PHILOSOPHY AS RELIGION
A STUDY IN CRITICAL DEVOTION
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTTAI FHITT MAFNIT (1F TiM: DPFf; IIDO IF MTC
Of the many people who have been helpful I would like to thank my disser-
station supervisor above all.
Ellen Haring not only assisted in the formulation of
but also read the
various drafts sympathetically,
Her willingness to subordinate her
philosophical interests to mine is
D'Amico and Robert
Both of the other two members of my
were selected, in part, because I expected them to
resist some aspects of my approach.
They played their roles well.
They were also
disagreements that might arise.
They have not disappointed me.
read portions, correcting misunderstandings of his views that were contained in an
earlier draft and commenting on other matters that caught his eye.
has often been a captive but attentive, intelligent audience.
been encouraging as a teaching supervisor, loaner of books and counselor.
Vasudha Narayanan and he know as Hanuman,
the helpful Hindu
life depended but
which was capable of destroying my work and me at any moment-available to me,
and his counsel.
interDretation of Sninoza.
SIIPe. and danclhtsrq_ Rmrhhal anH Amana= hnu,
themselves more or
less in the middle between the uncritical traditionalists and
thorough-going sceptics of their times.
They refused, each in his own way,
irrational believers or complete sceptics.
They were able to avoid the supposed
as a life-guiding
In critical, comprehensive thought they were able to escape the hard
choices presented by their cultures.
Socrates steered a course between the poets and the sophists; Spinoza was
sceptical of revealed religions but not rationality; and Dewey rejected organized
religion but reconstructed philosophy to deal
with human problems.
devoted to each I will examine the culturally-presented dilemmas each one faced
and show how he dealt with them.
But before doing
so it is necessary to raise in
an introductory chapter the question of the relation of philosophy and religion.
working definition of religion,
+hkt" '-kh ^f +hoch throo nhrilane,',nhorrc n.i e roim nlic ; h;c tr.,.o+h,'- af rnhflac a.nk hi
first chapter I will explore the differences between philosophy and religion, argue
against reducing philosophy to religion and offer a definition of religion that builds
on past efforts to define religion.
Then I consider each philosopher as an example
is my primary
concern, but I
cannot focus on it alone
without begging the question of what religion is. It is also helpful to sort out our
intuitions with regard to both philosophy and religion to see the significance of my
thesis--Socrates, Spinoza and Dewey were religious in their practice of philosophy.
There is one stylistic convention
do not follow and should mention
Because of my concern to cite accurately the texts I am using, I am careful
not to include
punctuation mark within quotations, then one may infer that the punctuation is in
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE. ...... . . . . *
ABSTRACT ........ . . . .
RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY ....... .. ........ 1
An Unlikely Suggestion ... . .. . .. .. ... 3
... But Not Inconceivable. . .. . . . 21
Some Criteria for the Identification of Religion ............ 36
The Plan of The Study.. .. .. . . . . . .43
Preliminary Critical Matters . .
Euthyphro, Socrates and Athenian Religion..
Socrates' Critical Religion .............
Conclusion .... .. . .
. . . .
. . *
. . . .
. .. .. .. .. .. .
S. .. 48
III SPINOZA'S RATIONAL RELIGION............ ........... 82
Spinoza and Religion. . . . . . * 84
Spinozan Religion . .. . . *
Conclusion . . . . * *
* *..**** *
* S * *
IV DEWEY'S PHILOSOPHICAL QUEST FOR WHOLENESS ........ 132
Literature and Problems ... ...... ...133
The Development of Dewey's Religious Philosophy ...... . 162
Dewey's Religious Philosophy
. . . .. "
THE CONCEPT OF PHILOSOPHY-AS-RELIGION ............ 215
Hermeneutical and Conceptual Conclusions
Religion as the Acknowledgement
of a Pervasive Authority
. . . S S S S S
Conclusion . . . . .. . . . -. 238
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree
of Doctor of Philosophy
PHILOSOPHY AS RELIGION
A STUDY IN CRITICAL DEVOTION
Major Department: Philosophy
as the acknowledgement of
vasive, authoritative reality through a self-constituting practice, I establish that
Socrates, Spinoza and Dewey were religious in their practice of philosophy.
In the first chapter I elucidate our intuition that philosophy and religion are
I also specify a working definition of religion.
In the cen-
tral three chapters I set forth
the philosophies of Socrates, Spinoza and Dewey,
what way they were religious.
Socrates served his
good god through
In this way he assisted the gods in their efforts to preserve the city-
state of Athens.
Spinoza's religion was a rational pantheism which was required
by his understanding of Deus
John Dewey's holistic philosophy was a
quest for wholeness that shaped his life and thought.
In the final chapter I identi-
fy the concept of philosophy-as-religion, devoting special attention to Dewey, who
is the most problematic of
I also return to my working definition of
RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
We do not ordinarily think of philosophy as being a religious activity, at
least not in the radical sense that I shall suggest. To be sure there have been
philosophy and religion but
as distinct enterprises.
My thesis is more radical.
shall argue that although philosophy and religion are conceptually distinct,
are some philosophers who were religious in their practice of philosophy.
In so doing I
shall be explicating and
justifying what I
take to be our usual intuition in this regard.
This approach has the added virtue of
preventing a too easy identification of philosophy and religion.
careful not to draw the distinction too sharply.
But one must be
For if they are radically distinct,
then there could be no practice that is equally describable as either philosophy or
By arguing that only some were religious I shall be arguing against those
who would say either that all human beings have a faith or that all philosophers
have a faith in rationality.
If either of these latter views were correct, then my
2k m-a m ntuthlrl rIhn i t I a innth-rnn Ac+;n-k+;ti s n+r
r-laim t/rlilm KA rlkial
F*raa Cn r* *
That they used theistic language does not resolve the
question of their religiosity, for their god-talk, some have argued, was not, in the
we are to regard
, I must be able to show that their theistic language was sincere and
through a self-constituting practice.
Through worship of a god or contemplation
of some transcendent reality the practitioner becomes who and what he or she is.
concern finds expression in a practice and over time shapes the adherent.
one is saved
purified through rituals pleasing to the gods or liberated through contemplation of
was sincere and
will so argue.
But the matter
is not so
simple with regard to Dewey. He himself did not think one had to use the term
"God" to refer to his defining reality, and a Dewey interpreted along Rortyan lines
would invoke neither the
term nor the reality.
There is a tension in Dewey, as
and xlii-iv. The
we resolve this
ut, between the pragmatic and the metaphysical. See
Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis: University of
DD. 72-89. See also the introduction, esDeciallv DD. xiv
' a ^ a
decision to regard Dewey as a religio-philosopher will turn on how
is only a pragmatist,
then his religiosity, on
One cannot be
is not just
creation. Thus Dewey provides us with a possible limiting case of philosophy-as-
religion. He falls just inside the religious circle or just outside, depending on how
we read him.
2Compare Paul Tillich,
"Religion as a Dimension in Man's Spiritual Life",
Theology of Culture, edited by Robert C. Kimball (New
Press- 1959-! "Rplioinn." in the larpest anrd mnst hasi
York: Oxford University
nf the wnrd.
is to think
to put enough
oneself and the object of inquiry to
investigate it thoroughly with a self-critical, precise method.
The object of one's
attention is a matter of concern, but its existential import, if any, is secondary to
its intellectual character and significance to one as a philosopher.
My claim then is a radical one.
philosophers that these three were
to some deity.
the question I
None of them dealt
explicitly with the possibility that they were religious in their philosophizing.
radicalness of my thesis, however, does not consist in my transcending their own
views of their work.
It consists rather in the attempt to
see their philosophy as
being religious without trying to reduce either philosophy or religion to the other.
An Unlikely Suggestion
It runs against our usual
view to suggest that some practice can be both
indirectly relevant to life; religion is profound and ultimately uncritical devotion
and, although other-worldly in orientation, is life-informing.
I shall suggest that
to be blind
Also philosophy is not necessarily impractical and religion is not neces-
the tension between
lNl ,kll I r^ ^ ,,-,a ,'-^ n,+-. su- -+.j 4n A^ 4^k 4k.J n a-R.u ItI.. AJ a i ftlnL4.r I
This is not seen as some sideshow but as the game itself.
Religion on the
other hand habitually sets aside some experience or reality as beyond scrutiny:
place, a person, an event, a ritual or whatever is regarded
those who would examine it or question it.
as sacred, off-bounds to
It does not appear likely that some-
thing can be both philosophical and religious at the same time.
Thus one could argue that it is a logical error to regard the two as equally
is an activity
reverence or devotion; inquiry may occur but is limited.
hand is unrestricted, no-holds-barred inquiry. Awe and
not actually obstacles to inquiry. One must be constantly
values and presuppositions do not blind him or her to the truth.
Philosophy on the other
loyalty are potentially if
.y on guard that his or her
though it may be, I shall eventually argue that the same practice may be appro-
priately regarded as both religious and philosophical.
The Paradoxical Character of Conventional Religion
traditionally understood, religion is a
of life that is dedicated to
in a sense shaped by some out-of-the-ordinary reality.
participates in the really real.
In ritual one
Implicit if not explicit is a set of beliefs.
these beliefs shape not only
one's rituals-prayer, sacrifice, chanting, affirming,
meditating-but also one's
organized around daily
prayer, meditation or weekly worship services, or one's whole life can be informed
by certain beliefs.
If one believes in a judgment day or a loving god,
conduct may well be affected.
Thus, paradoxically, one's belief
in some super-
nntQi *ral anti+t ru hn n mannI cdan nnno rav ;tnr Tnaa ia h+n
InAaA, I ++-i tha retf n rrli^Mi
religion is often pushed
as a unifying factor.
cans can expect certain blessings.
As a nation "under God" we Ameri-
Indeed, it is urged,
it is because we have taken
God out of the schools that we are plagued with problems there.
We must turn to
and he will turn
in spite of its other-worldliness, is
often surprisingly practical.
is a second
the Apostle Paul speaks of "the
peace of God which surpasses all thought" (Philippians 4:7).
Tertullian speaks of
the extreme example of
religious tendency to glory in the ineffable.
Although Bernard Williams speaks of
Christianity generally and Tertullian specifically, in his essay,
one could extend his analysis.
Williams argues that there is a "sort of in-
herent and necessary
incomprehensibility" that is "a feature of Christian belief"
He thus accepts
Tertullian's opinion about the impossible character of
Christian beliefs without sharing his valuation of them.
"Inherent and necessary
where exhibit this irrationality.
Religion is thus
seemingly paradoxical both in its
its object of
reality has a this-worldly impact.
Criticism and the Vulnerabilities of Religion and Philosophy
But in our secular age the psychic and
social efficacy of religion is often
SLtt, VJ L*.S A|.leU L.JtAJLSt...At/JIt tJ t.atAI I 1J' LJ.LJtflA L t I *L.Rt W J1 aur LWl I A L .t. JI It.. .L I Lt.t Vt ..J A
E1Vll i *
many are reluctant to turn to a deity or put God back in the school or trust in a
As we lose confidence in some extra-mundane reality its hold is
In a secular, sceptical age, then, many are left without direction.
Sensing this threat, contemporary religion often employs one of two strate-
The fideists resist any use of reason that would undermine their basic be-
, to cite an example from Christianity, Jesus rose from the dead.
to the con-
They are unshakable in their faith.
Liberals, on the other hand, re-think
their basic beliefs, accommodating them to attractive cultural forces.
says resurrection is impossible, then the liberal Christian finds a way to talk about
is compatible with his or her
scientific world view.
He or she remains
on to the resurrection
that is compatible with his or her other beliefs.
Both fideists and
liberals seek to remain faithful in the face of attacks on the religion's defining
but the one insulates the defining event and the other re-interprets it.
To the extent that philosophy is understood as criticism it is often seen as
the antithesis of religion.
It is that which often confronts the animating realities
Assertions about gods, unseen forces, invisible realities, the efficacy
or meditation and visions of heaven and hell are unmercifully scruti-
Nothing is apparently
Nor are secular notions im-
mune to criticism.
Philosophers have been sceptical of other minds, the Freudian
Ilnmrncrtrini naoin rrtfnna Ifvr jtcalf
rCriti-ricm rci, Khath m aivc Khntu aor
TC rlI:s:ab -fll
El r M.I *I.' El UT
Philosophy's Alleged Irrelevance
Philosophy struggles to be relevant to everyday life.
It is only with great
difficulty that it relates to
To be sure there have been philosophers
But for the most part philosophers are viewed-and view
themselves--as spectators, analysts or interpreters.
only an indirect influence.
At best their reflections have
A recent, bald statement of philosophy's non-utility is
that of 3ay Rosenberg:
ticians and, since the objects of their theorizing are at one remove
from the facts, the very opposite of practical folk,
cal inquiry is not instrumental.
It is not a tool.
It aims at clarity,
not as a means to
goals, but simply for the sake
action or to further independent life-
This is an extreme version of the analytic clarity-project, but it does give support
to the oft-expressed criticism of philosophy
that philosophy is irrelevant
in describing philosophy
as a theoretic activity one step re-
the world of action, as much as concedes that it is not a practical
to the criticisms of this narrow understanding of philosophy,
the editors of a collection of
on the nature of philosophy write:
criticized on the grounds that it is not relevant to human
series of technical problems which are unrelated to the human crisis
and which are, apparently
even unrelated to
triumph of analytic philosophy in the twentieth century, but the complaint is an
ancient one, as the story about Thales as re-told by Aristotle (Politics 1259a6-10)
Thales supposedly used his knowledge of the stars to make a lot of money.
Having been "reproached for his poverty,
ophy was of no use",
which was supposed to show that philos-
Thales calculated that there would be a large olive crop, put
deposits on the olive-presses in Chios and Miletus and then was able to get high
prices for their use when a large crop came in.
Although Aristotle argues that it
not a philosophical
Thales to speculate
reinforces the point:
Thus he showed the world that philosophers can easily be rich if they
like, but that their ambition is of another sort.
He is supposed to
have given a striking proof of his wisdom, but, as I was saying, his
device for getting wealth is of universal application, and is nothing
but the creation of a monopoly.
