Passional Reasoning and the Accessibility of Truth: William Wainwright on Arguing About Religion

Document Type : Research Paper


Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Huntington University, Huntington, USA


This essay presents William Wainwright’s conception of religious reasoning. He rejects the view that proper reasoning in religion must be limited to “neutral technical reason” (NTR), modes of reasoning that are neutral and acceptable to all parties in a religious disagreement. He emphasizes that religious reasoning, as seen in outstanding practitioners from different religious traditions, incorporates additional elements, such as appeals to revelation, emphasis on religious reading, rhetoric, acknowledgment of mystery, and especially “passional reason,” in which the arguments presented and the conclusions accepted depend essentially on the state of the reasoner’s heart. The essay goes on to consider how Wainwright deals with issues surrounding religious diversity: he rejects all of the standard methods by which it has been argued that differences in belief between traditions either do not really exist or do not ultimately matter. Special attention is given to religious pluralism, as advocated by John Hick and Peter Byrne. This leads to a consideration of exclusivism, in which it is held that the fundamental doctrines of one religion are true, and those of other religions, insofar as they differ from those of the favored religion, are false. Wainwright finds the standard objections against exclusivism to be ineffective or inconclusive. Finally, the essay addresses a question suggested but not resolved by Wainwright’s work: Does religious diversity have the consequence that truth in religion is not accessible to us?


Main Subjects

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