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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Symposium: David Shatz's Preface

The symposium on David Shatz's paper, "Hierarchical Theories of Freedom and the Hardening of Hearts" (Midwest Studies in Philosophy 1997 (XXI): 202-24), is now underway.  Professor Shatz has kindly agreed to initiate the symposium with some thoughts on his paper and the broader philosophical and exegetical issues it raises.  What follows are his remarks.

This article (from 1997) belongs to a genre that is becoming increasingly popular among analytic philosophers, thanks to pioneering efforts by Eleonore Stump, Charlotte Katzoff and (without a predominantly analytic emphasis) the Shalem Center: namely, the philosophical analysis of biblical narratives. As editors Charles Manekin and Robert Eisen remark in their introduction to Philosophers and the Jewish Bible, “While the contemporary project of philosophical exegesis differs greatly from the medieval project, both share a fascination with the Bible and a desire to make sense of it in philosophical terms” (p. 5). Just as medieval philosophers sought to harmonize Scripture and  philosophy and to use philosophy as an exegetical tool, analytic philosophers who are committed to what can loosely and evasively be called "traditional philosophical theology" utilize philosophical analyses to remove inconsistencies between the Bible and philosophy and to understand narratives more deeply. It scarcely needs to be added that philosophers who are not theists may -- and do-- use philosophical theories and methods to analyze biblical narratives, and that philosophers committed to "traditional philosophical theology" may, like everyone else, use philosophy to interpret narratives without relating them to theological concerns. Also, some philosophers (like Howard Wettstein) stress the gap between traditional philosophical theology and the Bible.