Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy
Volume 4: Philosophies of Religion, Art, and Creativity
Kevin L. Stoehr
More than a few serious thinkers today maintain that philosophy as a traditional enterprise is drawing near to a close. Such thinkers hold that philosophy has proven itself to be either archaic or superfluous in the face of a contemporary emphasis upon pluralism and perspectivism. This despite the fact that approximately three thousand professional philosophers from nearly one hundred different nations gathered in Boston, in August of 1998, to celebrate the health of philosophical dialogue at the end of this millennium. But when it came to predicting the future of the profession, only a few brave souls at this Olympian conference managed to utter some vague pronouncements. Others chose to pass over the question in ominous silence.
With frequent signal flares on the horizon, heralding the expected demise of our tradition in the manner of Clytemnestra's relay team of nocturnal torch-bearers, it appears that the variegated domains of discourse that were evidenced at this World Congress have converged within the current shadow of one monolithic meta-reflection: the re-evaluation of philosophical reflection itself. Yet this intensified inquiry into the very objective of philosophy, while returning us conspicuously to Socratic origins, seems to be centered in many cases around the survival and self-preservation of a mere profession.
The recent anticipation of the closing act of a uniquely self-reflective tradition should not be understood, of course, in the sense of philosophy's expected attainment of some type of self-fulfilling closure or certitude. The expected finale should be interpreted rather in the sense of philosophers' incremental abdication of the very will to achieve closure and certitude altogether. If philosophy is to be defined in an overly general and perhaps antiquated manner as an attempt to explain various phenomena and activities in terms of their definitive places within some synoptic Whole, then there are very convincing signs that the funeral has indeed already taken place. If philosophy per se is in danger of being laid to rest after a rather lengthy series of eulogies, then it is entirely possible that the philosophies of religion, art, and creativity might well be the first parts of the corpse to have entered the furnaces of the cultural crematorium. This despite the vigor and richness of the essays contained in this broad-ranging volume.
The philosophy of religion has traditionally represented the attempt to explain and justify various conceptions of our relationship to the Absolute and to express rationally the spiritual aspect of human nature. But once the philosophy of religion becomes satisfied by mere criticism of any conception of the Absolute or Divine as such, or content with a notion of spirituality whose main tenets coincide with those of an atheistic existentialism, then we might well find ourselves in a position analogous to that of a cultural commentator writing about life on the moon. The philosophy of art, likewise, reaches its finale when it becomes mere criticism and commentary, and this certainly is bound to occur when art itself has become mere criticism of and commentary upon prior art. The attempt to rationalize religion, as with the endeavor to explain art or even to articulate the fundamental mechanisms of the human creative process, is in danger of becoming transmuted into a narcissistic activity of repetitive negation and into the bad infinity of idle chatter.
As Arthur Danto has proclaimed, echoing Hegel, the end of art has already occurred, given the sublation of art into the purely conceptual activity of self-definition. And the philosophy of art confronts the immediate danger of negating itself soon after having subsumed its object, the Artworld. Much the same could be said, of course, for religion and the philosophy of religion, following the Hegelian line of reasoning. Furthermore, if contemporary philosophers have already happily accepted their retirement from the pursuit of universalizable truth-claims-for instance, many have renounced long ago the attempt to arrive at fixed definitions of art, religion, and creativity-then we might as well proclaim now that standards of appreciation and explanation require only a sensus communis, a communal spirit of shared discourse and institutional values. Philosophy would then, in fact, be archaic and superfluous, as some have suspected, having faded into a type of pluralistic, empiricist sociology and analysis of ordinary language. Yet a further problem arises: What happens if there is no longer a unified sensus communis upon which we can depend for shared standards?
Today, it might arguably be claimed that we have immersed ourselves in the Hegelian principles of contextualism and historicity while having surrendered entirely Hegel's robust claim to certitude and closure. We play speculatively within an open-ended flux of finite horizons and reject the notion of any ultimate horizon or any unifying structure of knowledge or self-knowledge. Is there still a viable philosophy of religion which is possible in this postmodern, post-Hegelian age of perspectivism and pluralism, or should we leave religion to the silence of the fideists or to philosophers of language or to those who examine religious traditions in a merely empirical manner? Is there still a viable philosophy of art nowadays, or has the study of aesthetic and artistic appreciation been left solely to the art historians and critics? Has the creative process itself been reduced to empirical pyschology or to the brute facticity of material production? Is there a remote possibility that we can maintain the legitimacy of philosophy itself by retaining conviction in the claim that various forms of art, religion, and creativity express distinctive yet interrelated kinds of human knowledge?
Some of those serious thinkers who have announced the demise of philosophy are not unlike those quiet fideists who, while refraining from full or even partial engagement in metaphysical and epistemological speculation, maintain a silent conviction in the powers of faith and beauty. And yet, do religion and art really deserve such conviction if we are not also ready to admit that they are forms of expressing what is deep and dramatic about human nature itself? Should we strive to maintain philosophical silence about those domains of human life which articulate most emphatically our desire to say something in a fundamental way about ourselves and the world? If the answer to the latter question is affirmative, then philosophy has indeed achieved a quietus which is a finishing stroke as well as a newfound period of withdrawal and inactivity.
