Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Both James and Wittgenstein struggled with the question of belief

Daniel Dennett Tufts UniversityMedford, Massachusetts
I myself have looked over large piles of recent religious thought in the last few years in the course of researching my own book on these topics, and I have found almost all of it to be so dreadful that ignoring it entirely seemed both the most charitable and most constructive policy...The arguments Dawkins exposes and rebuts are the arguments that waft from thousands of pulpits every week and reach millions of television viewers every day, and neither the televangelists nor the authors of best-selling spiritual books pay the slightest heed to the subtleties of the theologians either.
Who does Orr favor? Polkinghorne, Peacocke, Plantinga, or some more recondite thinkers? Orr brandishes the names of two philosophers, William James and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and cites C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, a fairly nauseating example of middle-brow homiletic in roughly the same league on the undergraduate hit parade as Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ (1998) and transparently evasive when it comes to "meticulous reasoning." If it were a book in biology—Orr's discipline—I daresay he'd pounce on it like a pit bull, but like many others he adopts a double standard when the topic is religion.
As Orr says, both James and Wittgenstein "struggled with the question of belief," in their admirable and entirely different ways, but both also steer clear of the issues that Orr chides Dawkins for oversimplifying. I wonder which themes in these fine thinkers Orr would champion in the current discussion, beyond the speculation he cites from James, that "the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe." I'd be curious to know what Orr thinks that means. How should it be clarified and investigated, in his opinion, or does he just want to leave it hanging unchallenged?
Letter exchange between Daniel Dennett and H. Allen Orr regards Richard Dawkins The God Delusion (NYRB) by Rich on Mon 12 Feb 2007 08:16 PM PST Permanent Link 'THE GOD DELUSION' By Daniel C. Dennett, Reply by H. Allen Orr In response to A Mission to Convert (January 11, 2007)

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