This essay is critical of some of the attempts made to solve problems of meaning in religious languages, but remains open-minded about them and accepts the Wittgensteinian invitation to look at their dissolution by way of the experiences of meaning and the aspects of language on which they rely. I have argued that there were and are no lasting problems with religiouslanguage per se and that the force and meaning of what is said in using (...)religiouslanguage over time and circumstance may vary even to the point of having to retrieve concepts feared lost. We may in addition give ourselves our own personal interpretations by which we want to live and discuss with those in our space of reasons where good conversation is ever an inexhaustible provision on the way to enlightened understanding. Furthermore, we are not merely passive recipients of the meanings and significance of the languages we know. Finally, much of the meaning of religiouslanguage comes with the experience of being struck again by what has always been loved and by new aspects of, or different ways of taking, what is presented. (shrink)
This study reviews some of the principal themes in contemporary work on religiouslanguage. Unlike other recent surveys, the most pressing issues about religiouslanguage are addressed from the perspective of the philosophy of language; different positions taken on these issues by philosophers of religion and theologians are considered. Topics that are covered include: the subject matter of religious discourse, reductionism and subjectivism, expressivism, the nature of religious metaphor, religious fictionalism and truth (...) in religious discourse. The study also looks at the relationship between questions about religiouslanguage and cognate areas of philosophy of religion such as epistemology and metaphysics, and potential future directions of research. (shrink)
Is it possible to talk about God without either misrepresentation or failing to assert anything of significance? The article begins by reviewing how, in attempting to answer this question, traditional theories of religiouslanguage have failed to sidestep both potential pitfalls adequately. After arguing that recently developed theories of metaphor seem better able to shed light on the nature of religiouslanguage, it considers the claim that huge areas of our language and, consequently, of our (...) experience are shaped by metaphors. Finally, it considers some of the more significant implications of this claim for our understanding of both religiouslanguage and religious experience. (shrink)
This paper examines how Heidegger's view that language is poetry might provide a helpful way of understanding the nature of religiouslanguage. Poetry, according to Heidegger, is language in its purest form, in that it both reveals Being, whilst also showing the difference between word and thing. In poetry, Heidegger suggests, we come closest to the essence of language itself and encounter its strangeness and impermeability, and its revelatory character. What would be the implications for (...) viewing religiouslanguage in this way? Through examining Heidegger's view that poetry is the purest form of language, I suggest that it would also be possible to view religiouslanguage as poetry in this way, in that it also shows the transcendence of what cannot be brought to presence in language, except as concealed. Such a view of religiouslanguage does not regard it as a problematic type of language, deserving special treatment, but rather suggests that in religiouslanguage the inarticulable relationship between word and world is revealed. (shrink)
Upholding a univocity theory of religiouslanguage does not entail idolatry, because nothing about univocity entails misidentifying God altogether—which is what idolatry amounts to. Upholders and opponents of univocity can agree on the object to which they are ascribing various attributes, even if they do not agree on the attributes themselves. Neither does the defender of univocity have to maintain that there is anything real really shared by God and creatures. Furthermore, even if much of language is (...) analogous, syllogistic argument—and hence theology’s scientific status, as accepted by the scholastics—requires univocity. (shrink)
Ian Barbour sees four ways to relate science and religion: (1) conflict, (2) disjunction or independence, (3) dialogue, and (4) synthesis or integration. David Burrell posits three ways to construe religiouslanguage, as (a) univocal, (b) equivocal, or (c) analogous. The paper contends that Barbour’s (1) and (4) presuppose Burrell’s (a), Barbour's (2) presupposes Burrell’s (b), and Barbour’s (3) presupposes Burrell’s (c), and it explores some of the implications for each alternative.
Modern science provides the philosophy of religion with new perspectives and bodies of evidence for researching religion. Anthropology, for example, is helpful when we consider the relation of language and religion, and recent research in the philosophy of religion has been occupied with problems created by the distinctively religious uses of language. Language and action based on the assumptions of Western culture could, however, be obstacles to grasping the essence of the faith in other contexts. I (...) argue that methodological pluralism should be employed by philosophers, theologians, and writers, because human and religious experience is irremediably pluralistic. (shrink)
Introduction -- The mathematical roots of the concept of analogy -- Aristotle : the uses of analogy -- Aristotle : analogy and language -- Thomas Aquinas -- Immanuel Kant -- Karl Barth -- Final reflections.
