The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought
Edited by Chris L. Firestone and Nathan A. Jacobs, University of Notre Dame Press, 2012, 412 pp., ISBN 978-0-268-02906-7, $40.00 (paper).
This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
Catholic Library World, Dec2012, Vol. 83 Issue 2, p 127.
In The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought, Chris Firestone, Nathan Jacobs and thirteen other contributors discuss the role of God in the thought of major philosophers from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. The major philosophers examined are Locke, Hobbes, Boyle, Newton, Bayle, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Fichte, Schleiermacher, Schelling, Hegel, and Kierkegaard. The essays of The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought argue that the thought of these thinkers have been secularized and their religious thinking has largely been ignored. Firestone and others note, “The philosophers of this period are . . . not orthodox theists; they are freethinkers, emancipated by an age no longer tethered to the authority of church and state” (1). These philosophers, however, are “bent not on removing God from philosophy but putting faith and reason on more sure footing in light of advancements in science and a felt need to rethink the relationship between God and the world” (1). The purpose of the book is to examine this often ignored part of the story.
The strong part of these essays is that each of the philosophers examined is by a noted scholar in the field. In addition, each of these scholars believes that the philosophers have been misinterpreted by not taking seriously their religious thought. Some might think it is strange that Kierkegaard was included in this collection since he is an orthodox thinker. Myron B. Penner, however, shows how his thought has been distorted by a secular mindset. For example, Kierkegaard has been interpreted “as a fideist who opts for transcendence and spurns the use of reason altogether in religious belief” (384). In truth, Kierkegaard argued against “modern reason.” It is against the argument in modern philosophy which “invests authority entirely in human reason” and denies a transcendent source.
The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought makes an important contribution to the field of modern philosophy. It corrects an overlooked dimension of major philosophers from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. This reviewer was surprised that it was written in understandable prose that a non-philosopher could understand. It is recommended for all college and university libraries.