Passing over silently or undermining perpetually that which cannot be stated clearly is not necessarily the wisest of activities, since that which cannot be stated clearly may sometimes be that which we are trying to articulate with our entire being. The issue of clarity may be negotiable, and philosophy appears to be our uniquely self-reflective process of negotiation. Nevertheless, the desire to express something fundamental about ourselves and the world may not be negotiable but rather entirely essential and necessary.
In order to secure an over-arching, guiding theme of this volume of distinguished papers which were delivered at the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, we might consider both religion and art as two different branches of a universal human enterprise: the activity of creative expression and self-expression, of representing our relationship to our changing environment and of manifesting our energies and our innermost beliefs and convictions. In this very general sense, religion and art join philosophy as modes of thematizing an essential aspect of human nature. Such a consideration assists us in viewing the concerns of this volume of essays under one unified roof, so to speak, while bracketing certain controversial claims about the true nature of non-human and super-human (i.e., transcendent) reality.
The creative media of artistic expression range from the more concrete (e.g., sculpture or painting) to the more abstract (e.g., music or poetry), while some artistic domains reside in an ambiguous fashion between these two extremes (e.g., architecture or dance or film). The creative media of religious expression range likewise from the more concrete (e.g., pagan totem worship, early Christian paintings, cathedral architecture) to the more abstract (e.g., prayer, meditation, and dialogue), while certain forms of spiritual expression waltz restlessly between these two categories (e.g., ritual and festival). Philosophical ideas, while typically expressed in terms of somber prose writing and verbal dialogue, may nonetheless manifest themselves through both artistic and religious media, though usually in an implicit manner. Frank Lloyd Wright's blueprints, the Gospel of John, Ingmar Bergman's films, Taoist meditation, Walter Kandinsky's abstract paintings, Zen-inspired rock gardens, and Catholic communions may all be considered to be as philosophically motivated as they are artistic or religious expressions of the human spirit.
Is there a way to define philosophy which, while possibly bringing the pursuit of universality and absolutism to a close, permits philosophy to continue to reflect upon and justify itself as an activity which discovers the invisible behind the visible, the dimension of ideas behind the veil of appearances, the message within the medium? In this age of historicizing contextualism and secularistic perspectivism, can we regain a sense of philosophy which mirrors and even heightens the perennial function of both art and religion-i.e., the function of expressing creatively our innermost convictions about ourselves and the world? Philosophy continues to diversify itself according to the pluralistic mindset of our postmodern period, and thus it chooses to view the quest for some universal Absolute as merely one historical perspective which has perhaps outlived its immediate context of motivation. What remains to be seen, however, is whether philosophy can nevertheless rescue itself from a sheer collapse into journalistic self-criticism and fragmented commentary upon its own deconstruction. The ideas and insights presented by the authors in this volume might well give us a convincing clue as to what the future holds for these branches of philosophy in particular and for philosophy in general.
On the Philosophy of Religion
The essays in this volume which deal with religion and the philosophy of religion provide an enlightening glimpse into the concerns of philosophers of religion at the close of the twentieth century. The essays range over the following four broad topics: the debate over religious pluralism, the epistemology of religious belief, the conflict between secular and religious points of view, and the problem of evil. Several of the essays address more than one of these topics. The essays have been ordered in a way that attempts to reflect guiding threads throughout several essays and to juxtapose positions which naturally evoke debate.
Taking as our general point of departure the debate between a traditional desire for the objectivity of universal Truth and a more contemporary adherence to perspectivism and contextualism, we begin this volume with several essays which are concerned explicitly with a specific instance of this debate: the current issues and controversies surrounding religious pluralism (an especially appropriate theme for a volume of philosophical papers that helped to constitute a remarkably diverse international conference). Any recognition and defense of the reality of pluralism in human religious life invites skepticism regarding the possibility of achieving full certitude, a skepticism toward any universal characterization of religious life and of the Divine. Questions concerning the multiplicity of religious belief-systems touch not only upon cognitive controversies, which will be addressed more fully in the essays that focus upon the epistemology of religious belief, but also upon political and ethical issues.
Both the epistemological and politico-ethical aspects of the debate are raised by Merold Westphal. The author discusses the conflict between the philosophical theory of religious pluralism, here understood in a strongly relativistic sense, and the standpoint of "theo-logical exclusivism," which opposes religious pluralism as a theory while accepting it necessarily as an empirical reality. Theo-logical exclusivism maintains the principle that not all religious claims and viewpoints need to be considered as equally valid, even given the recognition that we possess no finality or certitude regarding the Divine or the Divine-human relationship. As exclusivists, we may defend certain claims and beliefs as worthier of conviction than others, even while admitting the unknowability, or at least ineffability, of the true structure of reality.
As Westphal points out, the contemporary pluralistic stance shares one significant similarity with the Enlightenment response to the reality of religious diversity: neither position, broadly construed, permits serious epistemic disagreement between religious believers or belief-systems. Religious pluralism treats claims from different belief-systems as isolated within their respective contexts while certain Enlightenment thinkers such as Lessing and Kant presupposed a common essence underlying all religions. If there is no common ground or there exist no overlapping principles, in other words, there is no space within which serious disagreement can occur. Nor can there be serious disagreement if all religions are based on identical grounding principles.
