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The Possibility of Religion in a Scientific and Secular Culture

Augustine Shutte
Research Institute for Theology and Religion University of South Africa PO Box 392 UNISA 0003 E-mail: shutte@humanities.uct.ac.za Abstract In this article religion is defined in terms of our concern for the fulfilment of our most fundamental natural desires, especially those that seem beyond all human power to fulfil, such as the achievement of death-transcending life or a complete and enduring community between free beings such as human persons are. A god is always seen as the source of power sufficient to achieve this in us. Our conceptions of our god and of human nature are therefore always linked. The arguments for the existence of a god in the history of European philosophy show this. From the cosmological arguments of pre-modern times, through arguments from design and anthropological arguments in the modern period, to a contemporary argument from interpersonal relationships, a deepening insight into human nature produces an ever more comprehensive conception of a god, one that is not incompatible with a scientific worldview, or the secular rejection of the supernatural in the name of human freedom.

Nearly twenty years ago I had an article in a well-known journal (see footnote 7 in this article) published by Blackwell's in Oxford, called A New Argument for the Existence of God. The title, if nothing else, I thought, would provoke widespread response. As that did not happen I am trying again, not precisely to repeat the argument in another journal (it is still there for those who have not read it in the first), but to provide a philosophical introduction to it. Even new arguments do not fall from the blue. I am twenty years older (and wiser?) and have more to say on the topic. What follows then is the prequel to my argument, in the form of a (fairly lengthy) sketch of the original picture. This article has five parts. The first introduces the problem of religious faith in a scientific and secular culture. The second deals with the notion of a philosophy of religion. There follows an overview of the actual engagement of philosophy with religion in the history of Europe. This is divided into a pre-modern, a modern and a final stage that brings us to the present day. In the course of this historical account, a philosophical conception of humanity and a god1 is developed and offered as both a meaningful foundation and a critical standard for actual religion in a scientific and secular culture.
1 In this article I will normally use the word god in the completely general sense where it means simply the object of religious faith, whatever the religion and without implying any particular conception of the

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1. Introduction Participants in the contemporary dialogue between religion and science have been treated to a wealth of insights into the nature of science and the scientific world-picture. Unfortunately, the same is not true with regard to religion. The nature of religion and the religious world-view is largely taken for granted, both by the scientists and the theologians involved. And in most, although not all cases, their views are not based on a critical reflection on the formulations of religious faith (usually Christian) they have inherited. There is a good reason for this. The modern dialogue between religion and science began in conflict. The conflict was one between different world-views. The scientific discoveries and world-pictures seemed to contradict traditional religious doctrines. Names like those of Copernicus and Galileo and Darwin identify the early stages of this conflict, which still goes on around evolutionary biology, genetics, neurophysiology, cognitive science and other points of growth. The world-view of science is continually changing and, overall, always in the direction of greater comprehensiveness and truth. The essentials of religion, on the other hand, do not change. Even the doctrinal formulations of religious faith change only slightly and slowly, if at all. This is certainly true of Christianity, which has been, up to now, the main religious partner in the dialogue with science. Religion, unlike science, is essentially conservative in this respect. The newest science is the truest. Thus, if the scientific world-view, or parts of it, seem to contradict religious doctrines, the onus is on religion to explain away the contradiction, or change its doctrine. This seems to follow from the logic of the situation. But would not changing its doctrines be betraying something essential to religion? Not necessarily. As we shall see, it is necessary to distinguish between religious faith as a comprehensive personal attitude, including volitional and emotional as well as cognitive elements, and doctrinal formulations of faith. In the case of Christianity, for instance, the faith of the original followers of Jesus was a comprehensive personal attitude to him, whose meaning was expressed in terms of their own language and culture. As time went by, and as they attempted to explain their faith in Jesus to others speaking a different language and living in a different culture, they had to find new words to make themselves understood. This distinction between faith and the way in which it is expressed in doctrines, can help one to see where the real cause of conflict lies in the history of religion and science in Europe in modern times. The cause is the cultural revolution that created modernity, and that can conveniently be called secularisation The development of science is an important part of this, but by no means the whole. Leonardo da Vinci, Luther, even Machiavelli, as well as Copernicus can be regarded as founding fathers of the modern world. The change in consciousness occurs in religion and morality, in art and politics, as well as in science. Fundamentally it is a rejection of authority in these fields, and in the whole of human life, in the name of individual freedom. Nor is it only a change in consciousness, but of the human world as well. The development of science brought about ever new, ever increasing technologies for living. Industrialisation, the growth of cities, and the new monetary system of capitalism, are all the fruits of European science. And then political development, from the empire of Europe
nature of this object. Occasionally I use it with a capital Gas the name of the god of a particular religion.

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to individual nations under kings, finally culminates in government of the people by the people for the people. This change in the world of Europe meant a change in world-view as well; a radical and comprehensive change. And it is here that we find the roots of the conflict between science and religion. For the faith of the religions of Europe is expressed in pre-modern language and is embodied in a pre-modern way of life. Increasingly therefore, believers begin to live in two worlds, the world of their ordinary modern life and the world of their religion. And these worlds appear increasingly as incompatible. The modern world-view is scientific and secular; the world-view of religion sacral and mythical. This conflict of world-views is not simply an opposition between two public, objective spheres of society. It is an opposition in the minds of believers as well. And it is an opposition that can seem impossible to overcome. For the essence of the sacral world-view is a belief in the reality of the supernatural, which is the realm of the divine, and its distinction from the natural, which is the human realm. This is precisely what the secular world-view denies. There is only one world, the human world. There is no supernatural realm outside our imagination. Modern science, in its confidence in its ability to discover the way the world really works, and also in its power to control it so as to make it serve human needs, reinforced the secular view of the world by putting humanity in the position of knowledge and power previously occupied by the divine. Ordinary people lived with this interior opposition between the ordinary world and the world of their religion. They still do to a large extent. Intellectuals, philosophers and theologians, and also some scientists, however, took up the challenge and engaged with the new culture of modernity in order to integrate it with their faith. And so the dialogue between science and religion began. In a nutshell, the point I want to make is that there is still in the minds of most contemporary believers an opposition between the language and world of their faith and those that they live in. It is this that is the source of the anxiety, the heat, and the passionate interest generated by the dialogue between religion and science. In this article I am concerned to overcome this opposition by a philosophical investigation into the nature of religion and our god. In doing this I am following in the footsteps of others, pioneers of this project of reconciliation, such as Karl Rahner and Edward Schillebeeckx (in my own Christian tradition).2 And they too stand on the shoulder of giants: Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach and many others since.3 The drama in the history of theology in Europe in modern times has been the ongoing attempt to inculturate religious faith in a secular and scientific culture. The purpose of my investigation in this chapter will be to show that there is no necessary opposition between a secular and scientific world-view and religious faith. The true opposition is between a secular and scientific world-view and a sacral and supernatural one. By a supernatural world view I mean (roughly) one in which mira2 The work of Rahner as a whole is a magnificent example of the attempt to theologically inculturate Christian faith in a scientific and secular culture. Particularly fine examples of this are his long essay Hominisation (1965, London: Burns and Oates), (subtitled The evolutionary origin of man as a theological problem) and Foundations of Christian Faith (1978, London: Darton, Longman and Todd) written towards the end of his life. The subtitle of this compendious work is An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity. In particular, Kant's Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion and Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity.

