Evidence and Faith: Philosophy and Religion since the Seventeenth Century

Article excerpt

Evidence and Faith: Philosophy and Religion since the Seventeenth Century. By Charles Taliaferro. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. vii + 457. $75.00 (cloth); $29.99 (paper).

Forty or fifty years ago, a philosophy student could legitimately conclude that the philosophy of religion was dead. Logical positivism declared religious language meaningless, sociologists announced modernity's secularization, and theologians proclaimed God's death. Today, such arguments appear remarkably dated. Logical positivism proved to be philosophically in-coherent, the world grew increasingly religious, and theologians rediscovered God's presence. Responding to these developments, the philosophy of religion has become a booming discipline featuring analytic philosophers, Thomists, Augustinians, and representatives of diverse religious traditions. Charles Taliaferro is a superb guide to this field, and in this book, he develops an original narrative that will interest both specialists and general readers.

Taliaferro divides his book into nine chapters, with the first setting the stage for the others. He opens by focusing on the "Cambridge Platonists," a remarkable group of seventeenth-century English philosophers. I found this chapter the most interesting one in the book. Philosophers often trace the origins of the philosophy of religion to René Descartes or David Hume, but Taliaferro suggests that we closely examine the Cambridge Platonists. Ralph Cudworth, Benjamin Whichcote, Henry More, John Smith, and Nathaniel Culverwell all developed sophisticated accounts of God's existence and goodness, body and soul, human nature, and tolerance. They anticipated challenges that would consume the modern philosophy of religion, considering science and God, skepticism and faith, and revelation and religions. Readers of this journal will find these arguments particularly interesting. Anglicans may be aware of Richard Hooker, Austin Farrer, and F. R. Tennant, but they may know little about the Cambridge Platonists. In prominently displaying their work, Taliaferro has done a great service to Anglican thought.

After introducing the Cambridge Platonists, Taliaferro takes his readers on a wonderful tour of the modern philosophy of religion. Beginning with Descartes and ending with contemporary analytic and cross-cultural philosophies, he summarizes key developments and provides insightful commentary. …


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