- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674726820
- ISBN-13: 978-0674726826
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Religion without God 1st Edition
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Dworkin claims a religious attitude that acknowledges two things: first, human life has objective meaning and importance; second, the physical universe is something of intrinsic value and wonder. This broad and inclusive definition has a significant implication. Both theists and atheists can assent to it because it points to a shared, fundamental commitment that goes beyond their differences. In this sense, atheists can be religious, and religion does not necessarily require a god. Because religious atheists lack a god who legitimizes those values and both creates the physical universe and endows it with sublimity and beauty, they need an alternative explanation. To that end, Dworkin offers a metaphysics of value before exploring the relationship between beauty and physics. Although Dworkin does not embrace theism, his book is neither antitheistic nor pro-atheist. Rather, his novel definition of religion may serve as a way for theists and religious atheists to engage in constructive conversation. Both camps will benefit from reading Dworkin’s engaging and philosophically rigorous analysis. --Christopher McConnell
Dworkin offers a way into discussions of science and human spiritual endeavor that is actually engaging and interesting, not combative and dogmatic...Dworkin is keen to show that--even for people who call themselves atheist--there remains a sense or a value to the world which bears so much in common with attitudes we call religious or spiritual...What Dworkin pursues is insight into the core of what makes us human and how it might be grounded in something other than an idea of God.
(Adam Frank NPR online 2013-05-21)
Dworkin claims a religious attitude that acknowledges two things. First, human life has objective meaning and importance. Second, the physical universe is something of intrinsic value and wonder. This broad and inclusive definition has a significant implication. Both theists and atheists can assent to it because it points to a shared, fundamental commitment that goes beyond their differences. In this sense, atheists can be religious, and religion does not necessarily require a god. Because religious atheists lack a god who legitimizes those values and both creates the physical universe and endows it with sublimity and beauty, they need an alternative explanation. To that end, Dworkin offers a metaphysics of value before exploring the relationship between beauty and physics. Although Dworkin does not embrace theism, his book is neither antitheistic nor pro-atheist. Rather, his novel definition of religion may serve as a way for theists and religious atheists to engage in constructive conversation. Both camps will benefit from reading Dworkin's engaging and philosophically rigorous analysis.
(Christopher McConnell Booklist 2013-10-01)
[Dworkin] shines a brighter light on the true meaning of religion than anything produced lately by defenders of the faith. By his own account, he was a religious man, but also an atheist. That paradox leads him both to a deeper sense of faith and to a fuller appreciation of what it means to disavow the divine.
(James Carroll Boston Globe 2013-09-16)
For years, the Christian Right has been arguing that secular humanism, an ethical and humanistic system of viewing the world without reference to God, should be considered a religion. Now, from the opposite direction, Dworkin argues the same. In his last book, the late Dworkin, an atheist, believes that atheists share with theists a strong ethical sensibility as well as an appreciation of aesthetics that opens them to a sense of awe and an experience of the sublime that is similar to religious transcendence...Dworkin's characteristically well-argued book raises many provocative questions worthy of further discussion.
(Publishers Weekly 2013-10-07)
Ronald Dworkin’s profound and moving final book, now published posthumously, is unique among the works that he wrote throughout the decades of his extraordinarily creative life. Anyone who read Dworkin or heard him lecture knows that he possessed a brilliant and elegant mind, conceptually sophisticated, analytically astute, and always at the service of a moral, legal, and political cause. But this book is marked by a different tone and style. It does not present a set of arguments that aim at changing beliefs and convictions; instead it conveys a philosophical, even spiritual sensibility. Its ambition is to effect not a shift in any particular position but a transformation in the way we see the world and in the stance we take toward the most basic features of our existence. The incisive qualities of Dworkin’s mind are evident in various arguments that appear throughout the book (especially in the chapter titled “Religious Freedom,” which examines the nature of the constitutional protection of religion), but the main endeavor of Religion without God is to convey an attitude--not so much to argue as to ‘show,’ to set before the reader a certain philosophical temper and to share a particular stance…It is rare in the life of a philosopher that a set of detailed arguments can be transfigured into a fundamental stance toward the universe and the human moral realm. In such a moment, the articulation of the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Religion without God is an attempt to articulate such a stance. Its ambition and its achievement make it a deep and precious book. (Moshe Halbertal New Republic 2013-10-21)
The position taken in Religion Without God reflects a commitment to objective value that has been indispensable for Dworkin’s broader jurisprudence. (Jeremy Waldron The Guardian 2013-11-30)
Essentially sidesteps the regular theist vs. atheist debate to argue something altogether original and refreshing: that the religious impulse is (a) widely shared and (b) much bigger than a belief in God…Convictions of value are the common glue of humanity, Dworkin writes, and this idea is so appealing and so thoughtfully rendered in Religion Without God, that it is hard to find any fault with his logic…[It] inexorably lays out in lucid terms Dworkin’s moral philosophy. The logical argument he makes is itself an example of the sort of inevitable beauty he describes…Dworkin reveals the profound humanism that has informed his life’s work. He believes, tenaciously, that there is objective ethical and moral truth, ‘a right way to live’ that is independent of theistic assumptions, and therefore available to religious atheists. (Adam Parker Post and Courier 2013-12-08)
A short but profound book. (Jonathan Derbyshire Prospect 2013-12-06)
[A] marvelous little book…Dworkin is always wonderfully clear and honest about what is involved in his position--it is part of what makes his book such a pleasure to read…I am at one with Dworkin in thinking that even a fully secular individual should contemplate the universe not just with curiosity and wonder but with reverence and gratitude. (Michael Rosen The Nation 2014-02-11)
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As I read this book, what keeps popping into my mind is Plato's Theory of Forms. In Mr. Dwokin's case his thinking is about value. He seems to want to make value a real objective thing rather than a process of the mind. I see an interesting parallel with the pseudo-science of Intelligent Design and Mr. Dwokin's reliance on mathematicians. Intelligent Design claims professional scientists among it's ranks but most are mathematician with few from the biological scientist ranks. Similarly, there is no biology to be found in this book.
