- Series: Veritas
- Hardcover: 228 pages
- Publisher: SCM Press (February 9, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0334041538
- ISBN-13: 978-0334041535
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 15.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,123,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tayloring Reformed Epistemology: Charles Taylor, Alvin Plantinga and the de jure challenge to Christian belief (Veritas) Hardcover – February 9, 2008
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This] is an exemplary work of creative collaboration. Transgressing traditional divides between Continental and Analytic philosophy and Reformed and Catholic traditions, Baker places previously segregated schools of thought in conversation with one another, resulting in a remarkably original and compelling contribution to Christian philosophy.
(Johnny Walker, freedominorthodoxy.blogspot.co.ukÂ)
"The Reformed epistemologists and Charles Taylor have been like ships passing in the night; neither has paid explicit attention to the other. In this very interesting book, Tayloring Reformed Epistemology, Deane-Peter Baker not only points out obvious affinities between these two bodies of work, but shows in detail how each holds out the promise of filling a lacuna in the work of the other. A creative and important contribution; it genuinely advances the discussion." (Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus at Philosophical Theology, Yale UniversityÂ)
" In Tayloring Reformed Epistemology, Baker offers a carefully argued, nuanced epistemology of religious belief, linking the best of reformed epistemology with Charles Taylor's historical and phenomenological case for theism."
(Charles Taliaferro, Professor of Philosophy, St. Olaf CollegeÂ)
About the Author
Deane-Peter Baker is a Lecturer in the School of Philosophy and Ethics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
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This brings us to Peter-Baker's other two achievements. First, this book does much to bridge the gap between "analytic" ( Plantinga) and "continental" (Taylor) philosophy. Even more important, he shows how combining Taylor's and Plantinga's ideas can help us to fashion a powerful new argument for Christian Theism .
In the second half of the book Baker expounds upon the work of Charles Taylor in moral phenomenology. Taylor's work is meant to capture the essence of human moral experience. Taylor goes on to argue that this moral experience makes the best sense if God exists.
The last section of the book is where Baker brings everything together to answer the de jure objection to theism. It is a brilliant move. I am interested to see what kind of reception Baker's work receives in the scholarly world.
As an installment of the Radical Orthodoxy affiliated Centre of Theology and Philosophy's Veritas Series, it would not be unexpected to find this volume's writing opaque and near-inaccessible to non-specialists. Yet, fortunately, here we possess an exception. While still maintaining scholarly rigor and depth, Baker relays his case with clear, illuminating prose, devoid of unneccessary philosophical parlance. Thus, his book is suited to a wide audience, commending itself to students and scholars alike.
Baker's stated purpose is to provide a credible response to the de jure challenge to Christian belief. Namely, the critique that Christian belief is somehow irrational, or epistemically unjustified and perverse. Indeed, that it is morally deplorable. It is crucial to note that what is at stake here is quite different than the truth of Christian claims. That would be the de facto question of Christian belief. Rather, the de jure objection contends that Christian belief, whether true or not, is somehow epistemically unwarranted.
This distinction between the de jure and de facto challenges to Christian belief is introduced in the context of reformed epistemology - a recent Christian philosophical tradition claiming roots in the thought of John Calvin. Scholars associated with reformed epistemology have occupied themselves precisely with attempting to answer the de jure objection. Thus, it is with reformed epistemology's lead proponents, the triumvirate of Nicholas Wolterstorff, William Alston, and Alvin Plantinga, that Baker begins his propsal.
He surveys each of the three, respectively, searching for a secure, workable rebuttal to the de jure critique. He finds Wolterstorff's and Alston's accounts vulnerable to, what I would call, the "So what?" critique. By framing the de jure objection as one regarding epistemic "entitlement" (in the case of Wolterstorff) or "Jamesian justification" (Alston), even a successful response results in a limited, perhaps even altogether insignificant victory. The most damning critique comes from fellow reformed epistemologist, Alvin Plantinga, who charges both Wolterstorff and Alston with framing the de jure challenge in a way that's satisfaction "is too easily achieved" (54).
With both Wolterstorff and Alston's accounts deconstructed, Plantinga alone remains to salvage a credible response to the de jure challenge. Baker accords Plantinga as going much further than the others, yet, on his account, it is still not far enough. "Even if successful, [it] does not do enough to show that there is good reason for taking the truth claims of Christianity seriously" (196). Over the course of Baker's exploration, he modifies the de jure objection to reflect his critique above. Thus, moving from the simple matter of whether Christian belief is justified, or rational, to whether it provokes a demand for serious engagement with the de facto question. This move may be unfair to Plantinga. For, as he admits, Plantinga does in fact accomplish his goal of responding to the de jure challenge. Yet, this is of little importance because we would certainly rather have an able response to the "expanded de jure challenge" than the bare-bones Platinga de jure challenge.
So what is the fundamental weakness in the accounts above? Namely, that they are not able to provoke unbelievers to consider the truth of Christian belief. In their unmodified form, Christian belief may appear justified in the deontic sense - Christians are not morally culpable for their beliefs. Yet, neither are believers of any other religious traditions. Their is nothing to promote Christian belief to those outside the Church. According to Baker, what is needed then is something independent of the appeal to sensus divinitatus (central to Plantinga's establishing of epistemic warrant) that advocates Christian belief. Thus, clearing away any de jure challenge left and leaving nothing but the de facto challenge in its place.
For this independent appeal, Baker turns to renowned Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor.
Upon a close reading of Taylor seminal work, Sources of the Self, Baker uncovers a transcendental argument for theism rooted in our moral phenomenology (read, perception). The argument, largely implicit in Taylor's work, rests on four major premises that Baker sets out to defend. They are:
(i) we must have a morality;
(ii) we must have a morality with a certain structure, such that particular values are connected to 'sources';
(iii) we must have a morality based on an incomparably higher good; and
(iv) we must understand the structure of our morality and the incomparably higher good on which our morality must be based in terms of Christian theism. (190)
Baker devotes the latter half of his volume to defending this transcendental argument. While it can be reduced to the above premises, it is important to note, as Baker does, that Taylor's argument is inextricably tied to the history that he tells in Sources of the Self. Thus, it may be unfair (or at least, unwise) to extract the fourfold case from its context, though, it certainly holds heuristic benefit.
I don't have time here to discuss in depth the contours of Taylor's argument. However, it is worth commending Baker's even handed treatment of Taylor's critics and the potential difficulties with his approach. In the end, though, Baker concludes that Taylor's case can withstand its most formidable objectors. While not "proving" the existence of God, Taylor is able to provide a forceful response to the de jure objection, demanding from his interlocutors that they take seriously the de facto question of Christian belief. Thus, Baker has found exactly what he was looking for.
Baker concludes by briefly tying his two strands together. He demonstrates how Taylor's phenomenological argument fills the crippling lacuna in reformed epistemology. Meanwhile, the groundwork of reformed epistemologists offer a sophisticated theological account of belief and unbelief that suitably props up Taylor's own argument. We are left with an "Augmented Model" of reformed epistemology, or shall we say, a "Taylored model", that, in my opinion, successfully stands up to its challengers.
Baker has executed a brilliant instance of scholarly creativity that ought to be a model for future collaborative works to come.
NOTE: This book was received free of charge in exchange for an honest review.