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Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology
ISSN: 0007-1773 (Print) 2332-0486 (Online) Journal homepage:
Talk of God (Royal Institute of Philosophy lectures,
Vol. II)
Hugo Meynell
To cite this article: Hugo Meynell (1972) Talk of God (Royal Institute of Philosophy
lectures, Vol. II), Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 3:3, 301-302, DOI:
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Published online: 21 Oct 2014.
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Download by: [Florida State University]
Date: 25 October 2017, At: 09:49
understood the faith and practice of our forefathers!
David A. Pailin
University of Manchester
Downloaded by [Florida State University] at 09:49 25 October 2017
Talk of God (Royal Institute of Philosophy
lectures, Vol. II); Macmillan, 1969; 0.
I would recommend this extraordinarily
interesting and varied batch to anyone who wanted
to get his bearings in the chaos of contemporary
philosophy of religion.
The talk is not all, strictly speaking, a bout God.
This is perhaps not surprising, when van Buren
can say that even theology is not, as one might
suppose, "systematic reflection upon man's
l~nguage about God" (53), but rather talk by men
who have been gripped by the biblical story,
expressing how it determines their lives. Such
talk would indeed be of interest, but I would have
thought it was better to class it as a special variety
of literary criticism than as theology strictly
speaking. In any case, I do not see why systematic
discourse about God by Hindus and Muslims who
are gripped by other writings deemed to be
sacred, should be denied the title of theology.
The content of the lectures of R. F. Holland and
W. W. Bartley are not so much philosophical
theology as moral philosophy - not indeed the
kind of thing the boys generally turn out nowadays about the is-ought dichotomy and the logic
of the word "good", but a teasing out of the
issues in complex and agonizing problems of
human life. Holland adduces examples to shed
light on the question by what token, and in what
circumstances, the taking of one's own life, or
acting in such a way that one is bound to be
killed, is or is not suicide. Bartley compares
various paths to self-knowledge, religious and
non-religious, success in all of which involve
"what may be called heightened self-awareness,
including some awareness of the evil of which one
is capable" (p. 90). I found this lecture one of the
most interesting and suggestive of the collection.
Of those which are more directly concerned
with talk about God, Hartshorne's lecture is at
once the most pretentious and the least readable;
it is well worthwhile, however, as representing a
view of God which is becoming increasingly
influential with the return into fashion of White�
head's philosophy. As Whitehead and Hartshorne
see it, God, as well as influencing everything, is
reciprocally influenced by everything; this conception of the relation between the world (including ourselves) and God is well worth investigation,
even if one holds that Hartshorne's reasons for
propounding it are unconvincing. I should have
theught that his doctrine of man's immortality in
the memory of God was very like ne doctrine of
immortality at all; certainly it is no substitute for
the hope which, whether well founded or not, has
been so characteristic of most forms of traditional
theism. Paul Ricoeur's lecture, on the contrary,
gives expression to the renewed emphasis on hope
which has been such a striking feature of very
recent Protestant theology. It points out that,
while at first sight to place human wrong-doing in
the context of God is to intensify it, ultimately it
is rather to understand it as already in the process
of being overcome and brought to good. As St.
Paul says in The Epistle to the Romans, in so far
as evil abounds, grace super-abounds. "Situated
before God, evil is installed again in the movement
of the promise: the invocation (sc. of God in the
context of human guilt) is already the beginning
of the restoration of a bond, the initiation of a
new creation" (114). Wittgenstein's example of the
picture which can be seen as either a duck or a
rabbit is now a cliche in philosophy; but John
Hick applies it in an original way to talk about
God. The theist as opposed to the atheist sees his
life as continual interaction with God (p. 23).
