"The Problem of Atheism In Novak’s Analysis",
A review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star, January 2,
of a book.
BELIEF AND UNBELIEF: A Philosophy of Self-Knowledge,
by Michael Novak.
New York: The Macmillan Company: New York, 1965.
"The Problem of Atheism In Novak’s Analysis"
Washington Sunday Star
2 January, 1966
The Problem of Atheism In Novak’s Analysis
BELIEF AND UNBELIEF: A Philosophy of Self-Knowledge.
By Michael Novak.
The Macmillan Company: 223 pages. $4.95.
Michael Novak, professor of philosophy
and a Roman Catholic, is best known for his previous book, "The Open
Church: Vatican II." He is not a cloistered academic but a man deeply
concerned with real problems which must be discussed in laymen's terms.
In the present volume he examines the problem of atheism in a
distinctive way which is very helpful. He feels that the present period
of unbelief, going back into the last century, was preceded by a period
of belief. Each of these had its own vocabulary for dealing with man's
experience of God, but neither of these is very serviceable today. In
view of the transcendental and effable nature of God, these vocabularies
are not themselves part of the nature of God but simply convenient
symbols in which each period tried to think and to communicate about
Today, when neither vocabulary is any longer helpful, man's
experiences of God still occur, but, for lack of an adequate vocabulary,
men cannot think about or discuss the problem, and, instead, get into
confusion and disputes which are not concerned with God but with the
choice between two obsolescent vocabularies.
According to Novak, the task of devising a new vocabulary to deal
with God is urgent, but, before it can be done, man must have a clearer
idea of his very episodic experiences of God. This must be preceded by
man obtaining a greatly increased self-knowledge. On this last point,
many readers will be hesitant. The need for a new vocabulary and for
recognition of our experiences of God is urgent, but it seems that the
latter might be recognized and appreciated better if men could become
less, rather than more, concerned with themselves. On the whole, an
interesting and provocative book.
— CARROLL QUIGLEY.