Knowledge, Action, Pluralism

Contemporary Perspectives in Philosophy of Religion

by Sebastian Kolodziejczyk (Volume editor) Janusz Salamon (Volume editor)
©2014 Edited Collection 333 Pages


In this book, an international team of scholars from leading American, British and Continental European universities, led by Richard Swinburne, Eleonore Stump, William Wainwright and Linda Zagzebski, presents original ideas about three currently discussed topics in the philosophy of religion: religious epistemology, the philosophy of God’s action in the world, including the problem of evil and Divine Providence, and the philosophical challenge of religious diversity. The book contains echoes of all four main strands of the late 20th century philosophy of religion: Richard Swinburne’s philosophical theology, Alvin Plantinga’s reformed epistemology, John Hick’s theory of religious pluralism, and the philosophy of religion inspired by the work of the later Wittgenstein. One of the distinguishing features of this volume is that it mirrors a new trend towards philosophical cooperation across the so-called continental/analytic divide.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Notes on the Contributors
  • Preface
  • Why Hume and Kant Were Mistaken in Rejecting Natural Theology
  • First Person and Third Person Reasons and Religious Epistemology
  • I. The Distinction between First Person and Third Person Reasons
  • 1.1.
  • 1.2.
  • II. Applying the distinction to problems in religious epistemology
  • 2.1.
  • 2.2.
  • 2.3.
  • 2.4.
  • 2.5.
  • Conclusion
  • The Spiritual Senses in Western Spirituality and the Analytic Philosophy of Religion
  • I. Pike and the Spiritual Senses
  • II. Puritans and the Spiritual Senses
  • III. Prospects for the Two Puritan Models of Spiritual Perception
  • Theological Fictionalism: A Postmodern Heresy
  • Introduction
  • I. Compendium of Theological Fictionalism
  • II. Theological Fictionalism as a Postmodern Heresy
  • III. Why Theological Fictionalism does not work
  • The argument from faith as real assent
  • The argument from the difference between belief and acceptance
  • The argument from the dispositional nature of belief and faith
  • The argument from the limitations of make-believe
  • The argument against ‘as if’
  • Conclusion
  • From Thinking about God to Experiencing the World: Theory of Transcendentals and the Debate about the Nature of Experience
  • I. The Idea of Pure Experience
  • II. Theory of Transcendentals
  • III. Hypothesis of the Basic Furniture of Mind
  • Concluding Remarks
  • References
  • Towards a New Natural Theology: Between Reformed Epistemology and Wittgensteinian Thomism
  • I. Suggestions from Reformed Epistemology
  • II. Suggestions from Wittgensteinian Thomism
  • III. A New Proposal
  • 3.1 Who should we study?
  • 3.2 What should we study?
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Science, Religion and Common Sense
  • I. Susan Haack’s Position
  • II. Common Sense
  • III. Multidimensional Common Sense
  • References
  • Do the Results of Divine Actions Have Preceding Causes?
  • I. The divine willing view
  • II. The dilemma of free will
  • III. Is this ‘agent causation’?
  • IV. God does not need undertakings
  • V. Basic actions
  • VI. Human basic actions
  • VII. What do human actions begin with?
  • VIII. Divine basic actions
  • IX. What do divine actions begin with?
  • References
  • Atonement and the Cry of Dereliction from the Cross
  • Introduction
  • Union: Closeness and Psychic Integration
  • Union: Closeness and Shared Attention
  • Distance between Persons and The Cry of Dereliction
  • The Possibilities
  • Mindreading
  • Mindreading and Moral Evil
  • Mind-reading, Shared Attention, and Christ’s Distance from God
  • Conclusion
  • Salvation as Divine Action: A Philosophical Approach to the Power of Faith in Christ’s Resurrection
  • I. The Theme of Salvation in Contemporary Discourse
  • II. Clarification of the Concept of Salvation
  • III. The Specifically Christian Concept of Salvation
  • IV. An Attempt to Explain the Statement ‘Faith in the Resurrection of Christ Saves Men from Sin’
  • Conclusion
  • Creation as a Metaphysical Concept
  • I. Creation: A Matter of Time or a Concern of Self-existence?
  • 1.1 Eternity not opposed to ontological dependency
  • 1.2 Beginning of existence, and cause of existence, are to be distinguished
  • 1.3 The true state of the question
  • 1.4 A question of self-existence
  • 1.5 Creator or craftsman?
  • 1.6 Creation and continuation
  • II. Creation and the Cosmological Argument
  • 2.1 Classical phrasing of an argument to a creator
  • 2.2 Objections
  • 2.2.1
  • 2.2.2
  • 2.2.3
  • 2.2.4
  • III. Maxwell’s Argument to the Createdness of the Physical World
  • 3.1 Inferring creation from physics?
  • 3.2 Outdated evidence?
  • 3.3 The problem of self-existence raised a posteriori.
  • 3.4 Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing.
  • 3.5 Objections
  • 3.5.1
  • 3.5.2
  • 3.5.3
  • 3.5.4
  • IV. Rephrasing of the cosmological argument
  • V. Creation as Ultimate Explanation for There Being Laws of Nature
  • 5.1 Self-explained laws?
  • 5.2 No Creator, No Laws?
  • 5.3 Nature’s metaphysical dependency and the operating of mere physical causes: creation without creationism
  • Providence Interiorized: Maimonides, Kierkegaard and Weil on Divine Providence
  • I. Maimonides
  • II. Kierkegaard
  • III. Weil
  • References
  • Theodicy of Justice as Fairness and Sceptical Pluralism: A View from Behind the Veil of Ignorance
  • Introduction
  • I. Evolving Moral Imagination and the Meaning of God’s Goodness
  • II. Theodicy of Justice as Fairness: Facing Reality and Taking Responsibility
  • III. Sceptical Pluralism: Making Room for Freedom and Solidarity
  • Religious Inclusivism: A Philosophical Defence
  • Introduction
  • I. The Idea of Inclusivism
  • II. An Epistemic Framework for Inclusivism
  • (1) epistemic inclusivity
  • (2) doctrinal contingency
  • (3) openness to learning
  • III. Conclusion
  • Exclusive Inclusivism
  • I. Preliminaries
  • II. Doctrinal Exclusivism
  • III. Rahner’s Inclusivism
  • IV. ‘An Element of Truth’
  • V. Those who believe will be happy – or does it work without belief too? Universalism, Particularism and the role of belief
  • VI. Just an attitude?
  • Methodological Pluralism and the Subject Matter of Philosophy of Religion

