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The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought

Chris L. Firestone

Publication Year: 2012

In The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought, Chris L. Firestone, Nathan A. Jacobs, and thirteen other contributors examine the role of God in the thought of major European philosophers from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. The philosophers considered are, by and large, not orthodox theists; they are highly influential freethinkers, emancipated by an age no longer tethered to the authority of church and state. While acknowledging this fact, the contributors are united in arguing that this is only one side of a complex story. To redress the imbalance of attention to secularism among crucial modern thinkers and to consolidate a more theologically informed view of modernity, they focus on the centrality of the sacred (theology and God) in the thought of these philosophers. The essays, each in its own way, argue that the major figures in modernity are theologically astute, bent not on removing God from philosophy but on putting faith and reason on a more sure footing in light of advancements in science and a perceived need to rethink the relationship between God and world.
By highlighting and defending the theologically affirmative dimensions of thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, Gottfried Leibniz, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, F. W. J. Schelling, G. W. F. Hegel, and others, the essayists present a forceful and timely correction of widely accepted interpretations of these philosophers. To ignore or downplay the theological dimensions of the philosophical works they address, they argue, distorts our understanding of modern thought.
"Over the past twenty-five years there has been a gradual change in the study of modern philosophy toward recognizing the centrality of our relation to God in the work of most of the major modern thinkers of the period. The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought is a timely and useful collection that has the potential to crystallize this important development in the study of modern philosophy." —John E. Hare, Yale Divinity School

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-14

The collection of essays to follow looks at the role of God in the work of major thinkers in modernity. The philosophers of this period are, by and large, not orthodox theists; they are freethinkers, emancipated . . .

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Chapter 1: The Desecularization of Descartes

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pp. 15-37

It is striking that Descartes is not generally treated in the anglophone academy as a Christian philosopher, in the manner of Augustine, say, or Thomas Aquinas; indeed, he is generally presented in textbooks . . .

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Chapter 2: Law and Self-Preservation in Leviathan

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pp. 38-65

Thomas Hobbes’s philosophy was by and large misunderstood by his critics in the second half of the seventeenth century.1 In this chapter I explain some of the principal sources for this misunderstanding and . . .

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Chapter 3: The Religious Spinoza

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pp. 66-86

Perhaps no figure in the two-century history from Descartes through Hegel has been more thoroughly identified with secularization and atheism than Baruch de Spinoza. In Christian Europe, for almost a . . .

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Chapter 4: God and Design in the Thought of Robert Boyle

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pp. 87-111

In the last half century, historians of early modern science have recognized the importance of the religious, indeed, the theological dimension to the thought of the natural philosophers or scientists of the late . . .

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Chapter 5: God in Locke’s Philosophy

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pp. 112-148

To write about the role of God in Locke’s philosophy is to confront a daunting hermeneutical challenge. In what Locke says about God and God’s role in human existence, there are contradictions, ambiguities, . . .

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Chapter 6: The Myth of the Clockwork Universe

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pp. 149-184

The myth of Newton’s clockwork universe is one of the most persis - tent and pervasive myths in the history of science, perhaps almost as widespread as the mistaken and essentialistic belief that the Galileo . . .

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Chapter 7: Pierre Bayle

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pp. 185-208

The expression “complicated Protestant” needs some explaining. It comes from Antony McKenna’s response to the invitation from a certain university to speak on Pierre Bayle. McKenna had to decline but . . .

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Chapter 8: Leibniz and the Augustinian Tradition

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pp. 209-250

Although Gottfried Leibniz professes a commitment to historical Christian theism, both the depth and orthodoxy of his commitment have been questioned throughout the past three centuries. Accusations . . .

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Chapter 9: Hume’s Defense of True Religion

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pp. 251-272

On the back cover of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of David Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion and The Natural History of Religion we read that in these works is to be found . . .

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Chapter 10: The Illegitimate Son

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pp. 273-299

Two interpretive bloodlines flow from the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. The theologically positive bloodline, as Gordon Michalson characterizes it, “veer[s] off in the direction of constructive theological . . .

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Chapter 11: The Reception and Legacy of J.G. Fichte’s Religionslehre

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pp. 300-318

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762– 1814) was an autumn child of the German Enlightenment, or Aufklärung. Educated to be a moderate theo - logian, persuaded to be a material determinist, and inclined to be a . . .

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Chapter 12: Metaphysical Realism and Epistemological Modesty in Schleiermacher’s Method

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pp. 319-334

How are we to understand religion? It is undeniable that religion, and religious motivations, have played a very large role in shaping world events. As such, the question of how to understand religion has . . .

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Chapter 13: Schelling’s Turn to Scripture

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pp. 335-351

F.W. J. Schelling (1775– 1851) is an unusual figure in this volume. He is significantly less well known and less read than his contemporaries Fichte and Hegel; there are thus fewer signs of the tendency, . . .

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Chapter 14: Hegel and Secularization

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pp. 352-371

Secularizing interpretations of Hegel have arisen largely as a consequence of the professionalization of philosophy as a secular academic discipline and the concomitant rejection of metaphysics, including . . .

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Chapter 15: Kierkegaard’s Critique of Secular Reason

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pp. 372-391

One stubborn perception among philosophers is that there is little of value in the explicitly Christian character of Søren Kierkegaard’s thinking.1 Those embarrassed by a Kierkegaardian view of Christian . . .


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pp. 392-396


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pp. 397-421

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780268079741
E-ISBN-10: 0268079749
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268029067
Print-ISBN-10: 0268029067

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012