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Document Details :
Title: Mitigating Theological Disputes
Subtitle: Collingwood's Question and Answer
Author(s): ADAMS, Nicholas
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 44 Issue: 3 Date: 2021
Theology is an arena of debate as much as enquiry. Theological positions are advanced and critiqued. Bold claims receive bold counter-claims. This essay considers the possibility that in many cases the debate is an illusion. Apparently contradictory theological claims truly contradict each other only if they are answers to the same question. Apparently identical claims truly affirm the same thing only if they, too, are answers to the same question. Drawing on proposals made by the English philosopher and historian R.G. Collingwood, I suggest that the patient business of reconstructing the questions to which theological claims are answers might fruitfully be made more central to both debate and enquiry in theology. Collingwood was surprised that his philosophical colleagues thought it must be very difficult for an archaeologist to ‘read’ a Roman fort whereas they found it rather easy to read Plato’s Parmenides: he suggested that in his experience (as both an archaeologist and philosopher) that reconstructing the questions to which the Parmenides is a series of answers was much more strenuous. I consider two cases, the filioque dispute and recent writing on apophaticism, and diagnose apparent contradictions and apparently identical claims as in fact answers to different questions: they display neither contradictions nor shared affirmations respectively. I propose that taking seriously Collingwood’s proposals regarding what he calls 'the logic of question and answer' usefully slows down the exchange of bold claims and bold counter-claims.