Aristotle thinks it was not as a philosopher that Thales made his money but as a
Philosophers could use
their knowledge for
practical purposes, but
"their ambition is of another sort" and practical applications of philosophic know-
ledge are not in themselves philosophy.
philosopher's aim is not, according to
Aristotle and many if not most philosophers since,
to be practical.
He or she is
engaged in a theoretical endeavor.
This theoretical activity may well have prac-
tical implications, but one can--and philosophers usually do-engage in the theore-
tical activity without also engagin in the implied practice.
distinction than Karl Marx and John Dewev.
Marx's eleventh thesis on Feuerbach
Marx, as Shlomo Avineri makes clear, did not abandon
philosophy for politics. Rather his epigram called for and his work exemplified
the practical use of theory.8 Dewey chided philosophy for its failure to deal with
problems of men"
itself only as it
ceased to be about "the problems of philosophers" and began to be concerned with
the human condition.9
Although not every criticism made by a philosopher is to
taken at face
Marx and Dewey
were sufficiently on
target that their
criticisms have become classic and warning texts for philosophers.
, because of its critical nature, its concern for generalization,
and its valuing
of precision, philosophy tends to remove
Criticism can be used to correct practice.
Generalizations are as
a part of
as of disciplined thought.
Abstract and precise
thought are, however, remote from everyday thinking.
It is with difficulty that
philosophy manages to be clear, comprehensive,
critical and to
much easier to react to other philosophers than to lived experience.
Thus it is not surprising that one might think that philosophy is normally
Although philosophy has had its practical turns,10 it seems to gyrate
7Theses on Feuerbach (1845); translated and edited by Lloyd D. Easton and
Kurt H. Guddat, Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy Society (Garden City,
N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1967), p. 402.
8The Social and Political
University Press, 1968). See e,
praxis: from interpreting the world to changing it", pp. 134-149.
L. .. ... ..
toward the impractical.
But it is not enough to suggest that philosophy is seldom
philosophy can be not only lif
e-informing but also religious.
The Philosophy-Religion Distinction
and religion could coincide
than that philosophy could be practical.
sense that philosophy and religion are
different in kind from one another.
But the division does not
seem to be along the
A religion often has explanations that are integral to itself
theories occasionally find uses in "real life"
ironically cutting against his theoretic orientation), can be considered a practice.
finding and seeking, non-rational versus rational
and dependence versus independence.
The finding-seeking distinction
Even John Smith, who thinks of philosophy and religion as necessarily bound
up with one another, nevertheless regards them as distinct enterprises.
the meaning and importance of a
.. is born from wonder and the quest of reason to find a
a wisdom in things which is still to be disclosed"
Religion "sets out from
certainties"; philosophy "seeks to arrive at them"
. Each "has its own distinctive
mitct he annlisd
tn tnms nrartiral n rhle.m
t+n hi ffsrtivs.
Wll E I* I| i ]llll 1 *
and dominant character"
, but each also has the other'
leading characteristic as a
At its best
is not exclusively
truths taken for granted and never fully
the course of
any inquiry. Philosophy, moreover, comes to its own certainties
when it comes to express its constructive results.
The foregoing account not only shows the distinctiveness of the two enterprises,
but it also indicates
something of the nature of the distinction.
For Smith religion
starts from a finding while philosophy is a seeking.
Even if philosophy also has its
logically distinct enterprises.
But the difference is a matter of proportion.
in his essay,
, drew the
philosophy as radical questioning.12
He regarded faith and philosophy as "mortal
to be "an absolute
For the reasons offered by Smith I
think Heidegger's view is too
Philosophy does have its findings and faith is as often characterized as a
search for understanding as it is a life based on certainties.
then Smith's degree-of-emphasis approach will not do. F<
But if this is the case,
or if faith is as often a
as a life
philosophy as a questing activity also.
1 Reason and Godz
Encounters of Philosonhv with Religion (New Haven and
must be carried out against a background of
A matter of rationality
set of contrasts has to do
the rationality of philosophy and
the failure of religion to be ultimately intelligible.
Some have drawn the contrast
Michael Foster in his little book, Mystery and Philosophy,13 would have us believe
that the clarity sought by British analytic philosophy is something peculiar to it,
he does mention Descartes' doctrine of "clear and distinct perception" and British
of knowledge and
philosophy would figure out puzzles by curing us of unclear thinking.
Yet for the Christian
theologian there must remain some mysteries which, even
when understood, exceed our comprehension (p. 19f).
Mysteries of course are not
Rather they are partially known, partially unknown.
cannot be completely
we resort to
language, to cope with them.
From a different perspective
Stephen David Ross argues that "philosophy is
essentially and fundamentally mysterious"
, because "mystery
is inherent in both
the nature of things and
the nature of
delight in paradox, philosophy,
But where religion takes
admits, attempts to overcome it:
calls not for
a full and complex activity of
all established conditions in its pursuit of answers" (p. 3).
mysteries to remain.
It attempts to pierce through,
hvnast- ths mvthic lanuaiaas tn rie nl with the mvetArv. maklinu it knnwn.
philosophy is allowed to stand, my project is doomed to failure.
For if religion has
to do necessarily with mystery and myth and philosophy can not abide them, then
religion and philosophy
Fortunately for my thesis mystery and
is the other-worldly
these beings are mysterious and, as long as one retains a belief in
are not fully
intelligible and so one
The necessity then of mystery and
on a notion
It is not the case,
religion necessarily has to do with the
Leaving aside the naturalistic religions that are examined in this dissertation, one
can point to the Olympian gods.
who makes much of the role of
transcendence in religion, nevertheless notes that not all religions have an explicit
'"The Greek gods, it may be recalled, lived on Olympus.
though unseen, high up, absent from the immediate environment of
the pious, was yet part somehow of the world."l5
Religion may usually involve the other-worldly
but if there is or even can
distinction between religion and philosophy along the mystery-rationality line. If
in fact religion can be this-worldly, then the degree to which mystery would occur
would be necessary would be
much less than otherwise.
myth do not flourish in a naturalistic setting.
Dependence and criticism
to religion's orientation
sacred or whatever and philosophy's
not seem likely that one could be both totally committed to something and yet be
manner that philosophy seems to
require. It is the contrast, in its extreme form, between blind faith and complete
scepticism. Obviously if this polarity is allowed to stand, my project cannot even
get started. I will not draw the contrast this sharply, yet I think there is merit in
viewing the difference as one of dependency versus criticism.
Religion as dependence.
This final contrast of dependence-independence is
brought to our attention by William James.
In his classic study of religious exper-
ience, James initially
defined religion as one's
"total reaction upon life".16
"feels impelled to respond" to the divine (p. 56), thus qualifying the experience as
a forced response to the divine.
"divine" is not as substantive as the
term might ordinarily suggest.
He specifies that for his purposes the divine is "a
submissiveness James suggests there is a certain critical and detached attitude,
philosophic in character,
that enables one to be free of the divine or at least to
submit reluctantly out of necessity (pp.
I have already noted this
characteristic of philosophy and shall return to it shortly.
First I want to dwell a
bit more on the dependent character of religion.
a long line of religious
theorists that runs from Kant through Schleiermacher, Rudolf Otto and Gerardus
van der Leeuw to Paul Tillich.17
There are, to be sure, important differences in
Kant's theory of religion as obedience to God, for instance, is only
commands" (p. 142).
Schleiermacher, in focusing on "radical dependence"
the subjective, experiential side of religion, but, as even a cursory exami-
nation of The
Christian Faith will reveal, he does not neglect the objective side.
Moreover he says explicitly that "being in relation with God" is "the same thing"
as "the consciousness of being absolutely dependent" (p. 1
Otto, Leeuw and Tillich build into their notions of religion a relationship between
is a response
with what is ultimate (Tillich).
Christian does not discuss
Mircea Eliade, but the latter places himself in relationship to Otto by noting the
limitations of Otto's
focus on the "irrational" by considering the "sacred in its entirety".18
17Meaning and Truth in Religion (Princeton: Pr
,. 56. Christian's references are to the following:
Immanuel Kant, Religion
within the Limits of Reason Alone, t
T.M. Greene and H.H. Hudson (New
Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith,
edition of 1830 by H.R. Mackintosh and 3.S.
translation of the second edition of 1794 by
York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960);
translation of the second German
1928); Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, translation of Das Heilige, 1917, by 3.W.
Harvey (London: Oxford University Press, 1926); Gerardus van der Leeuw, Religion
in Essence Man if
I note these classic critical treatments of religion in order to observe that
all of them take religion to involve a subject-object relationship, even though they
disagree about the character of the relationship and the nature of the object. But
disagreement is not all
that wide and there
is the common assumption of
religion as a subject-object relationship, wit
the object. Otto thinks that the religionist's
kind from other feelings of dependency (p.
h the subject being oriented toward
response to the holy is different in
10) and that the holy itself is "wholly
that Otto overstressed the irrational, but he also
talks of an orientation toward the sacred.
Leeuw observes that Power arouses an
awe which manifests itself in both fear and attraction.
One is "seized with dread"
and yet one
wants to be
this dread (1.48f).
Tillich there is a similar
emphasis on other-directedness.
Although he leaves the content of one's
open, he stresses the orientation toward what one regards as ultimate.
provides a criterion-ultimacy-for the object of concern.
Bettis captures quite nicely
religious aim in his
introduction to a selection from Eliade's
of view is sufficiently general to be wortt
work, but his contrast of the two points
I citing. "The profane world," he writes,
world of objects which
we can control and manipulate.
The sacred world,
however, cannot be so controlled.
Whereas the purpose of man in relation to the
profane world is to shape it according to his needs, his purpose in relation to the
sacred world is to bring himself into conformity with it."19
Eliade himself says
sacred", and that he or she becomes fully human as he or she "is religious", that is,
"participates in reality" (Sacred and Profane, p. 202).
I am aware that I have not argued for a theory of religion, but I have shown
that to the extent that James's suggested contrast between religion and philosophy
on an understanding
If we can take religion to be a response, be it one of
awe, submissiveness or concern, emotional or total,
to some defining reality
we will have a useful criterion for determining the religious character of Socrates,
Spinoza, and Dewey's
We will have a way to test their god-talk to
see if it is appropriate, even necessary.
Philosophy is sometimes
seen in quite diverse ways
life policy, a theory of ultimate reality or critical inquiry.
most comprehensively and critically."20
This focuses on the activity rather than
the object of inquiry or the product, but it does not foreclose the possibility of
theory of ultimate reality.
It does not even rule out the usage
because of its brevity, yet it captures what Richard M.
fuller statement about the
Blackstone expresses in a
activity of philosophy:
adequacy of views, giving reasons for holding those views and justi-
tying those reasons themselves,
challenging assumptions with refer-
ence to coherence, consistency, fruitfulness, etc., laying bare pre-
suooositions. pettine back to what is taken as ultimate and then
it to rational examination--and all
This seems to summarize well the activity of philosophers and gives some speci-
ficity to the suggestion that philosophy is a comprehensive, critical activity.
than comprehensive criticism, but it is at least
At a minimum in the west philosophers are expected to argue and explain
of reasons, proofs,
accounts and refutations are themselves open to criticism.
Their justified beliefs
and theories may be about what there is or proposals for conduct, but they are at
may not even be
admitted to the arena of rational discussion.
Moreover the theories and proposals
are often set forth with considerable awareness of what other philosophers have
is of relevance.
is not just thinking,
it is thinking that is
critical and comprehensive.
Of course philosophical thinking can become overly inclusive and critical.
There is an all
too real account of a celebrated philosopher,
who in spite of his
critical acumen and vast learning, not to mention his decency as a human being,
might be called
repeating because it shows what can happen
characteristic of philosophy.
In the Festschrift for
there is too much of what is
Sidney Morgenbesser there is
this description of his teaching style:
Morgenbesser will sit at the end of a
seminar table, his glasses posed
on the middle of his nose, his hair awry, his hands clutching the sides
of his chair,
alert and restless.
A traditional philo-
sophical question will be stated, but, he will ask, is it really a pro-
blem in the first place?
Why? for whom
At Morgenbesser's hands,
nhilncnnhiral nrnhlems raniIv
to re rtemble the hnxvd-nff. tidv
attempting tq subject
Answers to them are shown to be limited and con-
strained by exceptions, counterexamples, complexities.
A question concerning the nature of physical objects
will be introduced with the aid of common sense illustrations; he will
to bear a number of traditional views:
critical Realist, and so on, comparing and contrasting
a Lockean doctrine of substance, let us say,
it does not.
argue thesis A in response to the classical doctrine, and a 3amesian
or Bergsonian thesis B; these two views are incompatible, but some
pragmatists have a modest thesis C--which may or may not conflict
with A--but which is certainly incompatible with the view D, which
in the current Journal of Philosophy, does not
only one interpretation that can be assigned to A.
After a couple of
hours of this, one may no longer know what one believes or believe
what one knows.
Knots are untied by Morgenbesser,
remaining bits of
before the class is over.
to be sure, but
No one generates uncertainty about what
one believes more skillfully than Morgenbesser:
he is a toxic for the
As one who has sat through many such seminars both fascinated and bewildered by
the man, I can report that this account is only slightly over-drawn.
Its merit is
that it provides us with a
vivid instance of philosophy
It is to
immolation by fire of a Buddhist monk during the Vietnam War or even the elabo-
In general the religionist is less likely than the
philosopher to question-in the strong sense of interrogate-that upon which he or
be fascinated by the object of
want to know all about it.
But he or she could not remain an
adherent if he or she were to reject the devotion-object's reality or worth.
philosopher, however, retains his or her standing as a philosopher in scrutinizing
regardless of his
final assessment of
and expects blessedness or
liberation or forgiveness.
understand that which is puzzling or fascinating.
as build up.
This knowledge may destroy as
In short the religious person commits him or herself to something
that is beyond, greater or more enduring than the self and expects certain psychic
or social benefits.
The philosopher criticizes some object or situation and expects
epistemic results which may or may not be useful in some other way.
on the other
is not necessarily
defined by the
object of its inquiry.23
It is often constituted only by its critical, comprehensive
I say "somewhat"
a critical activity
object of criticism would be something significant to the philosopher.
would he or she bother with it?
