On The Function Of Philosophy -- By: Richard G. Howe

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 07:2 (Fall 2008)
Article: On The Function Of Philosophy
Author: Richard G. Howe

On The Function Of Philosophy

Richard G. Howe, Ph.D.

Richard G. Howe is Professor of Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC.

With the increasing interest in Christian apologetics during the past forty years both within and without the academy, many who have trained or are training to do Christian apologetics have come to see the importance—indeed the indispensability—of philosophy in the apologetic task. A number of those involved in full-time apologetics have attained or are pursuing degrees in philosophy. With this commensurate increase in interest in philosophy, I would like to address the question of exactly what is the function of philosophy.

Here my concern is not so much on the question of how philosophy can aid Christian apologetics specifically, but rather on the more general question of the function of philosophy as such. My reason for addressing the more general question has to do with the fact that unless we can show broadly speaking the legitimacy of philosophy as such, we can never show specifically speaking the legitimacy of philosophy regarding the concerns of the Christian apologist.

While many philosophers throughout history have had a somewhat similar view oh what philosophy is all about—inquiries into the fundamental nature of reality, knowledge, ethics, etc.—the twentieth century has seen a more much more focused debated on this question which has yielded quite disparate views. Perhaps no philosopher has tried to more radically change the course of why and how we should use philosophy than A. J. Ayer in his seminal work Language, Truth and Logic—specifically the chapter titled “The Function of Philosophy.”1 If his thesis is correct, then it is exceedingly misguided to try to use philosophy to service religious or metaphysical claims. If Ayer is right, Christian apologists are misguided in trying to use philosophy in the service of Christian apologetics. I think Ayer is wrong. I believe that it is incumbent on Christian apologists to seek to utilize the methods of inquiry, tools of analysis, and actual content of philosophy in doing our apologetic duty. Taking Ayer as the most important opponent in this regard, to answer Ayer is to perhaps go far in establishing the proper function of philosophy. In this article, I will unpack several elements in Ayer’s thinking to see if I can defend these uses of philosophy.


A Brief Survey of Chapter One, “The Elimination of Metaphysics,” in Language, Truth, and Logic

In order to better understand Ayer’s arguments concerning the function of philosophy in the second chapter of...

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