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cles happen and is peopled by invisible quasi-personal divine' beings other than human. But now let me be more precise and set out in detail the conception of religion and a god as it has developed in the history of European philosophy. 2. Philosophy of religion One of the differences between a secular and a sacral world-view is that the latter takes the notion of a god or gods for granted. And religion is simply one's dealing with them. In the pre-modern period Thomas Aquinas, for instance, although he attempted to prove the existence of the Christian god in a purely intellectual way without relying on faith, certainly never doubted that his god existed.4 In the modern period the existence of gods ceases to be obvious and the proofs offered by philosophers have a different function, namely that of providing rational grounds for religious faith itself. It was important that one's faith be based on reason rather than revelation, since rational belief did not contradict one's freedom and dignity, whereas a simple reliance on the authority of the source of revelation whether the Church, the Bible, Jesus, or God himself did. In the modern period it is religion itself, in all its varied manifestations, that becomes the object of rational - scientific and philosophical - study. Modern philosophy of religion really begins with Kant and his book Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. He presents a theory of religion as a human activity by defining religion in relation to his philosophical conception of human nature. Like most philosophers in the modern period, he thought individual freedom to be the most important human fact and value. His whole philosophy is an attempt to make space for this in the deterministic world-view of natural science. He does this by making a distinction between our bodily self, which is a part of material nature and subject to its laws, and our rational self, which is not. Religion is the attempt to affirm the rational self as our true self and live in accordance with its dictates. And this, for Kant, is the essence of morality, the attempt to subordinate the feelings and inclinations caused in us by nature to the freely chosen acts determined by our reason. Religion adds to morality simply the rational faith that this is possible and the hope that we will succeed. The idea of a god has almost vanished from Kant's theory of religion, becoming almost identical with the rational self. And this is no surprise, for if we were subject in any way to a source of power and authority outside ourselves, what would become of the freedom that is our most precious possession? In Religion within the Limits of Reason Alonei, Kant criticises traditional Christianity for precisely that; betraying human freedom by making salvation depend on a source of power beyond ourselves and, worse still, seeing it as a reward for our obedience. Kant had in fact a divided attitude towards Christianity. He saw it as the expression of an important truth about human life; in fact the most important truth. But this truth was expressed in symbolic mythical language and attached to particular historical events. The mistake was to take it literally. Instead one had to dig beneath the narrative surface to find the jewel hidden underneath. Using the conceptual tools of his own philosophical conception of humanity, Kant began the modern work of the demythologisation of religion. What Kant began others carried on, and in an increasingly radical way. Kant's view of religion still had room for the notion of a god and life beyond death. Hegel, who started where Kant left off, replaced the Christian idea of a god with his own notion of
4 For an excellent introduction to and translation of the famous five ways, there is Timothy McDermott's Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation, Christian Classics, Westminster, 1989.

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Spirit. Spirit was the underlying dynamism of a world in the process of self-creation, a self-creation that culminated in the history of a self-determining humanity. Everything that religion had to say about our god was true, so Hegel wrote, of humanity itself. Or as his student Feuerbach put it, The secret of theology is nothing other than anthropology (1854:206). In addition to offering increasingly comprehensive accounts of the positive truth contained in religion, such thinkers as Hegel and Feuerbach also offered increasingly radical criticisms of traditional religion as such. It was Feuerbach who first introduced the idea that religion was an illusory projection of the deepest desires of the human heart. All these critiques had one thing in common: they saw religion as the enemy of human freedom; the deepest and most dangerous one. This developing tradition of philosophy of religion prepared the way for Marx and Sartre and their critique of religion as alienation and bad faith. In both cases it is human freedom that is being defended. For Marx, religion is the most fundamental form of alienation of consciousness, an internal source of impotence that prevents our attempt to realise genuine freedom in a classless society in this world. For Sartre, religion is an equally fundamental form of bad faith, the individual's attempt to hide from their freedom and their responsibility for the whole of their life. In spite of its increasingly negative attitude towards religion, this philosophical tradition has contributed a wealth of positive insights into religion as a human concern. The human sciences too have thrown a great deal of light on this dimension of human existence. It is against this background that I will now outline my own view. For the sake of brevity I will not refer to all the different sources for my views. In some cases I have even forgotten them. Still my main concern is not a scholarly one, but to present my view as clearly and cogently as I can. Ever since van der Leeuw's great work on the phenomenology of religion,5 it has been uncontroversial to see the question of power, and the quest for it, at the centre of the religious life of humanity. The power in question is that able to satisfy the deep desires of our human nature in a comprehensive and enduring way. The general notion of a god is that of the origin of this kind of power. And insofar as we experience ourselves as lacking in power sufficient to satisfy our deep ineradicable desires, so will our god and the power of our god be seen as transcending our own. All religions see human life as a predicament that requires the exercise of power transcending our own to overcome. They differ only in the way they understand our predicament, and hence in the way they understand the power capable of overcoming it. In view of this understanding of religion, it can be see that there will be an intrinsic connection between a religion's conception of human nature, its needs and capacities, and its conception of its god. The god must, at the very least, be conceived of as having power to fulfil precisely those needs, to actualise precisely those capacities. In the Biblical religious tradition, humanity is in fact defined as the image of God. My view is that, as European philosophy developed a deeper understanding of human nature through history, so too did it develop a correspondingly deeper conception of our god. I propose now to sketch this development in order to show how conceptions of humanity and humanity's god are fitted together, both in a sacral and even in a secular world-view. We shall then be in a position to formulate a more adequate conception of religion and our god, in the sense of the kind of power and its origin required to fulfil
5 Van Der Leeuw 1965 Religion in Essence and Manifestation Amsterdam: Nijhoff.

