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Title: Hilary Putnam's internal realism and postliberal theology
Author: McKinnon, G.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1996
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This thesis explores the theological appropriation of 'postmodern' or 'antirealist' strands in contemporary philosophy. The examples considered in detail are the 'internal realist' philosophy of Hilary Putnam, and George Lindbeck's 'postliberal' theology as outlined in his books, The Nature of Doctrine. Putnam has developed what he calls 'internal realism' as an attempt to forge a middle path between realism and relativism. 'Relativism' is defined broadly as saying that our viewpoint is always particular and local. Thus the world of knowledge, fact and value is radically dependent on a local language. Since there is no neutral language available for us to judge these particular local languages, it follows that one view may be considered as 'good' as any another. Putnam's internal realism concedes that what we call 'objective knowledge' is always description from a particular point of view, yet does not require us to revise our ordinary understanding and use of 'objective'. Our belifes are never context-free, but there is still such a thing as getting it right and getting it wrong. So Putnam claims to hold a neo-Kantian position which accepts the postmodern critique of a neutral rationality but which avoids relativism. George Lindbeck also claims that postliberal theology sets up a methodology which allows a middle way. Postliberal theology has some of its origins in Wittgenstein's philosophy of language, in particular his concept of 'language-games'. These have their own rules (grammar) and vocabulary, and they are internally consistent. That is, they create their own conditions of meaning. A religion for George Lindbeck is a language-game, what he calls a 'cultural-linguistic' system. The community of faith defines itself through its language and practice. However, I suggest religions cannot be construed as Wittgensteinian language-games and that Lindbeck's project falls into an unwanted relativism. The conclusion of the thesis is that Putnam's internal realism is unable to provide support for Lindbeck's postliberal position. It is further concluded that Putnam's philosophy is more reminiscent of the kind of liberal theology (opposed as Lindbeck) typified by the work of the Catholic theologian, David Tracy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available