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A DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH PHILOSOPHICAL TERMS
 

Francis Garden - 1878 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Voltaire.
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.

 

A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden
 

Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos
Fénelon

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt

 

A Short History of Philosophy

Alexander

 

 

Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism. The name of Anthropomorphites was given to a sect in the fourth century, called also from its founder Audians. Taking literally the passages of Scripture which speak of the eyes, hands, &c, of God, they maintained that irrespectively of the Incarnation of the Son, He has a body like the human. With this we have nothing at present to do. The word anthropomorphism is now used to denote thinking of God as in any way in the likeness of man, ascribing to Him attributes and modes of mind and feeling of which we are conscious in ourselves and which we observe in others.

 

To do this is natural, and the doing it characterizes a great deal of the idolatry of heathendom. In fact, as polytheism is the breach of the first, so is anthropomorphism a breach, and probably the most prevalent breach, of the second commandment, a breach of which numbers who never dreamt of bowing to stock and stone are continually guilty. By transferring their own habitual thoughts and feelings to the Being of beings, they make a mental likeness of Him to things in earth, i.e. to themselves. "To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One."

Even the heathen philosopher could see the folly of this, and proclaim that God must not be conceived in the likeness of man, any more than of other created things. And so strongly is this felt by some, that they shrink from ascribing to Him anything that can render Him a real object of thought to ourselves.

Here, then, we encounter a serious difficulty. If we do not contemplate God as angry, or pitying, or loving, in any sense in the same way as we are angry, as we pity, or we love, we do not contemplate anything at all. When we think of anger, pity, or love, we cannot escape the bounds of our own experience, consciousness, and being, so as really to think of anger, pity, or love, in no degree corresponding to these things in ourselves. The philosopher already referred to has some well-known verses to the effect that if the lion, or the ox, or the horse could draw an image of the gods, it would be respectively great lions, great oxen, or great horses.(1) And even so, protest against it as we like, when God is an object to our minds at all, we are forced to view Him as the concentration and sublimation of all the greatness and goodness we have ever known in man. What, then, is to be done? Is there no choice between a vicious anthropomorphism and practical atheism?

I believe the clue to a solution of this difficulty is to be found by exactly reversing the anthropomorphic process, and viewing not a God fashioned in the likeness of man, but man made as we are told he is, in the image and likeness of God. And though on first hearing this, it may be natural to exclaim "That comes to the same thing," yet a little consideration will show that the practical issues of the two processes are very different. The first may too easily lend itself to representing God in the likeness of that in man which the second would not lead us to recognise as part of the image of God. The second will preserve us from ea cogitandi ratio perversœ, qua imperfecti aliquid ad Deum transfertur, and yet enable us to view Him as really personal, as really angry, really pitying, really loving. Most true are the words of Jacobi that God in creating man His image theomorphized, and therefore man is compelled to anthropomorphize; and justly does he say that without such anthropomorphism which is ever regarded as real Theism, we are left to the alternative of fetichism or atheism. We must ever be on our guard against attempts to magnify God, which practically annihilate Him as an object to our minds and hearts.

Need I say that the Incarnation has for ever solved the difficulty? When we bring home to ourselves and remember the great declaration, "he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," we shall be encouraged to believe that whatever is realty human in us has its counterpart in God, only there in its fulness and perfection, and free from all the accidents wherewith it is limited, blurred over, and disfigured in us.

These considerations may throw some light on a point capable of giving birth to difficulty. It is part of the received theology to speak of God as without passions (Art. I.). And whoever reflects on what we mean by passions, feelings and influences produced by being acted upon, will be found to acquiesce in the statement, to this extent at least, that God cannot be acted on save in so far as by His own choice and appointment He permits Himself to be, as for example in His relations to moral creatures. But we must not infer from this, that because wrath and love are passions in us, they have no existence in God. In Him they really and fully are, only in Him they are not passions, but are His very being, the actuation of His own perfection.

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(1) Άλλεἴτοι χεῑράς γ᾽ εῑχον βόες ἠὲ λέοντες
ᾚ γράψαι χείρεσσι καὶ ἔργα τελεῑν ἅπερ ᾄνδρες,
Ἵπποι μέν θ᾽ ἱπποισι, βόες δέ τε βουοὶν δμοίας
Καὶ κε θεῶν ἱδέας ἔγραφον καὶ σώματ᾽ ἐποίουν
Τοιαῡθ οἷον περ καὐτοὶ δέμας εἷχον ὁμοῑον.

Xenophanes apud Clem. Alex, Stromata.


 

 

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