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God Conclusion: God and the Western Philosophical Tradition

Author(s): Keith Ward

ISBN13: 9780232527575

ISBN10: 0232527571


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  • Discover why ...

    ... Plato was not a world-hating totalitarian
    ... Aquinass Five Ways are not so bad after all
    ... Kicking stones cannot refute Bishop Berkeley
    ... Schopenhauer was not quite an atheist
    ... and other refreshing new perspectives on spiritual thinking in western philosophy.

    This entertaining book posits the theory that philosophy, far from being the enemy of religion, has more often than not supported a non-materialist view of the universe. Keith Ward re-examines the works of western philosophys greatest thinkers - from Plato and Aquinas to Kant and Hegel - and suggests that the majority accepted `the God conclusion: that there is a supreme spiritual reality which is the cause or underlying nature of the physical cosmos.

  • Keith Ward

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    Albert Einstein once said that the religious person was one who had found an answer to the question what is the ultimate meaning of life? For the atheist there is no answer to the ultimate yet immediate questions of human life. What, then, are the ultimate questions of human life?

    Well, here is Kants formulation of them: What can we know? Why is there anything at all? Where does man come from and where is he going? Why is the world as it is? What is the ultimate reason and meaning of all reality? Why, and to whom, are we finally responsible? Why are we here and what is it all about? Belief in God gives reason, support and ultimate meaning to reality.

    Keith Ward was Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion in the University of London and Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. The God Conclusion is a revised and expanded version of his 2008 Sarum Lectures and 2007-8 Gresham College Lectures.

    The main thesis of his book is that the Western classical tradition in philosophy accepts the God conclusion. In other words, there is a supreme spiritual reality which is the cause or underlying nature of the physical cosmos and which is of the greatest possible value or perfection.

    He considers the views of, among others, Plato, Aquinas, Socrates, David Hume, Kant, Bishop Berkeley, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. And after this survey, he writes: I think the God conclusion stands firm, and that it is the best intellectual defence of the intelligibility of the cosmos, of the objective importance of our moral ideals, of an affirmation of the goodness, the joy and the beauty of life, and of the authenticity of intimations of transcendence that provide some of the most sublime and transformative human experiences.


    Roughly stated, the atheist believes that a human being is merely a complicated machine, totally determined by forces outside his control. A machine has no spiritual dimension. And in a world of machines or robots there can be no absolute moral or aesthetic standards.

    How can one condemn Nazism, murder, or indeed any evil, if human beings are not free to choose? As Ivan Karamazov says, If there is no God, then everything is permitted. Moral values lose their meaning.

    Herein lies the inherent contradiction of atheism. I cannot see, for example, on what possible basis Sartre and Camus opposed Nazism, since neither of them accented an absolute moral law. Indeed, both of them felt that all life was totally futile and devoid of meaning. And many atheists ask us to adopt certain views about life. In other words, they appeal to our free will! Why or how could one live by any meaningful moral code if life has no ultimate purpose and simply ends in the silence of the grave?


    Talking of Nietzsche and his atheistic philosophy, Keith Ward says: He is in danger of promoting irrationality, violence, conflict, egoism, and contempt for ordinary human beings, as ultimate ideals. What his philosophy shows, in my view, is that if God is totally and consciously rejected, the reason upon which science relies, the values upon which human welfare depends, and the sense of human or personal dignity upon which moral sensitivity relies, are imperiled. That way madness lies. In short, there can be no true morality without the transcendental.

    The God Conclusion is an important book and welcome book which helps us to think seriously and ask vital questions about the meaning and purpose of our lives.

    - Anthony Redmond, The Irish Catholic


God Conclusion: God and the Western Philosophical Tradition