But the philosopher's well-being does not
necessarily depend on the nature or status of the object.
Whereas the religionist's
well-being is dependent upon the nature and value of the object to which he or
... But Not Inconceivable
My thesis is that although philosophy and religion are conceptually distinct,
they can occasionally coincide in practice.
In particular individuals, I am arguing,
one's philosophy and religion can be one in activity, but formally distinct.
the practice can be viewed either way.
There are some who agree that a practice
can be both philosophical and religious,
see the matter as a reduction of
philosophy to religion.
The most extreme instance of this is the homo religious
everyone as being religious, philosophers
As we shall
it is difficult to maintain this
Weaker versions argue that all
academics or all philosophers are religious.
Both the strong and weak conceptions
trivialize my claim
pinoza and Dewey were religious qua
My position is that only rarely
can we say that a philospher as a
philosopher is religious.
It is worthwhile to examine these other views for three
first, it enables me to distinguish my view from them, secondly, it shows
that my interpretation is not as inconceivable as might first appear, and, thirdly,
it reveals the problems that can arise when one is working with a vague notion of
what religion is.
This third reason will not come as a revelation to many.
before we get to the central chapters, it is helpful to
see first hand in a limited
context the problems that can arise when one
is working with a
that is crucial to one's investigation.
A strong version of the view that philosophy and religion are identical has
been nut forward hv Will Herhercr.
that svwrvnna it raliainlc 214
has become essentially atheistic while retaining its theistic
Herberg counters that although one may or may not be a speculative
atheist, everyone is by nature an existential theist.
"Every man," he asserts,
virtue of being human, is homo religious; every man has his religion and his god"
worships either God or an idol (p. 57).
theologians of atheism for there are n'
Thus Maclntyre cannot rightly accuse some
o existential atheists.
If Herberg is right,
arguing that some philosophers are religious.
For if a philosopher devotes himself
or herself to his or her work, then of course he or
she is religious.
I do not think
Herberg is correct and will show why in a bit, but first let me grant him his point
were sufficient to
make us religious then
most philosophers would be
The three philosophers I
shall investigate, however,
were religious not just in this weak sense of religious
but were so in a stronger sense as well.
They not only went about philosophy in
"an intensive, comprehensive way",26 but they also were dependent on something
that was outside of or greater than themselves that transformed them, defining
theistic language in speaking of their objects of devotion.
in his homo
of an alleged
and the use of
Let me deal with
Yale theologian, had said, according to Herberg,
is man's life insofar as it is defined by his supreme loyalty and devotion" (p. 56).
But Herberg misuses Calhoun's
definition, for Calhoun makes no claim about the
pt the homo religious claim.
It is possible, even on this broad view
of religion, for one not to be religious.
One could lack a "supreme loyalty and
. One could have multiple interests, none of which is overriding.
over the notorious "amoralist"
, the bane of contemporary moral philosophy, would
seem to be irreligious as well.
Herberg also misuses Luther.
He quotes Luther to
the effect that whatever one trusts and believes in with all one's heart is either
God or an idol (p. 56f).
But Luther does not say that everyone is religious; he is
only saying that that upon which one relies
God or an idol.
is a homo religious advocate.
is quoted as saying that if
one "does not worship God, he will worship an idol made of wood, or of gold, or of
ideas" (p. 57).
Dostoevsky then is putting forth a homo religious point of view.
Still, the objection can be put to Dostoevsky and Herberg:
there are those who do
not worship anything.
Herberg next considers the
of Feuerbach and the young Marx, arguing
that they were not atheists as is usually alleged but deifiers of "Man"
As for the
later Marx and the Marxists, their "ultimate reliance" was and is on "the Dialectic
of History" (p.
This is a loose, but perhaps not incorrect, understanding of
religion and Herberg's claim may be cor
those who deny that they are religious.
rect. But it is odd to rope into religiosity
Even if they were religious, we would only
have confirming instances.
by nature religious.
The homo religious proposition is a very strong claim.
universal statement it can be refuted by a single counter-example.
Thus it can be
While such a
he or she is nevertheless a human
there are irreligious people.
It may be
that some are religious and do not know it, such as the Marxists or nationalists.
Or it may be also that some are latently religious.
Eliade cites the modern non-
Sacred and the Profane
, p. 204f).
But Eliade also acknowledges that there are
have existed in
the past, he
observes, but "it is only in the modern societies of the West that nonreligious man
that is worth quoting not only for what it says about non-religiosity
In Eliade's analysis we
see the reverse of the religious as radical other-
as the subject and agent of history, and he
refuses all appeals to transcendence.
In other words, he accepts no
model for humanity outside the human condition as it can be seen in
the various historical situa
makes himself completely
and the world.
tions. Man makes himself, and he only
in proportion as he desacralizes himself
The sacred is the prime obstacle to his freedom.
will become himself only when he is totally de ysticized.
not be truly free until he has killed the last god.
Autonomous, modern humanity has desacralized itself and its world.
participates in the reality of the sacred.
It no longer
The homo religious thesis is untenable
in the face of modernity.
Rationality as Faith
There may be however a way to save the pervasive religiosity thesis.
everyone is religious, perhaps there is a class of people who are.
regard to philosophy
as faith he at first demurs, asserting,
"We cannot formulate
that faith, any more
than one can formulate any religious faith, since as in the
other instances it precedes and transcends and pervades and eludes all its formu-
But then he "makes a pass at it"
, saying that the philosopher's
faith has traditionally been a commitment that the life of the mind
or at least that
valid or obligatory or rewarding or humanly proper-or, more etxmo-
logically, by suggesting that his or her faith is a love of wisdom.
Looking at philosophy from the outside this student of religion
being animated and shaped by their commitment to rationality and wisdom.
thinks that "standard
of faith" (p.
subscribing to the homo religious view (see p. 129).29
But the particular way that
a philosopher expresses his faith is by being rational.
Thus the strong (everyone is
religious) and weak (every member of a certain class is religious) versions of the
Rut thsv ars nsvsrthaIst Inoicrallv distinct and may be detached.
or her adherence
scientific method or rationality.
I argued above against the homo religious view by suggesting that there
are those who are non-religious.
one could point to counter-examples
Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend and Richard Rorty are prominent philosophers who
would resist being classified as rationalist or intellectualist philosophers.30
science with his interpretation of paradigmatic science.
His characterization of
as one who
cannot be justified except in terms of the paradigm itself has contributed to the
historicist program, has
Kuhn limits progress to progress within a paradigm,
and Feyerabend downplays science's
role in achieving results.
these and other
discussions to call for the abandonment of philosophy as a
knowledge and truth with a more limited one of finding "interesting" things to say
about a variety of topics.
The philosopher as truth-seeker would become "a useful
, just one more voice in "the conversation of mankind" (Mirror of Nature,
This is hardly the stuff of a rational faith.
Relativism and Religion
traditional practice of philosophy,
thus providing a counter-example to Cantwell
Smith's view that all philosophers as philosophers are persons of faith in virtue of
commitment to rationality.
But ironically my philosopher counter-examples
In breaking the
arbitrariness and subjectivity.
Could it be that my invocation of the historicists
has allowed the homo religious view to return in a different form?
Homo religious re-born as the arbitrarily-committed person
It is because of their lack of confidence in objectivity that the historicists,
Rorty in particular,
would search for a way for philosophy to continue free of its
for example, declares that what
ties Dewey, Foucault, James and Nietzsche
is "the sense that there is
nothing deep down inside us except what we have put there ourselves, no criterion
Their embrace of relativism gives support to the view that
an arbitrariness, a subjectivity.
Thus science and philosophy like art and religion are, to use Wittgenstein's phrase,
in an arhitraril*v-Uhns*n
UI I JIUIUU IC. *. LU l-B I C1f t
I. I .
has a blik
empirically untestable and logically irrefutable,
the world how we relate to the world. Thus a bl
yet makes all the difference in
ik is very much like David Hume's
neither escape having nor rationally justify".32
Hare also accuses the professedly
having a religion.
h as his f
discussion, Antony Flew, of
as to say that one "could not live without" a
Thus he seems to be adopting the homo religious view.33
The Language of Morals he argues that "ultimate choices" are grounded in "ways
are most completely specified in "the great religions"
are so grounded,
not, in Language of Morals,
discuss whether they
Elsewhere he is clear that one cannot
this issue on empirical grounds,35 but whether one can settle it on other
grounds is not a matter with which he de
31Originally published in 1950-51
Also not clear is whether a blik is a
this discussion has been reprinted in Flew
and Maclntyre, New
in Philosophical Theology, pp. 99-105.
32"Hume on Religious Belief", in Donald W
(editors), Hume: A Re-evaluation (New York: Ford
110. Hare himself says, "It was Hume who taugi
Livingston and James T. King
lham University Press, 1976), p.
It us that our whole commerce
with the world depends upon our blik about the world; and that differences
between bliks about the world cannot be settled by observation of what happens in
the world"(Flew and Maclntyre, p. 101).
33If this is the
too is vulnerable
Indeed Hare admits, some thirty years later,
Point (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1981). D.
to the amoralist counter-
"the logical possibility of
Levels, Method, and
that such amoralism
Humean natural belief or a
way of life.
If the former
, then it is something one
must have to be sane;
if the latter
, then a sane person could have one of various
is Cyril Richardson,
the church historian.
to the charge
Richardson once replied in kind to the sceptics.
Responding to Brand Blandshard,
who had charged Karl Barth with irrationality, Richardson declared:
I think it is clear that everybody entertains myths of one kind
They are saving myths in the sense that whether one is a
outlook upon life which involves
;t or a Christian, one has a certain
some mythological structure.
Richardson was one of some fifty philosophers and theologians participating in a
two-day conference at Princeton
Theological Seminary in 1962.
He was defending
the Christian's use of analogicall categories" by accusing the sceptics of having
In effect he was saying that the sceptic is no different from
the believer, for he or she also has a belief system.
analogical discourse should operate
in accordance with applicable logical canons
beliefs, is untouchable by reason:
But these reasons never really reach to the heart of
If one loses an argument one goes
home and thinks up
argument he does precisely the same thing.
This ought to lead us
to recognize that the erasoine of religious truth does not occur on
much deeper level of consciousne
Religiougconviction occurs at a
So we all have basic commitments that are beyond reason.
This, I take it, is the
claim that would find support in the work of the historicizers.
value-ladenness of our "rational" enterprises,
the historicizers have unwittingly
lent support to Richardson's claim.
our pretensions of objectivity and rationality we are at bottom like the fanatic,
including the religious fanatic, in that we are victims of our myths.
values and principles are arbitrarily chosen.
to be made.
There are two observations that need
One, the historicizers would be uncomfortable being used in this way
and, two, the understanding of religion being
employed is a thin one indeed.
The historicizers, philosophy and religion
Kuhn explicitly denies that the choice of a theory is a thoroughly irrational
view that "adoption of a new scientific
theory is an intuitive or mystical affair, a matter for psychological
description rather than logical or methodological codification.'0
On the co
which the preceding quotation was abstracted explicitly denies "that
new paradigms triumph ultimately through some mystical aesthetic,"
and the pages which precede that denial contain
codification of good reasons for theory choice.
in asserting that there is an "element of arbritrariness"
the beliefs of
scientists, did not wish to deny that there are also the physical phenomena to be
explained and a role for logic.
There would be no science without observation and
37"The Sceptics' Myths", p. 229.
are not determinative
Scientific Revolutions, p. 4).
Apparently in calling attention to that
description of scientific practice, however, arbitrariness is only one element. The
others are nature itself and logical method.40
Feyerabend, the puckster of philosophy of science, leads us to think that he
is an anti-rationalist, but John G. McEvoy argues that Feyerabend is a persistent
rationalist in his radically critical philosophy.41 Given Feyerabend's penchant for
lobbing explosives into the rationalist's camp, all the while claiming not to be one,
one should be reluctant to characterize
as "a persistent rationalist"
. He is
nevertheless relentless in his criticism and he did once say that "full rationality
can be obtained by extending criticism to the stable parts" of science and common
Whether or not what he does would be consistently owned by him as "full
y", it is true that he extends criticism to the stable parts of science and
Moreover Feyerabend associates religion with dogmatism,
the antithesis of
40See Roger Trigg, Reason and Commitment (Cambridge: At the University
to elucidate what we mean by
irrationality" (p. 113).
Also lan Hacking,
"Five Parables", in Richard Rorty, 3.B.
in History: Essays on the
116: "Kuhn was .
. no irrationalist .. and I think the rumour of a
crisis' provoked by Kuhn was exaeeerated."
Method with a plea for diversity, part of which reads:
"Unanimity of opinion may
modern) myth, or for the weak and willing followers of some tyrant.
opinion is necessary for objective knowledge" (p. 46; italics removed).
He is more
Method), but cautions us against viewing what he has written in Against Method as
expressing any "deep convictions" of his own (p. 32).
"Religion" for him is a pejor-
ative term and he would be unlikely to apply it to his own views and activities.
Also unlikely to
see himself as religious is Rorty
dogmatic enterprises, disavowing
who reacts negatively to
search for epistemological
"The moral of this book is
") in his approach and thus, one would
expect, anti-religious, if we understand religion to be at all transcendent.
's 'superstition' was the last century's
triumph of reason"
. This is hardly
the language of a religionist.
Indeed he closes
the paragraph with an affirmation
"the relativist sense that the latest vocabulary"
just another of the
potential infinity of vocabularies in which the world can be described" (Mirror of
Nature, p. 367).
their non-religious self-understanding
the notion of
It may well be that everyone is religious, if we understand religion
to be nothing more than non-rational basic beliefs, or beliefs that are rationally
does not amount to very much. It is perhaps trivially true that everyone has some
non-rational basic beliefs and commitments. But even this is open to challenge.
An irreligious philosopher
I argued earlier that there were counter-examples to Herberg's and
homo religious claims, but
just now I observed that the claim could possibly be
It makes a
religion is nothing more than an arbitrary-held, basic commitment.
