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Philosophical Theology, Volume One

Robert Cummings Neville

Publication Year: 2013

A new theology of ultimate realities and a new theory of religion to back it up addressed to believers, unbelievers, and scholars of all traditions.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-xii

Cross References

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xxiv

This preface introduces a three-volume systematic project in philosophical theology, a scale of reflection uncommon today and in need of some prefatory explanation. The overall topic of the project is “theology” in the sense of dealing with first-order issues in religion, to use the increasingly common word for intellectual construction and analysis in all religious traditions. ...

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pp. xxv-xxvi

I wish to thank members of the doctoral seminar in Advanced Systematic Theology at Boston University in fall 2010 for their careful reading and commentary on a draft of this volume. They include Joshua Hasler, Anne Hillman, Sungrae Kim, Divine Mungre, Lancelot Watson, and Lawrence Whitney. ...

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pp. 1-22

The complex metaphysical hypothesis to be elaborated throughout the volumes of Philosophical Theology is that the ultimate reality of the world consists in its being created in all its spatiotemporal complexity by an ontological act of creation. Everything determinate in any way is part of the world so created. ...

Part I. Ultimates Defined

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Part I. Preliminary Remarks

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pp. 25-28

How does one begin a discussion of ultimate reality? The first quandary is that we are already in the middle of very many discussions of ultimate reality. Some of these discussions are the historical traditions of religions with their manifold genres of scripture, commentary, and evolving cultures of rituals, practices, and historical institutionalizations. ...

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Chapter One. Sacred Canopies

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pp. 29-44

The phrase, sacred canopy, derives from Peter L. Berger’s book, The Sacred Canopy. The purpose of that book is to develop a theory of religion with the tools of sociology of knowledge; its argument is closely connected with the book Berger wrote with Thomas Luckman at about the same time, The Social Construction of Reality. ...

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Chapter Two. Reference, Reduction, Philosophy, and Metaphysics

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pp. 45-62

The previous chapter made the point that religious people bet their lives that their religious beliefs are true, especially those embodied in their sacred canopies. Roughly put, their bet on the truth of religious beliefs includes an assumption that they refer to what they seem to refer to and that what they say about the objects of reference is right in some important sense. ...

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Chapter Three. Symbolic Engagement

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pp. 63-80

The epistemology of Philosophical Theology derives from American pragmatism with a heavy influence from Confucianism. Knowing, according to this epistemology, is a natural interaction of an interpretive organism with an environment. The interpretation allows the interpreter to discriminate what is valuable (or disvaluable) ...

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Chapter Four. Worldviews

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pp. 81-94

The first three chapters of Philosophical Theology focused on ultimacy as symbolized in sacred canopies. The first developed the conception of sacred canopies, including the technical concept of finite/infinite contrasts. The second dealt with the importance of reference in the symbols of ultimacy in sacred canopies, ...

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Part I. Summary Implications

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pp. 95-98

The purpose of Part I of Philosophical Theology One has been to introduce some of the major conceptual tools necessary for an analysis of ultimacy or ultimate reality. These tools have been introduced but not developed much in use. A brief summary allows for some conclusions to be drawn about the shape of the inquiry to come. ...

Part II. Ultimates Symbolized

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Part II. Preliminary Remarks

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pp. 101-104

Without significant elaboration Part I of Philosophical Theology One put forward the hypothesis that reflective religions evolve theologies in response to structures of reality with which all cultures and individuals need to cope in one way or another. Of course, religions are historically diverse, wildly so, ...

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Chapter Five. Ultimate Reality and Ultimate Concern

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pp. 105-120

The distinction between ontological and anthropological ultimates has been observed from the beginning of this study (I, Preface). Roughly, ontological ultimates are realities on their own, whereas anthropological ultimates are human projects of ultimate importance. Part of the significance of the distinction is that some important religious traditions, ...

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Chapter Six. Toward Transcendent Symbols of Ultimacy

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pp. 121-134

The purpose of this chapter is to explore what exists in the nature of things that puts pressure on symbols of ultimacy to take form and interpretation toward the transcendent end of the intimacy/transcendence continuum (I, 4, ii). The range of symbols prevalent in religions is indeed along a continuum. ...

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Chapter Seven. Toward Intimate Symbols of Ultimacy

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pp. 135-148

Whereas issues of scale, idolatry, explanation, and experience put pressure on religious thinking to develop increasingly transcendent symbols, something parallel exerts an opposite pressure to develop increasingly intimate symbols, symbols proximate to the exigencies of life. ...

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Chapter Eight. Ultimacy in Theological Framing

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pp. 149-162

One of the most important distinctions within theology is between two structures of the broadest frame for theological discussion. One structure is a kind of cosmic or ultimate narrative. The other is an ontological structure articulating relations among finite affairs, natural and human, and ultimates that are infinite in crucial aspects as finite/infinite contrasts. ...

