"Religious Philosophy of Fifteen Writers",
a review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star,
August 15, 1965,
of a book:
RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHIES OF THE WEST,
by George F. Thomas.
Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, 1965
"Religious Philosophy Of Fifteen
RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHIES OF THE WEST.
By George F. Thomas.
Charles Scribner's Sons. 454 pages. $7.95.
In this volume the professor of
religion at Princeton gives us brief accounts of the ideas of 15
philosophical writers. Each chapter is headed by a catch phrase, such as
"Theistic Idealism" (Plato), "Medieval Mysticism" (Eckhardt),
"Skepticism" (Hume), or "Absolute Idealism" (Hegel), but no indication
is given as to how many such points of view the general subject of
"Religious Philosophy" contains, and there is, in each ease, little
justification as to why the individual chosen illustrates the
catch-phrase category. On the whole, the connective tissue which might
bind these chapters into an organic whole is missing, and the book
itself lacks any explicit general framework. It is not an analytical
work, and it is equally not a historical study.
Analytically, no indication is given as to what is included in the
subject "religious philosophy." I might guess that it would deal with
three subjects: (1) the nature of God, (2) the nature of man, and (3)
the relationship between God and man, with possible bridges over the gap
between the two.
Prof. Thomas gives no indication of what "religious philosophy"
means to him, and his discussion of his 15 writers does not show that he
is looking for any specific topics, such as the three I mention. His
inclusion of Feuerbach and omission of any reference to Pascal leave me
doubtful as to what qualified a writer for admission to the book. Each
chapter provides a concise potted summary of the outlook of the thinker,
with his religious ideas emphasized not much more than his metaphysics
or epistemology. Since the author denies any intention of writing a
history of religious thought or of philosophical thought concerned with
religion (p. xvi), we cannot criticize him for his failure to mention
the most significant developments in these fields in recent centuries
(such as those associated with Jansenism, Pietism, Methodism, or
practical Christianity), but the author's failure to provide either an
analytical or a historical framework leave the volume with what Pitirim
Sorokin called "the chief element of unity in most modern books — the
— Carroll Quigley.