Anonymous Skeptics
Swinburne, Hick, & Alston

By Lance Ashdown
November 2001
Mohr Siebeck
ISBN: 3-16-147679-4
300 pages
$97.50 paper original

At its deepest, philosophical skepticism questions the sense of language. Skepticism manifests itself in different forms, three of the most powerful being logical, external-world, and religious skepticism. How has philosophy of religion addressed these challenges? The attempt to answer this question leads Lance Ashdown to a consideration of three prominent contemporary philosophers of religion: Richard Swinburne, John Hick, and William Alston. The author shows that these philosophers are indeed open to the criticisms of the three types of skepticism mentioned above. According to Ashdown, they are rightly to be considered as 'anonymous skeptics.'

Readers familiar with the work of the theologian Karl Rahner will recognize an echo of his famous doctrine that non-Christian religious believers are really 'anonymous Christians,' i.e., Christian believers who do not recognize themselves as such. In a similar way, the philosophers of religion under consideration are skeptics who most certainly would not identify themselves as such. They are anonymous skeptics in the sense that their epistemologies create the very conditions that allow for the severe and, on their own terms, unanswerable challenges of skepticism. At the same time, none of these philosophers thinks that skeptical objections pose a devastating or unanswerable threat to their epistemologies. For example, each of them is an avowed believer in God and is fully aware of the challenge of religious skepticism, yet none believes that skepticism need cause a rational Christian to abandon his or her beliefs. Nevertheless, each of the three philosophers adheres to a philosophical theory that remains open to the devastating critique of Philo in David Hume's essay "Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion" - who argues at his deepest that talk of God is meaningless.

Philosophy; Theology
Religion in Philosophy and Theology, No. 3

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