Quote of the day: Walter Kaufmann #4

This is the next-to-last of the five quotes I’ve gotten from philosopher Walter Kaufmann’s great book, The Faith of a Heretic (Doubleday, 1961). This is from page 147.

“If a philosopher takes the attitude that Plato and Kant must be defended at all costs, if necessary by the most farfetched interpretations, and that their works must be read as we should not read those of any other philosopher, this would be a personal defect; it is certainly not the essence of philosophy. On the contrary, his approach would be patently unphilosophical. In theology, on the other hand, such partiality, such special pleading, such a double standard is institutionalized.”

17 Comments

  1. Posted January 6, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    That clarifies a lot and does so in such a way as to (hopefully) leave apologists speechless. They should be speechless after this. Otherwise, they’d have to hold both God and Jesus to the same standards as they hold even you, Jerry. At least, arguing you, they get a response, well-thought-out logic, and true personal interaction.

  2. Posted January 6, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    How true that is!

  3. Alex Shuffell
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I’m starting to love this guy. I’ve checked Amazon for this book, cheapest is about £65! Is it worth that price, considering I’m a poor student and could easily 5 books for that price?

  4. Posted January 6, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I have really enjoyed these Kaufman quotes and this one in particular is so beautifully succinct. Oh to be so erudite.

    • Posted January 6, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      If you borrow from the local library — and even if they have to you interlibrary loan to get it for you — you could, at least, read it. (You could also scan or photocopy it, but you didn’t hear that from me!)

  5. marycanada FCD
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Institutionalization is why it will be so difficult to push religion back into the private sector. Great quote.

  6. Jaime Ospina
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    The lives of imaginary beings are, by their very nature, exceedingly fragile. Reason and reality, and other imaginary beings, are a constant threat to their existence. No wonder so many of them have passed away notwithstanding the insane disposition of their adherents to kill and die for them.

    What lives solely in the imagination can be defended only in the imagination and cannot survive any confrontation with reason and reality. For me, theology is as intellectually stimulating as hobbitry but not as much fun.

  7. Posted January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    If a philosopher takes the attitude that Plato and Kant must be defended at all costs, if necessary by the most farfetched interpretations, and that their works must be read as we should not read those of any other philosopher, this would be a personal defect; it is certainly not the essence of philosophy.

    In my experience, philosophers tend to do exactly that. How many times, for example, do we hear chants of “You can’t derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’”?

    b&

    • John Marley
      Posted January 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      My understanding of “You can’t derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’” is that an observation of a real phenomenon (ie, evolution) says nothing about ethics or philosophy (ie, how people should treat each other). How does that relate to anything in the Kaufmann quote?

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        Think “dogma.”

    • Mark
      Posted January 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      The “chant” is backed up by arguments made by generations of philosophers, most notably by David Hume. The point is not that this must “be defended at all costs” — rather, they are assuming you have done your reading and are asking you to respond to the arguments made in these texts. Kant had one possible answer to the is-ought problem and other philosophers have pointed to problems with his work. Nietzsche wrote a particularly obnoxious criticism of Kant. So the argument continues.

  8. marksolock
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  9. Posted January 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Why, I even have a blog @ wordpress. with his name as a gentle atheist. So, there I’d be gentler myself. Now, whilst wordpress. has cooperated with me to post here again, it has yet to let me post there again! I have just one blog there under lordgriggsI, whilst that other the Kaufmann one and many others are under lordgriggs1947.
    Has anyone else here ever have such a problem?
    Kaufmann certainly knew theology for the double-talk it entails! Why, Prof. Irwin Corey makes more sense!
    Philosophers of religion should pay attention to his two books just as they do to Hume! They should have commentaries.
    Howard Jordan Sobel’s “Logic and Theism,” Robert Graham Oppy’s ” Arguments about Gods, ” Jonathon Harriss’ ” God, Freedom and Immortality,” Michael Martin’s ” Atheism: a Philosophical Defense” and his and Rikki Monnier’s anthologies are top-flight, comprehensive tomes, worthy of serious study.Others exist. And we have less weighty ones.

  10. Posted January 7, 2013 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    I guess we are supposed be so grateful for the great sacrifice on his part to be Speaker

  11. Posted January 7, 2013 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    I have really enjoyed these Kaufman quotes and this one in particular is so beautifully succinct. Oh to be so erudite


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