From Fideism to Pragmatism

By Edwards, Paul | Free Inquiry, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

From Fideism to Pragmatism


Edwards, Paul, Free Inquiry


God and the Philosophers

In the Summer 1998 issue of FREE INQUIRY, noted philosopher Paul Edwards launched his comprehensive survey of the thoughts of philosophers about God with "God and the Philosophers: Part 1, From Aristotle to Locke." In Part 2 below, Edwards picks up the story with an examination of the work of David Hume and Immanuel Kant in the late eighteenth century. The development of atheism, materialism, and agnosticism are followed, and Edwards ends with a description of the pragmatist approach of William James. Part 3 will appear in FREE INQUIRY'S Winter 1998/99 issue.

Edwards teaches at the New School of Social Research. He is the editor of The Encyclopedia of Philosophy and a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Unbelief, The Encyclopedia of Ethics, and the Oxford Companion to Philosophy.

HUME, KANT AND FIDEISM

David Hume (1711-1776) has sometimes been called a deist, but in fact he was what we would now call an agnostic. His posthumously published Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion contain some of the most incisive criticism of the cosmological and the telcological arguments. In connection with the former he observes that a causal series is nothing over and above the members of the series, so that, if we have explained the origin of each member, there is nothing left to explain. The teleological argument rests on dubious analogies, and in any case it would not give us the omnipotent and perfectly good creator of the Universe. We also have no reason to suppose that there was a time when order of the kind described in our scientific laws did not characterize the universe.

Although not as radical as Hume, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) had much greater influence on subsequent developments. His Critique of Pure Reason contains a devastating examination of the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments. Hume's discussion of the latter two arguments was greatly superior, but Kant's refutation of the ontological argument, which Hume barely touched, was masterful.

As long as Frederick the Great was alive there was no official interference with Kant's publications. Frederick died in 1786 and was succeeded by his religiously orthodox nephew, Frederick William H. Frederick William appointed a bigoted opponent of the Enlightenment by the name of Wollner as his "culture" minister. In 1788 Wollner issued two edicts - the Religionsedikt, which threatened dismissal of all civil servants (including university teachers) who deviated in any way from adherence to biblical doctrines, and the Zensuredikt, which required an official imprimatur for all publications dealing with religious topics. Kant managed to circumvent the censor in connection with his Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft (Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone) which appeared in 1793. In October 1794 he received a peremptory notice from the King:

Our most high person has for a long time observed with great displeasure how you misuse your philosophy to undermine and debase many of the most important and fundamental doctrines of the Holy Scriptures and Christianity; how, namely, you have done this in your book, Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft, as well as in other smaller works. . . . We demand of you immediately a most conscientious answer and expect that in the future, towards the avoidance of our highest disfavor, you will give no such cause for offense, . . . If you continue to resist, you may certainly expect unpleasant consequences to yourself.

Kant answered that his book had been misunderstood. So far from criticizing Christianity he had declared that the Bible was the best vehicle for moral instruction. He concluded with a pledge not to publish anything that might give the slightest offense: "I hereby, as Your Majesty's most faithful servant, solemnly declare that henceforth I will entirely refrain from all public statements on religion, both natural and revealed, either in lectures or in writings. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

From Fideism to Pragmatism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.