‘An indispensable companion to the philosophy of religion. Lach entry offers a crystal clear and comprebensive account, stimulating the reader to read, think and explore.’






A Concise Encyclopedia of Judaism, Dan Cohn-Serbok, ISBN 1-85168-176-0

A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Klaus K. Klostermaier, ISBN 1-85168-175-2 A Concise Encyclopedia of Christianity, Geoffrey Parrinder, ISBN 1-85168-174-4 A Concise Encyclopedia of Buddhism, John Powers, ISBN 1-85168-233-3

A Concise Encyclopedia of the Baha’i Faith, Peter Smith, ISBN 1-85168-184-1

A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Gordon D. Newby, ISBN 1-85168-295-3


Ethics in the World Religions, Edited by Joseph Runzo and Nancy M. Martin, ISBN 1-85168-247-3

The Fifth Dimension, John Hick, ISBN 1-85168-191-4

Global Philosophy of Religion: A Short Introduction, Joseph Runzo, ISBN 1-85168-235-X

God: A Guide for the Perplexed, Keith Ward, ISBN 1-85168-284-8

God, Faith and the New Millennium, Keith Ward, ISBN 1-85168-155-8

Love, Sex and Gender in the World Religions, Edited by Joseph Runzo and Nancy M. Martin, ISBN 1-85168-223-6

The Meaning of Life in the World Religions, Edited by Joseph Runzo and Nancy M. Martin, ISBN 1-85168-200-7

The Phenomenon of Religion, Moojan Momen, ISBN 1-85168-161-2








Oneworld Publications (Sales and Editorial)

185 Banbury Road Oxford OX2 7AR England www.oneworld-publications.com

© Anthony C. Thiselton 2002

All rights reserved. Copyright under Berne Convention A CIP record for this title is available from the British Library

ISBN 1-85168-301-1

Cover design by Design Deluxe Typeset by LaserScript, Mitcham, UK Printed and bound in the United Kingdom by Bell & Bain Ltd, Glasgow



Preface and acknowledgements A Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion Chronology

Index of names




Preface and acknowledgements

Aims, scope and target readership

he following selection of subject entries has been shaped in the light of

many years of feedback from my own students. I have asked them what themes, thinkers and problems in philosophy of religion they have found most stimulating or rewarding, and also where they have needed most help, clarification and explanation. Their answers have been both formal and anonymous, and informal and personal.

In addition to the criterion of ‘professional competency’ in philosophy of religion, I have explored issues where pressing problems arise from arguments for or against belief in God, and from differences between diverse religious traditions. For many, this subject combines academic rigour with personal and practical issues about religious belief. I have aimed to set out the arguments of major religious traditions and the counter- arguments of their critics with fairness and integrity, even if I myself find nothing irrational about belief in God, to express this as a bare minimum.

It is my hope, therefore, that this volume will not only fill a needed gap as a student textbook, but that it will also provide a ready work of reference and explanation for those readers who wish to explore issues of belief for their own sake. To this extent, I admit to writing for the general enquirer as well as for students who seek a clear, useful textbook for essays and examinations.

At what level is this aimed? Most of my own classes in philosophy of religion have been for second-year degree students. However, they have included also first years and final years. Most have been honours students in theology and/or in philosophy, but many have majored in other subjects. I have been sufficiently impressed by the standards of incoming students who have taken philosophy of religion at ‘A’ level to have no

vii Preface and acknowledgments

doubt that the following pages will also provide them with a readable textbook. I point out below that the regular use of cross-references will explain virtually every unfamiliar technical term, and will introduce unfamiliar thinkers.

Style, structure and more on level

I have made a particular point of keeping to short paragraphs, and as far as possible to short sentences. Normally all entries except those of less than three hundred words have been divided by the use of sub-headings, so that no reader need feel intimidated by long, unbroken, pages of argument. The sub- headings also provide easy maps of where arguments lead.

This is the first of my eight books (written to date) without substantial footnotes. This is for the purpose of simplicity and clarity. However, those reference books that fail to identify significant sources for major quotations or arguments lack, to my mind, a resource that may prove to be helpful. Where precise sources are appropriate, authors, titles, publishers and page numbers are cited in brackets in the text. This both relieves the reader of having to take everything on trust, and allows the student to follow up important issues independently.

The system of cross-references and of dates of thinkers or other sources is a key feature. These cross-references assist those readers who need instant explanations of terms, or quick information about the further consequences of arguments under consideration. Dates provide appropriate historical contexts for the accurate understanding of thought in the light of the times. Theologians and philosophers often place different weight respectively upon these: they are more frequently emphasized in theology, but their inclusion prejudices no argument. A further chronological chart is added, without any pre-judgements about the importance of what names may feature in it.