I do not think
so, as I indicated in the first part of this chapter, but, for the sake of argument, I
will grant that to be religious is to have some non-rational commitment, that is,
an enduring loyalty that cannot be rationally justified or revised.
this, however, we can
that there is a counter-example--Paul Feyerabend.
As we have seen Feyerabend may be a rationalist, at least in
so far as he
in a sense
him as a counter-example to
Smith's homo religious claim.
I am not re-opening that issue.
am employing him for now is as a counter to a revised claim that to be religious is
to be arbitrarily committed.
Given his historicist credentials,
there may be some
warrant for thinking he would be an example of this sort of religiosity.
As it turns out, Feyerabend is a utilitarian.
seems that he values free-
as a means
the summary paragraph of chapter
three of Against
"And a method that encourages variety is also the only method that is compatible
with a humanitarian n, lrt Lnnl (n_ l&f. ital-c- ramrnnuor
Fl IcolnHorn H0 ,-Ianlfnlro +kkl+
(Against Method, p. 53) and "immortal" (Science in a Free Society,
again, as we saw with regard to rationalism, his behavior supports a eudaimonistic
has no deep con-
we should go
at are we to believe
His actions or his words?
Once again, I think
words which are congruent with his practice,
small "r" rational and small "u" utilitarian.
We would not expect him to join the
or the Utilitarian Sub-section of the Philosophers of Science
Association, but his actions and some of his writing suggest that he is rational and
utilitarian for now.
It may be
loyalty to criticism, liberty and happiness is
unexamined on his part and are thus mythic-like.
it be accepted at face value.
It is in the nature of myth that
One does not look a mythic horse in the mouth.
it is highly unlikely, given his acute critical ability,
that his positions are com-
to what he says.
view his behavior as happenstance,
we find language that is consistent
with his behavior.
Feyerabend is a self-professed epistemological anarchist, which
loyalty to, and no everlasting
taken with this sentence:
"Epistemological anarchism differs from both scepticism
"anything goes" when it suits him,
he is the
antithesis of the reliionist.
He may share the lack of concern. on occasion. for
I have spent some time on Feyerabend not only because of the possible use
a homo religious advocate
might make of his views but also because he is the
remarks on Genesis, Against
Method, p. 30, and his discussion of Robin Horton's
comparison of African
western science, pp.
these kind words are kind only in comparison to what he has to say about science.
in arbitrariness and
reduces science to religion.
It is rather the
that he criticizes modern, big,
western science for being dogmatic like religion.
And he thinks some myths and
some "primitive" practices are superior to science as currently practiced.
Unlike the religious philosophers who are the subjects of this dissertation,
over the long run.
There is nothing in his
philosophy that would prevent Feyerabend from changing his current practice and
on a whim!
practice and values, there is nothing to prevent him from blithely renouncing them
in whole or in part, forever or for awhile.
This is not religion, it is caprice.
of the historicizers
is not necessarily
which this dissertation addresses is still open. I hav
practice can be equally philosophical and religious.
has shown that there is a real issue here. Even if
'e yet to establish that a single
But the foregoing discussion
the homo religious advocates
have over-reached themselves, their clumsy generalizations indicate that it is not
concept of religion was never clearly in sight.
Given a clear specification of what
religion is, we could have more readily dispatched the homo religious claim.
were unable to be precise, however, because of the disparity within this cluster of
is now behind us.
Now that we have canvassed some of these
positions, we can focus more sharply on what religion is taken to be in this study.
One additional benefit from this discussion is that it gave us an opportunity
to consider the views of the historicizers.
Since they will play an important role
in the last two chapters, it is well that they have been introduced already.
become clear, Dewey's philosophy can be read in a historicizing manner (and has
interpreted by Rorty).
is a historicist,
then it seems unlikely
that he is a religious philosopher
. Once again, we need to be straight about what
counts and does not count
Some Criteria for the Identification of Religion
I do not propose to put forth a universal definition of religion.
this fray would involve me not only in an extended critical discussion but also in a
instead to indicate some of the marks of religion that have been identified that
seem most useful for my purposes, organizing them in a definition for this disser-
This statement of a pragmatic program should not be taken however as an
indication that I plan to make Socrates, Spinoza and Dewey religious by definition,
will specify two features--an ultimate reality and reliance on that reality--
that will make it more difficult to declare Dewey an
mplar of philosophy-as-
A fianrtinnal drifinitinin
that i. a deifinina nf rslioinn hv what it dnsie.
would rule out Spinoza and Dewey in advance.
I have tried to find a middle ground
receive wide acceptance, and they leave open the question of the religiosity of at
least one of the three philosophers.
Definitions of Religion
to the other-directedness of
the religionist--a radical
toward something that transcends the individual-as the illuminating
that focuses on attitudes (or
or she has.
Thus definers of
religion have criticized experiential
views as being incomplete.
to focus instead on what the
experience is an experience of-God, higher beings or other supernatural entities.
approach is that it provides the investigator with a way to differentiate clearly
as is well-known,
this approach eliminates
some non-theistic ways of life that are usually considered to be religious, such
There are other options open to the religious theorist.
or she can interpret religion functionally or reductively.
Religions in a Chaneine World (London: The Athlone Press. 1976). observes: "Some
exponents of the latter.
Substantive versus functional
That religion is experiential is not at issue.
The real questions are:
kind of experience?
involved in religion?
and Does an experiential theory sufficiently capture what is
Schleiermacher and James, as we saw earlier, identified the
religious experience as one of feeling or attitudes of dependence.
I have already
against seeing the sufficiency of a focus on the experience alone.
view needs to be supplemented by the inclusion of an experience-object within the
itself and perhaps also by the incorporation of the experience's uses and
posed as a choice between substantive and functional definitions.
supernatural beings and worlds, or such metaempirical entities as, say, the ma'at
of the ancient Egyptians or the Hindu law of karma"
. The latter
identify in ad-
phenomena as "nationalism,
or revolutionary faiths, or the
ethos, or any number
The problem with substantive
definitions is that they may be too narrow, as I have already noted.
with functional ones is that they may be too broad.
of the overly-broad functional
as a National Religion".l6
religion, and the only one that is not sectarian but national."
In the next para-
'redemption from the limitations of our petty
individual lives and the mystic unity with a larger life of which we are a part'" (p.
to make his
This was not difficult, given the
This letting go of the divine object has
pursuit as religious and to include almost everyone within the religious circle.
concern for how the phenomenon functions may be projected onto the religionist,
a means to
No doubt many religious practices--prayers,
he or she does under compulsion
without thought of
One of the most influential proposals in this century for defining religion
has been Paul Tillich's suggestion that religion is ultimate concern.
He thinks that
this is an "abstract translation" of the great
commandment found in Mark 1
standard Version). which he auotes:
"The Lord. our God. the Lord is one:
and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and
with all your mind, and with all your strength."'47
In an essay written a few years
later he wrote:
If we abstract the concept of religion from the great commandment,
we can say that religion is being ultimately concerned about that which is
and should be our ultimate concern. This means that faith is the state of
being grasped by an ultimate concern, and God is the name of the content
of the concern.
Such a concept of religion has little in common with the
in the existence of
a highest being
nces of such a
The phrase "ultimate concern" is systematically ambiguous.
The first sense has to
do with one's intense preoccupation with something; the second with the character
of that with which one is concerned.
Both senses are found in the statement:
. religion is being ultimately concerned about that which is and should be our
explicit contrast to those definitions of religion that would reduce
faith to belief
Tillich fastens on religious experience itself, analyzing it as an over-riding
concern with God.
moreover he refuses to specify beyond calling it
"God" (or "the ground of being" or "being-itself") and providing a criterion--"ulti-
macy"--for recognizing it.
In his Systematic
Theology he asserts:
must make explicit what is implicit in religious thought and expression; and,
order to do this,
they must begin with the most abstract and completely unsym-
bolic statement which is possible, namely,
that God is being-itself
or the abso-
Every additional statement is symbolic.
Beyond saying that "God is being-
or the absolute",
else can be said about God as God which is not
to say that God
Thus his is a substantive definition.
It is a relatively open one, but it is
nevertheless a definition that relies on a certain kind of object for one's concern.
ect is not a being, but whatever it is that it is characterized by ultimacy.
definition of religion does not run functionalism's risk of "anything
to the problem
on that which is ultimate for the experience.
The words chosen to
express the concept are less than fortunate because of the systematic ambiguity.
For an adequate verbal formula
we must break out these
reality's effect on
Perhaps this functional proviso is contained in the experience,
but it is well
to spell it out.
see a double dialectic from the observer's
He or she
an experience that is intensely concerned with some
pervasive or transcendent reality (first movement) and the effect of this relation-
ship on the religious person (second movement).
I cannot accept
Streng's formal definition of religion as "a means to ulti-
mate transformation", because of its instrumentalist focus and the ambiguity it
shares with the
Tillichian definition with regard to "ultimate"
. But Streng, in his
summarization of the discussion of his definition, brings out the doubly dialectical
we discuss it in this book is a
whereby people reach beyond
to connect with
the true and
Trh nrnrstc rtr
, l l f -. i Ij
The Marks of the Religious
Religion nevertheless is a
that cannot be cap-
tured in a simple, universal statement.
A review of the literature indicates the
definitions with these qualifying phrases and clauses.
The religions of the world
Werblowsky however suggests a way out.
He declined "to make
a fool of himself
in public by suggesting yet another inadequate definition," but
"Some definitions have proved extremely helpful, especially when they did
operational purpose, or as indicators of the general direction to which a particular
study or investigation was oriented" (p. 2).
With this in mind I will identify some
criteria for the identification of
that can be put in a sentence for the
purposes of this dissertation.
This is not a definition for all time, but it will do for
"Religion" in this study will be used to refer to the conforming of someone
through a self-constituting practice to that which he or she regards as ultimate.
as a formal
alternative formulations, such as, religion is the acknowledgement of a pervasive
By "conforming" I mean a relationship with that which the religionist takes
to be ultimate.
ntr +h ;+
He or she is attracted to it, seeking to be like it or become one
Allnrkh udill hann an mrn hInca nIh lt clhn that thacn thrs nhr ilnnbhorc
it as religious.
I have said enough about the ultimate for now, let
me go on to "self-constituting practice".
In spite of
what I said about functional definitions above,
they do have a
engages may or may not be instrumental.
But from the observer's perspective the
religious person's activities result in a transformation or definition of the person.
He or she becomes who and what he or she is through conformance to that which
Because of the implication of conversion I do not use Streng's
not be sudden
but a gradual
making of the self through its allegiance to the ultimate.
Hence the choice of the
meditation or any thing else that we in the west usually associate with religion.
is impossible to
identify some distinctively religious practices without revealing
one's parochial perspective.
Almost every human activity at one time or another
has been a religious activity.
To list but a few:
having sex (temple prostitutes),
eating (Passover), reading (Bible
public speaking (preaching), riddles (Zen
koans), building maintenance (church building committees), dancing (rain dances),
discussion (the Rabbinic tradition),
political action (protest marches
silence (some monastic traditions), killing
characteristic religious practices; almost everything has been religious.
singled out by various authors--whom I will cite below as I come to the subjects of
their studies--as being religious.
They seemed to me, upon an initial investigation,
to fall into a class of philosophers who were religious in their practice of philoso-
phy. Whereas other people related to the gods in various ways, these three related
the gods in
similar to his fellow Athenians.)
In addition to their being members of a class by
virtue of some common characteristics, they also exhibited significant differences
from one another both in their differing philosophical practices and the kinds of
gods to which they were loyal.
I will devote a chapter to each one of these three
philosophers, reviewing the relevant critical literature and developing the case for
their inclusion in the philosophy-as-religion class.
It is one thing to show, given a plausible definition of religion, that
some philosophers have been religious in their practice of philosophy.
another to demonstrate the necessity of the alternative language. If c
It is quite
two different languages,
why not employ Ockham's
razor to eliminate one of them?
I will have argued is religious. 1
Rorty would let go of the kind of philosophy that
But even if it were granted that a philosophy that
is oriented toward some ultimate reality were feasible,
then there would still be
the question of the necessity of invoking religious language to describe it.
argue that such language is not only useful, but indispensable.
employed it in interpreting the philosophies of
For if we had not
Socrates, Spinoza and Dewey, then
we wOlld have fa ilsr tn maindsrttnnd thKm
He prayed, kept
home altars, described his work as a divine service and even had an uncanny voice
that occasionally warned him.
By anyone's definition he was religious.
historical Socrates and
, two, given
many instances of Socratic irony can we
take his behavior and speech seriously
But if we are able to rely on the early
the so-called "Socratic" ones, and, if
see clearly the
Socrates presented there, then we will find that he--the historical and/or literary
are not the central questions.
us here is the nature of Socrates' religiosity.
philosopher that he was
The answer I shall offer is a qualified yes, for Socrates in many ways
(albeit sometimes in an unconventional manner).
But-and this is why I devote a
chapter to him-Socrates was also religious in his practice of philosophy.
It is not
just that he says he engaged
in response to
the Oracle at Delphi.
was religious in
that the Socratic way-his dialectical
, a practice
nhlioatinn tn rfivinitiv
question, and Socrates
criticism of these definitions.
But we also are led by Plato to believe that we
in a religious
primarily on the Euthyphro.
Preliminary Critical Matters
The only comprehensive study of Socrates' religiosity of which I am aware
Religious Dimension of Socrates' Thought.1
This is a
well-researched and provocative book.
But the use of Thought rather
than Philosophy in the title is significant, for his study is as much concerned with
the religious basis for Socrates' thought, his idiosyncratic religiosity and his dis-
tinctive personality, as with his philosophizing.
Although I will consider and make
significant use of the religion that was constituted by Socrates' home altar, divine
his orthopraxic religious behavior--was itself religious and thus
constituted another aspect of Socratic religion.
The merit of my investigation is
that it firmly isolates Socrates' religio-philosophy, disentangling it from the rest
of his religious life.
But by asserting my intention to disentangle it, I do not mean
to suggest that we can wall off this part of Socrates' religious life from the rest.
For even his
will have connections to his orthopraxic
I shall evade the question of the historicity of Plato's Socrates because its
answer is not decisive for my inouirv.
