Philosophy and Religion Informative Summary


Hastings Rashdall’s “Philosophy and Religion” presents a compelling case for a theistic, idealistic understanding of the universe. The lectures begin by dismantling the possibility of materialism, arguing that matter cannot exist without mind. Rashdall carefully analyzes the qualities of matter, showing that both secondary qualities like color and sound, and primary qualities like solidity and space, ultimately rely on a perceiving mind. This leads him to posit the existence of a universal Mind, God, in which and for which the physical world exists.

Beyond the existence of God as the knowing Mind, Rashdall argues for God as the willing Cause of the universe, drawing on the experience of volition in human consciousness as the only known cause of change. He explores the difficulties of reconciling divine omnipotence with the existence of evil, suggesting that God’s power is limited by logical necessities inherent in His own nature. Finally, Rashdall addresses the nature of revelation, arguing that all truth, especially moral and spiritual truth, can be seen as revealed, with degrees of revelation culminating in figures like Jesus Christ.

Key Findings:

  • Matter cannot exist without mind. Rashdall’s analysis of both secondary and primary qualities demonstrates that our understanding of matter is inherently dependent on a perceiving mind.
  • The world is caused by a rational Will. Rashdall draws on the human experience of volition to argue for a God who not only thinks the world but also actively wills it into being.
  • The moral consciousness reveals the character of God. Rashdall contends that our moral judgements, as self-evident truths, offer the only true insight into the goodness and purpose of God.
  • Christianity occupies a unique position among religions. It combines ethical monotheism with a belief in personal immortality and a morality based on universal love, truths that align with philosophical reasoning.


  • The reader will learn about the limitations of materialism. By examining the qualities of matter and their inherent dependence on mind, the reader will understand why materialism is an untenable philosophical position.
  • The reader will gain an understanding of the nature of causality. Rashdall’s explanation of causality as rooted in activity, as opposed to mere succession, will provide a clearer understanding of the concept and its theological implications.
  • The reader will learn to connect their moral judgments to their understanding of God. Rashdall’s argument that moral judgments are revelations of God’s nature will help the reader understand the deep connection between their own conscience and their belief in a righteous God.
  • The reader will develop an appreciation for the unique position of Christianity among world religions. By highlighting the philosophical coherence of its core teachings on God, morality, and immortality, Rashdall helps the reader see the distinctive strength of the Christian faith.

Historical Context:

These lectures were written and delivered in 1909, a time marked by significant intellectual shifts and challenges to traditional religious beliefs. Darwinism had already revolutionized the understanding of the natural world, leading many to question the argument from design. Emerging psychological studies were offering new explanations for religious experiences, raising questions about the validity of traditional claims to revelation. In this context, Rashdall’s work aims to provide a reasoned defense of Theism that takes seriously the insights of modern science and philosophy while upholding the core truths of Christianity.


  1. Matter has no existence apart from a mind that knows it. This is based on the premise that all qualities of matter, both primary and secondary, are ultimately dependent on a perceiving mind.
  2. The physical world exhibits purpose and design. This is evident in the complex structures and processes of organic life, as argued by thinkers like von Hartmann, R. B. Haldane, and John Haldane.
  3. Our moral judgments are as valid as mathematical axioms. Both types of judgements are the work of Reason and represent self-evident truths.
  4. The concept of good is an ultimate category of thought. It is not reducible to mere feeling and has a meaning intelligible to the developed human consciousness.
  5. Moral insight varies among individuals. Just as mathematical ability varies, so does the capacity for discerning moral values.
  6. The moral law is objective. It expresses what ought to be, independent of personal likings or social approval.
  7. The objectivity of the moral law implies the existence of God. The moral law, as an ‘ought’, can only exist in and for a mind, and that mind must be God, the source of all reality.
  8. Religious belief is not opposed to duty for duty’s sake. On the contrary, it provides a rational basis for the authority of the moral law.
  9. Religious Morality is practically and emotionally valuable. It enhances reverence for the moral law and helps individuals resist temptations to follow a debased public opinion.
  10. The world as we see it cannot be the ultimate expression of a rational and moral Being. This points to the need for a future life as a continuation of the moral order.
  11. Immortality gives meaning to life and enhances the value of character. It provides hope even when life seems meaningless and reaffirms the enduring significance of moral choices.
  12. Pain and sin are evils, but they can be means to a greater good. This is the only way to reconcile their existence with the belief in a perfectly righteous God.
  13. God’s power is limited by logical necessities inherent in His own nature. This does not imply limitations imposed from outside Him, but rather constraints arising from His own essential rationality and goodness.
  14. The world must contain more good than evil for it to be willed by a rational God. This follows from the premise that a rational being does not will evil except as a means to a greater good.
  15. Time is objective but presents philosophical difficulties. We cannot think of time as merely subjective, but the idea of an endless succession or a beginning and end of the time-series creates seemingly irresolvable contradictions.
  16. The close connection between soul and body suggests that souls are not eternally pre-existent. This points to their creation by the same divine Will that governs the physical world.
  17. The unity of the Universe is not that of a single Consciousness. While all things are dependent on God, human minds are not literally parts of the divine mind, but rather distinct consciousnesses.
  18. There is no immediate or intuitive knowledge of God. Our knowledge of God is based on inference, just like our knowledge of other people.
  19. Religion cannot be based solely on Psychology. While religious experiences are real, their truth depends on the validity of the underlying beliefs, which requires philosophical examination.
  20. All truth, especially moral and spiritual truth, can be seen as revealed. This view recognizes degrees of revelation, culminating in individuals who possess exceptional moral and spiritual insight.


