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Record Type: Review   ID: 709

Primordial Truth and Postmodern Theology

Griffin, David Ray, & Smith, Huston

In this unusual book two philosophers conduct a dialogue. In their Introduction, they point out that they are both critical of the modern world view and both are very much interested in the relation of religion and science. They add: "And both, at some point in their odysseys, abandoned the position the other now holds for the one he presently espouses. This puts us in a favorable position, we felt, to work on the deep-lying differences between our two positions--one perennial, the other postmodern. Our discussion also held the prospect, it seemed to us, of bringing the outlines of our two positions into sharper reality by virtue of the contrasts we would be mainly focusing on" (p. 1).

Although both agree more than they disagree, in this volume they refer to their common views only so they can delineate their differences. Briefly, Griffin is a devout student of Whitehead's process philosophy, which Smith finds to be limited. Jointly, they state: "The major value of the book . . . . is that it provides readers who are dissatisfied with modernity and relativistic postmodernity an inside look at two alternatives, or, one should say, two versions of two of the major alternatives available today. Each position is presented and defended by an advocate and criticized by a sympathetic critic--one who afffirms its basic intention and wishes it sell--in fact, wishes to help make it better!" (p. ix).

Griffin starts the dialogue with a response to Huston Smith's position in his Beyond the Post-Modern Mind and Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Tradition. The principal objection is that Smith favors a return to a premodern view. In Chapter 3 Smith responds to Griffin, arguing that he does not advocate a return to a premodern view but to a timeless one. In Chapter 4, Griffin argues against 7 points of Smith's philosophy, and tries to set forth its positive features can be retained in a postmodern vision. In his reply, Smith addresses the seven topics, after pointing out their major difference--that Griffin (in a most unpostmodern way) thinks that "there is an objective, universally applicable court of appeal that can adjudicate between world views, determining their truth and falsity. It consists of reason" (p. 153), even though supplemented by vision. He concludes that for Griffin unity is epistemological, whereas for Smith it is ontological. In a joint Afterword, Griffin tries to recapitulate the basic points of the dialogue, with interspersed comments from Smith in italics. Griffin concludes that his view in pan-en-theistic, whereas Smith's is pantheistic.

Publisher Information:Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. 216p. Chap.bibl; 5 figs; Index: 211-216
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