This is not to sav that "the~ Snratir nrn-
if the Socrates of
the Platonic dialogues
regarded as fictional, this "literary character" has played an important role in the
It is sufficient for my purposes to
establish that the possibility of philosophy-as-religion was suggested in the char-
acter of Socrates.
Nevertheless, as I shall argue, it is important to distinguish the
Socrates of the early dialogues from the views of Plato in the later dialogues.
even if we are only talking here about the earlier and later views of Plato, there is
to be noted and observed.
that the Socrates of the early
dialogues3 more or less represents the
Socrates of history, but I will not argue for
Rather I shall follow A.R. Lacey's
ad hoc principle as expressed in the
concluding paragraph of his article on our knowledge of Socrates:
There is no royal road to a knowledge of Socrates, any more than
there is justification for throwing up our hands and treating him
as a myth.
The early Plato is rightly regarded as our main source,
but no source can be assumed to be equally reliable throughout.
to go about
available evidence ad hoc for
happen to be concerned with.
.3. de Vogel,
State of the
ocratic Problem", Phronesis,
Laszlo Versenyi, Socratic Humanism (New Haven and
Yale University Press, 1963):
"Appendix: The Socratic Problem"
, pp. 177-
84; Gilbert Ryle, Plato's Progress (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1966),
pp. 119-23); W.K.C. Gutherie, Socrates (Cambridge: At the University P
Knowledge of Socrates", in Gregory
and Sources", pp.
Vlastos (editor), 1
rhe Philosophy of Socrates
.: Anchor Books, 1971), pp.
Platonic Dialogues", pp. 231-45.
3There is no uniform list
cinles that are venerallv used:
-49; and Beckman, The Religious
Socrates and Plato in
the early dialogues, but there are two prin-
eristic form and relative bhrvitv.
But the early.
I shall evade also the issue of Socratic irony,5 for two reasons:
point with regard to
to his religious view.
One, it has more
ocrates' claims of ignorance and thus his epistemology than
(But of course all of Socrates' theses are related and so one
cannot escape the issue completely.)
Two, I may be excused from dealing with the
references to the gods as genuine.
Is he sincere
in his practices and talk of the
With these questions I will deal.
But ultimately, since I am willing to use
on the portrait
and Athenian Religion
definition of piety, we may,
by reading it in connection with the obviously-related
Apology, discern what piety was for Plato's Socrates.
Accordingly, I shall use the
This approach will enable me to deal with the issues of Socrates' attitude
religious character of his philosophy.
Clearly Plato meant to contrast Euthyphro and Socrates, but the contrast is
not that of pious versus impious.
Rather, as Carl G. Vaught shows, we have in the
two different forms of piety.6
The importance of this point, and its
nuances, must be dealt with at some length.
so will involve us
in a study of
the Euthyphro against its background and in relation to the Apology.
I begin with
a brief characterization of the dialogue.
The Euthyphro--An Overview
portrait of Socrates in
this dialogue represents--from everything we
know of him from various sources-the sorts of questions and intellectual moves
possibly in the
He is an oddly scrupulous man in religious matters and
might be doubted, or at least his behavior as described in the dia-
logue might be questioned.
Euthyphro himself realized that his prosecution of his
father for manslaughter in order to rid himself of the pollution of his father's guilt
plausible that there be a Euthyphro
would be as extreme as he was repre-
to be in
his observance of
would be a
innovative pursuit of human excellence by cross-examination.
most part, regard
the Euthyphro as an early dia-
not to say
we have a
of an actual
it that the dialogue
is a dramatization of the sort of en-
counter that Socrates should have had with someone
who was of the character,
is an enhanced
7See A.E. Taylor, Plato: The Man and His Work, seventh edition (London:
Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1926, 1960), pp. 77, n. 1, for doubts on this identification.
For an argument for the idcentifiratinn seae lnhn Rllmrnt Pla+tn' Fut
version of what could have transpired.
Few actual persons, if any,
is the product
But if the conversation did not take place as recorded, it should have.
this dialogue a
Socratic search for
an account of
as the Socratic
. In spite of its apparent failure to find a satisfactory definition, our under-
standing of piety is increased.
Euthyphro and Athenian Piety
To speak of "a Greek religion" is misleading.
A.W.H. Adkins declares
to no simple
can be briefly
religious beliefs and
among the Greeks during the period
the battle of Chaerona in 338 B.
. from the Mycenean period down to
" which "marked the end of the" political "im-
Just as the city-states
autonomous so too were their religious practices.
Homer played an important role
in Greek religion, but "local variants both of myth and of attributes of the deities
persisted alongside the versions of Homer" (1.378).
In addition to the various civic
independent religious centers,
such as Dephi,
ecstatic cults and mystery religions.
Finally there were the domestic religions.
Each household had its own sacred fire and veneration of its ancestors.
Fortunately we do not have to deal with Greece as a whole, only Athens in
the late fifth and fourth centuries.
This background to the Euthyphro and Apology
has been described by
Mikalson as having "a remarkable homogeneity and
consensus of religious beliefs".11
But there is a problem with Mikalson's metho-
Relying on the orators, inscriptions and the historian Xenophon, he largely
ignores the poets and philosophers, because he thinks they are too idiosyncratic (p.
9). Since his aim is to find expressions of widely-accepted beliefs, he is suspicious
little of the
ecstatic and mystery religons.
Apparently Mikalson's public sources
either did not
to be identified
Mikalson is aware of the limitations of his study, acknowledging that his public
religion is only
one component of the Athenian religious milieu.
But given this
Although Euthyphro may have been an exaggeration, his views and actions
were an exaggeration of what existed in Athens at the time of both the writing of
the dialogue and the dramatic conversation itself.
Piety/impiety, according to Mikalson in his chapter on this subject (pp. 91-
105), are those acts which supported or challenged the legal, traditional and divine
admittedly somewhat arbitrary headings:
the legal system,
tradition and public
consensus (p. 91).
Under the first he lists several acts, but what stands out for the
reader of the Euthyphro are deeds of
two types, introduction of a new god and
*Ig *r-#rt In
- 1 -
* inhar thn cl r'nn rrl 4i ln*in-err
I |IIIIIr 11 | =| I -- 7 |I
r~~;~la~ ^I Cr\Fit^^A^ f~~hirnr^& ^ j
1 I 1" I r"r*
consensus of opinion, he puts keeping of oaths,
"respect for the rights of asylum
and care for one's living parents (p.
was a necessary
though not sufficient, cause of national and personal prosperity" (p.
that although piety was directed
toward the gods or the ancestrial spirits or one's home and country, it was itself a
practice or, better, a set of practices.
is not an
what is sacred or holy.
is not considered.
dialogue attempts to define to hosion,
"the scrupulous" or "the religious", that is,
one's attitudes and the behavior which is owed the gods.
What is at issue here is
correct religious attitudes and practice.
Taylor rightly observes that "the
subject of the dialogue is hosiot&s
as an attribute of persons and their actions",l
is "observance of the divine law"
. Given this subject-matter
and the Athenian background,
the definitions offered by Euthyphro are not
as off-target as we might first think.
Admittedly they were either not in the form
that Socrates wanted or not an answer that could
withstand criticism, but they
reflected Athenian practice.
first answer to
"What is piety?"
was not in the
form that Socrates wanted.
Socrates had asked for the defining characteristic of
piety and Euthyphro had replied by pointing to his own action of prosecuting his
Socrates then helped Euthyphro
see that an ostensive definition is
inarldnsiats. hsrnat. in nnintina nr hit nwn Rrtinn_ hu had nnkt santuvrsdc ti-t initial
Euthyphro then gave a formally correct answer, piety is that which is loved
by the gods (Ge).
This Socrates found philosophically unacceptable, however,
the gods disagree among themselves about what is desirable.
Thus "what is god-
beloved" will pick out some actions that are also god-hated (7b-8b).
fiction with Socrates' criticisms, however, should not blind us to the representa-
tiveness of Euthyphro's answers to actual Athenian beliefs and practices.
of piety ('doing
One could also poke fun at the attempt to define piety as that
which the gods love, or even its reformulation,
"loved by all the gods" (8b).
there can be no question that his various formulations reflected the conventional
Athenian view of religion.14
His own religious practices may have been shocking,
but his formulations of Athenian piety were fairly representative.
The point of
prayers, sacrifices and rituals was to
please the gods.
If Euthyphro and his contemporaries did not regard what they so
scrupulously practiced as dear to the gods, then they would have discontinued the
Moreover, Socrates in spite of his, or at least Plato's, recognition of the
need for the reform of Athenian piety
was still influenced by it.
(January 1967), p.
, Journal of the
At the end of the just quoted sentence Anderson appends this
"The butt of this joke, however, may be the reader himself;
for, as will be suggested in the pages that follow, it is at least possible that in a
on a different
will be doing, not what
Fllvthvnhrn it dnina_ hIIt uuh+t Snrratc i rfnina"T 1
Ma it /rnrrart- thna PtaIA hnI/c un
below that Socrates observed the conventional religion.
But before I deal with
This is important not only for supplementing and confirming what has
already been said, but even more so for my argument that Socrates worshipped a
good god, and this good god required Socrates to serve him through criticism.
Less than perfect gods
the anthropomorphic character
of the Greek deities,
it should not
surprise us to find that they behaved like human beings who neither had to work
living nor who died.'5
Toil and death were not their lot, but in other
respects they seem like the royal household of some marauding chieftain.
Murray writes vividly of the Olympians:
And when they have conquered their kingdoms, what do they
Do they practise
trades and industries
they promote agri-
s? Not a bit of it.
Why should they do any honest work?
They find it easier to live on
pay. They are conquering chieftains, royal buccaneers. They fight,
and feast, and play, and make music; they drink deep, and roar with
afraid, except of their own king.
Murray realizes this is overdrawn,
They never tell lies, except in love
noting that Hephaistos was a craftsman.
the picture of Homeric gods as immortal royalty has not only a certain charm but
was a p
15Although the gods were generally considered immortal, apparently death
possibility Both H.3. Rose, Gods Heroes of the Greeks (London: Methuen &
p57), p. 59, and M.P. Nilsson, A History of Greek Religion, translated from
attribute divine immortality to the food of the gods.
For a discussion of this
Harry L. Levy,
"Homer's Gods: A Comment on their Immortality"
I~n*A l+wn a C, j Aae 2A (A Ie A '- ..i.r-'n,
1 fl-7fl\ s 1
- .. 1 -- T
, Greek, Roman
'a +hnka 0a ann
iI" I | I i | x t'l njri-^m | l m F
more than a little truth
For a more judicious statement we have Adkins'
are anthropomorphic, and have
the Homeric heroes.
the same standards of behaviour as
Their organization is roughly equivalent to that
of a small agglomeration of noble households in Ho1er, meeting in
assembly to discuss questions which affect them all.
"Life goes on much as in some royal house in which
there is constant entertaining."18
Guthrie says quite succinctly of the Olympian
'They are the 'easy livers' (rheia
ontes) who never know death."l9
Whatever the source of the immortality of the gods, says Nilsson, it "drew
line of demarcation
man could not pass"
. But then he adds:
other respects no such line exists.
The gods are
wiser, more powerful
but this is a mere question of
This is in line with
thought "the divine
is that which is stronger (kreittan)
This is born out by the use of the word "easily" (rheia) which, says
save or carry
off a person 'easily,
in passages about the gods"
as a god does';
. He continues:
they live 'easily',
sorrows and tribulations which are the lot of man.
Their life and demeanour are
such that it has been said that Homer's descriptions of the divine world are a
17"Greek Religion", p. 393.
18A History of Greek Religion, p. 147.
19The Greeks and their Gods (Boston:
drininrl flrca~l nhhraes wnc ct rantlitsttsd 1w ins.-
caricature of the life of the aristocratic circles of the age,
.. ." (p. 157).
It is not
that the gods were supernatural entities.
Rather they were superhuman.
But life for royalty or gods is not one continuous banquet.
There are ap-
or worshippers that
must be considered.
Athenians' religious practice, broadly speaking, consisted of tending to the gods in
the private ones
understands how to say and do,
in prayer and sacrifice,
what is pleasing to
is piety; and it is the
sort of observance that preserves both private
expectations of the gods is well expressed also in the speech Xenophon
"I begin by giving service to the gods and I attempt to act in such a
way that it may be right for me, as I pray, to find health, strength of
body, honor in the city, goodwill among friend honorable safety in
war, and wealth which is increased honorably."
What is missing in the above is divination.
The pious Athenian also wished to turn
to the gods for advice at crucial
then of the gods was not all
feasting and fun.
They had to attend to those who attended to them.
the prayers, sacrifices, festivals and dedications.
This was the
The pious gave that
they might receive.
The gods' function was a governing one.
But their kingdom was
not a modem welfare state with its full range of services and hordes of bureau-
Theirs was a minimalist state that required only occasional intervention on
(But of course
they were not similarly bound by precedents and rules.)
Usually they were stirred to act when a matter was brought to their attention.
They responded to prayers and inquiries.
This being the case,
see that their lack of omnipotence and om-
would not present a problem.
did not have to be everywhere,
taking care of things, all
to be able to
respond to a specific problem
They were only required to be more
able and wiser than human beings; they were not required to be perfect.
Socrates and Athenian piety
In the Euthyphro Socrates says he recoils from the stories about the gods
(6a), and he argues for a distinction between god-loved and piety (lOa-llb), which
as a challenge
addition to these indications there is the attitude of Socrates toward the poets, as
associated with Greek religion and education.
Beckman points out,
as a compendium
youth needed" (p. 85).
But Socratic philosophy-with its claim that
% 1.. t .a ... .- A
. i +
fI I K
dialectic--stood as "a deep and comprehensive criticism of the poetic tradition"
was, as is well known, a certain amount of religious scepticism
elsewhere during the fifth and fourth centuries.
It would not be
surprising, especially for an enlightened, secular philosopher, to find that Socrates
shared this scepticism.
But if he was sceptical, he was not irreligious-not even in
regard to the more or less conventional forms of piety.
various dialogues we learn
that Socrates prayed, kept home altars,
his own spirit or
The prayers and altars represent a more or less conventional religiosity and
be any doubt that
practices, I will begin with the prayers and altars.
one or possibly
come from an early dialogue.
