Religion is universal human culture. No phenomenon is more widely shared or more intensely studied, yet there is no agreement on what religion is. Now, in Faces in the Clouds, anthropologist StewartGuthrie provides a provocative definition of religion in a bold and persuasive new theory. Guthrie says religion can best be understood as systematic anthropomorphism--that is, the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman things and events. Many writers see anthropomorphism as common or even universal in religion, (...) but few think it is central. To Guthrie, however, it is fundamental. Religion, he writes, consists of seeing the world as humanlike. As Guthrie shows, people find a wide range of humanlike beings plausible: Gods, spirits, abominable snowmen, HAL the computer, Chiquita Banana. We find messages in random events such as earthquakes, weather, and traffic accidents. We say a fire "rages," a storm "wreaks vengeance," and waters "lie still." Guthrie says that our tendency to find human characteristics in the nonhuman world stems from a deep-seated perceptual strategy: in the face of pervasive uncertainty about what we see, we bet on the most meaningful interpretation we can. If we are in the woods and see a dark shape that might be a bear or a boulder, for example, it is good policy to think it is a bear. If we are mistaken, we lose little, and if we are right, we gain much. So, Guthrie writes, in scanning the world we always look for what most concerns us--livings things, and especially, human ones. Even animals watch for human attributes, as when birds avoid scarecrows. In short, we all follow the principle--better safe than sorry. Marshalling a wealth of evidence from anthropology, cognitive science, philosophy, theology, advertising, literature, art, and animal behavior, Guthrie offers a fascinating array of examples to show how this perceptual strategy pervades secular life and how it characterizes religious experience. Challenging the very foundations of religion, Faces in the Clouds forces us to take a new look at this fundamental element of human life. (shrink)
Guthrie contends that religion can best be understood as systematic anthropomorphism - the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman things and events. Religion, he says, consists of seeing the world as human like. He offers a fascinating array of examples to show how this strategy pervades secular life and how it characterizes religious experience.
Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the „Evangelist of Racism“, had a major influence on German Emperor Wilhelm II, especially in forming his nationalistic and anti-Semitic views. The monarch and the author developed a mutual understanding and appreciation that lasted over 25 years. This article illuminates the circumstances of their initial acquaintance through the edition and analysis of two documents which were two hitherto unpublished documents: Chamberlain's diary for the dates 28.–31. 10. 1901 and a letter to his aunt Anne Guthrie (...) of 11. 11. 1901. Both documents are compared to other known reports of this meeting. Chamberlain accepted Wilhelm's invitation to Germany where they met in Liebenberg in 1901 in a circle of select members of the German aristocracy. Their first contact is reconstructed here showing the extent to which Wilhelm's thoughts coincided with those of Chamberlain. The author concludes that the meeting with Chamberlain in 1901 was most decisive in the development of Wilhelm's own thinking and had serious consequences for the later course of historical events. In addition, this first meeting is particularly interesting because of the participation of Adolf Harnack who was at that time very close to the Emperor and also corresponded with Chamberlain. The differences in character and views between Chamberlain, Wilhelm and Harnack also surfaced during this memorable meeting. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the relationship between social cognition and religious cognition. Many cognitive theories of religion claim that these two forms are somehow related, but the details are usually left unexplored and insights from theories of social cognition are not taken on board. I discuss the three main (groups of) theories of social cognition, namely the theory-theory, the simulation theory and enactivist theories. Secondly, I explore how these theories can help to enrich a number of cognitive theories of (...) religion. The theories I discuss are StewartGuthrie’s anthropomorphism, Justin Barrett’s hyperactive agency detection device, Jesse Bering’s existential theory of mind, Pascal Boyer’s minds with full strategic access and Tanya Luhrmann’s porous theory of mind. Finally, I look at how enrichment with insights from social cognition can help to combine different existing theories of religious cognition into a unified framework. (shrink)
In the last ten years or so there has been some lively discussion of the questions of immortality and resurrection. Within the Christian tradition there has been debate at theological and exegetical level over the relative merits of belief in the immortality of the soul, and belief in the resurrection of the dead as an account of life after death. Further to this, however, there has been the suggestion that there may be good philosophical reasons for preferring the latter to (...) the former. It is just this contention which I propose to discuss. (shrink)
It is of course true that the articulation of religious and theological views depends upon and often masks philosophical presuppositions. For example, those who quote with approval Anselm's ‘credo ut intelligam’, ‘I believe so that I may understand’, seldom follow the good example set by Anselm, and make explicit, as Anselm does in the following sentence, the fact that this principle rests upon a further principle: ‘For I believe this also, that “unless I believe, I shall not understand”’ . This (...) paper is an attempt to track down and expose one very pervasive set of views about the nature of experience which is implicit in a wide range of religious and theological claims. (shrink)
