Many philosophers believe that God has been put to rest. Naturalism is the default position, and the naturalist can explain what needs to be explained without recourse to God. This book agrees that we should be naturalists, but it rejects the more prevalent scientific naturalism in favour of an 'expansive' naturalism inspired by David Wiggins and John McDowell. Fiona Ellis draws on a wide range of thinkers from theology and philosophy, and spans the gulf between analytic and continental philosophy. She (...) tackles various philosophical problems including the limits of nature and the status of value; some theological problems surrounding the natural/ supernatural relation, the Incarnation, and the concept of myth; and offers a model to comprehend the relation between philosophy and theology. (shrink)
ABSTRACT I offer an approach to the problem of life’s meaning which poses a radical challenge to some of the familiar terms of this debate. First, I defend an expansive form of naturalism which involves a rejection of the common assumption that naturalism and theism are logically incompatible and offers a framework from which to rethink some of the central concepts operative in discussions of life’s meaning. Second, I defend a ‘desire solution’ to the problem of life’s meaning. My initial (...) inspiration is Richard Taylor’s version of such a position as articulated in his book Good and Evil. I argue that this solution is best articulated from within an expansive naturalist framework, raise some doubts about Taylor’s metaphysics, and make a connection with the Nietzschean problem of nihilism. (shrink)
What does it mean to understand the world religiously? How is such understanding to be distinguished from scientific understanding? What does it have to do with religious practice, transfiguring love, and spiritual well-being? New Models of Religious Understanding investigates these questions to set a new and exciting agenda for philosophy of religion. Featuring contributions from leading scholars in the field, the volume cuts across the supposed divide between analytic and continental approaches to the subject and engages the interest of a (...) broad range of philosophical and theological readers. (shrink)
How are we to view the nature of desire and its relation to value, humanity, and God? Sartre, Nietzsche, and Levinas have interesting things to say in this context, and they can be understood to be responding in their different ways to two seemingly opposed ways of conceiving of desire, namely, as lack or deficiency or as plenitude or creativity. I clarify, link, and distinguish the relevant conceptions of desire, and give a sense of what it could mean to comprehend (...) desire in either or both of these ways. I question Sartre's insistence that man is a ‘useless passion’, trace it back to his commitment to a ‘lack’ model of desire, and argue that this model, as he understands it, stands in the way of the more creative conception which is lurking in the background of his account. There will be a question of whether the atheist is entitled to this creative conception, and I shall challenge his assumption that it becomes available only when theism is overthrown. I shall suggest also that there is something important to be salvaged from the lack model. (shrink)
I defend a form of naturalism which has much in common with Iris Murdoch's ‘true naturalism’, but I argue that it can accommodate God. I consider what it could mean for naturalism to be theistic in this sense, and respond to the charge that it leaves no room for the transcendent.
Last night I had a desire for a glass of wine. Luckily I had a bottle in the fridge and could satisfy my desire. Earlier in the day I had a desire to run on the heath and I satisfied this desire too. And today, tired of reading yet more stuff on desire, I satisfied my desire to start writing. So desires can be satisfied. Not that they are guaranteed to be satisfied – the bottle in my fridge might have (...) failed to materialize, and something might have prevented me from going for a run or getting down to writing – but that they can be satisfied. Witness C.S. Lewis: Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. (shrink)
This book traces a deep misunderstanding about the relation of concepts and reality in the history of philosophy. It exposes the influence of the mistake in the thought of Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Nietzche and Bradley, and suggests that the solution can be found in Hegelian thought. Ellis argues that the treatment proposed exemplifies Hegel's dialectical method. This is an important contribution to this area of philosophy.
