Wednesday, 18 January 2006

Essential philosophy for theologians

“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” —Ludwig Wittgenstein

“If we open our mouths, we find ourselves in the province of philosophy.” —Karl Barth

Here is my own list of essential philosophy for theologians. Philosophy really is essential if we want to practise the discipline of theology: a theologian who does not read philosophy is like a sailor who does not observe the weather.

It was a painful job trying to decide what not to include in this list. In the end I decided to limit the list by restricting it to post-medieval philosophy. This is not meant as a judgment about the superiority of modern philosophy. Rather I am simply assuming that we have already read the great ancient and medieval philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, Philo and Plotinus, Augustine and Boethius, Scotus and Ockham.

So here’s my list of 20 essential philosophy texts (ordered chronologically by author):

1. Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Novum Organum
2. René Descartes (1596-1650), Meditations on First Philosophy
3. Benedictus de Spinoza, (1632-77), Theologico-Political Treatise
4. David Hume (1711-76), Treatise of Human Nature
5. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-76), The Social Contract
6. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Critique of Pure Reason
7. G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831), Phenomenology of Spirit
8. Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55), Concluding Unscientific Postscript
9. Karl Marx (1818-83), Capital, Vol. 1
10. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Thus Spoke Zarathustra
11. A. N. Whitehead (1861-1947), Process and Reality
12. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
13. Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), Being and Time
14. Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002), Truth and Method
15. Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86), The Second Sex
16. Paul Ricouer (1913-2005), Time and Narrative
17. Michel Foucalt (1926-84), Madness and Civilization
18. Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), Of Grammatology
19. Alasdair MacIntyre (1929- ), Whose Justice? Which Rationality?
20. Jean-Luc Marion (1946- ), God without Being

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