Review of “The Experience of God” (Part 1)

So, I finished reading David Bentley Hart’s “The Experience of God”. It took me a little longer than it did to read “Why Evolution is True”, mostly because the chapters have more pages — even though a lot of that seems to be due to the spacing — and so if I wanted to read one chapter in an evening I had to plan more time to get through the extra pages. Anyway, I want to review the book in two parts, where the first is an actual review of the book itself, while the second is my humble attempt to clarify the “Ground of All Being” argument, as I understand it. And since this was spawned from Jerry Coyne’s comments on the book, I’d like to start by making reference to him specifically …

Jerry Coyne will not like this book. He will, of course, should he actually read and comment on it, mock it, and if he does comment on it I will be very interested to see if his mockery actually hits the points in the book or just ends up as general mockery. There are two big problems with the book:

1) The book is dense. Really dense. As someone who has read around the various issues and even read Aquinas, I had a hard time following the arguments and discussion at times. Someone who has less of that background will be completely lost, particularly if they aren’t familiar with philosophical arguments. This denseness also makes it seem rambly at times, where you aren’t really sure where the comment is going. This isn’t helped by Hart at times pointing out how he was drifting at times, but at least he cops to it.

2) Too little time is spent on his own arguments, as opposed to time spent attacking naturalism. The book spends most of its time attacking naturalism, and the attacks on naturalism are, in my view, fairly reasonable and do raise problems for naturalists and materialists to solve. However, in a book like this much more time should be spent arguing for and supporting his own position instead of attacking the alternatives. At this stage, you aren’t going to convince people of your view simply by pointing out the problems in the opposing viewpoint and saying that yours is the only viewpoint left standing; all that will do is get people thinking about the problems your viewpoint might have.

Ultimately, because of this, I can’t really recommend this to anyone except those who are deeply philosophically inclined. If you want an introduction to the “Ground of Being” God and the arguments for it, pick up Feser’s “Aquinas”, which I recall as being much better written. At the end of either of these books, you won’t be convinced, but hopefully, if read carefully, you’ll have a better understanding of the argument and how it works, and what it really says.

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2 Responses to “Review of “The Experience of God” (Part 1)”

  1. Review of “The Experience of God” (Part 2) | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] Freelance Philosopher « Review of “The Experience of God” (Part 1) […]

  2. Intellectual Flag on the Play on Jerry Coyne … | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] whether or not he’s actually ever reviewed it; he clearly doesn’t think much of it ( as I predicted would be the case ) but it’s hard to say whether he’s done any actual review of it yet, because besides […]

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