The author also points out that one of the chief motivations of religious pluralism as a theoretical and practical stance is the desire to eliminate the religiously sanctioned violence and suffering that are many times associated with the rigidly exclusivist position. When one belief-system is permitted to exclude another and to prioritize its view in a universal manner, there is obvious room for a conflict which transcends the merely epistemic. Yet Westphal ultimately defends theo-logical exclusivism by arguing that there is nothing inherently violent or aggressive or even arrogant about such a stance.
Westphal's concern with the ethical and political side of the debate over religious pluralism is echoed by Robert Audi. The author's broad outline of ontological, epistemological, and conceptual connections between ethics and religion raises fascinating questions concerning the interdependence of these two domains, especially as their interaction is so important within contemporary life. Perhaps more importantly, Audi provides helpful proposals in reconciling secularistic and religious viewpoints.
Just as Westphal has argued that theo-logical exclusivism does not necessarily engender violence and intolerance among various belief-systems, Audi argues that there is room for strong agreement and dialogue between strict secularists and religious believers, especially within a democratic political system. Both authors may be read as offering compelling proposals for a more enriched understanding in coping with the conflicts and dilemmas that have emerged from the reality of religious pluralism today. And their cases are all the more compelling in that they try to overcome a strongly relativistic view of pluralism in which shared standards and common threads of discourse have been rejected.
After discussing some general philosophical, psychological, and political connections between ethics and religion, Audi proposes four standards for dealing with the religious-secular debate in societies aiming at the enhancement of freedom and democracy. These include a principle of "secular rationale," which states that citizens in a liberal democracy have a prima facie duty to uphold laws or policies that prevent the restriction of human conduct, unless they are able to offer "evidentially adequate secular reasons" for an exception. Also proposed is a principle of "theo-ethical equilibrium," which implies that religious believers have a prima facie duty to seek a balance between religious and secular standards of ethical and political responsibility.
The promotion of increased dialogue and understanding between religious and secular viewpoints presupposes, of course, that both secularistic skepticism and commitment to a particular belief-system are viable options. Philip Quinn reminds us of the importance of evaluating the rationality of such options in the debate over religious pluralism. His paper also assists us in turning from the ethical-political dimensions of religious pluralism to the cognitive-epistemological issues involved.
Quinn discusses two major approaches to the empirical reality of religious pluralism: (1) The approach of William Alston, who upholds the practical and internally self-supporting rationality of maintaining one's religious-mystical-doxastic practice even in the absence of independent epistemic reasons for maintaining the beliefs and claims of that practice at the expense of others; (2) the criticism of Alston by John Hick, who does not see why one should uphold the rationality of a belief-system or practice when there is no adequate cumulative justification for doing so.
Quinn arrives at a straightforward compromise between the two approaches: While one can accept that it is practically rational to maintain a specific self-supporting practice without full epistemic legitimation, it is also practically and epistemically rational to refrain from engaging altogether in such a practice until a cumulative case for religious commitment has been attained. There is therefore room for secularistic skepticism as a viable alternative here. And there is also the option, according to Quinn, of maintaining one's current practice (e.g., a specific form of Christian mysticism) while seeking to revise that practice from within. Therefore, Quinn offers us a mediating position where the options of pragmatic revisionism and skepticism are kept alive.
For Kai Nielsen, it is not good enough to say with Quinn that one of our options, absent any guarantee of epistemic certitude, is a skeptical refraining from religious belief and practice altogether. Rather, a rigidly secularistic perspectivism is mandatory because of the author's adamant proposition that epistemic closure could never be attained, and so any attempts in that direction must fall into the camp of dogmatic pretentiousness.
Nielsen's paper expresses a form of explicit atheism and social naturalism which strongly challenges most religious positions, especially those which make claims to certitude or closure. Nielsen's brand of naturalism, articulated as a normative moral viewpoint and not merely as an option, is vehemently anti-metaphysical and anti-physicalistic. The theory outlined in this essay constitutes a type of fallibilistic perspectivism whose "foundational principle" rules out any foundations or over-arching first principles.
Nielsen adamantly rejects any attempts to reduce the pluralism that is inherent within human and natural life to "the one true description of the world," attempts which are especially prevalent among scientistic naturalists. Nielsen's non-reductive naturalism is non-scientistic in that it restricts the truth-claims of science and admits the contributions of many diverse realms of discourse, including social anthropology, literature, politics, and even "the give and take of our common life." The author also stresses that his brand of naturalism is a form of historicism in that all claims about ourselves and the world are ultimately connected to those social practices and forms of life that provide the traditional contexts for such claims.
While Nielsen attempts to wean us away from the dangerous dogmatism that is implied in most, if not all, religious belief-systems, Charles Taliaferro tries to salvage hopes for a successful comparative philosophy of religion by melding principles of immanence, holism, and contextualism with the traditional search for an ideal observer standpoint that maintains a certain degree of objectivity. Both Nielsen and Taliaferro advocate a "holistic-coherentist" method which rejects the presupposition of any detached, external observer, except that Nielsen proposes such a methodology from a purely secularistic vantage-point while Taliaferro demands immersion in the religious traditions which need to be elucidated and compared.
