Religion and Understanding [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 21 (3):565-566 (1968)

Abstract
This collection complements New Essays in Philosophical Theology by displaying the influence of the later Wittgenstein on contemporary philosophers of religion. The first two papers are Peter Winch's "Understanding a Primitive Society" and Norman Malcolm's "Anselm's Ontological Arguments". Distinguishing between interpretations of experience within a system of concepts and the reality expressed by the limiting concepts presupposed by such a system, Winch will not allow us to question the validity of the portrayal of reality as such and specifically attacks MacIntyre's dismissal of magic. Neither Winch nor Malcolm leave room for changes in our conception of the reality expressed which might lead to radical reappraisal of the concepts used. Building on Malcolm, the editor declares theoretical speculation and scepticism to be incompatible with religious understanding. After a typically sterile debate between Atheist, Agnostic, Protestant and Catholic and a typically judicious paper by Kemp Smith on "Is Divine Existence Credible?" we come to the gem of the collection, W. H. Poteat's "Birth, Suicide and the Doctrine of Creation: An Exploration of Analogies." This and the next unravel ambiguities in our talk of the world. Then come R. F. Holland on "The Miraculous" and some vintage Collingwood on "The Devil". Phillips on moral and religious conceptions of duty and Poteat's analysis of "I Will Die" complete the series. Almost all of the essays have been previously published, but the editor has done a good job of gathering and arranging them in a meaningful sequence. Apart from Kemp Smith and Collingwood, the writers represent "Wittgensteinian Fideism" and the book suffers for lack of the criticism of this that Kai Nielsen or MacIntyre might have supplied. Its most suggestive passages are those in which linguistic and existentialist insights are married. But the marriage is still without metaphysical issue.—C. P. S.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph196821357
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