New Essays in Philosophical Theology: Preface
Flew (Anthony) & MacIntyre (Alasdair)
Source: Flew & MacIntyre - New Essays in Philosophical Theology
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  1. This is a collection of twenty-two papers by sixteen different philosophers working in the British Commonwealth. The first thing which all the contributors have in common is a familiarity with and a great indebtedness to the recent revolution in philosophy. They are therefore certain to be labelled 'Logical Positivists' by most laymen, including many professional theologians; and even by most philosophers outside the English-speaking countries. This label is entirely inappropriate: if it is to be taken, as it is and should be, to imply a toeing of the party line of the now defunct Vienna Circle; a position brilliantly epitomized by the Ayer of "Ayer (A.J.) - Language, Truth and Logic"). This is not the place to describe or discuss the revolution in philosophy or to estimate the part played in it by the Vienna Circle. It should be sufficient here simply to repudiate the popular misconception that all the philosophers are Logical Positivists nowadays; and to ask that this volume be judged on its arguments, and not be forced into some preconceived matrix of misunderstanding. The second thing which the contributors share is a concern with theological questions, and a conviction that these call for serious and particular treatment. (Whereas the Logical Positivists used to reject all theology holus-bolus as so much meaningless metaphysics.) But this common conviction and concern is not accompanied by a community of religious belief. One Editor is a Christian and one is not: while the contributors and contributions are likewise divided just about equally1.
  2. Our title perhaps calls for some explanation. The word 'new' is put in: not because the papers included are here published for the first time — for the majority have already appeared before somewhere; but because it is only in the last few years that attempts have been made to apply these latest philosophical techniques and insights to theological issues, while this is probably the first time that a whole book has been devoted to this enormous job. We should like to have used the expression 'Philosophy of Religion' for its analogy with 'Philosophy of History', 'Philosophy of Science', and so on: since the questions discussed here are philosophical and bear the same sort of relation to religious thought and practice as the questions of the philosophy of history and of science bear to the thought and practice of working scientists and historians; the relation, that is, of arising out of or being posed by these empirical disciplines, while being themselves philosophical and not factual questions (see Chapter III). But this expression has become, and seems likely for some time to remain, associated with Idealist attempts to present philosophical prolegomena to theistic theology. So we have adapted as an alternative the expression 'Philosophical Theology'; which has a welcome analogy to 'Philosophical Ethics' and 'Philosophical Aesthetics', occasionally used to cover the parallel philosophical inquiries which arise out of moral and critical thought and practice. We realize that many will be startled to find the word 'theology' so used that: the expression 'theistic theologian' is not tautological; and the expression 'atheist theologian' is not self-contradictory. But unless this unusual usage of ours is adopted we have to accept the paradox that those who reach opposite conclusions about certain questions must be regarded as having thereby shown themselves to have been engaged in different disciplines; the paradox that whereas St. Thomas's presentation of the quinque viae is a piece of (Natural or Philosophical) Theology, "Hume (David), Tweyman (Stanley), Ed. - Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" must belong to some other and nameless discipline.
  3. A very little needs to be said about our principles of selection. We have tried to include papers covering as many as possible of the most important problems. We have not included "Wisdom (John) - Gods", the paper from which much of the present discussion arose, because it has already been twice reprinted and we preferred to make room for less well-known papers. We have included contributions to the 'Theology and Falsification' controversy by Flew, Hare and Mitchell and pieces on 'Death' by MacKinnon and Flew: in spite of the fact that all these are much shorter and slighter than the rest of the contents; and because they are often referred to, though they originally appeared in a journal now unfortunately defunct and consequently unobtainable.



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