According to Taliaferro, the two main objections to the enterprise of comprehending and evaluating various religious traditions in a philosophical manner are as follows: (1) The very nature of these traditions as "embedded forms of life" (much like the later Wittgenstein's idea of impermeable language-games) makes them impervious to any universalizable assessment; (2) a philosophical treatment of a religious practice and belief-system is only possible when that practice and system are sacrificed upon the altar of cognitive mediation. Taliaferro inquires as to whether there can be an "ideal observation post" which makes philosophical elucidation possible without undermining the very tradition that is the object of critical study. As the author indicates, the bias toward ahistorical objectivity raises the specter of a dilemma which has been emphasized by Hegel in the nineteenth century and Danto in the twentieth century. That is, when the guise of philosophical neutrality has been favored over a recognition of the specific social and cultural setting of the object of study, then the form of life which is being elucidated has become so "self-consciously conceptual" that the form of life itself is in danger of being undermined.
The question of objectivity obviously raises issues concerning the epistemology of religious belief, which is the main concern of the following five essays. Should we believe or continue to believe when we have insufficient evidence, and therefore inadequate epistemic justification, for such belief? Should we believe where we cannot prove? William Mann addresses this question by discussing certain arguments offered by Duns Scotus concerning the need for supernatural knowledge. Stephen Barker and Guy Axtell explore the question by focusing upon William James' pragmatic defense of religious belief. William Alston and Gary Gutting highlight subtle distinctions between religious epistemology and general secularistic epistemology.
Mann provides a general survey of five arguments which may be found in Duns Scotus's Prologue to his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. These arguments concern three issues in particular: (1) the need for supernatural knowledge in order to attain spiritual salvation, (2) the possibility of knowing whether such knowledge is attainable, and (3) the possibility of knowing whether such knowledge has already been attained or instilled in us. Scotus concedes skeptically, according to Mann, that natural reason (for Scotus, a faculty which is restricted to the confines of sense experience) cannot justify such a need and cannot actualize the latter two possibilities.
The crux of Mann's paper revolves around an interesting insight which may be gleaned from the fourth argument of Scotus. This argument tells us simply that humans "must be gradually disposed" to the ordination of a supernatural end, and that "imperfect supernatural knowledge" is necessary for such a gradual disposal. Mann compares this insight to that concerning Plato's Cave-Dweller, who must gradually adjust his eyes to the sudden brightness found in the world of sun-lit objects. Mann concludes that God's gradual dispensation of imperfect knowledge to humans might be necessary in order to engender that voluntary and motivated love which is required for the attainment of beatitude.
Mann's essay on believing where we cannot prove raises the issue of choice: When considering the spectrum of possible belief-systems and practices, especially when there is no evidence for intellectually justified conviction due to imperfect knowledge, does one have any significant control over what we actually do believe or do not believe? We know as an empirical fact that individuals do not always remain chained throughout their lives to the system of cultural beliefs and activities within which they were raised. But when one decides to convert to another practice, to accept a new set of beliefs, or perhaps even to suspend belief altogether, is one making a genuine choice among genuine options, given the lack of an evidentialist standard for determining the best choice? And do we have a right to believe or to engage in a specific belief-system when we cannot justify that belief or system on purely intellectual grounds?
Barker addresses these questions about the right to believe and about the possible criteria for genuine belief-options in his examination of William James' refutation of evidentialism. In James' famous lecture "The Will to Believe," this pioneering American thinker argued against the evidentialist position that we only have a right to believe when that belief can be intellectually (i.e., empirically or logically) justified. James espoused the notion that we have a right to believe when believing might have beneficial consequences for our lives, even though we do not have adequate evidence to guarantee such results. There should be a proper balance between avoidance of false beliefs and acquisition of true beliefs, according to James.
One potent argument which James makes against the principle of evidentialism, according to Barker, is that this principle itself is not legitimated by adequate evidence but rather only by passional motivation. Moreover, James tells us that we have a right to choose when the belief-options are genuine, and there are four rather vague criteria for the genuineness of such options: (1) A belief-option is "living" or "live" (as opposed to "dead") if the choice involved is "psychologically gripping," meaning that one cannot view any of the alternatives with indifference. (2) An option is "forced" (rather than "avoidable") if there is no way of escaping the given alternatives. (3) An option is "momentous" (rather than "trivial") if it is unique and life-transforming and will likely never be repeated, at least on a frequent basis. (4) Finally, an option is "genuine" if it meets all of the above criteria and, moreover, if this option "cannot be decided on intellectual grounds-in other words, no evidence or proof is available that establishes what the truth is." Barker concludes by pointing to certain weaknesses in these criteria.
Axtell attempts to "re-vitalize" William James' pragmatic defense of religious belief by relating this defense to the familiar issue of religious pluralism. The author cites the Heaven's Gate cult as a case study in testing the limits within which we should accept and continue to respect our right to commit ourselves to a specific religious system or community. Since a cult such as Heaven's Gate may offer a belief-option which is genuine-live, forced, momentous, and intellectually unjustified-one can argue that the traditional pragmatic defense puts so much weight on respect for religious pluralism that it does not permit criticism or even rejection of morally suspicious ("epistemically irresponsible") religious practices and communities.
