A2 Text: Westphal ' The emergence of modern philosophy of religion'


Paragraph 1

  • No consistent distinction between philosophical theology and philosophy of religion – they both talk about similar subject material but they must have different emphases
  • Philosophical theology is both a branch and form of theology (the study of the nature of god and religious beliefs) in which philosophical methods (how to do philosophy – philosophy; relating to the fundamental nature of knowledge) are used in developing and analysing theological concepts
  • Linguistic philosophical theology might be used when talking about God as a primary subject, when asking questions such as ‘how can a good god allow evil to exist?’, ‘can we prove the existence of God?’ and ‘can we know god in the future?’
  • Philosophy of religion is the philosophical study of the meaning and nature of religion. It included the analyses of religious concepts, beliefs, terms, arguments and practices of religious adherents
  • Philosophy of religion might be used when speaking about a phenomenon occurring within religious groups – ideas such as religious language, existentialism and religious experience) 
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Paragraph 1- Continued.

  • From the time of Hume and Kant to that of Nietzsche (approximately 1750-1900) the focus shifted from philosophising about God to philosophising about religion (shifting from philosophical theology to philosophy of religion)
  • A linguistic issue difference between philisiophical theology and philosophy of religion but also one that has occurred within the history of philosophy 
  • After Hume and Kant, philosophers changed their interests, and instead thought in terms of religion 
  • Therefore, Westphal implies that Kant and Hume must’ve had something to do with this change – they must’ve caused the shift
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Paragraph 1- How to answer in exam.

  • Overview of the paragraph – the shift from philosophical theology to philosophy of religion 
  • The different philisiophical emphasises given to God (Hegel) or to religion (Schleiermacher)
  • Why did those, such as Hagel, want to talk about God but others, such as Schleiermacher, wanted to talk about religion?
  • Other thinkers who were around during the shift and what they believed (David Hume and Kant up to Nietzsche – brief sentence on each thinker in a chronological format so it’s easy to understand what times they all came at and who influenced who etc.)
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Paragraph 2

  • The two can be distinguished by the fact that to talk about theology in a philosophical way is to know God
  • However, Hagel complains about this distinction because we assume (prevailing assumption) that we don’t know god (Hagel is taking a dig at Schleiermacher)
  • And this is why we have moved to philosophy of religion because we think we can’t know god – so we speak of religion instead of God. 
  • ''permits us to speak merely of our relation to him, to speak of religion and not of God himself''
  • Hegel belives it is an ''asumption'' that we do not know god. 
  • Hegel belives we can know god and philsophy is becoming more about philsohy of relgion than of God. 
  • ''permits us to speak merely of our relation to him, to speak of religion and not of God himself''
  • We are then unable to talk more about God but instead less and focus on religion.
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Paragraph 2- How to answer in the exam

  • More on Hagel (knowledge of God) / Schleiermacher disagreement (feeling is the basis of religion)
  • Authors who emphasise knowledge of god, such as Aquinas, Swinburne and Descartes and if they would agree with Hagel
  • Examples of those people who thought that we do not know God (Ayer but Hagel had Romantics in mind who also thought that religion is about personal feeling)
  • Noting the philosophical history – how Hagel was after Kant and Hume and this gave Hegel a greater knowledge, whatever the philosophical effects of them (the shift)
  • The prevailing assumption was post Kant and Hume – this reinforces that Kant and Hume both caused a change in speaking about God to speaking about religion 
  • Hagel didn’t like this shift from talking about religion, and less about God; ‘we do not know god… therefore… we speak merely of our relation to him…. To speak of religion and not of God himself’ 
  •  The shift was frustrating for Hegel, whose work – especially his book entitled ‘phenomenology of spirit’ - really wanted to engage with the idea of God himself.
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Paragraph 3– Hagel separates theological philosoph