The other eight are from the middle dialogues.
who has written
the only study
of Socratic prayers of
which I am aware, admits, the fact that most of them come from later dialogues
their claim to historical accuracy".26
The two claimants then for
our attention are the ones found at Euthydemus
5d and, if one were to follow
25Nilsson, Greek Piety, translated from the Swedish by H.3.
Clarendon Press, 1948), pp. 72-78; Mikalson, ch. 14: "S(
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981),
iA Ll acrn
erd, The Sophistic Movement
ch. 13: "Religion and the Gods",
. .. .. .. ... .
neither passage gives us the actual prayer;
they only refer to them.
to be primarily
Jackson says of the Republic
dialogue opens with Socrates narrating:
"I went down yesterday to
with Glaucon, son of Ariston.
I wanted to say a prayer to the goddess
inspection it appears that Socrates attended the festival in honor of
Bendis as much for the spectacle as anything.
His narrative continues:
. .. also
see what they would make of the festival, as this was the first time they were
I must say that I thought that the local contribution to the procession
This has been said, as Jackson indicated,
to set the stage for the
events that then transpired, for
, "We had said our prayers and
seen the show and were on our way back to town when
S. ."; then he proceeds to
extended conversation, which is the dialogue,
The Euthydemus prayer is offered to the "Muses and Memory herself" for
aid in recalling an argument.
This, Jackson notes, is a poetic convention and was
used to mark a transition in the narrative (pp. 19 and 22).
Jackson has, no doubt
because his was a narrow study of the prayers only, overlooked the better text in
At 302bd we find Socrates
Progress Ryle suggests that Book I of the Republic "
Its argument, moreover, is eristic in character
Finally "Thrasvmachus is
being asked by Dionysodorus, an eristic practitioner who is trying to trap Socrates
in an argument, if he has a family
(Later he will try to force Socrates to
that he can
treat his god as an animal,
302e, since he has,
Socrates, no stranger to this sort of crude debating style, suspects a trap,
but he nevertheless answers truthfully that he does not have a family Zeus.
gods nor sacrifices nor
anything else good and beautiful are
anything to you" (302c).
is worth quoting
here a statement by Nilsson,
without reference to this passage, writes:
It is important to notice, as showing the significance of the domestic
Herkeios, to Apollo Patr5
inherited from his fathers), and his
ancestrial graves. Religion formed a part2f everyday life in way
which is far from easy for us to understand.
would challenge Socrates' standing as an
But Socrates is able to counter that for him also "there are altars and
household sacrifices and family (religion) and all the other things, just as for other
family worshipped not Zeus Patroos (Family
Zeus), but Zeus Herkeios (Courtyard
But then Socrates gives this orthopraxy a characteristic
ocratic twist by
to acknowledge Apollo
gods, at least not straight out. When asked if they are his gods, he replied that
they are "ancestors and masters". But perhaps one should not make too much of
this, because ancestors
Still, given Socrates' philosophic
religion and the need for an Athenian to observe the conventional religion, at least
, it may not be too far-fetched to wonder if Socrates was hesitant to call
his fellow Athenians' gods "gods"
. (Of course in the Apology he displays no reluc-
tance to engage in god-talk.)
Jackson correctly concludes that "Socrates is pious but not always in the
customary way" (p. 34), but who does so from a historically-suspect base.
better to arrive at this conclusion as I have done by a consideration of the family
a consideration of
ocrates' oracle, his daimonion, and,
best of all, his philosophizing.
I also question Jackson's
rtion that "Plato never has a character pray in
connection with a sacrifice" (p. 34).
Even if one discounts the instruction to Crito
in the later Phaedo (118a) to offer a cock to Asclepius, because it was a short
time after his prayer (in connection with his drinking the hemlock,
117c), and if
one assumes Socrates did not sacrifice but only prayed and watched the spectacle
then one still has a problem
Euthydemus home altars passage.
Jackson is concerned to disassociate Socrates
and Plato from the barter-type piety of Euthyphro.
Socratic sacrifices to do this.
But he does not need to deny
Socrates could have participated in conventional
practices and not understood
them in the same way as Euthyphro.
Indeed it is
and Euthyphro would have had similar beliefs and
nttitndils ahnlit verv many thino<-
ThP FEnthvnhrn drenends fnr its dramatic cnalitv
Jackson also wonders if Plato could be showing Socrates at prayer in order
concerned to defend Socrates from this charge, but he did so above all by showing
him to be pious in a way different from his contemporaries, namely, his practice
of dialectic as a divine service.
Before doing so, however, I shall consider the less
conventional forms of Socrates' piety.
personal daimonion and his response
to the Delphic oracle.
The first two could
have been within the range of customary behavior, but Socrates' response to the
raised questions about his
that the response
to the oracle,
while cast in the
form of conventional behavior, actually
Crito there is Socrates' dream of a beautiful woman dressed in white
robes-white clothes were often worn in religious ceremonies31
--who tells him, in
an allusion to the Iliad (9.363),
that he will be in Phthia in three days (44ab).
Apology that he has obeyed the god's commands that have been
"in oracles and
There can be no question
that Plato's Socrates
interpreted some if not all dreams as divine messages.
In this he would not have
differed from some of his contemporaries (see Mikalson,
in 1873 (Gar
Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the
s and Institutions of Greece and Rome, translated by Willard Small
den City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, n.d.), p. 45, who writes:
the color of the vestments in all
the religious acts."
l rt | l |II E' Er" *E| *rrr E ur I EIf E' *u uL| I t IVl*ItJr E1Lt *flI El lts *I U1[J I at..* *I-
ir sr Crinchinchen
this point clear
is also a link
poraries' religious experience.32
The classic text in this regard is Apology
where, in explaining why he had busied himself in others' private affairs but never
ventured into public service, he says:
'"The reason for this is what you have often
to me something
divine or spiritual, like a
It began in my childhood, a sort of voice, which, when it occurs, always
turns me away from that which I intend to do, never towards."33
use of the verb gignomai,
, and his use of theion,
"spiritual" ("daimonic" has the wrong connotation in English), I do
not agree with Beckman, who says,
"This 'divine action' is nothing 'supernatural' in
the sense that its
meaning is hidden
to natural thought processes" (p. 77).
es, the sign's meaning is clear, but, no, its origin and timing
are without natural explanation.
Socrates clearly says it just happens and it is
If it is not supernatural,
it is surely extraordinary, perhaps
is not a part of
Admittedly it is not a source of positive knowledge-either
in his philosophizing or his personal life.
But the divine sign did prevent him from
leaving a place where he subsequently engaged in an eristic exercise (Euthydemus
Nor did it oppose him, which he notes, in his appearance before the court,
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,A ... |. -- -
I! J -_ ... -I
* rl n i u if- r 'n nn r n "r F
or in what
daimonion is inseparable from the man and the philosopher.
the divine sign that would have troubled his contemporaries.
As such it was not
They could have
What bothered the Athenians were the troublesome things the dai-
monion permitted him to do.
as an extraordinary
phenomenon in Socrates' day.
What was remarkable, however, was his response to
His interpretation of the oracle and his actions in conforming to it were not
idiosyncratic but unusual.
god by practicing philosopf
claimed that in response to
Ih. It would not have been
unknown for an Athenian to have claimed divine authority or to have served a god,
relentlessly rational activity-dialectic.
are several passages in the Apology where Socrates claims that his
of cross-examining people in public on the nature of the
love-was his way of serving his god (20e-23b,
9b-31c, 35cd and 37e-38b).
defer discussion of the manner of his divine service, focusing now on his religious
Two passages will suffice
to show Socrates'
understanding that his practice of philosophy was divine service:
Gentlemen, I am your very grateful and devoted servant, but I owe a
greater obedience to God than to you, and so long as I draw breath
and have my faculties. I shall never stnn nrartirinr. nhilncnnhv and
In response to the hypothetical possibility that he mind his own business, ceasing
to engage in public philosophy, he replied that "it would be disobedience to God"
to say that he would "mind his own business" and they would not believe he was
the other hand I tell you that to let no day pass without dis-
cussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me
talking and examining both myself and others is really the very best
thing that a man can do, and that life without this sort of exami-
is not worth living,
you will be even less inclined to believe
There can be no question that on the basis of the evidence in the Apology Socrates
his characteristic conduct
to be divinely-commissioned.
also be no question, given his fate, that many if not most Athenians regarded his
piety as unacceptable.
Whatever the orthopraxic elements of his piety were, they
were overshadowed by his philosophic religion.
His critical religiosity was ulti-
mately too much for his contemporaries to endure.
Socrates does not name his god.
In the Apology, however, he calls as his
witness, the god at Delphi (20c).
This would be
Apollo, but Socrates does not utter
his name here or elsewhere in the Apology.
As we have seen in the Euthydemus
passage (302d) Apollo Patrbos, Zeus Herkeios and Athena Phratia are mentioned
(but perhaps not owned as gods).
Apollo Patroos and Apollo
the god at Delphi,
were gradually assimilated, because "it was assumed
that because of having begotten Ion the Pythian Apollo was in a special sense the
the Athenians" (Parke and Wormell,
savs in Euthvdemus 302cd:
"ours is Anollo Patr5os because of Ion's narentape."
god as the
forms or nous, "mind" or "soul", but they must do so in the face of these counter-
vailing passages. There are additional reasons not to discount Socrates' anthropo-
morphism and even polytheism.
To be sure in the Apology he speaks of one god,
which he usually leaves undesignated.
But reference to a single god in polytheistic
Athens would have not ruled out belief in and worship of other gods.
happens that it was Apollo who commissioned him, and
It just so
so it is this god he talks
, "Psychagogia in
on the basis of
was written not prior to
1981, argues that Socrates tries in the Euthyphro to lead his conversation partner
that, contrary to Euthyphro's
the gods are good
If he is correct, then Socrates retained the anthropomorphic polytheism of
it was their
the ontological status of Euthyphro's
This would square with the
Euthydemus text and would not contradict the Apology.
Socrates speaks of his god as a personal being.
For instance, he says that he has
been appointed by his god as a gadfly to the great horse Athens, and if his fellow
citizens dispense with him, this god will send another to take his place (30e-31a).
that one cannot believe
the divine without
believing in "spirits, gods and heroes" (27e-28a).
Socrates, as we have seen, be-
lived in a spiritual. uncanny nav-savine voice as an occasional message from his
without good reason to the contrary, I think we should construe "gods" as
necessarily understand daimonas,
which I have translated "spirits"
, as beings, for
means "divine power"
as distinguished from theos as a god in
Thus a better translation might be "divine powers, gods and heroes"
Even so the understanding of gods and heroes in this passage
as more than human
beings, the former completely so, the latter partially so, would still hold.
Thus the evidence in the Euthyphro and Apology clearly points to Socrates
as having anthropomorphic and polytheistic beliefs.
It is a mistake then
construct his theism along impersonal and naturalistic lines, recasting his god as
nous or the soul or the forms or even taking his god to be the only deity.
his theology was supernaturalistic is unclear, for
this is to ask an anachronistic
His deities do not seem to be fully a part of the natural world; yet they
are not entirely removed from this world either.
Thus I have fudged the issue by
speaking of his divine sign as extraordinary
I now extend this
judgment to his theology generally.
Socrates' Critical Religion
Having positioned Socrates
, I now want (1) to say
something more about his philosophy and (2) to say precisely in what way it was
I can do so by returning to the Euthyphro, reading it in relation to the
Since the Euthyphro is in Cohen's
"a clear example of a Socratic
my first objective by
examining the Euthvohro.
But. in returning to the Euthvnhro.
I can also fulfill (2)
by following the Euthyphro's internal evidence as to Socratic piety and its leads to
By reading these two together we can
see Socrates' critical religion
What Is Piety?
I have already sketched Euthyphro's initial responses to Socrates' "What is
Euthyphro offered an example--his prosecution of his father to
clear the family of pollution--and a formally acceptable proposal--piety is what is
Socrates, as we have seen, criticized Euthyphro's first
as being only a pointing to some pious acts and not an identification of
Socrates then helped Euthyphro reformulate his
loved by all the gods, thus eliminating the self-contradictory possibility that piety
is both god-loved and god-hated.
But Socrates does not find the reformulation
His intricate argument against taking piety to be what all the gods desire
has been much debated.
Hoerber, for instance,
thinks Plato/Socrates creates "a
straw man" and "an illogical argument" (p. 102ff); whereas Cohen has argued that
this "central argument" of the dialogue may be unclear, but should be taken as
supporting the conclusion that the gods are ultimately irrelevant to the defining of
piety (pp. 157
-160 and 175).
Whatever the merits of the formulation of the argument in the Euthyphro, I
think the difference in the two approaches is clear:
tho anme. ruratnc tn the ritinnalitv rif the matter
Euthyphro looks to the will of
Fnr Frthvnhrn it i the ner-
dispense with the gods altogether.
At least for Socrates (and Plato), it remained
to specify what piety,
that is, observance of one's duties toward the
Socrates, in looking for a characteristic that would be independent of
the god's likes, nevertheless sought one that would define activities that would be
valued by them.
The difference in the two approaches becomes clearer in the latter half of
is a part of
This enables Euthyphro to supply the differentia of "service to the
We now have a genus-general
justice (see Aristotle, Nicomachean
Ethics, Book 5)--and a differentia-service
to the gods.
While formally correct
which Socrates quickly
someone is to benefit him or her
, what benefit do the gods receive
And since the
gods are self-sufficient in Euthyphro's view, our service must not be beneficial in
the sense of improvement.
Euthyphro then amends his understanding of service to
. This is a promising solution, Socrates hints (14d), but it fails in
the dialogue because no divine work can be identified.
Euthyphro slips away from
this problem, asserting the traditional answer that piety is "prayer and sacrifice"
which preserves the family and the state (14b).
The dialogue continues with talk
of giving and receiving and the disappointingly circular response of Euthyphro that
Euthyphro's answers and suggests that they begin the inquiry again, for Socrates
will for his part never give up until he knows the answer (15cd).