Axtell rejects the possibility of distinguishing between valid and invalid religiosity-for example, between "traditional" and "cult" spirituality-by referring to any distinctions in religious belief-content. The evaluative criterion by which the validity of a form of religiosity may be tested is, according to the author, a standard based on "experiments in living." In other words, the "reasonableness" of a commitment to a specific form of faith should be measured according to the "pragmatic rewards" of direct participation in such a faith. The question immediately arises as to how these "pragmatic rewards" within a free competition among faiths would be measured. According to the author, we can evaluate a religious practice or community pragmatically by assessing in a utilitarian fashion the "formal techniques by which members are inculcated into a religious community." Freedom from coercive or overly coercive persuasion serves as a pragmatic criterion because respect for autonomy is an integral measure of what "works" for us.
Most of the preceding authors reject a strongly relativistic form of religious pluralism, in which belief-systems are regarded as impermeable and isolated language-games, and propose ways in which different religions can increase dialogue among one another in order to arrive at an adequate comparative philosophy of religion. Several of the previous essays suggest modes of heightened communication between religious and non-religious points of view. But in the effort to inspire mutual understanding and tolerance between various positions, especially in the relationship between religion and secularism, there is also the danger of neglecting what is highly distinctive about both religious belief in general and specific forms of religious belief.
Alston addresses that danger by delineating what makes the epistemology of religious belief different from the epistemology of other belief-domains. English-speaking epistemology has tended to emphasize the similarities among these various areas, leaving room for secularists to argue that most, if not all, religious beliefs fail to meet generally held standards of rationality. Alston's chief point is that there is a variety of relevant considerations in the epistemology of religious belief which distinguish this branch of study of belief-contents from other branches. Such considerations include appeals to authoritative texts, to tradition, to events in people's lives, to direct experience, and to the results of historical research. One of the chief considerations within such a detailed epistemological approach is the sensitivity which must be accorded to the variegated epistemic situations of various individuals.
The faculty which best affords the power of discernment in undertaking such nuanced considerations is non-rule-governed intuition, proposes the author. To defend or refute a form of religious belief, then, is to make a "cumulative case" for or against it, demanding a necessary depth and breadth of participatory comprehension. What Alston finally rejects is an overly detached and overly reductive epistemology of religious belief which ignores the subtlety of intuitive judgments and which draws too heavily from generalized epistemology.
Gutting develops two themes which have resonated throughout modern philosophy, not only in the Enlightenment-inspired challenge to traditional religious belief but also in contemporary discussions of the rationality of religious belief. In doing so, the author attempts to restore emphasis on the need for today's religious epistemologists to regain a "strong historical sensibility," much as Alston urges a greater sensitivity to the distinctive nuances of religious claims to knowledge. The themes that Gutting analyzes are the significance of ordinary life and the question of radical human evil.
Modern philosophy, according to Gutting, has centered around a turn to the importance of everyday existence. This turn toward ordinary life simultaneously signals a turn away from an earlier emphasis on moral ideals such as "the highest good," whether this good be aristocratic honor or philosophic contemplation. The modern affirmation of everyday existence, following Charles Taylor, has a basis not only in the rise of Baconian experimental science and technology, but also in the Protestant rejection of a priestly elite and the Protestant affirmation of a Christian existence that can be fulfilled in this world of mechanistic Nature. Gutting qualifies this view of Taylor, however, by indicating the problems that arise from such over-generalization. These problems result from the fact that Christianity's emphasis on ordinary life appears to conflict with its emphasis on the renunciation of earthly goods for the sake of our eternal reward.
The real problem here, stresses Gutting, is one of motivation rather than conceptualization, since modern Christianity may certainly reconcile in a theoretical manner the intrinsic values of earthly and eternal life according to some non-dichotomizing, hierarchical schema. But with new stress laid on the immanent realm of everyday existence, there may arise less concern for eternal redemption and a greater chance of being satisfied with a strictly secularistic skepticism of the variety which Kai Nielsen has advocated. As Gutting indicates, religious believers may not be persuaded by the Enlightenment's intellectual critique of religion, but their "Augustinian restlessness" may be diminished or lost when the centralization of ordinary life weakens the emotional pull of religion.
This is the point where the problem of radical evil is raised, a theme that will be addressed in the following essays by Howard Wettstein and Michael Levine. Gutting sees the problem of evil as a serious challenge to the Humean or neo-Lucretian humanism that prioritizes the "humdrum" truths of ordinary existence and that permits suspension of philosophical or religious theorizing about such truths. In short, Enlightenment faith in secular reason breeds a naïve optimism that often neglects the sinfulness and frailty that originates from our own will rather than from the external world. The author points out that, even when Enlightenment thinking occasionally recognizes deep-rooted human evil, it provides no resources for salvation. In this sense, following a Pascalian viewpoint, Christian doctrine provides a valuable lesson about possible redemption. However, Gutting concludes that the naiveté of Enlightenment secularism concerning human nature is not innate to the modern project itself and does not necessitate a return to Christianity for better answers. Following Rousseau's critique of one-dimensional Enlightenment thinking, a deeper view of Nature and human nature is all that is required.
