which they refer, the lan- 
guage of religion and ethics falls into 
neither area. It is ‘non-sense’: because 
it is unverifiable, it remains without 
truth-content. ‘God loves the world’ 
or ‘it is wrong to steal’ merely express 
attitudes on the part of speakers. 

A more nuanced and more convincing 
version of this approach appeals to the 
principle of FALSIFICATION or falsifia- 
bility, utilizing the insights of Karl 
Popper (1902-94) on falsifiability in 
science, e.g. in The Logic of Scientific 
Discovery (Germ. 1934; Eng. 1959). 
What would it take to demonstrate the 


falsity of a proposition? Does the 
presence of horrendous evils in the 
world count as a criterion that invali- 
dates, or demonstrates as false, the 
proposition ‘God loves the world’? If 
someone asserts ‘God is on our side’ 
whatever may be discovered about the 
moral claims of the other side, does 
the proposition count as ‘true’? 

In philosophy of religion the so- 

called parable of the invisible gardener 
(used by John Wisdom and Antony 
Flew) illustrates the point. If two 
people disagree about whether a less 
wild patch of the jungle has actually 
been tended as a garden by a gardener, 
they can wait and observe whether 
such a gardener ever comes. However, 
if such a person never appears, and 
one of the two asserts that the 
gardener may nevertheless be invisible, 
a process of tests to falsify the claim 
may be set in motion. The gardener 
cannot be heard, and leaves no traces 
of bodily presence. If the ‘believer’ 
insists that the gardener must be 
invisible, inaudible, intangible and 
odourless, what remains of the origi- 
nal proposition? It has died the ‘death 
of a thousand qualifications’, it may be 
Many argue that the operational 
currency or logical grammar is so 
different in ‘religious language’ from 
that of ‘ordinary’ language that such 
language functions only within an 
‘insider’ group that uses highly coded 
linguistic concepts. WITTGENSTEIN 
observes: ‘You can’t hear God speak- 
ing to someone else (That is a gram- 
matical remark).’ (i.e. it is about the 
logical currency of ‘hearing’ God), 
(Zettel, Germ. Eng. Oxford: Black- 
well, 1967, sect. 717). 

Wittgenstein himself, however, 
recognizes that there are ‘overlappings 
and over-crossings’ that provide 
bridges between uses of the same word 
even when logical currency varies. 
There is some link between ‘hearing’ 


language in religion 

God and hearing sound-waves, even if 
this requires conceptual exploration of 
the different roles performed by the 
word in different settings or in differ- 
ent ‘surroundings’. The orientation of 
much of the debate about language in 
religion turns on this problem. Its 
recognition, however, leads to a gen- 
eral preference to speak not of ‘reli- 
gious language’ (a term popular in the 
1950’s), but of how language is used in 
religion or in religious contexts. 


The sacred writings of Judaism, Christian- 
ity and Islam all warn against constructing 
images of God. This is not only because 
humankind as such is intended to exhibit 
the divine image of wisdom and goodness, 
but also because God is beyond ready or 
exact compare with persons or objects 
within the world. Exodus 3:13, 14 reflects 
reluctance to offer any easy characteriza- 
tion of God: ‘I will be what I will be’ 
(Hebrew uses future or ‘imperfect’; ‘I am’ 
comes from the Greek translation of the 

Much language about God uses the 
way of negation (VIA NEGATIVA): God is 
‘immortal’, ‘immutable’, ‘infinite’ (see 
concepts and ‘attributes’ of Gop). Tho- 
mas AQUINAS observes: ‘It seems that no 
word (Latin, nomen) can be used literally 
of God (dicatur de Deo proprie)’, for 
‘every word used of God is taken from our 
speech about creatures’. Nevertheless 
‘such words are used metaphorically 
(Latin, metaphorice) of God, as when we 
call him a “rock” (Summa Theolgiae, Ia, 
Qu. 13, art. 3 Blackfriars edn, 1964, vol. 
3, 57). 

Aquinas conceded that metaphorical 
uses do not represent a perfect correspon- 
dence or match. Nevertheless, they are not 
used ‘equivocally’ (aequivoce), as if 
ambiguous and unrelated to the ordinary 
uses of words (ibid., art. 5). ‘It is 
impossible to predicate anything univo- 

cally (univoce) of God’, ie. as if the 
meaning were identical with ordinary 
language. ‘No word when used of God 
means the same as when it is used of a 
creature’ (ibid.). He concludes: ‘Words are 
used neither univocally nor purely equi- 
vocally of God and creatures, but analo- 
gically’ (ibid.). 

In what sense and on what basis 
religious believers use ANALOGY in talk of 
God, however, remains highly controver- 
sial. Thomas Aquinas finds the basis in a 
theological doctrine concerning ‘the per- 
fections that flow from God to creatures’ 
(ibid., art. 9). Thus there is a genuine 
‘analogy of being’ (analogia entis) between 
‘wise’ or ‘good’ as applied to finite human 
persons and as these terms are applied to 
God. From the viewpoint of humanity, the 
use of analogy may therefore work 
‘upwards’ to God (via eminentiae). 

This view has been the dominant 
approach in Roman Catholic thought 
and in Neo-Thomism. However, many 
Protestant theologians, most distinctively 
BARTH, hold that this presupposes an 
appeal to NATURAL THEOLOGY, as if 
analogy of being were a ‘given’ apart from 
divine REVELATION. It would depend, 
Barth argues, on some inherent ‘likeness’ 
between God and humankind, when in 
actuality the initial gift of ‘the image of 
God’ has become corrupted and distorted 
by human sin and alienation. 

Advocates of the view of Aquinas insist 
that an appeal to ‘the analogy of propor- 
tion’ (especially in Cajetan) allows suffi- 
ciently for the reality of a mixture of 
match and mismatch in his use of analogy 
in talk of God. 

Within the Protestant tradition, how- 
ever, some argue for a greater distance 
between God and humankind on philoso- 
phical grounds (following Kant); while 
others argue for this on theological 
grounds (following Calvin and Barth). 
Kant (1724-1804) believed that ‘God’ lies 
beyond the realm of human conceptual 
thought. God cannot be grasped by finite 
human minds. ‘Religion within the limits 

language in religion 


of reason’ (to use Kant’s term) would 
hesitate to place too much weight on 
analogy, since it drifts towards ANTHRO- 

Barth does not reject every ground for 
the use of analogy, but rejects any notion 
of an ‘analogy of being’ (analogia entis). 
Rather, he urges, when humankind 
responds to God’s revelation in faith, part 
of this response entails understanding and 
hearing God on the basis of ‘an analogy of 
faith? (analogia fidei). Hence in the end 
Barth relies also on the use of analogy for 
the currency of language in religion, but 
on a different basis from that of Aquinas. 

One reason why Barth pursues his 
causes so relentlessly stems from his 
reluctance to apply the term ‘person’ to 
God, preferring to speak of the divine 
‘mode of being’ (Seinsweise; he rejects the 
German, Person). However, in the tradi- 
tion of the Orthodox Church John Zizou- 
las places emphasis on ‘person’ as the 
CONCEPT that can most properly be 
applied on the basis of analogy both to 
God and to human persons. The distinc- 
tiveness, if not uniqueness, of ‘person’ 
adds force to this view (see also SELF). 

An incisive, positive, and critical eva- 
luation of the issues on Aquinas and Barth 
is offered in Alan J. Torrance, Persons in 
Communion (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 
1996). Since nothing of positive content 
could be conveyed exclusively though the 
via negativa (what God is not), while the 
danger of projecting human constructs 
‘onto’ God remains (as Kant insisted) 
James Ross described the use of analogy 
as a middle way between anthropomorph- 


TitticH (1886-1965) insisted on the 
unique importance of syMBOL for lan- 
guage that seeks to convey truth about 
God. Drawing especially on JuNG (1875- 
1961), Tillich urges that symbol reaches 
through to the depths of the pre-conscious 
and unconscious in humankind, and 

escapes the peril of cognitive concepts in 
attempting to define ‘God’ in terms of 
some prior conceptual grid, or system 
constructed by human thought, which 
cannot reach, let alone encapsulate, God. 

In addition to the depth psychology of 
Jung, Tillich shares with the existentialist 
philosopher and psychiatrist JASPERS 
(1883-1969) the view that MYTH and 
symbol, unlike conceptual thought, help 
to bridge and to integrate the levels of 
conscious and unconscious in humankind 
with healing and revelatory effects. 

God, Tillich declares, ‘is being-itself ... 
Nothing else can be said about God as 
God which is not symbolic’ (Systematic 
Theology, vol. 1, London: Nisbet, 1953, 
365). Thus he rejects such a cognitive 
proposition, even in an analogical sense, 
as ‘God exists’ or ‘God is the highest 
being’. When applied to God, superlatives 
become diminutives. They place him on 
the level of other beings while elevating 
him above all of them (ibid., 261). 

By contrast, ‘symbols ... point beyond 
themselves’. Further, a symbol ‘partici- 
pates in’ that to which it points (unlike a 
mere sign), and ‘opens up levels of reality 
which otherwise are closed to us ... a level 
of reality which cannot be reached in any 
other way’ (Dynamics of Faith, London: 
Allen & Unwin, 1957, 42). Symbols ‘open 
up hidden depths of our own being’ (ibid., 
43). Thereby they are ‘double-edged’, 
revealing both God and the hidden depths 
of the human self. 

Symbol, Tillich explains, is akin in 
these respects to art, poetry, pictures and 
to ‘myths’, which operate in the same way 
but by telling a story or narrative. ‘Myths 
are symbols of faith combined in stories 
about divine-human encounters’ (ibid., 
49). Although the ‘Ultimate’ is beyond 
time and space, myth points to divine 
reality by using stories set within time and 
space. Hence myths inevitably demand 
critique and reformation, since they 
merely ‘point’ to the Beyond. Thus Tillich 
agrees with BULTMANN that myth 
demands DEMYTHOLOGIZING, but not in 


language in religion 

terms of merely descriptive concepts or 

Jung, Jaspers and Tillich rightly under- 
line the power of symbol and myth to 
reshape human perceptions, to involve the 
self in a participating way (not as a mere 
spectator) and to resonate with patterns or 
longings often buried deep within the self. 
However, they are insufficiently rigorous 
about criteria, which may establish 
whether certain symbols and myths con- 
vey truth or merely reflect projected 
human values, longings or aspirations. 

The endowment of an ordinary object 
with symbolic power may in some sur- 
roundings be constructive. A wreath of 
poppies may have symbolic resonance in 
remembering and honouring those who 
fell in war on behalf of their country. On 
the other hand, there are cases of mental 
illness and instability where a person may 
perceive such an ordinary object as a table 
or a random drawing as a personal threat. 
What criteria distinguish the two cases? 
Tillich argues that symbols grow and die 
in a corporate context, but does this take 
us beyond mere descriptive PRAGMATISM? 

Symbols belong to the constructive 
resources for the effective use of language 
in religion, but also require the kind of 
safeguards discussed in the entry on 
analogy and especially in MODELS AND 
QUALIFIERS and RAMSEy. Similarly, 
neither Jung nor Tillich adequately 
explores issues of conceptual grammar 
(see above, and the entry on Wittgenstein). 

Myth also brings problems into the 
discussion. This is chiefly because the very 
term ‘myth’ is regularly used in quite 
different, even contradictory, ways (see 
the entries on myth, demythologizing and 
Bultmann). Sometimes it is used to denote 
a sequence of analogies or symbols pre- 
sented in narrative form. Sometimes it is 
associated with a ‘pre-scientific’ world- 
view. Sometimes it functions in contrast to 
description, report or history-embedded 
narrative. Unless it is beyond question 
how the term is being used, the word 
‘myth’ causes many more problems than it 

solves, and could be abandoned without 
undue loss. 

METAPHORS are sometimes used as 
substitutes for what might be said in other 
ways. These are generally ‘dead’ meta- 
phors, which perform little more than 
illustrative, didactic or rhetorical func- 
tions. As Max Black and Ricoeur rightly 
show, creative metaphor, in an important 
rather than trivial sense, depends on 
interaction between words or concepts 
drawn from different domains of speech 
and understanding. 

The metaphor ‘The Lord is my Shep- 
herd’ produces an interaction between the 
whole sEMANTIC field of what it was to be 
a shepherd in the ancient Near East and 
the different semantic field of how human 
persons experience the providential activ- 
ity and presence of God. When Jesus 
warns Nicodemus of the need to be ‘born 
again’ (Jn 3:3-7; which may also be 
translated ‘born from above’), the seman- 
tic domain of a mother giving birth to a 
child interacts with the role of new 
beginnings in mature life. Like symbol, 
metaphors function with more creative 
power and resonance than analogy alone. 
However, for that very reason attention 
must be paid to criteria for their appro- 
priate use. 


Ramsey attempted to refine the issues 
discussed above by proposing that lan- 
guage in religion employs ‘models drawn 
from everyday life and the empirical 
world, but in conjunction with “quali- 
fiers” which ensure that their employment 
carries with it a distinctive logic appro- 
priate to religion’ (Religious Language, 
London: SCM, 1957). This God is ‘cause’ 
(model) but ‘first’ (qualifier) cause of the 
universe. God is ‘wise’ (model), but 
‘infinitely’ (qualifier) wise (ibid. 61-6). 
Ramsey saw the use of a logic that is 
‘odd, peculiar, and unusual’ as setting in 
motion a creative experience such as that 

language in religion 


of which we might say ‘light dawns’ or 
‘the penny drops’; the language ‘comes 
alive’ in a situation of ‘disclosure’ (ibid., 
19-21). It is like suddenly ‘seeing’ the 
shape presented by an enigmatic puzzle- 
picture as a Gestalt, or whole (ibid., 24). 

The model ensures that religious belief 
has an ‘empirical place’. The qualifier 
functions like a logical operator (ibid., 
54-6). Ramsey is prepared to attribute to 
God such an everyday term as ‘purpose’, 
but qualifies it as ‘eternal purpose’ (ibid., 

Although he does not fully stipulate 
criteria for ‘seeing’ when religious believ- 
ers perceive a Gestalt (he acknowledges 
e.g. that we may ‘see’ a ‘face’ in a cliff), 
Ramsey nevertheless offers some broad 
guidelines that go further than most, 
including Tillich, for example in the use 
of symbols. 

Critical rational reflection does not 
demand the elimination or reduction of 
symbols. The reverse is the case. We may 
use symbols of God and of divine activity 
provided that these symbols are also 
qualified by other complementary sym- 
bols. Symbols of judgement may lead to 
distortion and potential error unless these 
are complemented by symbols of tender 
care, love, compassion and grace. Espe- 
cially in his later writings, Ramsey empha- 
sizes the need for a wide repertoire of 
linguistic models and tools, citing Witt- 
genstein’s emphasis upon the multi-func- 
tional resources of language in action. The 
Christian hymn ‘Crown him! is accepta- 
ble because it qualifies a sequence of 
models by their very variety. “The Virgin’s 
Son’ is ‘mystic rose ... the Root ... the 
Babe’ as well as victorious warrior (Chris- 
tian Discourse, Oxford: OUP, 1975, 19). 


We noted above the formulation of Ayer’s 
principles of verification and subsequently 
verifiability, on the grounds of which he 
dismissed the language of religion and 
ethics as ‘non-sense’. For Ayer such 

language is merely ‘emotive’, just as for 
R. B. Braithwaite it is merely the language 
of approval and recommendation. The 
language of religion is neither that of 
straightforward empirical statement nor 
that of formally internal analytic statement. 

Within a decade of Ayer’s writing, 
however, philosophers were beginning to 
ask what category Ayer’s own principle of 
verifiability fell into. It is not an empirical 
assertion, but it is not a self-evident 
internal analytical statement of formal 
LOGIC. As the 1950s progressed, it 
became increasingly clear that Ayer sim- 
ply presented a positivist world-view (i.e. 
that only the data that comes through the 
five physical sense constitutes ‘reality’), 
but presented this world-view as a theory 
of language. H. J. Paton called it ‘positi- 
vism in linguistic dress’ (The Modern 
Predicament, London: Allen & Unwin, 
1955, 42). 

The principle of falsification carries 
more weight. However, it tends to over- 
look the point (emphasized by Wittgen- 
stein in On Certainty) that belief-systems 
are more like a ‘nest of propositions’ than 
a series of isolated or independent verifi- 
able or falsifiable belief-statements. The 
question, Wittgenstein observes, then 
becomes how many twigs can be removed 
before the nest as such collapses and 
disintegrates (On Certainty, sects. 142- 
4). The principle of falsification has its 
uses, but not as a comprehensive criterion 
for the truth of a belief-system and the 
currency of all of its language. 


Much of this present subject may be 
explored under such separate headings as 
analogy, falsification, logical positivism, 
Ramsey and so on. However, three more 
important topics must be mentioned for 
an overview of the subject as a whole. 

(1) Count-generation, or ‘counting x as y’: 
Stuart C. Brown (Do Religious Claims 
Make Sense? London: SCM, 1969) 


Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 

and more especially WOLTERSTORFF 
(Divine Discourse, Cambridge: CUP, 
1995) attack the preoccupation with 
single words and a single object of 
reference as the key to meaning, rather 
than asking (with the later Wittgen- 
stein) what role multiple references 
might play. To use an example from 
Wolterstorff, a human agent may per- 
form action ‘A’ (moving an indicator 
button) in order to perform action ‘B’ 
(communicating that he or she is 
about to turn left or right). To press 
the button of the indicator counts as 
the conveying of information and 
warning about the decision to turn. It 
‘counts as signalling for a turn’ 
(Divine Discourse, 79). 

Religious contexts provide inex- 

haustible examples of such count- 
generation. To read a command in 
Jewish, Christian or Islamic sacred 
texts is frequently for a believer to 
count the words as a command of God 
or Allah. Wolterstorff alludes to the 
parallel of ‘deputized discourse’, in 
which what a secretary writes, with 
due authorization, counts as the words 
of an executive or director. 
HERMENEUTICS (exploring the relation 
between understanding and language) 
emerged from earlier writers, but has 
come into greater prominence in the 
context of language in religion and 
philosophy of religion more recently. 
It is considered under a separate entry 
in this volume. 
SPEECH-ACT theory is also reserved for 
a separate entry, but the comments 
(above) from Wolterstorff presuppose 
this approach, as, in effect, the work 
of the later Wittgenstein does in 
embryo. Such utterances as ‘I pro- 
mise’, ‘I repent’, ‘I confess’, or even 
perhaps ‘I believe’, do not function to 
inform God or others of what they 
might already know, but to perform 
acts of promising, repentance, confes- 
sion, or affirmation of belief. (See also 

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 

Leibniz was born in Leipzig, and educated 
at Leipzig, Jena and Altdorf. During his 
lifetime he was best known for his 
innovative contributions to mathematics. 
He and Newron (1642-1727) indepen- 
dently discovered the infinitesimal calcu- 
lus, although each was convinced that the 
other had plagiarized his work. 

In addition to his work in mathematics, 
LOGIC and philosophy, Leibniz contribu- 
ted to law, historical enquiry, natural 
science and politics, and served as a 
diplomat and librarian in the court of 

In the context of philosophy of reli- 
gion, Leibniz’s most original and distinc- 
tive work was his ONTOLOGY, coupled 
with the optimistic response to the pro- 
blem of Evit that God had created our 
world order as ‘the best of possible 
worlds’. He also explored the nature of 
CREATION and issues of continuity, identity 
and change. He published his Theodicy in 


Leibniz’s ontology is extraordinarily com- 
plex. Initially much of his concern arose 
from dissatisfaction with the legacy of 
Descartes (1596-1650) that ‘bodies’ 
have extension. If bodies had extension, 
such extension must be infinitely divisible, 
and ‘units’ of reality never defined or 

If the ‘units of one’, or ‘monads’, of 
reality are the smallest ‘indivisible’ 
(atomic) units of an ontology, they cannot 
by definition be spatial, or extended in 
space. For if they were, they would not be 
indivisible atoms. 

Leibniz turned, rather, to the notion of 
monads as units of ‘force’. Against Des- 
cartes, he argued that force was not 
generated merely by quantity of move- 
ment (mass x velocity), but mass x the 
square of velocity. 

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 


As non-spatial units, monads do not 
interact directly with one another: ‘Mon- 
ads have no windows’ (Monadology, sect. 
7). Nevertheless, they have a capacity for 
quasi-perception, or ‘apperception’. ‘Min- 
ute perceptions’ are perceptions of which a 
monad is unaware. Yet this perception 
allows for the possibility of a monad’s 
‘mirroring’ another monad. Further, to a 
greater or lesser degree, a monad may 
mirror the nature of reality as a quasi- 
microcosm of the universe. 

Why is such a complex ontology neces- 
sary? This emerges partly through logicical 
rigour: Descartes’ notion of ‘extension’, for 
example, results in self-contradiction, 
unless the world were to have no stable 
continuum. This introduces the two ‘labyr- 
inths’ of confusion out of which Leibniz 
seeks to escape to coherence. 

‘The labyrinth of the continuum’ is the 
first. Leibniz seeks to explain individual- 
ism without losing the notion of a stable 
ontological continuum. As length, area 
and volume, the continuum of the world is 
infinitely divisible. But if monads (unlike 
‘extensions’ in Descartes) are not inert but 
active, and do not collapse into endless 
assimilation (‘monads have no windows’), 
we seem to arrive at an ontology that 
provides a ground for both continuity and 
change. His monadology appears to solve 
the problem of ‘the continuum’. 

Second, how can an ordered plurality 
of monads find room for CONTINGENCY 
and FREEDOM? For ‘identity’ rests upon 
continuity over time in which subsequent 
states are caused by preceding states that 
occur within the existence and activity of 
the monad. 

Leibniz’s central concern remains that 
of logic. As in later logical atomism, he 
held that the truth-value of all proposi- 
tions is the sum of the truth of all 
elementary propositions. But how is it 
possible that, given action and change, 
some propositions are true that might 
have been false? 

Leibniz’s ontology also rests on con- 
siderations from mathematics. For his 

notion of infinite analysis suggests that 
such analysis cannot be exhaustive and 
final. Hence, if it is not final, there is room 
for contingency, freedom and POSSIBILITY, 
alongside stability and continuity. The 
‘labyrinth of freedom’ has also been very 
carefully addressed. 


Leibniz endorsed the value of the ONTO- 
CAL ARGUMENT for the existence of God. 
Since God ‘is without limits, without 
negation ... without contradiction’, it is 
valid to define God as including ‘all 
perfections’ (Monadology, sect. 45). The 
ground for the existence of contingent 
objects or events in the world lies outside 
themselves, and points to the existence of 
a ‘necessary Being’ (ibid.). Without God, 
there would even be ‘nothing ... possible’ 
(ibid., sect. 43). 

God created the world by free choice, 
because God chose to create the best of all 
possible worlds. Evil exists in this world, 
but since it is ‘the best possible’, evil must 
be necessary to a ‘best possible’ world. 
Without the possibility of evil, it would 
not be the best possible. 

Leibniz coined the word ‘THEODICY’ to 
describe this vindication of ‘a sufficient 
reason’ for God’s creation of this world, 
even in the face of evil. The interplay of 
possibility and necessity is rational, and is 
based upon ‘the Principle of Sufficient 
Reason’. The contrary (or logical denial) 
of a contingent event does not entail 
contradiction. The Fall of Adam is in this 
respect not ‘necessary’. On the other hand, 
the contrary (logical denial) of a necessary 
proposition or event does result in a 
contradiction. Its affirmation is true ‘in 
all possible worlds’. At one level ‘the best 
possible world’ is thus necessarily the best 

Yet Leibniz is equally insistent on 
God’s freedom to choose whether or what 
God creates. Here, again, his infinitesimal 
calculus offers a way forward. For since an 


liberal theology 

infinity of ‘possible worlds’ is in view, 
what can be asserted about infinity 
remains incapable of the ‘closure’ of 

Many will be dazzled, if not intimi- 
dated, by the complexity and subtlety of 
Leibniz’s thought. It may appear esoteric 
because it seeks a unified understanding of 
a large spread of interlocking areas, from 
mathematics and METAPHYSICS to physics 
and theology. He remains in the rationalist 
tradition of Descartes and Spinoza, but 
his innovative thought is in part provoked 
by his awareness of where both thinkers 
fall short and commit fallacies that need to 
be rectified. (See also GoD, ARGUMENTS 

Levinas, Emmanuel (1906-1995) 

Born in Lithuania, Levinas subsequently 
settled in France. He, with others, intro- 
duced some of HEIDEGGER’s themes into 
French philosophy. However, more signif- 
icant is his own creative work as a Jewish 
philosopher, drawing on the thought of 
Franz Rosenzweig and BuBer. Many of 
his themes resonate also with the Catholic 
and ‘human’ existentialist themes of Mar- 
CEL (1889-1973). 

In Totality and Infinity (Pittsburgh: 
Duquesne University Press, 1969) Levinas 
develops the I-Thou theme (of Buber and 
Marcel) in terms of a face-to-face relation 
as a foundation for an ethical way of life. 
Having suffered grievously under the Nazis 
as a Jew in France in the war years, Levinas 
offers a critique of the dehumanizing way 
of violence. In contrast to the assertion of 
self or of oppressive regimes, it is ‘the 
Other’ who places my demands and self- 
interests in question (see the discussion of 
‘availability’ in the entry on Marcel). 

Such ‘human’ qualities as ‘the face’, 
‘the home’, ‘hospitality’, ‘patience’ and 
even the work of ‘carers’ say more about 
‘being human’ than abstract philosophical 
systems. Much of this springs from reflec- 
tion on classical rabbinic biblical 

interpretation. This looks to Hebrew 
Wisdom rather than to Greek REASON. 

Levinas (with Bonhoeffer and Mo t- 
MANN) gives the lie to NIETZSCHE’s mis- 
understanding of ‘religion’? as world- 
denying. ‘Love of life’ includes working, 
thinking, eating and drinking. ‘To enjoy 
without utility ... gratuitously ... this is 
the human’ (ibid., 133). 

In Otherwise Than Being (1981), 
Levinas holds together a dialectic of 
responsibility between retaining self-iden- 
tity and sacrificing the self for the sake of 
the Other. However, he never moves 
beyond the concreteness of Totality and 
Infinity. For example, to be open to the 
Other manifests itself in such modes of 
humanness as giving hospitality. (See also 

liberal theology 

Strictly, it is necessary to distinguish 
between the technical use of the term in 
modern Christian theology in the aca- 
demic world and a wider, popular, less 
rigorous understanding of the term, which 
is more widespread. 

In Christian theology the era of liberal- 
ism flourished from the last two decades of 
the nineteenth century to the first quarter 
of the twentieth century. Adolf Harnack 
represents the peak of this movement. He 
portrays Jesus as a teacher who taught a 
minimal core of ‘basic’ truths: the father- 
hood of God, the brotherhood of human- 
kind and the infinite value of the human 
soul. He viewed Christian doctrine as a 
movement towards complication which 
arose when Christianity moved onto 
Greek soil. 

The key characteristics of liberal pro- 
testant Christianity around 1890-1925 
were that Christian truth is ‘teaching’, 
rather than proclamation of a saving 
event; the basic, core teaching is ‘timeless’; 
doctrine is secondary; and, where it is 
disputed, largely dispensable. There is 
relatively little about the proclamation of 
the cross as an atonement for human sin. 

linguistic philosophy 


More broadly, however, ‘liberal theol- 
ogy’ is also used to denote a means of 
holding together theology with changes in 
culture or in world-views. It is often 
associated with particular respect for 
intellectual integrity and honesty, espe- 
cially in relation to the claims of other 
branches of knowledge. It is in principle 
tolerant, although some would claim not 
always so in political practice. 

In this sense ‘liberal theology’ may be 
applied also to religions outside Christianity 
to denote willingness to change with the 
times, retaining only certain identifiable 
‘core’ truths. This stands in contrast with 
‘orthodox’ or ‘conservative’ attitudes, which 
retain traditional doctrines, sacred writings, 
creeds and practices, as far as possible 
virtually as they stand. It stands at the 
opposite end of the spectrum to ‘fundament- 
alism’. The more strictly defined liberalism 
of Harnack and the period 1890-1925 
should be distinguished from this wider use. 

Especially with the rise of POSTMODER- 
nity, liberalism is now to be defined 
equally in contrast to radicalism as to 
conservative orthodoxy. Liberalism retains 
a confidence in human REASON which, for 
different reasons, radicals and conserva- 
tives do not. CupiTT insists that ‘Radicals’, 
of whom he is one, are far from ‘Liberal’. 

linguistic philosophy 


Locke, John (1632-1704) 

Locke was born in Somerset, in England, 
and educated at Christ Church, Oxford. 
His early philosophical influences included 
most especially DESCARTES. He wrote on 
political philosophy, publishing The Letter 
on Toleration (1689) and Two Treatises 
on Government (also 1689). However, his 
major work, which was twenty years in 
the writing, was An Essay Concerning 
Human Understanding (1690). 

This is widely thought of as a founda- 
tion text of English EMPIRICISM, but it has 
been rightly argued (for example by D.J. 
O’Connor and by WOLTERSTORFF) that 
while books I-III expound an empiricist 
EPISTEMOLOGY, book IV expounds reason- 
able BELIEF, with a focus upon REASON 
and reasonableness. Wolterstorff observes: 
‘Locke’s main aim in Book IV was to offer 
a theory of entitled (i.e. permitted; respon- 
sible) belief’ (John Locke and the Ethics of 
belief, Cambridge: CUP, 1996, xv). 

Locke also wrote constructively on the 
relation between reason and Christian 
BELIEF. He attacked both SCEPTICISM 
and intolerant dogmatism alike. He pub- 
lished his Reasonableness of Christianity 
(1695), and concluded book IV of An 
Essay Concerning Human Understanding 
with chapters on faith and reason, ‘enthu- 
siasm’ and related topics. 

In ‘Of Enthusiasm’ he observed that 
intensity of conviction, or ‘firmness of 
persuasion’, is no proof that a proposition 
or belief is ‘from God’: ‘St Paul believed 
that he did well and that he had a call to it 
when he persecuted the Christians’ (Essay, 
IV: 19: 12). Locke also published a sane 
exegetical work, A Paraphrase and Notes 
on the Epistles of St Paul to the Gala- 
tians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, and 
Ephesians (published after his death, in 
1707). His Miracles also appeared late 


Locke’s Essay is clearly divided into four 
books, each a series of chapters which 
are divided, in turn, into sections. Book 
I begins with his ‘Introduction’. He 
writes, ‘My purpose [is] to inquire into 
the original [origins], certainty, and 
extent of human knowledge, together 
with the grounds and degrees of belief, 
opinion and assent’ (Essay, |: 1: 1). In 
particular this entails searching out ‘the 
bounds between opinion and knowledge’ 

(ibid., 3). 


Locke, John 

This is no mere theoretical exercise. To 
know ‘the powers of our own minds’, and 
no less also their limits, provides ‘a cure of 
scepticism’ (ibid., 6). In his preface, 
‘Epistle to the Reader’, he points out that 
an understanding in advance of what lies 
beyond the scope of our minds will disarm 
premature scepticism, while to appreciate 
such limits equally closes the door against 
undue dogmatism. Locke, as Wolterstorff 
implies, provides in this respect a model 
for the value of such reflection in the 
context of religious belief. 


The remaining chapters of Book I success- 
fully attack the notion of ‘innate ideas’ 
inherited from Descartes and other ration- 
alists. First, ‘universal consent proves 
nothing innate’ (ibid., 2:3). Children need 
to learn what many philosophers regarded 
as ‘innate’ (ibid., 5). ‘Moral rules need a 
Proof; ergo not innate’ (ibid., 3:4). Ideas 
are ‘not born with children’ (ibid., 4:2). 


Book II is entitled ‘Of Ideas’. An ‘Idea is 
the Object of Thinking’ (ibid., II: 1: 1). 
‘All Ideas come from Sensation or Reflec- 
tion’ (ibid., 2). Perceptions arise through 
the senses as perceptions ‘of things’; but as 
soon as we identify these as ‘yellow, white 
... soft, hard’ these become ‘sources of the 
ideas we have, depending wholly upon our 
senses’ (ibid., 3). The view that ‘experi- 
ence’ is the source of knowledge (ibid., 2) 
is empiricism. However, for Locke and 
BERKELEY the ‘how’ also implies IDEAL- 
‘Experience’ is sub-divided into ‘two 
fountains of knowledge’ namely 
‘external ... objects’ of the world of the 
senses, and ‘reflection’ within ourselves 
(ibid.). When the mind reflects upon the 
ideas which it perceives, ‘simple’ ideas 
may be combined together to form ‘com- 
plex’ ideas (ibid., 3: 1, 2; 4: 1-5; II: 6 and 
Il: 7). 

This leads to Locke’s distinction 
between primary and secondary qualities. 
‘Primary qualities’ are ‘utterly inseparable’ 
from their sources: ‘solidity, extension, 
figure, mobility’ (ibid., 8:9). Secondary 
qualities ‘produce various sensations in us 

. colours, sounds, tastes’ (ibid., 10). It 
was left to Berkeley (1685-1753) to 
subsume both categories into the single 
class of immaterial ideas. Locke suggests 
that with powerful microscopes ‘colour’ 
might disappear; but not extension. 

As in much pre-Kantian empiricist 
epistemology, Locke construes the mind 
as passive in the process of necessary 
sense-perceptions and ideas, on the ana- 
logy of a blank sheet of paper (tabula 
rasa). Once the data has been received, 
reflection may process the raw data. 


Towards the end of book II Locke con- 
siders the problem of personal identity 
(ibid., 27). The identity of ‘man’, like that 
of animals or vegetables, is seen in its 
‘organized body’ (ibid., 6). But in the case 
of ‘personal’ identity, ‘consciousness makes 
personal identity’ (ibid., 10). If the ‘soul’ of 
a prince entered the body of a cobbler, a 
distinction between public perception of 
bodily identity and introspective perception 
of inner identity would become unavoid- 
able (ibid., 15). Yet the issue of identity 
turns in the end on the ‘justice of reward 
and punishment’ (ibid., 18:19). 

The same strongly modified DUALISM 
charaterizes Locke’s philosophy of lan- 
guage (ibid., III: 1-11). ‘Words’ serve as 
‘sensible marks of ideas’ (ibid., 2: 1). 
Locke holds an ‘ideational’ view of lan- 
guage, as against a purely REFERENTIAL or 
functional view. Words represent reality; 
but through the medium of the ideas that 
enter the mind, which words then identify 
by means of stable signs, or semiotic 
markers. They ‘signify ... the ideas that 
are in the mind of the speaker’ (ibid., 11). 

Today all the criticisms that are 
brought against referential and 



representational theories of meaning 
would apply to Locke’s account of lan- 
guage. ‘Ideas’ merely insert a ‘middle’ term 
within a theory of reference. His view of 
language is also ‘expressive’, which covers 
only a segment of the ways in which 
language is used, with the implication that 
language may also fall short of ‘prior’ 
thought (ibid., 10, 11). Rorry, especially, 
attacks this ‘representationalist’ view. 


Recent interpretations of Locke have 
acknowledged that book IV is different 
in tone and stance from books II. 
However, they are less inclined to dismiss 
its value than were earlier interpreters. 
Indeed, Wolterstorff reached the conclu- 
sion that book IV, especially its second 
half, held a depth that addressed or 
generated ‘the making of the modern 
mind’ (John Locke, xii). 

The heart of the matter, for Wolter- 
storff, is ‘the interweaving of the language 
of rationality with the language of obliga- 
tion ... What we ought to believe has 
something intimate to do with reasons, 
and/or reasoning, and/or Reason’ (ibid., 
xiii). ‘Locke was the first to develop with 
profundity and defend the thesis that we 
are all responsible for our believings, and 
that ... reason must be one’s guide’ (ibid., 
xiv). Book IV offers ‘a theory of entitled 
... belief? (ibid., xv). 

Locke recognizes that ‘reason’ has 
different significations (Essay, IV: 17: 1). 
We need reason ‘for the enlargement of 
our knowledge, and regulating our assent’ 
(ibid., 2). The ‘syLLocism’ may be a 
restrictive tool, inhibiting enlargement 
(ibid., 4-7). Reason is ‘the discovery of 
CERTAINTY ... by DEDUCTION’, whereas 
‘faith ... is the assent to any proposition 

. upon the credit of the proposer, as 
coming from God’ (ibid., 18:2). Never- 
theless, ‘revelation cannot be admitted 
against the clear evidence of reason’ (ibid., 
5). Faith may also concern things ‘above 
reason’ (ibid., 7). 

‘Enthusiasm’ in the sense of ‘I believe 
because it is impossible’, or zeal for the 
irrational, is as morally disturbing as 
undue scepticism or undue dogmatism. 
‘Boundaries ... between faith and reason’ 
are necessary to contradict enthusiasm 
and the intolerance that ‘divides mankind’ 
(ibid., 11). ‘Enthusiasm’ nourishes 
‘groundless opinion’ by unprepared 
minds, and enthusiasts fancy this as 
‘illumination from the Spirit of God’ 
(ibid., 19:6). Irrational impulses are 
deemed to be ‘a call or direction from 
heaven’ (ibid.). 

The problem about all this is that it 
arises from a disproportionate undervalu- 
ing of ‘evidence’. ‘God, when he makes the 
prophet, does not unmake the man ... 
Reason must be our last judge and guide in 
everything’ (Locke’s italics, ibid., 19:14). 

Wolterstorff finds Locke’s greatest ori- 
ginality at the point at which he addresses 
PLATO’s questions about the respective 
roles of doxa, opinion and epistemé, or 
knowledge (Republic, bk VI; cf. Wolter- 
storff, John Locke, 218-26). An intellec- 
tual inheritance may not rank as ‘certain 
knowledge’, but it is not worthless. In 
many cases, argumentation becomes more 
important than demonstration (ibid., 

Doxa is of use, provided that is 
regulated. ‘Regulated opinion’ has its 
place in life. ‘Governance is a central 
theme in Locke’s epistemology’ (ibid., 
238). In particular, Locke, Wolterstorff 
concludes, suggests that ‘When we are 
obligated to do our best in the governance 
of beliefs, then too we are to listen to the 
voice of Reason’ (ibid., 241). This entails a 
critique and control of the sELF. (See also 


Traditionally, formal logic attempts to 
provide a system for determining valid 
inferences from one proposition or propo- 
sitions to others, based upon the relations 
between the propositions. One of the 



earliest formulations was ARISTOTLE’s 
system of propositions and the syLLo- 
cisM, but this remains a sub-area within 
modern logic, which nowadays plays a less 
prominent role than in earlier centuries. 
LEIBNIZ (1646-1716) saw the need for a 
logical notation that transformed sen- 
tences into logical propositions, and which 
exposed their logical form. 

The logic of the relations between 
propositions, or propositional calculus, 
remains only one of several areas of 
modern logic. It failed to distinguish 
adequately between different types of 
predicates. With the development of 
existential and universal QUANTIFIERS, a 
second area of predicate calculus emerged 
as a refinement of basic propositional 

The third area, and third stage of 
development, was the formulation of a 
systematic logic of classes. Leonhard Euler 
(1707-83) represented class relations by 
means of diagrams, including the now 
well-known distinctions between ‘A’ pro- 
positions of universal affirmation, ‘E’, of 
universal negation, ‘I’, of existential (or 
particular) affirmation, and ‘O’, of exis- 
tential (or particular) negation. 