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the deepest needs of human nature, one that is more consonant with the insights into human nature we have now developed. 3. The pre-modern period The culmination of reflection on human nature and the nature of humanity's god in the pre-modern period of European history is to be found in Thomas Aquinas cosmological argument for the existence of the Christian god. As is well known, he borrowed this argument for the existence of an uncaused cause of the universe from Aristotle, who, from a Christian point of view, was an atheist, and certainly was no believer in the Greek gods. But for Aquinas, as a Christian, the god of humanity was the transcendent creator of the universe. Hence this god and Aristotle's uncaused cause must be one and the same. Humanity too, as the image of such a god, was seen by Aquinas as being transcendent and a creator too, though only in a derivative way, transcending the rest of the universe by virtue of our rationality and so able to exercise a creative ordering of the world. Aquinas in fact used Aristotle's definition of humanity as rational animal to give content to the biblical conception of humanity's likeness to the creator. Aristotle had argued that, since our minds were capable of knowing all material things, they could not themselves be material. As possessors of immaterial minds, Aquinas concluded, we transcended the whole material universe, both in the sense of not being caused by it to exist, but also as having needs and capacities that it could not fulfil. Because we have minds, we are capable of knowing and assigning a value to everything that exists. Thus there is a kind of limitlessness to our faculties of intellect and will that mirrors the limitlessness of our creator. Or, to put it the other way round, it is because of this limitlessness of ours that our god must be truly without limit, absolutely transcendent, if it is to have power sufficient to bring us to fulfilment. So much for the similarity between humanity and its god according to Aquinas's interpretation of the biblical idea that we are the image of the transcendent creator. But in addition to likeness, the idea of image also contains the notion of dependence. We are radically dependent on our god for our existence and fulfilment alike. Aquinas does not ignore this aspect of the biblical idea. In fact, he sees it as of crucial importance in defining the precise sense in which the Christian god is transcendent. The cosmological argument takes the following form: Everything in the universe depends on other things for its existence. But if everything absolutely were like that then nothing would exist at all; if the causal chain had no end, if there were no first cause, then there would be no subsequent causes and so nothing at all would be caused. Hence there must exist, as the sole sufficient condition for the causal system that is the universe, an uncaused cause of everything. This argument is often misunderstood as concluding to an original cause that is first in time. But neither Aristotle nor Aquinas intend to say that. They are concerned with ontological rather than temporal priority. At every moment that the universe exists, it requires the causal support of the uncaused cause. The relationship between the uncaused cause and the universe is not like that of a watchmaker and a watch, or a potter and a pot, where the artisan makes the artefact, which then exists on its own. It is like that of a singer and her song. At each moment that the song, or the universe, exists, it is because the singer is singing it even if the song, or the universe, has no beginning or end. Another model of the logic of this argument would be a line of railway trucks coupled together. However long the train, however many trucks, there will be

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no movement as long as there are only trucks. A different kind of causal agent is required to get the whole causal system going. With this argument as background it is easier to see how Aquinas understands the way in which his god transcends the universe. It is best expressed by saying that his god and the universe are incommensurable. If I have an apple in each of my hands I have two apples. If I have an apple in one and an orange in the other I have two fruit. In general, if I have anything at all in each hand, I have two things. But, for Aquinas, you cannot add our god and the universe and make two of anything. Not that our god is not real, or that our god and the universe are one. There is no common measure between them, their reality is too different. The notion of incommensurability in this context comprises the notions of both transcendence and immanence. Our god transcends the universe. This means that our god is not the universe or part of it. Our god is immanent in the universe. This does not mean that he is in a place or even everywhere, but that he is in it as the cause of its existence and all that it is and does. This conception of our god, as developed in the pre-modern period, is a philosophical understanding of the Biblical conception. As such, it is based on a conception of humanity, in this case Aristotle's. The biblical order is reversed. But this is all to the good, since what was accepted by faith as revelation can now be understood and known by reason. And Aquinas's understanding of the way in which and the reason why our god is and must be transcendent, is carried over into the modern period as part of its initial world-view. 4. The modern period: the first stage From the point of view of philosophy of religion, the modern period must be divided into two stages, the first a predominantly empiricist stage culminating in Hume, the second rationalist in inspiration beginning with Kant. As we have already suggested, the modern period is characterised by the development of science and by secularisation. And it is science and the world-view created by science that is dominant in the first stage of modernity. The natural sciences are based on the twin pillars of observation and measurement. Their success thus led to a materialist and determinist view of reality as that which is perceptible by the senses and measurable, and which works according to laws that can be formulated mathematically. The order and organisation in the world laid bare by the natural sciences inspired a quite new approach in the philosophy of religion. They provided a foundation for a new argument for the existence of a god that caused this organisation and order, an argument whose conclusion thus embodied a new conception of our god as the intelligent and purposeful cause of the order of nature. The newness here is of course only philosophical. Religion always sees its god as intelligent and purposeful. But philosophers in the modern period, such as William Paley (1743 1805), in his book Natural Theology; or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature, were claiming (unlike Aquinas, whose proofs are characterised by an austere agnosticism as to the nature of the god to which they conclude) that unaided reason was able to know this. In other words, the experience of order in nature was a direct contact with the activity of an intelligent and purposeful god. Such experience of our god was thus judged sufficient as grounds for religious faith, and the idea of a natural, rather than revealed, religion was born. Of course this fitted well into the spirit of the age as described above, as well as with the mechanistic world-view of the sciences. A machine as a whole is made for a pur-