This paper is about the relevance of the ineffable and the singular to hermeneutics. I respond to standard criticisms of Friedrich Schleiermacher by Karl Barth and Hans-Georg Gadamer in order to clarify his understanding of language, interpretation, and religion. Schleiermacher’s “indicative hermeneutics” is developed in the context of the ethical significance of communication and the ineffable. The notion of trace is employed in order to interpret the paradox of speaking about that which cannot be spoken. The trace is not (...) a brute singularity but bears a fundamental relationship to the word—and ultimately the word of God—for Schleiermacher. (shrink)
Unlike versions of open theism that appeal to the alethic openness of the future, defenders of limited foreknowledge open theism (hereafter LFOT) affirm that some propositions concerning future contingents are presently true. Thus, there exist truths that are unknown to God, so God is not omniscient simpliciter. LFOT requires modal definitions of divine omniscience such that God knows all truths that are logically knowable. Defenders of LFOT have yet to provide an adequate response to Richard Purtill’s argument that fatalism logically (...) follows from the omnitemporality of truth. Hasker believes a distinction between hard and soft facts prevents fatalism, but I argue that his defense fails in light of arguments involving divine necessity. Additionally, I point out that Hasker’s philosophy of language concerning divine names faces problems that cannot be overcome, given the versions of the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge that motivate LFOT. Thus, contra Hasker, Swinburne, and van Inwagen, open theism necessitates the alethic openness of the future. (shrink)
What makes Jewish thought Jewish? This book proceeds from a view of the Hebrew language as the holy tongue; such a view of Hebrew is, indeed, a distinctively Jewish view as determined by the Jewish religious tradition. Because language shapes thought and Hebrew is the foundational language of Jewish texts, this book explores the idea that Jewish thought is distinguished by concepts and categories rooted in Hebrew. Drawing on more than 300 Hebrew roots, the author shows (...) that Jewish thought employs Hebrew concepts and categories that are altogether distinct from those that characterize the Western speculative tradition. Among the key categories that shape Jewish thought are holiness, divinity, humanity, prayer, responsibility, exile, dwelling, gratitude, and language itself. While the Hebrew language is central to the investigation, the reader need not have a knowledge of Hebrew in order to follow it. Essential reading for students and scholars of Judaism, this book will also be of value to anyone interested in the categories of thinking that form humanity's ultimate concerns. (shrink)
"Shell offers admirably close readings [which are] often brilliant... Summary could do little more than hint at the riches laid open."-- The Eighteenth Century "A remarkable piece of work. Valuable for a wide range of readers from the expert to the inquiring generalist."-- Religious Studies Review In Money, Language, and Thought , Marc Shell explores the interactions between linguistic and economic production as they inform discourse from Chretien de Troyes to Heidegger.
This book is a philosophical examination of the main stages in our journey from hominid to human. It deals with the nature and origin of language, the self, self-consciousness, and the religious ideal of a return to Eden. It approaches these topics through a philosophical anthropology derived from the later writings of Wittgenstein. The result is an account of our place in nature consistent with both a hard-headed empiricism and a this-worldy but religiously significant mysticism.
Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) is a major figure not only in German philosophy but also in literature and religious history. In his own time he wrote penetrating criticisms of Herder, Kant, Mendelssohn, and other Enlightenment thinkers; after his death he was an important figure for Goethe, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and others. It was only in the twentieth century, however, that the full and radical extent of his 'linguistic' critique of philosophy was recognized. This volume presents a new translation of a (...) wide selection of his essays, including both famous and lesser-known works. Hamann's enigmatic prose-style was deliberately at odds with Enlightenment assumptions about language, and a full apparatus of annotation explains the numerous allusions in his essays. The volume is completed by a historical and philosophical introduction and suggestions for further reading. (shrink)
What do we mean when we talk about "God?" Does this term actually refer to anything in our experience? This book opens up significant new approaches to one of the most important problems confronting theology and the philosophy of religion, namely, the problem of "God-language." Current philosophical concerns over language have intensified the difficulty of talking about God: The necessity of formally proving the "meaningfulness" of statements about God has led to theological dead ends on the one hand (...) and a retreat to mysticism or irrationality on the other. This book moves the discussion of God-language to a new plane, arguing that God-language cannnot be understood within a traditional "theistic" framework. Instead, a "grammar" of God-language must be identified, and in doing this Jennings reaches a fresh view of language, one that is applicable to all religions and all human experience--the religious as well as the secular. (shrink)
The scholar and his public in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.--Thomism and the Italian thought of the Renaissance.--The contribution of religious orders to Renaissance thought and learning.--Bibliography (p. -120).
In this paper, I explore a possible convergence between two great twentieth century thinkers, Nishida Kitarō of Japan and Martin Heidegger of Germany. The focus is on the quasi-religiouslanguage they employ in discussing the grounding of human existence in terms of an encompassing Wherein for our being. Heidegger speaks of “the sacred” and “the passing of the last god” that mark an empty clearing wherein all metaphysical absolutes or gods have withdrawn but are simultaneously indicative of an (...) opening wherein beings are given. Nishida speaks of “the religious” dimension in the depths of one's being, that he calls “place,” and that somehow envelops the world through its kenotic self-negation. In both we find reference to a kind of originary space—the open or place—associated with quasireligious themes. I also point to their distinct approaches to metaphysical language in their attempts to give voice to that abysmal thought. (shrink)
A concern central to virtually all full-blooded instances of religious ethics is how persuasively to represent a world central to our fulfillment that far exceeds our normal understanding. The treatment of three kinds of language in an early Daoist text, the Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), contains an especially profound discussion and expression of such persuasive presentations in religious ethics. This study examines it and concludes by viewing Dante's Commedia through the perspectives Zhuangzi's ideas and practices present.