| 7 →

Notes on the Contributors

Louis CARUANA is Reader in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. His publications include: Holism and the Understanding of Science: Integrating the Analytical, Historical and Sociological; Science And Virtue: An Essay on the Impact of the Scientific Mentality on Moral Character; Darwin and Catholicism: The Past and Present Dynamics of a Cultural Encounter.

Paul CLAVIER is a Professor of Philosophy at the École normale supérieure de Paris, France. His recent book publications include: What is the Good?, Arguing about Moral Values, and What is Natural Theology?

Marco DAMONTE teaches at at the University of Genoa. His publications include: Una nuova teologia riformata: La proposta degli epistemology riformati e dei tomisti wittgensteiniani; Wittgenstein, Tomasso e la cura dell’intenzionalita.

Bernd IRLENBORN is a Professor of Philosophy at Theologische Fakultät Paderborn. His publications include: Der Ingrimm des Aufruhrs: Heidegger und das Problem des Bösen; Veritas semper maior: Der philosophische Gottesbegriff Richard Schaefflers im Spannungsfeld von Philosophie und Theologie; Religiöse Überzeugungen und öffentliche Vernunft: Zur Rolle des Christentums in der pluralistischen Gesellschaft; Gott und Vernunft: neue Perspektiven zur Transzendentalphilosophie Richard Schaefflers; Analytische Religionsphilosophie.

Sebastian Tomasz KOŁODZIEJCZYK is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Polish Journal of Philosophy and Co-Editor of the book series Companions to Philosophy (WAM, Krakow). His publications include: Conceptual Boundaries of Metaphysics; Idea of Metaphysics (forthcoming); Consciousness and Volition (forthcoming).