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pose. It was only a short step from the discovery of various kinds of order in natural processes to the conviction that nature as a whole, the whole universe, like a machine, had a purpose - which of course was the purpose of its divine designer. After Darwin and others had developed the idea of evolution (and in spite of the opposition of religious apologists to this idea) it was even easier to conceive of the orderly processes of nature as the mechanism of a divine artisan at work. The theory of evolution, although it seemed to threaten traditional religion, reinforced the idea of a natural and rational religion, for it seemed to indicate that world-process not only had a direction, but that it culminated in humanity. This modern conception of our god as an artisan or designer, with the universe as an artefact, was very different from the pre-modern one. The Middle Ages conceived of our god as an artist with the world as an art-work, as the example of the singer and the song bears out. But, like the pre-modern conception, the modern conception too was coupled with a correspondingly appropriate conception of humanity. We, like our god, had become controllers of nature. Through science and technology, the powers of the universe, that pre-modern culture had placed in supernatural subjects, were now seen to be in our own hands. And instead of our relationship to our god being understood primarily in terms of dependence and obedience, it became one of co-operation. The task of humanity was to create order, both in nature and in society, to unite the whole of humanity and to make the sub-human world a home in which the human family could live in prosperity and peace. Such, in outline at least, were the conceptions of humanity and its god, and of the relationship between them, that grew from the changes that brought the modern world into being. But that was not the whole story. With the growth of the special sciences, it was not long before they began to focus on humanity itself in addition to the physical and biological realms. Humanity itself now appears as the object of scientific study. And of course every science was in a position to say something about us. This took the form of identifying the causal links that bound us to the rest of nature and that accounted for this or that aspect of our being or behaviour, and expressing these, as far as possible, in law-like formulations. In other words, humanity was progressively integrated into the determinist and materialist world-picture that prevailed. And this posed philosophical, as well as religious questions about both our capacity to act freely and the concept of life after death. It is Hume (1711 1776) who presents the fullest picture of a purely naturalistic view of humanity as simply part of the mechanistic world-view that had developed in association with science. And it is Kant who reacts most strongly to the picture I have sketched and with deliberate intent to save, as he thought, human freedom, immortality and our god. Why our god? I have already indicated Kant's foundational place in the philosophy of religion within a secular view of the world. In that context it was necessary to say something about his conception of our god and the conception of humanity to which it was connected. It is this that we are now explicitly concerned with, as we move through history from the pre-modern to the modern and, within the modern, from the first to the second stage. So I must say a little more. 5. The modern period: the second stage The mechanists had constructed their argument for their god on the ordered intelligibility of nature, an intelligibility that Hume had shown to be spurious, since it was based on a purely subjective notion of causality. Kant, on the other hand, made a vir-

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tue of subjectivity. It was precisely a forgetfulness of human subjectivity, the subjectivity of the scientists who create science, that led to the inadequate materialistic and deterministic conception of human nature. Human beings were subjects as well as objects. And as subjects, they were the creative agents of knowledge, and hence science, not the passive recipients of impressions from the natural world. As subjects they were free of the determinisms of nature, and free to create theories whose predictions could be verified by experience. As subjects they were free to create moral laws that could impose a rational order on the inclinations and desires that were part of human nature. As beings possessed of this radical freedom, we transcend the determinisms of nature, a nature that is incapable of either explaining or producing us. Only a transcendent creator, and no worldly power, is sufficient to produce beings with freedom and reason, capable of science and morality. Kant's answer to the problem raised for religion by the scientific world-view was a radical dualism. As bodily beings, capable of sensation and inclination, we are part of the materialist and determinist world investigated by science. As rational beings, capable of science, religion and morality, we are free from the laws of nature, transcendent beings, and bound to a transcendent god. The transcendence of humanity is intimately connected to the transcendence of our god in the philosophy of Kant. And here, unlike the pre-modern period, it is our freedom that is the essence of our transcendence. For Kant, freedom means autonomy, self-determination. Hence the conception of our god cannot include anything that could suggest a power external to our own. This appears problematic, and indeed it is a problem that I do not think Kant himself ever solved. In fact his criticism of traditional religion in the name of human freedom leads him to consistently deny all but a purely physical dependence on our god. We need our god in order to exist. By far the most important role played by our god in Kant's philosophy of religion, is in the sphere of morality. Our god is the source of the moral law, precisely not as something coming to us from outside, but as the law of our own rational, free, selves. In fact, in some of his later writings our god is almost identified with this free, rational self. Such is Kant's dualism that he envisaged the continued and endless existence of the rational self after the death of the body. Whether or not one accepts Kant's dualism, he offers a novel conception of humanity and its god that is importantly different from both the pre-modern and the early modern conceptions considered thus far. Unlike the medieval conception Kant's god is essentially related to the human subject rather than to the cosmos itself. In imaginative terms it is inside rather than beyond, identified with my deepest self rather than wholly other. Such language is of course metaphorical, but it points to a real difference. To experience, and to know, my god is more like the experience, and the knowledge, that I have of my (deepest) self than the experience and knowledge I can gain of other things. It is the experience and knowledge of subjectivity rather than anything objective. In this respect Kant's conception of a god also differs from the god of the design arguments of early modernity. Like the medievals, they too conclude to a designer of nature that is beyond nature and therefore also outside me, since I am part of nature. But Kant's conception differs from theirs in that the intelligibility that is the sign of a divine intelligence at work is seen to be in the knowing subject rather than in the object known. It is human rationality, morality, and freedom, that require a transcendent explanation, not anything in nature as such. The notion of transcendence that is an essential element in religion and of a god, as I have defined it in this chapter, thus has a special meaning for Kant that differs from