The foundation of a modern logic of 
classes came more fully with George 
Boole (1815-64) and his algebraic logic 
of classes; with John Venn (1834-1923); 
with C. S. Peirce (1839-1914); with Georg 
Cantor (1845-1918); with G. Peano 
(1858-1932); and especially with Frie- 
drich Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), Rus- 
SELL (1872-1970) and Alonzo Church 

A fourth main area is that of MODAL 
LOGIC. Clarence I. Lewis (1883-1964), an 
American pragmatic philosopher and logi- 
cian, moved beyond a logic of assertion to 
that of PpossIBILITy, impossibility and 
logical NEcEssiTy. More recently Hart- 
SHORNE and PLANTINGA have utilized 
modal logic to address the claims of the 
tence of God and (in Plantinga’s case) also 
the problem of EvIL. 


Sentences that find variable expression in 
different natural languages need to be 
expressed as propositions of logic. This 
logical form may now become apparent. 
These are represented by the signs or 
symbols of logical notation. Convention- 
ally p, q, and r are used to denote 
prepositional variables. 

Propositions are then qualified by con- 
nectives, to begin to form a calculus, or 
system. The most basic are four: ‘and’, 
‘or’, ‘not’ and ʻif ..., then ...”? Conjunc- 
tions are represented by ‘.’; disjunction 
usually by ‘v’; negation by ‘~’; and 
conditional implication by ‘>’ or by ‘D’. 
These four types of logical connectives are 
examples of ‘logical constants’. 

In his earlier work WITTGENSTEIN saw 
the origins and basis of logical necessity in 
the determinacy of the relations between 
elementary propositions: ‘A proposition is 
a truth-function of elementary proposi- 
tions’ (Tractatus, London: Routledge, 
1961, 5; cf. 5-11). On this basis he 
constructed ‘truth-tables’. ‘If all true ele- 
mentary propositions are given, the result 
is a complete description of the world’ 
(ibid., 3.24). 

If ‘p and ‘q? represent elementary 
propositions which may be combined to 
produce the ‘complex’ proposition ‘p.q’, 
the following truth-table could be pro- 
duced to indicate the truth-value ‘true’ (T) 
or ‘false’? (F) under each combination of 

P P.r ‘pyg (exclusive 

T T T F disjunction, i.e. 
either one or 

ee F the other, but 

F T F T not both) 

F F F F 


Here we move beyond relations between 
propositions as a whole to distinguish 

logical grammar 


between types of predication within them. 
In this notation x, y, and z usually 
represent the subject of a sentence trans- 
posed into a general propositional form. A 
capital letter often represents the predi- 
cate. Thus ‘Fx’ may represent ‘the man is 
French’; ‘Gx’ may denote ‘God is good’. 

The purpose of the existential quanti- 
fication ‘(Ex)’ or ‘(4x)’ to denote ‘for some 
x’, or ‘for at least one x’ is explained in the 
entry on quantifiers, alongside the uni- 
versal quantifier (x) ‘for all x’. 

Russell showed that through the use of 
quantifiers it was possible to avoid the 
self-contradictory implication that state- 
ments about the non-existence of ‘a round 
square’, or about attributes predicated of 
‘the present King of France’ assumed the 
reality of what the propositions denied or 

In logical translation ‘a round square 
does not exist’ could be reformulated as ‘it 
is false to assert that an x exists which is 
such that “round” and “square” can be 
predicated of it simultaneously’. In sym- 
bolic notation this might take some such 
form as: ~ (Ex) (Fx.Gx)...’ 


Wittgenstein recognized that part of the 
genius of Russell was to probe behind 
natural language to identify an underlying 
logical form. Yet in his later work his own 
explorations reveal an increasing prefer- 
ence for returning to uses of language in 
settings in life to explore the ‘logical 
grammar’ of concepts without the cast- 
iron fetters of logical calculus. 

This gave rise in due time to a 
recognition of the explorations of ‘infor- 
mal logic’ as a more flexible tool for 
examining the almost infinite variations of 
an ever-moving language in ordinary life. 
The logical grammar of ‘hearing God 
speak’, for example, owes more useful 
explanation to Wittgenstein’s ‘grammati- 
cal’ question: ‘why cannot we hear God 
speak to someone else?’ than all the 
apparatus of modern formal logic. 

Although the two tasks are not the 
same, there remains an overlap. RYLE 
(1900-76) explored the ‘logical grammar’ 
of issues about the mind-body relation- 
ship and of long-standing paradoxes. 
STRAWSON (b. 1919) argues that informal 
logic can often take us further than formal 
logic (Introduction to Logical Theory, 

Yet, while the logic of classes relates 
most closely to set theory in mathematics, 
Hartshorne and Plantinga have drawn 
constructively on modal logic to illumi- 
nate ‘necessity? in the ontological argu- 
ment, and ‘possible worlds’ in the problem 
of evil. (See also BELIEF; REASON.) 

logical grammar 


logical positivism 

PositivisM denotes primarily a commit- 
ment to an empiricist or natural-scientific 
world-view, and a rejection of METAPHY- 
sics. Logical positivism seeks to harness a 
theory of Locic and language that will 
support and strengthen these views. 

The movement broadly originated in 
Austria and Germany in the 1920s, 
centring on the VIENNA CIRCLE, which 
was led by Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap 
and others. In England the movement was 
represented especially by AYER (1910-89), 
whose Language, Truth and Logic ([1936] 
2nd edn, 1946) reached a very wide 
audience. It is regarded as a classic of 
logical positivism. Ayer’s edited volume 
Logical Positivism (1959) contains a 
selection of relevant essays. 

The heart of the philosophical doctrine 
is that all propositions, to be true-or-false 
rather than ‘non-sense’, must be verifiable 
by empirical observation and empirical 
evidence, with the exception of ANALYTIC 
STATEMENTS, or the propositions of formal 
logic. In his second edition Ayer modified 
this criterion to that of ‘verification in 
principle’, i.e. capable of being verified if a 
hypothetical observer could gain such 


Lyotard, Jean-Francois 

evidence in principle rather than necessa- 
rily in practice. 

It became steadily recognized that the 
linguistic dimension was merely a quasi- 
disguise for positivism in linguistic dress. 
By what criterion was the principle of 
verification true-or-false, since it was 
neither a descriptive, verifiable proposi- 
tion, nor a proposition of formal logic? 
Moreover, to dismiss all propositions of 
RELIGION, ETHICS and metaphysics as 
mere ‘emotive’ expressions of approval 
or disapproval, or of preference or distaste 
(let alone as ‘non-sense’) failed to do 
justice to the complexity of life. 

In spite of Rorty’s postmodernist, 
pragmatic claims about ‘justification’ and 
‘ethnocentric’ criteria, few regard murder, 
theft or rape as merely ‘less preferable’ 
forms of behaviour than others, about 
which more could not be ‘said’ with 
operative meaning-currency. (See also 
TIsM. The longer of these articles contain 
more details.) 

logical syllogism 


Lyotard, Jean-Francois (b. 1924) 

Together with DERRIDA (b. 1930) and 
FoucauLT (1926-84), Lyotard is widely 
known as one of the leading French 
philosophical exponents of POSTMODERN- 
1sM. His definition of the postmodern is 
one of the most frequently quoted: ‘I 
define postmodern as incredulity towards 
metanarratives’ (The Postmodern Condi- 
tion, Minneapolis: University of Minne- 
sota, 1984, xxiv). 

Lyotard uses the term ‘metanarrative’ to 
denote any ‘grand’ narrative of METAPHY- 
sics, of theology, or of religions that 
purports to offer an overall understanding 
of the ‘local’ or particular narratives of 
individual persons or of specific social 
groups. In his view, any attempt to offer 
trans-contextual criteria of meaning and 
truth is based on illusion, naivety or self- 

This calls for a radical reappraisal of 
philosophy, ETHICS, liberal or totalitarian 
politics and religious truth-claims that 
speak beyond a severely limited context. 
Indeed, he transposes the task of philoso- 
phy as that of bearing witness to fragmen- 
tation, discontinuity and heterogeneity in 
a postmodern era, which has ‘seen 
through’ the pretensions of modernity to 
overlook these discontinuities. 

Foucault’s emphasis upon the disconti- 
nuities of history offers a case study of 
such an approach in philosophy. Further, 
Derrida’s attempt to eliminate ‘closure’ in 
all but everyday texts resonates with 
Lyotard’s emphasis on the non-representa- 
tional character of literature and art. 

The emphasis on the ‘local’ (or radi- 
cally relative) is reflected in the American 
postmodernism of Rorty (b. 1931), 
except that American postmodernity is 
more progressive, optimistic and prag- 
matic. Rorty perceives himself as ‘splitting 
the difference’ between Habermas’s ‘uni- 
versal pragmatics’ and Lyotard’s antipathy 
towards all ‘theory’ (‘Habermas and Lyo- 
tard on Postmodernity’ in R. Bernstein, 
ed., Habermas and Modernity, Cam- 
bridge: Polity Press, 1985, 161, 174). 

Madhva (c. 1238-c. 1317) 

Madhva’s work in HINDU PHILOSOPHY is 
characterized by a so-called dualist 
emphasis within the Vedic tradition 
(Dvaita Vedanta). His ‘DUALISM’ is 
usually set in contrast with the MONISM 
or ‘non-dualist system’ of SANKARA 
(c. 788-820), the Advaita Vedanta 
school. Indeed, in Hindu legend Madhva 
was an incarnation of Vaya, sent to 
destroy the monist philosophy of San- 
kara and Sankara’s appeal to ‘illusion’ 
(maya), seen as a Buddhist commandeer- 
ing of Hinduism. 

Madhva also differs from RAMANUJA’s 
‘qualified monism’ (Visista-advaita), even 
though Ramanuja rejects Sankara’s appeal 
to maya as a way of explaining ‘differ- 
ences’ or ‘differentiation’. Ramanuja did 
not assimilate the world or the individual 
SELF into a single, uncharacterizable, 
ultimate Reality. However, Madhva 
asserts an absolute difference between 
God (isvara) and human souls (jiva), 
which goes far beyond Ramanuja’s ‘qua- 
lified’ or ‘modified’ monism. 

Like Sankara and Ramanuja, Madhva 
wrote commentaries on the Brahma-Sitras 
and on the Bhagavad Gita. His writings 
consciously oppose Sankara and Rama- 
nuja. The created order of souls and bodies 
remains dependent upon a self-existing, 

independent reality (brahman). (See also 

Maimonides, Moses 

Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) 
is known especially for his work Guide of 
the Perplexed. Broadly in the tradition of 
PHILO of Alexandria, it facilitates a 
rational understanding of the Hebrew 
scriptures and rabbinic TRADITIONS that 
permits the perplexed enquirer to retain a 
loyalty to the traditions with rational 

As in Philo, a wide range of conceptual 
tools are drawn from Greek philosophy, 
but also in the twelfth century from 
IsLAMIC PHILOSOPHY. Some Islamic thin- 
kers had used Arabic texts that filtered 
Maimonides also incorporated Neopla- 
tonic elements within his own thought. 
His Guide of the Perplexed was written in 

Although he was born in Cordoba in 
1135 Maimonides was forced to flee to 
Cairo, where he served as physician to the 
vizier of Saladin. In addition to medical 
treatises, he wrote his Commentary on the 
Mishnah. In parallel with Philo on the 
laws of Moses, Maimonides sought wider 


Marcel, Gabriel 

rational purposes behind more particular- 
ist rabbinic legislation. 

Maimonides defends a doctrine of 
divine CREATION against the contentions 
of AL-FARABI and others that the world is 
eternal. He also attacks OCCASIONALISM 
on the ground that it implies an irrational 
understanding of causes within the world. 
Like Philo, he uses allegorical interpreta- 
tions of the sacred texts if or when they 
seem unduly irrational or inconsistent, 
and translates ANTHROPOMORPHISM into 
more acceptable conceptual expressions. 

Symbolic interpretation is utilized to 
the utmost to facilitate the notion of God 
as perfect, simple, immutable and trans- 
cendent. The philosophy of Maimonides 
was respected by LEIBNIZ, and as an 
example of Jewish rationalist philosophy 
is still widely influential. (See also coN- 

Malcolm, Norman (1911-90) 

Malcolm was an American philosopher, 
who taught for most of his life at 
Cornell University. However, from 1938 
to 1940 he received a Harvard fellow- 
ship and worked closely with WITTGEN- 
STEIN in Cambridge. In philosophy of 
religion his thought is significant in three 
main areas. 

First, Malcolm’s interpretation of Witt- 
genstein offers a valuable resource in its 
own right for understanding the latter’s 
approach to language and to the logical 
currency or ‘grammar’ of CONCEPTs. His 
Ludwig Wittgenstein. A Memoir (1958) 
singles out examples of Wittgenstein’s 
understanding of how language is 
embedded in contexts in life. His essay 
‘Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investiga- 
tions’ (1954) and another long article on 
Wittgenstein (in Paul Edwards, ed., The 
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 8 vols., New 
York: Macmillan, 1967, vol. 8, 327-40) 
remain important sources, as well as his 
more recent Nothing is Hidden (1986). 

Second, like Wittgenstein, Malcolm 
worked on the logical grammar of con- 
sciousness, mind, BELIEF and related con- 
cepts. He opposed both a dualist account 
of mind and body and also a behaviourist 
account of SELFHOOD. His Dreaming 
(1958) and work on consciousness and 
memory (in Knowledge and Certainty, 
1963 and Memory and Mind, 1976) 
explore selfhood and philosophy of mind. 
Malcolm places some question-marks 
against cruder behaviourist or materialist 
explanations. Third, most widely known 
in philosophy of religion is his sympathetic 
attempt to reformulate the ONTOLOGIAL 
ARGUMENT for the existence of God. He 
employs arguments from the nature of 
logical NECESSITY to reply to some of its 
critics. This work, together with that of 
PLANTINGA, should make us hesitate to 
yield too hastily to those who dismiss the 
argument as a mere logical trick. (See also 

Marcel, Gabriel (1889-1973) 

Born in Paris, Marcel was raised by an 
agnostic father and (after his mother’s 
death when he was aged four) an aunt, 
also agnostic, whom his father married. 
He described his childhood as a ‘desert 
universe’, made all the worse by being 
subjected to a ‘dehumanizing’ demand for 
academic achievement. 

Just as KIERKEGAARD sought personal 
authenticity beyond the imposed demands 
of his early life, so Marcel sought a 
humanity, humanness and personal 
value-system that nurtured respect, love 
and openness to ‘the Other’. In 1929 
Marcel became a convert to Roman 
Catholicism. Nevertheless he did not 
follow the Neo-Thomist philosophy of 
many Catholic theologians. The cognitive, 
intellectual, and inferential, in his eyes, 
touched only the surface of human life. 

Music, art and spiritual ‘availability’ 
(disponibilité) to fellow human beings 
were fundamental in Marcel’s life. In the 

Marxist critique of religion 


Socratic tradition he saw philosophy as a 
continuous quest for practical wisdom, 
not as resourcing a system of speculative 

Like that of DosToEvsky and BuBER, 
Marcel’s philosophy might be called the 
human face of EXISTENTIALISM. ‘Avail- 
ability’ to ‘the Other’ entails recognizing 
that human persons are more than case 
studies, numbers on a file, or mere OBJECTS 
of study in the empirical world. Human 
persons become a focus for the dignity and 
sacredness of Being. Their capacity to 
trust, to hope and to love constitutes part 
of their identity as human beings. 

In his work Being and Having (1935), 
Marcel associates the aspect of ‘having’ 
with objects, objectification (treating per- 
sons or art as ‘objects’), I-It relationships 
(like Buber) and abstraction. By contrast, 
‘Being’ is associated with presence, mys- 
tery, I-Thou relationships and participa- 
tion. The drive to ‘possess’ stems from a 
desire to control. However, this in turn 
depersonalizes the one whom (nowadays) 
we might call ‘consumer-driven’. True 
personhood retains a sense of wonder, 
and permits ‘availability’ to the other. 
Marcel, some might suggest, paves the 
way for the thought of LEvINas 

Love, reverence and communion all 
presuppose fidelity (Creative Fidelity, 
1940). Since Being (ONTOLOGY) is rooted 
in mystery, it is not illogical to speak of the 
disclosure of Being (The Mystery of Being, 
1950). Yet humankind constantly trivia- 
lizes the richness of Being and humanness 
in its preoccupation with objects and 
possessions (The Decline of Wisdom, 
1954; and The Existential Background of 
Human Dignity, 1964). 

Marxist critique of religion 

Karl Marx (1818-83) stands alongside 
FEUERBACH (1804-72) and FREUD 
(1856-1939) as one of the three most 
significant advocates of a theory of reli- 
gion in which they view ‘God’ as a human 

projection and human construct. Religion, 
they argue, is not based on an encounter 
with a transcendent or ‘objective’ personal 
not the effect of divine REVELATION. 

Marx proposes, rather, that projected 
beliefs about God come to be utilized by a 
ruling or ‘establishment’ class to promote 
submissive contentment, or at least 
acquiescence, on the part of the oppressed 
masses. Religion is the ‘opium’ of the 
people. The short Communist Manifesto 
(1847), written jointly by Marx and 
Friedrich Engels (1820-95) included as 
its last line the well-known slogan: ‘Work- 
ers of all countries unite’ (Communist 
Manifesto, London: Penguin, 1967, 121). 
The proletariat must throw off their 
chains, including capitalism and religion. 

If this is the primary focus of relevance 
to philosophy of religion, there is also a 
second one. Marx regarded the material 
conditions of production as a more funda- 
mental force for change and authenticity 
in the process of human history than 
‘ideas’. Ideas, including theologies and 
philosophical IDEALISM, often embody 
MYTHS that perpetuate and replicate elitist 
establishment attitudes. 

Exchange-value for labour, economics 
and social class constitute the bedrock of 
what is foundational for life and action, 
thought and (above all) political action. 
Later Marx would write: “The philoso- 
phers have only interpreted the world in 
various ways; the point is to change iť 
(Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach’ [1845], in 
Early Writings, London: Pelican, 1975, 
423; further also in The German Ideology 


Marx’s Paris manuscripts from his earlier 
period reflect a humanism that later 
became more militant. All the same Marx 
asserts, ‘Atheism is humanism mediated ... 
through the suppression of religion; com- 
munism is humanism mediated ... through 
the suppression of private property’ (Eco- 
nomics and Philosophic Manuscripts 


Marxist critique of religion 

[1832], 1844). Private property, he 
declared, divides one person from another. 

Marx published The Holy Family in 
1845, jointly written with Friedrich 
Engels. They assess ‘the young Hegelians’, 
attacking the inadequacy of their social 
philosophy as insufficiently radical. In The 
German Ideology Marx criticizes Feuer- 
bach for seeking to address the human 
situation in terms of thought rather than 
action. In his ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ (the 
famous Eleventh Thesis is cited above) 
Marx made his point less emphatically; 
here he distances Feuerbach’s ideas from 
German socialism but retains Feuerbach’s 
materialist account of the world and 
reality. In 1847 he produced the short 
Communist Manifesto to prepare the 
ground for the hoped-for revolution in 
France of 1848. 

Marx’s classic work is Capital (Das 
Kapital, 3 vols, 1867, 1885, 1895). This 
expounds a view of history in which the 
exploitation of the working class leads to 
‘expropriating the expropriators’ through 
revolution. The dehumanizing competi- 
tiveness of capitalism is first replaced by 
state socialism; then looks toward an 
eschatology of genuine communism in 
which each will give according to ability 
and receive according to need. 


Although he was not a ‘professional’ 
philosopher in the sense of teaching 
philosophy, Marx’s younger years were 
spent in an atmosphere in which HEGEL’s 
philosophy and politics dominated intel- 
lectual discussion. In place of Hegel’s 
ABSOLUTE as Geist (Mind or Spirit) 
unfolding itself in the dialectical concrete 
expression of history and of LOGIC, the so- 
called left-wing ‘young’ Hegelians (‘left’, 
‘centre’ and ‘right’ seem to have been 
coined by D. E Strauss) postulated a 
driving-force of material causes. 

These Hegelians included Feuerbach, 
D. F. Strauss (1808-74) and Bruno Bauer 

(1809-82). With Marx, these all rejected 
the notion that either ‘God’ or idealism 
constituted the true ground for the 
temporal and CONTINGENT changes of 
and within history. As we note in the 
Feuerbach entry (above), Feuerbach 
moved from thoughts about ‘God’ to a 
critical appraisal of ‘REASON’, and finally 
reached his ‘last thought’ which focused 
everything on humankind. He postulated 
as ‘infinite’ human consciousness, which 
projected outwards and upwards an 
‘infinite’ God. 

Marx disputed whether ‘consciousness’ 
sufficiently addressed the problems 
bequeathed by Hegel. Although Hegel 
was politically conservative, Marx argued 
that the ‘young’ Hegelians failed to see 
how socially radical were the implications 
of Hegel’s work on historical and tem- 
poral change. He addressed these issues in 
The Holy Family. The key forces were 
social and economic. The politics of 
working-class movements in Britain, 
France and Germany offered a more 
accurate and focused vision of forces for 

Such economic forces were more 
powerful and more significant than 
‘human consciousness’, which still left 
the issues too much in the realm of ‘ideas’. 
Ideas could distort and disguise the 
realities of class, exploitation, labour, 
price and value, and oppression and free- 
dom. Even Hegel had intended his philo- 
sophy to perform an ‘emancipating’ 
function for society. Marx promoted a 
philosophy of action. 


At the beginning of The Communist 
Manifesto Marx and Engels assert: “The 
history of all hitherto existing society is the 
history of class struggles. Freeman and 
slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, 
guild-master and journeyman, in a word, 
oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant 
opposition to one another, carried on... a 
fight’ (ibid., 79). Each struggle ended either 

Marxist critique of religion 


in ‘common ruin’ or in ‘a revolutionary re- 
constitution’ (ibid.). 

The next few pages of The Communist 
Manifesto (80-94) sum up in the shortest 
compass the philosophy of history that is 
set out more fully elsewhere. The classical 
age of oligarchy gave way to the feudal 
society of the Middle Ages, establishing 
‘new classes, new conditions of oppres- 
sion’ (ibid., 80). The industrial era estab- 
lished in its place the opposition between 
capital and labour; between property- 
owning bourgeoisie and the oppressed 
class of the proletariat. 

As capitalists seek to exploit larger and 
larger world markets, the plight of the 
oppressed workers deteriorates. This can 
be halted only by class struggle issuing in 
revolution. However, it was Engels rather 
than Marx who explicitly used the term 
‘dialectical MATERIALISM’, and made pri- 
mary use of the logical and historical 
structure of thesis, antithesis and synth- 

Some insist that Hegel himself made 
little or no use of the thesis-antithesis- 
synthesis triad. However, Hegel’s notion 
of a process in history or logic reaching a 
‘nodal’ point at which change may be 
marked or identified, and a ‘higher’ posi- 
tion on the ladder of dialectic ‘sublating’ 
(or assimilating) a lower stage into itself 
with effects for change, comes very close 
to such a formulation (see the entry on 
Hegel for his explicit German terms). This 
is not to ignore earlier versions in FICHTE. 

If Engels believed that this formula 
applied to every level of reality, Marx was 
more certain than Engels that processes of 
history were determined by historical 
NECESSITY. Hence Marx could propose a 
communist eschatology. Only when the 
conflict with capitalism had ushered in the 
era of state socialism, which involved 
constraints on behalf of the masses, could 
history eventually lead on to a non- 
coercive end of true communism, when 
each would choose to give according to 
ability; each would receive only according 
to need; and all goods would be shared. 


Marx did not follow Feuerbach in all 
things, but in many. As Nicholas Lash 
observes, he followed him especially in the 
‘inversions’ of traditional accounts of 
cause and effect, or the primary and 
secondary. Thus Marx writes, ‘Man makes 
religion, religion does not make man’ 
(Early Writings, 244; cf. Lash, A Matter 
of Hope: A Theologian’s Reflections on the 
Thought of Karl Marx, London: Darton, 
Longman & Todd, 1981, 156-68). Reli- 
gion ‘is the opium of the people. The 
abolition of religion as the illusory happi- 
ness of the people is the demand for their 
real happiness’ (Early Writings, 244). 

Marx’s most practical objection to 
‘religion’ was that by illusory promises of 
‘reward’ for acquiescence and obedience, 
institutional faith blocked the way to 
action on the part of the masses towards 
their liberation from oppression by social, 
political, and violent revolution. Religion 
encouraged respect for the ‘order’ of the 
establishment powers, disguising their role 
as oppressors. 

After 1919, Russian Marxism flour- 
ished as a system under Vladimir Lenin 
(1870-1924) and under Stalin (1879- 
1953). Lenin underlined even more force- 
fully materialist features in Marx, but sat 
loose to his notion of ‘dialectic’. The 
constraints and even repressions of state 
socialism, which Marx had regarded as 
penultimate in the progress of history, 
became virtually absolutized. 

Lenin transposed Marx’s more com- 
passionate concern that religion might 
tranquilize the oppressed into a more 
aggressive attack on bourgeois religion as 
‘ideology’ serving as an anodyne dispen- 
sing opium produced by the oppressors for 
the oppressed. Religion, Lenin insists, is 
not an ‘intellectual’ question; it is a tool of 
class struggle manipulated by the bour- 
geois oppressors. Thus he comes nearer to 
the kind of anti-religious critique offered 
by NierzscueE than perhaps Marx himself 



does. The ATHEISM of Lenin and Stalin 
becomes more militant. 


As Helmut Gollwitzer observes, Marxist 
criticisms of religion may well apply to 
certain examples of the phenomenon of 
religion in the empirical life of faith- 
communities or churches. However, on 
what grounds can this critique be applied 
as a universal explanation of all religion at 
all times? (The Christian Faith and the 
Marxist Criticism of Religion, Edinburgh: 
St Andrews, 1970, 28). The reply is similar 
to that addressed to Nietzsche: the origins 
of religion should not be defined in terms 
of the reasons for abuses of religion. 

Yet the practical concern for the dignity 
of humankind is common ground between 
Marx (and, to a lesser extent, later Marx- 
ist regimes) and most world religions. 
Marx’s refusal to identify a human person 
as a mere unit of production does strike a 
genuine chord with the ETHICS of the great 
theistic faiths. Whether, however, the 
regimes that have been founded on Marx- 
ism have also shared that vision in practice 
may be doubted. 

Indeed, the respective roles of human 
sin in Marxist and in religious systems 
may be compared with profit. It is not 
merely generated by social inequity. Hence 
even in the era of state socialism con- 
straint, law and governmental control 
becomes even more necessary. The col- 
lapse of such mechanism in post-commu- 
nist states illustrates the point further. 
Religion sees the issue as one of the need 
to transform the whole person as a human 

Most serious for philosophies of reli- 
gion is Lenin’s disparagement of religion 
as lying beyond intellectual matters. If 
reason, ideas and intellect are subordi- 
nated to the power of the merely social, 
economic and historical, we reach what 
has been called ‘the paradox of materi- 
alism’. If this view of the world has not 
even arisen from ‘conscious’ reflections, 
but is merely the result of brute forces 

beyond human conscious reflection, on 
what ground may we reach any rational 
decision about the supposed validity of 
materialism? Presumably the brain regis- 
ters not rational evaluation, but the effects 
of neuro-physical forces. A materialist 
world-view ‘cannot be demonstrated’ 
(Hans Kiing, Does God Exist? London: 
Collins/Fount, 1980, 244). 

Philosophical reflection cannot be 
reduced to the effects of mere social 
conditioning. This would border on the 
radical edge of POSTMODERNITY except 
for the fact that Marxism makes universal 
claims about TRUTH. It offers neither the 
rational evaluations of religions and phi- 
losophies nor the relativizing pluralism of 
post-modern devaluations of rationality. 
In a largely post-Marxist world, it appears 
to have the worst of both worlds. 

Nevertheless, the Marxist recognition 
that interpretation of the world remains 
less than the ultimate need for its trans- 
formation yields an insight which, again, 
offers common ground with most reli- 
gions. In the Christian tradition the 
theology of MOLTMANN makes consider- 
ate use of this fundamental insight. Yet in 
historical reality, the world still awaits the 
promised fulfilment of the transformation 
once offered by Marxist systems. 


Materialism denotes an ONTOLOGY in 
which it is postulated or inferred that only 
material entities exist. It stands in contrast 
to IDEALISM and to DUALISM, as well as to 
more subtle and complex ontologies 
which allow room for, or allow for 
interaction with, non-material realities. 
Materialism is closely allied with BEHA- 
VIOURISM (a psychological version of 
materialism) and positivism (a version 
of materialism based on a world-view 
arrived at by restricting all enquiry to 
scientific or empirical method alone). 
Arguably, positivism and behaviourism 
are subcategories within materialism. 
Some writers distinguished materialism 



as answering the question ‘Of what is 
reality composed?’ from a form of ‘mate- 
rialism’ that yields a wider version of 


In Greek philosophy Democritus (460- 
370 BcE) held that the ultimate constitu- 
ents of reality were simple, solid, material 
atoms. These atoms (smallest indivisible 
units) were thought to be in motion, and 
capable of combination to form larger 
objects. Since these atoms differ only 
quantitatively, it is not entirely clear how 
Democritus accounts for qualitative dif- 
ference, except that ‘fire’ or ‘fire atoms’ 
make possible the emergence of ‘life’. 
Consciousness, perception and sensation 
are at bottom physical experiences, and no 
survival of a being after death is concei- 

Epicurus (341-270 BcE) was influenced 
by Democritus. His insistence on ‘factual 
evidence’ anticipates in some measure 
later empirical evidentialism. His ontology 
of atoms is similar to that of Democritus. 
The two principles of efficient causality 
are that the atoms are in motion, and that 
chance may lead them to collide or to 
connect together. This random feature 
provides the sense of freedom human 
persons have, while ‘mind’ is merely a 
term to denote finer, faster-moving atoms. 

In Roman philosophy Lucretius (c. 
99-55 BCE) stands in this same ‘atomic’ 
tradition. Since matter and space are 
infinite, atoms of matter are of an infinite 
number. The emergence of an ordered 
pattern of atoms led to the beginning of 
our world by natural causes. 

In Eastern philosophy, Chang Tsai 
(1020-77) took up the two dualist princi- 
ples of Chinese Confucianism, yin and 
yang, but understood both principles as 
powers of material force. It is material 
forces that provide the balance of material 
reality. This is a narrower understanding 
of yin-yang dualism than is found gen- 
erally in Chinese philosophy, although for 

the most part these principles are models 
of material objects as forces. 

Two major issues emerge from Graeco- 
Roman materialism which anticipate 
modern thought. First, how may we 
account for any supposed ‘threshold’ that 
leads to mind, cognition, or conscious- 
ness? Or is consciousness a mere complex- 
ity of the physical? If so, what is 
rationality? Second, does materialism in 
this period rest on a pre-scientific eviden- 
tialism? If so, is it not a circular theory to 
construct an ontology that derives from 
taking cognizance of strictly material 
evidence only? 


Much of the subject matter under discus- 
sion may be found in fuller detail under 
such entries as behaviourism, positivism, 
Hobbes (1588-1679), however, has been 
described with justice as less an explicit 
materialist than a cautious sceptic with a 
materialist cast of mind. He did indeed 
reject the concept of ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ as a 
self-contradiction, on the basis that this 
seemed to imply ‘an immaterial material’. 
Humankind is governed by physical appe- 
tites and passions (see SCEPTICISM). 

Yet Hobbes acknowledged that even if 
REASON is more like instrumental ‘com- 
putation’ than a broader rationality, this 
capacity to compute presupposed not 
simply physical impulses but ‘ideas, 
which are taken up into language’. The 
very language about ‘what we can con- 
ceive’ betrays his possible awareness that 
a thoroughgoing materialism leaves no 
grounds on which to promote thought 
and argument that is other than arbitrary. 
Hobbes remained ambivalent on this 

The eighteenth-century French materi- 
alists, especially Julien Offroy de La 
Mettrie (1709-51) and the encyclopae- 
dists Denis Diderot (1713-84) and Paul- 
Henri d’Holbach (1723-89) take us into a 
different world. Their premise is that 
indicated by the title of the well-known 


Mendelssohn, Moses 

work by La Mettrie, Man the Machine 
(1747). Mechanistic models provided the 
key to their view of the self and their 
ontology. In the case of human beings, all 
is accounted for, including consciousness, 
by physiological processes. Speech consists 
in physical sounds, which may generate 
‘images’ within the brain. 

In relation to La Mettrie, Diderot is a 
more moderate materialist; but d’Holbach 
is an even more radical one. Diderot’s 
conception of matter bordered upon 
ascribing to it supra-material properties 
to account for consciousness. D’Holbach 
insisted that the whole world is a machine, 
an autonomous system of material parti- 
cles that required no ‘machinist’. ‘Knowl- 
edge’ is derived from sensation. 

Increasingly in the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries materialism may seem 
to stand or fall with developments in 
empirical science. The challenge of evolu- 
tionary themes is discussed under separate 
entries. So also is emergence of behaviour- 
ism as a purely functional account of the 
human mind in terms of internal observa- 
tion. Sometimes this is associated with 
‘epiphenomenalism’, the view that mind is 
merely ‘thrown up’ when organisms reach 
a given level of physiological complexity. 
With the rise of modern science, materi- 
alism tends to take the form of positivism. 

After Einstein, on one side it may be 
argued that matter is more complex than 
writers formerly realized, and may be 
interrelated with other properties to 
account for consciousness. On the other 
side, the former, naive, view of value- 
neutral observation and innocent ‘eviden- 
tialism’ is hardly still viable. 

At all events, we seem to be left with 
the ‘paradox’ formulated by Arthur O. 
Lovejoy (1873-1962) about rationality 
and consciousness. If ‘reason’ is a matter 
of physical processes, on what rational 
basis can I argue for an ontology that 
reduces reason to manipulating or ‘com- 
puting’ counters purely on the basis of 
physical impulses? Can a materialist gen- 
uinely philosophize on a rational basis? 

Lovejoy concluded that, ‘non-physical 
particulars’ are indispensable means to 
any knowledge of physical realities. With- 
out these, to speak of rational argument 
verges on paradox. 

Yet from simpler versions of positivism 
there has emerged a more sophisticated 
‘physicalism’. Sceptics view it as merely a 
version of epiphenomenalism, but some 
writers (notably J. J. C. Smart and Daniel 
Dennett) explore parallels between human 
consciousness and the mechanical and 
electronic processes of information tech- 
nology. Are these computation, or rational 
processes? Is ‘reason’ (to take up the point 
from Hobbes) no more than a sophisti- 
cated version of ‘computation’, which can 
be simulated by machine? 

The debate on religion and science 
throws up issues about ‘levels’ of explana- 
tion and understanding. For example, how 
does what is displayed on an oscilloscope 
relate to the appreciation of the form, 
purpose, design and mood of a musical 
performance? This entry on materialism 
now merges into issues explored under 
several other entries, especially that on 
science and religion as well as on the 

Mendelssohn, Moses (1729-86) 

Mendelssohn is perhaps the first major 
Jewish philosopher of the modern period 
to follow very broadly in the rationalist 
tradition of Maimonides (1135-1204). In 
his Morning Hours, or Lectures on the 
Existence of God (1785) he endorsed and 
the existence of God. 

Mendelssohn drew especially upon the 
philosophies of LerBNiz (1646-1716) and 
Christian Wolff (1679-1754). Both of these 
thinkers stood in the rationalist tradition 
associated with Descartes. In his 
‘Phaedo’, or Concerning the Immortality 



of the Soul (1767) he attempted to deduce 
the immortality of the soul from its nature, 
in effect as an A PRIORI argument. 

In tune with much eighteenth-century 
thought, Mendelssohn argued for indivi- 
dual freedom of thought as well as 
political freedom, and urged that Judaism 
did not demand acceptance of certain 
dogmas. He insisted that Judaism is to be 
defined not as a set of doctrines but as a set 
of practices. In religious terms, Judaism is 
an aspect of a universal religion of 

Understandably, Mendelssohn is often 
considered to be ‘the’ Jewish philosopher 


Metaphor may sometimes be used as an 
illustrative or aesthetic device, but this is 
only of secondary significance for philo- 
sophy or for the use of LANGUAGE IN 
RELIGION. The constructive and creative 
use of metaphor is neither ornamental, nor 
didactic, nor illustrative. It is not a mere 
substitute for what may be known or 
communicated by non-metaphysical lan- 
guage. Fundamentally it draws upon 
SYMBOL; and more especially it operates 
by interaction. It extends non-metaphysi- 
cal linguistic resources by drawing on two 
or more SEMANTIC domains interactively. 

Max Black is probably the classic 
exponent of the interactive theory. He 
writes: ‘A memorable metaphor has the 
power to bring two separate domains into 
COGNITIVE and emotional relation by 
using language directly appropriate for 
the one as a lens for seeing the other’ 
(Models and Metaphors, Ithaca, NY: 
Cornell, 1962, 236). 

RicogEur (b. 1913) endorses this 
account, and agrees that like a good 
theoretical model it provides ‘a way of 
seeing things differently by changing our 
language about the subject of our investi- 
gations. This ... proceeds from the con- 
struction of a heuristic fiction’ by 

transposing the characteristics of the 
exploratory fiction ‘to reality itself’ (Inter- 
pretation Theory, Fort Worth: Texas 
Christian University Press, 1976, 67; also 
in The Rule of Metaphor, London: Rou- 
tledge, 1978, 6). 

ARISTOTLE (384-322 Bce) laid the 
foundation for this understanding in the 
Poetics. Poiésis (making) uses interactions 
between mimésis (a description of reality) 
and mythos (plot). It stands on the border 
between persuasive rhetoric and poetics. 
Metaphor is ‘giving the thing a name that 
belongs to something else’ (Poetics, 
1457B, 6-9). 

Above all, metaphor is not wooden and 
static, but entails a movement (Greek, 
phora) from current usage. Ricoeur insists 
that Aristotle anticipates an interactive 
(rather than merely substitutionary) the- 
ory: it is ‘to see two things in one’ (The 
Rule of Metaphor, 24). 

In the mid-twentieth century Owen 
Barfield (1947) and Philip Wheelwright 
(1954) called attention to the ‘tensive’ 
power of metaphor to stretch language 
through ‘double language’. Barfield com- 
pared the creative use of legal fiction in 
law to cover new or exceptional cases. 
Black (1955, 1962), Ricoeur (1976, 1978), 
Mary Hesse (1966) and Janet Martin 
Soskice (1985) show conclusively that 
metaphor has power not only to extend 
language creatively, but also to commu- 
nicate cognitive truth, including truths of 

This demonstrates the value of meta- 
phor as a serious resource for language in 
religion. It combines the capacity to 
involve those who speak and are 
addressed as participants with the power 
to convey cognitive truth beyond more 
conventional or pre-established frontiers 
of conventional language. 

The problems of metaphor include the 
overuse of ‘dead’ metaphor when its 
creative power and original contexts have 
become lost from view. Then, as 
NIETZSCHE, Barthes and DERRIDA point 
out, they can become reservoirs for the 



transmission of uncritical mythologies. 


In ARISTOTLE the treatise from which 
‘metaphysics’ accidentally derived its 
name addressed ‘large’ philosophical ques- 
tions. These included the nature of poten- 
tiality and ACTUALITY, of becoming and 
being, and of causality and substance. It 
was consciously ‘general’. Today the term 
usually denotes the exploration of ONTOL- 
oGy, ultimate reality or reasons why such 
explorations may or may not be under- 

The accidental origin of this meaning 
came from fact that in the classification of 
Aristotle’s works in the first century BCE 
(by Andronicus of Rhodes), the treatise in 
question follows ‘after’ (Greek, meta) the 
work entitled Physics. ‘Meta’ does not 
denote ‘beyond’ physics, except in the 
sense of coming next in a list. 