Acknowledgements and thanks

Mrs Carol Dakin has typed this manuscript onto disks throughout. I am deeply grateful to her for this magnificent and excellent work. I regularly gave her unclear handwritten material, which she returned promptly, efficiently and with constant good judgement where guesses must have been inevitable. My former secretaries observed that over the years two qualifications for my Professorship and Headship of Department at Nottingham were required for this post: first, to have taught previously in the University of Durham; and second, to have illegible writing. I was duly appointed.

A Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion viii

My weakest points of expertise, I concede, relate to the articles on Islamic philosophy, on Hindu philosophy, and on Buddhist philosophy. I am deeply indebted to Dr Hugh Goddard, Reader in Islamic Theology in the University of Nottingham, for advice on the entry on Islamic Philosophy, and related Islamic thinkers. Likewise, I am very grateful to Dr Philip Goodchild, Senior Lecturer in this Department, for advice and correction on Buddhist philosophy. Dr Brian Carr, Reader in the Department of Philosophy at Nottingham, has given me valuable help, for which I thank him warmly, on Hindu philosophy and Hindu thinkers. He is also co-editor of the Encyclopaedia of Asian Philosophy.

During the final month before the submission of the manuscript, I was Scholar in Residence for 2002 in Union University, Jackson, Tennessee. I should like to thank Union University, Dr Randall Bush, and his colleagues for giving me every possible facility to complete the manuscript on time, including my sending quantities of faxed handwriting to Mrs Dakin, and edited e-mails to my wife at home. My time at Union University was a very happy one.

Home life often suffers during these undertakings, and my wife Rosemary continued to put up with my working every day into the late evening even though my previous book of some 1,500 pages had made the same relentless demands for several years without any interval between these books. She went the second mile of reading typescripts for errors, checking through disks, typing revisions, and undertaking related tasks. I am so grateful for this forbearance and for her work. As before, Mrs Sheila Rees also undertook some proof-reading at a period of high pressure, and I thank her most warmly.

Finally, I value immensely the encouragement received from colleagues, from one or two close friends, and from some former students, to persevere with yet another book which they generously encouraged me to think was worthwhile, in spite of other wide-ranging professional and church commitments. Their encouragement has been a special and needed gift. Ms Victoria Warner of Oneworld Publications has also been among these encouragers, and I thank her for her patient advice and support.

Anthony C. Thiselton, Department of Theology, University of Nottingham

Good Friday, 2002

a fortiori

The term denotes an argument that applies ‘all the more’, or ‘with greater force’. In LOGIC, if a given consequence follows from a case that is actually weaker, a fortiori that consequence will follow ‘from a stronger’ (Latin, a fortiori) argument. This logical notion has been used since ancient times. Traditionally it features in Rabbi Hillel’s seven ‘rules of interpreta- tion’ concerning what may be inferred from a biblical text.

a posteriori

Beliefs or truths that are established by a posteriori arguments or knowledge are derived from evidence, experience, or observation of the world. The term stands in contrast to A PRIORI, which denotes that which is prior to, and independent of, such experience or observation.

A posteriori arguments depend upon empirical evidence, which subsequently confirms or disconfirms what has been asserted as true, or as possibly true. In philosophy of religion the COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT for the existence of God characteristically begins with experience or observations about the world, in con- trast to the ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT, which turns on logical questions about the concept of God.

Clearly what is true merely by defini- tion, or what is entailed entirely by logical reasoning, belongs to the realm of a priori argument; while inferences drawn from empirical observations of the everyday world (including the natural sciences) belong to the realm of a posteriori argu- ment. (See also ANALYTIC STATEMENTS; GOD, ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF; KANT; EMPIRICISM.)

a priori

The term (Latin) denotes that which is prior to, or independent of, human experi- ence or observation. It therefore stands in contrast to what is argued A POSTERIORI, i.e. from what is confirmed or discon- firmed from subsequent experience or observation. The clearest examples of a priori propositions are ANALYTIC STATE- MENTS, i.e. those that are true (or those that are justified) on the basis of a priori conceptual definition: e.g. ‘all bachelors are unmarried’, ‘all circles are round’. These remain incontestable independently of observations about particular bache- lors, or about a circle that I might try to draw.