My argument will be that our understanding of human beings, which is what I take the Christian doctrine of man to be concerned with, will benefit considerably from an examination of two different but related clusters of human attitudes which can be found respectively under the headings ‘optimism’ and ‘pessimism’. There are many pitfalls in the way of such an enterprise, and occasionally some prejudices to be overcome. For example L. E. Loemker in the relevant articles in the Encyclopedia of (...) Philosophy concludes a fairly lengthy discussion with the rather terminal judgement. (shrink)
Recent writing on the idea of a form of life has tended to be critical of the use made of this notion by writers such as Peter Winch, D. Z. Phillips and Norman Malcolm. Rightly or wrongly these writers have been regarded as meaning by ‘a form of life’, something like ‘a way or style of life’, and recent explicatory work on the notion has largely tended to discount this as a plausible interpretation of what Wittgenstein meant in his use (...) of the expression. The intention of this paper is not that of direct intervention in this particular dispute, though the conclusions drawn, if correct, would have some bearing on it. The intention is rather to develop, in order to make use of it, the idea of a form of life within the context of a number of philosophical difficulties. I should certainly claim to be drawing upon the remarks made by Wittgenstein in his own use of the expression: but I should not claim to be expounding Wittgenstein. Hence I do not wish to enter into the disputes referred to above about what precisely Wittgenstein meant by the expression, though again, what I say, if not wholly misguided, should have some bearing on these disputes. (shrink)
In this article I shall concern myself with the question ‘Is some type of justification required in order for belief in God to be rational?’ Many philosophers and theologians in the past would have responded affirmatively to this question. However, in our own day, there are those who maintain that natural theology in any form is not necessary. This is because of the rise of a different understanding of the nature of religious belief. Unlike what most people in the past (...) thought, religious belief is not in any sense arrived at or inferred on the basis of other known propositions. On the contrary, belief in God is taken to be as basic as a person's belief in the existence of himself, of the chair in which he is sitting, or the past. The old view that there must be a justification of religious belief, whether known or unknown, is held to be mistaken. One of the most outspoken advocates of this view is Alvin Plantinga. According to Plantinga the mature theist ought not to accept belief in God as a conclusion from other things he believes. Rather, he should accept it as basic, as a part of the bedrock of his noetic structure. ‘The mature theist commits himself to belief in God; this means that he accepts belief in God as basic.’. (shrink)
After a brief account of the problem of higher-order vagueness, and its seeming intractability, I explore what comes of the issue on a linguistic, contextualist account of vagueness. On the view in question, predicates like ‘borderline red’ and ‘determinately red’ are, or at least can be, vague, but they are different in kind from ‘red’. In particular, ‘borderline red’ and ‘determinately red’ are not colours. These predicates have linguistic components, and invoke notions like ‘competent user of the language’. On my (...) view, so-called ‘higher-order vagueness’ is actually ordinary, ﬁrst-order vagueness in different predicates. I explore the possibility that, nevertheless, a pernicious regress ensues. (shrink)
Dugald Stewart was the first metaphysician of any significance in Britain who attempted to take account of Kantian philosophy, although his analysis appears generally dismissive. Traditionally this has been imputed to Stewart's poor understanding of Kant and to his efforts to defend the orthodoxy of common sense. This paper argues that, notwithstanding Stewart's reading, Kant's philosophy helped him in a reconsideration and reassessment of common sense philosophy. In his mature works—the Philosophical Essays , the second volume of (...) the Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind , and the second part of his historical ‘Dissertation› —Stewart's analysis of Kantian philosophy is far from being uniform. In the first two works, he takes a cautious approach to transcendentalism, showing some interest in the challenge it might represent for common sense; in the last, he turns to rash criticism. This change may appear confusing and inconsistent unless considered in the light of a precise ‘nationalistic’ strategy. In fact, once Stewart had taken from Kantian philosophy what he deemed useful for his own aims, he eventually dismissed it in order to show that his reworked version of common sense was the most original and most consistent outcome of the whole Anglo-Scottish philosophical tradition. (shrink)
In the Politics of Black Joy, Lindsey Stewart develops Hurston's contributions to political theory and philosophy of race by introducing the politics of joy as a refusal of neoabolitionism, a political tradition that reduces southern Black life to tragedy or social death.
Dugald Stewart was appointed assistant professor of mathematics in the University of Edinburgh in 1772, aged only 19. He became one of the most influential academics in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European ‘Republic of Letters’. Both Stewart’s contemporaries and modern scholars have recognised the impact his influential figure had over many young minds. He was one of the leading figures of the Scottish Common Sense school, a name by which we are used to identifying the philosophical tradition headed (...) by Thomas Reid.The selection given here departs in some ways from Stewart’s own division of the subject, and aims to reflect the logical priority of each discipline, a priority which Stewart himself seems to give in the internal development of his ‘system’. (shrink)