The Rise of Modern Religious Ideas

By Arthur Cushman McGiffert | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY

IN the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when the realism of an earlier day had given way to nominalism, theologians found it impossible to prove the rationality of Christian dogma, as the great medieval schoolmen had done, and were forced to fall back upon the infallible authority of the Roman Church as the sole ground of faith. This, however, was not a permanently tenable position for thinking men, particularly when confidence in the Church's infallibility was undermined by the Protestant Reformation. Some other basis of assurance must be discovered.

The French philosopher Descartes found this basis in self-consciousness, and thus became the father of modern philosophical rationalism. In his search for certainty he began by doubting everything. One thing, however, remains certain, and that is the thinking self. I may doubt the existence of everything else, but I cannot doubt the existence of myself who doubts. In the very act of doubting my own existence is immediately given. From this absolute assurance of our own reality as thinking selves Descartes then derived a criterion by which we may test all reality. Whatever we know with the same clearness and distinctness

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The Rise of Modern Religious Ideas
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Editorial Note vii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xi
  • Book I - Disintegration 1
  • Chapter II - The Enlightenment 11
  • Chapter III - Natural Science 24
  • Chapter IV - The Critical Philosophy 45
  • Book II - Reconstruction 61
  • Chapter VI - The Rebirth of Speculation 81
  • Chapter VII - The Rehabilitation of Faith 104
  • Chapter VIII - Agnosticism 144
  • Chapter IX - Evolution 166
  • Chapter X - Divine Immanence 187
  • Chapter XI - Ethical Theism 222
  • Chapter XII - The Character of God. 240
  • Chapter XIII The Social Emphasis 254
  • Chapter XIV - Religious Authority 279
  • Index 311
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