A Realistic View of God A review by Copthorne Macdonald
CUTTING GOD IN HALF
AND PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER AGAIN: A New Approach to Philosophy
by Nicholas Maxwell
by Pentire Press, London, UK
2010 ISBN: 978-0-9552240-2-7
If you are a religious
person, the message of this book is worth considering. If you are not
religious, its message will also be understandable and meaningful to you.
The problem, as philosopher
Nicholas Maxwell sees it, is that the Christian, Islamic, and Judaic concept
of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God is flawed because too
much has been rolled together. Early in the book he points out that "If
God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then God must be knowingly in charge
of natural phenomena, in particular those natural phenomena that cause
human suffering and death as a result of earthquakes, drought, disease,
accident." Such a God could hardly be called all-loving. As Maxwell
puts it: "The obvious conclusion to draw is that an all-powerful,
all-knowing, all-loving God exists is refuted by the most elementary facts
of human existence."
to the problem is to sever the God-of-Cosmic-Power from the God of love:
"the God that is the source of all value." He sees the
God-of-Cosmic-Power to be "utterly impersonal. It is that impersonal
something, whatever It may be, that exists everywhere, eternally
and unchanging, throughout all phenomena and determines (perhaps probabilistically)
the way phenomena occur."
And what of the God-of-Value?
Maxwell sees it as "what is best in us. It is that potentially or
actually aware and loving self within us that sees, feels, knows and understands,
and either does intervene to prevent disaster or is powerless to
do so. The God of Value is the soul of humanity, embedded in the physical
universe, striving to protect, to care for, to love, but all too often,
alas, powerless to prevent human suffering."
So there is nothing
to be done about the God-of-Cosmic-Power "the underlying unified
It of the universe" except perhaps to understand it more clearly.
But there is much that could be done to help the humanly-embodied God-of-Value
to "help what is of value in us to flourish in the real world."
Doing this is what Maxwell sees as humanity's task, and by the end of
Chapter 1 he has gotten that point across very effectively.
Doing what he advocates
is, however, not easy. And Maxwell devotes the rest of the book to presenting
his views on what, specifically, needs to be done and his suggestions
for ways of doing it. Maxwell is a philosopher, and not all of the rest
of the book is casual reading. In fact, he is a philosopher of science,
and the rigor of both the philosopher and the scientist pervade these
later chapters and his problem-solving approach. Maxwell delves into intellectual
history, and critiques some current views in both philosophy and science.
He advocates "wisdom-inquiry" to replace the "knowledge
inquiry" that now dominates academia. He makes a strong case for
the existence of free will. He deals with the issue of conflicting values,
and in response to a review of humanity's major problems he advocates
a much stronger academic focus on those problems.
In writing CUTTING
GOD IN HALF, Nicholas Maxwell has, as in his other books, focused
on what really matters. It is a powerful, thought-stirring read
one that just might shift a reader's worldview in some positive directions.