Thus a priori (from first principle) may be applied to arguments or to propositions or statements. However, their logical currency is often either merely formal


(true by definition) or negative (the argu- ment or statement does not depend on what is subsequently experienced or observed). In philosophy of religion the ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT for the exis- tence of God characteristically operates on the basis of a priori reasoning, in contrast to the COSMOLOGICAL ARGU- MENT, which utilizes a posteriori infer- ences from our experience of the world. (See also GOD, ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF; KANT.)

Abelard (Abailard), Peter (1079-1142)

As a major French philosopher and theologian of the twelfth century, Abelard made his chief contribution to Locic and ONTOLOGY. In particular he attempted a mediating position between NOMINALISM (the view that UNIVERSALS are merely linguistic signs or names (Latin, nomen) for classes or particular entities) and REALISM (universals are realities in them- selves).

Each side, Abelard argued, was right in what it affirmed, but wrong in what it denied. Nominalists are right to insist that logic and SEMANTICS operate in the realm of signs and concepts; they do not trade directly in realities themselves. Realists are right, however, to insist that logic and semantics do not merely chase other signs and concepts that never engage with realities, even if they are wrong to confuse the two levels.

Abelard’s mediating position is often known as CONCEPTUALISM. He rejects a merely subjectivist account of meaning, as if meaning had no ‘controls’. Yet his attacks on naive realism are even sharper. He insists that logic operates in its own domain. Logical validity is not identical with truth about a state of affairs.

This emerges most forcefully in Abe- lard’s attention to propositions. Proposi- tions are true or false, i.e. the property of being true-or-false belongs to proposi- tional content. In spite of having access

to Latin translations of only some of ARISTOTLE’s words (especially to BoETHIUs’ translations of his Categories and On Interpretation), Abelard devel- oped Aristotle’s propositional logic in creative ways.

In relation to Christian theology and religion, Abelard rejected any blind appeal to sheer authority as such. His contem- porary, Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), denounced him for so exalt- ing reason and logic as to make faith and revelation, in effect, irrelevant. Parallel debates may be observed in ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY of this period.

It is difficult to argue that Abelard discounted biblical revelation. After all, he produced an Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. However, he rejected any exclusive claim for the authority of the Bible or the Church Fathers, arguing that ancient Greek philosophy was often closer to the New Testament than the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament.

Abelard also emphasized the impor- tance of thinking for oneself. He disagreed with both of his own very different teachers, Roscellinus (himself unortho- dox) and William of Champeaux. Like Socrates, he saw doubt (rather than certainty) as the path to knowledge through exploration and discovery.

In theology Abelard’s accounts of the Trinity and of the atonement have both been severely criticized. He is credited with expounding a theology of the atone- ment through Jesus Christ which rests upon ‘moral influence’ or ‘example’, rather than on any notion of Godward sacrifice as held by ANSELM and Calvin. His attempt to expound Romans 3:19-26 entirely in terms of a demonstration of God’s love hardly does justice to this Pauline text.

However, it was for his logic and ontology, rather than for his theology, that Abelard attracted large numbers of students to Paris. From the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, it has been said, logic occupied the position of privilege and


esteem that the nineteenth century recorded to the sciences. Paris became an important centre of philosophy, and the conceptualism of Abelard influenced such figures as ALBERT the Great and Thomas Aquinas. He constitutes a major influence on mediaeval Western SCHOLASTICISM.


In its widest, most popular sense, the Absolute denotes that which is uncondi- tional and complete in itself. It stands in contrast to all that is relative. In the broadest terms it denotes what is unqualified, inde- pendent of conditioning influences, and the ground of its own being (ASEITY).

In more technical terms, the word has different nuances within different philoso- phical traditions. In German IDEALISM, Kant (1724-1804) uses the term to denote what is unconditionally valid. SCHELLING (1775-1854) postulates an Absolute which is that prior ground before selfhood comes to perceive the world or reach self-awareness in terms of subject and object, or spirit and nature. TILLICH (1886-1965) is partially influenced by Schelling in his insistence that God is not an existent being, but is ‘Being-itself’.

It is with HEGEL (1770-1831) that the term is most often associated. Hegel rejected Schelling’s account, and identified the Absolute as Spirit. As Absolute, Spirit finds self-expression within the world through a DIALECTIC process of logical and historical NECESSITY.

This is because Hegel’s Absolute Idea embraces within itself a unity that is also self-differentiating. In his philosophical theology Hegel postulated a coherence with the Christian doctrine of God as Trinity: God is an unqualified unity who has nevertheless expressed self-differentia- tion in a historical dialectic as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in successive modes of self-disclosure.

