Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language

Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language

Quentin Smith
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language
    Book Description:

    This book is the first to provide a critical history of analytic philosophy from its inception in the late nineteenth century to the present day. Quentin Smith focuses on the connections between the four leading movements in analytic philosophy-logical realism, logical positivism, ordinary language analysis, and linguistic essentialism-and corresponding twentieth-century theories of ethics and of religion. Through a critical evaluation of each school's theoretical positions, Smith counters the widespread view of analytic philosophy as indifferent to important questions about right and wrong and human meaning. He argues that analytic philosophy throughout its history has revolved around the central issues of existence, and he offers a new ethics and philosophy of religion.The author develops a positive ethical theory based on a method of ethics first formulated by Robert Adams. Smith's theory belongs to the tradition of perfectionism or self-realization ethics and builds on Thomas Hurka's recent theory of perfectionism. In his consideration of philosophy of religion, Smith concludes that there is a sound "logical argument from evil" that takes into account Alvin Plantinga's free-will defense and undermines monotheism, paving the way to a naturalistic pantheism.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14596-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Part I Logical Realism, Logical Positivism, and Ordinary Language Analysis
    • 1 Logical Realism
      (pp. 3-19)

      The first phase of analytic philosophy is sometimes called the phase of logical realism and is characterized by a platonic theory of universals, direct realism in perceptual theory (we directly perceive physical objects), and intuitionism in ethics ethical values are directly intuited). It is arguable that the three most definitive works in this phase all appeared in 1903, Bertrand Russell’sPrinciples of Mathematicsand G. E. Moore’s “Refutation of Idealism” andPrincipia Ethica.Because this is the first phase of analytic philosophy, there is a sense in which 1903 is the beginning of the movement known as analytic philosophy. In...

    • 2 Logical Positivism
      (pp. 20-43)

      The movement known as logical positivism reached full flower in the 1920s but was based on ideas going back to 1905 and earlier. At least four major developments in analytic philosophy served as catalysts of the logical positivist movement. The first occurred in 1905 with the publication of Russell’s “On Denoting,” which showed how sentences with proper names or definite descriptions can be translated into sentences with bound variables and predicates. This enabled Russell to reject his early logical realist tenet that the sense of proper names is their referent and the associated implication that there are things that do...

    • 3 Ordinary Language Analysis
      (pp. 44-90)

      The ordinary language movement had surplanted the positivist movement in England by the 1940s and reached its zenith during the 1950s. Its two main bases were Oxford, which was associated with J. L. Austin, Gilbert Ryle, Waismann, J. O. Urmson, R. M. Hare, P. H. Nowell-Smith, P. E Strawson, and others, and at Cambridge was associated with Wittgenstein and John Wisdom, among others. Americans such as Alice Ambrose, Norman Malcolm, Max Black, John Searle, and Paul Edwards also made substantial contributions to this movement. The origin of ordinary language movement can be traced to some developments in linguistic analysis that...

  5. Part II Linguistic Essentialism
    • 4 The Essentialists’ Method of Linguistic Analysis
      (pp. 93-125)

      Linguistic essentialism emerged in the 1960s, reached full flower in the early 1970s, and remains one of the predominant philosophical movements in the 1990s. The emergence of linguistic essentialism differed from that of logical positivism and ordinary language analysis; each of these two movements originally emerged as critical responses to the prior philosophical movement. The decline of the ordinary language analysis movement was due to criticisms coming not from essentialism but from other movements that succeeded ordinary language analysis.

      One of these successor movements is sometimes called the school of Scottish criticism. Consisting of E. Gellner, C. Mundle, P. Heath,...

    • 5 Essentialist Philosophy of Religion
      (pp. 126-157)

      A considerable degree of uniformity could be ascribed to the respective philosophies of religion of the logical realists, logical positivists, and ordinary language philosophers. For example, all the logical positivists adopted the same position in the philosophy of religion: theism and atheism both are cognitively senseless. No such uniformity can be ascribed to the essentialists. Some are theists (Plantinga, William Craig, Robert Adams, Thomas Morris, Brian Leftow), others are either atheists (Nathan Salmon) or agonistics, and still others have not published any opinion (Marcus, Kripke, Putnam, Kaplan). The essentialists who have not published defenses of theism have said virtually nothing...

    • 6 Essentialist Ethics
      (pp. 158-221)

      In chapter 5, I argued that a version of the deductive argument from evil is sound and that God does not exist. This argument implies that human life lacks an objective religious meaning, or at least a monotheistic religious meaning, where such a meaning is understood in terms of an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good being that created the universe.

      I argued in the three chapters of part I that our first-order ethical beliefs imply that ethical sentences have truth-value and sometimes correspond to moral facts that obtain independently of our beliefs about whether they obtain, that is, that human life...

  6. Conclusion: Naturalistic Pantheism
    (pp. 222-244)

    It might appear that our conclusion is that human life lacks a religious meaning but possesses an ethical meaning. But our negative conclusion is merely that it lacks amonotheisticreligious meaning. This conclusion is consistent with the thesis that the religious meaning of human life is described by a naturalistic pantheism. According to naturalistic pantheism, everything (“pan” = all) is holy.

    “Holiness” has a different sense in naturalistic pantheism than it does in monotheism. According to monotheism, holiness implies supernatural purity and maximal metaphysical greatness: perfect goodness, omniscience, omnipotence, eternality. This is the fundamental sense of holiness for monotheism....

  7. Notes
    (pp. 245-252)
  8. Index
    (pp. 253-255)