Reason’s Reasons

Philotheos 18 (2):208-232 (2018)
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Abstract

The 2-c debate between the Greek Apologists and the pagan Graeco-Roman tradition is multifaceted and complex. Common ground can be found in the mutual commitment to reason as a reflection of the Logos: Reason, or the rationality embedded in things. Logos, in this picture, is participated in through a performance of reasoning whose reliability is presupposed in the discourses of both debating parties—contextualized here as the presupposition that the deliverances and activity of reason are reliable for uncovering reality. Presuppositions are starting points and driving principles of inquiry, here designated as first principles. One presuppositional conflict between 2-c Greek Apologists, taking the apologetic works of Justin, Theophilus, Athenagoras, and the author of the Epistle to Diognetus as a sample, and the pagan tradition, taking Celsus as its 2-c culmination, is over how to justify the commitment to reason’s reliability in the above sense. My claim in this paper is twofold: first, that the pagan position is unable in principle to demonstrate the reliability of its own reasoning and that all such inquiry is circular: it is always a further question for the pagan why reasoning reveals reality. I propose that what would count as an answer to this challenge is a metaphysical ‘fit’ between human embodiment and reality. And second, that the Apologists avoid this unhappy conclusion by committing themselves to the embodiment of Reason in Jesus—that the embodied act of human reasoning reveals reality because Reason itself is embodied in the same way. The upshot is that unless the pagan abandons his position, he is trapped in a circular epistemology and cannot encounter the Christian witness on its own terms.

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