Philosophy of Religion: The Historic Approaches

Philosophy of Religion: The Historic Approaches

Philosophy of Religion: The Historic Approaches

Philosophy of Religion: The Historic Approaches

Excerpt

What is philosophy of religion? The short answer is that it is simply philosophising about religion; but, like most short answers, this does not get us much further forward since it is not at all self-evident what exactly is meant by 'philosophy' and what by 'religion' and how the one can be concerned with the other. For, first, we have to engage in philosophising in order to define what 'philosophy' means, so that our view of what philosophy is itself involves taking up a philosophical position. In this respect, one's conception of the task of philosophy of religion will depend upon one's conception of the task of philosophy and this, as we have said, has to be argued for philosophically. And second, it is notorious that the definition of 'religion' - what is and is not to count as a religion - presents formidable difficulties.

If we investigate the complex set of phenomena that we call 'religion' in a scientific way, as a sociologist or anthropologist or a psychologist might, the object and method of that investigation are taken for granted and not put in question. Scientific investigators of religion may disagree about the conclusions they reach, but they do not disagree in any fundamental way about the validity of the method they are using or the nature of their task. But this is exactly what does occur with philosophers of religion. The difference between, say, Plato, Aquinas, Kant and a contemporary Wittgensteinian philosopher of religion, is not just a difference about the conclusions they severally reach about religion; it is also a difference about their respective conceptions of the nature and function of philosophy. Scientists do not put their method in question, but philosophers do, and it is precisely this that makes the definition of philosophy, and of the philosophy of religion, very difficult. In our attempt to delineate the main approaches that have been . . .

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