So the dialogue ends in apparent failure; we still do not know what piety
RIIt rnacnv rTmmn n'antnrc hiiu n^aItoA^4 .nI,+ +-a I$l, ,.- ;a ^r alh, -,...--^.-.a+.
thus to engage in the just man's activity, dialectic, is to live divinely.
eliminates piety, for there are now no gods to serve, only divine lives to be lived
through dialectical activity.
Still another thinks that piety is the apprehension of
the Platonic ideas.
Instead of no answer to Socrates'
question we now have two
claims that piety is either something else or non-existent and one claim that piety
is Platonic philosophy.
So many answers are really no answer at all.
Moreover we will not have an answer until a definition can be proposed that
assists the gods and is able to specify what that assistance is.
Only then will the
Socratic-Platonic answer to the "What is piety?" question be discovered.
finally offer an answer of my own that will meet the conditions I have stated.
make use of the clues within
the Euthyphro and at a crucial point
to the Apology.
By reading a related passage in the latter dialogue in con-
nection with the Euthyphro's problem of specifying the gods' work, I will be able to
Piety, as we shall
is just what Socrates was doing:
engaging in criticism of
his fellow citizen's (and his own) beliefs in order that they (and he) might assist
the gods in their efforts to promote human excellence.
A Critique of the Proposed Answers
To review the
we do not have
to start from the begin-
W. Gerson Rabinowitz has identified both the interpreters who have said the
rnAnst' ian ,r ;.ii kr/4 +1nn n n mafh nima c ai trn^ ;c a Anfinti n
There are those who import the Republic's idea of the good into the
dialogue and there is Rabinowitz, who thinks that the Republic's
nous with deity
is the solution
to the Euthyphro problem.
will insert another
a fourth possibility which I
these first three.
Piety is justice or goodness
justice (Rosen and Beckman) or
the two values are closely related in Platonic doctrine.
These commentators are
to eliminate piety
because no divine work is
are arguing that there is an answer to
or goodness-eliminates any
distinctively god-oriented activity.
with such an identification is that it does not take seriously
Socrates' anthropomorphic, polytheistic theology and his concern to assist the gods
in their work.
To reduce piety to justice is to deny or overlook that there can be
divine work in which one can engage.
reductive move would not be necessary.
also does not take seriously the Euthyl
If such work could be identified, then this
The interpretation now being considered
phro's search for a definition of piety and
Admittedly the dialogue, on the surface, ends in failure.
But the whole point in
the I ines
. .. ....
If one were to argue for a negative conclusion, then one would have to
also eliminate the clues within the dialogue that point to a positive answer.
The first indication of a positive outcome is the interlude (at ilbe), where
Socrates of being
statements to shift when criticized by Socrates.
this, Burnet observes,
With regard to interludes such as
"We are to understand that everything that has preceded is
merely introductory, and that the positive result of the dialogue (so far as it has
one) will be found in the second part."39
Then he comments with regard to the
"That is why Socrates now asks leading questions" (p. 50).
lude signals us to watch for a possible positive result.
Even more to the point are
the following clues:
we are given a genus, justice, and a differentia, service
of the gods.
ocrates says at one point,
"Why, you veered away then just at
the critical moment when, if you had answered me, I should have had by now all
the information that I wanted from you about piety" (14c; Tredennick).
is the failure to say what the work of the gods is.
could specify the gods' work and relate it to the suggested genus and differentia,
then we would not need to resort to the questionable interpretative procedure of
eliminating the term to be defined, particularly when Socrates and Plato have so
much invested in its definition.
Dialectic is holy
it does not keep straight the distinction between piety
religious obsrvanr and inltimnarv ans that which animated nirt+v
It rhnnfcnc niaty
Daniel Anderson's interpretation of the Euthyphro elevates "dialectic itself
to the position of ultimacy"
, arguing that "by the end of the dialogue", piety has
"taken on a number of deific characteristics":
The gods submit themselves to it; religion must be submitted to it by
men; it is the only thing that is ultimate in the lives of men.
to it brings
Athenians to prosecute Socrates, states to
into human relations.
war among themselves,
and even causes the ludicrous and humiliating wars among the gods.
In this sense, disobedience to the dialectic leads to the worst forms
of immortality and brings d7own
low comedy, men to tragedy.
judgments that reduce the gods to
This analysis takes the opposite tack from that of the preceding interpreters, who
person to sacredness.41
Thus it collapses the distinction in the Euthyphro and the
Apology between the gods and their service, making just conduct itself holy.
also has the effect of eliminating piety as a category, for now there is no service
of the divine, only activity which is divine.
Piety is philosophy,
but Platonic ideas are what is divine
Rabinowitz correctly focuses on
later Platonic notion of divine nous, th
ocratic dialectic as piety, but imports the
ie soul's ability to apprehend forms, into the
He thinks he is warranted in doing this because Socrates' use of nous
taken as a cryptic allusion
to the question of why
to the later Platonic doctrine.
Plato did not have Socrates speak more clearly,
Had Plato "wished to declare
that god is nous and genuine
, then "he would have been forced to write not a Euthyphro, but a
fl Ans I L r : .* .. r* kL T p w 1 ^ a rl.li 1. .. 1 I 0
While I agree that Socratic piety is philosophy, I question the assertion that
Socrates understood his god to be nous.
seems to me to be an importation of
later Platonic doctrine into a Socratic dialogue.
Moreover the "cryptic" phrase at
14d will not bear the freight Rabinowitz gives it.
All the word nous,
means is "attention" and is so taken by Tredennick, whose translation reads:
a passionate admirer of your wisdom and keep my attention upon it, so no word of
yours falls to the ground"
Rabinowitz refers to some unnamed commentators who
read the result clause, in
"so no word of your falls
, as meaning both "will not be rendered invalid" and "nothing
(Euthyphro) say will be lost or thrown away upon me (Socrates)"
. Then he asserts
correctly that there is no warrant for the words "upon me" in the Greek, but he
affirmation of their validity (Rabinowitz, p.
has created a false problem.
Whoever has commented thus
Tredennick's translation reads,
there is no pro-
he has placed himself
under Euthyphro's tutelage (see 5a),
lowing any to fall to the ground. Ra
he must pay attention to his words, not al-
Lbinowitz has created a puzzle, not Plato, and
thus there is no cryptic phrase that suggests a need for the later Platonic doctrine
of divine nous to be read into the dialogue.
Nevertheless Rabinowitz has two good suggestions:
the good of the Republic,
(1) The divine is not
and (2) Socratic piety is dialectic (p. 120) or philosophy
It may even be that the logic of Socrates' philosophy requires that the
divine be a rational order
, but this would imply, to use Platonic language, that the
..... ..... nm w
, n, ,wme
Republic's good into the dialogue.
Concerned to refute them, and unaware of an
alternative, he makes a similar mistake.
Piety and philosophy
Rabinowitz suggested that piety can be identified as a distinct activity, but
his and related definitions fail to show that piety is a part of justice.
look at a view similar to Rabinowitz's
in the understanding of piety which I
I will now
because it introduces an important element
will develop below, an understanding that
will show piety to be a part of (general) justice.
Bilts also makes piety philosophy, an activity that also serves the
divine in the human.
But he makes the indwelling deity one's soul.
Thus piety is
"caring properly for one's soul".42
This suggestion, once we de-theologize the soul
and show the relation of soul-tendence
to the gods' work and to justice,
it stands, this move fails for the same reason that Rabbinowitz's
Just as there was no evidence that the Socrates of the Euthyphro regarded
nous as divine,
so there is no evidence that he thought the soul divine.
To be sure, if nous or the
task was the apprehension of forms and
philosophy could assist in that task.
But neither is divine in the Euthyphro.
this theory would,
retained the deity-piety language, make for an awkward relationship.
For, if the
deity is the soul's ability to apprehend the forms and piety is the soul's activity of
then we would have to understand the activity to be a service
of the ability.
A New Form of Piety
Anyone who would defend the piety-is-a-part-of justice thesis must be able
to specify the gods' work.
Otherwise justice is indivisible and piety collapses into
justice as a whole.
Piety would then be just a quaint way of speaking.
characteristic that shows what part of general justice piety is.
What is needed is
that takes seriously Socrates'
the gods and
their service and his understanding of piety as a part of justice.
We must be able
assistance in this work is a part of justice.
rates as exhibiting contrasting forms of piety:
what is essential for a proper definition of piety and for an adequate
conception of human wholeness:
on the one hand, tradition, rite, and
that is directed
marily toward the future.
If we take the suggestion that there are contrasting pieties in the Euthyphro, then
we would be
ocrates' understanding to Euthyphro's
model of gods, their work and our service.
For him the gods were the Olympians,
their work the preservation of households and the state and the service expected
of us prayer and sacrifice.
What are the counterparts in Socrates?
The easy answers are the commissioning god of the Apology and dialectical
uh irh rnrrtnnnrln
Olvmnian antis and
as we have seen
, that it is justice.
If so, it would be similar to Euthyphro's preser-
as we have
the view that piety
assisting in the work of justice by means of dialectic tends to erase the distinction
between piety and justice. Wha
pious justice differ from justice
t is distinctively pious about dialectic?
What we need is a precise statement
of divine work which dialectical piety can assist, one that is not to be confused
If we look at Bilts's
suggestion that piety is caring for what is divine in the
human, that is, the soul, and his supporting reference, Apology 28b-30c, especially
29c-30b, we will find the answer.
I have rejected that part of his suggestion which
regards the soul as divine, but there is merit in his reminder that Socratic philos-
ophy is a caring for the soul.
In the Euthyphro Socrates and Euthyphro were unable to specify the assis-
14d) that we could render to the gods, because no divine work
could be specified.
In the Apology
we find the same word used in reference to
examining and testing of those he encountered, he assures the jury that this "is
what my God commands, and it is my belief that no greater good has ever befallen
you in this city than my service (hyperesian) to my God" (30a;
dialectical activity we find displayed in the Euthyphro we find here designated as
assistance of his god.
But to what end is this service?
What divine work does it
The point that Socrates is trying to make is that his critical activity is
aimed at showing his fellow Athenians that their "chief concern" should not be for
"their bhnrlis nr their nnsssisnn hiut what is "hpst fnr thPir smnlus".
help in war and agriculture at the public level and for aid in the private matters of
health, safety, honor
justice and wealth.
Thus conventional religion understood
to use Socrates'
"bodies and possessions"
. The gods
existed for human welfare.
nobler language of "household and state preservation" understands
the gods to be
concerned with human welfare.
Socrates also thinks that the work of the gods is the care of humanity, but
The gods primary
what ours should be--is the care of
our souls or human excellence
which Socrates continually proclaims in
his efforts to re-direct his fellow citizens' attention.
translate the sentence in this way:
Following Burnet we should
"Not from wealth comes excellence (arete),
but it is excellence (aret_) that makes money and everything else good for men,
both privately and publicly" (30b).
we encounter in Plato's dialogues?
What could be more plausible for the Socrates
Human excellence is the gods' and his supreme
This is that in which he would assist them and would have his contem-
poraries take up as well.
is not isolated.
It makes "money and every-
thing else good for men, both privately and publicly"
. Socrates shares his contem-
what is good,
but he realizes that it is only areteic-
their concern for our material welfare and our service of prayer
and sacrificing, we have Socrates' good god(s) whose concern is also for home and
But for Socrates home and state must be preserved on the basis of human
excellence, which can only be achieved through a critical method.
We can now
see the relation of piety and justice.
as we learn
then piety is a specific and crucial cultivation of this harmony.
We come to
an understanding and realization of wisdom, courage and moderation in our per-
in our households
This is a divine service for us, replacing the traditional piety of prayer,
sacrifice and divination.
If general justice is right relationships, piety is the right
relationship one has with the gods, a relationship in which one assists in the de-
velopment of a divinely-willed and morally-based society by means of philosophy.
relationships of humans with one another) and piety (assisting the gods in creating
a dialectically-developed arete),
because one's morally
educative efforts occur in the context of human affairs and result in a harmonious
human society. Piety differs from special justice, however, by being its enabler,
that is, philosophy. It is of course a part of general justice, for, as the means to
special justice, it is itself just.
Perhaps this chart will make the matter clear:
KIND OF GODS
preservation of home
and state on the
is not at all
obvious and his
activity can easily be seen as just philosophy.
But by viewing him
as we have we
see that he was a philosopher who was religious in his practice of philosophy.
of the Euthyphro, I
have been able to show that the religion of Socrates in which we are interested
consisted of his effort to cultivate arete in his fellow citizens and himself.
good god (Apollo)
Socrates assisted him in the divine task of preserving home and state on the
basis of arete.
The problem with Socrates as an example of philosophy-as-religion is that
there are extraneous, in the sense of uncriticized, elements.
various human practices, but, to our knowledge,
he never questioned the existence
and nature of
some of his remarks that he was
sceptical and disapproving
in some respects,
criticism of the gods.
Perhaps because of the times in which he lived or the lack
His religion and his philosophy are largely co-terminous, but his religion is
wider than his philosophy.
I have included him in this study, in spite of this "im-
, because he is the first possible instance of a philosopher who was religious
in his critical practice.
He was this. but he was also religious in other wavs.
Christian religious services.
Even so, Spinoza is worthy
Where Socrates was relatively un-metaphysical, Spinoza was
a metaphysician par excellence.
Where the theism of Socrates is difficult to make
more precisely, his pantheism, is carefully elaborated in
his major work.
SPINOZA'S RATIONAL RELIGION
Spinoza has been interpreted, as many have pointed out, in a great many,
often contradictory ways.
It is not unusual for a widely-read philosopher of great
range and subtlety to be seen as a reflection or foil of many readers.
interests and attitudes,
come away with views that
may bear little resemblance to one another.