  • However, this distinction is still not clear enough
  • As people these days, when making a study of God, often end up calling it ‘philosophy of religion’ 
  • Hagel points to the importance of the shift in focus away from theology towards philosophising about religion 
  • This shift is described as ‘a sea of change’ (moving into the modern period of philosophy) – we may refer to it as a change in ‘conventions’ (the normal way to speak about things) as people preferred to talk of religion rather than God 
  • He negatively emphasises this shift and does not like the post Kantian modernity  
  •  but it is ironic because he is responsible for the idea of a separate philosophy of religion – for his lecture titles are; ‘the concept of religion’, ‘determinate religion’ and ‘consummate religion’. 
  • Hagel believes that philosophical theology will return in its own time, but in the meantime it will be known as ‘philosophy of religion’
  • Hagel does not support either philosophical theology or philosophy of religion. 
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Paragraph 3– How to answer in exam

  • Clarify the distinction between philosophy of religion (religion) and philosophical theology (god)
  • The phrase ‘post Kantian modernity’ needs to be unpacked – this is the modern philosophy after Immanuel Kant 
  • Explain why Kant is such a major figure in philosophy 
  • Explain that ‘philosophical theology’ has returned in our time (like Hegel said it would) – this can be seen in our A-level course as we do in fact talk a lot about the god of classical theism
  • For example, we learn about arguments for the existence of God, such as the design and cosmological argument, as well as the problem of evil and God’s attributes (Gods omniscience, omnipotence and omni benevolence)
  • The topic of God is still talked about by modern philosophers – Richard Swinburne, university of oxford, john hick, university of oxford, who writes about the existence of god, and Alvin Plantinga, university of Notre Dame, who still talks about the ontological argument
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Paragraph 4- Pre-Kantian philosophical theology

  • Key terms
  • Scholasticism: a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100 – 1700. Scholasticism was based on Aristotelian logic and the writings of the early Christian fathers, emphasizing tradition and dogma (an idea laid down by authority who does allow their idea to be disputed)
  • Deism: belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe 
  • Westphal explains that there were two schools of philosophical theology prior to Kant (pre Kant); scholastic and deistic
  • Both scholastics and deists wish to bring religion ‘within the limits of reason alone’ – Kant 
  • Both attempt to explore knowledge of god through reason rather than revelation
  • Wesphal explains this concept through using the kernel and the husk – the deist nut
  • The rational kernel (deists and scholastics) and the irrational husk
  • The rational kernel includes god as the creator, as author and enforcer of moral law 
  • The irrational husk includes anything miraculous or supernatural 
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Paragraph 4- Pre-Kantian philosophical theology- c

  • Anything historical such as the life and death of Jesus 
  • The scholastics follow Augustine in viewing reason as going hand in hand with faith – they distinguish between revelation and reason 
  • Reason can work in harmony with faith (belief) and revelation (the bible)
  • However, in contrast, deists think that reason is separate from faith or revelation – deists seek to separate the two not just to distinguish between them 
  • Religion should be limited to reason and all the irrational bits eliminated – they get rid of the irrational husk 
  • Deists like Kant have sought religion ‘within the limits of reason alone’ 
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Paragraph 4- How to answer in exam

  • ‘Movement Hagel deplores’ clarify this statement
  • Hagel deplores the shift from philosophical theology to philosophy of religion – westphal begins to explore the event that changed the course of philosophy – he is speaking about the thought and writings of Kant and Hume 
  • Philosophers or theologians such as Aquinas and Augustine felt it was their job to use their rational minds (reason) and to investigate the nature of god through reason
  • Knowledge of God humans gain from reading the bible, religious experience and prayer act as an aid for God to reveal himself
  • Natural theology, rational investigations from the world, goes hand in hand with revealed theology, information and knowledge of God that he has revealed to us
  • Context surrounding deists 
  • Deists and scholastics both believe in reason – however, scholastics believe in revelation (revealed theology) whereas deists do not and they reject revealed theology 
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Paragraph 4 - How to answer in exam- continued