In practice, the word ‘metaphysics’ is 
often reserved for ‘systems’ that seek to 
address the nature of reality. It embraces 
both ontology (the nature of reality) and 
EPISTEMOLOGY (how or whether we have 
knowledge of what we seek to know), 
since to ask whether we are in a position 
to know any reality beyond that of the 
empirical is itself a metaphysical question. 
Positivists reject metaphysics as meaning- 
less, but many argue that this rejection is 
itself an instance of a metaphysical asser- 
tion. (See also ABSOLUTE EMPRICISM; 

Mill, John Stuart (1806-73) 

Born in London, Mill was an English 
empiricist thinker, known chiefly for his 
‘qualitative’ version of utilitarian ETHICS. 
However, in addition to Utilitarianism 
(1863), he wrote on Logic and on 
political philosophy. He defended free- 
doms in On Liberty (1859) and his 
political theory in On Representative 
Government (1861). 

Although initially he favoured and 
sought to refine the utilitarian ethics of 
Jeremy Bentham (1784-1832), Mill 
became disenchanted with Bentham’s 
quasi-materialist refusal to distinguish 
between physical and spiritual pleasure. 
He advocated a qualitative distinction 
between types of pleasure in seeking to 
promote the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number. 

If pleasure or happiness is defined in 
terms of moral improvement, it becomes 
both a duty and a political right to seek 
the greatest happiness of the greatest 
number. Even a measure of self-sacrifice 
may be required, in contrast to the egoistic 
hedonism of Bentham. Mill appears to 
have believed in the existence of a cosmic 
designer, but not necessarily in the perso- 
nal God of THeIsmM. All of our ideas, he 
believed, derive from sense-experience. 


In ancient texts and modern thought the 
term tends often to focus upon that which 
produces wonder, awe or insight. Never- 
theless especially in the biblical texts 
criteria for the miraculous may include 
issues of agency and for what purpose the 
miracle was performed. 

Generally the ultimate cause is attrib- 
uted to God, but this may leave open 
attributions of second, or mediate, causes 
which answer the question ‘How?’ As 
indicated under the entry SCIENCE AND 
RELIGION, in theology or religions a 
miraculous event relates to the question 
‘Why?’ more readily than to the scientific 
or empirical question ‘How?’ 

Accounts or stories of miracles occur in 
many religious traditions. They are asso- 
ciated with Moses, Elijah, Buddha, Jesus 
Christ and the Prophet Muhammad. 

Although it is widely assumed that 
miracles are invoked to generate faith or 
BELIEF, many of the sacred texts, including 
biblical Judaeo-Christian texts, regard 



miracles as precisely not performed to 
fulfil this function. In the Gospel of John 
‘seeking a sign’ (Greek, semeion) is dis- 
couraged, although if faith discerns a 
miracle, faith is duly strengthened. 

In the Christian tradition, however, in 
this single respect the RESURRECTION of 
Jesus Christ provides an untypical counter- 
example. The resurrection is seen as a 
divine vindication and corroboration of 
the identity and effective work of Christ, 
and evidence is adduced for its occurrence 
(1 Cor. 15:1-11; also by inference, 


AUGUSTINE (354-430) was aware that 
miracles could be perceived as disrupting 
the regularities of nature. Yet he saw both 
the natural order (i.e. its ‘orderedness’) 
and miracles as expressions of the will and 
decree of God. Hence he concluded that 
miracles were not ‘against’ nature (contra 
naturam) but only conflicting with our 
knowledge of the operations of nature. 
‘We give the name “nature” to the usual 
common course of nature ... but against 
the supreme laws of nature, which is 
beyond knowledge ... God never acts, 
any more than he acts against himself’ 
(Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 26: 3). 

Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) defines 
‘miracle’ as that which is ‘sometimes done 
by God outside the usual order assigned to 
things because we are astonished 
(admiramus) ... when we see an effect 
without knowing the cause’ (Summa 
Contra Gentiles, Il, 101). ‘God alone 
can work miracles’ (ibid., 102). For only 
the Creator can initiate ‘what is not in its 
[nature’s] capacity to perform’. Miracles 
are thus ‘beyond’ the natural order, but 
not ‘against’ it. 

Hume_ (1711-76) defines ‘miracle’ quite 
differently: ‘A miracle is a violation of the 
laws of nature.’ Hence, since ‘unalterable 
experience established these laws’, argu- 
ments against miracles are as conclusive as 
any argument from experience can be (‘Of 

Miracles’, Enquiries Concerning Human 
Understanding, 3rd edn, Oxford: Claren- 
don, 1975, sect. X, pt 1, para. 90). The 
‘uniform experience’ e.g. that dead men do 
not come to life ‘amounts to a proof, from 
the nature of the fact’ (ibid.). ‘No testi- 
mony is sufficient to establish a miracle 
unless its falsehood would be more mir- 
aculous’ (ibid., para. 91). 

Nevertheless, Alastair McKinnon 
writes, “The idea of suspension of natural 
law is self-contradictory ... If we sub- 
stitute the expression “the actual course of 
events”, miracle would be defined as “an 
event involving the suspension of the 
actual course of events” (‘“Miracle” and 
“Paradox”’, American Philosophical 
Quarterly, 4, 1967, 309; also cited by R. 
Swinburne, The Concept of Miracle, 
London: Macmillan, 1970, 20). 

SWINBURNE develops this further. After 
considering detailed examples of statistical 
‘laws’ in the context of quantum theory, 
Einstein’s equations of general relativity 
and Kepler on planetary motion, he 
comments, ‘One must distinguish between 
a formula being a law and a formula being 
(universally) true or being a law which 
holds without exception’ (The Concept of 
Miracle, 28). 

John Polkinghorne offers parallel 
observations. ‘Science simply tells us that 
these events are against normal expecta- 
tion ... The theological question is: does 
it make sense to suppose that God has 
acted in a new way? ... In unprecedented 
circumstances, God can do unexpected 
things ... The laws of nature do not 
change ... yet the consequences of these 
laws can change ... when one moves into 
a new regime’ (Quarks, Chaos, and 
Christianity, London: Triangle, 
1994, 82). 

Polkinghorne, distinguished as both a 
physicist and a theologian, concludes: 
‘Miracles are only credible as acts of the 
faithful God if they represent new possi- 
bilities occurring because experience has 
entered some new regime’ (ibid., 88). 
Hence he finds the resurrection of Jesus 


modal logic 

Christ credible because (for Christians) it 
signals the beginning of a new reality in 
God’s dealings with the world. 


Miracles, then, are perhaps not best 
defined simply as that which evokes 
‘wonder’, although this has been a tradi- 
tional entailment of the concept If they do 
evoke wonder, this is within the frame- 
work of divine action as a signal of 
newness, purpose or ‘beyondness’. In 
theistic traditions the nature of an authen- 
tic miracle will be to serve and to advance 
the purposes of God in accordance with 
the nature of God. ‘Idle’ portents may be 
suspected as such by theists as by anti- 

From very different angles of approach 
A. Boyce Gibson and PANNENBERG attack 
the positivist assumption that any unique, 
once-occurring, event is somehow 
excluded by ‘experience’, as Hume tends 
to imply. Gibson writes: ‘The dogma that 
nothing that happens only once, or for the 
first time ... can ever be caused, or a 
cause’ is a Humean dogma that limits 
creative agency (Theism and Empiricism, 
London: SCM, 1970, 149). Can nothing 
new ever happen for the first time? 

PANNENBERG points out that a mechan- 
istic, positivist model of the universe as a 
closed system no longer reflects the more 
recent advances of the natural sciences, on 
one side, and inhibits ‘the freedom of 
God’, on the other. The ‘biblical belief in 
God as the Creator ... finds in the 
incalculability and CONTINGENCY of each 
event an expression of the freedom of the 
Creator’ (Systematic Theology, vol. 2, 
Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994, 46). (See 

modal logic 

Traditionally Western logic explicates the 
conditions of valid inference, especially 
what may be inferred by DEDUCTION from 

propositions. A SYLLOGISM offers an 
inferential form that works from a premise 
to a conclusion through a logical relation 
to a middle term, which must be common 
(without change of meaning) to two of the 
propositions of the syllogism. Proposi- 
tional calculus works with such operators 
or logical constants as those of conjunc- 
tion (and); disjunction (either ... or ...); 
negation (not), and material implication 
(if... then ...). 

Modal logic builds on this foundation, 
but develops it to include finer distinc- 
tions of logical NEcEssiTy, logical posst- 
BILITY, and different levels of implication. 
It investigates the validity not only of 
such propositions as ‘If ... then ...’ but 
also ‘It is possible that ...’. In philosophy 
of religion, MALCOLM, HARTSHORNE and 
PLANTINGA utilize modal logic to clarify 
the logical force of the ONTOLOGICAL 
ARGUMENT and (in Plantinga’s work) also 
formulations of the problem of evı. In 
ETHICS modal logic is sometimes used to 
formulate the possibilities and necessities 
of logic in DEONTOLOGY, or deontic 

In addition to the notation used in 
basic propositional calculus, for example, 
p V q (for ‘either p is the case or 
(alternatively) q is the case’, or ‘~ p’ (it 
is not the case that ‘p’), modal logic uses 
the symbol ‘[]’ to express necessity (‘T] p’ 
denotes ‘p is necessarily true’) and the 
notation ‘©’ to express possibility (“© p’ 
denotes ‘p is possibly true’). If ‘p’ is 
necessarily true, it may be said to be true 
in ‘all possible worlds’. Thus in the 
example considered under COUNTERFAC- 
TUALS, ‘America’ might be smaller than 
‘England’ in a possible world, but this 
could not be literally so. 

‘Possible worlds’ may be said to help to 
clarify the logic of possible hypotheses, 
counterfactuals or projected scenarios, 
although some reject this claim. The 
American philosopher Clarence I. Lewis 
(1883-1964) urged the pragmatic value of 
interpretative structures, and formulated 
eight systems of modal logic with a view 

models and qualifiers 


to distinguishing ‘strict’ implication from 
other levels of implication. 

models and qualifiers 

This phrase is associated especially with 
the work of Ramsey. Ramsey aimed to 
enter into constructive dialogue, especially 
at Oxford, with empiricists and logical 
positivists concerning the currency of 

Models provide ‘object language’, 
which permits ‘an empirical placing of 
theological phrases’ (Ramsey, Religious 
Language, London: SCM, 1957, 19-48). 
These provide points of engagement 
between ordinary language and disclosure 
of the divine. 

However, models would mislead us 
about God if they are not duly ‘qualified’. 
Thus the ‘models’ of cause, wisdom, 
goodness and purpose need to be used in 
speaking of God’s action as Creator, or of 
God’s character as pure love, or of God’s 
purposive designs. All the same, each 
needs to have an appropriate ‘qualifier’ 
attached to it: first cause; infinitely wise; 
infinitely good; eternal purpose (ibid., 

The biblical writings exhibit this logic. 
Thus Jesus uses the model of ‘birth’, but 
also explains to Nicodemus the distinctive 
logic with which ‘birth’ is used (Jn 3:1- 
10). Jesus is ‘living [i.e. running] water’ 
(Jn 4:10), but needs to explain to the 
woman of Samaria that it is not the kind 
of water that can be made available in a 
bucket (Jn 4:11-15). WITTGENSTEIN 
observes that logical grammar is distinc- 
tive when the model of ‘hearing? God 
speak is used. 

In Neo-Kantian philosophy the notion 
of construing scientific states of affairs 
through the use of models was explored by 
Heinrich Hertz (1857-94). In more recent 
work the heuristic or exploratory function 
of theoretical models and analogues in 
science has helped to break down a 
simplistic contrast between ‘facts’ and 
frameworks of interpretation. N.R. 

Campbell developed a philosophy of 
models in science in Physics, the Elements 
(1920), and Max Black, Mary Hesse and 
Ron Harré have undertaken further logi- 
cal explorations of models in the philoso- 
phy of science. 

The upshot of this work is to demon- 
strate the value of models not only for 
exploration but also to convey COGNITIVE 
truth. Yet in both science and RELIGION, 
models also convey negative resonances 
that need to be discarded. In Ramsey’s 
terms, all models require some kind of 
qualifier. (See also EMPRICISM; LOGICAL 

Moltmann, Jürgen (b. 1926) 

Born in Hamburg, Moltmann was con- 
scripted into the German armed forces in 
1943 at the age of seventeen. He saw his 
city destroyed by allied bombing, and 
many horrors of war. In February 1945 
he was taken prisoner of war, and it was 
only in the prison camps that he learned of 
the further Nazi horrors of Auschwitz, 
Belsen and the Jewish Holocaust. 

This, Moltmann writes, was ‘the death 
of all my mainstays’, producing a sense of 
‘daily humiliation’. With little or no 
church background, he came upon the 
Psalms that spoke of God as with those of 
‘broken heart’. He perceived God as not 
the lofty God of ‘THEISM’ in love with his 
own glory, but as a co-suffering God on 
‘his side of the barbed wire’. Moltmann 
declares, ‘A God who cannot suffer 
cannot love either’ (The Trinity and the 
Kingdom of God [1980], London: SCM, 
1981, 38). 

(1) In philosophy of religion this presents 
an influential but not altogether tradi- 
tional view of God. ‘A God who is 
eternally in love with himself ... is a 
monster’ (Experiences of God, [1979], 
London: SCM, 1980, 16). Rather, God 
shares in the suffering of the cross of 
Jesus Christ, and no human suffering 
‘is shut off from God’. 


moral argument for the existence of God 

(2) Knowledge of God is not to be 
determined on the basis of ‘what is’, 
i.e. from a ‘static’ theism. In common 
with the Marxist philosopher Ernst 
Bloch, Moltmann stresses hope, but 
also promise. ‘From first to last ... 
Christianity is hope, is forward-look- 
ing and forward moving ... trans- 
forming the present’ (Theology of 
Hope [1964], London: SCM, 1967, 
16). Against NIETZSCHE’s ‘God is 
dead’, Moltmann distinguishes between 
divine absence and divine hiddenness 
in the present. Future promise will 
enact ‘a conquest of the deadlines of 
death’ (ibid., 211). 

Moltmann seeks to address the pro- 
blem of EvIL in terms of a ‘post- 
Auschwitz? theology of God. ‘Even 
Auschwitz is taken up into the grief of 
the Father, the surrender of the Son, 
and the power of the Spirit’ (The 
Crucified God [1972], London: SCM, 
1974, 278). ‘Unless it apprehends the 
pain of the negative, Christian hope 
can never be realistic and liberating’ 
(ibid., 55). He draws on the ‘negative 
dialectic’ of Adorno on Jewish—Chris- 
tian and Marxist-Christian dialogue, 
and on a theology of God who 
genuinely ‘feels’ and ‘suffers’ by God’s 
own choice. (See also ANTHROPO- 



The term stands in contrast to DUALISM 
and to pluralism and very broadly denotes 
the view that all reality is a unity, or single 
‘substance’ (Greek, monos, alone, i.e. the 
only entity within a class). Christian Wolff 
(1679-1754) appears to have coined the 
term to describe systems of thought that 
rejected a dualism of mind and body as 
two different entities, and sought to 
resolve them into one. 

Parmenides (fl. 515-492 BCE), SPINOZA 
(1632-77) and BrapLey (1846-1924) 
offer landmark examples of thoroughgoing 

monists. On the other hand, although 
LEIBNIZ (1646-1716) postulated ‘units’ of 
force without extension (‘monads’), since 
these are all of one kind some have 
characterized Leibniz’s philosophy as a 
relative or ‘attributive’ monism. 

In practice the term is capable of too 
many applications to be very useful. In the 
context of discussion specifically about 
God, little can be said about monism that 
is not more constructively debated under 
such headings as PANTHEISM or 
PANENTHEISM. For examples of monism 
in Eastern thought, see also HINDU PHILO- 
SPHY, and especially ŜŚANKĀRĀ. 

moral argument for the 
existence of God 

This approach does not rank in comparable 
importance alongside the other three main 
arguments for the existence of God (see 
existence of God. Philosophically it 
emerges with full seriousness most specifi- 
cally with Kant, (1724-1804), whose 
critique sought to demonstrate the limits 
of ‘pure’ REASON. Pure reason, for Kant (as 
for Hume) could not address transcenden- 
tal questions, which went beyond CONTIN- 
GENT or finite phenomena within the world. 


Kant argued that only the absolute moral 
imperative (the ‘categorical imperative’ of 
moral obligation) in terms of ‘practical 
reason’ could relate to such unconditional 
notions as ‘God’. Rather than pointing 
directly to God, absolute moral imperative 
presupposes a correlation between the 
good will, or virtue, and human happiness 
or the reward of worthiness, which only 
God or a Supreme Being could ensure. 
This is not, however, a formal argu- 
ment either A PRIORI or A POSTERIORI, 
since if it were it would relapse into the 

moral argument for the existence of God 190 

realm of theoretical reason. Kant has 
already exposed the limits and inadequacy 
of such theoretical reason to establish the 
existence of God. More succinctly, the 
very notion of ‘the highest good’ (sum- 
mum bonum) presupposes ‘God’ and 
human freedom. God, freedom and 
immortality are ‘POSTULATES’ of ‘Practical 
Reason’ (Critique of Practical Reason, 
1788, bk II, ch. 2). A ‘postulate’ is a 
demand or claim that is neither axiomatic 
nor strictly demonstrable. 

In Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason it 
is far from clear that ‘God’ denotes any- 
thing other than a supposedly absolute 
moral law, exempt from the contingencies 
of the empirical and phenomenal world. 
Kant’s ‘God’ is hardly personal, and in 
Religion Within the Limits of Reason he 
criticizes as ‘superstitious’ the view of 
PRAYER that assumes governmental or 
providential responses to prayer within the 
world. ‘Freedom’, ‘immortality’ and ‘God’ 
are ‘postulates’ for the following reasons. 

Freedom is a postulate because the 
achievement of the highest good is, in 
Kant’s view, ‘the necessary object’ of the 
good will that is shaped by absolute moral 
law. In turn, the good will, which is 
wholly good, presupposes the possibility 
of ‘infinite progress’ in goodness or in 
holiness, yet this also presupposes ‘an 
infinitely enduring existence and person- 
ality of the same rational being’. 

This is the immortality of the soul 
(ibid.). However, the notion of ‘happiness 
proportional to that morality’ must also 
postulate the existence of God. What Kant 
calls ‘the supreme cause of nature’ is to be 
‘presupposed for the highest good’. To 
assume the existence of God is ‘morally 
necessary’ (ibid.). 

At times Kant seems explicitly to 
concede that the existence of God is no 
more than a ‘need’ for his account of duty 
and moral imperative. Even in his high 
ethical account of human persons and the 
good will as ‘ends’, not means, he adds 
that even God cannot have ‘ends’ higher 
than the ‘end’ of a human person. 

The force of Kant’s argument seems to 
operate more successfully at a popular 
intuitive level. Is everything, including 
moral obligation and ‘God’, exhaustively 
explained in terms of the relativities and 
contingencies of the everyday empirical 
world? Is all morality and religion no 
more than a behavioural response to the 
variable challenges of natural environment 
or human society? 


Kant’s approach depends on an absolute 
notion of moral obligation as that which 
transcends the contingent and variable. 
However, the history of ethics reveals 
numerous theories that account for moral 
obligation in other ways. 

(1) Hospes (1588-1679) held to a theory 
of psychological hedonism, namely 
that all human persons experience a 
compulsion to gratify their own 
desires. However, since society itself 
brings benefits, a half-conscious social 
contract subordinates these desires to 
a societal power (e.g. a king), who will 
hold the ring in face of competing 
interests, and restrain society from 
breakdown into anarchy. 
Hume (1711-76) argued that ‘reason 
is and ought only to be the slave of the 
passions’, and everything is directed 
towards the achievement of pleasure 
and the avoidance of pain. Sub-cate- 
gories of pleasure and pain are woven 
into a supposed system of ethics or 
utility, complicated by the pleasure of 
social approval and the pain of social 
disapproval. This version of hedonism 
arises naturally from within the world 
and embodies no absolute. 

(3) Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and 
Mitt (1806-73) equated ‘morality’ 
with the principle of ‘the greatest 
happiness’ of the greatest number. 
Bentham more empirically spoke of 
degrees of pleasure and pain. Mill 




introduced a more complex and less 
reductive criterion of ‘higher’ or 
‘lower’ pleasure: ‘It is better to be a 
Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satis- 
fied.” For some this remains firmly 
within behavioural utilitarianism; for 
others this seems to open the door for 
the kind of value-system that might 
suggest a ‘beyond’, such as in principle 
religion and God. Mill himself had 
sympathy for the existence of some 
kind of ‘limited’ deity. 

NIETZSCHE (1844-1900) accounted 
for ‘morality’ largely in terms of self- 
interest and ‘will to power’. His view 
of ethics is that the approval of society 
or power generates all the manipula- 
tive and instrumental strategies that 
serve the self. The notion of absolute 
moral obligation is part of the decep- 
tion and illusion manipulated by some 
to control others. 

AYER (1910-89) and Rorty (b. 1931) 
sought to redefine moral goodness in 
terms of a vocabulary of approval or 
disapproval by a group within society. 
There can be no talk of absolute moral 




In The Moral Argument for Christian 
Theism (London: Allen & Unwin, 1965) 
H. P. Owen attacks naturalistic explana- 
tions for the experience of moral obliga- 
tion. It is impossible to derive an 
evaluative moral ‘ought’ from merely 
naturalistic factors or to treat a good 
conscience as a gratified wish. Against 
AYER and others he insists that morality is 
irreducible, and not a mere matter of 
corporate or individual approval or dis- 
approval. Is it enough to say that the Nazi 
Holocaust is merely a matter for ‘disap- 
proval’, rather than a violation of moral 

Naturalistic theories, Owen argues, 
depend on restricting ‘morality’ to acts 
rather than to will and habituated char- 
acter. He agrees with Kant, that will and 

persons are the focus of moral issues. This 
requires more than ‘AUTONOMY’, mere 
self-regulation. He sees a sense of the 
moral as a ‘sign’ that points beyond itself 
to God (ibid., 43-6). The logical currency 
of ‘obedience’ in Judaism, Christianity and 
Islam becomes illusory on the basis of 
naturalistic theories (ibid., 54-60). 

Owen does not endorse Kant’s formu- 
lation in terms of ‘postulates’ and pre- 
suppositions. Nevertheless, he agrees with 
Kant that in principle goodness and good 
character point beyond mere contingen- 
cies and relativities in human life. 

At the beginning of the twentieth 
century Hastings Rashdall (1858-1924) 
insisted similarly that there is something 
‘unconditional’ about duty or moral law 
(The Theory of Good and Evil, 2 vols., 
Oxford: Clarendon, 1907). We cannot 
dismiss ‘value’ as the mere interest of a 
specific group. Otherwise, what are we to 
make of the stable tradition of virtues as 
qualities of a good character from PLATO 
onwards? If it is not ‘unconditional’, it is 
not ‘morality’. 

Today there is more widespread scepti- 
cism about ‘morality’. Arguments that 
moral codes reflect the interests and 
conventions of societies and are variable 
have gained ground. Nevertheless the view 
that often in the past the word ‘moral’ has 
been overextended may not necessarily 
imply that all INSTANTIATIONS of moral 
character and moral virtue are merely 
contingent and without universal ground- 
ing. This belief would not inevitably lead 
to a belief in the existence of God. It 
might, however, seem to imply a source of 
value beyond the merely contingent in the 
everyday life of societies. (See also EMPIRI- 


The term broadly denotes a feeling of 
immediacy and oneness with God (or 
with Ultimate Reality) on the part of the 
SELF. In extreme forms of mysticism, the 
self almost seems to merge with God; in 



more traditional forms, the self experi- 
ences a oneness of communion which 
appears to dissolve the ‘objectified’ nature 
of a SUBJECT—-OBJECT mode of knowing or 

One problem about the term is that it 
may denote, especially for those who use it 
pejoratively, a heightened psychological 
state induced by self-hypnosis or other 
manipulative techniques. A low sugar 
content in the blood, induced by fasting, 
may facilitate self-generated visions or 
hallucinations. On the other hand, an 
ethical and devotional self-forgetfulness 
in contemplation of the Other who 
becomes also One may denote a spiritual 
mysticism of authentic experience. Ger- 
man distinguishes clearly between these 
two uses by reserving the word Mysticis- 
mus for the first and Mystik for the 

Some insist that the core of mystical 
experience remains the same whatever the 
context. Yet there are differences between 
Hindu, Christian and other traditions of 
mysticism that deserve note. 


The Upanisads embody mystical 
approaches in HINDU PHILOSOPHY and 
religion, especially in the later interpreta- 
tions of the monist school of Advaita 
Vedanta and SANKARA (788-820). The 
goal of knowledge is to attain liberation 
or release (moksha) from individual iden- 
tity and all that entails bodily life, rebirth 
or reincarnation, in order to become (or 
be shown to be) One undifferentiated 
consciousness as Ultimate Reality/Self 

Sankara can readily quote ancient 
Upanisads to support this. ‘All Brahman 
is ... myself within the heart ... smaller 
than a mustard seed ... greater than the 
earth ... the sky’ (Chandogya Upanisad 
3:14); ‘The Self is to be described by “No, 
no” (Brhadāranyaka Upanişad III:9:26). 
‘Thou art woman, thou art man ... Thou 
art the thunder-cloud, the seas ... infinite 
..2 (Svetasvetara Upanisad IV:3:4). 

It is well known that RAMANUJA (c. 
1017-1137) drew on the Upanisad for a 
‘qualified’ non-dualism (ViSista-advaita 
Vedanta), which tended towards a more 
theistic direction. Ultimate Reality, he 
taught, is not ‘undifferentiated conscious- 
ness’ (nirguna brabma). Religious devo- 
tion (bhakti) looks beyond the self. 
Nevertheless in the Bhagavad Gita, bhakti 
serves alongside ‘freedom from the 
thought of an “I”’ (18:62). Even Rama- 
nuja teaches a ‘qualified monism’. 

In traditions in which bodily existence, 
rebirth, and reincarnation look towards 
‘release’, a mystical colouring is inevitable. 
Yet for many it is ‘not yet’, and its degree 
and significance varies within traditions in 

upon ‘emptiness’ may reflect a parallel 
ambivalence. NAGARJUNA (c. 150-200) 
expounds psychological and ontological 
emptiness, but a mystical interpretation 
has to be qualified by his concern for 
LOGIC at the ‘conditional’ level, even 
though he renounces conceptual thought 
at the ‘final’ level. Nagarjuna rejects the 
validity or applicability of assertion or 
denial of Ultimate Reality. 


Again, much depends upon the scope of 
the term. This is a case where DEFINITION 
by means of examples can assist us. The 
classic mystics include PsEUDO-DIoNyY- 
stus (c. 500), Bernard of Clairvaux 
(1091-1153), Hildegarde of Bingen 
(1098-1179), Meister ECKHART (1260- 
1327), Julian of Norwich (1342- c. 
1413), the author of The Cloud of 
Unknowing (c. 1350-95); Teresa of Avila 
(1515-82); John of the Cross (1542-91) 
and Jacob Boehme (1575-1624). 

In The Divine Names, Pseudo-Diony- 
sius urges that God is beyond all under- 
standing, and can be apprehended, if at 
all, only through indirect, non-conceptual 
SYMBOLS. The beauty and light of God 
prompts love and yearning for union with 
God (ibid., 4). In his Mystical Theology he 



uses the VIA NEGATIVA because God is 
beyond assertion and denial. The concep- 
tual is derived from God, but God is above 
and beyond conceptual thought. God’s 
love enfolds all. 

Unlike the monism of Hindu mysti- 
cism, Pseudo-Dionysius draws both on a 
quasi-monist NEOPLATONISM, but also 
upon a Christian version of Platonism 
that retains notions of hierarchy and 
order. He speaks of ‘a holy order’ (The 
Celestial Hierarchy, Ml: 1). 

Bernard of Clairvaux is usually 
described as ‘mystic’, but he also exercised 
a fine theological mind. Meister Johannes 
Eckhart speaks more characteristically as 
a mystic: the soul attains ‘emptiness’, 
which ‘gives birth to God’. Eckhart’s 
‘desert’ becomes in John of the Cross a 
‘night of the senses’ and ‘dark night of the 
spirit’, which disengage the soul from the 
world to be filled with love for God and 
union with God. 

Although Adolf Deissmann wrote of 
Paul the Apostle as a mystic, more recent 
Pauline research is virtually unanimous in 
rejecting this understanding of ‘being-in- 
Christ’. The phrase primarily refers in Paul 
to a shared solidarity of status especially 
denoting that of being ‘raised with Christ’. 
Paul uses the phrase in a number of ways. 


The roots of Jewish mysticism may be 
traced to prophetic experiences of being 
overwhelmed by God (Is. 6:1-6) and the 
notion of the sh°kinah (presence or glory 
of God). Some trace potentially mystical 
elements in PHILO’s assimilation of Helle- 
nistic thought, but Philo is too ‘rationalist’ 
to merit the term ‘mystic’. The period of 
mysticism, in the narrower sense, emerges 
in the medieval kabbala, especially in the 
Zohar. Poetic literature also speaks of 
spiritual love, for example in Judah Halevi 

(c. 1095-1143). 


This varies from tradition to tradition. 
The major traditions of Hindu mysticism 

are underpinned by a monist ONTOLOGY, 
whether ‘qualified’ or not. Many tradi- 
tions seek to overcome the subject—object 
split in knowing or in relationality. Here, 
however, it is not exclusively a property of 
mysticism to share with BUBER an under- 
standing of God as ‘Thou’. 

Some, like William Alston, explore the 
heightened perceptions of mysticism as 
part of an EPISTEMOLOGY. Yet the main- 
spring seems to remain a longing for union 
with God (or Ultimate Reality) in which 
‘knowledge’ differs from ‘REASON’. Gen- 
eralization is impossible. Perhaps in the 
end, the enhancement of awareness to 
which most mystics lay claim must be 
balanced against the claim of Locke that 
reason needs to retain a ‘control’ or 
‘governance’ for ‘entitled’ BELIEF. (See 


Strictly the term denotes stories or narra- 
tives told about God or divine beings, 
narrated in a communal setting as of 
permanent or repeated significance, and 
believed to be true within the community 
in question. Each of these terms carries 
weight: narrative, deity, community, 
truth-status and community. However, 
the term retains little of this strict defini- 
tion in popular usage, and is used in a 
variety of ways, some contradictory with 
others, even among philosophers and 

First, the widespread popular applica- 
tion to polytheistic myths of the ancient 
oriental, Greek and Roman worlds should 
not mislead us. Although in the modern 
West (and elsewhere) ‘myth’ is used here in 
contrast to ‘TRUTH’, these stories are called 
‘myths’ because they were once believed to 
be true among the communities within 
which they first emerged. The modern use 
of ‘myth’ to denote what is not true has 
little to do with the more serious, techni- 
cal, use of the term (see M. Eliade, Myths, 
Dreams and Mysteries, 1960). 



Second, myth applies to divine actions 
portrayed in narrative form. This stands in 
contrast to such categories as legends, 
which may apply to human heroes. Only a 
minority of writers regard myth as neces- 
sarily polytheistic. Most include mono- 
theistic RELIGION and THEISM (e.g. John 
Knox, Myth and Truth, 1964 and 1966). 
This narrative form of myth is what 
permits both a personal and self-involving 
dimension, which draws the hearers or 
readers in; but at the risk of an objectify- 
ing tendency, that is, the risk of looking 
like pseudo-scientific or pseudo-explana- 
tory description or report. 

Third, this last characteristic has given 
rise to proposals about DEMYTHOLOGIZ- 
ING sacred texts, most notably BULT- 
MANN’S proposals to demythologize the 
New Testament. In effect, they seek to 
transpose all hints of description and 
report into modes of language that pro- 
claim, address and challenge the reader to 
existential response. 

On this basis, ‘myths’ of CREATION, of 
the RESURRECTION or of the gift of the 
Holy Spirit ‘coming down’ serve, it is 
argued, not to make truth-claims about 
states of affairs, but to call readers 
(respectively) to responsible stewardship, 
to new life and to liberation from past 
bondage into the ‘futurity’ of new possi- 
bilities represented by the Holy Spirit. 

Fourth, David FE Strauss (1808-74) 
defined myth as ‘the expression of an idea 
in the form of a historical account’ (Life of 
Jesus, [1835-6], Philadelphia: Fortress, 
1972, 148). He drew on HEGEv’s contrast 
between the rigorous critical concept used 
by philosophy (Begriff) and the suppo- 
sedly uncritical methods of ‘representa- 
tions’ (Vorstellungen) used in religion. The 

task of the interpreter, Strauss argues, was 
to ‘de-historicize the supernatural’. 

This provides a bridge between two of 
Bultmann’s understandings of myth: that 
of a primitive, pre-scientific world-view, 
and that of a false ‘OBJECTIFICATION’ or 
descriptive report that needs to be ‘de- 
objectified’. However, this cannot hide the 
contradictions in Bultmann’s account of 

If myth merely denotes ANALOGY, we 
cannot demythologize at all. If ‘myth’ 
denotes the pseudo-scientific explanatory 
hypothesis of a primitive world-view, is this 
really how ‘myth’ operates, if at all, in the 
New Testament? How do either of these 
relate to the need to restore an existential 
thrust to the language of sacred texts 
without destroying their simultaneous 
claims about the truth of certain states of 
affairs? (see the entry on Bultmann). 

On top of all this, PANNENBERG (b. 
1928) identifies a fifth problem. Myth 
usually relates to what is repeated, espe- 
cially to cyclical views of time and of 
ritual. However, the biblical writings of 
Hebrew-Christian theology stress the 
novel, the unique, the purposive, the 
linear. Only in a non-mythic sense does 
the repetition in liturgical celebration of 
these unique events occur. 

We cannot put the clock back to 
dispense with the word ‘myth’. However, 
extreme caution is needed in assessing 
whether or when the word is applicable in 
Jewish, Christian or Islamic contexts. At 
best, myth denotes a sacred narrative 
which through its symbolic resonances 
invites participation and self-involvement 
on the part of a community for whom the 
narrative is true. (See also EXISTENTIAL- 

Nāgārjuna (c. 150-200) 

Born in South India, Nagarjuna became 
the greatest and most influential dialecti- 
cian in Mahayana Buddhism, and perhaps 
the Madhyamika school and exercised 
deep influence over the development of 
Buddhism in South and East Asia. 

At the heart of Nagarjuna’s philosophy 
stood a distinctive understanding of the 
Middle Way of the Buddha as ‘emptiness’ 
of all things. One of his two most important 
writings is ‘The Fundamental Verses on the 
Middle Way’ (Malanadhyamakarika 
Prajna). The other is ‘The Septuagint on 
Emptiness’ (Sunydtasapatati). 

The silence invited by emptiness shows 
itself perhaps most readily by restraint 
from possible answers to a metaphysical 
question, namely to withhold ‘yes’, ‘no’, 
‘both’ and ‘neither’. Silence avoids the 
self-contradictory paradox of SCEPTICISM, 
but allows a sceptical restraint from 
assertions or denials that may be out of 

Nagarjuna aimed to follow valid 
LOGIC, but for his teaching also to cohere 
with good Buddhist teaching and practice. 
It has been said that Mādhyamika Bud- 
dhism is a particular Buddhist ‘yogic form 
of moral and intellectual purification’ 
(Christian Lindtner). An ineffable Ultimate 

Reality lies hidden behind ordinary experi- 
ence and conceptual description. Only 
enlightenment makes it accessible to faith. 

The practice of ‘wisdom’ (prajnd) 
therefore remains important, and for 
Nagarjuna this also presupposes faith. 
Compassion coheres with Buddhist doc- 
trinal teaching (dharma) on opposing evil 
and promoting good. 

Nirvana is both a psychological state in 
which passions and karma (karma klesat- 
makam) disappear, together with suffer- 
ing. But nirvana also ontological space: all 
things have departed to leave ‘emptiness’. 
The use of dialectic is fundamental to 
Nagarjuna’s philosophy. (See also HINDU 

natural theology 

Natural theology seeks to establish TRUTH 
about God through the natural resources 
of human reason, in contrast to revelation 
by means of such special sources as sacred 
writings and ecclesial traditions. Such 
resources of human reasoning are in 
principle available to all human beings 
without regard to time or place. 
Depending on how broadly or narrowly 
the term is defined, different thinkers may 
be cited as advocates or exponents of 
natural theology. Some suggest that PLATO 

natural theology 


(c. 428-348 BceE) argues for divine reason 
on the basis of general rational principles. 
ARISTOTLE (384-322 BCE) offers a more 
explicit natural theology: ‘God is perfect 
... is One... Therefore the firmament that 
God sets in motion is one.’ That is to say, 
reason discerns a divinely grounded ‘orde- 
redness’ of unity and diversity in the 


If natural theology is defined very broadly 
simply to allow for strong continuity 
between philosophical reasoning and 
divine revelation, then a number of 
‘borderline’ examples might be included. 
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) saw 
philosophy as a positive testament to the 
Greeks to prepare them for the Gospel, 
just as the law prepared the Jews. Yet he 
acknowledged that philosophical reason- 
ing remains incomplete without the gift of 
faith, and further revelation. 

(Averroes, 1126-98) built upon Aristotle’s 
notion of the ‘ordered’ nature of the 
universe as a rational, purposive hierarchy 
of differentiation and unity. AL-FARABI 
and In Sina also urged the superior value 
of philosophical thought, but retained the 
religious conviction that reason cohered 
with the revelation of the Qur’an. 

Thomas AQuiINas (c. 1225-74) 
believed that in principle philosophical 
reasoning could establish the existence of 
God. However, human blindness prevents 
this reasoning from giving such knowledge 
equally to all. ‘Natural reason is common 
to the good and the bad ... Knowledge of 
God, however, belongs only to the good’ 
(Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu.12, art. 12). 
‘God is known to the natural reason 
through the images of his effects’, but ‘by 
grace we have a more perfect knowledge 
of God than we have by natural reason’ 
(ibid., art. 13). Indeed, if God’s existence 
may be apprehended through reason, 
knowledge of God’s nature and character 
depends upon revelation. 


A more specific and inclusive natural 
theology emerged in the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries. PALEY (1743-1805) 
argued for the existence of God on the 
basis of observations of evidence of design 
in the world. Paley’s famous analogy of 
finding a watch on a heath features as a 
classic exposition of the TELEOLOGICAL 
ARGUMENT for the existence of God. The 
titles of two of his works, Evidences of 
Christianity (1794) and Natural Theology 
(1802) underline the aim and assumption 
of these writings. 

The most extreme reliance on human 
reason and rejection of a need for ‘special’ 
revelation emerged in English DEISM. 
Reason is the only valid instrument 
through which God’s existence and nature 
can be known. Any appeal to special 
sacred writings or traditions would com- 
promise the universality of the Creator- 
God whose creation left no room for a 
need for special interventions of provi- 
dence or the miraculous. Arguably the 
deists believed that anything else would 
also compromise the sovereignty of God. 


