No chance of a 2D deity

March 12, 2009

Few would disagree with Simon Blackburn's view that David Hume was a gifted writer, but the implied notion that he provided the last word on God's existence, anthropology or miracles is somewhat undermined (empirically of course) by the fact that we're still talking about these things ("Divine irony", 5 March).

Just as his critique of scientific presumptions such as causality may intrigue us, Hume's caustic views on certain religious opinions provoke thought but are hardly "devastating" unless you happen to agree with them.

Part of the problem is that in a quest for sixth-form certainties, too many philosophers are oblivious to the centrality of paradox in religious hypotheses. Hence mystics of every stripe caution in words that God is beyond words - a view well understood by, among others, Ludwig Wittgenstein. The theological academy is unlikely to oversimplify its nuanced conceptions of either God or humanity to provide a "usable concept of a deity" compliant with two-dimensional thinking.

Anthony Towey, Head of the School of Theology, Philosophy and History, St Mary's University College.

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