Denis MOREAU is a Professor of Philosophy and the Head of the Department of Philosophy at Université de Nantes. Author of 8 books and 11 volumes of translations and critical editions of philosophical works in Latin. His recent publications include: In the Middle of a Forest: Essays on Descartes and the Meaning of Life; The Ways of Salvation: A Philosophical Essay; Faith in God and Reason: Two Essays on Philosophy of Religion. ← 7 | 8 →

Roger POUIVET is a Professor of Philosophy at Université de Lorraine and Director of Laboratoire d'Histoire des Sciences et de Philosophie-Archives Poincaré in Nancy, France. He authored and co-edited: L'ontologie de l'oeuvre d'art; Philosophie de la religion, approches contemporaines; La philosophie de Nelson Goodman; The Right to Believe: Perspectives in Religious Epistemology; Philosophie de la danse; Philosophie du rock: une ontologie des artefacts et des enregistrements.

Anita RENUSCH teaches at Goethe-University of Frankfurt am Main. She is a leader of Glaube und Gründe research group. She is the author of “Thank God it’s the right religion! – Plantinga on religious diversity”, in: Dieter Schönecker (ed.), Essays on Warranted Christian Belief. With Replies by Alvin Plantinga (forthcoming).

Janusz SALAMON is a Senior Lecturer at Charles University in Prague and Adjunct Professor at New York University. He is Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal for Philosophy of Religion and Co-Editor of Bloomsbury Studies in Global Ethics. He co-authored and edited the following books: Solidarity Beyond Borders: Ethics in a Globalising World; Companion to Philosophy of Religion; George Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge [translation into Polish]; Future Christianity; Brothers Reunited: Catholic-Jewish Dialogue.

Vladimir K. SHOKHIN is a Professor of Philosophy at the Moscow State University and the Head of the Department of Philosophy of Religion at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences as well as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Almanach of the Philosophy of Religion. Author of 11 books, including: Stratification of Reality According to Ontology of Advaita-Vedanta; First Philosophers of India; and Brahmanic Philosophy.

Eleonore STUMP is Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University. Former President of the American Philosophical Association and of the Society of Christian Philosophers. Her recent book publications include: Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering; The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas (co-edited with B. Davies); and Aquinas.

Richard SWINBURNE is an Emeritus Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at the University of Oxford and Fellow of the British Academy. Among his books are The Coherence of Theism, The Existence of God, Faith and Reason, The Evolution of the Soul, Responsibility and Atonement, ← 8 | 9 → Revelation, The Christian God, Providence and the Problem of Evil, Epistemic Justification, The Resurrection of God Incarnate, and Mind, Brain, and Free Will.

N. VERBIN is an Assistant Professor at Tel Aviv University and Senior Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. She is the author of Divinely Abused: A Philosophical Perspective on Job and His Kin.

Daniel von WACHTER is a Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein. His publications include: Die kausale Struktur der Welt: Eine philosophische Untersuchung über Verursachung, Naturgesetze, freie Handlungen, Möglichkeit und Gottes kausale Rolle in der Welt; Dinge und Eigenschaften: Versuch zur Ontologie.

William J. WAINWRIGHT is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His publications include: Religion and Morality; The Oxford Handbook for Philosophy of Religion; Philosophy of Religion; Reason and the Heart; God, Philosophy and Academic Culture.

Linda ZAGZEBSKI is George Lynn Cross Research Professor and Kingfisher College Chair of the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at University of Oklahoma. She authored or co-edited: Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief; Philosophy of Religion: An Historical Introduction; Divine Motivation Theory; Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology; Virtue Epistemology: Essays on Epistemic Virtue and Responsibility; Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge; Rational Faith: Catholic Responses to Reformed Epistemology; The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge.

| 11 →


The last few decades of the 20th century witnessed a somewhat unexpected renaissance of academic philosophy of religion, especially in the Anglophone countries and in analytic philosophy circles. This period of almost unprecedented flourishing of this branch of philosophy, which in the eyes of many was destined for oblivion, was preceded by a period of diffidence and stagnation, no doubt caused in part by the long shadow of logical positivism which dismissed all claims of the philosophy of religion and metaphysics as meaningless.

