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The Future of Religion: Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo Paperback – 22 Jul 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; New Ed edition (22 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231134959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231134958
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 0.6 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,265,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"Recommended for large academic Libraries" -- "Library Journal"

"This brief book opens a vista onto the thought of two... helpful thinkers." -- Jeffrey Dudiak, "Philosophy in Review"

" "The Future of Religion" is the perfect primer in post-metaphysical historicism." -- Paul J. Griffiths, "First Things"

"We're lucky then, to have The Future of Religion...unlike so many voices we've heard in the last week, Rorty and Vattimo think big about Catholicism." -- Carlin Romano, "Philadelphia Inquirer"

"Intellectually stimulating." -- James J. DiCenso, "Journal of the American Academy of Religion"

"We're lucky then, to have "The Future of Religion,.".unlike so many voices we've heard in the last week, Rorty and Vattimo think big about Catholicism." -- Carlin Romano, "Philadelphia Inquirer"

"Recommended for large academic Libraries" -- Library Journal

"Intellectually stimulating." -- James J. DiCenso, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"This brief book opens a vista onto the thought of two... helpful thinkers." -- Jeffrey Dudiak, Philosophy in Review

" The Future of Religion is the perfect primer in post-metaphysical historicism." -- Paul J. Griffiths, First Things

"We're lucky then, to have The Future of Religion ...unlike so many voices we've heard in the last week, Rorty and Vattimo think big about Catholicism." -- Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Recommended for large academic Libraries" -- "Library Journal"

"Intellectually stimulating." -- James J. DiCenso, "Journal of the American Academy of Religion"

"This brief book opens a vista onto the thought of two... helpful thinkers." -- Jeffrey Dudiak, "Philosophy in Review"

" "The Future of Religion" is the perfect primer in post-metaphysical historicism." -- Paul J. Griffiths, "First Things"

"We're lucky then, to have "The Future of Religion"...unlike so many voices we've heard in the last week, Rorty and Vattimo think big about Catholicism." -- Carlin Romano, "Philadelphia Inquirer"

"The Future of Religion" is the perfect primer in post-metaphysical historicism.--Paul J. Griffiths"First Things" (01/01/0001)

Intellectually stimulating.--James J. DiCenso"Journal of the American Academy of Religion" (01/01/0001)

This brief book opens a vista onto the thought of two... helpful thinkers.--Jeffrey Dudiak"Philosophy in Review" (01/01/0001)

We're lucky then, to have "The Future of Religion."..unlike so many voices we've heard in the last week, Rorty and Vattimo think big about Catholicism.--Carlin Romano"Philadelphia Inquirer" (01/01/0001)

"The Future of Religion" is the perfect primer in post-metaphysical historicism.--Paul J. Griffiths"First Things" (01/01/0001)

We're lucky then, to have The Future of Religion...unlike so many voices we've heard in the last week, Rorty and Vattimo think big about Catholicism.

--Carlin Romano"Philadelphia Inquirer" (01/01/0001)

The Future of Religion is the perfect primer in post-metaphysical historicism.

--Paul J. Griffiths"First Things" (01/01/0001)

This brief book opens a vista onto the thought of two... helpful thinkers.

--Jeffrey Dudiak"Philosophy in Review" (01/01/0001)

Intellectually stimulating.

--James J. DiCenso"Journal of the American Academy of Religion" (01/01/0001)

About the Author

Richard Rorty (1931-2007) was professor of comparative literature and philosophy at Stanford University. His Columbia University Press books are An Ethics for Today: Finding Common Ground Between Philosophy and Religion and What's the Use of Truth?Gianni Vattimo is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Turin and a member of the European Parliament. His books with Columbia University Press are Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith: A Dialogue (with Ren Girard), Not Being God: A Collaborative Autobiography, Art's Claim to Truth, After the Death of God, Dialogue with Nietzsche, Nihilism and Emancipation: Ethics, Politics, and the Law, and After Christianity.Santiago Zabala is ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona. He is the author of The Remains of Being: Hermeneutic Ontology After Metaphysics and The Hermeneutic Nature of Analytic Philosophy: A Study of Ernst Tugendhat; editor of Art's Claim to Truth, Weakening Philosophy, and Nihilism and Emancipation; and coeditor (with Jeff Malpas) of Consequences of Hermeneutics.