In the English-speaking world BRAD- LEY (1846-1924) of Oxford argued that differentiation presupposes the reality of

the Absolute as wholeness. Diversity is mere appearance; only the whole is real (Appearance and Reality, 1893). The Absolute is unconditioned by time or change, for supposedly even time is unreal.

Josiah Royce (1855-1916) represented American IDEALISM. He identified the Absolute both with God and with the spirit of the great, final, ‘community of persons’. An organic whole is presupposed by the differences of human experience (The Conception of God, 1897).

In identifying the Absolute with God (against Bradley) Royce was returning to the early tradition of Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64). Nicholas argued that God is ‘absolutely infinite’. God so clearly trans- cends whatever is relative and CONTIN- GENT that God even holds together as the Absolute a ‘coincidence of opposites’, just as infinity moves similarly beyond char- acterization in any specific, limited or relative form.

In spite of these technical nuances in Schelling, Hegel, Bradley, Royce and Nicholas, the term Absolute is often used more broadly to stand in contrast with all that is relative or conditioned by other agents or forces. Especially in ETHICS the term is used to exclude cultural, historical or social relativism.

While the broader notion of uncondi- tionedness, ultimacy, self-subsistence and aseity retains a place in the philosophy of religion (see GOD, CONCEPTS AND ‘ATTRI- BUTES’ OF; ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY; TRANS- CENDENCE) the more technical claims of German and Anglo-American idealism are less prominent today than they were during the nineteenth century. However, in Ascent to the Absolute (London: Allen & Unwin, 1970) J.N. Findlay has argued for the unconditional basis of all things.


Used as a technical term in Aristotelian and in SCHOLASTIC philosophy, accident denotes a CONTINGENT quality that hap- pens to inhere in some underlying sub-


stance. The ‘substance’ remains an endur- ing supportive substratum, while the apparent quality or accident ‘happens’ (from the Latin accidere, to happen).

Traditional Roman Catholic theology utilized the Aristotelian and Thomist distinction to defend the notion of trans- ubstantiation. The underlying substance changed to become the body and blood of Christ, while the observable accidents remained perceptible to the eye as bread and wine.

AQUINAS writes: ‘It is through the accidents (per accidentia) that we judge the substance (de substantia) ... The accidents of the bread ... remain when the substance of the bread (substantia panis) is no longer there’ but the substance has become the body and blood of Christ under the outward appearance of the ‘accidents’ of bread and wine (Summa Theologiae, III, Qu. 75, art. 5).

Much recent Catholic doctrine, how- ever, does not remain tied to the formula- tion of Aquinas in the thirteenth century. The Reformers vigorously opposed it. Both traditions today tend to seek a more dynamic understanding of how the death of Christ is ‘proclaimed’ or ‘called actively to mind with effects’ in the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist. (See also ARISTOTLE.)


The broadest, mainline meaning of this term is drawn from ARISTOTLE, in whose writings it stands in contrast to potenti- ality or ‘possibility’. Finite entities have potentialities which become actual when they are realized. Aristotle applied actu- ality to form; potentiality to matter. Thomas Aquinas developed this further in his Five Ways of argument concerning the existence of God. Potentiality is the basis of his Kinetological Way (argument from motion) in contrast to God’s ASEITY.

Existentialist writers, however, apply the contrast between actuality and possi- bility differently. HEIDEGGER, MARCEL and SARTRE tend to apply ‘actuality’ for

‘things’ or objects, and to reserve ‘possi- bility’ to denote an existential mode of being distinctive to persons and agents. Sartre contrasts being-in-itself (étre-en-soi; cf. actuality) with being-for-itself (étre- pour-soi; cf. possibility). Possibility denotes a mode of existence in which openness to the future may be realized by decision, whereas actuality denotes an ‘it’ which is ‘closed’ to such active decision (see BUBER; EXISTENTIALISM).

In TELEOLOGICAL contexts actuality denotes the fulfilment or realization of purpose. This brings us back to Aristotle’s contrast between the possibilities of mat- ter which find expression in the ‘actuality’ of form.


At first sight agnosticism is often perceived as being less dogmatic and more open than either THEISM or ATHEISM when applied to the belief-systems of religions. It appears to suspend the acceptance or rejection of belief.

In practice, however, thoroughgoing agnosticism denotes the belief that to know whether a belief-system is true or false is impossible. Such knowledge lies beyond the enquirer (from Greek a-gnosis, no knowledge). This amounts, however, to no less dogmatic a position than theism, atheism or the belief-system in question. For it invites the rejoinder called ‘the paradox of scepticism’: ‘How do I know that I cannot know, if I cannot know whether I know?’