The radical change has been brought about by a generation of philosophers led by two towering figures that have dominated the landscape of the late 20th century philosophy of religion: Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne. Plantinga, through his first important book, God and Other Minds (1967), initiated the movement towards the rehabilitation of the philosophy of religion, and later developed a version of anti-evidentialist religious epistemology that he dubbed Reformed Epistemology. Swinburne, in a remarkable series of books beginning with The Coherence of Theism (1977) worked out an alternative and equally comprehensive treatment of the main problems of the philosophy of religion and philosophical theology, which on one hand can be considered continuous with natural theology in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas, and on the other hand utilises the achievements of a 20th century methodology of science. Of the remaining strands of late 20th century philosophy of religion, two may be thought to have the greatest resonance and significance, if not matching the work of Plantinga and Swinburne in scope and broad appeal. These are John Hick’s theory of religious pluralism, comprehensively presented in his An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent (1989), and perhaps to a lesser extent, the philosophy of religion inspired by the work of the later Wittgenstein.

Echoes of all these four main streams of the late 20th century philosophy of religion – all laying heavy stress on epistemological considerations – can be found in this book. While the present volume, carrying a subtitle ‘Contemporary Perspectives in Philosophy of Religion’, does not aim at a comprehensive presentation of the newest trends in the philosophy of religion, it is representative of its current state in at least three ways.

Firstly, the content of this book mirrors the fact that the first two decades of the 20th century witness a continuity, rather than a revolution, in philosophy in general, and in the philosophy of religion in particular. The leading scholars in the field in the last decades of the 20th century still lead the field today, while the next generations of philosophers focus on elaboration of particular topics ← 11 | 12 → in a conversation with the ‘old masters’. The existence of this quasi-scholastic intergenerational cooperation, of which this book is a visible proof, allows one to predict, at least to some extent, what will be the focus of attention of philosophers of religion over the next few decades. Revolutions in philosophy do occur from time to time, but at the moment such revolution does not seem to be emerging on the horizon of the philosophy of religion. What is to be expected is a careful broadening of the debate on particular issues, by taking the established positions as a point of departure, re-examining the argumentation of the predecessors and analysing in a painstaking manner some new claims in an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary manner. The present anthology, which brings together the work of some of the contemporary classics in the field (Swinburne, Stump, Wainwright, Zagzebski) and of scholars one or two generations younger who in many ways follow in their footsteps, is a good example of this trend. The presence of Richard Swinburne in this volume is evidence of one of the characteristic features of his academic activity – and indeed that of the entire generation of British and American philosophers of religion – namely a readiness to lend a support and encouragement to younger scholars in the field, including those from outside the Anglophone parts of the world.

Secondly, the present volume highlights the fact that while philosophers of religion for much of the 20th century gave much of their attention to issues of religious language, partly due to the aforementioned pressure from the logical positivist critics of religious language, contemporary philosophers of religion, having regained their methodological self-confidence, concentrate mainly on the problems of religious epistemology (which includes a broad spectrum of issues, from the justification of religious beliefs to the religion and science debate), philosophical theology (especially God’s relation to and action in the world), and religious diversity. In these three broad areas of philosophy of religion, much creative work is being done today and is likely to be done in the years to come. Again, the essays published in this volume demonstrate this dominant tendency in the contemporary philosophy of religion, hence its title: ‘Knowledge, Action, Pluralism’.