Wettstein reacts to the need for typical theodicy-making by assessing the debate between perfect-being theology and certain conceptions of God which arise from Hebrew Scripture and Talmudic commentary. In short, the author returns to the perplexities of the Book of Job in order to offer a theological approach that rejects theodicy and that promotes a view of God as multi-dimensional and beyond human categories such as justice and injustice. The vision of the cosmos offered by the Voice in the Whirlwind, argues Wettstein, is that of a "wild and violent world" which is also "a strikingly non-anthropocentric world." It is a worldview in which justice is a human principle but not a divine or cosmic law. And it is here that Wettstein finds one of the chief lessons of Job: it is the arrogance of the Comforters in attempting to explain the laws of Nature and of the super-human, God-made universe that invites rebuke. The lesson here is that any theodicy, as a theoretical attempt to answer a theological problem, ignores human limitations, neglects the existential significance of suffering, and overlooks the often times ironic characterization of God which is offered in the Hebrew Scriptures. The existential dimension of the problem of evil can be addressed by continuing to uphold a genuine attitude of love and awe which remains sensitive to the ironies and paradoxes implicit within a God-created reality.
Levine sharply criticizes the argument of analytic philosophers of religion (especially the view of Peter van Inwagen) that the empirical fact of evil in the world does not lead to the improbability of God's existence. Levine maintains that evidentialist arguments continue to present obstacles for thinkers who wish to formulate various theodicies. Levine's chief point is that the position of the pre-theophany Job or of Dostoevsky's Ivan (in The Brothers Karamazov) is not an irrational position in the least, given the brute presence of evil in the world. These two literary characters share a basic conviction that moral terms cannot be applied in an absolutely equivocal manner to two different agents. That is, given the empirical evidence of evil, we cannot twist the meaning of "evil" so radically that it means one thing for the humans who experience it and an entirely different thing for the God who is the ultimate cause of it. Levine rejects attempts to undermine the evidentialist argument against God, especially when such attempts deny other arguments from evil because of a strict adherence to modal skepticism (i.e., a rigid rejection of any possible worlds theorizing). Following directly in the line of reasoning begun by Wettstein in the previous essay, Levine emphasizes the existential rather than the theoretical or "logical" aspect of the problem of evil.
Keith Yandell's paper is a fitting conclusion to our selection of essays on religion and the philosophy of religion. The author attempts to demonstrate what several other writers in this volume have discussed: the possibility of analyzing, comparing, and evaluating different religious traditions by establishing and utilizing certain shared standards of rationality. Yandell explores central concepts of monotheistic divinity and creationism within both the Christian and Hindu Vedantic traditions. The chief part of the essay is devoted to a complex analysis of the debate between proponents of libertarian and compatibilistic freedom within the general tradition of monotheism. This debate touches implicitly upon the problem of evil in that discussions of the problem immediately raise questions concerning the reality of human freedom and the coherency of certain conceptions of the Divine. Yandell also evaluates the type of modal skepticism (actual world theory) that was raised in Levine's paper.
Yandell's essay is an implicit defense of the philosophical position of religious pluralism (of the non-relativistic variety) in that it seeks to explain and to evaluate certain concepts and principles in two very unique traditions by showing how the same rules of reasoning hold for both forms of monotheism. One might object that Yandell's argument -that compatibilistic freedom can not be maintained as consonant with monotheistic determisnism-is not sensitive enough to desired principles of immanence and contextualism. According to Yandell, the conceptual context within which monotheistic claims about God, creationism, and freedom make sense leaves space for different "maneuvers" in depicting God's essential nature. Yet the author also maintains that "logical consistency is always a constraint on such maneuvering," and with that assumption goes about depicting several such logical constraints. For the devoted advocate of contextual interpretation and analysis, Yandell's emphasis on logical constraints and general metaphysical claims, apart from their detailed articulation within narrative presentation and a lived tradition, might be interpreted as the kind of reductionism and abstractionism which Nielsen, Alston, Taliaferro, Wettstein, and Levine critique. Yandell, of course, might simply reply that the "excavation or application of shared standards of rationality" will always appear to be too reductive and abstract to die-hard contextualists, especially when the claims in question are inherently metaphysical or cosmological and therefore innately universal.
On the Philosophies of Art and Creativity
In Gary Iseminger's paper, we see a typical distinction drawn between the concept of art and the concept of the aesthetic. The unique contribution of this essay, however, lies in the fact that the author attempts to reunite these concepts by means of the argument that it is the primary function of art to promote the aesthetic. Iseminger views art as an informal cultural institution whose elements (or "facts") include artworks and artists. While Nature and non-artistic objects/events provide for contexts of aesthetic appreciation which therefore may be labelled as "aesthetic situations," it is the institution of artistic production that promotes the aesthetic better than any other institution (and perhaps even better than non-institutional domains such as Nature). While art may have other purposes than the promotion of the aesthetic, art is better at performing this function than in performing any other.
Iseminger proposes that art has always been intended by its institutional founders and sustainers to serve in the promotion of aesthetic appreciation. The author rightly acknowledges that this is a fairly large assumption, given the long and rather indeterminate history of this informal institution. Yet he argues that we are frequently successful in interpreting the functions of various artifacts from other cultures and other historical epochs, given the presupposition of a shared human understanding. If art can be taken to be an informal institution, and therefore itself a human artifact, then it appears to be a valid and universalizable inference that art has always primarily promoted the aesthetic, given a common interpretation of artworks which have been produced across the globe and throughout history.
While Iseminger defends the notion that the Artworld has consistently and universally maintained one primary function throughout its history, Peg Zeglin Brand criticizes this traditionalism for having marginalized certain perspectives and paradigms within both art and art theory-particularly feminist perspectives and paradigms. The author argues that the three main categories of art theory-functional, procedural, and historical/intentional-have all excluded women's voices for the most part. Even institution-centered, context-based, pluralistic philosophizing about art (e.g., Danto's theory of posthistorical "objective pluralism" and George Dickie's Institutional Theory) has tended to refer primarily to the artworks and art theories of Western white males.
