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The Spiritual Dimension: Religion, Philosophy and Human Value Paperback – 15 Sep 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (15 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521604974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521604970
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.2 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 415,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'… beautifully written and beautifully produced …' The Tablet

'I've been telling everyone enthusiastically about … [Cottingham's] … new book The Spiritual Dimension … not because I agree with everything in it, but because it so compellingly articulates matters of the first importance …' Daily Telegraph

'John Cottingham has followed up his excellent On the Meaning of Life with this equally fine book. … let me end by strongly recommending anyone interested in religion to read this human, wide-ranging, judicious, and highly suggestive book.' The Philosophical Quarterly

'He (Cottingham) has worked hard to make the book accessible to a non-specialist audience … The tone is at all times reasonable, generous, and fair. … it will be welcome to all those who have to engage their atheist or agnostic friends, and who want to do so away from the clichés and cheap put-downs that informs so much of this kind of debate. Humane and generous, it is a fine example of faith seeking understanding.' Church Times

'His book will engage anyone who thinks spirituality is worth talking about - theist, atheist or agnostic. Clearly and humanely, he lays out the ground upon which any truly interesting philosophy of religion must be done.' The Philosophers' Magazine

'This book can be highly recommended as an important contribution to the philosophy of religion from the perspective emphasizing praxis and participation rather than the atomistic analysis of beliefs.' Theology, Ethics and Philosophy

'As efforts to re-contextualise spirituality within technology and religion are increasing, Cottingham's scholarly and aptly titled work makes a most useful contribution to these endeavours … Beautifully written … remarkably clear, this is an indispensable and timely study … A particular attraction of this study is the way in which Cottingham appeals to reason to justify his concern with spirituality … A broadly conceived book, it has much to recommend. It is rich, laden with insight, and bears careful study.' Journal of Contemporary Religion

'Cottingham's effort in this book is an example of how philosophy can be supportive to religion, enlisting psychology as an ally in the process …' Journal of Religious Studies

'… this is an original and stimulating work, which will profit specialist and general readers alike. It is highly recommended.' Philosophical Investigations

'… a very recommendable book. It is rich in analysis, observations and reflections, and it is clear in argument. It is not only for professional philosophers, but for theologians and students as well. … by introducing themes close to psychology like dependency, vulnerability, personal growth and self-insight as part of the repertoire of philosophy of religion, he advances a position that is in content very similar to parts of the continental (and phenomenological) philosophy of religion, but nevertheless his is an understanding of religion firmly based in the post-Wittgensteinian, Anglo-Saxon tradition. As such, this book could be seen as a bridge-builder between different traditions and academic disciplines.' Ars Disputandi

Book Description

The Spiritual Dimension offers a new model for philosophy of religion. Accessibly written and wide-ranging in scope, it connects the spiritual search for self-awareness and moral growth with the philosophical quest to understand the cosmos and our relationship to it.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Peter T. Hardy on 25 July 2011
Format: Paperback
With subtlety and eloquence the author defends the rationality of a range of religious concerns which are all too often misrepresented inside academia as well as outside of it. This focuses on the 'primacy of praxis'- the practice of religion being more important than abstract theories and theologies. Refreshingly it transcends the amateurism of the recent and ongoing 'New Atheism' debate.

I had to read one chapter as part of a philosophy course but it was so good that before I knew it I had read the whole book. It would serve very well as a set text for an A-Level or university philosophy of religion course. I hesitate to brand it as 'life changing' but for me personally it played a big part in my returning to religion after several years as a sceptic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm U on 7 Jan 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Cottingham knows where he's going and wants to take others with him. I love both his style of writing and his approach to the philosophy of religion. In contrast to Richard Dawkins Cottingham presents a world view that is meaningful for us humans. We are not lumbering robots programmed to serve the purposes of our genes, a product of random mutation and survival pressure. The Spiritual dimension deals with a number of important aspects of human nature. Particularly of interest to me is his insights into the obectivity of moral goodness and truth. His idea of the multilayered nature of religious discourse is profound. His reference to the polyphonic music of Bach is most appropriate in relation to understanding spiritual ideas. He mentions the Bass recitative from the final act of Bach's St Matthew Passion and the layers of meaning between the music and his librettist Picander. It was this remarkable section in the chapter "Religion and Language" that opened up for me an entirely new way of understanding the spiritual dimension of or existence.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Cottingham rightly argues for room for a spiritual dimension in human life and understanding. Humanity is holistic, extending beyond the physical, rational, intellectual and ‘evidential’. Naturalism and physicalism are insufficient accounts. There is life beyond the ambit of science, although he doesn’t investigate the epistemology of science sufficiently critically. Religion should present as praxis rather than doctrine. He therefore dismisses the conservative evangelical doctrinal simplicities and Enlightenment rejection of theologians Tom Wright and John Caputo (p114). He is curiously and vaguely scathing of ‘contemporary moral philosophers’ (p142), whilst considering a spirituality defined to include sceptics and agnostics as ‘bought at too high a price’ (p161). Meanwhile, in some contradiction, he wants spirituality to relate to truth (p156), which he considers to reduce the potential for pluralism. He prefers an exogenous theist spirituality, rather than an endogenous prevenient human spirituality.