Religious exclusivism, or the idea that only one religion can be true, fuels hatred and conflict in the modern world. Certain objections to religious pluralism, together with associated defences of exclusivism are flawed. I defend a moderate religious pluralism, according to which the truth of one religion does not automatically imply the falsity of others. The thought that we can respect persons even when holding them mistaken strains credulity when we are dealing with religious convictions. Moreover, (...) exclusivism is informed by inadequate approaches to discourse about transcendence. The intentional-descriptivist approach to reference is not comprehensively adequate, and yet is assumed by some objections to pluralism. The irreducibly metaphorical character of much religiouslanguage means that differences between world religions can be more apparent than real. Approaches to religious education should embrace a moderate religious pluralism. (shrink)
In this introduction to a cluster of three articles on eighteenth-century eth- ics written by Mark Larrimore, John Bowlin, and Mark Cladis, the author maintains that although the broad narrative tracing the emergence of a religiously neutral or naturalistic moral language in the eighteenth cen- tury is a familiar one, many central questions concerning this development remain unanswered and require further historical study. Against those who contend that historical study is antecedent to, but not part of, the proper substance (...) of religious ethics, the author argues that historical and normative studies are interdependent, each helping to define the questions central to the other. The introduction concludes with an overview of the three articles and suggests ways in which religious ethicists can, in the future, make a distinctive contribution to the history of ethics. (shrink)
FOLLOWING A THREE CHAPTER INTRODUCTION ON FAITH AND REASON, THE AUTHOR PRESENTS, IN TWO CHAPTERS, A COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF AN UNCAUSED ENTITY. EIGHT CHAPTERS OF CRITICISM OF ALTERNATIVES FOLLOW. THREE FOUR-CHAPTERS PARTS ON THE MEANINGFULNESS OF GOD-TALK, EXISTENTIAL OBJECTIONS TO GOD, AND THE MEANINGFULNESS OF CHRISTIAN BELIEFS CONCLUDE THE WORK. (BP).
What is the status of belief in God? Must a rational case be made or can such belief be properly basic? Is it possible to reconcile the concept of a good God with evil and suffering? In light of great differences among religions, can only one religion be true? The most comprehensive work of its kind, Reason and Religious Belief, now in its fourth edition, explores these and other perennial questions in the philosophy of religion. Drawing from the best (...) in both classical and contemporary discussions, the authors examine religious experience, faith and reason, the divine attributes, arguments for and against the existence of God, divine action (in various forms of theism), Reformed epistemology, religiouslanguage, religious diversity, religion and science, and much more. Retaining the engaging style and thorough coverage of previous editions, the fourth edition adds a critical new chapter on the ontological status of religion and the nature of religious claims. It also features revised treatments of omnipotence, miracles, and providence and updated suggestions for further reading. A sophisticated yet accessible introduction, Reason and Religious Belief, Fourth Edition, is ideally suited for use with the authors' companion anthology, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, Third Edition (OUP, 2006). (shrink)
What is the status of belief in God? Must a rational case be made or can such belief be properly basic? Is it possible to reconcile the concept of a good God with evil and suffering? In light of great differences among religions, can only one religion be true? The most comprehensive work of its kind, Reason and Religious Belief, now in its third edition, explores these and other perennial questions in the philosophy of religion. Drawing from the best (...) in both classical and contemporary discussions, the authors examine religious experience, faith and reason, theistic arguments, the problem of evil, Reformed epistemology, miracles, and religiouslanguage. They also treat subjects not often included in competing texts, such as process theism, religious pluralism, religion and science, and the relationship between religion and morality. The third edition retains the engaging style and thorough coverage of previous editions and also takes into account the latest contributions in the field by such thinkers as Plantinga, Alston, Martin, Murphy, Dembski, M. Adams, and Swinburne. Integrating a variety of perspectives, it adds a chapter on the openness of God debate, several sections on feminist concerns, and frequent comparisons of how Eastern religions compare with Western theism. A sophisticated yet accessible introduction, Reason and Religious Belief, 3/e is ideally suited for use with the authors' companion anthology, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 2/e (OUP, 2000). (shrink)
Do we conduct our conscious propositional thinking in natural language? Or is such language only peripherally related to human conscious thought-processes? In this paper I shall present a partial defence of the former view, by arguing that the only real alternative is eliminativism about conscious propositional thinking. Following some introductory remarks, I shall state the argument for this conclusion, and show how that conclusion can be true. Thereafter I shall defend each of the three main premises in turn.