The Territories of Human Reason: Science and Theology in an Age of Multiple Rationalities

ISBN : 9780192845689

Alister E. McGrath
304 Pages
135 x 216 mm
Pub date
May 2021
Send mail

Our understanding of human rationality has changed significantly since the beginning of the century, with growing emphasis being placed on multiple rationalities, each adapted to the specific tasks of communities of practice. We may think of the world as an ontological unity - but we use a plurality of methods to investigate and represent this world. This development has called into question both the appeal to a universal rationality, characteristic of the Enlightenment, and also the simple 'modern-postmodern' binary. The Territories of Human Reason is the first major study to explore the emergence of multiple situated rationalities. It focuses on the relation of the natural sciences and Christian theology, but its approach can easily be extended to other disciplines. It provides a robust intellectual framework for discussion of transdisciplinarity, which has become a major theme in many parts of the academic world. Alister E. McGrath offers a major reappraisal of what it means to be 'rational' which will have significant impact on older discussions of this theme. He sets out to explore the consequences of the seemingly inexorable move away from the notion of a single universal rationality towards a plurality of cultural and domain-specific methodologies and rationalities. What does this mean for the natural sciences? For the philosophy of science? For Christian theology? And for the interdisciplinary field of science and religion? How can a single individual hold together scientific and religious ideas, when these arise from quite different rational approaches? This ground-breaking volume sets out to engage these questions and will provoke intense discussion and debate.


Introduction: Science and Theology in an Age of 'Multiple Situated Rationalities'
Mapping the Territories of Human Reason
Mapping the Territories of Science and Religion
The Aim of this Book
Part 1: Exploring the notion of Rationality
1 One Reason
Multiple Rationalities: The New Context of Discussion
Shifting Notions of Rationality
Rationality, Embodiment, and Embeddedness
Reflections on the Cultural and Social Embeddedness of Rationality
The Embodiment of Right Reason: The 'Wise'
Concerns about Human Rationality
One Reason
Multiple Rationalities
Rationality, Ideology, and Power
2 Mapping Human Reason: Rationalities across Disciplinary Boundaries
On the Correlation of Rationalities
Scientism: The Natural Sciences as the Ultimate Rational Authority
Multiple Perspectives on a Complex Reality
Science and Theology: Distinct Perspectives on Reality
Science and Theology: Distinct Levels of Reality
3 Social Aspects of Rationality: Tradition and Epistemic Communities
Communities and their Epistemic Systems
Rationality, Community, and Tradition
Rationality and Dominant Cultural Metanarratives
Science and Religion: Reflections on the Communal Aspects of Knowledge
Part II: Rationality in Science and Theology
4 Rational Virtues and the Problem of Theory Choice
What is a theory?
Inference to the Best Explanation
Correspondence and Coherence as Theoretical Virtues
Elegance and Beauty
A Capacity to Predict
5 Rational Explanation in Science and Religion
What Does it Mean to 'Explain'?
Causality as Explanation
Unification as Explanation
Two Approaches to Explanation: Ontic and Epistemic
Religious Explanation: Some General Reflections
Religious Explanation: Ontic and Epistemic
Theology, Ontology, and Explanation
A Case Study: Aquinas's 'Second Way'
The Image of God and Religious Explanation
Understanding and Explaining: A Religious Perspective
6 From Observation to Theory: Deduction, Induction, and Abduction
The Entanglement of Theory and Observation
Logics of Discovery and Justification
Deduction in the Natural Sciences
Deduction in Christian Theology
Induction in the Natural Sciences
Induction in Christian Theology
Abduction in the Natural Sciences
Abduction in Christian Theology
7 Complexity and Mystery: The Limits of Rationality
Mystery and Irrationality
Mystery in Science
Mystery in Christian Theology
The Trinity as Mystery
Mystery: An Invitation to Deeper Reflection
8 Rational Consilience: Some Closing Reflections on Science and Christian Theology
Towards a 'Big Picture': A Metaphysical Turn
The Colligation of Insights
A Case Study in Colligation: Science and Socialism
A Case Study in Colligation: Science and Theology
Rationality: A Cohesive Approach

About the author: 

Alister E. McGrath is Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion and Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at the University of Oxford. After his doctoral research on molecular biophysics, he studied Christian theology, with a particular interest in developing understandings of the possible relationships between the natural sciences and theology. McGrath has published extensively in the field of science and religion, and been a significant voice in recent debates with writers such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens over the rationality of religious faith, and its relation to a scientific culture. His publications include The Great Mystery: Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning (2017), Inventing the Universe: Why We Can't Stop Talking about Science, Faith and God (2016), and Science and Religion: A New Introduction (2010).

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.