Friday, December 12, 2008

And so it goes...

As the semester comes to an end, so does D. Z. Phillpis' Religion and the Hermeneutics of Contemplation. I think his final chapter parallels (however near or far) William James's broad view with religion. Both seem to posit that the hermeneutics of contemplation is the most honest approach at bringing justice to the possibilities of philosophy and religion.

Phillips says, "we have seen how difficult it is, philosophically, to do justice to the world around us. My main concern has been with doing justice to possibilities of the religious sense" (325). Phillips discusses the flaws with the other hermeneutical approaches (suspicion and recollection), as each has an agenda to doubt or prevents opposing values to be themselves. Phillips continues, writing "here, too, clarity would show opposition in a truer light. Both hermeneutics are clouded by their apologetic resolve. The hermeneutics of contemplation strives against this temptation" (325). He follows, describing the force behind contemplation, explaining "its inspiration comes from wonder at the world in all its variety, and the constant struggle to give account of it" (325). I'm glad Phillips said this, because the picture was blurry in regard to what morals and cultures we are dealing with. But Phillips says it isn't a specific culture, rather the "world in all its variety."

So what is the reason behind philosophical contemplation? Philips says, "philisophocal contemplation, in trying to do justice to what it surveys, is not itself an attempt to arrive at a specific moral or religious viewpoint, but an effort to understand the kinds of phenomena we are confronted by in morality and religion." Of course, the problem of personal bias comes into concern, and it is the responsibility of the philosopher to give an honest account. Phillips continues on this concern, saying "that unless different views can be resolved in terms of reasons wider than themselves which they all appeal to, they are reduced to personal preferences and thus lose their imperative" (323). One approach to the solution is to eliminate the boundaries that separate those perspectives is to say different viewpoints are perspectives on the same reality.

This is just a small sliver of the philosophical pie, and Phillips is one philospher serving it up. He concludes that "Old problems keep coming back in new forms, and cultural developments may occasion new problems…And so it will go on" (325-6). And while Phillips is concerned with the authority or high self-worth the philosopher may hold while "hovering over the limitations and indeterminacy of our comprehension, or lack of comprehension" (319). Winch upholds the philosopher's role, saying that the "difference between someone who accepts and lives by a position with clear understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, of where it may lead him, of what the alternatives are, and someone who does not understand these things" (Trying to Make Sense).