Murdoch and Levinas both believe that our humanity requires us to suppress our natural egoism and to be morally responsive to others. Murdoch insists that while such a morality presupposes a ’transcendent background’, God should be kept out of the picture altogether. By contrast, Levinas argues that, in responding morally to others, we make contact with God (though not the God of traditional Christianity) and that in doing so we become more God-like. I attempt to clarify their agreements and differences, (...) and I offer some criticisms of their conception of humanity, God, and the relationship between them. (shrink)
My starting point in this paper is that expansive naturalism is a defensible position. I spell out what this position involves, and grant with Iris Murdoch that we should take seriously the idea that the world in which we are immersed has an irreducibly spiritual dimension. I consider what it could mean to think of spiritual reality in supernaturalist terms, agree with the naturalist that dualistic supernaturalism is to be rejected, and ask whether one can legitimately reject this model as (...) both a naturalist and a theist. (shrink)
In his paper `Truth, Invention, and the Meaning of Life' David Wiggins identifies a certain framework in terms of which to tackle the question of life's meaning. I argue that his criticisms of this framework are justified, and develop an alternative which trades upon some themes from Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Levinas. This alternative remains in the spirit of Wiggins' own preferred standpoint, although he would take issue with its theological implications. I argue that such misgivings are misplaced, and that a (...) move in the direction of God may be precisely what is needed if we are to provide an adequate alternative to the framework under attack. (shrink)
I am concerned to examine a mode of argumentation in recent analytic philosophy which, I claim, has its origin in Hegel's ‘dialectical’ method. I give examples of this mode of argumentation in McDowell and Wiggins, followed by a formal representation which distinguishes two possible models both of which have negative and positive aspects. I consider what the commitments of the negative aspect of this approach are, and argue that the desire to avoid naturalism constitutes a common goal. I turn then (...) to its positive aspect, making explicit and criticising some of the metaphilosophical implications contained therein. Finally, I make brief contact with Hegel. (shrink)
I reconsider the idea that there is an analogy between belief in other minds and belief in God, and examine two approaches to the relevant beliefs. The 'explanatory inductive' approach raises difficulties in both contexts, and involves questionable assumptions. The 'expressivist' approach is more promising, and presupposes a more satisfactory metaphysical framework in the first context. Its application to God is similarly insightful, and offers an intellectually respectable, albeit resistible, version of the doctrine that nature is a book of lessons.
Cognitive dualism offers a defensible conception of theism, and Scruton is right to endorse it. However, he retains a commitment to the ontological dualism it is his purpose to reject, and this leads to a deep tension in his position which leaves him unable to make sense of there being a route to the Divine. I argue that this tension stems from a residual commitment to a Kantian framework, and that this framework is not mandatory. I propose an alternative model (...) which is compatible with much of what Scruton says, but which offers a more consistent and satisfactory theistic picture. (shrink)
I examine Roger Scruton's account of the religious and soteriological significance of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde . The relation between Scruton and Wagner remains unclear, and the position at issue is a curious amalgam of the two. I refer to its author as ‘Scruton's Wagner’. Scruton's Wagner argues that erotic love has religious and soteriological significance, and that the notions of religion and salvation are to be defined in terms which are shorn of any reference to God. I argue that (...) there may be good reasons for setting these limits short of God, but that Scruton's Wagner does not provide them. (shrink)
I consider whether there are philosophical developments which can deepen our understanding of God. I focus upon the relation between experience and physical things and the nature of value. I reject the narrow limits of experience presupposed by the verificationist, and the related monopoly of science on reality. I recommend a conception of reality which is rich enough to accommodate physical things and also the intertwining of value in the natural world. I detect structural similarities between these two problems and (...) the problem of God, and consider how they might be related at the level of content. (shrink)
I am concerned with the metaphilosophical questions of how we are to proceed when doing philosophy, and whether there is more than one way of achieving our aim. These questions are tackled initially by an examination of the answers given by Richard Double in his book Metaphilosophy and Freewill. It is argued that the considerations he rehearses in favour of metaphilosophical relativism are inconclusive, and that, in any case, it is a position that contains serious internal difficulties. An analogy is (...) made with the problems encountered by Hume's sceptical theory of the self, and it is suggested that Double, like Hume, is implicitly presupposing the conclusion he is seeking to deny. He does so by relying upon certain critical procedures in the course of his argument. Next, I consider how Double might respond to this criticism, and it is concluded that such a rejoinder fails. Finally, I return to the questions which served as the starting point of this discussion, and I apply the conclusions I have reached to their possible resolution. It is claimed that a form of rationalism has been vindicated. (shrink)