By John Haldane
Routledge, 224 pages, $39.95, paper
In his 2004 book Faithful Reason, John Haldane noted “without qualification” that throughout his training in analytic philosophy he never felt any tension between faith and reason. He went on to add that “my faith seems reasonable and my reason faithful.” In his new, highly anticipated successor volume, Reasonable Faith, Haldane continues to explore these connections. And he does so in a sophisticated and elegant manner foreign to much contemporary work in philosophy. Haldane has rescued the discipline from its narrow logic chopping and esoteric disputes to show how analytic methodology can be deployed to illuminate the most profound questions of human (and divine) existence.
Haldane, a Scot who teaches philosophy at St. Andrews, is a prominent public intellectual in Britain. Although not well-known in American intellectual discourse, he is without question one of the most important living Catholic philosophers, perhaps second only to Alasdair MacIntyre. The present collection of essays confirms his importance, for it brings his considerable breadth and depth of knowledge and wisdom to questions concerning reason, faith, God, and the soul. The first half of Reasonable Faith contains essays that explore the nature and existence of God and explain how philosophy might approach such a subject. The remaining essays consider the human soul and rationality, death and immortality, and the idea of spiritual values.
While Haldane draws on the long tradition of Western philosophy, his primary interlocutors are not the ancients or Scholastics, but modern and contemporary analytical philosophers: Anscombe, Davidson, Dummett, Flew, Kripke, McDowell, Nagel, Pasnau, Phillips, Quine, Rescher, Strawson, and Wittgenstein. This is not surprising, given that it was Haldane who coined the phrase (and explicitly developed the methodology of) Analytical Thomism. These essays are prime examples of how the riches of Thomas can be deployed to engage the best of contemporary thought, and how the best of contemporary thought can be deployed to illuminate aspects of Thomas’ own thinking.
The essays in Reasonable Faith are not casual pieces to be kept on a nightstand and read before bed, but they are accessible to nonprofessionals. They humanize what has become a scientistic discipline and call philosophers back to the love of wisdom. In doing so, they show how reason can be faithful and faith can be reasonable.
—Ryan T. Anderson