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that of Aquinas. For Kant the transcendence in question, at least as far as humanity is concerned, is our transcendence of the laws of nature discoverable by science, our freedom of self-determination. It is this that makes us capable of morality and religion and (as he argues in the Critique of Practical Reason) requires as the necessary condition of the meaningfulness of the moral and religious life the existence of a strictly transcendent god. At the very least this must appear paradoxical. Earlier in this chapter I depicted Kant as the founding father of the secularising philosophical tradition that sees religion as the arch-enemy of human freedom. And this is so. But at the same time he, as well as Hegel and his followers, see religion as the (mythical) expression of an important truth, namely that of human freedom (and therefore transcendence) and all that follows from that. And, as other philosophers in this tradition were to argue, the most important consequence of all is the necessity of a strictly transcendent god. In summary, the argument is this: Human persons have the capacity to perform free acts No finite cause could be the cause of such a capacity Therefore there must exist as its sole sufficient cause a non-finite, and therefore absolutely transcendent, being. Only such a being, the argument continues, is able and worthy to be the god of free beings such as ourselves. The freedom in question here is that embodied in ordinary human judgements and decisions, when we come to believe or do something for a reason. In such acts, whatever other causes are involved, of the kind discoverable by science, whether physical or psychological, they are insufficient to explain our judgements or decisions. This is because an element in the act itself is the grasping of a logical link (between a desire and a belief, or between two beliefs), something that cannot in principle be reduced to some kind of causal process. Whether or not we have this capacity is of course controversial (as all philosophical positions are). Here I will simply assume that we do. In any case, if we did not, then there would be no need to worry about the existence of a god that could be a threat to it! Free actions are those that cannot be given a sufficient explanation by any set of causes of the kind that science can discover, or indeed, any finite causes whatsoever, because then the action would not be an example of self-determination; it would be caused by things other than the self. But what is required for the freedom of the act is also required for the capacity for free acts. The capacity for free action is part of the nature of human agents even when they are not acting freely; being asleep for instance. So just as no system of finite causes can cause my free acts here and now, while I am acting, so no system of finite causes that existed in the past could produce a being like me that has the capacity for free action as part of his nature. Of course all the causes that the sciences discover; the whole evolutionary process from the Big-Bang onwards, are necessary to produce free beings like me, but they cannot be sufficient, because then I would not be free of them. Nor is it conceivable that some future science might discover the mechanism whereby the evolutionary process, or anything else in the universe, is able to bring free beings into existence. Whatever the cause, or system of causes, as long as they are part of the universe, if they are the ulti-

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mate and sufficient cause of my capacity for acting, then my acts are not free of them and so not free. Would the same logic not apply to the causal influence of a transcendent cause? Yes, if by transcendent we mean the kind of transcendence I have defined all gods of all religions as having, namely the possession of powers that merely transcend my own. No, if we mean the absolute transcendence of the spatio-temporal universe that the uncaused cause of Aquinas and Aristotle possesses. Because in that case my transcendent cause and I are strictly incommensurable. We cannot be added or opposed in any way. My transcendent cause causes me to be and act at every moment of my existence, but its causality is not in addition or in opposition to my own in any way. And to the extent that its causal influence is necessary to my existence and activity, I am free from complete determination by all the finite causes, physical, psychological, social or whatever, that also influence what I am and do. Perhaps it will clarify a somewhat subtle (but nonetheless crucial) point by putting the matter this way. Presuming the soundness of the cosmological argument, the uncaused cause of the universe acts on me, making me be and act at every moment that I exist, just as the singer does the song. But in most of my existence and activity it acts on me through other finite causes, the forces of nature and genetic inheritance, the influence of upbringing and education, the structures of society and so on. Causes of this kind are in these cases sufficient to explain my behaviour and define my identity. But in my free acts, when I do or think something for a reason, it acts on me, not just through these other causes, but directly. This is paradoxical. The more directly my acts are caused by the uncaused cause the freer they are, and the more completely my own. This is the exact opposite of ordinary causality and the causality discovered by the sciences. It is paradoxical, because we understand freedom as independence. And it is in this sense that I am free of the causal systems of nature when I act or judge deliberately. But in this sense I am never free from the causality of the uncaused cause that is my creator. To be free of that would be simply not to exist or act at all. Freedom has a meaning other than merely that of independence. Independence stresses that it is I that act and not another. But self-determination also means that whatever my acts cause to be, at the same time I cause myself to be. For human beings to be free means that we have the power to determine what sort of beings we can be. Though true (and the most important truth about us if we are to believe the philosophers of secularisation), this truth deepens the paradox I have remarked on, that the causality of a transcendent being does not diminish, but establishes our freedom. Presently I hope to at least give some concrete content to this paradox, if not remove it altogether. But now I want to draw some conclusions that are relevant to religion, both from the above account of the necessary conditions for human freedom and from the history of the ideas of a god and human nature that I have presented. The incompatibility between religion and a secular and scientific world-view arises, as we have seen, both because the latter has no place for the supernatural and also because the idea of a god is seen as incompatible with human freedom. But the line of thought I have just been following exposes both of these as pseudo-problems. It is only because of a common inadequate conception of a god (as well as a correspondingly inadequate idea of human freedom, as I shall presently try to show) as a supernatural personal but non-human being that the apparent incompatibility arises. Such a being is envisaged as being other than human beings in the perfectly ordinary sense of the word, as a kind of invisible being that is able to intervene in the normal work-

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ings of nature or society to punish or help, that listens to our prayers in order to find out what we want, and is sometimes moved to answer them and sometimes not, that now and then performs miracles in which the laws discoverable by science are suspended. This invisible being lives in an invisible, supernatural place, called by various names. What they all have in common is that it is another place. There is no other place. Whatever energies and dimensions remain yet to be discovered by science, or perhaps forever beyond science or any other form of human knowledge, they are part of the one universe in which we exist and of which a strictly transcendent god is the creator, but not a resident. This is (by definition) the only place there is. It is also the only place in which human beings can be real. If the argument of this chapter is sound, there are no powers or beings in it able to bring us into being or bring us to fulfilment. The real problem with a pre-modern sacral view of the world is that it creates a distinction within the universe of two realms, the natural and the supernatural, the sacred and the secular. It is this imaginative and dehumanising cosmology, and the powers it contains, that is the legitimate object of the criticism of all the secularising philosophers I have mentioned, and which is the real enemy of human freedom. The triumphant truth in this tradition is to see the world in which human freedom is a reality as one world. There are no parts or events or processes or beings in it that are divine. And there are no parts or events or processes or beings in it that can create or take away or fulfil our freedom. If such a power and being is real, it is not real here or there, in some places and at some times. It can only be real in every part of the universe at every time as the source of its existence and its openness to bringing free beings such as we are into existence and to fulfilment. As far as religion is concerned, it is only because human beings have something unlimited about them that they require for their complete and enduring fulfilment a corresponding unlimited power in their god. It is because we transcend the rest of the universe in our capacities, our desires and our needs that we have this unlimited character and stand in need of an absolutely transcendent god. This then is the fundamental nature of the human predicament: to have a fundamental need and a deep desire for something that only a truly transcendent power could achieve in us. The most obvious example of this is the desire to transcend death. This is something different from the instinct for self-preservation that we share with all other living things. It is thus not simply the desire to put off dying forever. Death after all is not a disease, but part of the natural order and an essential aspect of human life. And sometimes (usually?) it is something to be welcomed by the dying person. But it has a built-in negative meaning for finite persons as the proof that our own efforts to find fulfilment cannot succeed. We yearn to discover a positive meaning in our deaths, a meaning that only a transcendent power could supply. All religions recognise this aspect of the human predicament and try to supply an answer. There is another element in the human predicament that is also common to all religious traditions; let us call it the desire for community. It is the desire to love and be loved by, to know and be known by, others or another with a love that is freely given gift-love and a knowledge that is complete. It is this desire in fact (as I will presently show) that even more strictly requires the enactment of a transcendent power to fulfil than the desire to transcend death. It is certainly obvious that we cannot achieve it by our own powers since it depends on the free self-communication of others. If they are not open to be known and ready to know and love us, the desire for community is fu-