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Format: Paperback
This book is not an easy read. However is not too complicated to allow you to get a glimpse into what these guys want to tell you. I have discovered it while reading books by Tomas Halik, Czech sociologist and a devout Christian who forges new ways about how to 'understand' God.
The book by Vattimo and Rorty, both competent enough to re-think old concepts, chimes with what Halik is talking about in his books - the end of metaphysics and its effects on religious thinking and society in general being the main topic. What I have found extremely interesting is Vattimos theory of KENOSIS or 'emptiness'. In terms of being a human it means to 'empty' the space of one's soul for God to enter (see also D.T.Suzuki:Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist). However, in terms of God's perspective KENOSIS is to be seen as a total 'hand-over' of His will to human beings, the incarnation of Christ being the perfection thereof. Through such reasoning, Vattimo arrives at an interesting declaration: the secularization - perceived by many as a threat to the existence of Christianity as such - is the basic attribute of genuine religious experience. As I am a keen student of Zen-Buddhism, I cannot not to see resemblances between Vattimo's interpretation of Kenosis and Zen-buddhist theory of 'becoming HERE-and-NOW'. This, of course has far-reaching implications for understanding God. In his latest book Halik quotes from Bible saying that God is so close that you can't see him - is this not to say that God is everything we do and that God is our life? And is this not what Zen-Buddhism defines as Satori? I liked this tiny book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overcoming Dualism; Or How To Get to the Market via Mars 30 Mar. 2005
By Dr. D. E. McClean - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo have given us a work that may be described as an important part of an answer to two important questions that modernity has not yet engaged constructively. First, How may modernity come to terms with the religious impulse that is still alive and well in the modern world even after over a century of the hegemony of science and rationalism? Second, How may those who do not hear the music of religion begin to understand those who do, rather than throw stones at them across a dualistic divide (and vice versa)? Richard Rorty, ever evolving in his philosophical thought, exposes himself as once caught in a dualism concerning religious faith. In this book, he laments that he has in the past branded himself an "atheist" and observed the need for a more nuanced description of his thinking concerning religion and religious belief. The "atheist" label, once self-applied, is now rejected. It is rejected not because he has "come to Jesus" or "has seen the Light" but because it plays into a zero-sum, dualistic game that Rorty knows he can do without. ("Atheist," which is both an epistemologically and metaphysically charged word, is replaced with "anti-clerical" because of its political use.) To use his own language from other of his writings, "atheist" is a kind of "conversation stopper" in the sense that it truncates active and fruitful discourse with those of his fellows who brand themselves "theists." This indicates evolution in Rorty's thought, but it is perfectly in line with his antifoundationalism and his governing ethical value - his so-called "liberal ironism." Thus, Rorty is prepared, as never before, for his conversation with Gianni Vattimo, a Catholic intellectual whose approach to the philosophy of religion is Gadamerian and Nietzschean, that is to say hermeneutical.

Vattimo takes us through an ambitious and bold analysis. He attempts to transform nihilism into a salutary outlook, and claims that this salutary nihilism is a result of the history of a long discussion about the meaning of the Gospels and of the Cross. This is, in fact, a jolting and novel perspective that will make the reader (as well as more conservative Catholic intellectuals) sit up and take notice. At times, however, Vattimo seems to conflate "nihilism" with "skepticism," especially where he argues against the positivistic notion that any knowledge claim needs science's blessing in order to be taken seriously. For Vattimo, both the Church and science valorize a false "objectivism" and a pursuit of "Truth" at the expense of truths - that is, at the expense of what William James referred to as the truths accumulated through lived experience in community; the truths that actually make life worth living. Vattimo argues that one of the worst faults of Catholic church leadership (and the leadership of other confessions) is its clinging to this kind of positivist objectivism in theological and social matters, rather than embracing the Church as an important institution that provides useful and interesting ways to interpret the world. The Church's long history of vying with science for the chair of objective Truth has led it down the wrong epistemological road. Thus, it is easy to see how Vattimo and Rorty have critical common ground. For Rorty, the same epistemological wrong turn has led Western philosophy down a similarly unfruitful road, and attempted to make philosophy "the mirror of nature" rather than a discourse about how to live fruitful lives with ample space for poetry, myth and solidarity.

The upshot of Rorty's antifoundationalism and of Vattimo's hermeneutics is that charity (love) is what modernity must aim for. But is all of this discussion about antifoundationalism and hermeneutics, of Gadamer and Nietzsche, really necessary to get us to a conclusion that saints and prophets and martyrs have been reaching for thousands of years without such intellectual convolutions? Is this conversation not like driving to the market by way of Mars? Well, in some sense. But note that this book is aimed at a highly educated and somewhat elite (not to say elitist) slice of humanity who actually take subjects like philosophy and theology seriously. For some, a naked slogan like "love is the answer" simply won't do. It is, of course, a very important answer and, as far as this reviewer is concerned, if some need to go to Mars to come around to that conclusion, if some need to be given permission by elite intellectuals to begin to take such slogans seriously, then Rorty and Vattimo have done a service here. No book is for everyone, after all, and I lament no approach that may win over even small populations of intellectual readers to a planetary love ethic.