Agnosticism as a world-view or atti- tude to theism, therefore, differs from the more pragmatic use of the term to denote a suspension of belief about some parti- cular claim to truth. The latter may be deemed more reasonable if it is not a generalized, systematic attitude towards religion or towards the denial of religious truth. Certainly agnosticism must be clearly distinguished from atheism, which raises broader and more fundamental historical and logical issues.


Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus, c. 1200/06-80)

Albert taught in the University of Paris (1245-8) and at Cologne (from 1248) in his native Germany. He is known chiefly as the teacher of Thomas AQUINAS, and as a major interpreter of ARISTOTLE to the medieval West.

Albert’s method of inference from observation of the CONTINGENT world anticipated the approach that Aquinas developed in his Five Ways. In common with most leading Islamic interpreters of Aristotle, Albert endorsed the argument from motion (or from ‘possibility’) to a First Mover or Uncaused Cause. He rejected the notion of an infinite chain or caused causes (see CAUSE; COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT; ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY).

In addition to his contribution as a commentator on Aristotle, Albert was a Dominican theologian. He produced bib- lical commentaries, and also a commen- tary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences. He regarded scriptural revelation and human reason as complementary.

Albert’s drive towards synthesis and the ultimate reconciliation of differences allowed him to combine the dominant influence of Aristotle with diverse elements from PLATO, NEOPLATONISM, and such Islamic philosophers as AL-FaraBi. He perceived the world as a created mystic harmony, which emanated from the One as Prime Mover, or the Ground of all Being.

Albert’s encyclopaedic drawing together of multiple sources (from the Bible, Aristotle, Plato, Arabic philosophy and the natural sciences of the day) provides a context for the founding of the ancient European universities of the thirteenth century. His belief in the com- patibility of revealed scripture with human reason also provides the background to the work of Thomas Aquinas.


This term has a broader and a more technical use. More broadly it denotes a

formal operation, or following of set steps, in LOGIC or in mathematics, especially when symbolic logical notation rather than everyday language is used (e.g. If x, then y ...). The use of general, abstract, symbolic notation permits a formula or algorithm to remain strictly in the realm of logic or mathematics without specific reference to the CONTINGENT or empirical world of everyday life.

These set steps or formulae in calcula- tion or in problem-solving may take the form of rules or instructions for opera- tions. The term is derived from the Latin translation of the Arabic name of a logical mathematics of the ninth century.

More technically and narrowly, the term is applied in computation where an understanding of the operation verges on the deterministic or mechanical. Hence, for broader philosophical views of the world, algorithms are perceived as strictly instrumental processes, i.e. as performing specified tasks in logic rather than yielding broader understandings of the world.


Traditionally the term denotes a selfless concern for the well-being of others (Latin, alter, other), in contrast to the self-interests of egoism. The term is narrower than DEONTOLOGY, which denotes an ethic based on moral obliga- tion or duty more generally.

From HOBBES to NIETZSCHE, and most recently in more radical postmodernist writers, doubt has been expressed about the possibility of genuine altruism in human life. Nietzsche and many postmo- dernists have suggested that this motiva- tion is illusory, and merely disguises the interests of the self under the pretence of caring only for others. IDEOLOGICAL CRITICISM seeks to unmask and to expose these interests.

In many religions, including especially the Christian tradition, a distinction may be made between the practical difficulty of genuine altruism for fallen humanity


unaided by divine GRACE and the altruistic love for others that may spring from the grace of renewal by the influence of the Holy Spirit of God. (See also POSTMODER- NITY.)


The wider context of the use of analogy in LANGUAGE IN RELIGION is set out in detail under that separate, broader entry. The use of analogy is one of the most important primary linguistic resources for talk of God. It permits an extension of meaning or logical grammar beyond that of everyday uses of language, while retaining everyday language as its vehicle or vocabulary-stock.

Analogy, however, is not the only resource of this kind. The roles of sym- BOL, METAPHOR, MYTH, CONCEPTUAL GRAMMAR, and MODELS AND QUALIFIERS are also considered under LANGUAGE IN RELIGION, as well as under separate entries.

The classical formulation of the use of analogy in talk of God comes from Thomas Aquinas (1225-74). In thir- teenth-century debate analogy was seen as a middle way between equivocal (or ambivalent) language, which applied everyday language to God without genu- ine currency, and univocal language (i.e. language that conveys the same literal meaning in a one-to-one match). Further, it also offered a middle path between the language of negation (VIA NEGATIVA), as advocated by the German mystic Meister EckHarT (1260-1327), and language that conveyed a positive, determinate, cogni- tive content.


