Philosophy of Religion: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy) Paperback – 26 Nov 1998
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"The central strength of the book is its willingness to argue points out in detail rather than just reporting on arguments. It is a model of rigorous argument applied to questions of religion."-Mark Wynn, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane ..."Yandell's book stands out as an exemplary work in analytical philosophy of religion and readers of this journal ["Philosophia Christi] are indebted to his considerable philosophical acumen...[Yandell] takes us a good way down the path to appreciating the philosophical power of theism. ..."Philosophy of Religion: A Contemporary Introduction is a fine text of interest to the specialist and, with a little help in the classroom, a refreshing resource for students."-Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf College "Philosophia Christi, Spring 2003
About the Author
Keith E. Yandell is professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison
Top Customer Reviews
There are a wide number of issues within the Philosophy of Religion that simply aren't addressed here. The problem of Religious Language is perhaps the most glaring, because a proper consideration of it might have tempered Yandell's hard-headed "positivistic" approach to religion - he treats religious creeds as scientific-type propositions which can be straightforwardly verified or falsified. Such an approach is not obviously wrong, but it requires a preliminary justification that only a rigorous examination of the status of religious language would be able to supply. As a result of this, Non-Cognitivist approaches are summarily dismissed on breathtakingly slender grounds.
In the section on the problem of evil, he consistently fails to distinguish 'evil' and 'suffering', with the result that many of his arguments just don't work. And he invents new (non) problems for the readers edification, such as - is God evil because he allows the extinction of species? Why the extinction of species should matter more than the extinction of individuals, or more than the sort of evil outlined in Dostoyevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov' (the classic source for the philosophical formulation of the problem, but which nowhere appears in this work), we are not told.Read more ›
The answer is idealism, and this must be the poorest expression of it I've yet seen. Expand that type of language-abuse up to the scope of the book, and you have a title that is deeply frustrating to read, even by the low standards of philosophical writing. It also falls prey to the nasty tendency of analytic philosophy by attempting to rebut all possible objections by defining every conceivable term in advance. Such efforts never make the ship watertight, but they do leave it too heavy to float.
Sadly, the content does not reward the effort required to read it. Even when parsed carefully out, and taking in plenty of additional reading to understand exactly what the author is trying to say, the results are poor. The discussion of the cosmological argument is a masterpiece of that awful analytic game of chisholming the poor sentences into submission, until A''''' bears no relation to A, and certainly no relation to sense.
I would counsel against purchasing this book, and if it's the set text for your course, switch while you have the chance!
His style is engaging and logical, being accessible to the intelligent non-philosopher as well as to the specialist.
This introductory work gives a much more global perspective on philosophy of religion than is usual in an introductory volume and for that reason alone is quite exceptional.
Full marks for a provocative, thoughtful and insightful introduction to the subject!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Having said this by way of warning, I will note that Yandell approaches the various standard topics covered in the philosophy of religion with a great deal of intellectual rigor. He is right up there with the best in his ability to show the logical progression of arguments and thereby demonstrate why certain arguments fail to establish their conclusions while others succeed. For someone willing to put in the time and effort, this can be a rewarding work. Unlike some philosophy of religion texts, this one makes ample reference to non-Western religions and evaluates them fairly.
With respect to strengths, the scope of the discussion, the criticism of religious pluralism and the handling of Hinduism and Buddhism are noteworthy. First, with regard to scope, often discussions within the philosophy of religion are limited to Western monotheistic traditions for reasons of comfort and applicability (more amenable to rational analysis), Yandell's move beyond this traditional area with the inclusion of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism is helpful.
Second, the debunking of religious pluralism. Not pluralism in the sense that there is a variety of religions - clearly this is the case - but, rather, in the sense that the different religions are compatible. This notion of compatibility is appealing for many commentators - if true, it would seem to allow for greater toleration and acceptance between faith groups and cultures. As Yandell notes, however, beyond trivial assertion such as the denial of physicalism, the different traditions are incompatible. Broadly speaking, religions offer two things, an assessment of the human condition and a recommendation for its rectification. Even considered superficially the problem/solution claims of the different religions appear irreconcilable. For example Christianity posits sin as the problem and divine forgiveness as the cure, while Buddhism frames the problem as a sense of permanence and the solution as awareness of the transitory nature of existence. It would appear that the only way that these traditions can be equally valid is if they are all incorrect - which does seem to be the underlying contention of religious pluralism.
Third, the application of Western rational criticism to the different Eastern tradition raises interesting and important questions. For instance Yandell argues persuasively that Advaita Vedanta (Monistic) Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism are incoherent from a rational perspective. That is, in the Hindu view, how can things that posses a multiplicity of qualities be equivalent to qualityless Braham? While with regard to Buddhism what is to be made of notions such as karma and the wheel of life in the absence of true personhood? If all there is are transitory bundles of non-enduring states, to what does karma accrue, and, what is liberated from the wheel of life? These are important and interesting questions that warrant greater consideration.
With regard to drawbacks, Yandell occasionally slips into an excessively analytic style; this is especially the case when discussing Western Monotheism. While understandable given that the arguments in this area are well rehearsed this approach may strike some readers as unnecessarily pedantic and a bit irksome. I imagine that many readers in the target audience (relatively new undergrads), would find some of this argumentation discouraging and confusing. And last, the text seems to peter out in a rather disjointed manner; a subsequent edition would benefit from a concluding chapter to bring together the text's many threads.
Overall, a good read with some valuable insights. I recommend it for readers seeking a critical and contemporary discussion of the philosophy of religion
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