Symbols of Transcendence: Religious Expression in the Thought of Louis Dupre

By Dann, Gary E. | The Review of Metaphysics, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Symbols of Transcendence: Religious Expression in the Thought of Louis Dupre


Dann, Gary E., The Review of Metaphysics


LEVESQUE, Paul J. Symbols of Transcendence: Religious Expression in the Thought of Louis Dupre. Louvain: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997. vii + 381 pp. Paper, $30.00--Focusing on the theme of symbols in the thought of the Yale scholar Louis Dupre, this recent study makes a clear contribution to understanding further the role this subject has played throughout Dupre's life's work. Levesque, presently in the Department of Comparative Religion at California State University, derived much of the research for this present volume from his Ph.D. dissertation (Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven). In addition to four major chapters there is a brief "Foreward" by Dupre, and an extensive bibliography of his work (including book reviews by him and reviews on his books) in the concluding section.

The main objective of Levesque's study, stated in the "Introduction," is to "demonstrate that in Louis Dupre's work all religious expression, insofar as it has transcendent reference, is intrinsically symbolic" (p. xxii). In the first chapter Levesque approaches this goal systematically, first by setting forth the meaning of the term "religious" in the thought of Dupre. The three sections that follow explicate the theme of this chapter, "the justification of `symbol' as primary expression of religious understanding," by its theological justification, by philosophical justification, and through justification of the method employed. Dupre extols the phenomenological method as it provides "the proper balance between objectivism and subjectivism" (p. 51).

In his second chapter Levesque extends further the conceptual framework of the treatment of symbol theory by discussing its "foundations" as developed by Cassirer, Hegel, and Susanne Langer. Levesque then moves quickly, but concisely, to situate symbolism within the context of metaphysics and culture. In the third section of this chapter, attempting to describe Dupre's theory of religious symbolism, Levesque designates three points as "patterns" which provide "a more extensive and authentic presentation of Dupre's understanding of symbol" (p. 84). The three patterns selected are form, representation, and language. …

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