This article reviews the theistic belief of two pragmatists, William James and Richard Rorty, to show “how each philosopher understands the relationship between philosophy and theology” specifically focusing on the roles of “inquiry and conservation” (Nelson, 2009, p. 495). First, this article begins with introducing the need for an examination of the “relationship between philosophy and theology” to allow for a convergence of different ideas among pragmatic thinkers (Nelson, 2009, p. 495). Second, a description of James’ pragmatic philosophy, which allows for theism, is discussed in terms of inquiry. Third, Rorty’s pragmatic philosophy, which disallows for theism, is discussed in terms of conversation. Fourth, a section on Rorty’s ideas on James is presented. Last, a section that ties together the article is presented with the author’s opinions of each pragmatist’s theory.
Overall, I found this article to be informative on past research, but it did not give much new information on the topic of theism and pragmatism. A predominant strength in this article was the in-depth research that included the detailed description of Rorty’s ideas of religion in pragmatism. The author clearly put a lot of effort into researching Rorty’s ideas and he used a variety of references to support claims he made about Rorty’s philosophy. Another strong point of the article was the concluding remarks section. Here is where the author gave new information and his opinions on the pragmatist’s philosophies. He also offered possible flaws in each of the pragmatists’ philosophies. This section should have been the focus of the article because it would allow for a more in-depth look at the author’s own ideas, which is typically the point of writing articles, to provide new ideas to the discipline.
Weaknesses in this article include the poor organization of each pragmatist’s religious views. Although the views were categorized by pragmatist (i.e. James and Rorty) to make the article easier to follow, the way the ideas were presented in those categories was not entirely clear. Sometimes the points being made were hard to follow. This is because the author would go on tangents and bring in information that could be easily removed without doing harm to the analysis. Another weakness is the scarcity of original ideas. This article was eleven pages long with nine pages of summary on James’ and Rorty’s views on religion. An extended version of the concluding remarks section would be beneficial because it would allow for more of the author’s voice to be heard, rather than the voices of James and Rorty. The last notable weakness was the author’s vague description of James’ philosophy of “inquiry” and his strong description of Rorty’s philosophy of “conversation”. The author seemed to know more about Rorty’s points of views and this showed in his analysis with the amount of information he presented on Rorty compared to James. James is spoken of in three pages of this article, while Rorty is spoken of for five pages. An even amount of information and research for both pragmatists may strengthen this article.
Nelson, D. R. (2009). Inquiry, conversation and theistic belief: William James and Richard Rorty get religion. The Heythrop Journal, 50(3), 495-597.