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THE INTERACTION OF RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY JOHN K. MeCREARY pRECISE definitions are always difficult, yet for clearness we must attempt to differentiate philosophy, religion, and the philosophy of religion. Conceivably one could have a philosophy which was non-religious, and a religion which was non-philosophical. This assertion may surprise · some persons, yet historically we see a sharp"division between philosophy and religion which may be illustrated in the thought of, say} Aristotle and Luther. (We might think also of the strange combination of two contra- · dietary strains in Augustine, the philosophical and the theological. Yet again,-in Athanasius, we find a religious rather than a philosophical passion.) Now the philosophy of religion stands,.as a third factor, as it were} between the other two. It is seen to exist and function in the most varied types of philosophy, seeking to extract a religion from thos. e philosophies or to· construct one in consequence of their doctrines or yet again to relate such doctrines to a religion already recognized. Philosophy was descri_bed long ago by Plato as the "synoptic" view of things; and, while this unquestionably included a critical analysis, it is particularly since the work of Kant (not forget~ing the preparation by men such as Descartes and Locke) that philosophy is seen to be the critical interpretation of human experience. . However religion may define itself, it does tend to become a distinct and, we might say, self-sufficient field of investigation if not of experience. Even if the definition which regards religion as the earliest form of the social consciousness, supplying ·conditions for further advance, be taken provisionally ," we can see how religion tends towards closed systems (Luther, Calvin, Barth) and seeks to escape the rational or empirical assumptions. which mark philosophy as such. Now the philosophy of religion· is concerned, as a mediator between the other two, with the analysis and interpretation of the facts supplied hy the history of religion in the most comprehensive sense of that term-aU religions of the civilized and uncivilized world, dead and living, religion in short as a historical and psychological phenomenon in all its manifestations.. Such facts constitute the data of the philosophy of reljgion, but they themselves do not constitute a philosophy or science of religion. The philosophy of religion takes serious account of these data. Crude and even ridiculous as man's earliest religious ideas may appear, they represent, for the philosophy of religion, at least the first stirrings of emotions perhaps the most characteristic of man as man-emotions which, with advancing knowledge and a deeper -moral experience, find for themselves gradually a more adequate object and a more reasonable expres~ion. The problem of finding a valid method in the philosophy of religion is n~t an easy one. In its study of the history of religion; the philosophy of 371 372 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY religion takes careful note of what is progressively discarded, and what is retained and carried forward to be still further purified; for the philosophy of rel_ig,ion this procedure constitutes the surest guide to the essence of true religion. · · I In light of the foregoing, the function of a philosophy of religion emerges as- determined by the union of distinct ~iewpoints: Philosophy is the synoptic view of existence and the critical interpretation of experience; -Religion, provisionally defined, is the earliest form of the social consciousness , supplying the conditions of further advance; the Philosophy of Religion as a mediator between the other two is concerned with the anal.}rsis and interpretation of the facts supplied by the history of religion. Its method is anthropological, viewing the evolution of human life in its widest sense, and interpreting beginnings in the light of later development; religion is seen to manifest its presence in the form of historical "episodes" and "significant contrasts"-e.g. the founding of the Christian religion and the Crucifixion story in particular. Now a survey of recent literature suggests that there is a significant relation between the conclusions which are reached about religion and the influences which dominate the systematic thought of the different writers. In order to examine this relation three outstanding philosophers may be selected, William...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 371-380
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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