New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Password:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
 
 
Book reviews >

The Nature And Limits Of Human Understanding: The 2001 Gifford lectures at the University of Glasgow

Book title: The Nature And Limits Of Human Understanding: The 2001 Gifford lectures at the University of Glasgow
Author: A. J. Sanford, editor

Publisher: T & T Clark
Church Times Bookshop £45 & £18 respectively


SOMEONE once turned up to Alan Ecclestone’s parish meeting with the query, “Is this the place where they like arguments?” This book will appeal to people who like arguments, at least, in the more philosophical sense of that word. For the 2001 Gifford lectures, five different lecturers gave two lectures each on the topic of human understanding. Half-way through, a round-table discussion was held, of which, unfortunately, this book contains no record. The contributions are extremely diverse, and only one is from a theologian. The other contributors include three very diverse philosophers, and a psychologist. The latter, P. N. Johnson-Laird, entertainingly sets out many logical puzzles to illustrate the limitations of our understanding which, he argues, centre on our inability to construct correct models of causal relations. George Lakoff argues that neuroscience has transformed our understanding of all the age-long philosophical puzzles. His argument for fully embodied mind is absolutely congenial to anyone who believes in incarnation, though it sets puzzles for the doctrine of God (something theologians have realised at least since Origen). Non-specialists like myself are bound to treat with scepticism the claim that one or two philosophers have discovered the key to everything. Michael Ruse argues for an altruistic version of social Darwinism, arguing that evolution equips us for social co-operation. This means, I suppose, that the architects of the Washington consensus are atavisms, something I have suspected for some time. Lynne Rudder Baker, the only philosophical theologian among this group, argues for the priority of first-person knowledge, which means, among other things, that the knowledge claims of natural science are incomplete. She offers a sophisticated justification for taking reasons of the heart seriously. I have to confess that I turned to Brian Hebblethwaite with a sense of relief, even though his two chapters read rather like a literature review. He is generous and eirenic, but cumulatively makes a powerful case for the contribution of theology to human understanding, above all by the persistent exploration of difficult questions, which is how the late Herbert McCabe understood Aquinas’s Five Ways. The book would have been stronger if Hebblethwaite, a defender of theology as “Queen of the sciences”, had tried to respond to the four previous lecturers. As it is, it will appeal to interested enquirers, happy to have the problem of understanding discussed from a variety of angles. The Revd Dr Tim Gorringe is Professor of Theological Studies at the University of Exeter. To place an order for this book contact CT Bookshop
Job of the week

Professor of Divinity

London and Home Counties

Gresham CollegeFounded 1597 Gresham Professor of Divinity Gresham College has provided free public lectures for over 400 years in the City of London and now operates worldwide via the internet. Fo...  Read More

Signup for job alerts
Top feature

Finding life over death

Finding life over death

Denise Inge, who died on Easter Day this year, discovered that her home was built over a charnel house. This prompted her to write a book exploring the challenge of living well in the face of mortality  Subscribe to read more

Question of the week
Are foodbanks an effective way of dealing with poverty?

To prevent multiple voting, we now ask readers to be logged in. This is free, quick and easy, honestly. Click here to login or register

Top comment

Fighting inequality and corruption in the world

Efforts are being made to combat corruption and sharp practice in global finance. Peter Selby has seen this at first hand  Subscribe to read more

Fri 21 Nov 14 @ 18:23
This week's @churchtimes caption competition (£) http://t.co/7MLykjnfbO http://t.co/e2W7Dcex09

Fri 21 Nov 14 @ 18:11
Church leaders condemn murder of American hostage http://t.co/qvOo6JbXHX