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tile. Sartre argues very persuasively that the full communion of free beings is in fact impossible to achieve; one will always be the master, the other the slave.6 Yet even he recognises that the desire for it is inextinguishable, no matter what illusory structures of bad faith we construct to fill the void. I think Sartre is wrong about this. But he is almost right. Without the presence and influence of a transcendent power, it is impossible. This outline of the human predicament reveals the necessity that our god be truly transcendent, the source of a death-transcending and community-creating power. That such a transcendent source of power is real and not a creation of our desire itself is the truth conveyed by our examination of the history of the philosophy of religion in the pre-modern and even in the modern, secular and scientific, periods. In the cosmological argument we are given the barest conception of such a being as the incommensurable eternal cause of the universe itself. The early modern arguments from design fill in this outline to a certain extent, seeing the intelligence and purposiveness of the uncaused cause in, first, the order and organisation in the world, and then in the directedness and progressive creativity of world-process. Finally, in the later modern period, our god comes to be seen as even more intimately involved in creation as the cause of human freedom. The products of this historical investigation into the nature of our god must not be seen as discoveries of particular facts about or features of particular things in the world. They are insights into the nature of the universe, and so of its creator, as such. This is true even of the last kind of argument that always starts from some feature of human existence, such as rationality, morality or freedom. Such features are not to be seen as contingent properties of one among many different kinds of object in the world. They are aspects of subjectivity as such, whereby the universe as a whole is able to be known and valued and acted upon. Humanity is a microcosm (De Chardin) of the whole hierarchy of being that the universe comprises, all things by sense and intellect (Aristotle), evolution become conscious of itself (Huxley). In fact, our account of the necessary conditions for human freedom and its creation from within the deterministic structures of nature, could be applied to any of the progressive developments of world-process, in which something genuinely new and transcending the causality of what previously existed appears, wherever more seems to come from less: the complex from the simple, the organic from the inorganic, the living from the lifeless, the conscious from the unconscious, as well as the personal from the impersonal. The causality of a transcendent cause is evident in the dynamism of an evolving universe as well. Each of the successive arguments for the existence of our god embodies a particular insight into human nature, as well as a corresponding conception of our god. The cosmological argument reveals the transcendence that follows from our rationality: our ability to make (minimal but fundamental) cognitive contact with our god, our capacity for (though not an ability to achieve) a death-transcending life and our ability to know how to live a life that leads towards human fulfilment (the natural law). The argument from design begins with the order of nature of which we are a part and develops to the point where the forces of nature and its laws appear to converge on us, its most recent, most complex, most comprehensive product. Finally the anthropological arguments depend for their force on an insight into the self-creative character of human freedom.
6 In the third chapter of Part Three of Being and Nothingness.

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These insights into human nature form the philosophical framework into which the discoveries (cosmological as well as anthropological) of the sciences can be fitted. In a secular world-view, as we have outlined above, humanity is at the centre. But, to stress once again, the crucial point is not humanity as one object among others, but humanity as the knowing, choosing subject of both science and religion, humanity as evolution become conscious of itself, humanity as a microcosm of the hierarchy of being, as in a way all things. This is the distinctive character of the secular picture of the world, or at least one that can be philosophically justified. 6. Beyond modernity I am concerned in this article to explain the character of religion in a secular culture. But there is a final step that we have to take in our attempt to recapitulate the history of the European philosophy of religion. Our conception of humanity as it developed in a secular and scientific period is not yet complete. A careful reader will have noticed an apparent contradiction in our analysis of the modern period. It is generally recognised that the thought of this period developed in two dominant traditions: the empiricist and the rationalist. What is less often adverted to is that these traditions issued in apparently incompatible insights into human nature. For empiricist thought, human beings are an inextricable part of the material universe studied by science. Each science, in fact, has its own special insights to offer towards an understanding of humanity, its powers and its behaviour. What all these insights have in common, however, is that they are formulated in terms of the various causes that explain what we are and do. Together they provide a comprehensive causal network that connects us to the rest of the universe. Whether or not one understands these multifarious causal links in a deterministic way or not, the picture is one of a radical and complete dependence on things and forces other than ourselves for all that we are and do. Rationalists, on the other hand, provide what seem to be strong arguments for a human freedom of self-determination that is both radical and complete. And we have seen in the case of Kant, who is perhaps the finest and most convincing example of this approach, that the only solution to this (apparent) contradiction is a dualism that is equally radical and complete. The arguments against dualism since his time are too strong to ignore. I will not rehearse them here, but simply record that I am convinced. An additional point worth noting is that a real dualism between body and mind, or matter and spirit, is not consonant with a secular view of the world, but is rather a throwback to a sacral view. So we are left with two insights into human nature that appear incompatible our dependence on things and forces other than ourselves for all that we are and do, and a capacity for self-determination, which is a freedom to determine what we shall become. Self-determination and other-dependence I will now try to show that this is not the contradiction that it appears to be, but a paradox that expresses a most important truth about our humanity, and also reveals the most comprehensive and intimate way in which we are able to experience the presence and activity of a truly transcendent god in a truly secular world.7 In doing so, I am making an attempt to construct a conception of humanity and its god that does justice to the insights of the history I
7 I have attempted this in a more rigorous and comprehensive way in two articles in Modern Theology Oxford: Blackwells: 1984 What Makes Us Persons Modern Theology Vol 1 pp. 67 79 and 1987 A New Argument for the Existence of God Modern Theology vol 3 pp.157 - 177