Aquinas firmly excludes any suggestion that everyday words can be applied to God with exactly the same meaning as they carry in contexts of everyday life. He writes: ‘It seems that no word can be used literally of God’ (Summa Theologiae, Ia,

Qu. 13, art. 3 (Blackfriars edn, vol. 3, 57)). However, he does not agree with PsEuDo-Dionysius that on this basis ‘it would be truer to say that God is not good or wise ... than to say that he is’ (ibid.). For analogical uses of language one should steer between over-confident univocal uses and over-reticent insistence on the via negativa only.

Moreover, to use analogical language of God is not to equivocate. Language would be equivocal (Latin, aequivoca) only if there were no resemblance (Latin, similitudo) between how the word is used in everyday language and how it is applied to God (ibid., art. 5 (Blackfriars edn, vol. 3, 63)). ‘Wisdom’, for example, can be applied to God without undue ambiguity or impropriety, because there is at least some degree of resemblance, however inadequate, between what it is to ascribe wisdom to God and what it is to ascribe wisdom to a human person. Aquinas agrees that this is not ‘univocal’ in mean- ing (ibid.).

Aquinas sums up his general view in this way: ‘Some words are used neither univocally nor purely equivocally of God and creatures, but analogically, for we cannot speak of God at all except in the language we use of creatures ...’ (ibid.

(Blackfriars edn, 65)).


Even during the thirteenth century DuNs Scotus (c. 1266-1308) argued that Aqui- nas tried to hold together two incompa- tible views. For when confronted with any claim for a univocal use of language in talk of God, Aquinas emphasized the value of the via negativa in excluding even the barest hint of a one-to-one match between language about created beings and language about God. He did not reject the use of negation: God is infinite; God is immortal. However, he insisted that the way of negation could not offer a com- prehensive or exhaustive linguistic


resource, but played its part only in complementing analogy.

This marks Aquinas off from the mystical tradition of Meister Eckhart, from the approach of the Jewish philoso- pher Marmonipes (1135-1204), from Plotinus (c. 205-70) and NEOPLATONISM, Pseudo-Dionysius (c. 500) and strands within Eastern Christian theology.

On the other side, however, Duns Scotus questioned the reliability and stable basis of analogical language, believing that it risked making clear and determinate concepts of God and divine action too vague and indeterminate to convey a reliable content. Such concepts as truth, unity and goodness may be applied, he argued, univocally. Otherwise, in what lies knowledge of God?

All the same, Aquinas believed that analogy, rightly applied, could serve to convey cognitive truth about God. He appealed to an analogy of ‘attribution’ and an analogy of ‘proportionality’. A quality or characteristic can be attributed to someone in a derivative sense. A further more radical qualification emerges from proportionality: whatever is analogically common to two or more beings is pos- sessed by each not in the same way but in proportion to its being.

Thus ‘God is wise’ is not merely an analogy with ‘Socrates is wise’ or ‘Paul the Apostle is wise’; it also entails the proposi- tion that ‘wise’, as applied to each, carries a meaning that accords with the distinctive being of each.

This, in turn, implies that an analogy of language rests on an analogy of being (analogia entis), and it is this aspect that BarRTH (1886-1968) attacks as presuppos- ing a Thomistic ‘NATURAL THEOLOGY’. Recently, however, Alan J. Torrance has questioned how far this emphasis rests on an interpretation of Aquinas that became dominant through the writings of Thomas Cajetan (1468-1534), Italian cardinal and philosopher (Torrance, Persons in Com- munion, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996, 127-48).

Interpretations of Aquinas on analogy are controversial and too technical for further discussion here. Fundamentally Aquinas appealed to various logical devices to avoid on one side the collapse of analogy into ANTHROPOMORPHISM and on the other a logical grammar that retained no real currency. The problem, however, that he did not fully solve was that of establishing criteria for appropriate uses of analogy.

Aquinas attempted to refine some of the issues by identifying an ‘analogy of pro- portionality’ in which an analogy is held formally, but in proportion to the nature of the analogue. Thus human fatherhood has analogies with divine fatherhood, but is also limited in scope because of the finitude and fallenness of human nature. Hence the ‘attribution’ of analogy is bound up with its proportionality.


It is, in effect, the basis of Thomas Aquinas’s appeal to the currency of analogy that Karl Barth attacks, rather than the use of analogy as a purely linguistic or semantic tool within the framework of Christian theology. Barth rejects the notion of ‘a common denomi- nator’ to which God and the created order may ‘both be reduced’, like species that belong to a common genus (Barth, Church Dogmatics Il: 3, Eng., Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 19, 102).

