Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Image in Mind: Theism, Naturalism, and the Imagination

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Image in Mind: Theism, Naturalism, and the Imagination

Article excerpt

The Image in Mind: Theism, Naturalism, and the Imagination. By Charles Taliaferro and Jil Evans. Bloomsbury Studies in Philosophy of Religion. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2011. vi + 213 pp. $140.00 (cloth); $34.95 (paper).

Charles Taliaferro is a philosopher, Jil Evans is an artist, both are Episcopalians, and this volume-co-authored by them and including a series of paintings by Evans-provides a useful introduction to contemporary debates in philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, and aesthetics. Their distinctive emphasis is to highlight the essential role of the imagination, and especially images (both mental and visual), in thinking through the ongoing intellectual conflict between theism and naturalism.

The dominant worldview in contemporary Western science and philosophy is arguably naturalism, which is itself a philosophical (rather than a scientific) position holding that "nature" (variously and contentiously defined) is all that exists. Naturalists can be divided into two basic groups, "strict" and "broad." "Strict naturalists want a thoroughgoing, physical (or materialistic) account of the world" (p. 6). When it comes to human nature, strict naturalists insist that mind and brain are identical, and thus reduce all mental activities to chemical processes. To be consistent, strict naturalists bite the bullet and claim that our subjective sense of ourselves as having conscious intentions, experiences, and even beliefs is an illusion. Consciousness, therefore, does not exist, our subjective experience of it notwithstanding. A prominent contemporary strict naturalist is the philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, also well known as one of the "New Atheists."

Broad naturalists, on the other hand, "share the strict naturalist position that the cosmos is not, at base, purposive or teleological. But they differ insofar as they allow that consciousness, experience, values, aesthetic properties, and the like have emerged" (p. 7). That is, broad naturalists admit that apparently non-material realities exist, but they are still explainable through natural material processes, and do not pre-date their gradual evolutionary emergence in the lives of certain animals, ourselves certainly and others possibly. Taliaferro and Evans state that both strict and broad naturalists "reject theism, the soul, any concept of an individual afterlife, and so on. Indeed, this negation of theism and its associates (sometimes referred to as supernaturalism) is the almost universal mark of naturalism" (p. 7). Naturalism is thus the positive philosophical face of atheism.

In contrast to all forms of naturalism, which they find problematic on multiple counts both rational and imaginative, Taliaferro and Evans advocate "Platonic theism" (p. 8) and "integrative dualism" (p. 98) as the best general framework to account for reality as we actually experience it from within rather than from the "third-person" perspective of the sciences. When it comes to dealing with the challenge of evils both natural and moral, Taliaferro and Evans move from this general Platonic framework to a more Christian theological mode, arguing that the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ, combined with a potential afterlife, can "redeem" rather than "justify" the evils in creation (pp. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.