In this book Mark Wynn argues that the landscape of philosophical theology looks rather different from the perspective of a re-conceived theory of emotion. In matters of religion, we do not need to opt for objective content over emotional form or vice versa. On the contrary, these strategies are mistaken at root, since form and content are not properly separable here - because 'inwardness' may contribute to 'thought-content', or because emotional feelings can themselves constitute thoughts; or because, to put the (...) point a further way, in religious contexts, perception and conception are often infused by feeling. Wynn uses this perspective to forge a distinctive approach to a range of established topics in philosophy of religion, notably: religious experience; the problem of evil; the relationship of religion and ethics, and religion and art; and in general, the connection of 'feeling' to doctrine and tradition. (shrink)
In his discussion of conversion experience, in The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James draws attention to a variety of experience which has not been much investigated in the philosophy of religion literature, but which seems to be of some importance religiously—namely, an experience which consists in a re-vivification of the sensory world as a whole. In this paper, I develop four accounts of the nature of this kind of experience, and I show how the experience can inform our conception (...) of the spiritual life, considered as a world-directed mode of experience and practice. (shrink)
God and Goodness takes the experience of value as a starting point for natural theology. Mark Wynn argues that theism offers our best understanding of the goodness of the world, especially its beauty and openness to the development of richer and more complex material forms. We also see that the world's goodness calls for a moral response: commitment to the goodness of the world represents a natural extension of the trust to which we aspire in our dealings with human beings.
The recent philosophical literature on religious experience has mostly been concerned with experiences which are taken by the subject of the experience to be directly of God or some other supernatural entity, or to involve some suspension of the subject–object structure of conventional experience. In this paper I consider a further kind of experience, where the sense of God is mediated by way of an appreciation of the existential meanings which are presented by a material context. In this way the (...) paper aims to extend the standard philosophical concept of religious experience so as to take account of phenomenological treatments of sacred place, and to give more prominence to the materially mediated or sacramental character of much religious experience. (shrink)
This paper argues that we can fruitfully consider some central issues in philosophy of religion through the lens provided by the literature in aesthetics. Specifically, I argue that Mikel Dufrenne's theory of representation in the arts can be usefully applied to representations of the sacred. The paper seeks to trace some of the implications of this view for our understanding of religious language and the epistemology of religious belief. It also aims to throw light on the religious power of art, (...) including art which lacks any explicitly religious content. (shrink)
In his book The Existence of God , Professor Swinburne develops a cumulative case for theism. As part of this case, he presents two forms of the argument from design, one form taking as its premise the fact of spatial order, the other proceeding from the fact of temporal order. In this paper, I shall concern myself with the second of these arguments; that is, in Swinburne's terms, I shall concern myself with the argument from regularities of succession.
This chapter begins with a review of recent philosophical literature on religious experience, which has generally been concerned with experiences that focus on God or some other supernatural ‘thing’, and then considers other kinds of religious experience which should be of some interest for natural theology. It suggests that these kinds of religious experience invite a certain conception of God, namely, as an overarching meaning, rather than as a supernatural ‘object’, and also a correlative epistemology, one which gives due acknowledgement (...) to the sense-making capacities of the human body and of affective responses in particular. (shrink)
The paper seeks to address three objections to pilgrimage practices -- they are tied to superstitious beliefs (except where they are seen as simply an aid to the imagination), imply a crude experiential or emotional understanding of the nature of faith, and rest upon a primitive conception of divine localizability. In responding to these objections, I argue that the religious significance of places is not reducible to their contribution to religious imagination, experience or understanding. In this sense, relationship to God (...) is not just a matter of thought, but of location. (shrink)
This paper explores some implications of the idea that religious thoughts can enter into the sensory appearances of things. I begin by clarifying this idea, using some examples drawn from Roger Scruton's discussion of the phenomenology of architectural experience. Then I consider the bearing of the idea on the case for religious belief in pragmatic and epistemic terms. More exactly, I explore how the idea of an internal relation between religious thought and the sensory appearances of things can be used (...) (1) to state William James's case in 'The will to believe' with new nuance, and (2) to set out an epistemic case for religious belief whose central claims seem quite commonly to weigh with believers, but which has not been much discussed by philosophers. (shrink)
The paper examines three themes from the recent philosophical literature on place: the status of places as “concrete universals”; the narratively mediated agency of places; and the various ways in which human identity proves to be relative to place. I argue that these themes throw into new relief a set of correlative issues in philosophical theology concerning, respectively, God’s supra-individuality, God’s status as a final cause, and the divine grounding of human identity. On this basis, the paper proposes that knowledge (...) of place is analogous to, and partly constitutive of, knowledge of God. (shrink)
