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Permission To Believe: Four Rational Approaches to God's Existence Paperback – January 1, 1990
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- Item Weight : 2.24 ounces
- Paperback : 104 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0944070558
- ISBN-13 : 978-0944070550
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.25 x 8.25 inches
- Publisher : Targum Press; 2nd Edition (January 1, 1990)
- Language: : English
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He succeeds in his limited aim, namely, that of providing short overviews of broad areas of thought (e.g. morality, cosmology, teleology) that tend to converge on theistic belief. And he is sometimes incisive in his critiques of opposing viewpoints.
But not always. For example, in his opening chapter he argues that atheism is irrational, on the (sole) grounds that positive knowledge of God's nonexistence would require an exhaustive knowledge of everything that exists. But we can know that, say, there are no square circles without knowing _everything_ there is; what if -- as some atheists allege -- the idea of God is somehow self-contradictory? It isn't, but R. Kelemen doesn't address the point at all.
Similarly his views on "morality" depend on an odd view of reason that already concedes too much to the other side. Reason is not an adequate foundation for morality, he argues, because (in effect) "reason" really amounts to nothing more than logical deduction.
Here I'm afraid he missed an opportunity to argue for God based on the very _rationality_ of ethics (and Torah ethics in particular). Indeed, the existence of rationality itself could have been the foundation for a powerful argument; in Maimonidean tradition, the faculty of reason is the precise respect in which humans are said to be made in God's image. Here as before, R. Kelemen seems to depend on an inadequate (and thoroughly "modern" and "secularist") account of reason and rationality.
But we should not make too much of such oversights. R. Kelemen's goal was not to provide a solid and irrefutable case for theistic belief, but only to provide a short introduction to several fruitful lines of thought that suggest the rationality of theism. His book will be useful to those who have never considered such arguments before, though anyone seriously pursuing these topics will undoubtedly want to move on to other literature.