Brand proposes "an authentic, post-Danto pluralism that truly integrates unrecognized paradigms into philosophical theorizing about art." The author reminds us, therefore, that even an anti-essentialist, anti-theoretical, Wittgensteinian acceptance of pluralistic perspectivism (as with the acknowledgement and defense of religious pluralism) sometimes remains mired in traditional viewpoints and obsessed with patriarchal paradigms. In order to promote a genuine pluralism, we must be careful not to maintain a prejudicial narrow-mindedness. Challenging traditional philosophies of taste, the feminist movement in aesthetics has often questioned those "experts" who seem to possess the authority in determining the definition of art and the status of an artwork. The promotion of a pluralistic position must obviously practice a greater inclusiveness and a more enriched awareness of previously excluded artistic and theoretical horizons.
The defense of a more authentic pluralism and a more open horizon-consciousness within the philosophy of art is affirmed by Barry Hallen's paper on African aesthetics. Tracing the rise in importance of African art for non-African "connoisseurs," the author advocates the maintenance of "the highest possible professional standards" in the increasing dialogue between two very different cultures. One standard which might go a long way toward ensuring the quality of such an intercultural exchange is reliance upon "reciprocal language fluency," proposes Hallen. Along with this approach to "the study of African aesthetic sensitivities" is the type of empirical fieldwork and cultural immersion established by anthropologist Franz Boas, who upholds cultural relativism over cultural evolutionism. There are many different cultures in Africa and many artworks must be connected to the communal and/or tribal context within which these objects gain their functional meaning. At the same time, however, there are many African scholars who have criticized the notion that the African mindset is "qualitatively different from that of other races."
The author notes the many misunderstandings of African artworks that have derived from the imposition of Euro-centric cultural attitudes and values upon the unique meanings that are expressed creatively by African artists. One prevalent misunderstanding is based on the West's frequent neglect of the intimate connections in African culture among epistemic, moral, and aesthetic values. The author examines the notion of "beauty" in the Yoruba culture of southwestern Nigeria to emphasize the importance of the distinction made between outer material beauty and inner moral beauty, with the latter quality related also to certain epistemic virtues such as truthfulness and accuracy.
Brand's and Hallen's papers raise serious questions about Western theoreticians' assumptions that their judgments and interpretations are often universalizable. An example of the tendency toward universalization is evidenced by Iseminger's prioritizing of the promotion of the aesthetic throughout art history. The tension between the desire for universalizability and a necessary respect for particularity resonates throughout this volume's papers, especially those that focus on the issue of pluralism in theories of art and religion.
Andrew Chignell's paper on Kant's Problem of Particularity makes this tension explicit by examining an underlying dilemma in The Critique of Judgment. Chignell holds that there are resources available in Kant's philosophy to rescue the philosopher's defense of the universalizability of aesthetic judgments, despite the fact that Kant was not as clear as he should have been regarding the formal properties which permit consensus concerning beautiful objects. The author examines the Kantian notions of aesthetic attributes and aesthetic Ideas in order to clarify matters. He draws a clear distinction between form and content and stresses the point that only objects that arouse contemplation of Ideas deserve the title of 'beautiful'.
Chignell's emphasis on the Kantian issue of universalizability of judgment relates dialectically to Brand's and Hallen's combined concerns that Euro-centric, patriarchal philosophizing has tended to exclude valuable perspectives which do not fit such a narrow-minded traditionalism. The obsession with universalizability reinforces such concerns in that it might be taken as a further example of this tradition's will to impose its values and conceptual frameworks in a global manner. And inherent in the will to universality lies a classic philosophical problem: How can we be sure, in trying to universalize our judgments and analyses, that our interpretations do indeed correspond with the particular properties of given objects?
Mark DeBellis points to a telling instance of this classic problem by emphasizing certain epistemological paradoxes that are raised in our assumption that musical analysis always or often corresponds with our hearing of a given piece of music. If such correspondence fails to hold, or remains as merely problematic, then the idea of a universal judgment in the field of musical analysis is jeopardized. One might view DeBellis' paper as an applied instance of the Kantian Problem of Particularity that was raised in Chignell's essay. The structural properties and information-content of a reader's hearing may be viewed as the referential object of an analyst's formal explanation of that hearing. But how do we know that the conceptual referent precisely conforms to the given analysis and, if so, what new information is added to make the analysis meaningful? The author proposes a possible solution by distinguishing between different levels of content rather than (as with Chignell and Kant) between formal properties and particularities of content.
While DeBellis points to certain epistemological dilemmas raised by the notion of the correspondence between musical analysis and its referent, Edith Wyschogrod focuses upon modern dance choreography to illustrate the shift from a modern emphasis on referentiality to a postmodern emphasis on non-referentiality. The author also reveals (as do Brand and Hallen) the spacious possibilities of a greater horizon-consciousness in theorizing about artworks and artistic forms. Examining recent revolutions in the art of dance, mainly those engendered by the creative arrangements of Merce Cunningham, the author aims at illuminating the philosophical shift from structuralism (e.g., Saussure) to linguistic poststructuralism (e.g., Derrida and Lacan) to a "poststructuralist culture of images" (e.g., Baudrillard). Such illumination is achieved by interpreting dance's on-going "struggle between sign and image." The art of dance, in which bodily materiality and spatial localizability are vital components, has demonstrated a creative transition from choreographers who utilize dancers and their movements as referential "signifiers" to those choreographers who focus upon the intensity and dynamics of the dancers and their motions in and of themselves as attention-worthy visual images.