BaRTH (1886-1968) is the most outspoken 
opponent of natural theology in modern 
times. Barth believed that natural theology 
compromises the sovereignty of God in a 
different way. God chooses when, where 
and how God will make himself known 
(Church Dogmatics I: 2, Edinburgh, T & 
T Clark, 1956, sects. 13-19). God 
‘speaks’, ‘where and when God by this 
activating, ratifying ... the word of the 
Bible and preaching lets it become true’ 
(ibid., I: 1, sect. 4, 120). 

Barth’s specific attack on natural theol- 
ogy was written in 1934, a year after 
Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. 
His Swiss colleague Emil Brunner had 
attempted a tentative defence of a ‘soft’, or 
minimal, version of a natural theology. 


necessity, the necessary 

Barth rejected this, and entitled his short 
work Nein! (No!.) Barth’s chief contention 
was that human fallenness had left no 
‘point of contact’ between sinful, alie- 
nated, humanity and the ‘wholly other’ 
transcendent God. He wrote his work in 
Rome, where he attributed a vacillating 
papacy in the face of Nazism to a failure 
to adopt the motto ‘Christ alone; scripture 
alone’. These phrases became the badge of 
the ‘confessing? German Church in the 
face of this same pressure. 

Emil Brunner argued that if human sin 
had damaged the image of God in 
humankind, the Fall had not totally 
destroyed it. Citing Irenaeus, Brunner 
drew a contrast between the ‘formal’ 
image of God (including reason), which 
was left almost intact, and the ‘material’ 
image (that of moral character), which 
was seriously damaged. Moreover, if there 
were no ‘point of contact’, how could 
repentance be possible, let alone the 
possibility of moral action? Repentance 
and the benefit of such divine ordinances 
as the state and marriage were signs of 
‘general grace’. Humankind retains a 
capacity to respond to God. 

Barth dismissed such arguments as 
blurring the distinction between the 
TRANSCENDENCE of God and God’s free- 
dom to determine when or where to 
address humankind, on one side, and the 
extent of human fallenness and blindness, 
on the other. Nevertheless this response 
should not be equated with a crude 
FIDEISM, as some philosophers of religion 
have in effect suggested (H.J. Paton, The 
Modern Predicament, London: Allen & 
Unwin, 1955, 47-58). Paton even attri- 
butes Barth’s approach to ‘his zeal for 
religion’ (ibid., 57) when Barth has strong 
reservations about applying the very word 
‘religion’ to the Christian faith. 


The debate is more complex than a short 
article can convey. There are quite differ- 
ent reasons for unease with natural 
theology. Some theists, atheists and 

agnostics simply agree that in practice it 
is unsuccessful. Others argue that the 
‘infinite qualitative difference’ between 
God as transcendent Ground of the Uni- 
verse, and finite, CONTINGENT phenomena 
within the world, would not lead us to 
expect easy success for ‘natural theology’. 
Yet a third group subject the capacities of 
human reason to radical criticism, whether 
from the viewpoint of conservative theol- 
ogy, from the perspective of PIETISM, or in 
the light of secular or theistic postmo- 

necessity, the necessary 

Necessity may be attributed to a proposi- 
tion when the denial of this proposition 
results in a logical contradiction. In 
MODAL LOGIC this is sometimes expressed 
by asserting that the proposition ‘p’ is 
true, and its denial ‘~p’ is false, in all 
possible worlds. The early WITTGENSTEIN 
wrestled with the nature of necessity in his 
work on the philosophy of LOGIC, espe- 
cially on relations between propositions 
and on logical constants. 

In addition to this meaning in logic, 
especially in MODAL LOGIC, the term 
‘necessary’ may also be applied to condi- 
tions or CAUSsSEs. Whereas in logic, 
necessity may stand in contrast to CON- 
TINGENCY, in the sphere of causality, 
necessary cause stands in contrast to 
sufficient cause. 

LEIBNIZ (1646-1716) wrestled with 
highly complex relations between neces- 
sity and POSSIBILITY. God is necessarily 
morally perfect, Leibniz maintained, since 
to deny this is to contradict what is 
entailed in God’s being ‘God’. Hence it 
seems that of necessity God chose to create 
‘the best possible world’. The world is 
actual by necessity. But how, then, can 
God’s creative action be God’s free choice? 
Leibniz invokes his infinitesimal logical 
calculus. Since there is an infinite number 
of ‘possible’ worlds, it is not possible for 
this range of options to reach closure by 



necessity. This allows a space for free 

This invites reflection upon whether we 
are obliged to conceive of necessity in 
more than one way. PLANTINGA and 
HARTSHORNE elucidate this approach in 
their respective expositions of the ONTO- 
LOGICAL ARGUMENT; and Plantinga also in 
his work on the problem of EvIL. 


Neoplatonism represents a modification of 
aspects of PLaTo’s thought (428-348 BcE), 
but bridges Plato’s DuaLIsm between a 
higher order of Ideas and the lower realm 
of empirical, material objects in the world 
by postulating a chain of intermediate 
beings between the highest and lowest in a 
unified order. 

Above Plato’s realm of eternal Ideas is 
‘the One’, who is perfect, immutable, 
simple, and in effect ‘God’. ‘The One’, or 
‘God’, is wholly transcendent. From the 
One there flow emanations in the form of 
a hierarchy of intermediate beings, who 
mediate from the power of the One 
through a series of levels down to the 
lowest, namely to the material world. The 
whole hierarchy constitutes a unified and 
unifying ‘order’, without compromising 

The earliest roots of Neoplatonism 
began to grow shortly after Plato’s death, 
but the first flourishing of Neoplatonic 
philosophy occurs with PLotTinus (205- 
70) and his pupil, Porphyry (c. 233-304). 
Porphyry transcribed the classic source, 
Plotinus’s Enneads, after the latter’s death. 

Prior to Plotinus, PH1Lo of Alexandria 
(c. 20 BCE-50 CE) anticipated Neoplatonic 
themes. Thus he regarded the God of 
Judaism as fully transcendent, but found 
scriptural precedent for the notion of 
divine agencies as mediators or intermedi- 
aries, from Moses to the figure of Wisdom 
and the Divine Word (or Logos). 

In the hierarchy postulated by Plotinus 
‘the One’ stands above even thought or 
mind, but Nous (‘the Mind’, ‘Intelligence’) 

is the highest emanation, next below ‘the 
One’. As the chain unfolds we reach the 
level of the ‘World-Soul’ (also found in 
SroicisM), and finally the material world 
itself. This eternal process of ‘outflow’, 
radiating-generation, or emanation, pro- 
vides structure and unity to reality and the 
world. Matter does not exist as an end in 
itself, but as a vehicle for ‘soul’. Plotinus 
includes a mystical dimension in his 
thinking and reflection. 

Porphyry emphasizes this mystical ele- 
ment, stressing the preparation of the soul 
for union with ‘the One’. He compiled a 
diagrammatic ‘tree’ of a hierarchy of levels 
reaching through five ‘species’, down to 
matter. More readily than Plotinus, but 
perhaps closer to Plato, he saw ‘matter’ as 
a source of evil. Porphyry exercised a wide 
influence, and AUGUSTINE and BOETHIUS 
were attracted to aspects of his thought in 
their earlier years. 

A second major development was the 
Syrian school of Iamblichus (c. 245- 
325). A complex and elaborate ‘chain of 
being’ was postulated with admixtures of 
quasi-polytheistic Graeco-Roman divi- 
nities and components from magic. 
A ‘Baghdad school’ (c. 832) emerged 
after several centuries in Syria, which 
translated the Greek writings of Plotinus, 
Porphyry, Plato and ARISTOTLE into 
Arabic, sometimes as seen through Neo- 
platonic eyes. This made some impact on 
medieval IsLAMIC PHILOSOPHY, includ- 

Finally, a minor revival of Neoplaton- 
ism occurred in an Athenian school of the 
fifth and sixth centuries, but the school 
was closed in 529. The broader influence 
of ideas continued in other forms, how- 
ever, through the period of the Renais- 
sance to the Cambridge Platonists. (See 

Newton, (Sir) Isaac (1642-1727) 

Newton worked out in his Mathematical 
Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687) a 


Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm 

formulation of the mechanics of motion 
and theory of universal gravity. His find- 
ings remain fundamental for modern 
physics, even if they have been partially 
overtaken by post-Einsteinian formula- 
tions in relation to specific contexts and 
purposes within the discipline. ‘Newto- 
nian mechanics’ remains a foundational 

Newton was educated at Cambridge, 
became an eminent physicist, mathemati- 
cian and public figure, and was a close 
friend of Locke (1632-1704). Newton 
and LEIBNIZ (1646-1716) seem to have 
discovered infinitesimal or differential 
calculus independently. Each, however, 
accused the other of plagiarizing his work, 
and their rivalry extended to several areas 
of sharp disagreement. 

One strength of Newton’s work was his 
care to distinguish between clearly estab- 
lished results in sciences and speculative 
hypotheses or conjectures. He also made 
advances in optics and in the composition 
of light. 

Newton was in broad terms a theist, 
and saw the unified system of motion, 
force, gravity and mass not as excluding 
the agency of God, but, rather, as a 
divinely created order. On the other hand, 
his work had the effect of encouraging the 
typical eighteenth-century model of the 
universe as a machine, which held sway 
until the rise of ROMANTICISM invited a 
more organic model of understanding. 
Further, as Leibniz anticipated, although 
Newton’s most creative work was widely 
celebrated and in due time vindicated, his 
notion of time and space as absolutes 
could not be sustained. 

Newton’s three laws of motion (espe- 
cially the first) are claimed by many to 
undermine the ‘kinetological’ version of 
body continues in a state of rest or of 
uniform motion unless forces intervene to 
change this. Others dispute whether this 
disrupts the argument. (See also ENLIGHT- 

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm 

Born in Récken, Prussia, Nietzsche 
studied at Leipzig, and became professor 
at Basle in 1870. His first book was The 
Birth of Tragedy (1872). In 1879 he 
resigned from his Chair because of poor 
health, and from 1879 to 1889 produced 
numerous writings, including The Gay 
Science (1882), Thus Spake Zarathustra 
(1883-5), Beyond Good and Evil (1886) 
and Twilight of the Idols (1889). In 
1889 his mental health collapsed, and 
he did not recover before his death eleven 
years later. However, during this period 
his most aggressively anti-theistic book 
was published, namely The Antichrist 


From the start, Nietzsche sought in 
Schopenhauer and in ancient Greek tra- 
gedy and pre-Socratic philosophy a prin- 
ciple of the affirmation of life. A basic 
‘driving’ force is not the same as a 
‘directing’ force. He developed this theme 
further in The Gay Science. 

Driving force can be seen as raw energy 
in Euripides’ tragedy The Bacchae. The 
figure of Pentheus represents the ‘Apollo- 
nian’ principle of restraint, harmony, 
rationality and moderation. Through 
mean’, this had been largely associated 
with the spirit of ancient Greece. How- 
ever, Euripides portrays the Bacchae, the 
female worshippers of Bacchus or Diony- 
sius, as ‘Dionysian’: life-affirming, exotic, 
frenzied celebrants for whom life is not 
restraint and rationality, but assertion, joy 
and self-will. 

Nietzsche identified himself with the 
Dionysian, although he concedes that this 
drive may be focused or harnessed by 
Apollonian direction or instrumental rea- 
son. These two principles reflect Schopen- 
hauer’s contrast between will and 

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm 


From his student days at Leipzig until 
their friendship ended in 1879 over 
Nietzsche’s cultural and political critique 
of him, Nietzsche’s emphasis on affirma- 
tion, life and driving force also drew 
vitality from Richard Wagner’s operas 
and Wagner’s use of mythic sources. By 
1879 Nietzsche was far more radical than 
Wagner. In Nietzsche’s view, Wagner 
helped to prop up the cultural degenera- 
tion that Nietzsche wished to abolish 
altogether. It should be leading, he 
believed, through new birth, to nihilism. 
He termed this ‘philosophy with a ham- 

THE IDOLS (1889) 

Both The Gay Science and Thus Spake 
Zarathustra look ahead to the end of 
nihilism, which will follow upon the 
declaration that ‘God is dead’. During this 
period Nietzsche not only increasingly 
emphasizes ‘will’ over rational systems, 
but identifies systems of Western philoso- 
phy and RELIGION as ‘fictions’ and ‘lies’. 
Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings, 
‘always darker emptier, and simpler’ (The 
Gay Science). 

In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche 
distinguishes between a ‘master’ morality 
of self-assertion and a ‘slave’ morality 
rooted in resentment and the desire for 
compensatory rewards. The ‘master’ mor- 
ality is worked out in due course in terms 
of the Will to Power. These two principles 
are associated with proportionate drives 
and directions in different peoples and 

Addressing the culture of his day and 
the traditions of Western philosophy and 
religions Nietzsche calls for a ‘re-valuation 
of all values’. Religion, and in particular 
Christianity, tend towards a servile ‘nega- 
tion’ that diminishes humankind. It is 
against this background that Bonhoeffer 
and especially MOLTMANN portray an 
authentic Christianity as ‘Universal 

Affirmation’ (the subtitle of Moltmann’s 
The Spirit of Life, London: SCM, 1992). 

Nietzsche insists that ‘Nothing is 
“given” as real except our world of desires 
and passions ... We can rise or sink to no 
other “reality” than the reality of our 
drives ... Thinking is only the relationship 
of these drives to one another’ (Beyond 
Good and Evil, London: Penguin, 1973 
and 1990, sect. 36). If one insisted on an 
‘intelligible’ account of this, ‘it would be 
“will to power” and nothing else’ (ibid.). 
‘It is the rulers who determine the concept 
“good” (ibid., sect. 260). 


‘All that exists consists of interpretation 
(The Will to Power, vol. 2, aphorism 493, 
Nietzsche’s italics (in The Complete 
Works, 18 vols., London: Allen & Unwin, 
1909-13, vol. 15)). If this is so, Nietzsche 
concludes, ‘We shall never be rid of God, 
so long as we still believe in grammar’ 
(The Twilight of the Idols, in ibid., vol. 16, 
22, aphorism 5). This is why he must 
‘philosophize with a hammer’. 

In The Antichrist Nietzsche presses 
what today we should call an anti-theistic 
‘ideological critique’ of LANGUAGE IN 
RELIGION. He writes, ‘The “salvation of 
the soul” — in plain English “the world 
revolves around me”’ (ibid., 186, aphor- 
ism 43). ‘A priest or a pope not only errs, 
but actually lies with every word that he 
utters’ (ibid., 177, aphorism 38). ‘Supreme 
axiom: “God forgiveth him that repen- 
teth?” — in plain English, “him that 
submitteth himself to the priest”’ (ibid., 
161, aphorism 26). 

Nietzsche has now moved beyond 
‘atheistic EXISTENTIALISM’ to an ideologi- 
cal critique of language which prepares the 
way for the post-modern suspicion of 
Roland Barthes, FOUCAULT and DERRIDA. 

Nevertheless, in the hands of such 
theological writers as Bonhoeffer and 
Moltmann this becomes not a critique 
that unmasks all THEISM as illusory, but a 
selective filter that exposes the illusory, 



self-deceptive nature of those inauthentic 
forms of religion that are motivated by 
self-assertion and a will-to-power. 

Just as Nietzsche’s early The Birth of 
Tragedy brought to our attention the 
important contrast in Greek thought 
between the Apollonian and Dionysian, 
but also involved dubious classical philolo- 
gical scholarship, so also The Antichrist 
brings to our attention a sharp critical tool 
to distinguish inauthentic religion from 
authentic religious truth, but is open to the 
criticism of the very kind of generalizing and 
mythologizing that it seeks to undermine. 

Nishida, Kitaro (1870-1945) 

Nishida has been described as the fore- 
most Japanese philosopher of the twenti- 
eth century. His importance for the 
philosophy of religion derives from his 
being probably the first philosophical 
exponent of Buddhist traditions to engage 
in a distinctive and original way with the 
problems of Western philosophy. 

Nishida explores Zen not only in 
traditional Eastern ways, but more espe- 
cially through terms and concepts drawn 
from Western thought. Basically he seeks 
to move behind the suBJECT-OBJECT split 
of Western EPISTEMOLOGY and the series 
of disjunctions to which he believes this 
split leads. This includes the DUALISM of 
PLATO; the Kantian legacy of a split 
between fact and value (which permeates 
BULTMANN’s theology); and the split 
between individual and universal, with 
which LErBNiz wrestled. 

Among Western philosophers on whom 
Nishida drew more positively were Wil- 
liam James (1842-1910) and BERGSON 
(1859-1941), and his explorations of 
Neo-Kantianism combined positive dialo- 
gue with critique. He is known as the 
founding father of the Kyoto School of 
modern Japanese philosophy. (See also 

Nishitani, Keiji (1900-90) 

If NrsHrpa was the founder of the Kyoto 
school of modern Japanese philosophy, 
Nishitani is regarded as the leading 
thinker of its second generation. Like 
Nishida, he also draws upon both Zen 
thinkers and concepts, and also on mys- 
tical and existentialist philosophers of the 
Western tradition. 

Western mystical influences include 
Meister ECKHART, while Western existen- 
tialist writers include DosToEvsky (1821- 
81), NretzscHe (1844-1900) and HEtr- 
DEGGER (1889-1976). The influence of 
Zen thinkers embraces both Chinese and 
Japanese traditions. With these conceptual 
resources Nishitani explores the problem 
of nihilism. At bottom the sELF is ‘noth- 
ingness’ (nihil, or mu); but of such a 
nature that an exploration of nothingness 
can become ‘fertile’. The underlying con- 
cepts build upon a Loic of ‘affirmation in 
negation’, alongside ‘nothingness’. 

Nishitani published Religion and 
Nothingness in 1962. There are certain 
resonances here and there with Heideg- 
ger’s ‘Dialogue on Language between a 
Japanese and an Inquirer’ in his On the 
Way to Language (New York: Harper & 
Row [1959], 1971, 1-54). Heidegger (‘the 
Inquirer’) attributes operative language to 
‘the call of Being’ (ibid., 5), in contrast to 
the Western dualist seduction of ‘photo- 
graphic OBJECTIFICATION’ (ibid., 17). ‘We 
must leave the sphere of the subject—object 
relation behind us’ (ibid., 40) ‘The fare- 
well of all “It is” comes to pass’ (ibid., 54). 
There are also parallels with his Gelassen- 
heit (1959; Eng., Discourse on Thinking, 
1966). (See also BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY; 


The term refers especially to the intense 
debate in the medieval period about the 
ontological status of UNIVERSALS, or of 
language about essences, in contrast to 
language about particular objects or states 



of affairs. The term stands in contrast to 
alists argue that language about universal 
concepts is no more than a linguistic or 
SEMANTIC construction (Latin, nomen, 
name). It does not denote an independent 
extra-linguistic reality, as realists claim. 

WILLIAM OF OCKHAM (c. 1287-c. 
1349) is often regarded as the most 
thoroughgoing nominalist. Ockham con- 
ceded that language that denoted particu- 
lar objects, qualities or events referred 
beyond itself to the external world. Even 
within particulars, however, denotative 
signs are absolute or univocal (see ANA- 
LOGY); connotative signs represent quali- 
ties in a derivative or secondary sense. 

However, in appearing to refer to 
abstract essences or universals, language 
may serve to bestow ‘a name’ (Latin, 
nomen) without guaranteeing any object 
of reference beyond language itself. The 
formulation of the ‘general’ is a feature of 
the mind and of language, rather than of 
something beyond the mind or beyond 

After the medieval period, nominalism 
in modified forms is closely associated 
with a number of philosophers who urge a 
suspicion of language. HOBBES (1588- 
1679) warned his readers of ‘phantasms’ 
which language might suggest. In modern 
philosophy Nelson Goodman (b. 1906) 
explored extensionality, synonymy, and 
inductive reasoning, and concluded that 
‘universals’ are nothing more than an 
aggregate of particular assertions categor- 
ized extensionally, i.e. by extension. A 
‘pure’ universal, then, can be no more than 
a linguistic construction. 

Willard Quine (b. 1908) addresses a 
similar range of problems, and his thought 
is perhaps too complex to permit easy 
classification as a nominalist. However, his 
distinction between meaning and refer- 
ence, his rejection of A PRIORI knowledge 
and his FALLIBILISM (the view that each 
belief in a system is revisable) point in this 
direction. (See also LANGUAGE IN RELI- 


The term, especially in British thought, 
often denotes a particular set of views 
associated with the ‘middle’ period of 
CurITT’s writings, especially in his Taking 
Leave of God (1980) and The Sea of Faith 
(1st edn, 1984; 2nd edn, 1994). ‘For us 
God is no longer a distinct person ... God 
is the religious requirement personified, 
and his attributes are a kind of projection 
of its main features as we experience them’ 
(Taking Leave of God, London: SCM, 
1980 and New York: Crossroad, 1981, 
85). God is not to be objectified as ‘out 

Following BBC broadcast television 
talks under the title The Sea of Faith, a 
loose ‘Sea of Faith Network’ was estab- 
lished by Cupitt’s sympathizers. The key 
points were expressed in Cupitt’s three 
themes during the period 1980-6, namely 
‘internalizing’ (God is the sum of our 
values within); de-objectifying (God is not 
‘out there’); and ‘autonomy’ (religion must 
grow out of immature ‘dependency’ upon 
God). ‘God is the sum of all our values, 
representing this ideal ... mythologically’ 
(The Sea of Faith, London: BBC, 1984, 

Several small books followed in the 
same vein. Anthony Freeman, for exam- 
ple, argued that ‘God’ is a human con- 
struction in his God in Us (1993). A more 
thoughtful approach from this angle is 
David Hart, Faith in Doubt: Non-Realism 
and Christian Belief (1993). 

Cupitt acknowledges affinities with 
Eastern philosophies, especially with Zen 
Buddhism. NisHrpa (1870-1945) 
explores experience prior to any SUB- 
JECT-OBJECT split. In Advaita Vedanta 
(non-dualist) HINDU PHILOSOPHY San- 
kara argues that the sELF is separated 
from brahman (undifferentiated Ultimate 
Reality) only by illusion (maya). This 
Ultimate Reality cannot be characterized. 

A broader use of the term non-realism 
also occurs to denote its contrast with 
classical REALISM. However, the more 



usual term for this would be NOMINALISM, 
together with the mediating approach of 


The term broadly denotes the sense of 
reverential awe that a finite or creaturely 
human person experiences in the presence 
of God, the transcendent, or the sacred. It 
signifies a dimension of religious experi- 
ence that surpasses the rational, conceptual 

or ethical, especially in terms of a sense of 
awesome wonder and self-awareness as 
merely creative, finite and vulnerable. 

The content of the term is best under- 
stood by consulting the work of Otro 
(1869-1937), who made extensive use of 
this term. The numinous, he urges, 
includes both the element of godly fear 
and trembling in the presence of the Other 
(mysterium tremendum) and the fascina- 
tion of the holy love that draws the 
worshipper to participate in the mystery 
of the numinous (mysterium fascinosum). 

object, objectivism, 
objectivity, objectification 

The definition of each of these terms 
bristles with problems, mainly because 
changes of context shift the meaning of 
each. Further, each of these four terms 
carries a largely different meaning from 
the other three, or at least from some 
others. In very broad terms, for example, 
‘objectivity’ tends to carry with it over- 
tones of approval; ‘objectivism’ and 
‘objectification’ frequently, but not 
always, imply an inadequate, distorting, 
or reductive use of language. 

Further complications arise from varia- 
tions in a universe of discourse. In 
EPISTEMOLOGY we may speak of a know- 
ing suBJECT having knowledge of a known 
object. In a rationalist or empiricist pre- 
Kantian scheme, the subject is active, and 
knows a passive object. 


In a universe of discourse that concerns 
God or persons such thinkers as BUBER 
(1878-1965), Levinas (1906-95) and 
others insist that the ‘I-Thou’ language 
of interpersonal address regards ‘the 
Other’ as more than an ‘object’, or an 
‘it’. To reduce the personal ‘Thou’, ‘You’ 
or ‘God’ to the status of an epistemologi- 
cal ‘object’ is to reduce their personhood 

and their own active agency by objectifi- 

BULTMANN (1884-1976) has the con- 
structive aim, whatever its failings in 
execution, of seeking to ‘de-objectify’ 
language that treats God as an object. 
REVELATION, he claims, is not primarily 
‘about God’; but ‘address from God’. 

To demythologize is to translate a 
vocabulary and conceptual grammar that 
appears to speak of God as an entity in 
which objective CATEGORIES inhere into a 
conceptual scheme more appropriate to 
interpersonal activity. MYTH, he claims, 
reduces everything to description and 
report. A better, less ‘objective’, mode of 
discourse is borrowed from existentialist 
thinkers, especially from HEIDEGGER. 

One problem with Bultmann’s propo- 
sals is his failure, among other things, to 
note that often existential or self-involving 
language operates on the presupposition 
that certain states of affairs are true (see 


‘Objectivism’ is often used to denote the 
use of language which the language users 
consider to be value-neutral or ‘objective’, 
but which others consider to be no less 
value-laden than other language-uses. One 
side will consider that its language embo- 
dies commendable objectivity; the other 

205 object, objectivism, objectivity, objectification 

side may doubt whether ‘dispassionate’ 
language does more than claim to be 
objective, and may denounce pseudo- 
objectivity as objectivism. 

A notorious example is the language of 
the natural sciences. Those who regard it 
as straightforward value-neutral descrip- 
tion of the world will be inclined to call it 
‘objective’, and view it as satisfying con- 
ditions for objectivity. Those who regard 
the propositions of natural science as 
heavily dependent upon the particular 
CONTINGENT conditions of time, place, 
resources, agenda, and the histories of 
scientific communities may speak of cer- 
tain pretensions to value-neutrality as 

Just as Locke (1632-1704) argued that 
mere intensity of conviction is no guaran- 
tee in itself of CERTAINTY, so others insist 
that disengagement from emotion or 
personal involvement is, equally, no guar- 
antee of TRUTH either. There is, for 
example, no adequate warrant for assum- 
ing that a ‘secular’ world-view is any more 
‘objective’ than a religious one. 

Indeed, if God is ‘the Subject who is never 
Object’ since God is not at the beck and 
call of human scrutiny, revelation and 
theology, BARTH claims, are ‘objective’ in 
the sense that this method of enquiry has 
to be in accordance with the nature of the 
‘object’ of enquiry. 

German makes a distinction between 
two senses of ‘object’. Barth’s Church 
Dogmatics speaks repeatedly of ‘Gott als 
Subjekt’, but hardly anywhere, if at all, of 
‘Gott als Objekt’. All the same, faith (and 
sometimes enquiry) is directed towards 
Gegenstand (‘object’ in a sense yet to be 
explained), and theology is characterized 
by Gegenstdndlichkeit (objectivity). ‘As 
knowledge, it [faith] is the orientation of 
man to God as an object (Gegenstand)’. 
(Church Dogmatics, Ul: 1, Edinburgh: 
T & T Clark, 1957, sect. 25, 13). God is 

not an ‘Objek?’, for God is ‘non-objective, 
invisible, ineffable, incomprehensible’. 
Yet as One who ‘stands over against’ 
(Gegenstandlichkeit) our own human acts 
of COGNITION, God may be called Gegen- 
stand, ‘Object’ (ibid., 186-7). 

Barth asserts, ‘God is known by God, 
and by God alone’ (ibid., sect. 27, 179). In 
other words, God is not the ‘passive’ 
object of anyone else’s scrutiny, other than 
through the medium of God’s own active 
self-disclosure in acts of REVELATION. 
These acts of disclosure primarily take 
the form of address. Barth and Bultmann 
hold this in common. 


From Kant (1724-1804) onwards the 
previously more clear-cut contrast 
between subject and object in rationalist 
and empiricist epistemology becomes less 
sharp. No longer does a pure Cartesian 
subject look out at pure ‘objects’; for in 
Kant there are no ‘pure’ objects, unshaped 
by the regulative or orderly principle of 
REASON or the human mind. 

A number of diverse thinkers, ranging 
from the subjective IDEALISM of SCHEL- 
LING (1775-1854) to the Hindu philoso- 
phical MontsM of SANKARA (788-820), 
seek to reach behind the subject—object 
split. Sankara argues that the distinction is 
ultimately illusory (mdyd), even if it is 
operative at a lower, everyday level. 
TiLLicH (1886-1965) also understands 
God to be ‘Being-itself’? prior to any 
distinction between subject and object. 

The complexities of the debates that 
stem from these varied contexts and 
standpoints should encourage caution 
before we use such terms as ‘objective’ 
or ‘objectivity’ in any over-easy, suppo- 
sedly context-free, way. (See also 




Two versions of occasionalism have 
emerged. The more general version 
ascribes all causes to God alone. This 
effectively eliminates causal agency from 
human persons, and causal efficacy from 
objects or states of affairs within the finite 
world. God is directly responsible for all 

A more specific version concerns cau- 
sation within the sELF. It questions any 
causal relation between mind (or souL) 
and body. 

Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715) 
combined these two versions. According 
to him, on every occasion when the mind 
or soul consents to, or wills, a movement 
of the body, God causally initiates such a 
movement, since the mind alone cannot. 
Human will provides occasions for divine 
causal action. 

Malebranche brought together two 
contexts of thought. A French philoso- 
pher, he developed further the DUALISM of 
mind and body inherited from his fellow- 
countryman DESCARTES (1596-1650). 
Rye (1900-76) attacked and satirized 
this dualism of mind and body as that of 
‘the ghost in the machine’. 

As a Catholic priest, Malebranche 
interpreted the sovereignty of God in as 
radical a way as possible, in conjunction 
with divine OMNIPRESENCE (in The Search 
after Truth, 1674). 

In the seventeenth and early eighteenth 
centuries occasionalism seemed to some to 
address both problems of causation and of 
the mind-body relationship in an era 
when matter was often understood as 
passive and inert, under a mechanistic 
rather than organic model (see RATIONAL- 
IsM). For some theists, it also seemed to 
pay honour to the sovereignty of God. 

In our era, however, occasionalism has 
widely fallen from favour, in part because 
of a deeper understanding of psychoso- 
matic interaction within the self. Further, 
more careful accounts of divine sover- 

eignty make us hesitate to resort to such 
generalized theories. Peter Geach and 
Gijsbart van den Brink, for example, argue 
that ‘Almighty’ does better justice to 
biblical and theistic traditions than ‘omni- 
potent’ (Almighty God, Kampen: Pharos, 
1993). (See also DEISM; EVIL; GOD, CON- 

omnipotence of God 

The ‘metaphysical attributes’ of God, if 
this term is suitably qualified, are dis- 
cussed in very broad terms under Gop, 
the logical grammar (see Loic) of divine 
omnipotence is so complex that the sub- 
ject invites more attention under this 
separate heading. 

Theists usually presuppose that God 
sustains the created order by an animating 
all-powerful providence. BARTH speaks of 
God’s holding humankind ‘from the abyss 
of non-being’. Moreover, if God invites 
trust, God, it is affirmed, has the almighty 
resources to act in ways that justify such 
trust. It is assumed that God has power to 
fulfil God’s promises. 

For Thomas Aquinas God’s almighty 
power puts ‘into execution what [God’s] 
will commands and what knowledge 
directs ... All confess that God is omni- 
potent; but it seems difficult to explain in 
what this omnipotence precisely consists’ 
(Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 25, arts. 2 
and 3). 

Aquinas cites Luke 1:37, ‘No word 
shall be impossible with God’, but 
acknowledges that issues about logical 
sity may yield possible contradictions if 
‘omnipotence’ is not qualified. His answer 
is that ‘whatever implies a contradiction’ 
cannot be a word; more broadly, ‘the 
omnipotence of God does not take away 
from things their impossibility and neces- 
sity’ (ibid., art. 3). 


omnipotence of God 


In the modern era several models of self- 
contradiction have been used on both 
sides of the debate to demonstrate the 
coherence or incoherence of divine ‘omni- 
potence’. J. L. Mackie appeals to some 
traditional paradoxes to argue for its 
incoherence: Can God make a stone that 
is so big that God cannot lift it? An 
assertion negates God’s power to lift the 
stone; a denial negates God’s power to 
make the stone. 

A series of examples turns on acts of 
logical impossibility: Can God divide odd 
numbers in half in such a way that the 
result is a set of integers? Can God change 
the past, as if the past never was? Can God 
do EVIL or tell falsehoods, given that God 
is necessarily good? 

Thomas Aquinas sees no contradiction 
in these supposed paradoxes on the 
ground that to do what is logically 
impossible is not an act of power at all, 
but an irrational, self-contradictory sce- 
nario. If God were conceived of as 
performing it, God would be an irrational, 
self-contradictory being; but God is not an 
irrational, self-contradictory being. Hence 
omnipotence must denote ability to do 
whatever is in accord with God’s own 
nature. Thus to tell a falsehood or to 
retract a promise would not spring from 
omnipotence, but would entail logical 
contradiction if God is necessarily good. 

One counter-reply would be to argue 
that if these acts are contingent rather than 
necessary, logical contradiction is avoided. 
A person can make an object that he or she 
cannot lift. However, the point of the 
argument concerns the applicability of the 
concept of God, for whom goodness and 
power (however qualified by ANALOGY or 
necessary characteristics. 

PLANTINGA also qualifies the concept of 
omnipotence by arguing that omnipotence 
itself need not be a necessary quality of an 

omnipotent being. God may choose to 
limit and to contain divine power in the 
interests of goodness and love, and such a 
choice is itself an act of omnipotent, 
sovereign, free will. 

To attribute unqualified logical neces- 
sity to ‘omnipotence’ questions the con- 
cept from a different angle by eroding the 
sovereignty of divine free choice. As a 
well-known writer on MODAL LOGIC 
Plantinga distinguishes between necessary 
propositions, which are indeed logically 
necessary, and supposedly necessary qua- 
lities or things, to which the application of 
logical necessity is more problematic. 

In spite of the insistence of DESCARTES 
that God can transcend what is logically 
impossible, most writers accept that ‘a 
logically impossible action is not an action 
... It is no objection to A’s omnipotence 
that he cannot make a square or circle’ 
(Richard Swinburne, The Coherence of 
Theism, Oxford: Clarendon, 1977 and 
1986, 149). Omnipotence denotes ‘an 
ability to bring about any (logically 
possible) state of affairs’ (ibid., 150). 

This, SWINBURNE persuasively argues, 
excludes both logical contradictions and 
that which God could not do without 
contradicting God’s own nature as God, 
for example, make a thing equal to 


Although Swinburne and Plantinga are 
content to retain the term ‘omnipotent’ 
derived from Aquinas and the mainly 
Latin tradition of theology, Peter Geach 
and Gijsbert van den Brink insist that we 
should go behind the Latin term omnipo- 
tens to the Greek term from which it 
derives, namely pantokrator, the Almighty 
One. This New Testament term denotes 
‘the capacity for, not the exercise of, 
power’ (van den Brink, Almighty God, 
Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1993, 47). ‘Ommni- 
potens is to be found in the sphere of 
“having power over”’; but there are other 
ways of understanding ‘power’ also. 

omnipotence of God 


In an analysis of the logical grammar of 
the concept van den Brink distinguishes 
between power as authority, power as 
‘back-up’ and power as capacity. PLATO, 
the Stoics and the New Testament all 
underline ‘the sustaining power of the 
divine providence’ (ibid., 51). ‘The 
Almighty One’ underlines God’s ‘capacity 
as Father and creator’ (ibid., 57). How- 
ever, this does not denote ‘all power’ in an 
exclusive sense, as if God left no power for 
others, since God’s power sustains and 
enables creation. 

The logic of power embraces a family 
of concepts in which ‘almighty’ more 
readily denotes an enabling power that 
springs from love than ‘power over’ that 
may sometimes suggest domination, 
oppression or taking power from the 

This coheres more readily with Paul the 
Apostle’s redefinition of power as the 
power of the cross, which is of a different 
order from ‘worldly’ power (1 Cor. 
1:18-25). Indeed, if love seeks the best 
possible for ‘the other’, divine love, to be 
effective, presupposes ‘power for’. 
Almightiness is that quality by virtue of 
which divine goodness and love brings 
about what God ‘wants to bring about’ 
(ibid., 271). 

‘The biblical notion of divine almighti- 
ness’ does better justice to theological 
tradition and to conceptual analysis than 
‘the philosophical notion of divine omni- 
potence’ (ibid., 274). MOLTMANN (b. 
1926) expresses the same reservations 
about ‘THEISM’ as too often understood: 
‘A God who is eternally only in love with 
himself, and therefore without any con- 
cern for others, is a monster, an idol ... 
God himself has gone through the experi- 
ence of Christ’s cross’ (Experiences of 
God, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980, 16). 


BoETHIus (c. 480-525) wrote that God is 
such that nothing greater than God is even 
conceivable (see The Consolation of 

Philosophy, 3: 10). This naturally leads 
on to the formulations about maximal 
greatness and perfection formulated by 
ANSELM (1033-1109) in Proslogion 2-4, 
which have now become foundational for 
discussions of the ONTOLOGICAL ARGU- 
MENT for the existence of God. Like 
Aquinas, Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) 
also noted that this maximal greatness must 
remain logically without contradiction. 

How does this approach in terms of 
‘perfect being’ cohere with the claims of 
van den Brink, Moltmann and others 
about differences between biblical and 
philosophical perspectives? Perhaps a 
complementary comparison will suggest 
that each approach constructively serves 
to qualify the others. 

PANNENBERG (b. 1928) seeks to hold a 
view that does justice to both approaches. 
He writes as both a systematic and 
philosophical theologian. Pannenberg 
relates omnipotence not simply or primar- 
ily to ‘perfection’, but to infinity, creativity 
and holiness. Infinity, as HEGEL noted, 
denotes in the first place that which is not 
finite. In other words, whereas the finite is 
defined and sustained by something else, 
the infinite is its own Ground (see ASEITY). 
The meaning ‘without end’ (in the context 
of temporality) remains secondary to this. 

Like van den Brink and Moltmann, 
Pannenberg recognizes that ‘the abstract 
idea of unlimited power’ may too easily 
lead to a ‘one sided ... excessive omnipo- 
tence of tyranny’ (Systematic Theology, 
vol. 1, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991, 
416). God’s power is ‘for’ a goal, since 
‘only as the Creator can God be almighty’ 
salvation constitute such goals of almighty 
power. He includes resurrection, for ‘only 
the Creator can awaken the dead’ (ibid., 

Holiness expresses an awesome dimen- 
sion of divine almighty power, for it leads 
to destruction or to salvation. Further, the 
God of theism is not the deist God who 
watches the world without intervening 
within it or reshaping it from within. Only 


omnipresence of God 

a positivist ‘closed system’ could suggest 
that the almighty God could never act in 
its world with novelty and surprise to do 
‘new things’. 

Nevertheless, coherence and rationality 
are also sustained by divine providence as 
characterizing the created order. Thus God 
acts with consistency, without self-contra- 
diction, but in the Christian tradition this 
leaves room for God’s almighty acts in the 
incarnation and resurrection of Jesus 
Christ. This instantiates divine omnipo- 
tence as a creative power for good, within 
this tradition. 

