Friday, November 09, 2007


My friend Ted wrote,

"It would be a lot more helpful, Beth, if you would just post a brief summary of the external author's work with a link, and then provide your own thoughts. Without known what you are thinking, I hardly know how to respond. This piece is as much an attack on Protestantism as it is on nominalism."

Yes, I know I have a nasty habit of doing that, but there are several reasons why I do. First of all, this blog exists not only for conversation but it also functions as my personal record for some provocative things that I've read and want to be able to chew on for the future. I worry that in the constant swirl of cyberspace, some sites will disappear, making their links useless, and any subsequent reflection or conversation about them devoid of context.

I also am concerened that if I just post the link, people won't bother to check it out, whereas if I post the article, and highlight the interesting areas, they might be tempted to read it in its entirety. (Perhaps I'm wrong about that, but nevertheless it bothers me.)

Finally, I'm not prepared to give a final answer about any of this stuff. (Philosophy is first and foremost about dialogue.) I've been exploring nominalism now for the past year, ever since teaching a course about epistemology and metaphysics. The more I read about it, though, the more some things seem to be falling into place for me. But I also want to avoid being like the proverbial man who found a hammer, and for whom everything from that point on appeared to him as a nail. That's why I'm depending on voices like Ted's for input. And that's why, whenever possible, I am starting to avoid digests for particularly controversial articles, so as to offer readers the opportunity to encounter them first for themselves, apart from my analysis.

For my own thoughts so far (as I mentioned to Donn earlier) those interested can check the following entries: "The Slippery slope of Nominalism" (Nov 18, 2005) , "Institution or Body?", (June 14, 2007) and "Square Circles and Nominalist Christians" (November 3, 2007). I'm also in the process of writing "Nominalism 2" in response to the rest of Ted's comment. I promise more as time permits.

Many thanks to Ted, Donn and Kent for your contributions. I welcome help from any other readers, in locating sources on nominalism which have been helpful to them, especially from a pastoral perspective. I am particularly interested in any works which would be written from a Protestant point of view, defending nominalism's "upside," or demonstrating how Luther and Calvin might not actually have been influenced by nominalism. Stay tuned... : )

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