Remarks Regarding Religious Points of View and Religious Scholars' Points of View

Ethical Perspectives 7 (4):300-311 (2000)
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Whatever the precise analysis of the notion of an `internal point of view', to talk about `religious traditions' is to imply that traditions of a certain kind primarily deploy an internal point of view. But what can be said about the notion of an intellectual tradition that would at the same time also be, or be connected to, a religious tradition? To some, such notions appear to border on contradiction. In accordance with the Cartesian criticism of coutume et exemple, we tend to think of an intellectual stance as the correlate of a detached view, with the rational remaining the enemy of the traditional. In that case, every application whatsoever of the predicate `intellectual' to a tradition would be flawed. According to a certain Enlightenment view, inspired by science, is it not of the very essence of the intellectual stance in general that one stand back at a critical distance from any tradition, especially one's own?In fact, historically oriented philosophers of science like Crombie, Kuhn, Laudan have reminded us of the fact that there is nothing disturbingly paradoxical in speaking of `intellectual traditions': to quote one of Kuhn's book titles, there is the "essential tension" that characterizes science in its development just as much as any other cultural tradition. This tension between the old and the new is the mark of traditions, including the ones defining the rationality or rationalities of science. We could say that Kuhn's `paradigms' already outlined the borders of specific `catholicities' for the specialized fields of scientific research traditions. If Kuhn ever had a point, it must be that science too can develop only within the framework of styles of reasoning, which is to say that it demands viewpoints that cannot be characterized as `external', at least not in an absolute, metaphysical sense of the word



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