Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Pragmatism and religion

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The pragmatism and pluralism of a philosopher like William James is usually regarded as the 19th century development associated with atheism, scientism and explicitly Leftist politics (as with John Dewey  or Richard Rorty) - but pragmatism is compatible with Christianity.

And not just 'compatible' but in fact gives Christianity a more profound (deeper, more fundamental) place than monist and explicitly metaphysical philosophical systems such as the Platonic or Aristotelian.

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The assertion of pragmatism is that philosophy should not be the bottom-line of thinking - but that something-else is and ought to be. Pragmatism has it that philosophy properly comes later, more superficially, and less coherently above this bottom line.

So, for Richard Rorty, (atheist) Leftist politics - or 'liberalism' - was his bottom line, and philosophy was (like everything else) built on and justified-by the politics: philosophy is a means to the end of Leftism.

But for a pragmatist Christian, Christianity is the bottom line - and philosophy comes above this, and is justified-by this - philosophy becomes a means to the end of Christianity - but does not, ought not to, lead or justify Christianity; rather the philosophy, the metaphysics, is justified-by Christianity.

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So, for a pragmatist, it is vital that Christians do not fall into the trap of trying to fit Christianity into Platonism or Aristotelianism - but that they see Christianity as deeper than, and separable from, any metaphysical description of it.

Then philosophy becomes something properly to be taken in a 'lighter' fashion than it would have been for Plato or Aristotle, something which is ultimately a means-to-the-end of Christianity and not an end in itself.

And therefore, a wholly comprehensive and consistent metaphysical philosophy is an optional extra to Christianity - and something to be judged in-the-light-of Christianity (and certainly not vice versa).

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And what applies to philosophy also applies to theology.

The pragmatist Christian is someone who strives not to be driven by theology; but instead to regard theology in the light of Christianity, as an optional extra and a means to the end of Christianity - which is separable from any theology of Christianity.

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