All this said, a book with this title ought to take into consideration the insights of different faith traditions. Vattimo is right to stick to what he knows best, but his sticking solely to what he knows best is problematic. Rorty's own conception of religious faith seems equally narrow, and always has. To tackle such a broad subject as the future of religion, both Rorty and Vattimo would have done well to survey alternatives - different modes and types of religious thought. This is the one failure of the book. For one cannot talk about the future of religion without considering a broad enough swath of the ways religion plays out in the modern world. If that were done here, claims such as that "interiority" was introduced into the world by considering the meaning of the Cross (Vattimo), or that the principal divide in religious thought is or was between theists and athiests (Rorty) would have been more nuanced, or not made at all.

A Postscript (August 2010): This review seems to have been somewhat useful, and has even been quoted in scholarly journals. I did not expect that when I wrote it. My doctoral dissertation, "Richard Rorty and Cosmopolitan Hope," and an essay I wrote for the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, "The Theological Uses of Rortian Irony," may also be of interest. Both are available on the web, and both address Rorty's views of religion.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NEW MAP FOR THE REALMS OF BELIEF 16 Feb. 2005
By Jon Fobes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not long ago an Amish teen from Chardon, Ohio, was killed when he tried to dislodge a sagging power line tangled in the wheels of his horse-drawn buggy. Such tragedies highlight the gaps between a faith-based existence and life in the modern world and reveal that we need to be mindful of how the other half lives. Philosophers Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo believe that the secular and faith-based worlds are becoming irrevocably estranged. This is what I take from my reading of "The Future of Religion," edited and with an introduction by Santiago Zabala. I think this slim volume of two essays and a question-and-answer section will be open to a wide variety of readings; this reaction is only one interpretation.

Rorty and Vattimo believe a drastic split is imminent between modern, secular life and traditional belief in mainstream religion. And they want to build a bridge between these worlds, to save something important to many people: belief in something larger than themselves. The only problem is that the religious life they suggest -- an interior life of private meaning or the "nihilism" of Christianity -- is probably either incomprehensible or offensive to most ordinary churchgoers. But you decide. I'm already on board.

One way to grasp "The Future of Religion" is through a quote from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "There are no facts, only interpretations." But the authors want Nietzsche to add this phrase: "... and this is an interpretation." This means that the authors believe our era is poised to grasp the relative nature of all beliefs, a theory that echoes Isaiah Berlin's idea that there is "no Archimedean point" outside ourselves, our history, our language or our concepts where we can stand to achieve an objective viewpoint toward all that we claim to know or believe. It also relates to Ludwig Wittgenstein's idea that "all testing, all confirmation and disconfirmation of a hypothesis takes place already within a system," and that we are not taught truth but, "judgments and their connection with other judgments."

To the best of our knowledge the burning questions about "the truth of the matter" have reference to nothing more than our personal background or shared history. Understanding this concept strips away the deadly energy that fuels so many of today's conflicts, or at least it would if it were widely understood. And it means that all the pressing issues and heated debates about science and religion -- each of which wants to be the sole source of ultimate truth for humankind -- may some day be seen as nothing more than a symptom of our inadequacies. Rorty and Vattimo help us transcend such facile debates through an understanding of the finer points of pragmatism and hermeneutics, and this is where the typical reader is likely to furrow his brow. Enlightenment is a tough sell.

While I get more inspiration from Rorty's views, Vattimo will shock the churchgoer with his belief that the modern secular world isn't different from Christianity but the very culmination of it. He believes that when God incarnated himself in Jesus, he basically turned the world over to us lock, stock and barrel. Moreover, Vattimo believes the ultimate message of Christianity dissolves all notions of objectivity, eroding the very claims most believers cite as proof. Religion looks very different from this perspective. "This is not your father's Oldsmobile!"

Let's get back to that tangled buggy and its relationship to our American way of life. Rorty and Vattimo promote their views as being crucial to democracy, and this is where they run head-on into President George W. Bush and his faith-based presidency. Rorty and Vattimo seem to be saying that fundamentalism and democracy can't long endure together. Traditional religion depends on fixed and final truths; democracy is built on innovation and diversity -- hence, the disconnect.

We know that when the church bans same-sex marriage or women in the clergy, some people -- those with one foot firmly in the open society -- back off, the same way they would avoid a power line in tangled in their wheels. And they may decide to leave the buggy where it is and hitch a ride on something better. While it might take a while to grasp all the wonderful insights in "The Future of Religion," once you catch on, you'll know how to avoid the shock of transition when moving from one realm of belief to another.

It's a good thing to know.

(See longer essay on [...] 2005 home page)
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars would make a nice master's thesis: that's it 18 May 2013
By barryb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

1. A superb publisher of post-modern work like Columbia university press.
2. Zabala's real gift for clarity and comprehensive understanding of the context of post-modern thinking.
3. Vattimo's true creativity in presenting the hermeneutics of "weak thought"
4. An finally, Rorty , who has generally been ignored and deserved some exposure.


