Pantheism in Spinoza, Hegel, and Contemporary Philosophy of Religion
thesisposted on 04.12.2019 by Mike Popejoy
In order to distinguish essays and pre-prints from academic theses, we have a separate category. These are often much longer text based documents than a paper.
In this project I examine pantheistic views in the history of philosophy and advocate for pantheism as a philosophical position in contemporary philosophy of religion. I take pantheism to be the view that everything that exists constitutes a unity, and that that unity is divine. My contention is that what I call rationalistic pantheism, sufficiently articulated with the help of historical figures, is a position worthy of consideration in contemporary philosophy of religion and metaphysics and not merely as an historical artifact. Pantheism is usually not even considered as an alternative to the belief in the God of perfection theism, a perfect personal God. Often people see atheism as the only alternative to the perfect God of traditional theism. A primary aim of this project is to articulate a version of pantheism that is distinct both from perfection theism and atheism. I discuss in what way the rationalistic pantheist sees all of existence as forming a unity, and what it is about this unity that warrants calling it divine or God. Pantheism has a powerful tradition in the history of philosophy, and the rationalistic pantheism that I develop is based on the views of Spinoza, Herder, and Hegel. In the first three chapters I consider the views of each of these philosophers as distinct but closely related versions of pantheism. I attempt to provide a systematic and charitable account of each of their views while also considering objections to those views from various directions. In the final chapter I provide the basis for what I take to be the most plausible version of pantheism resulting from this historical analysis, which I call rationalistic pantheism. According to this view, God, or the divine, should be conceived of as an all-encompassing unity that exists necessarily, is radically independent, is structured in accordance with rational principles, and provides an explanatory basis for everything that exists. In addition, the recognition of the rational principles of existence on the part of rational agents such as human beings constitutes one of the highest achievements of this divine unity. I briefly consider additional argumentative resources that could support such a view, as well as what I take to be the distinct philosophical advantages of rationalistic pantheism over perfection theism. Ultimately, I think pantheism is worthy of serious consideration as a viable position both in philosophical debates, as well as in discussions of religion at large, providing a refreshing middle ground between traditional theism and atheism.