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Part II. Summary Implications

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pp. 163-166

The purpose of Part II was to explore how realities common to the human situation exert pressures on religion to symbolize ultimacy in various ways. These pressures show up in all religions that have reflective depth. They determine that symbols of ultimacy are of various kinds in response to the pressures exerted by the universal realities. ...

Part III. Ultimates Demonstrated

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Part III. Preliminary Remarks

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pp. 169-172

The purpose of Part III is to provide arguments for the philosophy of ultimate reality on which Philosophical Theology is based. A consistent theme of Parts I and II is that the cognitive control on symbols of ultimacy comes through metaphysics. Metaphysics, as the term is used here, and as an interpretive generalization of the great philosophic traditions of civilizations, ...

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Chapter Nine. The Metaphysics of Ontological Ultimacy

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pp. 173-192

What is the best strategy for developing a proper metaphysical conception of ultimate reality? Reflection can begin on the phrase itself. Ultimate reality is the reality that is ultimate or last in the seeking out of conditions, that which is presupposed by other things but has no presuppositions itself. ...

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Chapter Ten. The Metaphysics of Cosmological Ultimacy

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pp. 193-210

Before we can be more exact about what might constitute the ontological context of the mutual relevance of determinate things, it is important to develop a formal theory of determinateness. In several of the previous chapters it was asserted that to be determinate is to be a harmony of essential and conditional components. ...

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Chapter Eleven. Proof of an Ultimate Ontological Creative Act

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pp. 211-226

The metaphysical question for this chapter is how it is possible that there is a world of many beings. This question is answered in four ways. The first section presents a dialectical argument that such a pluralistic world is radically contingent and that the only thing on which it might be contingent is an ontological creative act that functions as the ontological context of mutual relevance. ...

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Chapter Twelve. The Ontological Ultimate

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pp. 227-244

According to the concept of the ontological creative act, the act has no nature except that which comes to be in its creating the world. This affords the greatest intelligibility to the question of why there is a world at all. For, the concept of the ontological creative act starts within nothing, which needs no explanation. ...

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Part III. Summary Implications

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pp. 245-248

One purpose of Part III was to develop a set of metaphysical ideas about ultimate reality that can serve as a kind of orienting control on the symbols of ultimacy discussed in Part II. Many of those metaphysical ideas were introduced in Parts I and II, but not developed and defended. The main purpose of Part III was to provide a detailed defense ...

Part IV. Ultimates Known

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Part IV. Preliminary Remarks

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pp. 251-252

The philosophical theology of ultimate reality has been built on three layers of argument. Part I presented tools for the analysis of religion, including a theory of symbolic engagement according to which theory can deal with first-order questions about ultimacy. Part II examined elements common to religious life in the real world ...

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Chapter Thirteen. What Can Be Known about Ultimacy

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pp. 253-272

Given the abstractness of the conception of the ontological ultimate arising from an analysis of bare determinateness, and the explicit denial that the ontological act of creation has a nature of its own over and above its products, what of religious importance can be known about it? ...

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Chapter Fourteen. What Cannot Be Known about Ultimacy

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pp. 273-286

Apart from the ontological act of creation, and its termination in the determinate things of the world, nothing is to be known of ultimate reality. This is affirmed explicitly in the Hindu notion of Nirguna Brahman, Brahman without qualities. As discussed in chapter 6, the move to greater transcendence involves a dialectic that ends ...

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Chapter Fifteen. Symbolic Engagement as Praying the Ultimate

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pp. 287-300

The metaphysical theory of ultimacy developed in Part III and from which consequences about the knowledge of the ultimate were drawn in chapters 13 and 14 stands as an hypothesis. It was drawn up in light of analyses of how ultimacy figures in people’s worldviews, both as more or less directly symbolized in those portions of worldviews ...

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Chapter Sixteen. Mystical Engagement

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pp. 301-318

The purpose of this chapter is to explore paths of spiritual cultivation that make possible and promote the development of concrete, materially constituted, acts of symbolic engagement of the ultimate understood as the ontological act of creation. This preliminary exploration is supplemented from many other angles in Philosophical Theology Two and Three. ...

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Part IV. Summary Implications

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pp. 319-324

Part I of Philosophical Theology One raised the problem of how to understand ultimacy and suggested the hypothesis of the ontological act of creation, although not exactly in these theoretical terms. Part II set this problem in the larger context of how various dimensions of reality exert pressures on understandings of ultimacy, defined as symbols of ultimacy; ...


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pp. 325-342


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pp. 343-356


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pp. 357-378

Back Cover

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p. 406-406

E-ISBN-13: 9781438448855
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438448831

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2013