Cottingham is in fact presenting an apology for his own specific theism to which he jumps in his concluding pages with scant justification. He conflates religion and spirituality. He worries whether spirituality might achieve virtue (p128). An alternative account is that spirituality is itself virtue. An exploration of virtue might therefore offer a more compelling content of spirituality, rather than the mere argument to allow spirituality which Cottingham presents. And a prevenient endogenous human spirituality which embraced theism and atheism would be a more inclusive and therefore more effective call.

Geoff Crocker
Author ‘An Enlightened Philosophy – Can an Atheist Believe Anything?’
Editor atheistspirituality dot net
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Sophisticated Philosophical Defense of Religious Belief 13 July 2011
By "Sadra" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I found this to be a very well written and engaging defense of religion from someone who is an authority in modern philosophical academic debates. It expands on his shorter book "The Meaning of Life." For those with an interest and preferably some background in philosophy, Cottingham leads one through what I assume are the best or latest responses of a Christian believer to a variety of critiques that seek to "defeat" the religious viewpoint. The arguments are not only applicable to Christian religion but to all Abrahamic religions (I think).

One of Cottingham's main points, which I found persuasive, is to stress that the validity of the religious perspective is less about intellectual proofs and logical rigor in argumentation and more about what he calls "praxis" by which he means the practice of living a spiritual life. It is more about the heart than about the mind. He draws on Pascal's idea that "belief" comes from practicing a form of life as if it were true. This seems right - also about some other aspects of life, such as marriage is which one learns (hopefully) to love your partner in deeper and profound ways. Faith is to bet on the validity of hope and trust in a ultimately good future and universe.

Cottingham also makes a strong case for the non incompatibility of faith and reason, religion and science. But he could have explained (for us non-academics) a little bit more his claim that the standard scientific philosophies (verificationism, empiricism etc) have "self-destructed" and therefore are no longer as authoritative as the popular culture seems still to believe. Also he could have given more everyday examples of why "evidence" is not always necessary for belief since it is counter-intuitive.

At points I felt his (Roman Catholic?) philosophical leanings tend to an overly rationalistic formulation obscuring the element of mystery and paradox involved in knowing God's truth. ("My thoughts are not your thoughts"). There is a lot more to this wide-ranging and humble book than I have touched on here. I would highly recommend it.
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
The Most Important Book? 8 Aug 2006
By jtq - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read most of this book, and as I read, I repeatedly ask myself: "Is this the most important book I have ever read?" I bow to the Bible. There was "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" when I was ten, and my college text on British Literature when I was 18. Now this.

My forty-year career in psychiatry would have been radically illumined if I had had this book. My fairly lonely (Christian) hesitation about CS Lewis has been explained to me as avoidance of the trap of accepting only the rational as scientifically reasonable discourse, without the "humane."

Perhaps the limits in my worldview make me inordinately grateful, but this book feels like a miracle.
An effective argument for spirituality, but too limited to theism 23 Oct 2014
By Geoff Crocker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
John Cottingham rightly argues for room for a spiritual dimension in human life and understanding. Humanity is holistic, extending beyond the physical, rational, intellectual and ‘evidential’. Naturalism and physicalism are insufficient accounts. There is life beyond the ambit of science, although he doesn’t investigate the epistemology of science sufficiently critically. Religion should present as praxis rather than doctrine. He therefore dismisses the conservative evangelical doctrinal simplicities and Enlightenment rejection of theologians Tom Wright and John Caputo (p114). He is curiously and vaguely scathing of ‘contemporary moral philosophers’ (p142), whilst considering a spirituality defined to include sceptics and agnostics as ‘bought at too high a price’ (p161). Meanwhile, in some contradiction, he wants spirituality to relate to truth (p156), which he considers to reduce the potential for pluralism. He prefers an exogenous theist spirituality, rather than an endogenous prevenient human spirituality.

Cottingham is in fact presenting an apology for his own specific theism to which he jumps in his concluding pages with scant justification. He conflates religion and spirituality. He worries whether spirituality might achieve virtue (p128). An alternative account is that spirituality is itself virtue. An exploration of virtue might therefore offer a more compelling content of spirituality, rather than the mere argument to allow spirituality which Cottingham presents. And a prevenient endogenous human spirituality which embraced theism and atheism would be a more inclusive and therefore more effective call.

Geoff Crocker
Author ‘An Enlightened Philosophy – Can an Atheist Believe Anything?’
Editor 'Atheist Spirituality' web site
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