Thus, while he questions the whole notion of an analogia entis as a metapho- rical or ontological notion supposedly independent of theology or revelation, Barth is nevertheless willing to allow for a analogia operationis, i.e. for its actual Operative currency within theology. The basis lies in God’s sovereign act of self- disclosure, which is appropriated as an ‘analogy of faith’.

Barth’s arguments take us beyond the realm of philosophy. Nevertheless, within philosophy of religion there is room to explore the entailments of a theology of God that perceives God as sheer self-gift.

analytic statements

The medieval and traditional notion of analogia eminentiae, of working from the lower to the higher, may address issues of intelligibility, provided that it is not transformed into an ontology that trans- poses the TRANSCENDENCE of God into what Aquinas seeks to avoid, namely a projected anthropomorphic construct.

Philosophical controversy about simi- larity and difference and theological beliefs about ‘the image of God’ and the incarnation of the Word in the person of Jesus Christ as person cannot be held apart. Further, the issue of criteria for the valid use of analogy cannot be separated from the wider issues examined under the entry On LANGUAGE IN RELIGION, where these detailed questions emerge in their proper context.

analytic statements

Analytic statements are true A PRIORI, i.e. by virtue of the definition of their concepts or terms, rather than on the basis of states of affairs in the world. The statement ‘all bachelors are unmarried’ or ‘all circles are round’ depends on what constitutes the concept of a bachelor or of a circle. It does not depend upon observations about particular bachelors or circles in the world.

Kant used the term ‘analytic proposi- tion’ for those statements in which the predicate is covertly contained in the subject, e.g. ‘six is a number’. While the early work of WITTGENSTEIN treated such statements as purely formal, i.e. in effect as logical tautologies, in his later work Wittgenstein observed that even a formal tautology might perform some additional function in everyday life, e.g. in directing attention to what might otherwise be neglected or unnoticed.

In his work on LOGICAL POSITIVISM, AYER exempted analytical statements from the need for empirical verification, i.e. they could convey logical meaning even if their truth could not be verified by observing states of affairs in the world.

(See also EMPIRICISM; ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT for the existence of God.)

analytical philosophy

The term serves as a broad and vague title to denote the methods and explorations of those philosophers mainly in the Anglo- American traditions of the twentieth century who seek to clarify the logical forms and sometimes the grammar of CONCEPTS used in philosophy. It character- istically denotes a rigorous examination and clarification of logical forms which might have become obscured by sentences of natural languages.

It is easier to name the specific philo- sophers with whom the analytical move- ment is most closely associated than to suggest a list of features. These include: RussELL (1872-1970), George E. Moore (1873-1958), AYER (1910-89), and the earlier work of WITTGENSTEIN (1889- 1951). However, more broadly the term is sometimes extended to include the ‘informal’ logical explorations of RYLE (1900-76) and Austin (1911-60), among others, although Austin represents what is more often called ‘Ordinary Language’ philosophy.

Since ‘analysis’ is derived from the Greek analuo, to loose, or to untie, it is tempting to cite Wittgenstein’s aphorism that we should ‘look closely at particular cases’ and avoid any ‘craving for general- ity’ (The Blue and Brown Books, Oxford: Blackwell, 1969, 16 and 17). However, in his later work Wittgenstein expressed reservations about the logical atomism that served to break down complex propositions into their most logically primitive building-blocks of meaning (Phi- losophical Investigations, Oxford: Black- well, 1967, sects. 39-63).


Although Russell favoured a more radi- cally analytical method, Wittgenstein was

analytical philosophy

concerned more especially with avoiding those generalizing propositions that removed words and concepts from the settings in everyday life that gave parti- cular cases their logical and linguistic currency. The problem about such grand- iose questions as ‘What is time?’; ‘What is language?’ or ‘What is a proposition?’ is that ‘the language-game in which they are to be applied is missing’ (ibid., sects. 92 and 96). We must avoid ‘super-concepts’, such as ‘language’ or ‘world’, unless we pay attention to their specificities of contexts-in-life (ibid., 97).

Early in the twentieth century G. E. Moore posed such a question in response to the grandiose metaphysical claims of BRADLEY. If ‘time is unreal’, why do we take breakfast ‘before’ lunch? If reality is ‘spiritual’, are chairs and tables more like us than we may think? Moore wrote ‘A Defence of Common Sense’ which con- tained propositions that seemed to conflict with many of the more grandiose claims of philosophers.