Spinoza has been accused of atheism,
critics, and has also been described as "a God-intoxicated
Stuart Hampshire makes him more accessible to the twentieth century, presenting
as a modern European metaphysician.3
as one the
Of course he has long been regarded
three classical Rationalists, along with Descartes and Leibnitz.
valis, the German romantic poet, wrote, "Spinotza ist ein gottrunkener
This is cited by many Spinoza interpreters and may be found in various
editions of Novalis'
Verlag, 1978), 2.81
und Briefe (Munich:
Mahl and Richard
2The Philosonhv of Sninoza. two vnlumes (Cleveland-
The Wnrld Pinhlikhinu
nature of his
major work-its geometrical style and seeming lack of connection to his life and
The owl of Minerva may fly at dusk, but Spinoza's work does not clearly
reflect his culture.
To be sure there were some-after all his work was published
in his lifetime or shortly thereafter--who appreciated his concern for reason and
tolerance, but there were many more who resisted mightily what he had to say.
would have us read his major work,
the Ethics,5 without reference
to his life and times.
It is presented as a geometrical demonstration, complete
notes and appendices
we catch a glimpse of the
is set and
portions of the Ethics and the even more directly written correspondence, we can
determine his problematic and purposes.
Then we should be able to read the book
on its own terms and in its proper context.
This reading will reveal the conflicted religious, social, political and intel-
and religious aims of the Ethics.
Although I am particularly concerned
with the religious character of his philosophy, I will not suggest that this is the
only significant dimension.
were also ontological,
logical, psychological, ethical and political (although the last one does not receive
much treatment in the Ethics).
To the extent that he was religious, however, he
so through his rationalist philosophy.
The Ethics in its entirety can be read
a religious book.
This understanding of the religious character of his philosophy,
moreover, will enable us to
see why his work has been so variously interpreted.
It is my intention to provide a brief but precise, comprehensive view that
will enable us to
see his work whole.
To accomplish this perhaps impossible task I
interpretations of his work,
direct examination of some central religio-philosophical doctrines of the Ethics.
They are the well known ones of Deus
"God or Nature", and amor Dei
"the intellectual love of God"
as well as the less well known ones of
which Spinoza also calls "the third kind
of knowledge", and finally his unexpected understanding of "eternity"
. There is
much else in the Ethics, but the doctrines I will focus on are sufficiently central
to establish the religious character of his philosophy.
My reading will be open to
, the Ethics cannot be read
as an expression of Spinoza's
religiosity, because he says elsewhere that between faith and philosophy there is
neither connection nor affinity, two, the four religio-philosophical doctrines I have
identified are not central to the Ethics, and,
three, his religious language can be
these objections during
the course of the chapter.
The novelty of my interpretation lies not
so much in my contention that the Ethics
focusing on this claim and giving it some specificity.
pinoza and Religion
As tempting as it might be to bypass the many, diverse views of
chnll na ra en far +horn ic r mari+ in raneiAorina +harn
17 / will HA shla +n
careful, contextual consideration of his work.
But unless one knows the questions
to ask, one may become enmeshed in the deductive apparatus of the Ethics and
apprehensions, purposes, beliefs and actions.
The Varied Interpretations of Spinoza
This is not a novel position, but it is one that has not been
to this religious rationalism interpretation there
are several rival views of Spinoza's relation to religion.
atheist, a philosopher with
religious philosopher. I wil
He has been seen as an
embarrassing religious views, a mystic and a medieval
.1 first note the limited critical literature that pertains
to my thesis, then survey the rival views.
The unexplored alternative
There are several
character of Spinoza's philosophy.
who have noted the religious
Joachim, who wrote a major book on
in its highest
Spinoza at the same time and essentially the noblest form of human life:
But this is the last sentence of a paragraph and amounts to little
more than a suggestion.
Similarly there is a brief characterization of Spinoza by
Although critical of Spinoza, he says,
speak lightly of Spinoza's religion.
It is a one hundred percent metaphysically pure
answer to the question how to achieve salvation by means of philosophy only."8
in a short book
He like others regards the Ethics as "a metaphysical treatise on God and
Spinoza's philosophy as a substitute for religion based on revelation,
is not the
that Spinoza's philosophy
is an ersatz
religion, but rather a philosophical one,
the kind of religion
to be practiced not by the masses in churches
established by the state, but the kind to be practiced by the philos-
opher who thmis his own thought in freedom.
the wise man.
But Beck's treatment is, as he says,
It is the religion of
"an admitted oversimplification" (p. 36).
tions for popular religion in the Theologico-Political Treatise and his own religion
s no othei
lectual love of God, and admits to no other ethic than the conquest of the passions
. Spinoza pursued the intellectualizing of the moral and religious
7A Study of the Ethics of Spinoza (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1901),
to its logical
exposition of Spinoza's
The rival interpretations
Although Pierre Bayle may have been
the most influential early critic of
Spinoza,12 he was not the first to accuse him in writing of being an atheist.
This liberal medical doctor reviewed Spinoza's
Theological and Political Treatise
in a letter to Jacob Ostens.13
In this letter he accuses Spinoza of secretly intro-
during atheism (L42, p. 254).
Powell, a twentieth-century critic of
Spinoza, accuses him of atheism and insincerity.14
This poses a serious interpre-
tive problem, for if I cannot overcome the Velthuysen-Powell charges, then I will
have great difficulty in interpreting Spinoza as a religious philosopher.
One of Spinoza's most recent students, Jonathan Bennett, finds three of the
that are central
the third level
to a religious interpretation of Spinoza-eternal life,
of knowledge and the
intellectual love of God--embarrassing to
I have a different opinion and will have to show their significance
11Philosophies of Judaism, translated by David W.
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964), p. 285.
"Spinoza and the Early English Deists", Journal of the
History of Ideas, 20 (January 1959), 24. See also Richard H. Popkin, The History
of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1979), pp. 328 and 247.
ndence of .
Letter 42, pp.
Wolf; thus L42.
will cite letters by the symbol "L" and the number in
References to the Ethics will be by part, proposition, etc.
44,a 4F!+k^ nrnnrrff^/aen S4 64f ea,-n n+ nT.IA klnf *^A fr ern
r -- --- I -- -- I
" crri KF a -a 3P& i r n rI'f/.^ I lK *
and indeed their indispensibility for Spinoza's project.
description of Spinoza as a mystic.
There is also the recurring
If he was a mystic, then the burden will be on
me to defend
was rationally religious.
Finally there is H.A.
pinoza can only be understood as standing within the
medieval Jewish philosophical tradition (l.ix).
To do so, however, is to ignore the
more pressing claims of Spinoza's own century and his claim to have broken with
the theologies of past, Jewish and Christian.
Atheism and insincerity.
pinoza as an atheist.
cludes that Spinoza's "Atheistic Monism
represents a world view which, in its
required by the religious con-
sciousness" (p. 340).
Since Powell thinks religion is based on "a belief in a higher
personal power" or powers (p. 223),
we can dismiss his judgement.
He, like many
who have accused Spinoza of atheism,
so by definition:
God is personal;
od is impersonal; therefore
. .. This is not however a matter to be
One needs to take seriously Spinoza's arguments for his
understanding of God and only after considering them, determine if Spinoza's Deus
as an object
religious language, thereby discovering Spinoza's real anti-religious meaning.
must be taken seriously because of his argument that Spinoza, moved by caution
would seem to be supported by Wolfson's
assertion that Spinoza's "'God' is merely
an anneasive term for the mntt rnmnrshsncivs nrininla nf tha umni ArcAt (I 1 771
alleged statement of the Spinozan camouflage strategy cited by Powell is from a
letter Spinoza had written to Henry Oldenburg, one of the first secretaries
Spinoza wrote that he required a preface to be published
with his exposition
because not everything presented therein was Spinoza's
had been originally "dictated
. to a certain young man to whom I"'--Spinoza--
Powell takes Spinoza's unwillingness to teach the youth his own views as implying
a "willingness to do so
indirectly" (p. 59).
Thus we must be careful not to take
Spinozan religious language at face value, for Spinoza may be covertly teaching us
published exposition of Descartes,
writes of Spinoza:
when he promised to teach a pupil the philosophy of Descartes it was a matter of
principle with him not to depart in the least from his opinions or to teach anything
that did not follow from his dogmas, or was contrary to them.
Wherefore, let no
one think that he is teaching here his own opinions or only what he approves."16
to specify some of the
views that Spinoza did not share:
that the will is distinct from the understanding,
that there are limits to Extension
and "that this or that surpasses human knowledge" (p. 7f).
One purpose of the
preface then was to make clear that this book was a teaching device and was not
to be taken as an exposition of Spinoza's
There is no reason to regard
it as a covert attempt to
tanr9h +he nwr t-h hki, atn wlitunc inn naaA,,' infr natlhirnC rinn /r mr thn (1 h a inn "h winr
to explain Descartes and possibly (2) he did not think the youth able to understand
or accept his (Spinoza's) own philosophy.
Powell's interpretation of Spinoza is crude.
I have discussed it, because it
My own view is that Spinoza had to use religious language to convey
the consequences of
regarding it as divine.
The alleged incoherence of the religious doctrines.
A more sophisticated
pantheism is illuminating and I will make use of it later.
But he fails to take this
"From my standpoint, which is concerned not with
Spinoza's mental biography but with getting his help in discovering philosophical
as an atheist"
are to expound
Ethics (p. 1),
the second purpose seems
to be uppermost.
This can be seen in the
quote just cited. What is dominant is the "help" that Spinoza the teacher can give
Bennett the student. This attitude is even more explicitly stated in the chapter on
the latter three religious doctrines.
There he concludes that the final part of the
Ethics, where these three doctrines are set forth, is not "something from which we
can learn, and for me that is crucial.
The courtly deference which pretends that
this book, as a
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IYI:CL~ IAJ EICIIII IILLEIII SA*
purposes whether Spinoza
atheist or not and whether or not the doctrines found in the last part of the Ethics
make sense, on Spinoza's
Perhaps if Bennett had taken Spinoza's Deus
Natura more seriously, he would have found the discussions of eternality, scientia
and amor Dei
conceiving how one could understand, much less learn from, a Spinoza who could
possibly be an atheist.
This is to
treat the Ethics as a collection of teachings,
which is what Bennett does, and not
as a systematic treatment of the one self-
we can learn
latter-day student of Spinoza's and we will do so in due course.
George Kimball Plochmann, in his forward to James Collins's recent book
says that studies of Spinoza in the last fifty years have either taken
him "as a successful builder of a system or else" asserted "that he failed to blend
all his opinions, borrowed or new, into a unity more than merely stylistic" (p. x).
I only need to find there a sufficiently coherent philosophy that
is also thoroughly religious.
17Spinoza on Nature (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984).
18Collins. however. is not a euide uoon whom I can ultimately rely. for he
Of course Spinoza was religious; he was a
In his influential book,
argues that Spinoza's pantheism
product of the logical paradox of his metaphysics:
God is both nature and distinct
a series of
"possibly against his will", a paradoxical pantheist and thus a mystic.
Stace writes of Spinoza:
If one interprets his phrase "God or Nature" to mean that God is just
another name for nature,
short God is just a piece of ver-
biage, one will naturally conclude that he is nothing but an atheist.
one interprets him mystically, so that God, as well as being
moving religious language acquires meaning and may well justify the
phrase "God-intoxicated man."
suggestion is that he exh
himself the living paradox of being a God-intoxicated atheist.
that Stace has set up is that for Spinoza either God is nothing but
nature or that God is both identical to and distinct from nature.
If the former is
then Spinoza is an atheist, that is, one who thinks there is nothing that is
If the latter,
then he is a mystical paradoxical pantheist--Stace's
. But what if
the latter horn of the dilemma is not a para-
What if we can render it non-paradoxically
Spinoza, it appears to some,
have different connotations.
Since Frege many of us have been taught that two terms may differ in sense and
yet refer to the same thing.
Thus Thomas Carson Mark argues:
. the terms "God" and "nature" are not synonymous for Spinoza.
They do refer to the same thing--they have the same extension--but
from that it does not follow that they have the same meaning. The
words have different associations for Spinoza,
He speaks of amorr
just as they have in
intellectuals Dei," not amorr
refer to the same thing (they do), bt
the religious significance of "Deus".
The burden of Spinoza's
because natural does not have
Ethics is to invest "Natura" or the totality of things with
the religious significance of "Deus", for the totality of things is divine.
to de-anthropomorphize our understanding of "Deus"
for "Natura" is all there is.
see Spinoza as
"a God-intoxicated atheist"
"atheist" or a paradoxical juxtapositioning of these terms.
But perhaps a weaker version of mysticism is applicable to the rationalist
Stace, we do not insist that mysticism involves necessarily the
intimate experience of God or union
reality, then perhaps Spinoza was a mystic.
According to 3on Wetlesen there have
more in favour
point of view"
restored Domus Spinozana
"It then served as a centre of living Spinozist thought, inspired by Dr
Dr JH Carp,
the 'Hague School',
controversy is unavailable
to me, but I will be able to make out a
as a mystic.
however, I shall argue that he was no mystic, at least not
. f, '
Theory of Truth (New
York: Columbia University Press, 1972),
in any significant sense.
will have to show that he was religious, but no
The last of the medievals.
To Wolfson the Ethics is not "logical, orderly,
and coherent" and is not written "in a language which is self-explanatory" (1
This literary background is medieval Jewish Aristotelianism.
title of Wolfson's
which he announced in the Chronicon Spinozanum (in each
of the four volumes in which chapters of his forthcoming book appeared), was:
Geometrico Demonstrata in the light of a hypothetically constructed
Ethica More Scholastico Rabbinicoque Demonstrata.
He abandoned this title, he says, offering the non-explanatory reason that "it did
not seem advisable to have the title begin with word 'Spinoza"' (l.ix).
an explicit one that he calls
Spinoza's changing his name when he left the Jewish community.)
the first of
the moderns; Baruch is the last of the mediaevals."
we cannot understand Benedictus
without knowing "what
passed through the mind of Baruch" (l.vii).
o he constructs Baruch's mind for us!
struction is, I think it is misconceived as a presentation of Spinoza's philosophy or
even as a commentary on it (see Wolfson, l.viii).
It is at best a highly-suggestive
but one-sided historical reconstruction.
To follow it alone is to be misled.
far better, I
to read the Ethics against the
immediate background of the
late seventeenth century.
The emeryinu science. the witherinor thnla+ticitmn
I I .P