The distinction between signs-which Wyschogrod defines as "concept-generating shapes"-and images-defined as "a plethora of mobile visual elements without formal relation"-is used by the author as a principle in classifying different types of dance movements. Cunningham provides the intriguing case of an "exemplar of high modernism" who has nonetheless evolved from an emphasis on structuralist conceptualism (the "semiology of movements") to an appeal to sheer visualism ("the power of images"). Drawing an analogy with Wittgenstein's dictum that the meaning of language lies in its usage, the author cites Cunningham as a choreographer who has "showed the world of modern dance that the meaning is in the action, in the movement itself." The goal of this type of visual poststructuralism, according to Cunningham, is freedom as a liberation from "restrictive formalism."
In keeping with the guiding theme of creative expression which was raised in the General Introduction, we now turn to two essays which explore the very theme of creativity. Attempts at explaining underlying principles of the creative process often fail due to the very conflict between universality and particularity mentioned above: creativity is often assumed to elude universalizable conceptualization because it derives from the intensely personal and particular psyche of the creative individual. Just as religious pluralism and a pluralistic perspective on the Artworld often raise problems for traditional philosophy's endeavor to seek certitude and closure through the establishment of universal categories and principles, so too does the multi-faceted nature of the human creative process present the rational inquirer with an intimidating obstacle. George Allan and Matti Sintonen attempt to lessen the degree of that intimidation.
Iseminger's earlier claim that the primary function of the informal institution of art has remained more or less invariant since its indeterminate beginnings raises questions concerning the continuity and evolution of any creative process. Creative institutions-which could include religion, philosophy, science, politics, and art-might be regarded as macroscopic, collectivistic versions of creative processes undertaken by individuals on a more private and personal level. But what is it that makes the alteration in the form of something-whether it be the evolution of an institution or the transformation of a piece of clay-creative? Does the quality of creativity require minor or major variation of the meaning or value or function of a particular structural pattern? Or does creativity in the genuine sense demand an overall replacement of one form or pattern by another?
Allan suggests that creative change of the genuine kind (i.e., overall substitution of one form or structural pattern by another) does not occur arbitrarily but rather according to "generative rules" which can be articulated within a hierarchy of levels of creativity. The teachability of these rules does not make the creative transformation of a given form predictable, but nevertheless intelligible. Creativity is based on structural principles, according to Allan, and once these principles have become thematized, any creative process may be explained. It would appear, then, following the author's line of reasoning, that if we were to view religion and art and philosophy as creative processes (at both the individual and institutional level), then we can comprehend rules of the game for these respective domains of human expression.
What makes Allan's theory controversial, however, is the assumption that there are indeed certain essential characteristics or formal rules which define various creative transformations according to higher rules and broader frameworks. Allan gives us several examples of generative rules which determine fundamental changes within a given discipline. For instance, Kant's categorical imperative is interpreted not as a moral rule but rather as a "transformation rule" which establishes "whether any particular rule we might select can deliver on its promise to distinguish right actions from wrong." Likewise, the conditions for musical form include a given range of sound pitches, given possibilities of instrumentation for the material production of such sounds, given "temporal and intensity values," etc. But the controversy lies, perhaps, in the assumption that the creative process can be explained by reducing particular transformations to such abstract and universalizable conditions.
Sintonen's paper nicely complements Allan's paper in the investigation of the creative process. Departing from recent advances in cognitive science and science studies, especially those announced by Richard Feynman in his John Dunz lecture, Sintonen explores both the evolution of the role of creativity in scientists' self-understanding and the recent distinction drawn between creativity and discovery. The author's major conclusions are that creativity demands a long period of continuous persistence and that discoveries, unlike creative transformations, have a significant historical depth.
The reader might question this very distinction, especially when Sintonen concludes that neither creativity nor discovery is based upon spontaneous acts of inspired achievement but rather upon a lengthy process of gradual achievement. The author's general analysis of discovery as the mastering of certain conceptual laws and structures, permitting one to transform those laws and patterns to varying degrees, should remind the reader of Allan's reflections on the hierarchical rules which frame creative changes. Given the similarity between Sintonen's analysis of discovery and Allan's explanation of creative transformation, a similarity deriving from their common emphases upon certain conceptual structures, the distinction between creativity and discovery becomes rather blurred.
But both authors defend the possibility of making certain generalizable, even universalizable, judgments regarding creative transformations and discoveries within specific domains of human inquiry and expression. If we accept such theories, and also view religion and art (as well as philosophy itself) as informal institutions that profoundly manifest human creative processes, then we might well conclude that there is reason for optimism in looking to the future of the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of art, and therefore to the future of philosophy itself. The goal seems to be a subtle balance between the desire for universality and respect for particularity and pluralism. Without endeavors in this direction, we might be left with the option of either succumbing to a strongly relativistic form of contextualism and perspectivism or passing over certain fundamental questions in silence.
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