In the Islamic tradition IBN SINA and 
Ien Rusu hold to the idea of God as a 
perfect Being. However, they also seek to 
qualify what this entails, and express 
caution about the nature and scope of the 
knowledge that might be involved in 
divine OMNISCIENCE. There are parallels 
concerning the logical paradoxes or 
puzzles raised respectively by the 
concepts of omnipotence and omnis- 
cience. (See also ABSOLUTE; ISLAMIC 

omnipresence of God 

Theists reject the sense in which God is 
‘present everywhere’ in PANTHEISM on the 
ground that God is not to be identified 
exhaustively with the ‘Al’ of creation. 
They also reject the view of SPINOZA that, 
like matter, God has indefinite ‘extension’ 
on the ground that Spinoza’s attribution of 
both Spirit and matter to God depersona- 
lizes and decharacterizes God, who is 
intelligent will. God is not a spatial entity 
who merely ‘extends’ God’s Being. 
Nevertheless, the omnipresence of God 
is firmly rooted in the tradition of the 
Hebrew scriptures, or the Christian Old 
Testament. ‘Where can I flee from your 
presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are 
there; if I make my bed in Sheol you are 
there. If I take the wings of the morning 
and settle in the farthest limits of the sea, 
even there your hand shall lead me’ (Ps. 

139:7-10). ‘“Do not I fill heaven and 
earth”? says the Lord’ (Jer. 23:24). 

Just as OMNIPOTENCE denotes the 
capacity of not being limited in power 
except in terms of what may constitute 
self-contradictory acts or acts contrary to 
God’s own nature, so also omnipresence 
denotes a total lack of any limitation that 
might supposedly be imposed by spatial 
distance or any other possible property of 
space. Thus the attempt of the prophet 
Jonah to flee from God’s presence by 
taking ship to a distant location becomes 
an object of satire (Jon. 1:1-3). The satirist 
also notes that, apparently unaware of the 
contradiction, Jonah exclaims equally: ‘I 
worship the God of heaven, who made the 
sea’ (1:9). 

In very different ways BaRTH, TILLICH, 
MOLTMANN and PANNENBERG all explore 
ways in which divine omnipresence may 
be understood for religious faith. For 
Tillich, God is the Ground of Being, or 
Being-itself, not merely ‘a Being’. God is 
therefore ‘the depth of reason’, i.e. the 
transcendental Ground of reason and 
rationality itself ‘which precedes reason 
and is manifest through it’ (Systematic 
Theology, vol. 1, London: Nisbet, 1953, 
88; cf. also 227). He also expounds Psalm 
139 in The Shaking of the Foundations. 

In a more existential way Moltmann 
explains how even ‘the experience of 
misery and forsakenness can build up into 
an experience of God ... God’s presence in 
the dark night of the soul: “If I make my 
bed in hell, behold, Thou art there”’ (Ps. 
139, cited above). God is not confined to 
‘religions’ or to ‘churches’. God is present 
in the cross of Christ, in suffering and 
death; even in the suffering and death of 
Auschwitz (Experiences of God, Philadel- 
phia: Fortress, 1980, 7-17). ‘Nothing is 
shut off from God’ (ibid., 16; cf. The 
Crucified God, London: SCM, 1974). 

Pannenberg relates the concept of 
God’s omnipresence to that of God’s 
OMNISCIENCE and to God’s enabling 
power, love and salvation. ‘Those who 
would flee from the presence of God have 

omniscience of God 


nowhere to hide. The creature of God has 
no real reason to flee from him (Ps. 
139:13-16) ... [God’s] remembrance of 
them is a comfort to the righteous’ 
(Systematic Theology, vol. 1, Edinburgh: 
T & T Clark, 1990, 379). 

All the same, there are two persistent 
philosophical problems about the concept 
of divine omnipresence. The first arises in 
relation to the theist’s claim that God is a 
person. Even if we call attention to the 
analogical use of ‘person’ by asserting that 
God is ‘personal’, but not ‘a person’, does 
this fully address the problem of how a 
personal agent can be omnipresent? Sec- 
ond, Aquinas addresses the objection: 
‘One cannot be both in everything and 
above everything’ (Summa Theologiae, Ia, 
Qu. 8, art. 1). 

Aquinas responds to both problems by 
asserting that God’s existence or presence 
‘n everything’ (in omnibus) denotes not 
being part of a universal substance or 
accident (pars essentiae vel sicut accidens), 
but as ‘as an agent is present to that in 
which its action is taking place’. ‘God is 
active in everything’ (Deus operantur in 
omnibus) (ibid.). 

To be present ‘everywhere’, Aquinas 
continues, is not to be understood as 
‘dimensional’ space, but as universal 
activity and agency. Omnipresence relates 
to the unlimited scope of God’s ‘operative 
power’ (ibid., art. 3). Although objections 
have been brought against the medieval 
formulations of Aquinas, SWINBURNE 
defends their broad thrust in outline 
against some of these criticisms (The 
Coherence of Theism, Oxford: Clarendon 
1977, 1986, 97-125). 

A philosophical discussion of ‘attri- 
butes’ remains valuable, but the concept 
of omnipresence permits its logical gram- 
mar and currency to emerge most clearly 
in the kinds of contexts identified by 
Moltmann and Pannenberg. The concept 
plays an active role in the traditions of 
Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In Hin- 
duism, depending on what sub-tradition 
we are exploring, it may move sometimes 

toward a qualified pantheism. (See also 

omniscience of God 

Philosophically this concept abounds in 
complexities and difficulties. Yet most 
major theistic sacred writings and tradi- 
tions ascribe a quality broadly of ‘know- 
ing all things’ to Gop. Psalm 139, 
common to Jewish and Christian tradi- 
tion, embodies within its detailed ascrip- 
tion of OMNIPRESENCE to God the words: 
‘Thou knowest when I sit down and when 
I rise up’; no one can hide from divine 
awareness (verses 2 and 13-16). 

The Qur’an in Islamic tradition 
exclaims: ‘Peace be to Allah, to whom 
belongs all that the earth contains ... He is 
the Wise One, the All-Knowing. He has 
knowledge of all that goes into the earth 
and ... all that comes down from heaven’ 
(Surah. 34). In the New Testament ‘God 
... searches the heart’, which is the seat of 
pre-conscious desires (Rom. 8:27). 


One major problem arises from the 
necessary difference of kind and degree 
between ‘knowledge’ as ascribed to God 
and human knowledge. ‘Our experience of 
awareness and knowledge ... can give us 
only a feeble hint of what is meant when 
we speak of God’s knowledge’ (Pannen- 
berg, Systematic Theology, Edinburgh: T 
& T Clark, vol. 1, 1990, 380). This is 
difficult enough; but to speak of knowl- 
edge of ‘everything’ is totally beyond 
ANALOGY with human experience. 
Perhaps the only hint of a human 
experience that resonates with the concept 
is that of a retrospective view of ‘the whole’ 
which has been explored in different ways 
by Wilhem Dilthey (1833-1911), HEGEL 
(1770-1831) and PANNENBERG (b. 1928). 
Dilthey argued that only at the end of life, 
when an individual can look back, can a 
fuller ‘understanding’ (Verstehen) emerge 


omniscience of God 

of what at the time is more fragmentary. 
Pannenberg appeals to the eschatological 
content of the RESURRECTION event of Jesus 
Christ as strictly an ‘end event’ in order to 
propose a provisional understanding of the 
‘wholeness’ of a ‘universal history’ which is 
yet in process. 

A second problem arises from whether 
‘knowledge’ necessarily affects the agent 
or one who knows. However, if the 
created order ‘contributes’ to divine 
experience, how does this cohere with 
the ‘prior’ asErty of God, or with what 
has been termed divine IMMUTABILITY? 

A third difficulty has preoccupied 
philosophers and theologians over the 
centuries, especially since AUGUSTINE 
(354-430) and Borrutus (c. 480-525/6). 
Does the notion that God knows the 
future, as well as the past and the present, 
necessarily yield a determinist view of 
both human decision and even the divine 
will? Augustine, Boethius, Thomas Aqut- 
nas (1225-74), and more recently PLAN- 
TINGA, J. L. Mackie and SwInBuRNE (b. 
1934) debate this issue as one of major 

Within this debate several different 
components are involved. For example, 
can knowledge of the future be said to be 
knowledge as such, if the future does not 
yet exist and remains subject to retro- 
spective or present knowledge only at a 
later point in time? Does the necessary 
truth of propositions concerning the future 
on the part of an omniscient Being 
presuppose or entail that consequent pre- 
dictability must exclude the freedom of 
human agents to generate this future? If 
the world order is ‘in time’, but God 
creates the temporality that is the condi- 
tion for time, can we disengage divine 
prescience from God’s knowledge of the 
whole as the vantage-point of eternity? 
These issues invite consideration here. 


Boethius acknowledges that he has 
become initially ‘confused’ because it 

seems difficult both to assert ‘God fore- 
knows all things’ and at the same time to 
assert ‘there is FREE WILL’. God’s fore- 
knowledge cannot allow a flexibility 
which might permit the possibility of 
‘mistaken’ foreknowledge, for this would 
not be foreknowledge. Yet, if this is so, 
‘there is no freedom ... The divine mind, 
foreseeing without error, binds ... to actual 
occurrence’ (On the Consolation of Phi- 
losophy, sect. 3). 

On further reflection, however, ‘Wis- 
dom’ (or ‘Lady Philosophy’) provides a 
counter-reply. ‘Foreknowledge is not the 
cause of any necessity for future events’ 
(ibid., sect. 4, my italics). The free 
decisions of agents will these occurrences. 
The reason why there is no conflict arises 
from the different viewpoints of God who 
is eternal, and of human reflection, which 
conceives of a temporal future, which it 
seeks to impose on the God who is 
unconditioned by time. 

The traditional ‘solution’ runs as fol- 
lows: in eternity, or in the eternal realm, 
God’s knowledge surveys the whole of 
created reality in a simultaneous vision of 
what in time would constitute ‘past’, 
‘present’ and ‘future’ modes of occurrence. 
Hence Boethius suggests that ‘foreknow- 
ledge’ (praeventia) might better be called 
‘providence’ (proventia). Thus within the 
CONTINGENT, temporal world order, willed 
actions and events are willed freely. How- 
ever, the very same act or event ‘when it is 
related to divine knowledge is necessary’ 
(ibid., sect. 6). In summary, neither God 
nor God’s knowledge exists in time. 

If the factor of temporal succession is 
removed, it would not occur to us to 
argue, ‘If I know that this paperweight is a 
gift from my colleague, my colleague’s gift 
was not fully given but was determined by 
necessity.” However, if God created time as 
well as space along with the whole created 
order, how can it be valid to apply to God 
a logic in which ‘God knows x’ at Time, 
or at Time2? Omniscience, therefore, does 
not exclude the contingency of events, nor 
freedom of will. 

omniscience of God 


The approach of Boethius finds echoes 
in ANSELM, in Thomas Aquinas, and in 
LEIBNIZ. Currently it retains resonances 
also in the writings of Paul Helm and 
Eleonore Stump, although Helm is more 
cautious about ‘simultaneousness’ than 
Stump (Helm, Eternal God, Oxford: 
Clarendon, 1988, 23-40; cf. 109-70). 

Thomas Aquinas begins a broader 
discussion of God’s knowledge with the 
assertion that ‘God has knowledge (scien- 
tia)’, and has it ‘in the perfect way’ (in Deo 
perfectissime est scientia: Summa Theolo- 
giae, Ia, Qu. 14, art. 1). Paul exclaims, ‘O 
the depth of the riches of the wisdom and 
knowledge of God’ (Rom. 11:33). 

On the more specific question of free, 
contingent events, Aquinas also argues 
that what God knows in eternity is known 
not in temporal terms as past, or future, 
but in terms of the wholeness of eternity. 
He distinguishes two different senses of 
‘NECESSARY’. One is applied to proposi- 
tions; the other, to ‘things’ (de re vel de 
dicto). “The statement, “A thing known by 
God is” is necessary’. On the other hand 
we may apply the word to a thing: this 
might suggest that whatever God knows is 
a necessary thing. Only this second appli- 
cation would entail the view that there is 
no free will (ibid., art. 13). 


Swinburne and Keith Ward do not accept 
that ‘knowledge of the future’ necessitates 
this disjunction between time and eternity. 
Both writers argue that ‘knowing every- 
thing’ is no more an absolutist, unqualified 
concept than ‘power to do anything’ turns 
out to be in a parallel study of OMNIPO- 
TENCE. Under the entry on omnipotence it 
becomes clear that it gains nothing for the 
concept to include within it the supposed 
capacity to perform self-contradictory acts. 
In Swinburne’s words, omnipotence 
denotes ‘not ... the ability to do anything, 
but (roughly) ... the ability to do anything 
logically possible’ (The Coherence of The- 
ism, Oxford: Clarendon, 1977, 1986, 175). 

Swinburne develops an account of 
omniscience ‘along similar lines, not as 
knowledge of everything true but (very 
roughly) as knowledge of everything true 
which it is logically possible to know’ 
(ibid.). In practice, this includes all those 
future events that are predictable by exact 
physical or causal necessity or by divine 
decree or promise, but not those events 
concerning which God chooses to permit 
created agents to make free choices of will. 

Even God, Swinburne urges, may will 
to preserve room to make free choices of 
God’s own; and in this case ‘which free 
choices he will make and what will result’ 
will lie outside the limits of divine 
omniscience (ibid., 176). Thus in the 
example of Abraham’s intercession for 
Sodom (Gen. 18) or the intercession of 
Moses for Israel (Ex. 32) God chooses to 
leave room for God’s own changes of plan. 
Similarly, ‘God often makes, as well as 
absolute promises ... conditional pro- 
mises ... Yet there would be no need for a 
conditional promise if God already knew 
how men would act’ (ibid., 1). 

Keith Ward makes a parallel distinc- 
tion. ‘An omniscient being, if it is tem- 
poral, can know for certain whatever in 
the future it determines ... but not 
absolutely everything. If this is a limit on 
omniscience, it is logically unavailable for 
any temporal being’ (Rational Theology 
and the Creativity of God, Oxford: 
Clarendon, 1982, 131). 

Paul Helm takes the very different view 
that ‘only timeless eternity prevents the 
degeneracy of divine omniscience and 
divine immutability into the idea of a 
God who changes with the changing 
world and who is surprised by what he 
discovered ... Divine timeless eternity 
does not commit one to logical determin- 
ism’ (Eternal God, 142). It is clear that the 
scope and logical grammar of omniscience 
is bound up closely with the logical 
relation between CREATION, TIME and 
ETERNITY and our understanding of them. 

Plantinga provides a critique of Nelson 
Pike’s view that divine foreknowledge 


omniscience of God 

would eliminate freedom by applying a 
MODAL LOGIC of ‘possible worlds’, as he 
does in addressing the problem of EvIL 
(God, Freedom and Evil, New York: 
Harper, 1974, 66-72). He begins by 
distinguishing different applications of 
‘necessary’, and expounds the notion of 
‘essentially omniscient’. The issue turns 
not on what God knows, but on God‘s 
knowing ‘true propositions’ from the 
vantage-point of ‘possible’ worlds. 


Luis de Molina (1535-1600), a scHOLAS- 
TIC Spanish Jesuit philosopher, attempted 
to hold together predestination or DETER- 
MINISM and a compatible freedom of the 
will through a concept of ‘middle knowl- 
edge’ (scientia media). Molina postulated 
that divine omniscience included within its 
scope knowledge of how contingent cre- 
ated beings would respond under different 
circumstances. God knows what human 
persons will freely choose to do. If God 
knows how a person would freely act 
through God’s ‘middle knowledge’, God 
may create such a person with a range of 
choices or options in place, and yet also 
have knowledge of future events that 
would (both necessarily and conditionally) 

How far this takes us is doubtful, and 
only a minority of thinkers appear to 
endorse or to develop this approach. 
However, without its scholastic frame- 
work, it looks back to Augustine’s view 
that God knows how human persons will 
freely choose. Augustine asks: ‘Why do 
you think our free will is opposed to God’s 
foreknowledge? ... If you knew in 
advance that such and such a man would 
sin, there would be no necessity for him to 
sin’ (On Free Will, Il: 4: 10). 

Augustine argues that it is not specifi- 
cally divine foreknowledge that suppo- 
sedly raises the problem, but whether 
sheer ‘predictability’ (on the assumption 
that it is accurate and certain) imposes a 
deterministic view of the human will. 

In the modern debate this issue is 
explored further under the entry on the 
FREE-WILL DEFENCE. J. L. Mackie and 
Antony Flew insist that God could have 
created beings who would always freely 
choose to do the right. However, what 
kind of predictability would this be? It has 
been suggested that if a group of friends 
predicted with certainty that Mary would 
marry John, and in fact they became 
married, this would in no way imply any 
lack of freedom in this mutual decision. 
However, this case suggests only that 
freedom is sometimes or often compatible 
with predictability. 

Mackie and Flew demand a narrower 
definition of freedom which applies only 
to choices that can always be predicted. 
Mackie is willing to shift his ground, but 
as John Hick urges, his modified argu- 
ments do not fully address what a human 
nature would entail that is capable of 
resisting temptation and affirming good- 
nes. (Hick, Evil and the God of Love, 2nd 
edn, London: Macmillan, 1977, 268-1). 


In comparison with exploring the logic 
of omnipotence, the concept of omnis- 
cience seems to yield more problems 
than constructive insights and reformu- 
lations. Even if we remain unconvinced 
by his conclusions, Norman Pike’s reser- 
vations about arguments of the form ‘If 
it is true that God knows at Time, ...’ 
may be justified. On the other hand, a 
God who is locked into the ‘timeless’ 
realm ‘above’ or beyond created time 
may seem closer to PLATO than to the 
dynamic, purposive, active God of the 
Hebrew scriptures and Christian Old 
Testament, even if Helm addresses some 
of these issues. 

In classical THEISM, especially among 
many Catholic philosophical theologians, 
the traditional uses of the term (with 
varied nuances from Augustine, Boethius 
and Aquinas) retain widespread currency. 
This is not least because they cohere with 

ontic enquiry 


the concept of God as ‘perfect’, impassible 
and immutable. 

In modern Protestant circles, however, 
many questions have been raised about 
‘impassibility’ and ‘immutability’, for 
example by MOLTMANN among others. 
HEAD and HarTsHoRNE divine knowledge 
does have an ‘effect’ upon the Being of 
God. In some thinkers three factors lead to 
a near-abandonment of the traditional 
term, or at least the traditional sense of 
the term. Emil Brunner (1889-1966) 
places the concept in the context of 
personal encounter rather than of perfec- 
tion and eternity. Hence he tends to 
reapply the term to denote God’s unfailing 
love, through which God fully under- 
stands the created other. Gustav Aulén 
(1879-1977) defines it as ‘love’s sovereign 
and penetrating eye’. 

The view that since it is not yet actual, 
the future may not necessarily ‘count’ as 
an object of divine knowledge at least 
deserves some consideration. Still more 
central is Swinburne’s modification of the 
scope of the concept on the basis of 
parallels with the exclusion of logical 
contradiction from the notion of omnipo- 
tence. Whether the larger boundaries of 
the concept suggested from Boethius to 
Helm are tenable will depend upon our 
conclusions about the nature of eternity, 
and the relation between God, eternity 
and time. These complex issues demand 
an exploration of a large family of 
concepts, such as eternity, immutability, 
omnipotence, TRANSCENDENCE, creation, 
time, aseity, FREE-WILL DEFENCE; GOD, 

ontic enquiry 

Ontic enquiry is to be distinguished from 
ONTOLOGY or ontological enquiry. While 
ontology concerns reality or ‘Being’ (in 
HEIDEGGER, German, Sein), ontic ques- 
tions concern ‘existents’ or ‘entities’ (in 
Heidegger, das Seiende). This distinction is 
observed in the tradition of German 

EXISTENTIALISM and Heidegger (1889- 

On the other hand Willard van Orman 
Quine (b. 1908) and some other American 
writers speak of ‘ontic theories’ as little 
different from metaphysical systems. The use 
of ‘ontic’ here, however, permits a plurality 
of such systems. (See also METAPHYSICS.) 

ontological argument for the 
existence of God 


The ontological argument begins A PRIORI 
from a concept of God, in contrast to the 
tence of God, which begins with our 
experience of the world and constitutes 
an A POSTERIORI argument. This contrast 
is explained in this context under Gop, 
more broadly in the entries on A PRIORI 


Many theologians point out that in the 
first formulation of the ontological argu- 
ment by ANSELM (1033-1109) in Proslo- 
gion 2-4 the ‘argument’ emerges as a 
paean of praise that God is who God is, 
rather than strictly as a rational argument. 
BaRTH (1886-1968) insists on this in his 
book on Anselm’s formulation, Fides 
Quaerens Intellectum (1931). 

Faith (fides), in seeking understanding 
(intellectum) of God, perceives the wholly 
Other or transcendent nature of God in 
contrast to the CONTINGENT, creaturely 
and finite status of the world and of all 
objects within it. God alone holds the 
world ‘from the abyss of non-being’. If 
Barth is correct, the ontological argument 
has value not primarily as an ‘argument’, 
but as an expression of a believing 
acknowledgement that the Being of God 
is of a different order from that of the 
contingent world (see TRANSCENDENCE). 

215 ontological argument for the existence of God 


By contrast, many philosophers continue 
to perceive the argument as an intriguing 
exercise in LOGIC, or (in Plantinga’s view) 
especially of MODAL LOGIC (the logic of 
POSSIBILITY). It is perhaps no accident 
that after Anselm those philosophers who 
held a particular interest in pure mathe- 
matics were more inclined than others to 
accord it logical seriousness as an a priori 
argument, notably Descartes (1596- 
1650) and Lerpniz (1646-1716). 

Although Kant (1724-1804) and Rus- 
SELL (1872-1970) advanced devastating 
logical arguments against it, in the twen- 
tieth century HarTSHORNE, MALCOLM 
and Plantinga have defended reformula- 
tions of it. 


Anselm begins Proslogion chapter 2 with 
praise: ‘O Lord, you give understanding 
to faith ... We believe that you are that 
than which nothing greater (nihil maius) 
can be conceived (cogitari possit)’. He 
then alludes to the utterance of ‘the fool 
who says “there is no God” (Ps. 14:1), 
to argue that if he genuinely understands 
who God is, the fool would not utter a 
self-contradictory statement, since if 
God were not to embrace existence, 
God would be ‘less’ than the ‘greatest’ 
or ‘maximal’ Being. For to exist in 
actuality (in re) is ‘greater’ (maius) than 
to exist exclusively in the mind (in 
intellectu), as a mere concept 

The monk Gaunilo replied that such 
reasoning is patently absurd. He could 
readily conceive of an island with all the 
‘greatest’ possible attributes of an island 
(more trees, rivers, mountains, springs, 
sand, grass than any other) without this in 
the least affecting the issue of whether 
such an island actually existed. 

Anselm, however, has a counter-reply. 
At this point praise turns into argument 
also. The concept of ‘greatest’, or (in 

Plantinga’s more helpful translation) 
‘maximally great’, does not make sense if 
it is applied to such contingent objects as 
islands: size, number of trees, lengths and 
numbers of rivers are not entities to which 
it is intelligible to apply ‘maximal great- 

It is precisely because ‘maximal great- 
ness’ applies uniquely to God as non- 
contingent, omniscient, almighty and per- 
fect in wisdom, goodness and love that the 
transparent force of the argument 
emerges. Hence Anselm seeks to show 
the irrelevance of Gaunilo’s reply. Some 
additional paragraphs to Proslogion 4 
declare that anything in principle may be 
‘conceived not to be’ except God, whose 
order of Being is unique. Anselm replies 
explicitly to Gaunilo in his Liber Apol- 
ogeticus pro Insipiente. However, is this 
argument convincing or circular? 


The attitude of Thomas Aquinas (1225- 
74) is controversial. In Summa Theolo- 
giae (Ia, Qu. 2) he seems to argue that 
God’s existence can only be inferred from 
effects that God brings about (Rom. 
1:20). Hick, Plantinga and most modern 
philosophers see Aquinas as rejecting the 
ontological argument. On the other 
hand, a minority see the argument as 
implicit in Aquinas’s fourth way, from 
degrees of Being (see Five Ways of 
Aquinas, and E. J. Butterworth, The 
Identity of Anselm’s Proslogion Argu- 
ment for the Existence of God with the 
Via Quarta of Thomas Aquinas, Lamp- 
eter: Mellen, 1990). 


Descartes, not least in view of his interest 
in pure mathematics, was concerned with 
‘certainty’ and ‘certain’ knowledge. In his 
Meditations V he states that it is ‘certain’ 
that ‘I find no less the idea of God ... the 
idea of a supremely perfect Being in me 
than that of any figure or number ... 

ontological argument for the existence of God 216 

Eternal existence pertains to this nature.’ 
He continues: ‘I clearly see that existence 
can no more be separated from the essence 
of God’ than can a triangle have three 
angles other than together being equal to 
two right angles. Similarly, ‘mountain’ 
carries with it logically and conceptually 
the idea of ‘valley’. 

Critics of the logic of the ontological 
argument believe that in his effort to 
defend the argument Descartes has let 
the cat out of the bag. He is explicitly 
recognizing that the argument is merely an 
ANALYTIC STATEMENT or proposition. It 
belongs to that class of statements the 
truth of which is arrived at merely by 
DEFINITION. These are of the class: ‘all 
bachelors are unmarried’; ‘2 + 2 = 4’; ‘the 
angles of a triangle add up to 180°’; ‘water 
boils at 100° C’. This ‘TRUTH’ is indepen- 
dent of what specific bachelors say, or 
what calculations I make, or how well I 
draw triangles, or what kettle and heater I 

The relation between analytic state- 
ments and PREDICATEs has now been 
brought out into the open. Is ‘existence’ 
a predicate of that to which analytical a 
PRIORI truth has been ascribed? Are 
‘unmarried’ and ‘exist’ the same kind of 
predicate to ascribe to bachelors? 

If we define an orange analytically, do 
the statements ‘it is coloured orange’ and 
‘it is sticky’ lead on along the same 
analytical level to ‘it exists’? The argument 
backfires, as Kant perceived, by demon- 
strating that it addresses not ‘existence’, 
but the logic of CoNcEPTs alone. 


Kant re-examined the traditional logical 
model subject/predicate (as discussed 
under ARISTOTLE); for example, the typi- 
cal logical form: ‘The grass’ (subject) .. .‘is 
green’ (predicate). He then argued that the 
ontological argument could hold only if 
‘existence’ is regarded as a predicate, or a 
property or attribute to be ascribed to God 
or other entities alongside such properties 

or qualities as ‘is wise’, ‘is good’, ‘is 
loving’ (or in the case of objects, ‘is green’, 
‘is white’, ‘is heavy’). We simply do not 
say: ‘Look! This hammer is heavy and it 

Kant insists: ‘Being is evidently not a 
real predicate ... that can be added to the 
concept of a thing.’A hundred dollars that 
exist are not ‘greater’ than a hundred that 
might or might not exist. Hence the denial 
of the existence of God is not logically 
self-contradictory. ‘Existence’ does not 
‘add’ one more quality of the same kind 
to others already listed. 


Russell clinched Kant’s argument that 
‘existence’ is not a predicate by arguing 
that existence is best thought of in terms 
providing instances, i.e. as INSTANTIA- 
TION. A triangle adds up to 180°, and it 
is instantiated ‘there’ on the blackboard. 
The ontological argument raises the logi- 
cal question: is the concept of the ‘great- 
est’ Being instantiated or not? 

This insight is linked with Russell’s 
work on the logical form that ‘brackets’ 
instantiation or existence, usually 
expressed in the form: ‘For all x, x is y.’ 
Such a complex rewriting of a logical form 
permits us to ascribe meaning to a 
proposition which may be true-or-false 
without smuggling in the presupposition 
of its truth. The often-repeated example in 
logic is: ‘the present King of France is ...’. 
Instantiation is often expressed by logi- 
cians through the logical notation known 
as the use of a QUANTIFIER. 


In the 1950s J. N. Findlay attempted an 
ingenious logical argument that turned the 
traditional argument on its head. His 
argument has three stages: (1) the ontolo- 
gical argument portrays God as One 
whose non-existence is unthinkable, i.e. 
as a logically necessary Being. However, 
(2) what is logically necessary is true 



merely by analytical definition, and cannot 
be said to exist or not to exist contingently 
(i.e. it does not ‘make a difference’ outside 
the realm of conceptual logic). Hence, (3) 
to claim that ‘God exists’ (other than as a 
concept) is self-contradictory. 

A. G. A. Rainer, among others, claims, 
however, that Findlay confuses the ‘neces- 
sity’ of God with the ‘necessity’ of what 
we assert about God. What is logically 
necessary applies to assertions, not to the 
Being of God. The very same confusion 
that besets many formulations of the 
ontological argument, he concludes, lead 
to the failure of the attempt to turn it into 
a disproof of the existence of God. 


Hartshorne sets out a detailed argument in 
which he deploys modal logic in defence 
of the ontological argument. In effect he 
argues that while Kant and Russell may 
counter Anselm’s first formulation, their 
work on predication (or instantiation) still 
leaves Anselm’s second formulation intact. 

Hartshorne argues that, first, God’s 
necessary existence is so undeniably self- 
evident that to deny it constitutes a self- 
contradiction. Second, it is necessarily not 
true that ‘God exists necessarily’ strictly 
implies that God does not exist. Hence, 
third, either: ‘God exists necessarily’; or: 
‘it is necessary that God does not exist’. 
But ‘God does not exist’? cannot be a 
necessary proposition. 

Hartshorne also provides a further 
modal argument. If God is the absolute 
maximum, God will be the absolute 
maximum in each time. This entails a 
PANENTHEISM, in which God’s almighti- 
ness and perfection embrace the whole 
world, including both necessary Being and 
contingent existence. 

For a fuller discussion see the entry on 
Hartshorne. His logical analysis in the 
context of dynamic PROCESS PHILOSPHY is 
valuable in restoring a possible relation 
between the ontological argument, divine 

action and history. Yet critics will continue 
to urge that it contains elements of 
circularity. His arguments can be found 
in The Logic of Perfection (La Salle: Open 
Court, 1962). 

Malcolm and Plantinga also subject the 
negative evaluations to rigorous logical 
scrutiny. It is inconceivable that ‘God’ 
might not have existed, or ‘God’ would be 
less than God. Hence if God does not 
exist, this denial must be a necessary 
proposition. However, it cannot be shown 
that the denial of God’s existence is 
logically necessary. We face the dilemma: 
either logically necessary’ or (exclusive 
alternative) the denial of the logically 
necessary. This may be expressed in logical 
notation: Nq V ~ Nq). This formulation 
appears to exclude such denial (see the 
entries on logic and modal logic). 

Plantinga extends the modal logic of 
Hartshorne and of Malcolm to argue that 
‘maximal greatness’ is not just ‘possibly’ 
instantiated, but instatiated or exemplified 
in actuality. For it is not the case that to 
ascribe omnipotence, omniscience and 
perfect goodness to God is no more than 
a logically necessary proposition. Logical 
necessity does not exhaust the multiform 
sense in which we may speak of God as a 
‘NECESSARY’ Being (Plantinga, The Nature 
of Necessity, Oxford: Clarendon, 1974). 

The debate about the logical status of 
the ontological argument continues. 
Although many dismiss it as merely 
confusing the concept of God with the 
existence of God, it would be over-hasty to 
set aside either the conceptual significance 
identified by Barth, or the logical complex- 
ities that continue to occupy the applica- 
tion of modal logic (the logic of 
‘possibility’) on the part of such rigorous 
logicians as Hartshorne, Malcolm and 


Ontology denotes the study of being, or of 
what-is (from Greek, ta onta, the articular 
neuter plural participle, the things that 

ordinary language 


actually exist, the things that are). As such 
it features alongside EPISTEMOLOGY, 
ETHICS and Loic as part of the core of 
traditional philosophy. As a technical 
philosophical term, the word seems to 
have originated during the seventeenth 
century. It is used by LerBniz (1646- 
1716) and by Christian Wolff (1679- 

Initially the term was used interchange- 
ably with mMetTapHysics, while some 
regarded ontology as a subdivision within 
metaphysics. Strictly, the latter is more 
accurate, since metaphysics may include 
questions of epistemology, but the two 
terms are now often used synonymously. 

In the modern era HEIDEGGER (1889- 
1976) chastised the Western philosophical 
tradition for having ‘long fallen out of 
Being (Sein) (An Introduction to Meta- 
physics, New Haven: Yale, 1959, 37). He 
sought to address the question, ‘How does 
it stand with Being’ (Wie steht es um das 
Sein? ibid., 32). In different words, ‘Why 
are these entities (Seienden) rather than 
nothing?’ (ibid., 1, 2, 12, 22). This is ‘the 
most fundamental of questions’ (ibid., 6). 

Yet Heidegger himself, in effect, gives 
up the attempt, and attributes blame for 
our inability to answer these questions to 
PLATO’s DUALISM of appearance and 
reality. He concedes that genuine ontology 
emerged in pre-Socratic philosophy (e.g. in 
Parmenides), and today, it occurs if at all 
in poets, art, and in Eastern non-dualist 

Heidegger is too sweeping. Duns Sco- 
Tus (c. 1266-1308) believed that the task 
of intellectual enquiry was to examine 
Being (realitas), even if not in Heidegger’s 
unusual sense of the term. WILLIAM OF 
OCKHAM (c. 1287-1349) based his 
SEMANTICS on substances and qualities. 
Leibniz explored the ‘sufficient reason’ for 
everything in the world; a world consti- 
tuted by ‘monads’, namely irreducible 
ontological units which make up reality. 

In his early period Kant addressed 
ontology as including the difference 
between spiritual and material beings. 

HEGEL (1770-1831) formulates an entire 
system of an ontology of the ABSOLUTE as 
this unfolds in history and in logic. 
ISM and THEISM are all ontologies. (See 

ordinary language 


ostensive definition 

It is often assumed that people learn 
language by pointing to the object to 
which a word refers, and uttering the 
sound used to denote it. This is the method 
of ostensive definition: a person points to 
an object and utters the sound that 
denotes it in a language. The reason for 
the plausibility of this account is, first, that 
it may seem to work with everyday 
physical or natural objects (‘this is bread’; 
‘this is a tree’); second, it is widely used in 
teaching a second language to someone 
who already grasps how language is to be 

WITTGENSTEIN argues that this method 
can work within strictly limited confines. 
A builder may point to slabs, pillars, 
blocks, or beams, and call out their names 
(Philosophical Investigations, Oxford: 
Blackwell, 1967, sects. 2-6). However, 
this model in which ‘naming something is 
like attaching a label to a thing’ (ibid., 
sect. 15) falls down for wider and more 
complex (indeed many) examples. 

If I point to two apples, and say ‘two 
apples’, how do I point to ‘two’, and what 
is to stop someone understanding ‘two’ as 
a name for this group to which I point? 
‘Ostensive definition can be variously 
interpreted in every case’ (ibid., sect. 28). 
This method presupposes an understand- 
ing of how language operates. ‘Point to a 
piece of paper. - And now point to its 
shape — now to its number (that sounds 
queer). How did you do it?’ (ibid., sect. 
33). It is like pointing to a chess-piece, as if 
the physical properties were what defined 


Oxford philosophy 

it, rather than how it moves in accordance 
with rules (ibid., sects. 30-50). 

In philosophy of religion this suggests 
that a failure to identify ‘God’ or other 
religious realities in this way is entirely 
unsurprising, and no indicator of their 
lack of intelligibility or truth. Ostensive 
definition performs a severely limited role 
whether in ordinary or in religious uses of 
language. Like the referential theory of 
meaning, its application is valid only 
within limits. 

Otto, Rudolf (1869-1937) 

Otto’s most widely known work is Das 
Heilige (Ger., 1917; 25th edn, 1936; Eng., 
The Idea of the Holy, Oxford: OUP, 
1923). The central theme of this book is 
an exploration of the NumMINoUs - the 
feeling of awe and wonder that takes hold 
of a worshipper before God or before the 
sacred. Otto was influenced by Kant and 
by Neo-Kantian philosophy, and wrote 
extensively on the philosophy of religion. 

One component of the experience of 
the numinous lay in ‘fear of God’ or ‘godly 
fear’ in a sense that surpasses a bare 
psychological fear of objects. In ‘primitive’ 
religions, into which Otto also undertook 
research, the numinous may be perceived 
as that which causes the worshipper to 
tremble or to stand aghast. In ‘higher’ 
religions this may take the form of mystic 
awe, which may invite some such religious 
or liturgical response as prostration before 

The Hebrew scriptures, or Christian 
Old Testament, reflect this in Isaiah’s 
vision of Isaiah 6:1-5: ‘I saw the Lord 
... High and lofty ... Seraphs were in 
attendance ... and said, “Holy, holy, holy, 
is the Lord of hosts ...” The pivots of the 
thresholds shook ... I said, “Woe is me! I 
am lost ... My eyes have seen the King, 
the Lord of hosts.”’ Similarly, the book of 
Exodus portrays God as a consuming fire. 

While chapters 4-5 of The Idea of the 
Holy expound this theme of fearsome awe 
at the presence of ‘the Other’, chapter 6 

expresses the complementary principle of 
being drawn by holy love. The mystery of 
the numinous or holy embraces both 
mysterium tremendum, the ‘Beyond’ who 
invites reverential fear, and mysterium 
fascinosum, the fascination or enchant- 
ment of a holy love beyond compare. 

Otto describes the wholeness of this 
dual experience as ‘a strange harmony of 
contrasts’ that reaches far beyond merely 
rational explanation. The numinous can- 
not be explained exhaustively in rational 
or ethical terms. Religion cannot be 
reduced to the level of a mere BELIEF- 
system or system of ETHICS or values. 
Divine holiness is not simply ‘moral’ 
holiness, but also ‘majesty’ holiness. 

In Pauline language, ‘What no eye has 
seen nor ear heard nor the human heart 
conceived ... God has prepared for those 
who love him’ (1 Cor. 2:9). With Kant and 
TILLICH, Otto saw experience of ‘the holy’ 
and ‘the Beyond’ as transcending human 
concepts in a sense of wonder. (See also 

Oxford philosophy 

The term is seldom used today, except to 
denote a particular period in the history of 
philosophy at Oxford, namely from 
around the late 1930s to about 1960. 
Especially in the 1950s it denoted a style 
and method of philosophy largely but not 
exclusively associated with RyLe (1900- 
76) and several of his Oxford colleagues. 
In his autobiographical essay Ryle recalls 
that in that period his ‘chief ... interest in 
linguistic matters focussed on such dic- 
tions as were (or... were not) in breach of 
“logical syntax”.’ He explored especially 
‘the trouble-makers and the paradox-gen- 
erators’ (‘Autobiographical’, in O.P. Wood 
and G. Pitcher, eds, Ryle, London: Mac- 
millan, 1970, 14). 

Some used the term approvingly to 
denote that area of thought which asks the 
most rigorous and searching questions 

Oxford philosophy 


about ‘logical grammar’ (ibid., 7). Others 
used the term more pejoratively, to denote 
a kind of philosophy that seemed always 
to be ‘tuning up’ rather than playing the 
tune. Although Ryle’s approach was dif- 
ferent from that of AusTIn (1911-60), 
Austin’s careful linguistic analysis also 

dominated Oxford philosophy up to 
1960, and probably also comes under this 
term. A turning-point was reached in the 
broader concerns of SrRAWSON (b. 1919), 
who used the term ‘descriptive METAPHY- 
sics’ of some of his own work. (See also 

Paley, William (1743-1805) 

Paley was educated, and taught, at Cam- 
bridge, and then served in the Church of 
England ministry, becoming Archdeacon 
of Carlisle. His published works include 
The Principles of Moral and Political 
Knowledge (1785); Evidences of Chris- 
tianity (1794); and Natural Theology 

Apart from his work in ETHICS and 
moral philosophy, Paley’s contributions to 
philosophy of religion left their mark in 
two main areas. First, he was a major 
advocate of NATURAL THEOLOGY. He hada 
high regard for the capacity of human 
reason to draw theistic inferences A 
POSTERIORI from the natural world. 
Nevertheless, he also believed in the 
necessity of REVELATION in the scriptures 
for a grasp of specific doctrines of the 
Christian faith. 

