Personal or Non-Personal Divinity: A New Pluralist Approach


Religious disagreement – the existence of inconsistent religious views – is familiar and widespread. Among the most fundamental issues of such disagreement is whether to characterise the divine as personal or non-personal. On most other religious issues, the diverse views seem to presuppose some view on the personal/non-personal issue. In this essay, I address a particular question arising from disagreement over this issue. Let an exclusivist belief be a belief that a doctrine d on an issue is true, and that doctrines on the issue that differ from d are false. Assume that for at least some people, there is no epistemic reason to prefer any one exclusivist view on the personal/non-personal question. This might be because disagreements act as defeaters for disputants’ beliefs, or because someone comes at the question without already holding a belief on the matter, and finds each view equally plausible. In these circumstances, is it still possible to engage with particular traditions in a realist, truth-seeking way? I answer that it is, arguing for a new pluralist approach to the personal/non-personal issue. By ‘pluralist’, I mean an approach that reinterprets a doctrine d on a given issue to be consistent with doctrines on the issue that differ from d. I start with probably the best-known pluralist account of religion, that of John Hick. After presenting his account I identify a problem that it faces which any pluralist account must address, one that has clear relevance to the personal/non-personal question. I then draw on Thomas Merton to outline an alternative pluralist route, illustrating how such an approach can apply to Christian and Buddhist ideas of an ultimate spiritual goal. The personal/non-personal issue is a good test for the approach I develop: because of the issue’s fundamentality, if the approach succeeds here then the prospects look bright for applying it to other topics of religious disagreement.



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

  • Only published works are available at libraries.

Similar books and articles

Religious Disagreement and Pluralism.Matthew A. Benton & Jonathan L. Kvanvig (eds.) - 2021 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
First Person and Third Person Reasons and Religious Epistemology.Linda Zagzebski - 2011 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 3 (2):285 - 304.
Religious Disagreement Is Not Unique.Margaret Greta Turnbull - 2021 - In Matthew A. Benton & Jonathan L. Kvanvig (eds.), Religious Disagreement and Pluralism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 90-106.
Religious Diversity and Disagreement.Matthew A. Benton - 2019 - In Miranda Fricker, Peter Graham, David Henderson & Nikolaj Pedersen (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology. Routledge. pp. 185-195.
Conciliationism and Religious Disagreement.John Pittard - 2014 - In Michael Bergmann & Patrick Kain (eds.), Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief: Disagreement and Evolution. Oxford University Press. pp. 80-97.
Religious Pluralism.Keith E. Yandell - 2009 - Philosophia Christi 11 (2):275-292.
Locke on Persons and Personal Identity.Ruth Boeker - 2021 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Added to PP

74 (#165,483)

6 months
29 (#43,139)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Julian Perlmutter
Highgate School, London

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Metaphor and Theological Realism.Gäb Sebastian - 2014 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 6 (1):79-92.

Add more references