Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Pragmatism and religion


The pragmatism and pluralism of a philosopher like William James is usually regarded as the 19th century development associated with atheism, scientism and explicitly Leftist politics (as with John Dewey  or Richard Rorty) - but pragmatism is compatible with Christianity.

And not just 'compatible' but in fact gives Christianity a more profound (deeper, more fundamental) place than monist and explicitly metaphysical philosophical systems such as the Platonic or Aristotelian.


The assertion of pragmatism is that philosophy should not be the bottom-line of thinking - but that something-else is and ought to be. Pragmatism has it that philosophy properly comes later, more superficially, and less coherently above this bottom line.

So, for Richard Rorty, (atheist) Leftist politics - or 'liberalism' - was his bottom line, and philosophy was (like everything else) built on and justified-by the politics: philosophy is a means to the end of Leftism.

But for a pragmatist Christian, Christianity is the bottom line - and philosophy comes above this, and is justified-by this - philosophy becomes a means to the end of Christianity - but does not, ought not to, lead or justify Christianity; rather the philosophy, the metaphysics, is justified-by Christianity.


So, for a pragmatist, it is vital that Christians do not fall into the trap of trying to fit Christianity into Platonism or Aristotelianism - but that they see Christianity as deeper than, and separable from, any metaphysical description of it.

Then philosophy becomes something properly to be taken in a 'lighter' fashion than it would have been for Plato or Aristotle, something which is ultimately a means-to-the-end of Christianity and not an end in itself.

And therefore, a wholly comprehensive and consistent metaphysical philosophy is an optional extra to Christianity - and something to be judged in-the-light-of Christianity (and certainly not vice versa).


And what applies to philosophy also applies to theology.

The pragmatist Christian is someone who strives not to be driven by theology; but instead to regard theology in the light of Christianity, as an optional extra and a means to the end of Christianity - which is separable from any theology of Christianity.