Belief in God: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion
By T. J . MAWSON, CLARENDON PRESS OXFORD
Two people have been more influential than any others in the development of my thought on these topics. The first is John Kenyon, my undergraduate tutor in Philosophy. The second is Richard Swinburne, my graduate supervisor. Later in life, I have had the privilege and pleasure of knowing each of them as colleagues and friends and neither has ever failed to improve my thinking in my conversations with them. The questions to which this book addresses itself
were first put to me in a philosophically rigorous way by John; and he was the first to guide me to care about trying to answer them in a similar fashion. Anybody who is familiar with the work of Richard will recognize his influence on almost every page of this book: on starting points, we are often in complete agreement; on conclusions, less so. But in both their cases my debt is of course not for the conclusions that I reach but for the questions that I ask and the method by which I seek to answer them. If progress in Philosophy is marked not so much by an accumulation of answers as by the improvement of one’s questions, then these two have helped me most in what progress I have been able to make. Many of the ideas that I draw on in this book have appeared in more detailed form in articles in Religious Studies. I am grateful for comments on these articles by the editor, Peter Byrne, and by the various anonymous referees who have reviewed them. Others have appeared or will appear in more detailed form in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion and The Heythrop Journal ; again, I am grateful to the editors of these journals and their anonymous referees for their comments. Yet others have been discussed informally with members of the Natural Theology group that meets at the Athenaeum: Douglas Hedley, Dave Leal, and Mark Wynn. I am grateful to them for their insights. And most of the ideas that I draw on here have been tried out first on my pupils. In term time, almost every week sees me trying out some new idea or example in a tutorial with a pupil, safe in the knowledge that should I have overlooked some flaw that he or she spots, I shall be able to hide my embarrassment behind some Delphic utterance. If any pupil of mine reading this has ever wondered why I spent so much time in one of his or her tutorials insisting that he or she explain at length why some patently flawed argument does not work as if to someone who was so slow that they hadn’t yet grasped it, now he or she knows the answer. A number of people have been kind enough to read the penultimate draft and offer suggestions for improvement. They are: Rodes Fishburne, Caroline Mawson, Richard Swinburne, and the two anonymous readers for OUP. For having extirpated a lot of worthless ideas from my thinking on these issues, all these people (as well as those whose only form of acknowledgement is that their work appears in the bibliography) must take credit; for those worthless ideas that remain, the blame falls solely on me.
Penultimately, I would like to thank those at OUP involved in the practicalities of bringing this book to publication, especially Rupert Cousens, Rebecca Bryant, and Sylvia Jaffrey. Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues at St Peter’s for providing me with the supportive environment in which I wrote this book. As I look back on my last five or so years here, I am reminded of the story of a man who, looking back at the end of a long life, commented that he had had a lot of troubles but that most of them had never actually happened. I have been unfortunate in having a lot of troubles in my time at St Peter’s, but this has been more than compensated for by my good fortune in having as colleagues people who have ensured that none of them have ever actually happened.