Russell shared with Wittgenstein a ‘distrust’? of the surface grammar of language. His work on logic provided formal logical devices for re-formulating statements which in ordinary language appeared to make a truth-claim about an entity while the formal logic of the utterance or sentence could be shown not to do so.

Thus in his Principia Mathematica (3 vols. 1910-13, with A. N. Whitehead) Russell developed a theory of descriptions that allowed for the logical re-formulation of such sentences as those containing the phrases ‘the King of France’ or ‘a round square’ to ‘analyze out’ what were strictly not ‘referring’ expressions at all. In tech- nical terms an ‘existential quantifier’ could be used in logical notation to separate out whether or not truth-claims about one entity entailed truth-claims about another. (The notation would take some such form as (Ex) (Ex ...):)

Russell pressed his drive toward ana- lyses to postulate a theory of ‘logical

atomism’ (lectures in 1918, based on earlier work). However, his understanding of the smallest possible components out of which propositions were built differed from that of the early Wittgenstein. Russell linked his theory with a quasi- materialist view of the ‘elements’ of the world; in Wittgenstein’s view these ‘atoms’ were purely LOGICAL postulates.


AYER’s exposition of LOGICAL POSITIVISM and the principle of verification is dis- cussed separately. A more constructive version of ‘linguistic’ philosophy emerged with the work of Ryle. In The Concept of Mind (London: Penguin, 1949) he under- took a logical exploration of the relation between language respectively about the mind and the body in the Dualist tradition of Descartes, which he called ‘the myth of the ghost in the machine’ (ibid., 17).

Ryle perceived the Cartesian doctrine as portraying life lived ‘through two collateral histories’ (ibid., 13). However, logical analysis exposes ‘a category-mis- take’ (ibid., 17), for the logical currency of what is stated about each differs. This ‘double-life’ theory generates logical puz- zles that are illusory. If body and mind ‘exist’, each ‘exists’ in a quite different logical sense (ibid., 24). A fresh logical analysis of the vocabulary relating to intellectual action is needed, including exploring dispositions (see BELIEF).

In Dilemmas (Cambridge: CUP, 1954) Ryle applies these methods of logical analysis to a series of traditional logical puzzles. Thus the phrase ‘It was to be’ need not express fatalism, as soon as we understand the difference between pro- spective and retrospective logic, or ‘ante- rior truths and posterior truths’ (ibid., 26; 15-35). The paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise, first formulated by Zeno, depends for its force on the difference between the logic employed by an observer and the logic employed by a participant in



the race. Only if we confuse logic that applies to ‘the total course’ with the participant perspective of the runner does the possibility of a ‘paradox’ emerge (ibid., 36-55). Again, however, this approach is more strictly ‘linguistic’ philosophy than ‘analytical’ philosophy.

In his final essay, ‘Formal and Informal Logic’, Ryle contrasts ‘the logic of insu- lated and single concepts’, which often take the centre of the stage in formal logic, with ‘the logical dynamics of apparently interfering systems of concepts’ (ibid., 125).

In the 1950s a spate of collections of essays (mainly articles from journals) appeared under such titles as Essays in Conceptual Analysis (1956) edited by Antony Plew, with contributions from STRAWSON, G. J. Warnock, John Hospers, J. O. Urmson, Stephen Toulmin and others. However, enough has been said to indicate the varied methods and ethos that the umbrella title ‘analytical philoso- phy’ serves to denote.


Animism denotes the belief that many instances of natural phenomena (plants, trees, stones) possess ‘souls’ (Latin, anima) or life-spirits. These may then be perceived as quasi-personal and capable of address. In animistic religion these may become objects of reverence or worship.

Two aspects are especially significant for philosophy of religion. First, animism may be said to extend unduly and uncritically the use of ANALOGY and ANTHROPOMORPHISM.

Second, in Primitive Culture (1871) Edward B. Tylor argued that all religion originated as primitive animism. However, today it is widely recognized that Tylor’s work rests on flawed assumptions. In the first place, primitive religion did not function like a primitive pseudo-science to explain the world. Its function is different, and does not compete with ‘science’. In the second place, Tylor was

too heavily influenced by the almost obsessively evolutionary climate of the late nineteenth century. Robert Segal presses both criticisms (‘Tylor’s Anthro- pomorphic Theory of Religion’, Religion, 25, 1995, 25-30). (See also EVOLUTION.)

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

In philosophy of religion Anselm is most widely known for his formulation of the ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT for the exis- tence of God. Anselm sets out