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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The idea of God is under reconstruction

April 7, 2007 by Kay. Yes, the following quote is long. Yes, the following quote is philosophical and metaphysical. What can I say? I love this stuff. Where has God gone? by Keith Ward
It can sometimes seem that God is not on the philosophers’ agenda any more. Anyone who has traced the history of English-language philosophy in the last century must be aware of an immense difference of approach between philosophers then and now. At the start of the twentieth century, in the age of Pringle-Pattison, Bradley, and McTaggart, God seemed inescapable. Debates raged about absolute versus personal idealism, but few doubted that the job of any decent philosopher was to have some view about the nature of ultimate reality, and that God was a prime claimant to that title, competing with things (like the Absolute) which could at least be confused by ordinary people with God. In contrast, a glance through the professional journals and best selling philosophy books today might well not find a mention of God, except in a derogatory aside. Is the decline of God irreversible?
A clue may be found in the rather similar decline of Hegel. When I was young I still knew some philosophers who lectured on Hegel, not as a historical curiosity of German romanticism, but as a partner in philosophical debate. But they were elderly, and the consensus was that Hegel and all his idealist co-conspirators had been killed in one night of philosophical terror by Professor G E Moore’s revelation to the British Academy in 1925 that he had two hands (his “Defence of Common Sense”). Professor Moore’s hands throttled idealism by the mere fact that they were indubitably real, and not mere appearances of some more ideal digitless reality.
Closely following on the heels of this event came what has been called the “linguistic turn”, whereby one ceased to ask, “What is the nature of reality?” or “How do I know that?” and instead began to ask, “What do you mean by saying that?” The word “real” itself was demoted to being a mere “trouser-leg” (”Real is a trouser-word”, said J L Austin), and analysis of the meaning of words replaced armchair theorising about ultimate reality (the search for one ultimate trouser-leg). There were many sorts of linguistic analysts, but they all had great problems with the word “God”...
Perhaps the reason why “God” is rarely an explicit topic of philosophical debate at present is not that God is obsolete, but that the idea is under reconstruction, and its new form is not yet wholly clear. And that, for a philosopher, is heaven – with or without God.

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