In this book, Keith Ward argues that the Western philosophical tradition from Plato onwards has, for the most part, held the idea that the universe reflects the workings of an underlying rational Mind to be eminently intellectually respectable. This Mind may be calls God, and it can be seen as giving value and purpose to the world we know. Starting with Plato's view of the world as the manifestation of an underlying Form that is supremely rational, Ward has an interesting analysis of links between the thought of Aquinas and the insights of modern cosmology, and argues the case for Descartes as not quite the arch-materialist he is sometimes held to be. Berkeley's belief that the very existence of matter depends on a Mind is cogently made, and in a way that made me want to read up more on this somewhat neglected 18th-century thinker. Perhaps his clearest chapters are, surprisingly, on Hegel and Schopenhauer as supporters of an `Idealist' view of the world as guided by a rational Mind.
The going gets rather tougher, though, and in my view less intellectually rigorous, when we get onto Hume, Kant and Nietzsche. I should point out that this is a pretty demanding book in places if you're starting from little or no knowledge of the thinkers in question. Ward challenges the logic of Hume's empiricism, arguing that Hume's thought, based as it is on the validity of sense-data alone, undermines this rational basis of the (mathematical) `truths' of modern cosmology that are amenable to rationality, but not derived from empirical observation. But Ward seems to assert the prior status of rationality here, rather than offering a fully cogent argument for it, just as in his chapters on Kant he seems to object to Kant's division of the `phenomenal' and the `noumenal' more forcefully than cogently. On Nietzsche, he insists (rather than argues) that constrained freedom is somehow more valuable than limitless freedom.
As a result, the author's claim in the final chapter that `God' is the best defence of the intelligibility of the cosmos, the objective importance of moral ideals and the `affirmation of goodness, the joy and the beauty of life', is perhaps more impassioned than it is altogether convincing. The parts that are convincing are satisfyingly so, but I was left with the feeling that I'd need to read more on Hume, Kant and Nietzsche before deciding whether I felt able to agree or disagree with Ward.