John Henry Newman's An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent is a commonly cited source for the idea that religion and ethics are in some fashion mutually implicated, and specifically the idea that religious belief can be grounded in our moral experience.1 In this paper I aim to do two things. First of all, I shall try to show that Newman's account of the relationship between religious and ethical understanding, as expounded in the Grammar, is more richly nuanced (...) than one might suppose from reading the work of his commentators, and indeed anticipates a great deal of recent discussion in the philosophy of religion. Secondly, I shall argue that one strand of Newman's case in particular merits further attention in the context of current debate; here I shall argue that Newman's position is reminiscent of recent discussion in the philosophy of mind concerning the sense in which feelings are intentional, and articulates a view which is at best underdeveloped in recent work in philosophy of religion. (shrink)
ABSTRACTDrawing on the work of Raimond Gaita, the paper considers the role that may be played by the lives of the saints, both in alerting us to the moral standing of other human beings, and in helping us to articulate the concept of “humanity” understood in a morally rich sense. The paper considers whether Gaita's treatment of these themes presents something like a natural law ethic, in the sense of supplying arguments which favour broadly Christian conclusions without depending upon explicitly (...) Christian premises. It also considers whether Gaita's view, contrary to his own belief, invites extrapolation in the direction of a more religiously engaged stance. In these ways, the paper aims to address the question of the relationship between religious and moral understanding in terms that are arguably more fruitful than those suggested by the dominant ethical theories. (shrink)
The gift of life argument, the claim that suicide is immoral because our lives are not ours to dispose of as we are their guardians or stewards, is a persistent theme in debates about the morality of suicide, assisted-suicide, and euthanasia. I argue that this argument suffers from a fatal internal incoherence. The gift can either be interpreted literally or analogically. If it is interpreted literally there are serious problems in understanding who receives the gift. If it is understood analogically (...) the question arises whether the gift is understood to be a finite or everlasting existence. If it is finite then it is hard to see how one can be punished for bringing that existence to an end for one will not be around to be punished. If the existence is infinite it is impossible to see how one can be punished for ending one’s life because one cannot end it. However, there is still ethical mileage to be gained from the description of life as a gift and in the concluding section I indicate one way in which this is so. (shrink)
Drawing on the work of Raimond Gaita, the paper considers the role that may be played by the lives of the saints, both in alerting us to the moral standing of other human beings, and in helping us to articulate the concept of "humanity" understood in a morally rich sense. The paper considers whether Gaita's treatment of these themes presents something like a natural law ethic, in the sense of supplying arguments which favour broadly Christian conclusions without depending upon explicitly (...) Christian premises. It also considers whether Gaita's view, contrary to his own belief, invites extrapolation in the direction of a more religiously engaged stance. In these ways, the paper aims to address the question of the relationship between religious and moral understanding in terms that are arguably more fruitful than those suggested by the dominant ethical theories. (shrink)
In recent years there have been various attempts to relate theories of emotion to the concerns of Christian ethics. In this article, I consider two such attempts, those of Daniel Maguire and Paul Lauritzen, and thereby identify five ways in which a theory of emotion might in principle contribute to the formulation of a Christian ethic. I then argue that some recent developments in theoretical reflection on the emotions, especially the idea that feelings may be world-directed in their own right, (...) enable these five points of connection to be stated with new clarity and cogency. The article concludes that a theory of emotion can help to articulate the following claims: love is properly a cardinal concept for ethical theory; there are specifically Christian emotions, which make possible a specifically Christian moral personality; religious faith (informed by ‘real assent’) is a cognitive state which is of its nature motivationally effective. (shrink)
ABSTRACTI discuss three accounts of the spiritual significance of aesthetic experience. Two of these perspectives I have taken from the recent literature in theological aesthetics, and the third I have constructed, building on Thomas Aquinas’s conception of the goods of the infused moral virtues. This broadly Thomistic approach occupies, I argue, a middle ground between the other two, on account of its distinctive understanding of the role of theological context in defining spiritually significant goods. These perspectives are not mutually exclusive, (...) but they do present rather different conceptions of the ways in which aesthetic goods can contribute to spiritual well-being, and provide a focus for religious practice. (shrink)
At the outset of this discussion, I undertook to present an argument from design which would follow Swinburne's example in making use of a priori judgments, while avoiding some of the objections which have been posed in response to his treatment of these issues. So we need to ask: how does this approach to the question of design compare with Swinburne's?Swinburne argues that a chaotic world is a priori more likely than an ordered world: this consideration provides one central reason, (...) on his account, for giving an explanation of some sort for the world's regularity. The other central argument he advances for this claim is the argument from analogy (in terms of the coins) which we noted earlier. The approach I have taken offers an alternative route to this same conclusion. In particular, it substitutes the simpler a priori judgments recorded in (i) and (ii) for the rather difficult and contentious claim that chaos is a priori more likely than order. In place of this claim, I have offered the judgment that order, or recurrence, is more likely given the activity of a common source or common kind of source than otherwise: this proposal does not commit us to a view either way on the question of whether order is a priori likely per se. Moreover, in place of Swinburne's analogical argument, I have offered an a priori approach, with the advantages I have noted.Given that recurrence