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have sketched, and offers a framework for understanding (and judging) religion in our contemporary scientific and secular world. Persons exercise their powers, and are extended to the fullest in their relationships with other persons. In fact we depend on other persons for the exercise, development and fulfilment of those capacities that are most central to our being persons, namely our capacities for self-consciousness and self-determination.8 Perhaps the clearest case of this dependence is that of a new-born child. A human child is the most helpless of all new-born things, virtually naked of the instincts that control and protect the lives of new-born animals. There are a few cases of so-called wild children that have been recorded and studied.9 These are new-borns who have been left to die at birth and have not died, but have grown to physical maturity totally outside human society. In some cases it is known that they were cared for by animals. When they were found and recovered it was possible to assess their development. And in none of the cases studied had these children developed the normal human abilities that we take for granted: awareness of themselves as subjects and agents, conceptual thought, or a sense of responsibility. These children clearly needed the presence of other persons in order to develop their distinctively human capacities. Another example of our total dependence on other persons for our own development as persons is that of what is called hospitalism in babies who, for various reasons, have been separated from their parents soon after birth and put in an institution.10 In a typical institution, the ratio of the number of babies to the number of nurses is so high that the nurses are unable to do more than keep the babies clean, fed and medicated. They do not have the time to do what a normal mother would, namely to relate personally to the baby as a person, recognising and valuing it as such. And in every case the personal development of the babies is drastically retarded. At the age of two or three they show the mental development of an imbecile. And they are desperately unhappy. What these examples show is that it is not the mere presence of another person that is necessary in order to develop our capacity for personhood. The attitude of the other person is all-important for the development of the self. They must recognise and value me as a person. And in order to do this they must themselves open up to me so that I can know that they know and value me. A positive attitude on the part of the other sets up a complex interpersonal relationship between us that enables my capacities for self-consciousness and self-determination to develop, through my coming to know and affirm the other, who both knows and affirms me. It is important to recognise that, in the interpersonal relationship that produces personal growth in me, it is the other person who has the initiative in the process. It is the mother, the person who has already developed as a person, who must take the initiative in the interpersonal transaction with the child. And this raises a question: how did
This idea, of the ontological interdependence of persons on each other, and of the ethics that flows from that, is absolutely central to traditional African thought, as authors such as the following make clear: Apostel L, Menkiti I, Mulago V, Ruch E, Anyanwu K, Senghor L, Taylor J and Tempels P. It is this characteristic of African thought that makes it such a peculiarly apt vehicle for religion, even in a secular age. 9 An excellent account of some of these cases and a discussion of the philosophical significance of the phenomenon is to be found in Suzanne Langer's Philosophy in a New Key pp 103 - 143 10 A detailed treatment of this topic is to be found in Ver Eecke's 1975 essay The Look , the Body and the Other where he analyses the work of Spitz and others in orphanages and other similar institutions in the United States. His purpose in this work is to provide evidence against the plausibility of Sartre's analysis of the look and of the intersubjective relations of persons in general. 8

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she develop as a person? Clearly in dependence on some other already developed person, her mother for instance. And how did that person develop? It seems there is a regress. If all persons depend on other persons to develop as persons how does personal development ever take place at all? The logic is the same as the cosmological argument of Aquinas, but now in the personal realm. It is a little difficult to feel the force of the question in view of the very limited example I have used, of the bare exercise of our capacity for personhood. And, like the cosmological argument, I am not really concerned with the beginning of personal development, but with the necessary real conditions for it. If we were to continue our analysis of the necessary conditions for personal growth the problem would become clearer still. We only grow as persons, which is to grow in self-knowledge and self-affirmation, by virtue of the influence on us of persons in whom these have already been developed. And the same is true if we consider the fulfilment towards which genuine personal development tends. This is the (ideal) situation in which fully developed persons relate to one another in an interpersonal community of mutual and reciprocal knowledge and affirmation in more concrete terms: complete understanding and love. I have set out elsewhere in much more detail an account of the necessary conditions for personal growth.11 Here I can only give a concrete example to bring out their essential character. It focuses on the natural human desire to love and be loved. From what I have already said, it should be evident that I can only develop the capacity to love another for their own sake (with gift-love rather than need-love, one could say), to the extent that I am myself loved in that way. All persons are in the same situation, desiring to be loved and only capable of loving if they are. How then is genuine unselfish love of each other even possible? Only if there is somewhere a source of love that does not need to be loved in order to love, that is capable of giving love without receiving it. Such a source would not be human, or finite in any way, but a strictly transcendent being, an uncaused cause in the personal sphere. Such a being would be able to be our god because it is able to fulfil what is arguably the deepest of our deep desires. Sartre would agree, although he denies the reality of such a being. He recognises the desire, but not the existence of that alone that could bring it to fulfilment. Is he right? He is not. But before I say why I think that, I need to point out one feature of our analysis of the necessary conditions for personal growth that is highly significant, but might well have been overlooked. If the above sketch is more or less accurate, then it is clear that the more I come under a certain kind of influence (a positive, affirming one) of another person, the more I am enabled to develop as a person myself. But to develop as a person is to develop one's capacity for self-determination. And here is the paradox: the more dependent on the other I am, the more self-determining I am. This is the paradoxical logic of what I like to call interpersonal causality: my freedom is developed in direct (and not inverse) proportion to my dependence on a certain kind of influence of the other. It is paradoxical because in all the causal systems discovered
11 Chapter seven of my book Philosophy for Africa Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press 1993. The approach I adopt is derived from the work of a number of others, and especially the following: John Macmurrays Gifford lectures The Form of the Personal published in two volumes The Self as Agent 1957 and Persons in Relation 1959, especially the latter; Maurice Nedoncelle 1966 Love and the Person New York: Sheed and Ward; Robert Johann 1966 The Meaning of Love New Jersey: Paulist and of course Martin Bubers I and Thou.

