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Editorial Reviews

Review

"I commend to another generation of seekers and students this deeply earnest and yet wistfully gentle little essay on the most important (and often, at least nowadays, the most neglected) of all metaphysical and existential questions... The historical sweep is breathtaking, the one-liners arresting, and the style, both intellectual and literary, altogether engaging." Jaroslav Pelikan, from the foreword "We have come to expect from the pen of M. Gilson not only an accurate exposition of the thought of the great philosophers, ancient and modern, but what is of much more importance and of greater interest, a keen and sympathetic insight into the reasons for that thought. The present volume does not fail to fulfill our expectations. It should be read by every Christian thinker." Ralph O. Dates, America

From the Back Cover

"[I] commend to another generation of seekers and students this deeply earnest and yet wistfully gentle little essay on the most important (and often, at least nowadays, the most neglected) of all metaphysical—and existential—questions. . . . The historical sweep is breathtaking, the one-liners arresting, and the style, both intellectual and literary, altogether engaging."—Jaroslav Pelikan, from the foreword REVIEW "We have come to expect from the pen of M. Gilson not only an accurate exposition of the thought of the great philosophers, ancient and modern, but what is of much more importance and of greater interest, a keen and sympathetic insight into the reasons for that thought. The present volume does not fail to fulfill our expectations. It should be read by every Christian thinker."—Ralph O. Dates, America:
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd edition (March 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300092997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300092998
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Gilson's book is a very rewarding read.
Greg
Although this chapter, I will admit, seems out of place, it was still a good read and I couldn't agree more with what was said.
coltrane
Etienne Gilson, a brilliant philosopher !!!
Artybara

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "bighart" on June 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Gilson's book is simply a masterpiece! The brilliance of this work is shown in its clarity and simplicity of thought and development of philosophy from the ancient Greeks on. Too often philosophy reads these days have become complex and frustrating, but not with Gilson. A true Christian philosopher, it is unfortunate that a reader might think this work concludes with the idea that "God is dead." This is not the intent of Gilson at all; rather, that of the exact opposite! Find out for yourself...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Xenophanes on December 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
Thales of Miletus, whom tradition regards as the first Western philosopher, is well-known for the rationalist view that the first principle is water, and the religious statement, "all things are full of gods." (p. 1) For Gilson, this epitomizes the problems of relating philosophy and religion. How can religious and philosophical statements about God be reconciled? For Thales and the Greeks, Gilson argues that they cannot, but that it is otherwise with the Christian philosophies of Being.

On this basis, rejects the view that Greek philosophy is a rationalization of a religious viewpoint, apparently on the basis that one cannot interpret a world of personal forces in terms of things. However, F. M Cornford and others argued persuasively for the opposite view, and seem to have in great part won the battle. For example, the classic study of the presocratic philosophers by Kirk, Raven, and Schofield, as well as anthologies by Wheelwright and Barnes, begin with a consideration of their religious and mythological predecessors. So, it does not seem one can understand the origin of Greek philosophy without considering Greek religion.

How well does Gilson understand Greek religion? Is it true that "A world where everything comes from without, including their feelings and passions, their virtues and vices, such was the Greek religious world." (p. 13) As E. R. Dodds has pointed out, this did not seem to deprive them of a sense of responsibility. Before criticizing Gilson too strongly, we should remember that God and Philosophy originates in the Mahlon Powell Lectures on Philosophy at Indiana University in 1938-1939, and that Greek thought and religion are not really his specialty. Historical details aside, Gilson always raises pertinent questions.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By coltrane on September 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The chapter on Greek philosophy could be a bit confusing if you haven't already read into or learned about some of the ideas of, say, Plato. I much more enjoyed the second and third chapters. The Greek philosophy is necessary, though, as a backdrop to the problem of God's existence. I must say, though, that Plato's quote from the Republic about the Idea of Good was eye-opening (without knowing it his description is perfectly in line with the Christian idea of God). Another reason why the chapter on Greek philosophy is necessary is the later connections Gilson makes to it, mostly in the chapter "God and Christian Philosophy."

The third and fourth chapters were probably the best. Perhaps it is by design that each chapter is better than the last. There are some great nuggets of wisdom and insight in this book. There are a great many passages, especially in the chapter entitled "Contemporary Thought" that are written so well that you can't help but think that nobody could have said it better, and I found myself desiring to reread these passages in appreciation of what I just read. Although this chapter, I will admit, seems out of place, it was still a good read and I couldn't agree more with what was said.

Even though the book is fairly old (1941), Gilson's thoughts on science in relation to metaphysical questions is still very applicable (a shame that it is still the same way in modern science as it was 40 years ago). I think somebody on any side of the spectrum, and in between, with relation to their beliefs about the existence or non-existence of God could get something from this book. Of course, for a Christian who enjoys philosophy, as I am, this book was an interesting and fun read to say the least.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Greg on April 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gilson's book is a very rewarding read. Much is made of the influence of Greek philosophy on Christianity, but
Gilson pinpoints the key difference between the two: "He who is" (Christianity) versus "that which is" (Greek philosophy).

What's significant too in a book of this kind, as Jaroslav Pelikan points out in the forward, is that Gilson does not
focus on the usual suspects -- Marx, Freud, Darwin, and Nietzsche. But instead focuses on Kant.

Towards the end of the book, Gilson offers what Presbyterian theologian R.C. Sproul has called Gilson's choice:
"Today our only choice is not Kant or Descartes; it is rather Kant or Thomas Aquinas.
All other positions are but halfway houses on the roads which lead either to absolute
religious agnosticism or to the natural theology of Christian metaphysics."

This book has many merits, not the least of which is to give the reader a deep
appreciation of Christian metaphysics and how it can be a natural fit with one's
Christian faith. Although I've sampled Aquinas, I finished the book feeling challenged
to read him more extensively.
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