The philosophy of religion - by Harald Høffding - (1906) PDF ebook

The philosophy of religion

The philosophy of religion
The philosophy of religion

By philosophy of religion, we may understand either a mode of thinking which is prompted by religion and takes religion as its foundation or a mode of thinking which makes religion its object.
In this work, the word is used in the latter sense. That mode of thinking, which springs out of religion and interprets phenomena in a religious sense, forms part of the subject matter of the philosophy of religion, and must not itself be called by that name. 

The word " religion " stands in the main for a psychical state in which feeling and need, fear and hope, enthusiasm and surrender play a greater part than do meditation and inquiry, and in which intuition and imagination have the mastery over the investigation and reflection. 

It is of course true that within the religious life itself an instinctive need of analysing its own state and content, the value of its motives, and the validity of its thinking is forever cropping up. But the religious thinking which thus originates does not definitely occupy itself with the religious problem proper. The problems with which it deals arise within the boundaries of religion; religion itself never becomes a problem. Religion is taken as the starting point as a matter of course, or, at any rate, in comparison with the religious, other standpoints are so subordinated as to possess no determinative significance. 

This is the nature of religious thinking at those periods when religion is all in all within the spiritual sphere. The classical ages of religion are either the periods of great beginnings, when, with all the power of originality, it attracts all forces and all interests to itself; or the great organising periods when all existing culture is cast or bent into obedience to the highest religious ideas. In these classical ages great unity, or at any rate great harmony, prevails in the spiritual world. Christianity enjoyed such a golden age during the time of the primitive Christian community, and again, later, during the great periods of organisation in the flower of the Middle Ages. 

A religious problem, in the strict sense of the word, can only arise when other sides of the spiritual life — science and art, moral and social life — begin to emancipate themselves and to claim free independent value. They then appraise religion from their own points of view and according to their own standards, while religion in her classical ages had either entirely ignored them — as in the inceptive periods — or — as in the organising periods — had assessed them from her own point of view and according to her own standards. 

The question then arises whether two such different estimates can ever be brought into inner harmony with one another. Certain definite historical conditions must be present before the religious problem can be definitely raised. We may say if we like, that it is only in unhappy periods that a religious problem can be said to exist. For such a problem is always the expression of spiritual discord. The different elements of the spiritual life are no longer working so closely together as formerly; they point in different directions, between which, perhaps, a choice has to be made. Then it is that the necessity, as well as the possibility, of an investigation, makes itself felt. 

That religion should be treated as a problem at all may give offence to many people; but, once awake, thought must have the right to inquire into everything, and its limits must be assigned by itself. Who else indeed can do this? He to whom the problem does not present itself has of course no ground for thought, but neither has he any ground for preventing other people from thinking. 
Let him who fears to lose his spiritual haven of refuge stand far off. 

No one wants to rob the poor man of his ewe lamb — only let him remember that he must not drive it along the high road unnecessarily and then demand that the traffic should be stopped on its account. Experience, moreover, tends to show that it is the rams, rather than the lambs, that, at right and especially at wrong times, are wont to let the world know they are being scandalised. 

It is not the really spiritually poor, but your obstinate and noisy dogmatists who raise a hue and cry when free inquiry demands the right to move within the religious as within all other spheres. 
The inquiry on which I here propose to embark addresses itself neither to those already satisfied nor to the anxious. The former is to be found in all camps, — not least among the so-called "free-thinkers" — a class of men which, like that of worms in the Linnaean system, can only be characterised by negative predicates, since it has to embrace so many different forms. 

Those already satisfied hold in reserve a definite solution, negative or positive, of the religious problem, and hence have lost all taste for further thinking on the subject. The anxious are afraid to think about it. My inquiry, therefore, addresses itself to the seekers. " Ein Wer- dender wird immer dankbar sein," in whatever direction his quest may lead him. 

Philosophy, as is well known, is richer in ideas, points of view, and discussions than indefinite results, and the philosopher would often be in sore straits were, he not upheld by the conviction that the unceasing striving after truth forms part of those highest spiritual values, the conservation of which is the business of all true religion. 

Even if we learn nothing else from our study of the philosophy of religion, it may serve to enlighten us as to the nature of the struggle which rages around the religious question, and to give us some insight into the significance of this struggle in the development of the spiritual life; while, should the religious problem prove insoluble, we may perhaps discover why it is that no solution can be found.


(A). Understanding 14
{a) Causal Explanation. 18
{b) The World of Space 4 1
{c) The Course of Time 52
B. Concluding Thoughts . . 57
C. Thought and Figure 70
A. Religious Experience and Religious Faith 97
(a) Religious Experience 97
{b) Religious Faith , 116
B. The Development of Religious Ideas 135
(a) Religion as Desire. . 135
{b) Polytheism and Monotheism. 144
(c) Religious Experience and Tradition 167
{d) The Scientific Conclusion for the Psychology of Religion 190
C. Dogmas and Symbols
D. The Axiom of the Conservation of Value 2 1 5
{a) Nearer Determination of the Axiom of the Conservation of Value and its Relation to Experience 217
(b) Psychological and Historical Discussion of the Axiom
of the Conservation of Value. 228
(c) General Philosophical Discussion of the Axiom of the Conservation of Value 244
.The Principle of Personality 278
(a) The Significance and Justification of the Principle of Personality 278
(b) Main Groups of Personal Differences 283
{c) Buddha and Jesus 301
(d) Is the Principle of Personality a Principle of Growth
or of Dissolution? 311
(e) Learned and Lay 316
A. Religion as the Basis of Ethics 322
B. Religion as a Form of Spiritual Culture 331
{a) Psychological Inquiry 333
 Sociological Considerations 350
.Primitive and Modern Christianity 360
We Live by Realities 373
INDEX 407 

the book details :
  • Author: Harald Høffding - Danish Philosopher and Historian.
  • Translator: B. E. MEYERS
  • Publication date 1906
  • Company: London, New York: Macmillan

  • Download  The philosophy of religion - PDF ebook - 10  MB.


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