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by the sciences, the more that is done by one cause, the less another needs to do. Two oxen pulling a plough at a steady rate is an example; or a billiard ball striking another to set it in motion. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. In general this would be true of any system of finite causes. The more my action is caused by the other the less it is my own. It should not be difficult to see that we have here what amounts to a more complex case of that incommensurability we noted both in the cosmological argument for a transcendent cause of the existence of the universe and in the argument for a transcendent cause of human freedom. In fact, the phenomenon of interpersonal causality is to be seen precisely as a more concrete and comprehensive example of these. In the interpersonal transaction that brings about personal growth in us, and which tends towards the community described above, we experience the presence and influence of a transcendent personal power, not as something separate from the human persons involved, but as mediated and expressed through their most personal attitudes and acts. And this is the fullest manifestation of a strictly transcendent power in human life. It is experienced in our sheer existence, in our capacity for freedom, and here, most fully, in our personal growth and the community with others that it brings into being. It is only the source of power of this kind that is worthy of being recognised as our god. Here then is how I would answer Sartre. He, like me, recognises the existence in all persons of a deep desire for a fulfilment that only a strictly transcendent power could achieve. He thinks that such a power is impossible and that, therefore, man is a useless passion since we cannot eradicate this desire from our lives. I, on the other hand, think that the universality and persistence of the desire show it to be natural to humankind, as natural as the desire for food, and that therefore the conditions for the possibility of its fulfilment do exist. I would go further. I think there are experiences that justify the belief that personal growth as I have described it does occur and that the community it makes possible can be achieved. Such experiences have two sides. The first is the experience of personal growth in oneself. We experience being empowered by another person to be ourselves. We recognise that, in certain particular respects, they know us better than we know ourselves. We feel a freedom in their presence, able to do things we deeply want to but have never before dared. We feel more ourselves. This experience brings with it a conviction of their goodness and a determination to be on their side, whatever happens. And this is the second side, the experience of communion with them. It is often fleeting, but it inspires a trust in being part of something that is stronger even than death. The fear of actual death is diminished and replaced by trust in the power of the life we share. Whatever particular circumstances characterise such experiences, and whether it is recognised or not, they are experiences of faith in a transcendent power that is really operative in human life and are, therefore, a form of religious faith. In a secular world this is the form that religious faith most commonly takes, a kind of personal knowledge of oneself in relation to another or others. It is not objective knowledge of a kind that could be verified by another, but only by oneself, since it only comes in the way that all personal knowledge of persons is gained, by a kind of opening up or surrender to the offer of the other. I have called it a kind of religious faith. That is not quite accurate, since faith in this sense is the total attitude of a person. It is, to be precise, the cognitive element in such an attitude, is only made possible by a concomitant volitional opening up and brings with it an emotional element of surrender. It is often

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said, in a religious context, that faith is a gift. The complex interpersonal relationship I have described explains this terminology. In such an interpersonal transaction, it is often difficult to distinguish one agent from the other, or to decide who is at any moment the active and who the passive partner. In fact, it is the presence of transcendent power and agency, in both self and other, and the consequent incommensurability of their action upon each other that accounts for this. In this article I have been concerned to show that, far from religion being impossible in a secular society, it is only in a secular society that a form of religion and a conception of a god adequate to a full understanding of human freedom becomes possible. It is only in such a culture, in which all aspects of the supernatural have been demythologised, that we are able to recognise the presence and activity of a genuinely transcendent power in all that happens, in nature and society, but most fully and most intimately in the drama of personal relationships. References Apostel, L. 1981. African Philosophy: Myth or Reality. Gent: E. Story Scientia. Aquinas. 1989. Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation. (ed T McDermott) Westminster: Christian Classics. Feuerbach, L. 1955. The Essence of Christianity. New York: Harper and Row. Hegel, G. 1962. Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. London: Kegan Paul. Johann, R. 1966. The Meaning of Love. New Jersey: Paulist Press. Kant, I. 1956. Critique of Practical Reason. New York: Bobbs-Merrill. Kant, I. 1960. Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. New York: Harper and Row. Langer, S. 1984. Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge: Harvard. Macmurray, J. 1957. The Self as Agent. London: Faber. Macmurray, J. 1959. Persons in Relation. London: Faber. McCabe, H. 1987. God Matters. London: Geoffrey Chapman. Mentiki, I. A. 1979. Person and Community in African Traditional Thought, pp 157-168, in R A Wright (ed.), African Philosophy. New York: University Press of America. Mulago, V. 1971. Vital Participation in Dickson and Ellinworth (eds.), Biblical Revelation and African Beliefs. London: Butterworth. Nedoncelle, M. 1966. Love and the Person. New York: Sheed and Ward. Rahner, K. 1965. Hominisation. London: Burns and Oates. Rahner, K. 1978. Foundations of Christian Faith. London: Darton. Longman and Todd. Ruch E. & Anyanwu, K. 1984. African Philosophy. Rome: Catholic Book Agency. Sartre, J-P. 1969. Being and Nothingness. London: Methuen. Schillebeeckx, E. 1967. Jesus: An Experiment in Christology. London: Collins. Schillebeeckx, E. 1980. Christ: The Christian Experience in the Modern World. London: SCM. Schillebeeckx, E. 1987. The Church. London: SCM.

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Sengor, L. 1963. Negritude and African Socialism in K Kirkwood (ed.) St. Anthony's Papers No 15 Oxford. Sengor, L. 1965. On African Socialism. Stanford. Shutte, A. 1984. What Makes Us Persons? Modern Theology Vol 1, 67 79. Shutte, A. 1987. A New Argument for the Existence of God, Modern Theology Vol 3,157-177. Shutte, A. 1993. Philosophy for Africa. Cape Town: UCT Press. Taylor, J.V. 1963. The Primal Vision. Lond: SCM. Tempels, P. 1959. Bantu Philosophy. Paris: Presence Africaine. Van Der Leeuw, G. 1965. Religion in Essence and Manifestation. The Hague: Nijhoff. Ver Eecke, W. 1975. The Look, the Body and the Other, in D Ihde (ed) Dialogues in Phenomenology. pp. 224-246. The Hague: Nijhoff.