"Religion without God" is a short pocket-sized book of 160 pages in four chapters. In many portions, Dworkin speaks from the heart as well as the mind. The book has intimacy and eloquence as well as thought. In its meditations on death in the final chapter, the book has a valedictory tone.
In addition to its intimacy, the book is striking in some of its strong philosophical assertions. This is not primarily in Dworkin's exposition of non-theological religion, a subject many writers have explored. It lies more in what appear to be Dworkin's strong claims for objectivity and realism in the realm of values and in his claims for philosophical rationalism, necessitarianism and intelligibilty. Many contemporary American philosophers would be hesitant when faced with such strong positions. Dworkin seems to me not to fully develop or support some of these difficult positions. He argues for some but not for all of them in his longer book of 2011, "Justice for Hedgehogs". Justice for Hedgehogs
I found the book departs in places from its theme of "Religion without God". In the third chapter titled "Religious Freedom", Dworkin moves from broader philosophical questions back to Dworkin's more usual focus on legal philosophy and political liberalism. The chapter examines religious freedom and personal liberty under the constitution and deals with matters such as gay rights, same sex marriage, abortion, conscientous objection, and the extent to which the use of illegal hallucinogenic drugs should be allowed to religious groups. Dworkin argues that the first amendment right to religious freedom is better viewed as a legal right to protection for decisions showing "ethical independence" or the freedom of individuals to choose for themselves the fundamental ways to live their lives as long as these ways do not impinge upon other people. The discussion is interesting but slightly off-focus for the book as a whole. In addition, I am unclear about whether Dworkin's claim for "ethical independence" is consistent fully for his claim for the objectivity of ethical values which he supports in the remaining sections of the book.
The remaining three chapters, particularly the first and last, do develop Dworkin's views on the relationship between religion and God. Broadly, Dworkin distinguishes between a religious outlook and a naturalistic outlook. The latter Dworkin argues is based solely on science and materialism and has no place for values or purpose. Dworkin's criticism of naturalism needs careful thought and development and may not fully convince those who hold to a broad naturalistic position. The religious outlook, for Dworkin, "accepts the full, independent reality of value" and makes two claims about objectivity. First the religious outlook involves a commitment to the objective meaning and importance of human life. The purpose of life, for Dworkin, is for each individual to make his life successful by living well, accepting responsibility for oneself and one's projects and acknowledging moral responsibilities to other people. Second, the religious outlook holds that nature in not simply a brute matter of fact to be studied by science "but is itself sublime: something of intrinsic value and wonder."
Dworkin argues that in the sense he has developed both theists and atheists may be religious. He maintains that religions have a fact or scientific component and a value component. Dworkin then argues at some length that value commitments and the objectivity of ethical claims do not depend upon facts of a natural or supernatural sort. In other words, the objectivity of value claims is a matter of the value claims themselves and does not depend on a God for validation. The existence of God would not be sufficient to validate the claims in any event. Hence a person can be religious, for Dworkin, without commitment to the existence of God, although Dworkin does not argue against theism per se in the book. Dworkin's arguments for the separation of God's existence from value are based upon Plato's dialogue the "Euthyphro" and on David Hume's argument that questions of value cannot be decided by questions of fact.
In the first and fourth and to some extent the third chapters of the book, Dworkin expands on the objectivity of value and on the nature of living well. The second chapter, "The Universe" consists of a lengthy, challenging excursus into physical science. Some religious individuals, theist or non-theist, might have qualms about the relevance of this chapter, which develops the strong character of some of Dworkin's philosophical views. Broadly, Dworkin considers modern physics and develops his view he maintains is part of the religious outlook, that the universe is beautiful objectively and in whole (rather than just in part to some human beings), and consistent and rational throughout rather than an assemblage of complex, unrelated facts. He concludes: "[f]or those of us who think beauty real, the scientific presumption that the universe is finally fully comprehensible is also the religious conviction that it shines with real beauty." Dworkin's position in this chapter, for me, approaches that of philosophical idealism and rationalism which most contemporary thinkers reject. That does not make the position mistaken. I was fascinated, if not entirely convinced, to read how close Dworkin comes to it.
This short book is a fitting testament to Dworkin and takes his work well beyond the scope of the legal philosophy for which he will be remembered. The book represents aspiration and vision more than completeness. I was glad to think with Dworkin about philosophy, value, and a meaningful life in this, his final book.
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