The Realist Hope

A Critique of Anti-Realist Approaches in Contemporary Philosophical Theology

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  • Christopher J. Insole, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Series : Heythrop Studies in Contemporary Philosophy, Religion and Theology
  • Taking into consideration analytical, continental, historical, post-modern and contemporary thinkers, Insole provides a powerful defence of a realist construal of religious discourse. Insole argues that anti-realism tends towards absolutism and hubris. Where truth is exhausted by our beliefs about truth, there is no conceptual space for doubting those beliefs; only a conception of truth as absolute, given and accessible can guarantee the very humility, sense of fallibility and sensitivity to difference that the anti-realist rightly values.

    Cutting through some of the tired and well-rehearsed debates in this area, Insole provides a fresh perspective on approaches influenced by Wittgenstein, Kant, and apophatic theology. The defence of realism offered is unusual in being both analytically precise, and theologically sensitive, with a view to some of the wider and less well-explored cultural, ethical and political implications of the debate.

  • Contents: Introduction; The scope and meaning of religious language; The relativity of truth to language games; Truth in italics; Worldmaking; Rumours of Kant; Hick and the Noumenal Jam-Pot; Kaufman and the Kantian mystery; The new apophaticism and the return of the anthropomorphic; Violence, breaking and gift: realism and postmodern philosophy of religion; The brokenness of divine language; Why anti-realism breaks up relationships; References; Index.

  • About the Author: Christopher J. Insole is Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at the University of Cambridge, UK.

  • Reviews: 'This book analyses, and finally rejects, various forms of anti-realism which have had a wide influence in theology over the past two centuries. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to readers.'
    Professor Richard Swinburne, Oxford.

    'This book is written in a lively style, pursuing energetic and irreverent arguments against the philosophical and theological mandarins with a persuasive reasonableness and an urgent sense of conviction.'
    Professor Oliver O'Donovan, Oxford

    ‘… arguments of great intricacy are handled with a bracing economy of style and with commendable clarity.…a stimulating and engagingly written study, which not only provides an informative conspectus of much recent theology, but also discloses fascinating connections between current thought about God and the metaphysical and epistemological debates about truth, knowledge and reality that lie at the heart of mainstream secular philosophy.’
    Times Literary Supplement

    'This fine study tackles, and persuasively shows numerous deficiencies in, widespread contemporary anti-realist approaches to religious belief and language... Insole writes with sympathy for those positions he attacks and dismantles, not least because he explains how attractive he himself in the past has found some of them; and at times displays a nice dry humour... Insole always provides lucid summaries of the key issues... this is an important addition to every institutional library where philosophical theology is studied.'
    Theological Book Review

  • Extracts from this title are available to view:

    Full contents list

    Introduction

    Index