Falsification and Belief [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 24 (3):544-544 (1971)
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In his struggle to vindicate the religious enterprise from the charge that it is unfalsifiable and meaningless, McKinnon reduces both science and religion to distorted caricatures, ignores the centrality of the problems of evil, anguish, absurdity, and the egocentric predicament for religion, and asserts that religion and science are fundamentally one and the same. He builds his thesis on a distinction between "assertional," "self-instructional," and "ontological-linguistic" intentionality of utterances. By equivocating about whether these usages are logically independent, McKinnon holds that, as "self-instructional," utterances are outside the positivist's arena. He presses the noteworthy point--that utterances sometimes are intended to report an existential stance--in such a way as to divert attention from the vast differences between religious and scientific methods and subject matter. Not content with leaving religious utterances restricted to mere reporting, McKinnon builds a case for bypassing positivistic attack under the other two usages by trading on a supposed incommensurability between particulars and universals. E.g., he holds that "God is love" must be indeterminate and unfalsifiable since both nouns are universals and since God is incomprehensible. And so it goes, a battle between straw men on a shifting field of honor for a prize of dubious worth. Notwithstanding, this is a thought provoking treatment of a difficult topic.--M. D. P.



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