Anselm and Phillips on Religious Realism

Part of the Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion book series (CSPR)


I have never understood very clearly what religious realism is. The term is used in the philosophy of religion with such bewildering variety that precision is almost impossible. However, I have taken it upon myself to write down a list of six definitions. (I will limit myself to talk of realism concerning God, that is, the ultimate reality of Western monotheism. Discussions about religious realism could of course be carried on about the divine beings or ultimate realities of other religious traditions.)


Literal Meaning Religious Life Ultimate Reality Religious Behaviour Ontological Argument 
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  1. 1.
    There are, of course, other definitions of ‘religious realism’. D.Z. Phillips, for example, seems in places to mean by this term the theory that religious belief is separable from religious practices and commitments, and serves as their justification. See his recent paper, ‘On Really Believing’, in Wittgenstein and Religion (London: Macmillan and New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 6.
    D.Z. Phillips, Religion Without Explanation (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1976).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    D.Z. Phillips, Faith After Foundationalism (London: Routledge, 1988).Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    This claim of Phillips is carefully analysed and criticised in Joseph Runzo’s Reason, Relativism, and God (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986), pp. 175–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 12.
    This dilemma is raised as a criticism of Phillips by J.L. Mackie in The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 222–9.Google Scholar
  6. 23.
    My understanding of the issues related to religious realism and nonrealism has been strengthened by reading several of the essays in Joseph Runzo (ed.), Is God Real? (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993). I would also like to thank John Hick, Alan Padgett, and Joseph Runzo for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.Google Scholar

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© Timothy Tessin and Mario von der Ruhr 1995

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