  1. Materialism: The view that matter is the only reality or the ultimate basis of all existence.
  2. Idealism: The view that reality is ultimately mental or spiritual in nature.
  3. Causality: The relationship between cause and effect, understood by Rashdall as grounded in activity or volition.
  4. Moral Consciousness: The faculty of making judgments about good and evil, seen by Rashdall as the voice of God.
  5. Revelation: The communication of divine truth, understood by Rashdall as a matter of degree and requiring rational verification.
  6. Monotheism: The belief in one God, understood by Rashdall as a God who is both rational and good.
  7. Immortality: The continued existence of the soul after bodily death.
  8. Theodicy: An attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with the belief in a good God.
  9. Omnipotence: The attribute of God’s power, understood by Rashdall as the ability to do all things that are logically possible.
  10. Logos: The divine Reason or Word, used in Christian Theology to express the cosmic significance of Jesus Christ.


  1. Paley’s argument from design based on the human throat: Rashdall uses this example to critique the naive optimism of design arguments that fail to acknowledge the suffering in the natural world.
  2. The bull-fight: This example illustrates the subjective nature of mere feelings of approbation, contrasting them with the objective claims of moral judgments.
  3. Euclid and Mathematics: This analogy highlights the point that self-evident truths are not necessarily evident to everyone, and that their validity is not undermined by the gradual development of human understanding.
  4. Slavery and its gradual condemnation by the Church: This example demonstrates the need for moral development within Christianity, showing that the application of Christ’s principles to specific issues can evolve over time.
  5. St. Peter’s vision of the sheet let down from heaven: This example shows how an experience that might be explained psychologically can still be seen as an instrument of divine revelation when the truth revealed is independently verified.
  6. The Monotheism of the Jewish prophets: This example illustrates the distinction between the intuitive way in which religious beliefs might arise and the rational grounds on which their truth is ultimately judged.
  7. The healing miracles of Jesus: Rashdall acknowledges the possibility of these events occurring without violating natural law, while recognizing their limited apologetic value in light of modern criticism.
  8. The Resurrection appearances: Rashdall accepts the historical reality of these experiences while recognizing their significance as a proclamation of immortality rather than a proof of Christian doctrine.
  9. The Trinitarian doctrine as explained by St. Thomas Aquinas: This example clarifies that the traditional language of the Trinity should not be understood in terms of separate consciousnesses, but rather as different aspects of God’s nature.
  10. The development of Christian Ethics to include the value of intellectual life: This example shows how Christianity has incorporated elements from other sources, like Greek Philosophy, to enhance its understanding of the good life.


Rashdall’s “Philosophy and Religion” offers a powerful and persuasive defense of Theism and the Christian faith. He emphasizes the essential reasonableness of believing in a personal God who is both the knowing Mind and the willing Cause of the universe. This God reveals Himself in the moral consciousness, calling us to a life of love and service, and offering the hope of a future life in which the moral order will be fulfilled. While acknowledging the limitations of human knowledge and the need for ongoing development in both Ethics and Theology, Rashdall concludes by affirming the enduring relevance and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as the supreme revelation of God. His work reminds us that a vibrant and intellectually honest faith requires a constant dialogue between philosophy and religion, reason and revelation.

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