The Promise of Passional Reason

Document Type : Research Paper


Professor of Theology & Ethics, College of Arts and Sciences: Religious Studies, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, USA.


In some contexts, philosophical debate can be rancorous even when the volume is kept low. In other contexts, certain stripes of “evangelical apologetics” can be equally adversarial and inimical in tone. In the name of preserving a professional, if not an irenic spirit, some unspoken ground rules have been adopted for interreligious dialogue. First is the demand to avoid all appearance of circular reasoning, which is to say avoid making any rhetorical moves that depend upon metaphysical presuppositions about the reality of God. Second, it is understood that (supposedly) unimportant theologically-laden details are to be left off until the (supposedly) prior task of establishing God’s reality is achieved. Such ground rules put philosophical theologians at a distinct disadvantage in interreligious dialogue as they sideline the very voices that have the highest stake in the conversation. William Wainwright offers the concept of “passional reason” as a way to counter the ground rules. Wainwright has shown that charges of circularity and subjectivism fail in the cases of such thinkers as Jonathan Edwards, John Henry Newman, and William James. Read in one way, Wainwright’s work may be taken as a strategic defense that prevents antagonists from excluding religious voices from philosophical conversation. I argue that there is an even more fruitful way to read Wainwright. Simply put, Wainwright’s recapture and rehabilitation of “passional reason” for philosophy of religion simultaneously opens the door for more constructive approaches to interreligious dialogue than an agonistic-styled philosophical debate can allow.


Main Subjects

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