When we think of the problem of ‘universals’, we tend first of all to identify this issue with medieval philosophy. In that period the arguments ran hot and heavy, and the result was that philosophers almost came to be classified according to the position each took about the relation between the individual and universal concepts. Of course, the fact is that the problem of universals has been important in every philosophical age in western thought. Metaphysics as an enterprise may rise (...) and fall in popularity, but the problem of universals is always with us. Yet, like most philosophical problems of importance, it has not always meant one thing. (shrink)
To answer such a question cannot be simple. No single philosophical strain has ever captured America for long. The domination of Hegel and Kant in Germany, of Empiricism or Wittgenstein in England, have no counterpart in America. Existentialism swept France after World War II, and Russia operated for years with a monolithic Marxism. It is true that American philosophers follow fashions and that certain schools of thought dominate for a time. But the basic pluralism present in America makes it almost (...) impossible for one theory to gain total control. Forms of Hegelianism did dominate for a time, until American Pragmatism developed as a revolt against them. Yet as American as Pragmatism was in its origins, it never captured the entire philosophical scene either. (shrink)
For some time it seemed as if Christianity itself required us to say that ‘God is in history’. Of course, even to speak of ‘history’ is to reveal a bias for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century forms of thought. But the justification for talking about the Christian God in this way is the doctrine of the incarnation. The centre of the Christian claim is that Jesus is God's representation in history, although we need not go all the way to a full trinitarian (...) interpretation of the relationship between God and Jesus. Thus, the issue is not so much whether God can appear or has appeared within, or entered into, human life as it is a question of what categories we use to represent this. To what degree is God related to the sphere of human events? Whatever our answer, we need periodically to re-examine the way we speak about God to be sure the forms we use have not become misleading. (shrink)
A collection of essays written over the years by Frederick Sontag, American Life addresses various ethical, philosophical, and religious topics in American history and explores how these experiences can be used to face problems in the future.
Similarities between existentialism and greek thought (particularly socrates and plato) that existentialism suggests "a way beyond" the traditional notions in greek ethical thought. This is done primarily by the stress which existentialism gives to the 'future', due to its emphasis on the notions of 'contingency' and 'freedom'.
The importance of emotion to philosophy is once again being recognized. In both the Rationalist and Empiricist traditions, the aim was to neutralize or eliminate the role of emotion. Reviewing various theories about emotion, we come to Freud and Jung. The balance of the book explores a theory of knowledge and decision based on their philosophical concepts. This restores emotion to its central position in philosophy.
Speaking for the theology of the East, Masao Abe says: ‘I do not see the ontological ground on which being has priority over non-being’. Professor Abe is speaking of Tillich's assertion that there is an ‘ontological priority of being over nonbeing’, but Abe's question is more or less directed to the whole Western metaphysical tradition and illustrates the fundamental philosophical point at issue between the East and West. Nonbeing can be ruled out of consideration as Parmenides and Wittgenstein have done (...) . Or, like Plato and Tillich, being can be said to embrace both itself and nonbeing, even if this is not explained in detail very clearly. Yet the challenge of the East still stands: What embraces both being and nonbeing may not be ‘Being’ but ‘that which is neither being nor non-being’. If the East and the West are to meet metaphysically, we can no longer simply assume the priority of being over nonbeing. We must begin by considering the alternative of the East and then justify any choice between competing first principles by prior metaphysical argument. (shrink)
God appears in many ways. Thus, it is our task to discern the many faces of God—or to find an acceptable picture of God among the many Gods. People have, I suspect, always been aware of the multiplicity of the ways in which they have seen God, but today our task is more difficult and also more challenging. For centuries we pursued the holy grail: the notion that soon, eventually, we would discover God himself among the Gods, validate the one (...) face among the many. It was a modern, rationalist hope, but it has tended to end in either atheism or in the destruction of the religious life. (shrink)