Second, Paley’s name is closely asso- 
for the existence of God. He coined the 
well-known analogy of finding a watch 
during a walk on heathland. Even if it 
were broken or damaged, the watch 
would provide evidence of design. Its 
machinery would point to the originating 
agency of a designer. 

Problems in Paley’s work were in part 
anticipated by Hume (1711-76), but it 

was the implications of the theory of 
EVOLUTION through chance and random 
change formulated by Darwin (1809-82) 
that blunted Paley’s argument. Reformula- 
tions of the argument that address evolu- 
tionary theory have been offered by 
TENNANT and SWINBURNE, among others. 


The term stands in contrast with PANTHE- 
1sM. If pantheism identifies God with the 
whole of reality, panentheism denotes the 
belief that the reality of the world and the 
whole created order does not exhaust the 
reality of God without remainder. Yet it 
also holds in common with pantheism that 
God’s presence and active agency perme- 
ates the world, actively sustaining it in 
every part. It expresses the OMNIPRESENCE 
of God as immanent in the world. 
Panentheism is still more sharply to be 
distinguished from DEISM, which tends to 
exaggerate a one-sided emphasis on divine 
TRANSCENDENCE in such a way as to make 
God remote from the world and from 
daily life. Panentheism stresses first and 
foremost divine IMMANENCE, but without 
excluding divine transcendence. 
HARTSHORNE explicitly insisted that 
God is an eternal, world-inclusive and 
conscious Being, but also holds to 

Pannenberg, Wolfhart 


panentheism, stressing that ‘God is in all’ 
(Greek, pan+en+theos), while excluding 
all notions of any identity between God 
and the world. He rejected any idea that 
‘God is all’ (pantheism). Following 
WHITEHEAD (1861-1947) he held an 
organic view of the universe, in which 
God is understood in terms of constant 
creativity: ‘God is not before, but with, all 
creation’ (Process and Reality, 1929). 

Whitehead and Hartshorne evolved a 
involved in the world’s ‘becoming’. The 
Stoics tended towards a blend of 
panentheism and pantheism, depending 
on individual schools and writers. The 
Acts of the Apostles ascribes to Paul the 
use of a panentheistic quotation from the 
Stoics (perhaps Epimenides): ‘In him 
[God] we live and move and have our 
being’ (Acts 17:28). 

Pannenberg, Wolfhart (b. 1928) 

Pannenberg is one of the most eminent 
Christian theologians of the late twentieth 
century. Of his numerous publications his 
three-volume Systematic Theology 
(Germ., 1988, 1991, 1993; Eng., Edin- 
burgh: T & T Clark, 1991, 1994, 1998) 
constitutes a magisterial climax. He has 
written on almost every aspect of theol- 
ogy, including theological method, with 
rigour and precision. 

Pannenberg’s broadest impact on the 
philosophy of religion has been twofold. 
First, he vindicates the role of REASON and 
rationality, in theology and religion with- 
out dispensing with the equal necessity for 
REVELATION. Second, he approaches the 
issues of meaning in terms of the widest 
possible horizons of history. 

On faith and reason Pannenberg 
declares, ‘An otherwise unconvincing mes- 
sage cannot attain the power to convince 
simply by appealing to the Holy Spirit ... 
Argumentation and the operation of the 
Spirit are not in competition with each 
other. In trusting the Spirit, Paul [the 

Apostle] in no way spared himself think- 
ing and enquiry’ (Basic Questions in 
Theology, London: SCM, vol. 2, 1971, 

On meaning, Pannenberg argues that a 
retrospective ‘looking back’ often commu- 
nicates more than our attempts to under- 
stand the meanings of events and 
utterances while we are in the process of 
living through them. Hence he is sympa- 
thetic with the work of HEGEL on history 
as a universal horizon of wholeness (Basic 
Questions, vol. 3, 1973, 201). In theolo- 
gical terms this invites special emphasis on 
the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ as an 
aspect of the ‘End’ provisionally breaking 
into history. 

This short entry cannot do justice to 
the power, coherence and complexity of 
Pannenberg’s theology, but simply aims to 
identify two of the points at which its 
relevance to the philosophy of religion is 
most far-reaching. Pannenberg also pub- 
lished Theology and the Philosophy of 
Science (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976) 
and Metaphysics and the Idea of God 
(Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1990). 


The term embraces a variety of different 
views bound together by a common belief 
that God and all that exists are identical. 
Crudely, word history suggests that short- 
hand: ‘God is all’ (Greek, pan, all; theos, 
God). However, this does not entail the 
belief that each individual part of the 
universe (or of nature) is ‘God’. Rather, 
‘God’ is the full totality of all existent 

Pantheism may be said to stand in some 
kind of contrast to each of the following 
six terms. It stands in contrast to ATHEISM 
(although some dispute this: see SPINOZA); 
to POLYTHEISM (the belief that there are 
many gods); to DEISM (the view that God 
created the world but does not intervene in 
it, and is not immanent within it); to 
THEISM and to monotheism (the belief in 
one God, who is distinct from the created 



world, both transcendent beyond it and 
immanent within it). 

The finest distinction, but an essential 
one, is between pantheism and PANENTHE- 
ISM, the belief that God is im (Greek, en) 
all created things. The analogy has been 
suggested of a saturated sponge: liquid 
might permeate the whole sponge, but is 
not to be identified with the sponge. 
Different writers among the ancient 
Sroics ranged on a spectrum between 
pantheism and panentheism. 

The most fundamental distinction 
within pantheistic thought is that between 
religious pantheism, which stresses such 
an intense awareness of divine presence 
that it places too much emphasis upon 
divine immanence at the expense of divine 
transcendence, and philosophical panthe- 
ism, which arises out of MONISM, i.e. the 
philosophical world-view that everything 
is a unity; that all is One. 


Whether Parmenides of Elea (fl. 510-492 
BCE) should be characterized as a panthe- 
ist or as a monist is open to debate. He 
argued for the unity of all things, espe- 
cially for the unity of being and thought. 
The material and CONTINGENT is mere 
appearance behind which thought is con- 
stant and invariable. The ‘paradoxes’ 
identified by his student Zeno of Elea 
(490-30 BcE) were formulated to try to 
defend this position. 

STOIC PHILOSOPHY in the Graeco- 
Roman world included different strands 
of thought, but in general assimilated the 
early Stoic view that the world is ordered 
by its own ‘world-spirit’ or ‘world-soul’ 
which permeates it with the rational and 
the good. By contrast, Paul the Apostle 
dissociates the transcendent (as well as 
immanent) ‘Spirit who comes forth from 
God’ (i.e. from the beyond) (Greek, to 
pneuma to ek tou theou, out from God) 
from ‘the spirit of the world’ (world-spirit) 
(Greek, to pneuma tou kosmou, 1 Cor. 

Some regard NEOPLATONISM as 
pantheistic because everything derives 
from God’s own Being rather than merely 
from God’s agency and action. However, 
the fundamental belief that what proceeds 
from God does so through emanations or 
intermediate degrees of Being also assumes 
a transcendence on the part of God which 
does not cohere with thoroughgoing 

Similarly, while some identify mystical 
PIETISM with religious pantheism, a rever- 
ential and mystical feeling that ‘God is all’ 
tends to reflect an existential attitude 
rather than a metaphysical statement of 
pantheism. In practice, this stands nearer 
to panentheism. 


The classic representative of pantheism in 
the West is Spinoza (1632-77). Although a 
Jewish philosopher, Spinoza was excom- 
municated from the synagogue in 1656 
after being accused of atheism. More 
strictly, he held to a philosophical mon- 
Since God is ‘absolutely infinite being’, 
God is coextensive with the whole of 
reality. Yet it is equally the case that if 
there is only one ‘substance’, this sub- 
stance is the whole of reality. God and 
substance are the same, namely the Whole. 
The respective goals of philosophy and 
religion are therefore the same. 

One of Spinoza’s most notorious max- 
ims was that on this basis we may speak 
either of ‘God’ or of ‘nature’ (Deus, sive 
Natura) without denoting different enti- 
ties or realities. Either term denotes 
infinite reality, which is One. 

This identification invited the charge of 
‘naturalism’ on the basis that Spinoza 
could hardly claim to believe in the 
personal God of theism. Nevertheless, 
Spinoza had been brought up with a 
knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures and 
rabbinic writings, and could claim that he 
took as his starting-point the Jewish belief 
in the unity of God (‘Hear, Israel, the Lord 



is One’) and also in God’s infinity. Indeed, 
he had also been given the designation 
‘God-intoxicated’. Spinoza endorsed two 
principles about God: ‘God necessarily 
exists’ (Latin, Deus necessario existit); and 
‘that God is one’ (Deus esse unicum). 

The formula Deus, sive Natura (either 
‘God’ or ‘Nature’) derived in part from 
Spinoza’s deep concern to resolve the 
DUALISM bequeathed by Descartes, his 
older near-contemporary (1596-1650). If 
substance—God-nature is All, either prin- 
ciple can be formulated as a Whole; not as 
a component of a duality. God is not a 
mind excluded from the realm of sub- 
stance or matter; nor is God an incomplete 
will striving for something ‘more’. 

This, in turn, provides a basis for 
ETHICS. Ethics arises not from seeking to 
accord with God’s ‘desire’, for God is 
complete and without lack. However, 
finite human persons are to aim to 
transcend the limits of the partial; ‘to live 
under the aspect of eternity’, or the Whole. 
It was in part Spinoza’s crusade against the 
constraints of the partial in religions, and 
his defence of secular ‘freedoms’, that 
contributed to his highly controversial 
status as a thinker during his lifetime. 

Without question Spinoza left an 
uneasy balance between belief in an 
impersonal God who is All and a natur- 
alistic monism which leaves no room for a 
personal, characterizable God who may 
act in freedom. On one side, he reflects the 
emphasis on the unity and infinity of God 
found in Judaism; on the other side he 
draws on the confused ONTOLOGY of 
Parmenides and the paradoxes of Zeno, 
and offers an unconvincing resolution of 
the dualism of Descartes. 

Not surprisingly after his death the 
‘Pantheism Controversy’ (Pantheismus- 
streit) erupted concerning whether Spino- 
za’s ‘pantheism’ was a thin disguise for 
atheism or whether it offered a viable 
conception of God. 

In 1785 Friedrich H. Jacobi published 
an attack on Spinoza’s pantheism as 
deterministic and rationalistic monism, 

and accused Lessing of holding to such a 
view. By contrast J.G. Herder (1744-1803) 
and Johann W. Goethe (1749-1832) urged 
that, to the contrary, Spinoza offered an 
anti-mechanistic, organic view of God and 
nature. In Goethe’s words, he acknowl- 
edged ‘the highest reality ... Being is God’. 
He was to be praised as ‘theissimum’, 
thoroughly theist. 

Some view HEGEL (1770-1831) as a 
pantheist, since he identified the ‘All’ as 
Absolute Divine Spirit (Geist) unfolding its 
Being in and through historical and logical 
DIALECTIC. However, in the light of the 
part played by concepts and by differ- 
entiation in Hegel’s philosophy, his thought 
is too complex to suggest more than 
leanings towards a qualified pantheism. 

BRADLEY (1846-1924), the ‘English 
Hegelian’, may more readily be called a 
pantheist. He argues that change and 
differentiation are mere unreal appear- 
ance, and that only the Whole is real 
(Appearance and Reality, 1893). The 
whole is the ABSOLUTE. 

Josiah Royce (1855-1916), the ‘Amer- 
ican Hegelian’, was no more pantheist 
than was Hegel. He did indeed stress the 
reality of the Whole, against the fragmen- 
tary (The Conception of God, 1897). But 
history moves toward a single ‘community 
of interpretation’, not an undifferential 


Whereas in the West, pantheism has never 
obtained a clear foothold because of the 
difficulty of treading a path between 
theism and naturalism, pantheism lies 
deep within the roots of Hindu traditions. 
The early Upanisads (c. 700 Bce) identify 
the divine with inner human consciousness 
or the inner self. In the Advaita (non- 
dualist) Vedanta, brahman is impersonal 
divine being and consciousness. 

Even so, within schools of the Vedanta, 
Dvaita Vedanta conceives of the brabman 
as being characterizable qualities (saguna), 
while Advaita Vedanta sees brahman as 
without such qualities (nirguna). 


performative utterances 

The Indian Hindu philosopher San- 
KARA (788-820) defended the pantheistic 
monism of the Advaita Vedanta against 
the dualism of some Buddhist traditions. 
The self (atman) is undifferentiated con- 
sciousness. Avidyd, illusory perception, is 
not unlike what Bradley terms ‘appear- 
ance’: it is how we perceive individual 
particulars and differentiation, but this 
masks the total reality of undifferentiated 
consciousness, irguna brabma, which is 
the All in reality. 

RAMANUJA (c. 1017-1137) modified 
the teachings of Sankara by a ‘qualified 
monism’ (Visista-advaita). Difference is 
more than appearance or illusion (avidyd). 
Brahman is not to be identified with the 
All, but is its origin and animating centre. 
There are affinities here with the quasi- 
pantheist ‘world-soul’ of Stoic philosophy, 
and the extent of ‘reality’ remains ambiva- 
lent. Bhakti devotional Hinduism derives 
from the Visista-advaita tradition. It has 
been described as both ‘emanationist’ and 
‘relativist’ pantheism or monism. 

Some traditions of Chinese philosophy 
stand in contrast to those of Indian Hindu 
philosophy in stressing an explicitly dual- 
ist world-view. The most striking example 
is the yin-yang tradition of Taoism, in 
which the yin is said to denote the 
feminine, weak or destructive and the 
yang the masculine, strong or construc- 
tive. Some sub-traditions also propose a 
‘rotation of dominance’ between the two 
principles, but this is far from pantheism 
and monism. 

Nāgārjuna (c. 150-200), an Indian 
Mahayana Buddhist, held to the unity 
and non-duality of the Absolute on the 
basis of the relativity of change and 
unreality of matter. (For a fuller account 
of Buddhist thought, however, see under 

ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY normally stresses 
the TRANSCENDENCE of God. However, 
occasionalist views of divine action can 
lend themselves to a relativist, or modified, 
pantheism. Perhaps only the mystical 
tradition of Sufism within Islam can be 

said to lean towards pantheism, with its 
emphasis on the ‘unity of Being’. All 
mystical traditions tend in this direction, 
but most would claim to represent 
panentheism rather than pantheism. (See 

performative utterances 

This term is especially associated with 
AusTIN (1911-60). Although he intro- 
duced the term in 1946 in ‘Other Minds’ 
(in Philosophical Papers, 1961, 44-84), 
Austin’s main exposition of the subject 
occurs in his 1955 lectures later published 
under the title How to Do Things with 
Words (Oxford: OUP, 1962). 

Performatives are distinguished from 
statements, which are ‘true’ or ‘false’. 
Rather, performative utterances enact 
actions either ‘operatively’ and effectively 
or ‘without effect’ as null and void (ibid., 
10-11). Given that ‘I baptize ...’ is a 
performative utterance, we do not speak 
of a baptism as ‘true’ or ‘false’, but as 
‘valid’ (if appropriate) or ‘inoperative’ (if 
it merely ‘went through the motions’). If, 
Austin suggests, the officiating minister 
says, ‘I baptize this infant 2704’ rather 
than ‘I baptize this infant John’, is the 
baptism operative or void (ibid., 35)? 

Austin makes a distinctive point when 
he insists that a conventional procedure 
must normally be assumed. I cannot say 
‘My seconds will call on you ...’ with 
performative effect if duelling is no longer 
an accepted, conventional way of solving a 
dispute. I can write, however, ‘I give and 
bequeath my house ...’, as long as the 
house is mine to bequeath, the house is 
correctly identified and (for the act to take 
place) I become deceased. 

Performatives may also be sub-categor- 
ized into ‘illocutions’ (distinctively perfor- 
mative) and ‘perlocutions’ (performative 
only in a causal or rhetorical sense). A 
clear example of an illocutionary act 

persons, personal identity 


occurs in the first-person use of ‘I pro- 
mise’, when I pledge myself to undertaking 
to carry out the promise. This is an act (i.e. 
of promise) performed ‘in’ the saying of it. 
Perlocutions occur when an act is per- 
formed ‘by’ the saying of an utterance, as 
when a speaker persuades another of 
something through words. 

The former case reflects an ‘asymmetry’ 
of logical operation between first-person 
and third-person linguistic acts. ‘I promise’ 
commits me to action and makes a promise 
in a way that ‘he promises’ does not. The 
asymmetry between ‘I believe’ and ‘he 
believes’ provides a parallel example. 

sive use of performative utterances, espe- 
cially in liturgy and worship. ‘I repent’, ‘I 
believe’, ‘I praise’, are acts of repentance, 
declarative acts of confession of faith; 
acclamations or acts of praise. They do 
not represent pieces of information 
addressed to an omniscient God. 

In the era after Austin, the term ‘speech 
acts’ came to replace ‘performatives’, 
especially in the work of John Searle, 
WOLTERSTORFF, Terrence Tilley and 
others. However, even before Austin, 
WITTGENSTEIN had noted the logical 
asymmetry between ‘I believe’ and ‘he 
believes’. He writes, ‘If there were a verb 
meaning “to believe falsely”, it would not 
have any significant first person present 
indicative’ (Philosophical Investigations, 
Oxford: Blackwell, 1967, ii, 190). (See 

persons, personal identity 

See SELF. 

Philo of Alexandria (Philo 
Judaeus, c. 20 BCE — c. 50 CE) 

Philo’s work combines loyalty to the 
Jewish scriptures (the Christian Old Testa- 
ment) with the aim of utilizing Hellenistic 
and ancient Greek philosophy for the 
expression of his ideas. He produced the 
largest body of Jewish writings prior to 
the second century. 

Philo represents Hellenistic or Alexan- 
drian Jewish philosophical religious 
thought, rather than rabbinic Judaism. 
However, how representative even of 
diaspora Judaism he is has been disputed. 
E. Goodenough (An Introduction to Philo 
Judaeus, 1940) regards him as a repre- 
sentative figure of Hellenistic Judaism; 
H. A. Wolfson sees him as a system- 
builder (Philo, 2 vols., Cambridge, MA: 
Harvard, 1947); G. F. Moore sees him as 
Stoicizing Platonist (Judaism, 3 vols., 
Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1927, vol. 1, 

In Against Flaccus and Embassy to 
Gaius Philo recounts his leadership of a 
five-man delegation to Rome to plead for 
the Jews on the occasion when the Roman 
prefect Flaccus imposed cult-images of the 
emperor onto the Jews of Alexandria. 
Civil unrest, disorder and massacre had 
resulted. However, all of his other near- 
forty treatises are either expository or 
philosophical APOLOGETICS. 


Nearly nine treatises offer allegorical 
interpretations of Genesis or the ‘five 
books of Moses’ (the Pentateuchal tradi- 
tions from Genesis to Deuteronomy). 
Philo places his own philosophical inter- 
pretation on the biblical traditions of 
creation. The ‘six days’ of CREATION, for 
example, denote not duration but ‘order’. 
Before the material world, the incorporeal 
world existed as an Idea in the mind of the 
Designer, as divine reason. Moses is 
portrayed as the first great philosopher. 
The laws of Exodus and Leviticus relate 
not to local issues about sacrifices, but 
enunciate cosmic ideas. 

Allegorical interpretation as a vehicle 
for the removal of ANTHROPOMORPHISM 
was already a familiar tool to Stoics, who 
were embarrassed by the polytheism of 
Homer’s writings, and reinterpreted con- 
flicts among the gods as accounts of 
natural elements or abstract principles. 
Philo does not always utilize this allego- 
rical method, but frequently resorts to it 


pietism, Christian 

when he believes that the sacred text 
would seem crude or offensive to educated 
Hellenistic readers. Where possible, he 
expounded ideas about God and ETHICS 
by more straightforward exegesis of the 


Philo draws on ideas from PLATO and 
Platonism, from Stoicism and from Neo- 
Pythagoreanism, to present ideas about 
God; the Logos, or divine Reason; and 
ethics. God is nameless, invisible and 
incomprehensible. Hence Moses’ request 
for God’s name elicits only ‘I am that I am’ 
(Ex. 3:14, where the Greek Septuagint 
version uses a present to translate the 
more dynamic Hebrew verb ‘I will be’). 
God is a unity (Allegorical Laws 2: 2, 3); 
eternal (Decalogue 41: 64); perfect and 
omnipresent; and Father (Of the Confu- 
sion of Languages 63, 146). 

The Logos is the agent of God in 
creation, the ‘firstborn’ (protogonos), eter- 
nally begotten (Allegorical Laws 1: 2: 5). 
From Platonism Philo draws the notion of 
the Logos as ‘archetype’ of creation. Since 
God is perfect and the world is material 
and CONTINGENT, the Logos acts as 
mediator between God and the world, 
and between God and humankind. The 
Logos is the bond that binds the universe 
together (cf. Col. 1:17, ‘in Christ the 
universe coheres’). 


Philo did not have to draw exclusively on 
Greek sources for these ideas. The Hebrew 
tradition of Wisdom as mediating divine 
agent is found in Proverbs, in the Wisdom 
of Solomon, and in other documents of 
Hellenistic Judaism. The tradition of a 
‘chosen people’ relates closely for Philo to 
ethical obedience. However, this is often 
expressed less in biblical terms than in 
philosophical terms as subordination to 
Reason, although there is common ground 
in the appeal to ‘virtue’ between Plato and 
the Wisdom traditions of Judaism. 

Moses legislates through constructive 
laws that coincide with philosophical 
Good. God can be known indirectly from 
nature, and this leaves no moral excuse for 
the folly of idolatry. Like the Wisdom of 
Solomon and Paul the Apostle, Philo 
draws on this ‘homily’ theme that idolatry 
leads to disorder, to vice and to inbuilt 
judgement (Wisd. 14, 22-31; cf. Rom. 
1:18-32). Yet God is patient (Wisd. 15, 
1-6; cf. Rom. 2:4-11). 

Even if he selects at will from a 
multiplicity of philosophical sources, Philo 
stands in the tradition of those religious 
philosophers who have sought to expound 
the TRANSCENDENCE of God and the value 
of sacred texts through the medium of 
ideas and thought-forms which were the 
common currency of the day. His work is 
largely philosophical apologetics for a 
Hellenistic or heterodox Judaism. 

pietism, Christian 

The term is used in both a positive and a 
pejorative sense. Positively it denotes a 
warm, committed, religious devotion. In 
the eighteenth century when DEISM and 
RATIONALISM were at their height, an era 
(according to John Henry Newman) when 
‘love became cold’, the Wesleyan revivals 
manifested a pietist counter-reaction. 
Pejoratively, the term also denotes an 
undue disparagement of REASON and 
critical reflection in favour of feeling and 

Whereas deism and rationalism are 
often associated with more mechanistic 
views of the world order, pietism coheres 
more comfortably with an organic world- 
view, often with an emphasis on the 
indwelling of the Holy Spirit and divine 
IMMANENCE. In the nineteenth century its 
relation to ROMANTICISM was more than 
accidental. Both stressed first-hand crea- 
tivity in contrast to wooden replication of 
routinized doctrines or practices. 

A founding figure of pietism was 
Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705). His 
main emphasis included the study of the 

Plantinga, Alvin 


Bible, the priesthood of all believers, 
practical discipleship, a simple style of 
life, and the superiority of love over 
argument. Spener was supported espe- 
cially by August Francke (1663-1727), 
who added a further emphasis on the need 
to be ‘born again’ (Wiedergeburt). 

In the eighteenth century, leading 
figures included Friedrich Oetinger 
(1702-1782) and Count Nicholas Ludwig 
von Zinzendorf (1700-60) in continental 
Europe. Because he insisted on greater 
critical engagement with philosophy (espe- 
cially with Kant) and with biblical criti- 
cism, but retained a pietist warmth, 
SCHLEIERMACHER (1768-1834) called 
himself ‘a Pietist of a higher order’. His 
religion had at its centre a relationship of 
utter dependence upon God, a sense of 
immediacy and a ‘love of the Saviour’ 
(Heilandsliebe), but he wrote important 
works of philosophy and HERMENEUTICS. 

In England in the eighteenth century, 
pietism broadly took the form of the 
Methodism of John and Charles Wesley, 
which began a reform movement for 
revival within the Church of England. 
There are also parallels with quietism as a 
reform movement within the Catholic 
Church in the southern Mediterranean. 
The Wesleys were directly influenced by 

Plantinga, Alvin (b. 1932) 

Plantinga writes as a first-rank analytical 
philosopher who is also a robust and 
explicit theist. With WoLTERSTORFF and 
with SWINBURNE, he is among those who 
have made an exceptionally important 
impact upon the debate about the ration- 
ality of THEISM and about warrants for 
theistic belief. 

Plantinga (with Wolterstorff) is closely 
associated with what has been called 
‘Reformed epistemology’, which questions 
the validity of NATURAL THEOLOGY, but 
does not thereby withdraw from discus- 
sions about warrants for Christian BELIEF. 
He taught from 1963 to 1987 at Calvin 

College, Grand Rapids, and from 1982 at 
the University of Notre Dame. 

Some dozen books from Plantinga’s 
pen mainly explore different avenues 
TIONALISM and warranted belief, but also 
the problem of EviL, the nature of God 
existence of God, drawing on conceptual 
and logical tools which include those of 
MODAL LOGIC and ‘possible’ worlds. 


Plantinga’s earliest book-length publica- 
tions were Faith and Philosophy (Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) and (ed.) The 
Ontological Argument (New York: Dou- 
bleday, 1965). However, the direction of 
his most creative thinking on epistemology 
and theistic belief began to take shape in 
his God and Other Minds: A Study of the 
Rational (Ithaca: Cornell, 1967; also 

It is difficult to set out a conclusive 
demonstration of the existence of other 
minds, but most of us consider such a 
belief to be eminently rational, almost as a 
‘pragmatic? but nevertheless rational 
belief. Yet, Plantinga argues, there are 
scarcely fewer factors that may be 
regarded as suggesting ‘rational’ belief in 
God, even though, like belief in other 
minds, this belief does not rest upon 
conclusive demonstration. If belief in 
other minds is rational, is not theistic 
belief also no less rational? 

This approach coheres with Plantinga’s 
conclusions in God, Freedom and Evil 
(New York: Harper, 1974, and Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978) and The Nature 
of Necessity (New York: OUP, 1974, rpr. 
1990). The appeal to modal logic as a 
counter-reply to objections to the ontolo- 
gical argument, as well as to defences of 
the ‘best possible world’ in the context of 
the problem of evil, yield not a knock- 
down conclusive demonstration of the 
existence of God and theistic responses 
to evil, but sufficiently compelling 


Plantinga, Alvin 

arguments to justify calling such theistic 
belief rational. It is rational rather than 
irrational, and probable rather than 

In 1984 Plantinga published, jointly 
with WOLTERSTORFF (b. 1932), Faith and 
Rationality: Reason and Belief in God 
(Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame). 
This emphasized the point, already impli- 
cit in their work, that in the tradition of 
‘Reformed epistemology’ neither natural 
theology (in a rationalist tradition) nor 
evidentialism (in an empiricist tradition) 
could provide a ‘basic’ foundation as the 
basis of which the validity of theistic belief 
could be demonstrated. 

Plantinga developed this theme in his 
three-volume exploration of warrants for 
beliefs. The first volume (first delivered as 
the 1987 Gifford Lectures in the Univer- 
sity of Aberdeen) was published under the 
title Warrant: the Current Debate (New 
York: OUP, 1993). What might accord to 
‘belief? the status of ‘knowledge’? Plan- 
tinga examines and rejects, in turn, foun- 
dationalism; ‘internal’ warrants relating to 
the person of the believer; the epistemol- 
ogy of Roderick Chisholm; and issues of 
evidence. None of these epistemological 
approaches can provide conclusive war- 
rant for theistic belief. 

In his second volume, Warrant and 
Proper Function (New York: OUP, 1994, 
based on the Wilde Lectures at Oxford in 
1988), Plantinga develops this theme 
further. If even coherence provides no 
conclusive demonstration, we reach the 
conclusion that theism stands on its own 
feet as a ‘basic’ belief (or one that does not 
rest upon arguments of a different kind as 
a condition for regarding theism as a 
properly warranted belief). This leads to 
the argument of the third volume of the 
trilogy, Warranted Christian Belief (New 
York: OUP, 1999). 


In his earlier and middle periods Plantinga 
rejects the ‘classical foundationalism’ of 
the twin pillars of DESCARTES and LOCKE. 

In relation to theism, it also appears odd 
(and theologically questionable) to suggest 
that belief in God is logically dependent 
for its justification or validity on the truth 
of other propositions within a humanly 
constructed system of epistemology. 

By contrast, Plantinga insists that since 
‘God as conceived in traditional Chris- 
tianity, Judaism, and Islam: an almighty, 
wholly good, and loving person who has 
created the world and presently upholds 
it’, it makes rational sense to claim that 
‘belief in such a being is properly basic’ 
(‘Reformed epistemology’). However, if 
this is true, the objections of such anti- 
theists as Antony Flew and RussE Lt that 
theistic belief is irrational or unreasonable 
because there is not enough ‘evidence’ 
become open to question. 

Plantinga exposes the lack of grounds 
for a ‘deontological’ (ethical) assumption 
behind evidentialism that a believer has a 
‘duty’ to restrict belief only to that which 
is based in conclusive evidence, especially 
in the extreme form promoted by W.K. 
Clifford. Further, what kind of world and 
everyday reality must be postulated if we 
insist upon the non-existence of God? Are 
human persons merely part of nature? 
What day-to-day realities that we accept 
as realities through the network of 
assumptions that we live by now have to 
be placed on one side as equally ‘irra- 

WITTGENSTEIN alludes to what forms 
‘the scaffolding of our thoughts’ as the 
background against which we count cer- 
tain beliefs as rational or irrational, and 
arguably there is a partial parallel with 
Plantinga’s common-sense appeal to how 
we form other beliefs that serve as markers 
and boundaries for life as well as for 

Perhaps the most controversial issue 
arises from Plantinga’s attempt to offer 
criteria for the ‘basicality’ of beliefs. He 
writes: ‘A proposition P is properly basic 
for a person S if and only if P is either self- 
evident to S or incorrigible to ‘S’ (first 
expounded in ‘The Reformed Objection to 



Natural Theology’, Christian Scholar’s 
Review, 11, 1982, 187-98; also in Plan- 
tinga and Wolterstorff, eds., Faith and 
Rationality; and most recently formulated 
in A. Plantinga, Warranted Christian 
Belief, New York and Oxford: OUP, 
1998, 35-5, 175-7 and 345-53). For 
some, both ‘to S’ and ‘incorrigible’ raise 

Few other philosophers of religion, 
however, have explored the very central 
issues of philosophy of religion and 
theistic belief with such innovation, inci- 
siveness and robust engagement with all 
comers. It is scarcely surprising that many 
regard him as one of the two or three most 
influential thinkers in this area. (See also 

Plato (428-348 BCE) 

Plato was born in Athens into a distin- 
guished family, and came strongly under 
the influence of SocrRaTES (470-399 BCE). 
His earlier thoughts of a political career 
were abandoned for the pursuit of philo- 
sophy after the death of Socrates. 

The medium of Plato’s extant writings 
is that of dialogue. In the earliest dialogues 
it is difficult to distinguish between the 
voice of Socrates, who plays a leading role 
in the dialogues, and Plato’s own views. 
Steadily, however, a distinctive Platonic 
philosophy emerges as we move through 
the middle and late dialogues. 

The most characteristic feature of 
Plato’s thought is a DUALISM of appear- 
ance and reality, of change and perma- 
nence, of opinion and knowledge, of body 
and soul, and of earthly ‘copies’ or 
‘images’ and Forms or ‘Ideas’ (Greek, 
eidos) of which the world of sense yields 
mere copies, shadows or imperfect imita- 


It is entirely understandable that as a 
disciple of Socrates, Plato should see the 

task of philosophy as that of distinguish- 
ing between mere opinion (Greek, doxa) 
and true knowledge (epistémé). ‘The 
philosopher is always in love with knowl- 
edge of the unchanging’ (Republic, book 
VI). For ‘opinion’ changes with the chan- 
ging world; but ‘knowledge’ cannot devi- 
ate from what is established as true. 

It is less far-fetched than might seem to 
be the case at first sight to attribute to the 
respective sources of the changing and 
unchanging their belonging to two differ- 
ent worlds. Everything within our own 
CONTINGENT, empirical world of change 
and decay falls short of perfection. Thus 
every circle that is drawn in a school 
classroom falls short of perfect circularity. 
Yet all can conceive of a perfect circle, 
with its exact geometrical and mathema- 
tical qualities. 

In book VII of The Republic, Plato 
portrays people who live in a cave, in 
which they can face only away from the 
mouth, with a fire at their backs: ‘They see 
nothing of themselves but their own 
shadows, or one another’s ... The only 
real things for them would be the sha- 
dows.’ Plato then compares the changing, 
imperfect, time-conditioned world of 
appearances with a ‘higher’ world of 
reality outside the cave. Thus ‘the real 
world’ is outside the cave; the realm of 
appearances is that of copies, shadows and 

In his own more distinctive philosophy, 
Plato identifies the perfect realm of Forms 
with Beauty, Goodness and Truth. Human 
persons and objects in the everyday world 
approximate towards these ideals (or 
Ideas) to a greater or lesser degree. 
Geometrical figures approximate to true 
circularity or triangularity; expressions of 
opinion approximate towards knowledge 
of TRUTH; those deemed more or less 
beautiful approximate to perfect beauty 
to varying degrees. TIME is a ‘moving 
image’ of ETERNITY. 

In the Timaeus the eternal One, as 
eternal God, is characterized by changeless 
Being. The ‘World-Soul’ is characterized 


plenitude, principle of 

by a process of Becoming and change. (To 
what extent the Forms or ‘Ideas’ (eidos) 
are independently actually ontological 
entities seems to vary in different writings 
at different dates.) 


The Socratic questions ‘What is virtue?’, 
‘What is justice?’ develop into ‘Why is 
justice what it is?’; ‘Why is virtue what it 
is?? Plato’s theory of Forms suggests 
that justice is what it is because it derives 
its character from Justice as an Ideal 
Form. The abstract defines the particular. 
Since philosophers are most skilled in 
handling abstract UNIVERSALS, philoso- 
pher-statesmen in principle would be the 
most suited to guide and to lead a ‘just’ 
society or state. Humanity is otherwise 
chained, like those in the cave, to illusory 

Plato firmly believes that the body 
(s6ma) and soul (psyché) belong as two 
distinct entities respectively to the two 
orders of the phenomenal world of the 
empirical, and the true world of the real. 
The sout awaits release from the body. 

In the Republic and in Phaedo the soul 
is portrayed as unchanging. Yet in the 
Phaedrus and in Laws, the immortality of 
the soul is grounded in the soul’s capacity 
for self-motion. The weight of the contrast 
shifts from body-as-changing and soul-as- 
changeless to the body’s having only 
derived motion, and the soul’s providing 
its own motion. 

The Laws presents a social philosophy 
or social ETHICS. Legislation ensures the 
good of all citizens, and education is 
essential. Truth is closely related to virtue, 
which includes courage, self-control and 
justice. Justice, however, sometimes has a 
technical meaning, namely balance of the 
‘parts’ of the soul. Areté, virtue, is closely 
related to the ideal of harmony in an 
‘ordered’ society, in which person fulfils 
his or her proper function. 

From the viewpoint of philosophy of 
religion perhaps the most important 
feature about Plato is his influence upon 

subsequent thinkers, and the difference of 
the direction of his thought from that of 
ARISTOTLE. Their respective understand- 
ings of the relation between universals 
and particulars offers one of several 

The greatest difficulty of Plato’s legacy 
is caused by his dualism. HEIDEGGER 
speaks of the ‘chasm’ that split Western 
philosophy, while NieTzscHE parodies 
Christianity as ‘Platonism for the people’. 
In some Western religion traces of a 
world-denying dualism have proved diffi- 
cult to eradicate. Judaism, Christianity 
and Islam all insist upon the fundamental 
goodness of the material world. Even if 
some Eastern religions are closer at this 
precise point (their view of matter) to 
Plato, few Eastern philosophies move in a 
dualist, rather than a monist, direction. 

Plato’s influence has extended far and 
wide. Within Western philosophical tradi- 
tions, the Alexandrians Clement and Ori- 
gen, and the Neoplatonists, including 
Piotinus, reflect this influence in the 
ancient world. The Cambridge Platonists 
of the seventeenth century, including 
Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688) who was 
broadly Neoplatonic, but sought to defend 
rational THEISM against HOBBES and 
Spinoza, begin a series of those whom 
Plato influenced in the modern world. (See 

plenitude, principle of 

This principle is formulated in more than 
one way. In PLotinus (205-70) and in 
NEOPLATONISM the differentiation of 
Forms is seen in terms of a series of levels, 
which give the universe its necessarily 
diverse character. Plotinus observes that 
‘the One’ (God) exhibits a fullness or 
plenitude of superabundant productivity 
which thus characterizes ‘the best of all 
possible worlds’. 



AUGUSTINE endorses this view of ‘rank- 
ings’ within the world as a concomitant 
aspect of its fullness bestowed by God as 
Creator. ‘Animals are ranked above trees 
... Humankind above cattle ... these are 
the gradations according to the order of 
nature’ (City of God, XI: 16). A world 
without form would be mere changing 
flux and chaos. God’s gift of creation 
actualizes conceptual possibilities concre- 
tely in the diversity of the world. Black 
and white, light and shadow, exhibit a 
‘ranking’ (ordinatio) among created enti- 
ties (ibid., XI: 23). 

Without such differentiation, richness, 
fullness or plenitude would be dimin- 
ished, just as the rich harmony of a 
harmonic triad or a polyphonic chord 
would be diminished if only one single 
note could be sung or played. ‘Good’ is 
even ‘richer’ against the background of 
what is ‘other’. 

Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) develops 
the same principle. “The perfection of the 
universe requires that there should be 
inequality in things, so that every grade 
of goodness may be realized’ (Summa 
Theologiae I, Qu. 48, art. 2). Thus 
creation is the work of the whole Trinity, 
to whom belongs ‘a kind of order’ (ibid., 
Qu. 45, art 6). ‘God divided the day from 
the night’ (Gen. 1:4) (ibid., Qu. 47, art. 1). 
Aquinas explicitly quotes Augustine’s 
appeal to the model of the Creator as 
Divine Artist (ibid., art. 2). 

In Augustine and in Aquinas this 
principle serves to expound themes not 
only about God and creation, but also 
about the origins of Evit. Unevenness, 
difference, and inequality, which are 
necessary to the fullness of a good crea- 
tion, can be misused as a pretext or 
catalyst for possible evil. 

In Spinoza, LEIBNIZ and modern 
RATIONALISM the principle of plenitude 
was taken to suggest that every genuine 
possibility is actualized. Everything that 
could exist has come, or will come, to 
exist unless there is sufficient reason that it 
should not exist. 