Thirdly, the list of contributors to this volume demonstrates a relatively recent trend to try to cross the divide between the Continental and analytic philosophical circles which until recently appeared – and still appears to many – unbridgeable. The composition of the team of co-authors of this book is characteristic of the dynamics of this growing collaboration between British and American philosophers on one hand, and Continental European philosophers on the other. Ten out of sixteen contributors to this volume represent countries of Continental Europe, in which philosophy departments – often in contrast ← 12 | 13 → to their British or American counterparts – tend to offer a blend of Continental and analytic philosophical traditions as a matter of course. In addition to that, most of the ‘European’ contributors to this volume have an experience of education at an Anglophone philosophy department (in most cases at Oxford or Cambridge). This methodologically pluralistic background of many of the co-authors of this volume encourages an innovative approach to the issues explored in more familiar ways by the mainstream Anglophone philosophers of religion. On the other hand, all contributors to this volume tend to remain faithful to the ‘analytic’ ideal of clarity and precision of argumentation, thus making debate across the geographical and methodological divide possible. Again, this aspect of the present volume may be considered indicative of the growing tendency for closer collaboration between Continental European and analytic Anglophone philosophers of religion, especially given the fact that Continental philosophy of religion in the recent decades was hardly a match for the Anglophone philosophy of religion as far as vitality and sheer output is concerned.

As mentioned above, the book gathers a collection of 16 essays centring on the three most hotly discussed topics in contemporary philosophy of religion: (I) religious epistemology, (II) philosophy of God’s relation to and action in the world, and (III) the philosophical challenge of religious pluralism.

Given all that has been said above about the ‘representative’ character of this volume, it is fitting that it opens with an essay by Richard Swinburne entitled: Why Hume and Kant Were Mistaken in Rejecting Natural Theology. Having identified the general principles of intelligibility and knowledge adopted by Hume and Kant, which seem to rule out the possibility of natural theology, Swinburne boldly states that these principles are all either empty or fallacious. Here are some of the weaknesses of Hume’s and Kant’s respective critiques of natural theology pointed out by Swinburne.

Hume claimed that all our ‘ideas’ are compounded of simple ideas, and all simple ideas are derived from ‘impressions’; and that any purported idea not so derived is meaningless. But Hume had no rule for which of the many ideas which could be derived from a given collection of impressions are meaningful, or how they can be combined in logically possible ways. Contrary to Hume, the way to show that a proposition s is a logically possible proposition is to show that some more obviously logically possible proposition r entails it; and the way to show that s is a logically impossible proposition is to show that that proposition entails a contradiction.

Hume claimed that to say x causes y is to say that they are kinds A and B such that x is A, y is B, and all A’s are followed by B’s. BUT (α) that x causes y may be a consequence of a probable hypothesis other than the hypothesis ← 13 | 14 → that ‘all A’s are followed by B’s’. A hypothesis H is rendered probable by evidence E insofar as (1) H makes E probable, (2) H fits with background evidence, (3) H is simple, (4) H has small scope. In comparing large-scale hypotheses with each other, only (1) and (3) are relevant. And (β), our experience of causation comes most basically from ourselves causing events. Given (α) and (β) the hypothesis that God caused the universe may be rendered probable by evidence.

Kant held that our categories can only provide knowledge when applied to objects of ‘possible’ sensible experience, and that knowledge of causation was knowledge of regular succession. BUT it needs the above criteria to show what a ‘possible’ experience is, as well as to show what non-experiencable possibilities there are. His second claim repeats Hume’s mistaken claim. Kant claimed that we could have no knowledge of the unconditioned. BUT his arguments in the Antinomies are fallacious, and he had no conception of how evidence can render a very wide ranging hypothesis probable. Kant claimed that other arguments for the existence of God need to be backed up by an ontological argument to show that any ens realissimum exists of logical necessity, and that no such argument can be had. BUT the idea that God’s necessity was logical necessity is due to Anselm, and there is no need for any theist to hold it. Thus, concludes Swinburne, Kant’s critique of natural theology can be dismissed.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (February)
Religious Pluralism Theodicy Theodizee Religiöser Pluralismus Metaphysics
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2013. 333 pp.

Biographical notes

Sebastian Kolodziejczyk (Volume editor) Janusz Salamon (Volume editor)

Sebastian T. Kołodziejczyk is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Jagiellonian University in Cracow. Janusz Salamon is Senior Lecturer at Charles University in Prague and Adjunct Professor at New York University.


Title: Knowledge, Action, Pluralism