The three great thinkers here present us with a triad of the post-modern context:


the problems that exist with this project are as follows:

1. Rorty deserved more space and needed it to produce more content. (I had to go on-line and supplement the Rorty essay because of this "lack".

2. Zabala needed to introduce the writers in a more structured manner and especially so that Rorty's invisibility could become visible.

3. The expected guidelines sent to each writer, in advance for the project, should have been more demanding with regard to content. At least an outline of : deconstruction, re-construction, positing , and finally mediation. Columbia press already knows this (they are post-modern experts). But these guidelines and expectations were missing.

4. The concluding summation by Zabala is overly- slanted towards Vattimo (I get it. He is a co-writer with Vattimo on other projects).

If you are in the process of submitting a proposal for your master's thesis (not PhD); this outline would be excellent to undertake and write correctly, with real substantial content.

the project is superb; the result was horrible. But Zabala has other great work. 2 generous stars. Skip this half-book.
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baptists need not apply 10 Oct. 2005
By William S Jamison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The article by Rorty, "Anticlericalism and Atheism" described to a "T" the niche I am familiar with through Unitarian Universalism. Since they are simply an example of a broader set of folks that fit in this niche I am sure it describes a group larger than, say, a million people. I am not sure how much larger a group it fits. I also suspect that in order to fit in this niche, to have a similar enough web of belief that there is sufficient family resemblance that in a language game about grand narratives, what counts for an individual in this niche must go through a lot of the philosophically "bad" questions to come to the conclusion that those were bad questions. We have to start simply, even if not as simply as Augustine might have described it. (So there should always be a market for that.)

So if the topic is the future of religion we should note how small a market is at stake here. Baptists need not apply. There are books being written for larger audiences with titles like, "God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" by Jim Wallis (number 135 on the Amazon list with 155 reviews compared to "The Future of Religion" (number 400,363 on the Amazon list with 5 reviews.) That comparison was just a shot in the dark.

That being said, Rorty is right on target in describing a niche market I am familiar with and I appreciate the insights. As usual, Rorty says better than I could what I think I thought before I read it. Now I know I think it.

Gianni Vattimo too is interesting: ""If "facts" thus appear to be nothing but interpretations, interpretation, on the other hand, presents itself as (the ) fact: hermeneutics is not a philosophy but the enunciation of historical existence itself in the age of the end of metaphysics." (p. 45) I confess to being attracted to the book because of Rorty but now will be looking into Vattimo's "After Christianity".

Zabala I found a little more difficult but perhaps that was just because he had the harder job to do.
7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Postmodern Assessment 15 Mar. 2005
By Paul Carleton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for these philosophers' assessment of "The Future of Religion" in order to compare their ideas with mine in "Concepts: A ProtoTheist Quest for Science-Minded Skeptics." As a bonus it gave me insight into why postmodernists don't seem interested in my scientific assessment of religion's past and future.

I've read this little book twice in an attempt to understand postmodernists. But perhaps `understand' is not an appropriate word for a postmodern work; `interpret' would be better since they hold that "there are no facts, only interpretations" (p.52, quoting Nietzsche), that everything is subjective as interpreted by whoever is doing the experiencing and that knowledge is arrived at thru inter-subjective dialog. True to form, they respect one another's points of view eventho' Vattimo is a devout (tho' not uncritical) Catholic whereas Rorty has called himself an atheist (altho' now he prefers `anti-clericalist'). Both seem to reject supernatural powers (altho' Vattimo speaks of salvation), referring to our age as post-metaphysical.

I agree that everyone's entitled to their own opinion but only if they've done their homework (to quote Harry T. Cook), only if they've endeavored to first get the `facts'; otherwise a dialog among such folks is only pooled ignorance. But even if they've done their homework, postmodernists seem attuned more to history than to scientific explanations (episodic thinking rather than paradigmatic thinking, in Merlin Donald's terminology). Indeed these postmodernists speak of `historicity' and `anti-essentialism'. Certainly, our brain/mind must interpret (mostly pre-consciously) the sense data coming into it, using clues from others, in order to guess what's outside of us. Even so, most of our guesses are pretty good else we'd never survive in this world. Denying that there's any objective reality seems absurd. Admittedly our ancestors have made some bad guesses, such as believing in a flat-earth or in gods, but in recent times science has imposed burdens of proof.

So I can recommend this book if you want to see where postmoderns are coming from and where they think religion is going -- they have some intriguing ideas. But if you're receptive to the explanatory ability of science, I'd suggest Pascal Boyer's "Religion Explained," Dean Hamer's "The God Gene," Sam Harris' "The End of Faith," M.D. Faber's "The Psychological Roots of Religious Belief" and/or my book.
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