  • A deist is someone who affirms a divine creator but denies any divine revelation holding that human reason alone can give us everything we need to know to live a correct moral and religious life 
  • Kant and Hume caused the shift due to the rejection of traditional arguments for the existence of God – these were irrational 
  • Kant – even though he caused to shift, he was still a part of the last stages of philosophical theology 
  • Explain and clarify what Kant wanted religion to be – Kant believed that true religion should be governed by reason alone, living life according to moral law 
  • Refer to the kernel and the husk
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Paragraph 5

  • Key terms 
  • The enlightenment: an intellectual movement which dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, The Century of Philosophy. The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centred if reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy, and came to advance ideals like liberty, progress, tolerance and separation of the church and the state. 
  • Deism is the school of thought which began the change from philosophical theology to philosophy of religion 
  • This period was known as the enlightenment (age of reason) 
  • This period came after the horrors of religions warfare and persecution (particularly between Catholics and protestants 
  • Enlightened thinker sought a way to make religion foster moral unity rather than hatred toward anyone of another faith or society 
  • They wanted to make religion objective so that everyone could agree and live in peace 
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Paragraph 5- How to answer in exam.

  • Clarify the key terms, ‘deism’ and ‘scholasticism’
  • Before the enlightenment in the Medieval era, philosophers, such as Aquinas, emphasised the authority of the church and the bible (he was a scholastic so he believed in revealed theology) – Aquinas, the medieval church, justified wars by using the war theory whereas Enlightenment philosophers did not want to justify wars
  • a just war is one that has to be fought but is conducted according to certain conditions – these were developed by Thomas Aquinas and Francisco de Vitoria and are still referred to by Christians today 
  • World war 2 would appear to have been a just war
  • Even though the war was just, the church didn’t help or speak out
  • Talk about Bonhoeffer here – institutionalisation, barmen declaration and the confession church 
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Paragraph 5- How to answer in exam- continued

  • Even before this, some believed that the church needed to be reformed (Kant) 
  • Even though the enlightenment was a time of reason, science etc, many philosophers did not support a completely anti-religious materialism (atheism) – here identify some enlightenment philosophers that were atheist
  • Instead, this meant that during the enlightenment, due to the first and second world wars, many religious philosophers wanted to adopt a moral unity among human societies and have a united society (this links with ecumenism and Bonhoeffer) – talk about philosophers that wanted a united society such as Plato and Kant (Kant specifically historical to the enlightenment)
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Paragraph 6

  • Key terms
  • Epistemological: relating to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its method, validity and the distinction between justified belief and opinion 
  • Ecclesiastical: relating to the Christian church or its clergy 
  • This political time had consequences 
  • Epistemological (knowledge) and ecclesiastical (church) consequences 
  • A non-violent religion would have to be universal and so could not rely on special revelation 
  • So it would be more rational – rationalism – and based on reason (thus a limited religion)
  • Thus, revelation would not be found in any one church or sect 
  • Individual claims by individual religions were rejected and only those which were not specific (didn’t rely of salvation for revelation) were acceptable 
  • Enlightenment rationalism did not emphasise pure logic (a priori reason – theoretical deduction) over sense perception (empiricism – experience) – these were both common sources of knowledge 
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Paragraph 6- How to answer in exam

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Paragraph 7

  • This paragraph gives an overview of deism and its three main ideas 
  • It also explains how the attention shifted from philosophical theology to philosophy of religion
  • The project clearly comes before prevalence of the assumption (that Hagel rejects in the second paragraph) that we do not know god therefore we must talk about religion 
  • The deist project focused on three main ideas; knowledge and reason, religious tolerance (they wanted no more crusades in the name of religion), and the rejection of the power and authority of the church (anti-clericalism)
  • The main point of deism was to discuss the human aspects of religion and the effects it had on society 
  • It is this project that seeks to distinguish good and bad religion (asking what makes a good religion) 
  • It sees religion as a human, social reality
  • This is what shifts the attention away from God onto religion 
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