Hick explores the application of this to natural
events as seen by the prophets, to the disciples'
experience of Jesus, and to miracles and the
sacraments. This approach seems to me in general
very fruitful, though I would take issue with Hick
on his treatment of miracles. Peter Bertocci
expounds what seems to me the most promising
contemporary line of approach to the problem of
proving, or at least rendering plausible, the existence of God. He suggests that the success of
human science in discovering a rational pattern
in the universe seems to indicate the existence in
its constitution of something analogous to the
human mind. Such an argument to the existence
of God from the success of the scientific enterprise may seem wantonly paradoxical, as well as
highly unfashionable; but I fail to be convinced,
even by Hume and Kant, that it is obviously
I hope this catalogue, by no means exhaustive,
gives some idea of the richness and variety of this
Hugo Meynell
University of Leeds
Downloaded by [Florida State University] at 09:49 25 October 2017
Is the Last Supper Finished: Secular Light on a
Sacred Meal, by Arthur A. Vogel. (Sheed and
Ward, New York. $4.50)
It would be very easy to give this book a
thoroughly unfavourable notice. For one thing, it
hardly lives up to its title. Whereas we might
expect an interesting full account of the soteriological influence of the Eucharist, we are given
only the last 35 pages of the 191 on the Eucharist
itself. Furthermore, these relatively few pages
come after several chapters in which the author's
enthusiasm for the nature of 'body', 'word' and
'community' had led him into such questionraising statements as "our bodies are 'most me'
when we transcend them" (p. 46), "our words are
actually an extension of our embodied life" (p.
101), and "man is relation-to-the-world" (p. 156).
His treatment of the Eucharist is a continuity of
these preoccupations in the setting of a meal.
Here, more surprising statements occur which
are even more perplexing to the theologian than
to the philosopher: "The Christians' liturgy is to
continue God's creation of the world through
their incorporation into his Body-Word, Jesus
Christ" (p. 160).
But really the book betrays at every turn the
orientation of its author as a Professor of Apologetics (at an Episcopalian seminary). Whereas
preachers in the past used homely analogies to
explain truths about invisible divine realities,
their modern equivalents draw their material from
case histories in psychology and sociology. The
writer has brought together an interesting assemblage of this genre. The danger of being misunderstood or not being appreciated by philosophers is
a great one, as St. Paul found when he improvised
an apologetic before the Athenian philosophers
(sceptics, and in some ways phenomenologists)
from the presence of an altar 'to the Unknown
God' and a quotation from the poet Aratus (Acts
17.23, 28). Yet the friendly freshness and earnestness with which Professor Vogel carries out this
task ought to protect him from some, at least, of
the destructive assaults to which he is so vulnerable.
Pace the 'imprimatur' given by the Catholic
publishing house of Sheed and Ward, and the
introduction by Father Bernard Cook, S.J., the
idea that "entrance into a solemn covenant to
seek further unity may make eucharistic participation possible among Churches that are juridically separated at the moment" (p. 1$3, note), by
minimalising the necessary place of order and
jurisdiction, shows a lack of the requisite appre�
dation of an indispensable sector of religious
phenomena. It is not only in the hieratic sphere
itself that phenomenology has found itself unable
to penetrate the inner secrets of a religion or has
not yet made the attempt. If a phenomenological
interpretation of an incarnational religion is
attempted it must at least consider all of the
observable phenomena, and not an arbitrary
selection of them.
Edward Booth O.P.
Black Friars. Manchester
Estudios Filosoficos, ed. Spanish Dominicans,
Editorial O.P.E., Valladolid, Jan.-April 1972, 280
pages, 60 pesetas.
The Estudios Filos6ficos, published three times
a year at Valladolid by the Spanish Dominicans,
contains contributions on themes related to philosophy, sociology, ethics and logic. The variety of
topics renders this publication of interest to a
wider, less-specialized range of readers, as does
its general avoidance of highly technical terminology. The issue in hand (January-April 1972) contains a total of eight long studies and briefer
articles and a useful review section, of some 87
items, divided under the headings of Logic and
Metaphysics, Ethics and Sociology, History and
Anthropology, Theology and a section of miscellaneous works of educational, psychological,
historical and religious interest. This section, which
appears to be fairly up to date, covers a reasonable
range of European writers and there is also a
further list of books received by the editors. The
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1972, 11006280, 00071773
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