Albinus: Religion as a philosophical matter: concerns about truth, name, and habitation.

Albinus: Religion as a philosophical matter: concerns about truth, name, and habitation.

ALBINUS, Lars

Religion as a philosophical matter: concerns about truth, name, and habitation.

Warsaw: De Gruyter Open, 2016.

228p.

ISBN 978-3-11-046865-6, £74.99.

Albinus has written a book of formidable complexity which will be of most use to University teachers of Philosophy and post-graduate students. It is probably not a book for the school library. He describes Philosophy as a ‘passionate detachment’ (p. 150) and this phrase encapsulates the tension at the heart of the book. He acknowledges that the rise of modernity has transformed our understanding of religion, but, whilst recognising the intrinsic difficulty of the very task of defining it, he resists any reductive attempts to explain religion in empirical terms: religious acts and utterances are not merely symbolic (p.3). The book is likely to frustrate those trained in the analytic tradition as it insists on an extended dialogue with the ideas of Benjamin and Heidegger in pursuit of an explanation of what this more in religious discourse may be. Albinus credits Benjamin with recognising that myth and religion have lost their power, nonetheless ‘he is reluctant to let the language of politics, or science, take over... [T]he secularized language suffers from the illusion of having overcome the spirit of religion’ (p.121).

Albinus is less successful, perhaps, in explaining what this spirit of religion is. In following an approach derived from Wittgenstein he favours ‘the pragmatic view of truth’ (p.222) and seems to adopt a non-realist epistemology. He concludes that as science sought to demystify the world so religion has sought to embrace ‘the nothingness at the heart of being’ (p223). You may think that this represents a profound exploration of religious possibility or you may detect an abdication of philosophical responsibility, either way there are lots of interesting arguments to wrestle with on the path through this flawed but engaging book.

Mark Dorsett, The King's School, Worcester

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