is to be explained, we might ask: why offer an explanation in terms of design? On this point, Swinburne argues, for instance, that no other explanation of temporal regularity is even possible a priori. Again, the a priori principles which I have used, in (iv) and (v), may be less ambitious, but at the same time more persuasive. In support of this same idea, Swinburne also cites various ideas to do with the predictive power of the idea of design. I have tried to bring out the role of this sort of consideration in terms of my principle (v). Principle (iv) has no place in Swinburne's account, in view of his reliance on the principle of simplicity as a measure of prior probability.Lastly, we may ask: if we are to cite a designer, are there reasons for attributing to this agent more powers than are needed for the production of the effect to be explained? On this point, Swinburne cites the principle of simplicity. Again, my approach avoids what has proved to be a relatively controversial judgment about the nature of a priori probabilities, offering in place of the principle of simplicity the less ambitious principle recorded in (iii). At this point, I have moreover inverted the logical sequence of Swinburne's argument: it seems to me that, in the ways I have indicated, it is helpful to consider the extent of the powers of the source of recurrence before addressing the question of design.In these various ways, I hope I have made good my undertaking to present an argument which avoids some of the controversy surrounding the particular measures of a priori probability which figure in Swinburne's argument. Moreover, I hope that this approach provides an indication of how a priori judgments may function in a relatively unproblematic way within an argument from design, in so far as (i)–(v) are all rather modest proposals. In sum, the argument I have presented is distinguished by its explicit use of the a priori judgments recorded in (i)–(v), by its attempt to buttress in this fashion analogical forms of argument, and by the logical role it gives to the idea that the source of regularity possesses more powers than are required for the production of this effect.Lastly, we might ask: how persuasive is this argument? Of course, the cogency of the idea of design depends upon the balance of debate in other areas of the philosophy of religion, especially upon our ability to provide some account of the existence of evil. In this paper, I have been concerned to argue simply that recurrence by kind provides evidence for design: I have not addressed the question of whether other features of the world provide good evidence against the idea of (benevolent) design. However, if we confine our attention to this one phenomenon, there is it seems to me good evidence for the idea of design, (i) and (ii) suggest that recurrence surely calls for some explanation; (iii), together with the existence in nature of statistical irregularities, suggests that whatever provides this explanation could have brought about other effects besides; and design seems the only clear explanation of why this effect should have been brought about, if (as I have argued) analogies drawn from vegetable and animal reproduction fail, and if we cannot explain the effect satisfactorily by reference to the conditions of observation. Moreover, I have argued that there are reasons for supposing that the probability a priori of design is relatively high in relation to the probability a priori of any rival hypothesis of equivalent predictive power. In brief, this is because the design hypothesis (unlike the hypothesis of theism) can cite an agent of relatively indeterminate power in order to account for the phenomenon to be explained. In this regard, it is less ‘precisely defined’ than any rival hypothesis of equivalent predictive power. If all of this is so, then as philosophers from early times have supposed, temporal regularity provides the basis for a powerful argument in favour of design. It remains true, of course, that its import can be judged in full only when we have taken into account the relevance of other phenomena, many of which are apparently less favourable to the idea of design. (shrink)
In his paper ‘Theism and the philosophy of nature’, Ben Cordry argues that theism's conception of nature has been falsified. In this response, I argue that the universe in many ways conforms to theistic expectations, and that there is no presumption that a divinely ordered world will take the form that Cordry proposes. (Published Online July 10 2006).
The paper surveys a number of approaches to the idea that the world represents God, drawing on the work of Aquinas, Alston, and Teilhard de Chardin. After noting some of the difficulties which these accounts may pose, a further model is advanced for consideration. The paper argues for the view that the world represents God not so much by resembling God, but rather by pointing towards the divine reality as the pre-requisite of its completion in aesthetic and other terms.
In this paper, I shall consider four approaches to the idea that the world points towards or represents God. I shall argue that the relation of resemblance may not offer the best initial way of expounding this idea, and that the relation of necessary complement may provide the basis of a more useful model. I begin by examining three accounts which draw primarily upon the notion of resemblance in order to explain the sense in which the world represents God. I (...) shall then survey a further approach, which seeks to interpret the idea of resemblance in terms of the more fundamental idea of complementarity. (shrink)
The ”dark night of the soul’ is a common motif in Christian spiritual writing; and the locus classicus for this motif is the work of John of the Cross, a Spanish Carmelite friar of the sixteenth century. My aim in this paper is to use John’s account of the ”night’ to consider how the themes of mystery, humility and religious practice may be subsumed, and related to one another, within a Christian conception of God and of human life lived out (...) in relation to God. (shrink)
This paper considers whether John McDowell’s cognitivist account of affectively toned ethical experience can be extended to the case of theistic experience. It makes particular use of McDowell’s claim that there is no simple correlation between value-free qualities in the world and kinds of value experience. The paper draws on the work of William Alston and John Henry Newman, and argues that at various points, McDowell’s work can help to strengthen their defence of the epistemic significance of religious experience.
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