Negation of a Special Philosophy of Religion

Negation of a Special Philosophy of Religion

If religion as creed is identical with theology, it remains to consider the further conception of the philosophy of religion.

The philosophy of any subject means careful reflexion upon that subject ; thus we have the philosophy of art, of conduct, of science and so on. To do a thing, and to understand what one is doing and how one does it, seem to be different things ; and this distinction, it is thought, can be applied to intellectual as well as practical processes. To commit a crime is action ; to reflect upon one’s crime is ethics. Similarly, to conduct an argument is science, to reflect upon it is logic ; to be conscious of God is religion, to analyse that consciousness is the philosophy of religion.

Such is the common doctrine ; but it does not seem to provide us with a basis for distinguishing the philosophy of religion from other philosophies. Consciousness of truths is common to religion and all other kinds of thought ; the only distinction between religious and other knowledge would be that they were concerned with different objects. But the theory of knowledge or logic does not consider differences of the object, but only processes of the subject ; and therefore there is no distinction between the philosophy of religion (as theory of religious knowledge) and the theory of knowledge in general. If there is a general philosophy of knowing, it includes religious knowledge as well as all other kinds ; no separate philosophy is required.

Similarly, if religion involves certain types of conduct, the whole theory of conduct in general is treated by ethics.  That side of the philosophy of religion merges in ethics precisely as the intellectual side merges in the general theory of knowledge or logic. There can only be a distinct philosophy of religion if religion is a quite separate function of the mind involving neither knowledge, volition, or any other specifiable activity. But unless this hypothesis can be maintained (and we know already that it cannot), we must give up the idea of a special departmental philosophy, the philosophy of religion, and hand over the study of religion to philosophy in general.