The sage of Kingston : John Watson and the ambiguity of Hegelianism


John Watson's thought has not been well understood. A question suggested by previous scholarship, namely, how successful was he at his task of re-founding the Christian religion on a philosophical base? is answered first in terms of consistency with the theological tradition. His revision of Christian theology is found to be inadequate by traditional standards; it is then examined as a philosophy of religion which, to his mind, overcame the difficulties of classical theism. It is argued that, despite some advantages, his philosophy of religion is deficient in two respects. First, its method is vitiated by a strained and sometimes mistaken interpretation of the philosophical tradition, indicative of arbitrariness. Second, "Speculative Idealism" as the result of that method reveals conceptual ambiguities corresponding to the ambiguities of classical theism. As the method is not self-evident and is used implicitly by Watson, and the results are philosophically ambiguous, the appropriation of this thought was theologically or philosophically shallow. Though Watson's thought, as far as it was understood, provided an underpinning for the "social gospel" movement in Canada, it is argued that this shallow appropriation explains, at least in part, the brevity of its appeal as philosophy of religion.



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Abstract.[author unknown] - 2011 - Dialogue and Universalism 21 (4):9-9.
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.David Hume - 1779/1998 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Philosophical Review. Blackwell. pp. 338-339.

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