As a traditional theological issue and in its broader secular varieties, theodicy remains a problem in the philosophy of religion. In this remarkable book, Sami Pihlström provides a novel critical reassessment of the theodicy discourse addressing the problem of evil and suffering. He develops and defends an antitheodicist view, arguing that theodicies seeking to render apparently meaningless suffering meaningful or justified from a ‘God’s-Eye-View’ ultimately rely on metaphysical realism failing to recognize the individual perspective of the sufferer. Pihlström thus shows that a pragmatist approach to the realism issue in the philosophy of religion is a vital starting point for a re-evaluation of the problem of theodicy.
With its strong positions and precise arguments, the volume provides a new approach which is likely to stimulate discussion in the wider academic world of philosophy of religion.
Sami Pihlström is professor of philosophy of religion at the University of Helsinki. He has published widely on, e.g., the pragmatist tradition, the problem of realism, and the philosophy of religion.
"With this fresh and highly stimulating book on pragmatism, realism and antitheodicy, Sami Pihlström consolidates his most important thinking to-date into one coherent account. While demonstrating how his take on pragmatism can have bearing on the debate on realism and anti-realism, fact and value, truth and pluralism, Pihlström also brings his position to bear on the failures of theodicy. Bringing added richness to the pragmatist tradition, Pihlström fruitfully draws on Kant’s transcendentalism, Levinas’ alterity, along with Wittgenstein’s view of language and its limits. Rich, lucidly written and carefully argued, this book deserves a broad readership."
- Professor Espen Dahl, University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway
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Michael L. Raposa
Summary: Sami Pihlstrom’s important new book explores the significance of pragmatism as a resource for philosophers of religion confronted with the problem of evil. It is important to observe, however, that Pihlstrom is not recommending any kind of pragmatic ‘solution’ to that problem. This observation will require further commentary here, but it explains why the proposal in his book is best regarded as an ‘antitheodicy’. After sketching that proposal in the overview supplied by his introductory remarks, the author directs his attention to other relevant issues, later returning to the topic of theodicy toward the end of the book. Crucial among these is the question about how best to understand pragmatism itself, indeed, how one might productively reconfigure traditional accounts of pragmatism by carefully exploring its roots in and links to Immanuel Kant’s transcendental philosophy. As a result, Pihlstrom has produced a book that, while somewhat modest in length, is by no means modest in its ambitions.
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Summary: Beyond discussing objections and caveats, Pihlström thematizes his very own situation as a thinker, unfolding the contextuality of (philosophical) theorizing performatively. Whereas underlining the importance of self-examination is a common move in philosophical statements, the critical impetus all too often stops at the doorstep of one’s own position. Pihlström incorporates self-criticism in his overall project of defending a moral point of view. The book, thus, is not only of interest for philosophers of religion or those interested in pragmatist research. It is an example of how philosophy today could wrestle with “the problem of life”.
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Pihlström, S. 2020. Pragmatic Realism, Religious Truth, and Antitheodicy: On Viewing the World by Acknowledging the Other. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-2
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Published on Feb. 3, 2020