Plotinus (c. 205-270) 

Plotinus is the founder and leading figure 
of NEOPLATONISM. His pupil Porphyry (c. 
233-304) collected and edited his sub- 
stantial range of writings under the title 
Enneads (i.e. nine tractates in six 
volumes). He combines elements from 
PLATO (428-348 BCE), ARISTOTLE (384— 
322 BCE) and the Sroics. Plato’s realm of 
Ideas is presided over by ‘the One’, who is 
beyond human thought and conceptual 

The highest emanation of ‘the One’ is 
Nous (mind, intelligence), which occupies 
the place of Plato’s realm of forms. The 
second-level emanation is the ‘world-soul’ 
of the Stoics. This then yields the world 
itself, the material ‘body’ of the world- 
soul. Thus Plato’s puALism has been 
bridged, but his fundamental contrast 
between the perfect Forms and the cox- 
TINGENT, empirical world remains the 
structure of Plotinus’ thought. 

Humankind is seen as both longing for 
the eternal realm and trapped within the 
body of matter. In this respect Plotinus has 
failed to expel a dualism of mind and 
body, even though he perceived his system 
as a unity. (See also MONISM.) 


The origins of the term lie in the work of 
French social theorists who wished to 
restrict methods on the study of econom- 
ics, politics and human social life to the 
methods of empirical or natural sciences. 
The term was popularized by Auguste 
Comte (1798-1858). 

It seems, however, that Claude Henri 
Saint-Simon (1760-1826) introduced the 
term prior to Comte, to denote broadly 
the same meaning. Both writers rejected as 
illegitimate what went beyond ‘observa- 
tional’, evidential, empirical criteria. The 
attitudes, as well as the methods, of 
sciences were to be applied to human 

In common with SPENCER (1820- 
1903), Comte placed his philosophy and 


postmodernity, postmodernism 

ETHICS within a materialist evolutionary 
framework. Societies necessarily pass 
through a metaphysical or theological 
stage, when extraneous causes are postu- 
lated for what is not yet scientifically 
understood. But they are on the way to a 
positive, scientific stage of valid explana- 

Comte’s lectures on ‘Positivism’ were 
delivered in 1826. Over the next century 
other uses of ‘positivism’ emerged, 
included a use by SCHELLING quite differ- 
ent from Comte’s. But by the 1920s the 
term resumed its tightly empiricist, evi- 
dential, observational dimensions with the 
emergence of the VIENNA CIRCLE and 
verification (or more strictly, verifiability) 
comes close to Comte’s concerns, although 
without his evolutionary hypothesis. (See 


This term has a variety of technical 
nuances in philosophy, but perhaps three 
or four carry particular significance for 
philosophy of religion. 

First, logical possibility must be dis- 
tinguished from real, CONTINGENT, 
empirical or actual possibility. Often in 
the English language the weight of this 
distinction may be lost through the use of 
the innocent-looking word ‘can’. ‘Can 
God lie?’ marks the issue of whether for 
God to lie would constitute a logical 
contradiction with God’s nature or stated 
promise to be true and faithful. ‘God 
cannot ...’ frequently denotes logical, 
rather than actual, limitations, imposed 
by God’s own decision to act self-consis- 
tently, or ‘rationally’. 

Second, ARISTOTLE (384-322 BCE) 
drew a fundamental distinction between 
‘substance’ (ousia) as ‘that which is’, 
namely form, and potentiality, the power 
to become, which resides in matter. To 
actualize the possible or potential requires 

a ‘mover’, or ultimately a Prime Mover. 
This gives rise to the kinetological argu- 
ment in the Five Ways of Aquinas, and 
influenced the thought of the medieval 
Islamic philosophers. 

Third, Lerpniz (1646-1716) argued 
that the eternal mind of God contains 
ideas of an infinite number of possible 
worlds that God might have created. In 
actualizing a world in creation, God chose 
‘the best possible world’, which he cre- 
ated. These ‘alternative’ worlds are coher- 
ent in themselves as ‘possible worlds’, or 
possible totalities of finite things. 

This principle has been explored and 
developed almost in a fourth sense in 
Leibniz) uses it strikingly to explore the 
problem of Evit. As Saul Kripke shows, 
‘possible worlds’ may provide models for 
understanding problematic concepts. A 
logically NECESSARY TRUTH is true in all 
possible worlds. (See also ETERNITY; GOD, 


Postmodernity has been defined in a large 
variety of ways. Richard Bernstein calls it 
‘a rage against humanism and the 
ENLIGHTENMENT legacy’ (Bernstein, ed., 
Habermas and Modernity, Cambridge: 
Polity Press, 1985, 1-34). Norman Denzin 
argues that it signals a loss of trust in the 
capacity of the sELF to control its destiny, 
with concomitant byproducts of ‘anger, 
alienation, anxiety ... racism and sexism’ 
(Images of Postmodern Society, London: 
Sage, 1991, vii). 

Probably the most widely known, 
although perhaps not best understood, 
definition is that of the French post- 
modernist philosopher Lyorarp (b. 
1924): ‘I define postmodern as incredulity 
towards metanarratives (The Postmodern 
Condition, Minneapolis: University of 
Minnesota, 1984, xxiv). 

postmodernity, postmodernism 


‘Metanarratives’ are ‘narratives’ of an 
overarching view that attempt to explain 
the meaning of other more ‘local’ narra- 
tives. Thus if Judaism, Christianity or 
Islam attempts to offer a ‘grand’ narrative 
of God’s dealings with the world which 
provides a frame of reference for under- 
standing ‘local’ (e.g. personal or commu- 
nity) stories of guilt, suffering, redemption, 
love, joy, folly or whatever, this falls under 
suspicion as an imperializing instrument 
for power that is in actuality no less ‘local’, 
but purports to be the story of the world, 

The particularities of social forces 
‘throw’ us (to borrow HEIDEGGER’s word) 
into pre-given finite ‘situatedness’ within 
prior worlds of meaning. The epistemolo- 
gical SUBJECT of traditional philosophy is 
no longer an active, ‘innocent’, observer, 
but already a victim of the socio-economic 
forces and ‘interests’ that predetermine the 
limits of this human subject. 


The earlier influence of the ‘Masters of 
Suspicion’ NIETZSCHE (1844-1900) and 
FreuD (1856-1939) will be apparent. 
Nietzsche saw most of the ‘narrative’ of 
RELIGION and philosophy as projection of 
disguised power-interests. The phenom- 
enon of guilt and confession, for example, 
serves the interests of the priesthood to 
control the people. Marx (1818-83) 
shared such suspicion, but Marxism is 
itself a ‘grand narrative’ and ‘metanarra- 
tive’, and is therefore in that respect a 
child of ‘modernity’, not of postmodernity 

Freud played his part in diminishing 
the epistemological role of the human 
subject. The human agent is not ‘inno- 
cent’, but brings illusion and self-decep- 
tion to the epistemological task. The self 
is, rather, a ‘role’ within a mechanistic 
system of ‘forces’. 

Heidegger (1889-1976) plays a less 
direct role than Nietzsche and Freud. 

Nevertheless, he urges the radical histor- 
ical finitude of human beings as Dasein, 
being-there, where prior forces of history 
have ‘thrown’ them. Their horizons are 
shaped by the place in which history has 
placed them, and by the practical concerns 
of the projects that lie to hand. 

Although in other cultural contexts the 
dating of the rise of postmodernity may be 
different, for philosophy and religion the 
work of Roland Barthes (1915-80) in the 
1950s and of Derripa (b. 1930) and 
Foucau tT (1926-84) in the 1960s marks 
a turning-point away from ‘modernity’. 
No less than three of Derrida’s major 
works were published in 1967: Of Gram- 
matology, Writing and Difference and 
Speech and Phenomena. 

Derrida explicitly recognizes the influ- 
ence of Nietzsche, Freud and Heidegger as 
three of his four main sources, adding also 
Husserl. The attack on the primacy of 
human consciousness and thought as 
subject to deception, manipulation and 
distortion, and as radically historically 
conditioned, seemed to demolish not only 
the rationalist, subject-centred epistemol- 
ogy of DESCARTES, but also the CRITICAL 
PHILOSOPHY of Kant. Both Descartes and 
Kant stand, in different ways, as models of 
high ‘modernity’. 

In place of the ‘Speaking Subject’, 
Derrida fills the stage with the shifting 
sign-system in which the human person 
becomes less an active agent or subject 
than a role. Even the traditional distinc- 
tion or differentiations of LOGIC are 
‘deconstructed’ in a process of ‘de-cen- 
tring’ the word as ‘presence’. Language is 
placed ‘under erasure’. 


Derrida shares Nietzsche’s view that Wes- 
tern METAPHYSICS rests upon treating ‘a 
mobile army of METAPHORs’ as a definitive 
body of TRUTH. In practice, it is an illusion 
that needs to be exposed as MYTH. There is 
no stable world-view that may claim any 


post-mortal existence of the self 

privilege over others. The whole tradition 
of Western philosophy must be dismantled 
and ‘re-read’ in the light of historical and 
social relativity. Derrida expounds this 
theme in ‘White Mythology: Metaphor in 
the Text of Philosophy’ in his Margins of 
Philosophy (New York and London: 
Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1982). 

To Barthes and Derrida must be added 
the name of Foucault. He also displaced 
the human subject from the central role 
that it played in humanism and in 
modernity since the Enlightenment. Sys- 
tems of thought are CONTINGENT, and 
relative to a changing history of social 
situatedness. The works of Foucault are 
discussed in the entry under his name. 

In the entries on PRAGMATISM and 
Rorty, the focus on the pluralist, local 
and ‘ethnocentric’ emerges clearly, espe- 
cially in the work of Rorty (b. 1931). 
Postmodernity finds a fertile soil in Amer- 
ica, where a pragmatic tradition which 
elevates ‘effects’, ‘success’, ‘progress’ and 
‘flourishing’ is linked with consumerist 
notions of free-market pluralism and 
choice by consumer preference. 

American postmodernity is altogether 
more optimistic than that of France, for it 
appears to cohere with progressivism and 
to remove potential conflicts between local 
sub-traditions by making none ‘more 
“right”’ than others. 

Nevertheless in the entry on pragma- 
tism, more sinister implications concern- 
ing pseudo-tolerance come to light. Once 
truth is ‘made’ rather than discovered, 
what cannot be done in the name of 
socially constructed truth? There is also a 
false appeal to the notion of INCOMMEN- 
SURABILITY, which has a special meaning 
in the philosophy of science not wholly 
compatible with Rorty’s appeal to the 
earlier work of Kuhn. 

It now becomes clear in what sense 
David Harvey’s characterization of post- 
modernity is accurate. He perceives it as a 
reaction against ‘the standardization of 
knowledge’ generated by a naive privile- 
ging of science; but, in turn, replaced by 

‘fragmentation, indeterminacy and intense 
distrust of all universal or “totalizing” 
discourse’ (The Condition of Postmoder- 
nity, Oxford: Blackwell, 1989, 9). 

Harvey also links this mood with the 
recovery of pragmatism, and with Fou- 
cault’s emphasis on discontinuities in 
history. Further, there is a tendency to see 
all reality not only as socially constructed, 
but as virtual reality constructed by 
arbitrary, distorting or manipulative uses 
of signs. Such a philosophy (if philosophy 
it is) coheres well with the era of computer 
simulation and programmed ‘worlds’. 

Naturalistic versions of postmodernity 
verge on replacing philosophy and episte- 
mology by the study of social history, 
including studies of class, race and gender. 
Does ‘rationality’ transcend these bound- 
aries, or is it constructed by them? 
Religious versions of the post-modern 
may readily collapse into FIDEISM. This 
may generate an illusory sense of freedom 
from pressure to argue for reasonable 
BELIEF, but a heavy price has to be paid. 

post-mortal existence of the 

Philosophical arguments about the post- 
mortal existence of the sELF are usually 
considered under the heading ‘the immor- 
tality of the sour’. However, on one side 
anti-theist writers such as Antony Flew 
question the possibility of the post-mortal 
survival of the self on the ground that 
‘soul’ is a meaningless designation of the 
self. On the other side, many theologians 
in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic 
traditions insist that these traditions await 
not the immortality of the soul but the 
RESURRECTION of the self into a fuller, 
transformed mode of existence. 

In several Eastern traditions the hope 
of what event or change will occur at 
death may take the form of release 
(moksha) of the self from a repeated cycle 
of existence and reincarnation into either 

post-mortal existence of the self 


yet another form of existence, or release 
from ‘existence’ altogether. The Advaita 
(non-dualist) Vedanta tradition of HiInpu 
PHILOSOPHY represented by Sankara looks 
for the explicit assimilation of the self 
(atman) into brabman, or Ultimate Rea- 
lity, which has been hidden by illusion 
(maya). This might not be conveyed 
entirely easily by language about the ‘soul’ 
(although see the entry on the sout). 

In Western traditions, especially those 
of Judaeo-Christian thought, two philoso- 
phical problems may be distinguished 
from each other. First, the issue of post- 
mortal existence raises the problem of 
credibility. How can we believe in that 
which (by definition) lies beyond the 
boundaries of evidences drawn from daily 
life? Second, can the notion of such 
existence retain intelligibility? What does 
it mean to speak of post-mortal existence? 

The incisive objections of Antony Flew 
bring these two together. He writes, 
‘Unless I am my soul, the immortality of 
my soul will not be my immortality; and 
the news of the immortality of my soul 
would be of no more concern to me than 
the news that my appendix would be 
preserved eternally in a bottle’ (Flew, 
‘Death’, in A. Flew and A. MacIntyre, 
eds., New Essays in Philosophical Theol- 
ogy, London: SCM, 1955, 270). 


The objection that once a self is dissolved 
in death nothing can count as evidence of 
the survival is, at best, double-edged. For 
some, death is ‘not an event in life’ 
(Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 6-4311). In 
other words we do not live to ‘experience’ 
death (only the process of dying); we 
simply reach an end. If death destroys 
the self, no evidence of its survival can 
exist A PRIORI. 

Nevertheless, this argument can be 
turned on its head to yield the opposite 
conclusion. If even the possibility of 
empirical this-worldly evidence is 

excluded a priori, why should the absence 
of such evidence be said to confirm or to 
strengthen disbelief in post-mortal exis- 
tence? It is as much up to the sceptic as to 
the believer to specify what kind of 
evidence would support their view. It 
may be argued that the denial of post- 
mortal existence is neither verifiable nor 
falsifiable (see AYER, FALSIFIABILITY; 

Admittedly some (notably Paul Bad- 
ham) appeal to evidence of a quasi- 
empirical kind in terms of ‘near-death’ 
experiences. Such evidence is often anec- 
dotal, but is also often replicated. People 
report an experience of lying on their 
death-beds when they perceive themselves 
as somehow leaving the body, looking at it 
as if from above or from elsewhere, and 
eventually ‘returning’. 

Even if such accounts can be corrobo- 
rated, however, would this be a strictly 
post-mortal experience? On the admission 
of many who appeal to it, it is often 
described as ‘near’-death experience. 
Within the framework of a theology of 
resurrection, this would, at best, not be 
resurrection but mere restoration to con- 
tinuing life in an earthly, this-worldly, 
body. Such narratives as the ‘raising’ of 
Lazarus in John 11:1-44 do not recount 
resurrection, but a parable of resurrection, 
since Lazarus in the narrative returns to 
life under this-worldly conditions, pre- 
sumably to ‘die’ again in due course. 

The Christian tradition, especially the 
Pauline writings, couple the probability of 
belief in the resurrection of the dead with 
the nature of belief in the Creator God and 
divine promise. Logically, Paul argues, 
belief in the God who has the power to 
design modes of being for every kind of 
environment entails the view that such a 
God would readily have the power and 
resourcefulness to create modes of being 
appropriate to a post-mortal resurrection 
order of being (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). 
For Paul, the credibility and intelligibility 
of belief in the resurrection of the dead 
hinges on whether ‘some people have 


post-mortal existence of the self 

[knowledge or] no knowledge of God’ 

In earliest pre-Pauline Christian tradi- 
tions (1 Cor. 15:3-5, well before 51 cE) 
the transmissions of a corporate testimony 
to the death, burial and resurrection of 
Christ were perceived to be the funda- 
mental basis for belief in the resurrection 
of the dead, alongside belief in the God 
who performs promise. 

Among sophisticated modern theolo- 
gians who expound this dual logic, special 
mention may be made of MOLTMANN (b. 
1926) and PANNENBERG (b. 1928). 
Although some theologians had relegated 
the tradition of the empty tomb to later 
sources, Pannenberg largely re-established 
its fundamental importance for the cred- 
ibility of the earliest Christian preaching, 
while Moltmann established the basic 
importance of hope and promise as key 
theological themes. 


H.H. Price explored the intelligibility of 
the notion of post-mortal existence 
through a common-sense appeal to the 
role of imagination. If only physical modes 
of existence are intelligible, how do we 
come to imagine and to ‘image’ what 
might be beyond sense-perception? (‘Sur- 
vival and the Idea of Another World’, 
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical 
Research, 50, 1953, 1-25). 

We experience concepts that may per- 
form the ‘same function as sense-percep- 
tion performs now by providing us with 
objects about which we could have 
thoughts, emotions, wishes’. The notion 
that we are ‘alive’ only in the body 
confuses ‘life’ with ‘bodily experiences’. 
Is it more logically compelling to conceive 
of all experience as ‘body-dependent’ 
rather than as ‘mind-dependent’? 

The biggest question raised by the 
present subject, however, concerns con- 
tinuity of the identity of the self if the self 
survives after death. Many have been 

distracted by unconvincing or flawed 
accounts of personal identity. 

PLATO (428-348 BCE) saw the ‘soul’ as 
the seat of permanence, and the body as 
bound up with change. Hence stability or 
continuity of identity remain dependent 
on the soul, while such bodily conditions 
as illness, ageing, damage or loss of body- 
parts are irrelevant to the identity of the 

SOCRATES believed that the unity and 
ETERNITY of the soul entail its immortal, 
infinitely extended existence. On the other 
hand, the Sroics associated the soul with 
universal REASON, which is not a fully 
personal identity. 

Locke (1632-1704) attempted to com- 
pare notions of personal identity that 
depend respectively on the criterion of 
‘the same body’ and the criterion of 
‘internal memory’. His parable of the 
cobbler-prince, in which each awakes in 
the body of the other, appears to favour 
the criterion of memory, demonstrated 
through patterns of action which draw 
on this memory. However, Locke fails to 
solve the problem, and even he has 
hesitations about both ‘solutions’. 

RICOEUR (b. 1913) more convincingly 
calls attention to the categories of respon- 
sibility, entitlement and accountability. A 
young man may begin to invest for a 
personal pension. However radically his 
character or physical appearance may 
change, it is he who is entitled to draw 
the pension that results from his sustained 
agency. This entirely coheres with Chris- 
tian eschatology, in which destiny is 
closely related to earlier attitudes and 

Equally to the point, in contrast to the 
philosophical traditions from Plato to 
and SCHELLING, selfhood has been seen 
increasingly as a matter of intersubjectiv- 
ity, i.e. how the self relates to an Other. 
This coheres well with the notion of a 
resurrection community rather than a lone 
surviving ‘soul’, or absorption into the 
‘All’. It allows for an understanding of 



personal identity in a transformed mode of 
existence in encounter with others. 

While memory does not adequately 
sustain such continuity in abstraction 
from these inter-subjective factors (for 
example accountability), as a presupposi- 
tion for COGNITION rather than mere 
perception, this concept has a part to play. 
Thus, against Hume’s notion that the self 
is a mere bundle of perceptions, C.A. 
Campbell points out that we do not 
construe the striking of a clock at nine 
o’clock as merely a nine-fold replication of 
the single chime that would signify one 
o’clock. The self, by its very nature, 
embraces continuity and succession. 

It is thus not self-contradictory to 
conceive of a continuity of personal 
identity that reaches through death to a 
transformed and different mode of exis- 
tence, which nevertheless remains the 
‘same’ self. Indeed Paul the Apostle brings 
together judgement, resurrection and for- 
giveness of past sin with the infinite 
resourcefulness of God as Creator of 
diversity and difference (1 Corinthians 

In philosophical terms these considera- 
tions serve to elucidate the coherence and 
intelligibility of belief in the post-mortal 
survival and transformation of the self. 
Whether such ideas are also credible is 
closely liked with a view of the nature of 
God and of the currency of divine 
‘promise’. It may be acknowledged that 
the mere wish for post-mortal existence is 
not an argument for its basis. 


The hope concerning what change may 
occur at or after death takes a variety of 
forms in different Eastern traditions. Sub- 
traditions within both Hindu philosophy 
respectively. All the same, a core belief in 
most Eastern philosophies associates suf- 
fering and pain with existence in the 
material body, and hopes for some form 

of release (moksha) from the body, or even 
for release from any differentiated identity 
on the part of the self. Such hopes may be 
found in certain traditions of thought in 
both Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. 

In the non-dualist Advaita Vedanta 
school of Sankara the self (atman), which 
is separated from the All of Ultimate 
Reality (brabman) only by illusion (maya) 
looks for full assimilation into undiffer- 
entiated consciousness (nirguna brahma). 
By contrast, in MApHva’s dualist (Dvaita) 
Vedanta tradition release (moksha) may be 
into a heavenly realm of bliss, an abode of 
happy souls (jiva). 

In Buddhist and Zen traditions the 
nature of nirvana also takes different 
forms. In early Buddhist thought and often 
in more popular thought it denotes a state 
of ‘awakening’ or ‘enlightenment’ into 
unclouded perception, but in NAGARJUNA 
(c. 150-200) any attempt to define a 
return to reality can be expressed only in 
terms of negation. 

Some concepts of karma are linked 
with a ‘timeless’ ONTOLOGY with the 
result that in principle cycles of reincarna- 
tion might be endless, like the turning of a 
wheel. On the other hand, some traditions 
imply that this cycle is without beginning 
but not necessarily without end. This 
carrying forward of the consequences of 
good and bad actions into the next mode 
of existence (karma) is a characteristically 
Indian mode of thought. 

It is arguable that this stands as far as 
possible conceptually from the Christian 
connection of ‘internal logical grammar’ 
in which justification by pure GRACE and 
resurrection by divine favour belong 
together to the discourse of sheer unmer- 
ited gift. (See also DUALISM; SCIENCE AND 


The term generally denotes a proposition 
which is laid down as the starting-point of 
an argument or an enquiry. It is weaker 
than an axiom, but is laid down as 



working a BELIEF. It does not require 
demonstration for the purposes of the 
exploration that follows. 

ARISTOTLE (384-322 BcE) identified a 
family of terms that may initiate debate in 
different ways: axiom, hypothesis, DEFINI- 
TION, postulate. He viewed postulates as 
capable of demonstration, but as not 
requiring demonstration within the 
enquiry that they initiate as postulates. 

Kant (1724-1804) used the term more 
loosely. Postulates, he argued, are not 
necessarily capable of demonstration, but 
are not laid down without good reason. 
For Kant, God, freedom and immortality 
are ‘postulates’ of practical reason. This 
takes us close to the original Latin behind 
the English word as conveying some such 
meaning as ‘requirement’ or ‘demand’. 


Pragmatism denotes the BELIEF that 
‘TRUTH’ is validated or justified in so far 
as it proves to be useful in relation to the 
criteria of a community or communities. 
‘Results’ determine what is counted as 

This unavoidably relativizes what is 
accepted as true, since what counts as 
‘useful’, ‘successful’ or productive is likely 
to vary over time. Since it will also vary 
from community to community, one of its 
major advocates, Rorty (b. 1931) prefers 
to speak of ‘local’ criteria rather than 

In practice, advocates of pragmatism 
prefer not to use the words ‘true’ and 
‘false’ except in certain contexts. For the 
recognition that what an earlier genera- 
tion regarded as ‘true’ may be overtaken 
by new agendas and new ccriteria of 
usefulness may be said to render the earlier 
view ‘obsolete’ rather than ‘false’. 

As a philosophical tradition pragma- 
tism remains distinctively rooted in Amer- 
ican philosophy. It traces its roots 
especially to Charles S. Peirce (1839-1914), 
William James (1842-1910) and John 
Dewey (1859-1952). Recent exponents 

of American pragmatism include Hilary 
Putnam and especially Rorty. Robert 
Corrington relates the movement to a 
distinctive American HERMENEUTIC of 
‘effects’ in contrast to ‘givens’. 


The earlier work of Peirce reflects a 
different emphasis from his later work. 
He introduced the term ‘pragmatism’ in 
1878 primarily as a theory which defined 
meaning in terms of practical conse- 
quences. In a later essay, ‘What Pragma- 
tism Is’ (The Monist, 15, 1905, 161-81, 
rpr. in Collected Papers of Charles Sanders 
Peirce, 6 vols., Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 
1931-5, vol. 5) he shifted the emphasis to 
a philosophy of action. 

The earlier work on meaning depicted 
meaning in terms of what, so to speak, it 
might buy as cash-currency. There are no 
‘givens’ except linguistic signs and human 
behaviour. In his later work Peirce 
expresses concern about how his work 
has been understood, and makes it clear 
that (pace Rorty) his ‘pragmaticism’ (as he 
now calls it) does not replace all questions 
of EPISTEMOLOGY, but expands them. 

It was largely through James that the 
pragmatism of Peirce became known to a 
wider public, although Peirce held strong 
reservations about the version of pragma- 
tism promoted by James. This reservation 
lay behind his renaming his own thought 
‘pragmaticism’. James’s major work was 
The Principles of Psychology (1890); but 
his essay ‘The Will to Believe’ (1897) 
stresses the need to take risks in matters of 
BELIEF, and his Varieties of Religious 
Experience appeared in 1901-2. 

James’s Pragmatism (1907) conceded 
that, in effect, pragmatism ‘makes’ rather 
than ‘discovers’ TRUTH. ‘Truth 
becomes true; it is made true by events.’ 
‘Reality’ is ‘malleable’, for humankind 
shapes it in terms of what proves to be 
the case, or proves to be true. ‘The true is 
the name of whatever proves itself to be 
good in the way of belief’? (Pragmatism 



and the Meaning of Truth, Cambridge, 
MA: Harvard, 1975, 42). Such claims 
were highly controversial and met with 
strong protest at the time, especially from 
British thinkers. 

Dewey addressed a range of issues and 
areas in philosophy, but all in relation to 
human life and activity. He was interested 
in the progress of the sciences, and his 
concerns combined a background of nat- 
uralism, progressivism and instrumental- 
ism or functionalism. Rorty observes, 
‘Dewey anticipated Habermas by claiming 
that there is nothing to the notion of 
OBJECTIVITY save that of inter-subjective 
argreement’ (Truth and Progress, Cam- 
bridge: CUP, 1998, 6-7). Rorty sums up 
Dewey’s view of truth as: ‘Truth as what 
works is the theory of truth it now pays us 
to have’ (ibid., 305). 

Dewey’s The Theory of Inquiry (1938) 
well reflects the American culture of the 
era of progressivism, optimism and con- 
sumerism. Inquiry addresses practical pro- 
blems of science, politics and ETHICS, and 
serves to create satisfaction, advantages, 
goods and solutions. Older ‘theories’ of 
truth were distractions from the business 
of practical ‘progress’ and ‘success’. 


Rorty traces bridges between James and 
Dewey and his own thinking through 
Wilfrid Sellars (1912-89) and Hilary 
Putnam (b. 1926). Sellars attacked what 
he called ‘the myth of the given’, and 
promoted a naturalism that bordered on a 
linguistic version of BEHAVIOURISM. Rorty 
states, ‘Sellars’ attack on the Myth of the 
Given seemed to me to render doubtful the 
assumptions behind most of modern phi- 
losophy’ (Philosophy and the Mirror of 
Nature, Princeton: Princeton University 
Press, 1979, xiii). 

Putnam also queries whether tradi- 
tional notions of ‘warranted assertible 
truth-claims’ can be sustained. Truth, in 
the end, can denote only inter-subjective 
consensus on the part of communities. 

Unfortunately Rorty’s Philosophy and the 
Mirror of Nature lists a very large number 
of ‘allies’ who, in his own particular 
‘reading’ of them, lead cumulatively to 
his own view: WITTGENSTEIN, HEIDEG- 
GER, Sellars, Quine, Davidson, RYLE, 
Marcorm and Kuhn, as well as Peirce, 
James, Dewey and Putnam. Much depends 
on how these thinkers are ‘read’. 

The final two chapters of this work 
question the viability of epistemology as ‘a 
way of knowing’; all that we can hope for 
is to use philosophy (he uses the term 
‘hermeneutics’ in a particular way) as ‘a 
way of coping’ (ibid., 356). 

Rorty attacks ‘representational’ views of 
language, and reformulates truth as an issue 
of justification’, or more strictly as what a 
democratic liberal society or local (‘ethno- 
centric’) community accepts as a justification. 
Theories of truth that involve METAPHYSICS, 
ONTOLOGY or trans-contextual epistemology 
are candidates for the ‘rubbish-disposal 
projects’ of American pragmatism (Truth 
and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Cam- 
bridge: CUP, vol. 3, 1998, 10). 

With NrietzscuHE, Rorty believes that 
‘what is believed to be true’ has the 
‘highest importance’; while ‘what is true’ 
remains a matter of indifference 
(Nietzsche, The Antichrist, London: Pen- 
guin, 1990, aphorisms 13, 23). For ‘justi- 
fication is always relative to an audience’ 
(Truth and Progress, 4). ‘Truth is not a 
goal of inquiry’ (ibid., 6). Ethics now 
becomes a matter of raw consequential- 
ism; in the end, of "preference’. 

Rorty’s engagement with the post- 
modern emerges most clearly in his 
recognition that if ‘communities’ have 
become the arbiters of what counts as 
‘true’, this varies from community to 
community. Hence he combines pragma- 
tism with an emphasis on the ‘local’, or 
‘ethnocentric’. ‘I have tried to sketch the 
connections between antirepresentational- 
ism, ethnocentrism, and the virtues of the 
socio-political culture of the liberal 
democracies’ (Objectivity, Relativity and 
Truth, Cambridge: CUP, 1991, 16). All of 



this, he adds, stands in continuity with 

Space prohibits counter-arguments 
here, although we may wonder whether 
Rorty’s grand programme of ‘rubbish- 
disposal’ may look in twenty years’ time 
like the proposals of AYER about removing 
‘nonsense’ twenty years after Language, 
Truth and Logic. 

Much stems from the particular culture 
of ‘success’, ‘winners’ and consumerism, 
in some strands of liberal American 
culture. Ironically what appears to be a 
tolerant pluralism has no ethical structures 
to avoid ‘preferences’ in which in the 
strongest community ‘might is right’. As 
Christopher Norris and Cornel West point 
out, under the pluralist surface lies a 
potentially authoritarian philosophy, 
which permits whatever a ‘strong’ group 
wishes to be defined as ‘truth and pro- 
gress’. (See also POSTMODERNITY.) 



In the broadest sense of the term, prayer is 
indispensable in religions that conceive of 
God in personal (or supra-personal) terms, 
especially in Judaism, Christianity and 
Islam. For, to borrow BuBEr’s language, 
if a relationship with God is conceived of 
as an I-Thou or I[-You relationship (not 
merely as an I-t relationship) address 
from God to human persons and address 
from human persons to God take centre- 
stage in a personal relationship with God. 

Address to God may take numerous 
forms: praise, confession, worship, adora- 
tion, thanksgiving, confession, lament, 
complaint; request and intercession repre- 
sent only two of ten selected modes of 
address. Prayer in its highest sense is 
prompted not only by desires for benefit 
or blessings, but by desire for God as God. 
In many sacred writings this desire is 
ascribed to the action of God’s own Spirit, 
who brings this desire to prayerful speech 
(e.g. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). 

Logically, however, if it is the Spirit of 
God who prompts prayer, the desires that 
are articulated include especially God’s 
own desires for the world, implanted in 
the human heart by God’s Spirit. Hence 
prayer cannot but include the expression 
of a loving and caring concern for others 
and for the world, which we call inter- 
cessory prayer on their behalf. 

Those religions that give a serious place 
to human fallenness and sin necessarily 
recognize the role not only of confession 
or acts of repentance, but also a longing 
for a higher and better state. The Hebrew- 
Jewish Psalms express such longing 
repeatedly: ‘As a deer longs for flowing 
streams, so my soul longs for you, O God’ 
(Ps. 42:1). 


Philosophical questions arise when we 
begin to ask whether the expression of 
such longings constitutes more than 
religious or therapeutic self-adjustment 
through thought or thought and lan- 
guage. KANT saw prayer as ‘conversing 
... really with oneself’ if this denotes the 
prayer of ‘purely rational faith’ (reiner 
Vernunftglaube (Religion within the Lim- 
its of Reason, Eng., New York, 1960, 
185). This understanding of prayer he 
saw as rationally acceptable. However, he 
viewed the ‘churchly faith (Kirchen- 
glaube)’ view of prayer, in which prayer 
was thought to invite changes of states of 
affairs within the world, as a ‘super- 
stitious illusion’. 

In Kant’s philosophical system this 
view is entailed by his belief that God 
does not act ‘within’ the supposed causal 
network of events that we call ‘the world’. 
Indeed the very notion of cause and effect 
is a merely regulative principle in terms of 
which the human mind seeks to under- 
stand the world as ‘ordered’. D.Z. Phillips 
stresses the importance of self-adjustment 
in prayer (The Concept of Prayer, Lon- 
don: Routledge, 1965, 63, 64). 



If Kant is right, however, the constantly 
recurring address ‘Thov’ or ‘You’ becomes 
a merely fictive device for focusing med- 
itation and self-adjustment. Vincent Brüm- 
mer argues that its use would be not only 
illusory but also logically self-contradic- 
tory and a denial of much religious 
experience (What Are we Doing When 
we Pray? A Philosophical Enquiry, Lon- 
don: SCM, 1984, 16-28). What is at issue, 
Brümmer argues, is quite simply whether 
it makes sense to conceive of God as a 
personal agent. 

Several of Brümmer’s works explicitly 
argue for this view of divine personal 
agency (e.g. Speaking of a Personal God, 
Cambridge: CUP, 1992; The Model of 
Love, Cambridge: CUP, 1993). It is no 
accident that for Kant notions of God turn 
on issues of reason and law, whereas 
Brümmer sees love as standing at the heart 
of a mutual, reciprocal relationship 
between God and humankind. Hence 
prayer not only expresses the adoration 
and desires of love, but also leads to events 
that enhance its experience. 

God chooses to act, Briimmer argues, 
within a context of mutual concern, of 
which the very act of asking provides 
evidence. Indeed, ‘intercession is a prayer 
in which the person who prays both asks 
God to act on behalf of the [other] person 

. and also makes himself available as a 
secondary cause through whom God could 
act in answering the prayer’ (What Are we 
Doing When we Pray? 57). Prayer is 
sharing God’s providential action within 
the world. 


If God already knows the needs of 
humankind, and if God already wills the 
best for humankind, why is prayer neces- 
sary or appropriate? Is it not self-contra- 
dictory to call God omniscient and to tell 
God of our needs? Is it not an affront to 
ask God to act in goodness when God is 
already all-loving? If God is all-wise and 
all-good, will not God give without our 

asking? Edgar Brightman voiced the criti- 
cism that petition may seem to imply that 
we request God to ‘improve’. 

First, some kinds of prayers may 
perhaps fall into this category. These are 
the kinds of prayers discussed below under 
ethical objections and the problem of 
manipulative prayers. 

Second, if God inspires the articulation 
of prayer and longing through God’s own 
Spirit, as Briimmer argues (above) prayer 
may be understood as a co-sharing in 
seeking the good of the world (What Are 
we Doing When we Pray, chs. 5-7, 60- 
113). If, then, God seeks ‘the best possible 
for the world’, ‘the best possible’ is not a 
fixed A PRIORI quantity. In Brightman’s 
words, ‘The best possible when men pray 
is better than the best possible when men 
do not pray’ (A Philosophy of Religion, 
London: Skeffington, n.d., 236). 

Hence human self-involvement and 
shared concern for God’s reign and for 
the well-being of others becomes a neces- 
sary constituent in what God wills as ‘the 
best’. Brightman alludes to the role of ‘a 
praying community who sighs and yearns 
with the yearning compassion of the heart 
of his (and our) world’ (ibid., 237). This 
lies behind injunctions to pray in all the 
great theistic religions. God’s Spirit places 
a ‘divine discontent’ within, which prayer 
articulates (cf. Rom. 8:15-16, 22-7). 


It has long been urged that prayer may be 
used to try to impose subjective notions of 
good and evil, prompted by self-interest, 
onto the governance of the world. HOBBES 
(1588-1679) declared, ‘Every man calleth 
that which pleaseth “good”; and that 
“evil” which displeaseth him’ (Human 
Nature, 1650, VII: 3). More sharply, 
NIETZSCHE (1844-1900) saw religion, 
including prayer, as a manipulative device 
employed to secure power: ‘The “salva- 
tion of the soul” in plain English [German] 
“the world revolves around me”’ (The 



Antichrist, in Complete Works, 18 vols., 
London: Allen & Unwin, 1909-13, vol. 
16, 186, aphorism 43). God, it is argued, 
is transposed into a means to achieve the 
ends of one who prays. 

It is easier to apply this criticism to 
certain petitionary prayers for the self than 
to intercessory prayers for others. Never- 
theless, even prayer for others can be 
‘loaded’ to serve either self-interest or 
fallible misjudgements, and in triumphal- 
ist religion prayer for power, money, 
possessions — ‘success’ in various forms — 
has occurred from the Magical Papyri of 
the ancient Hellenistic mystery religions to 
sectarian religions (often associated with 
commercial media) today. 

A prayer is selfish, however, only if, in 
Brightman’s phrase, ‘it seeks to take a 
benefit from another or to exclude another 
from a benefit’. Ethical objections do not 
address authentic prayer, prompted by 
God or by desires implanted by God’s 
Spirit. They address only the abuse of 
prayer for self-centred or manipulative 
ends. It may be that this criticism implies 
a warning against undue specificity in 
precisely defining in human terms what 
we seek from God. 

Finally, the claim that placing issues in 
the hands of God weakens moral effort 
runs counter to the public findings of the 
varied phenomena of religions. To claim, 
for example, that Jesus, Paul the Apostle, 
AUGUSTINE or Luther diminished moral 
effort because they placed everything in the 
hands of God runs counter to the trans- 
parent facts of the matter. Examples could 
be multiplied from other religions also. 


We noted above that Kant dismissed 
‘ecclesial prayer’ (i.e. that which church- 
people ‘superstitiously’ think will contri- 
bute change within the world) because his 
view of God as ‘outside’ the world could 
not accommodate it. ‘Rational’ prayer, 
Kant believed, consisted primarily in self- 
adjustment through meditation. We noted 

issues of logic, personhood and address 
which such a view bypasses or contradicts. 

The issue turns on different under- 
standings of divine action. Keith Ward 
convincingly argues that even as Creator 
of a billion galaxies whose reality we 
cannot fully grasp, God nevertheless 
relates to humans ‘by knowledge, feeling 
and will ... by complete empathy’ and 
also through divine action (Divine Action, 
London: Collins, 1990, 155). The vastness 
of the universe and the mysterious TRANS- 
CENDENCE of God, far from disengaging 
divine action from the world, suggest that 
such a transcendent, intricate mind com- 
prehends every detail of the created uni- 
verse (cf. Mt. 6:25-32). 

The notion that God acts in the world 
only by ‘suspending’ so-called laws of 
nature rests on a mechanistic model of 
the universe as a ‘closed’ system. Keith 
Ward examines the inadequacy and dated 
status of such an approach in his chapter 
‘The Death of a Closed Universe’ (Divine 
Action, ch. 5). Technical scientific support 
that defends notions concerning the plas- 
ticity of a post-Newtonian, post-Einstei- 
nian universe can be found in Arthur R. 
Peacocke, Creation and the World of 
Science (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979). 

If ‘laws of nature’ are prescriptive 
rather than descriptive, as Boyce Gibson 
observes, ‘Nothing that ever happens only 
once or for the first time ... can ever be 
caused or a cause’ (Theism and Empiri- 
cism, London: SCM, 1970, 149). PANNEN- 
BERG applies this principle to the event of 
the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ, which 
is normally held to be definitive for 
Christian belief. Even the classical pre- 
modern theologians (e.g. Augustine and 
Thomas Aquinas) insisted that divine 
action within the world is not ‘contrary 
to nature’ (contra naturam) but utilizes 
natural regularities to work ‘through 
nature’ (per naturam). 


The personal dimension of I-Thou address 
provides the overarching context in which 

predicate, predication 


prayer may be understood as embracing a 
multitude of functions, e.g. praise, thanks- 
giving, confession, petition, intercession, 
meditation, lament, expressions of long- 
ing. The problem of divine OMNISCIENCE 
not only involves problems and counter- 
replies identified above, but is also seen in 
a new light when the concept of SPEECH 
ACTS is applied to many (not to all) 
functions and types of prayer. 

In such an example as ‘I confess ...’ or 
‘I repent ...’ the utterance does not serve 
to inform God of what God may already 
know. It constitutes an act of confession, 
or an act of repentance. More profoundly, 
it may be compared with how the utter- 
ance ‘I love you’ usually serves not to 
inform the addressee about an attitude or 
emotion, but as an act of love. Hence to 
reply ‘I know that already’ is to demon- 
strate that the force of the utterance has 
been misunderstood. Frequently it invites 
reciprocal linguistic action: ‘And I love 

To portray prayer as a communicative 
act in many (but not in all) contexts is 
thereby to be reminded that the ‘therapeu- 
tic meditation’ approach does not embrace 
all valid forms of prayer. On the other 
hand, as Phillips reminds us, self-involve- 
ment and self-adjustment constitute an 
important part of distinctive logical gram- 
mar of prayer. It is not simply ‘asking for 

Most of the philosophical difficulties of 
this subject relate not to God-inspired or 
to Spirit-inspired prayer, but to abuses or 
misuses of prayer merely for personal 
enhancement or even for manipulatory 
purposes. Above all, in the major theistic 
religions it constitutes a co-sharing and co- 
desiring for God’s will for the world, as 
well as adoration and the expression of 
acts of devotion and love. 


Briimmer, among others, demonstrates 
why we cannot expect to be able to apply 
either the principle of verification or the 

principle of FALSIFICATION as empirical or 
‘scientific’ tests for the efficacy of prayer. 
He writes: ‘The only claim that would be 
open to falsification would be the claim 
that God invariably grants whatever we 
ask’ (What Are we Doing When we Pray, 
5). However, prayer is misunderstood if it 
is viewed mechanistically, almost as a 
matter of cause and effect. 

The very attempt to test it in this way 
would presuppose that it is thought of as a 
manipulative device in which God 
responds, in effect, to human wishes and 
control. However, all that has been said 
about prayer suggests the very reverse of 
this. Prayer involves the self in a shared, 
co-operative vision for the good of the 
whole of God’s creation. A mechanistic 
view would obstruct, and detract from, 
the role of God’s freedom, goodness, 
sovereignty and love. 

predicate, predication 

‘Predicate’ denotes what is asserted of a 
suBJECT. The proposition ‘God is good’ 
predicates ‘good’ of God. In the formal 
LOGIC of categorical propositions, the 
logical form ‘S is P’ (subject is predicate) 
allow the variables of sentences to be ex- 
pressed as the logical form of a proposition. 

In the context of other systems of 
logical notion, the symbol ‘F may be 
predicated of the variables x or y. (Fx.Fy) 
might represent ‘Paul is good, and Seneca 
is good’. ‘Predicate calculus’ in formal 
logic moves beyond propositional logic to 
include QUANTIFIERS, connectives or other 
logical constants and functions or rela- 
tions. (See also SYLLOGISM.) 

process philosophy 

If process philosophy is defined simply as 
a philosophical approach which empha- 
sizes ‘becoming’ and change rather than 
‘being’, it might appear that Heraclitus 
(c. 540-425 BcE) and perhaps HEGEL 
(1770-1831) are process philosophers. 
Yet, with additional themes in modern 
thought, such an emphasis upon change 



and event rather than upon states of 
affairs and oBjECTs does provide a com- 
mon thread through various examples of 
process thought. Typically, WHITEHEAD 
(1861-1947) and HartsHorRNE (1897- 
2000) are core figures of this philosophy. 
Such thinkers as BERGSON (1859-1941), 
Lloyd Morgan (1852-1936) and perhaps 
John Dewey (1859-1952) stand in a 
broader relation to the movement. 

SHORNE are discussed in fuller detail in 
the entries under their respective names. 
Morgan saw the organic life of the world 
as ‘emergent’. ‘Emergents’ appear through 
discontinuities in process of EVOLUTION. 
Following the model of Whitehead he 
sought to combine natural science and 
philosophy to formulate a notion of an 
ongoing cosmology in process. 

Whitehead’s ‘event ONTOLOGY’, 
expounded in his Process and Reality 
(1927), is perhaps the nearest to a classic 
text of process philosophy. Process thin- 
kers tend to follow Whitehead in throwing 
their net widely to embrace all experience, 
including that of natural science as well as 
Loaic and philosophy. In accordance with 
Bergson’s élan vital and ‘open’ systems, 
process thinkers tend to reject a determin- 
ism that traces every event to an ante- 
cedent CAUSE. 

Either misplaced abstraction or ‘mis- 
placed concretion’ can lead respectively to 
a static ontology or to a materialist world- 
view. While process philosophy rejects 
materialist ontology, ‘God’ is not usually 
identified with the personal, transcendent 
God of classical THEISM. Certainly God is 
not unilaterally sovereign, as if to deny 
some reciprocal interaction between God 
and the world. Nevertheless, there are 
important differences within the process 
approach. Whereas in Whitehead, ‘God’ 
tends to be a limiting boundary to limitless 
possibilities, in Hartshorne we come closer 
to the God of THEISM, except that in the 
DIALECTIC of becoming and perfection 
there is no room for a ‘hard’ doctrine of 

One strength of process philosophy is a 
simultaneous desire to reconcile contra- 
dictions and apparently conflicting argu- 
ments or inferences from evidence, while 
at the same time avoiding ‘timeless’ 
abstraction. In philosophy of religion, 
probably the most creative and construc- 
tive of the Process philosophers for refor- 
mulating concepts of Gop remains 
Hartshorne. (See also MATRERIALISM; 

Pseudo-Dionysius (c. 500) 

The author of the writings traditionally 
attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite 
(convert of Paul, cf. Acts 17:34) is 
unknown, even if the traditional ascrip- 
tion to Dionysius was accepted until the 
modern era. The writings combine NEo- 
PLATONISM and MYSTICISM, with a strong 
appeal to the VIA NEGATIVA in LANGUAGE 

The four treatises and ten letters that are 
extant present a view of the world and of 
mystical perfection, and emphasize divine 
TRANSCENDENCE. God is beyond human 
language and beyond conceptual thought. 
Nevertheless, God is light that is shed upon 
the All, and love that enfolds all. 

The via negativa, or way of negation, 
ensures that God, the First Cause, is not 
reduced to the status of ‘a being’ among 
other beings. However, Christian scripture 
also reveals positive insights, and Pseudo- 
Dionysius combines the via negativa with 
pre-conceptual MysTICAL theology. 

Within the world there is ordered 
ranking and conceptual distinction. How- 
ever, light and love, rather than conceptual 
knowledge, lead beyond the world to God. 
Order and hierarchy within the world 
reflect a ‘celestial hierarchy’ that is a ‘holy 
order’ (The Celestial Hierarchy, I: 1): 
seraphim, cherubim, dominions, powers, 
archangels and angels. 

The Christian Platonism of Pseudo- 
Dionysius influenced John of Damascus, 



ALBERT the Great, Thomas AQUINAS and 
Peter Lombard, while his hierarchies find 
resonances in Dante and in Milton. Unity 
and order are derived from God, but 

knowledge of God is reached through 
negation of all that is less than God and 
by mystical understanding (Pseudo-Diony- 
sius, The Mystical Theology). 


Quantifiers are logical operators in the 
formal Locic of predicate calculus. An 
existential quantifier serves to indicate that 
a proposition of formal logic states some- 
thing about ‘at least one thing’. A universal 
quantifier serves to indicate that the pro- 
position states something about ‘every- 
thing’, or more strictly, about everything 
that is instantiated by the entity within the 
proposition that the quantifier ‘binds’. 

Traditional formal logic frequently dis- 
tinguished between universal assertions or 
universal denials and particular assertions 
and particular denials. These are Euler’s 
well-known ‘A’ and ‘E’ logical classes of 
propositions respectively (‘All philoso- 
phers are theists’ and ‘No philosopher is 
a theist’) and also respectively ‘T and ‘O? 
propositions (‘Some philosophers are the- 
ists’ and ‘It is not the case that some 
philosophers are theists’). 

If the logical variable (‘philosophers’) is 
represented by the logical symbol x, and 
the predicate (‘is/are theist’) is denoted by 
T, the existential quantifier may be 
symbolized by (Ex) or (dx) to signify ‘for 

some philosophers’ or ‘for at least one 
philosopher’. The logical notation would 
then read (Ex) (xT). Its negation would 
read: (Ex) (~xT). The universal quantifier 
is usually denoted simply as (x). Thus (x) 
(xT) states the logical form of ‘for all 
philosophers, philosophers are theists’, or 
‘All philosophers are theists.’ The logical 
form of its denial is (x) (~xT). 

This introduction of quantification 
develops propositional calculus into 
predicate calculus by recognizing that 
predication is not all of one kind. By also 
serving to ‘bracket out’ the issue of 
existence from the central proposition, 
RussELL (1872-1970) developed this 
logical device to limit the logical scope of 
terms in such examples as ‘a round square 
does not exist’ (i.e. it is false to assert 
that an x exists which is such that ‘round’ 
and ‘square’ can be predicated of it 
simultaneously). Russell applies this 
further in his theory of definite descrip- 
tions (e.g. “The present King of France is 
...). For a critique of Russell on descrip- 
tions, see the entry on STRAWSON. (See 
also INSTANTIATION and further details 
under RUSSELL.) 

Rāmānuja (c. 1017-1137) 

Together with Sankara (788-820), Rama- 
nuja remains one of the two most influen- 
tial thinkers of HINDU PHILOSOPHY of his 
era. In contrast to Sankara’s exposition 
and defence of ‘non-dualist? MONISM (the 
Avaita Vedanta school), Ramanuja 
expounds and defends a ‘qualified mon- 
ism’ (Visistadvaita, or ViSista-advaita 
Vedanta). This permits a more theistic 
version of ONTOLOGY than is possible 


within Sankara’s system. 


Both Ramanuja and Sankara remain 
within the tradition of Hindu sacred 
scripture (Sruti), namely the Vedic texts, 
including the Upanisads. However, actual 
and potential ambiguities and ambiva- 
lences in these sacred texts permit wide 
divergences of philosophical interpreta- 
tion and ‘re-reading’. Hence Ramanuja 
strenuously opposes the monist view of 
brahman that Sankara expounds on the 
basis of these texts, and founds a very 
different tradition of interpretation. 
Ramanuja opposes Sankara’s ontology 
in which Ultimate Reality is uncharacter- 
izable as ‘undifferentiated consciousness’ 
(nirguna brabma). Liberation or ‘release’ 

(moksha) is not finally dependent on the 
absorption of the true, inner, SELF (dtan) 
into the All by sheer identification with it. 

Against Sankara, Ramanuja insists that 
the phenomenon of ‘difference’ (bheda) or 
‘differentiation’ does not necessarily arise 
from ‘illusion’ (maya). ‘Knowledge’ 
(vidya) reveals more than the negative 
property of ‘superimposing’ (adhydsa) 
misleading perceptions onto genuine ones. 


Among the nine or more of Ramanuja’s 
writings the Sribhdsya, his commentary on 
the Brahma-Sitras of Badarayana, is gen- 
erally recognized as among the most 
important, together with the Gita-Bhdsya, 
his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, 
and the Veddrthasangraha, his commen- 
tary on the Upanisads. (On these terms, 
see the entry on Hindu philosophy.) 

The Satras embody succinct aphorisms, 
which can yield a diversity of interpreta- 
tions. Prior to the work of Ramdanuja, 
Sankara’s commentary supported the tra- 
dition that brahman, or Ultimate Reality, 
is absolute Oneness, Spirit or conscious- 
ness, beside which, and within which, 
‘difference’ was either illusory, or at best, 
part of a provisional, non-ultimate, phe- 
nomenal world. The external world 
belongs to this provisional order, but the 


Ramsey, lan Thomas 

spiritual self in humankind may become 
identified with brahman. 

Ramanuja denies neither the reality of 
the world nor the reality of the indivi- 
duality of sELF. He questions the notion of 
an all-pervasive impersonal monism that 
excludes a theistic God. He promotes an 
understanding of the second aphorism of 
the Brahma-Siatra that interprets it to 
mean that brabman is ‘the supreme Person 
who is ruler of all, whose nature is 
antagonistic to all evil; whose purposes 
come true, who possesses infinite 
qualities such as knowledge ... who is 
omniscient, omnipotent, supremely merci- 



Ramanuja’s commentary on the Upani- 
gads, the Vedarthasangraha, is more expli- 
cit. In the Svetasvetara Upanisad, monism 
is ‘modified’ because brahman is genuinely 
differentiated by INSTANTIATION respec- 
tively in the empirical supyect (bhokr), 
the objective world (bhogya), and the 
power of initiating agency or CAUSATION 

Since all of these instantiate brahman, 
Ramanuja does not fully abandon mon- 
ism, in contrast, for example, to the 
Dvaita (dualist) tradition of MADHvaA (c. 
1238-1317). Yet it is a carefully qualified 
or modified monism (Visista-advaita), in 
contrast to ‘monism’ (Advaita Vedanta) or 
the ‘pure’ or ‘radical’ monism (Sudhad- 
vaita) of Vallabhacarya (1479-1531). 

Matter in all its forms constitutes, in 
effect, ‘the body’ of God. In accordance 
with most Vedic traditions, individual 
‘souls’ are ‘eternal (nitya), and may 
experience successive stages of reincarna- 
tion. The status of non-sentient matter is 
less clear, but ‘release’ (moksha) is more 
akin to a heavenly mode of being than to 
Sankara’s notions of absorption into, and 
identity with, brahman. 

In his commentary on the Bhagavad 
Gita, Rāmānuja stresses the path of 
religious devotion (bhakti), where Sankara 

had emphasized the role of ‘selfless deeds’. 
There is a sense in which it is possible to 
speak of ‘the will of God’. Bhakti requires 
meditation on God, not ecstatic states 
which bypass consciousness on the part of 
the self. 

Although he stressed ceremonial duties 
in religion less explicitly than may char- 
acterize much Hindu thought today, 
Ramanuja’s philosophy coheres more 
readily with such practices than a number 
of other older philosophical traditions. It 
has been suggested that his philosophy, 
more than most in Hindu traditions, 
offers a foundation that coheres with 
‘devotional theism’. (See also ABSOLUTE; 

Ramsey, lan Thomas 

Ramsey, born in Bolton in England, taught 
at Oxford and Cambridge, and became 
professor at Oxford in 1951, and also 
Canon Theologian of Leicester Cathedral. 
His aim at Oxford was to engage in 
constructive dialogue initially with logical 
positivists and their demands for empirical 
criteria of meaning, and later with a 
broader linguistic philosophical move- 
ment, while demonstrating the intelligibil- 
ity of LANGUAGE IN RELIGION concerning 
the God who is beyond the empirical 

Ramsey’s book Religious Language 
bore the subtitle An Empirical Placing of 
Theological Phrases (London: SCM, 
1957). Religious language utilizes every- 
day ‘object language’, but through the use 
of ‘strange qualifications’ is extended and 
modified in such a way that it commu- 
nicates disclosures of God (ibid., 19-48). 
By means of interaction between the two 
universes of discourses a ‘disclosure situa- 
tion’ may occur of the kind of which we 
say ‘the penny drops’, ‘the ice breaks’, ‘it 



came alive’ (ibid., 23). It is like the 
experience of ‘seeing’? components ‘as’ a 
Gestalt (ibid., 24). This approach antici- 
pated some insights of Ricoeur (b. 1913). 

A central chapter expounds ‘MODELS 
AND QUALIFIERS’ (ibid., 49-89). Thus we 
may apply ‘cause’ to God as a model of 
divine creation; but must qualify this as 
‘first? cause (ibid., 61-5). God is ‘wise’ 
(model), but ‘infinitely’ wise (qualifier) or 
‘infinitely good’ (ibid., 65-71). ‘Purpose’, 
applied to God, is ‘eternal purpose’. The 
remainder of this work explores this 
principle in biblical and theological or 
doctrinal language. 

In 1966 Ramsey became Bishop of 
Durham, the year in which he gave the 
lectures Models for Divine Activity (Lon- 
don: SCM, 1973). While Bishop of Dur- 
ham he continued to explore language and 
models (Words about God, London: SCM, 
1971) as well as work on religion and 
science. His unstinting hard work as 
bishop and academic may have contrib- 
uted to a premature death in October 
1972 (cf. David Edwards, Ian Ramsey, 
Oxford: OUP, 1973; and Jerry H. Gill, Ian 
Ramsey: To Speak Responsibly to God, 
London: Allen & Unwin, 1976). (See also 


Loosely and broadly rationalism denotes 
the view that human REASON constitutes 
the major arbiter or court of appeal (or at 
very least, a major arbiter) for determining 
whether a given system of beliefs or set of 
propositions is true or false. However, this 
broad definition is of little value until we 
specify to what it stands in contrast. 

In philosophy of religion this may be in 
contrast to EMPIRICISM (to the criterion of 
sense-experience); tO REVELATION (to 
divine self-disclosure as gift); toTRADITIONS 
(to inherited systems of BELIEF); or to 
post-ENLIGHTENMENT concerns about 
history, life and inter-subjective 

SELFHOOD; or, yet differently again, to 

In the history of ideas a fundamental 
philosophical contrast can be drawn 
between the rationalism of DESCARTES 
(1596-1650), and more broadly of 
SPINOZA (1632-77) and LEIBNIz (1646- 
1716), and the empiricism of LOCKE 
(1632-1704), BERKELEY (1685-1753) 
and Hume (1711-76). The former stress 
A PRIORI deductive reasoning; the latter, A 
POSTERIORI inferences from experience 
and observation. However, Locke also 
stresses ‘reason’ and ‘reasonableness’ as a 
major criterion in contrast to sheer feeling, 
while Hume explores ‘instrumental’ rea- 
son as ‘the slave of the passions’. 


From the thought of Descartes flow two 
types of rationalism. First, as a distin- 
guished mathematician, he sought ‘clear 
and distinct’ ideas, which were certain. By 
contrast, sense-experience (experience 
mediated to the mind through the five 
senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and 
smell) appeared to be ‘obscured and 
confused’; it is fallible and capable of 
deception (see CERTAINTY AND DOUBT). 

Second, Descartes employed the meth- 
odological tool of doubt in order to peel 
away those inherited assumptions drawn 
from history and tradition that were less 
certain, upon closer scrutiny, than many 
assumed. At least ‘once in a life-time’, we 
must ‘demolish everything and start again 
right from the foundations’, in order that 
‘these remain nothing but what is certain 
indubitable’ (Meditations, La Salle: Open 
Court, 1901, II, 31). 

After all has been stripped away, 
Descartes cannot doubt that he exists as 
a ‘thinking being’ (cogito ergo sum, ibid., 
II). Hence the rationalism of Descartes 
stands in contrast equally to empiricism 
(sense-experience) and to inherited value- 
systems and traditions. On the other hand, 
as GADAMER points out, the ‘ideas’ Des- 
cartes submits to this method of doubt do 



not include ‘God’ and moral values: a 
point that is often overlooked in discus- 
sions of his thought. Gadamer urges that 
this method is largely appropriate to the 

In the eighteenth century this EPISTE- 
MOLOGICAL device (i.e. a way of exploring 
the foundations of knowledge) over- 
stepped the boundaries of a theory of 
knowledge to become, in effect, a world- 
view, often associated with DEISM or even 
anti-religious attitudes. It came to elevate 
individual AUTONOMY over against either 
revelation or the supposedly privileged 
knowledge derived from doctrines or from 
inherited institutions. 


Kant (1724-1804) provided a classic 
definition of what is meant by the 
‘Enlightenment’ (Aufkidrung). It is ‘man’s 
exodus from his self-incurred tutelage. 
Tutelage is the inability to use one’s 
understanding without the guidance of 
another person ... “Have the courage to 
use your own understanding”: this is the 
motto of the Enlightenment’. In due 
course such a spirit, whether in terms of 
reason (Voltaire) or feeling (Rousseau) 
nurtured the sense of individual free 
thought and autonomy that was related 
in ethics and politics to the French 
Revolution (1789). 

Whether Kant himself can or should be 
called a rationalist is debatable. On one 
side he rejected Hume’s account of sense- 
experience, and wrote: ‘Philosophical 
knowledge is knowledge gained by reason 
from concepts’ (Critique of Pure Reason, 
1781). On the other hand his notion of 
reason as a mere ‘rule, prescribing a 
regress’, or ‘a regulative principle’, reduces 
its nature and scope substantially from 
that assumed by Descartes, Leibniz and 
most pre-Kantian writers. 

In place of the rationalism of Descartes, 
Spinoza and Leibniz, ENLIGHTENMENT 
rationalism emerged as more sceptical 
and critical. We need only compare the 

work of the Deists, Matthew Tindal 
(1653-1733) and John Toland (1670- 
1722), and the philosophical and social 
critiques of Voltaire (1694-1778). Voltaire 
waged war against intolerance in the name 
of humanism, but also tended in the 
direction of a relativistic individualism 
and non-mechanist view of the world. 


Locke remained an empiricist, but on 
matters of the justification of belief firmly 
stressed that ‘entitlement’ to believe 
depends on the ‘reasonableness’ of what 
is believed. Reason and argument test 
claims to truth; not mere intensity of 
conviction or rhetoric. As a theist who 
wrote a commentary on Paul’s Epistles, he 
is not far from the multiple Anglican 
criteria of scripture, reason and tradition 
or common sense, and can be called 
‘rationalist’ only in a moderate and 
relative sense in promoting a concern for 

In 1960 Gadamer published his semi- 
nal work Truth and Method (2nd Eng. ed., 
1989) on HERMENEUTICS. In this work a 
further nuance emerges in understanding 
‘rationalism’. Gadamer pointed out that 
while the major stream of philosophy 
followed Descartes until the end of the 
nineteenth century in stressing reason, 
LOGIC, individual consciousness, DEDUC- 
TIVE REASONING, abstraction and knowl- 
edge, a minority tradition sought to 
recover the kind of insights represented 
by Giambattista Vico (1668-1744). Vico 
stressed the importance of history, life, 
community experience, inherited value, 
traditions and wisdom. 

Hermeneutics acknowledges the role of 
reason, but regards Enlightenment ration- 
alism as individualistic, abstract and shal- 
low. It overlooks questions of time and 
history, which HEGEL, Dilthey and others 
raised. Even appeals to ‘AUTHORITY’, 
Gadamer asserts, are not a matter of 
‘tutelage’ (in the pejorative sense in Kant), 
but of making a rational and reasonable 



assumption that ‘others may know more 
than P about what I seek to understand. 

This entirely healthy insight had begun 
to gain some recognition when it was 
overtaken, and given a new direction, by 
postmodernity. Here ‘reason’ became sub- 
ordinated to historical situatedness. Issues 
of race, class, gender, culture and histor- 
ical era that shape the frame within which 
reason operates become more important 
than reason itself. 

Philosophical claims concerning rational 
reflection now risk assimilation into a 
sociology of knowledge, and even philoso- 
phy of religion would risk becoming sociol- 
ogy of religion if all claims for the validity 
of rational reflection were subordinated to 
social and historical forces. In post-modern 
approaches ‘rational’ tends to become a 
devalued term, as against its overvalued role 
in Enlightenment rationalism. 

Rationalism, it appears, is a slippery 
word, the very diverse meanings and 
assessments of which need to be carefully 
distinguished, especially in the light of 
different contexts of thought. (See also 



realism, critical realism 

The slippery term ‘realism’ has at least 
two or three different contexts of thought 
that shape its meaning differently. Its 
classical meaning stands in contrast to 
NOMINALISM, and belongs primarily but 
not exclusively to the period of philosophy 
from PLATO to medieval scHOLASTICISM. 

The point at issue in this first context 
concerns the status of ‘UNIVERSALS’, i.e. 
concepts, ideas or definitions that seek to 
identify essences rather than depending for 
their meaning directly on particular 
objects, events or cases. Are such univer- 
sals anything more than mental, logical, 
semantic or conceptual constructions of 
the human mind? Do they convey genuine 
reality (Latin, res, a thing) that exists 

independently of the human mind, i.e. in 
the external world? 

Prato (428-348 BCE) assumes the 
truth of realism in his doctrine of Ideas. 
Ideas that enter the mind are like shadows 
or images cast on the wall of a cave by an 
external reality outside the mind (Repub- 
lic, bk VII). The real world is outside the 
cave. The universal and abstract provides 
the perfect Forms of which human repre- 
sentations in language or in art are mere 
copies, which fall short of the original and 

A plausible example comes from geo- 
metry. A perfect circle transcends any 
particular approximation to a perfect 
circle that might be drawn in everyday 
life or even by an architect. A beautiful 
person or beautiful object approximates in 
terms of degree to the perfect beauty of the 
Ideal Form of Beauty that constitutes the 

Few philosophers, however, have held 
such an unqualified realism. From ARIS- 
TOTLE to ABELARD a series of modified 
versions of realism have been formulated 
(see CONCEPTUALISM). Some role must be 
accorded to ways in which human ideas 
and concepts shape and construe what we 
perceive. The climax of this line of 
thought occurs in Kant (1724-1804), 
who understood the CATEGORIES of our 
understanding as regulative mechanisms 
of the mind that ordered and shape 
thought and experience. This becomes 
radicalized partly in FicHTe and fully in 
non-realist POSTMODERNISM. 

With the dawn of the modern period, 
several other contexts of thought have 
served to redefine realism, although gen- 
erally with shared features. If the contrast 
between realism and nominalism turns 
largely on the status of language about 
universals, the contrast between realism 
and IDEALISM turns on the status of ideas 
in EPISTEMOLOGY, or theories of knowl- 
edge. Idealism (as a broad term) proposes 
that material objects as we perceive them 
do not exist but are derived from our 
consciousness of them. 


reason, reasonableness 

This epistemological idealism gener- 
ated a counter-reactive realism at the 
beginning of the twentieth century among 
such thinkers as G.E. Moore, RUSSELL and 
William James. Moore’s ‘Refutation of 
Idealism’ (1903) represented what has 
been called ‘Common-Sense Realism’ or 
‘the New Realism’. An OBJECT of knowl- 
edge, Moore urged, does not depend upon 
a suBJECT-object relation of knowledge. 
Such concepts or ideas as BRADLEY’s claim 
that ‘time is unreal’ is undermined by our 
habit of always taking breakfast ‘before’ 
lunch, both in logic and in reality. 

Idealists were quick to point out that 
the ‘raw’ object of perception, or ‘raw’ 
sensation, was not a series of pre-shaped 
‘objects’, but a bare sense-datum awaiting 
interpretation. There is nothing ‘common 
sense’ about thoroughgoing realism that 
minimizes or evaporates the role of the 
‘ordering’ of sense-data or ‘experience’ by 
the mind. (See the entry on CONCEPTUAL- 
ISM, where it is suggested that intermedi- 
ate positions may be more akin with 
‘common sense’). 

The related term ‘CRITICAL REALISM’ is 
no less slippery. The term properly denotes 
the belief that there is more to reality than 
what we perceive or know. In one sense it 
reflects a commonsense acceptance of the 
view that for finite beings epistemology is 
unlikely to be necessarily co-extensive 
with ONTOLOGY. Further, as a small step 
in the direction of conceptualism, it 
suggests that some general terms (for 
example ‘society’) denote more than the 
particulars that contribute to it (in this 
example, individual persons). In theology 
there is a danger that the term is becoming 
overextended (like ‘FOUNDATIONALISM’ 
and ‘praxis’). (See also CUPITT; BERKELEY; 
Duns Scotus; HEGEL; LOGIC; NON-REA- 

reason, reasonableness 

Reason and rationality should not be 
confused with the philosophical move- 
ments of RATIONALISM or Enlightenment 

rationalism. Even the word ‘reason’ car- 
ries multiple meanings. ‘Reason’ is often 
used to denote the capacity to pass from 
premises to logical conclusions. KANT 
(1724-1804) sets this discursive or infer- 
ential reason in contrast to human under- 
standing and judgement. 


The distinction between ‘theoretical’ rea- 
son and ‘practical’ reason is explicit in 
Kant, but has an earlier history which 
reaches back to ARISTOTLE (384-322 
BCE). It also features implicitly in the 
Judaeo-Christian biblical writings. On 
one side, positively, reason cannot and 
should not be equated with wisdom 
(Hebrew chokmah; Greek, phronésis and 
sophia). A person may be skilled in Loic, 
but lack wisdom and judgement in daily 
life. On the other side, this paves the way 
for a purely instrumental role for reason. 
Hume (1711-76) accords to it the status 
of being the ‘slave of the passions’. 

This instrumental use is conveyed by 
the narrow Greek term techné, which 
stands in contrast to phronésis. In modern 
philosophy this distinction is explored by 
and by Alasdair MacIntyre (b. 1929) in 
moral philosophy and ‘virtue’ ETHICS. 


A turning-point is reached not only with 
Kant, but no less with HEGEL (1770-1831). 
Reason is not ‘instrumental’ for Hegel, but 
explains the nature of reality. This in itself 
is not the turning point, for it reaffirms a 
theme of ancient philosophy. More to the 
point, reason manifests itself as historical 
reason within finite human life. Its nature 
and operation are conditioned by its 
situatedness in the historical flow of life, 
in which social and cultural factors shape 
its capacities and its horizons. 

Ironically, Hegel’s elevation of reason, 
side by side with his recognition of 
‘historicality’ (how human thinking is 
radically conditioned by one’s place within 

reason, reasonableness 


history) led to a devaluation of reason by 
the ‘left-wing’ Hegelians, and paved the 
way for a radical underestimate of the 
capacities of reason in many examples of 
POSTMODERNISM. Radical post-modern 
thinkers tend to place more emphasis on 
the constitutive and regulative power of 
social, political, gender-generated and 
economic forces. In extreme form, tradi- 
tional philosophy is almost replaced by a 
quasi-causal sociology. 


Nevertheless, the importance of human 
rationality and criteria of ‘reasonableness’ 
surface repeatedly in the histories of 
philosophy and RELIGION, and in philoso- 
phy of religion. A hugely important, but 
often unduly neglected, figure in this 
context is LOCKE (1632-1704). WOLTER- 
STORFF has drawn attention to this in his 
John Locke and the Ethics of Belief 

Towards the end of book IV of his 
Essay Concerning Human Understanding 
(1690), Locke points out that mere inten- 
sity of conviction is no criterion for the 
TRUTH of a BELIEF. Prior to his conversion, 
Paul the Apostle was passionately con- 
vinced of the need to stamp out the 
emerging Christian community (ibid., IV: 
19: 2), 

Locke recognized that ‘reason’ has 
multiple meanings (ibid., IV: 17: 1). In a 
purely logical, inferential, sense, and tied 
to the ‘syLLOGISM’, reason may prove to 
be restrictive by appearing to confine all 
‘knowledge’ to that smaller segment of 
utterly ‘certain’, demonstrable truths of 
rationalism (ibid., 4-7). On the other 
hand, used as a critical, regulative tool to 
permit exploration within critical limits, 
we need reason ‘for the enlargement of our 
knowledge and regulating our assent’ 
(ibid., 2). 

Reason, Locke argued, is of major 
importance in resisting both SCEPTICISM 
and undue dogmatism, as well as religious 
‘enthusiasm’. ‘Boundaries between 

faith and reason’ are needed to contradict 
uncontrolled ‘enthusiasm’ and intolerance 
that ‘divides mankind’ (ibid., 18: 11). 
Locke defines ‘enthusiasm’ in religion as 
‘zeal for the irrational’, when ‘groundless 
opinion’ is fancied to be ‘illumination 
from the Spirit of God’ (ibid., 19: 6). A 
rational understanding of what it is 
‘reasonable’ to expect to know also 
addresses some false assumptions behind 
sceptism — for scepticism often arises when 
inflated claims to knowledge cannot be 


Wolterstorff points out that Locke sus- 
tained a broader view of the relation 
between inherited TRADITION and critical 
reason than did DESCARTES (1596-1650). 
Descartes approached the issue of the need 
for certain, demonstrable knowledge most 
especially in the natural sciences. Hence 
the tradition of rationalism in a narrower 
sense may be traced loosely from Des- 
cartes through LEIBNIZ to the Enlight- 
enment thinkers of the late seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries, including the 
deists and the French Encyclopaedists. 

Descartes himself does not fully advo- 
cate the AUTONOMY that characterized 
Enlightenment attitudes and Kant. Never- 
theless, in spite of his THEISM, his meth- 
odological individualism made way for it. 
On the other side, by contrast, Hegel’s 
emphasis on historical processes disen- 
gaged issues about reason from this ‘time- 
less’ individualism centred on the SUBJECT 
of the knowledge. 

Gadamer insists that it is entirely 
reasonable and rational to give due regard 
to tradition and to inherited knowledge. 
To pretend to strip away the tested beliefs 
of others is mere impoverishment, since 
reason itself, as Locke affirmed, could act 
as a critical filter for ‘reasonable’ (rather 
than wholly demonstrable) belief. It is 
widely recognized today that even in the 
natural sciences the part played by com- 
munities and social resources cannot be 


religion, religious experience 


Expressed in these terms, Locke and 
Gadamer provide a wider framework 
and context for understanding the relation 
between reason and faith than the more 
‘two-storey’ model towards which even 
Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) is in danger 
of veering. On the other hand, Aquinas 
expresses the view common to Judaism, 
Christian theology and IsLAMIC PHILOSO- 
PHY when he distinguishes between truths 
accessible to humankind only through 
REVELATION (especially in scriptural texts) 
and truths about the existence of God, 
which cohere with ‘natural reason’ 
(Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 2, 11; and 
Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 12, arts. 

Aquinas concludes: ‘God is known to 
the natural reason through the images of 
his effects ... Knowledge of God in his 
essence is a gift of grace ... Human 
knowledge by the revelation of grace’ 
(Summa Theologiae, Ia, Qu. 12, art. 13). 
Further issues are discussed under 

referential theories of 

In its simplest form this theory proposes 
that the meaning of words lies in the 
OBJECTS to which they refer. Words 
operate like labels for their referents, or 
objects of reference. Ryle dubbed it the 
‘Fido’-Fido theory: ‘Fido’ denotes the dog, 

The theory has been advocated with 
various levels of complexity and nuances 
of Locic: by RussELt (‘The Philosophy of 
Logical Atomism’, rpr. in Logic and 
Knowledge, 1956); by Rudolf Carnap, 
(The Logical Syntax of Language, 1934); 
and in a particular ‘logical’ version by the 
early WITTGENSTEIN (in the Tractatus, 

One major problem is that this theory 
gives privilege to the word, rather than the 

sentence, statement, or longer stretches of 
language — as the basic unit of meaning. A 
second problem arises from the fact that it 
may work well (or appears to do so) only 
in certain segments of language. In his 
later work Wittgenstein observes that if 
‘naming something is like attaching a label 
to a thing’, this may work for nouns such 
as ‘table’, ‘chair’, or ‘bread’, but what 
about exclamations, abstractions, or 
mathematical formulae (Philosophical 
Investigations, Oxford: Blackwell, 1957, 
sects. 15, 27; broadly sects. 1-49)? Third, 
‘One has already to know... something in 
order to be capable of asking a thing’s 
name’ (ibid., sect. 30). 

Wittgenstein’s last point is that the 
satisfactory operation of referential 
meaning presupposes a more sophisticated 
prior level of linguistic competency, from 
which it is a derivation (see OSTENSIVE 

In philosophy of religion, two opposite 
misunderstandings are to be avoided. One 
is the assumption that if a word such as 
‘God’ is not at once clear in meaning as an 
‘object of reference’, this by no means 
implies that there are no other ways of 
explaining the meaning. The second mis- 
take would be to eliminate all referential 
language and meaning. Reference to the 
external world has a necessary place in 
LANGUAGE IN RELIGION. But it does not 
provide a comprehensive theory of mean- 
ing. (See also RAMSEY.) 

religion, religious experience 

Until around the middle of the twentieth 
century a number of textbooks on the 
philosophy of religion began with a 
section under some such title as ‘Defini- 
tions of Religion’. The complexity and 
difficulty of attempting such a task was 
recognized increasingly towards the end of 
the twentieth century. At least three 
difficulties have been noted in late moder- 
nity and in post-modern thought. 

One factor has been a growing under- 
standing of diversity and pluralism, and a 

religion, religious experience 


reaction against over-easy generalization. 
In philosophy the later work of Wirr- 
have encouraged this emphasis on 

What common traits, if any, might be 
said to exist not only between the ‘Abra- 
hamic’ traditions of Judaism, Christianity 
and Islam (which is not an impossible 
question to address), but also between 
these and Hinduism, Buddhism, Confu- 
cianism, Taoism, Sikhism, Shinto and 
tribal or aboriginal religions? 

A second difficulty arises from the 
recognition that it is difficult to go as far 
as we need in terms of supposedly value- 
neutral knowledge, let alone value-neutral 
understanding. Hermeneutical approaches 
may help. However, too many older 
studies have failed to avoid prematurely 
assimilating ‘the other’ in religions to the 
horizons of the enquirer, whether those 
horizons have been those of modern 
secularism or of a specific religion. By 
way of example, we cite below the incisive 
criticisms against J. G. Frazer formulated 
by the later Wittgenstein. 

Third, especially in post-modern 
thought the view that religions serve 
vested interests of social power has led 
some to substitute a sociological or 
‘ideological criticism’ approach for more 
philosophical or theological approaches. 
We examine these critical approaches later 
in this entry, as well as in more detail 
RELIGION. We begin with the first two 


While in the three great ‘Abrahamic’ 
religions the relation between God and 
CREATION is paramount, in the Advaita 
Vedanta traditions within Hinduism, the 
created order of space and time is deemed 

to be illusory (maya). From this viewpoint, 
Judaism, Christianity and Islam might 
appear to verge on the dualistic. Further, 
ultimate reality in this Hindu tradition is 
beyond form, and therefore hardly 
personal or entirely theistic. Yet, again, 
traditions within Hinduism vary (see 

Some strands within Hinduism, for 
example in parts of the Bhagavad Gita, 
perceive the divine as personal, all-good, 
and loving. While there may be sugges- 
tions of polytheism in some popular 
Hindu religious traditions, there is also a 
notion of a tripartite hierarchy of Brahma, 
the creator; Vishnu, the sustainer; and 
Shiva, the destroyer. Further, Sikhism tried 
to encourage common ground in the 
sixteenth century between Hindus and