CLEMENT CHARLES JULIAN WEBB (1865–1954)
The Devotions Of Saint Anselm; Archbishop Of Canterbury (1903) · Anselm Of Canterbury (c1033–1109)
Problems In The Relations Of God And Man (1911)
"IN the year 1910 I was appointed by the Delegates of the Common Fund of the University of Oxford to deliver during the academical year next ensuing a course of eight lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. These lectures, which were accordingly given in the Hilary Term of 1911, dealt with three antitheses : those of Reason and Revelation, of Nature and Grace, ol Man and God. It is the substance of these lectures which is here offered to the reader." (Preface)
Natural And Comparative Religion: An Inaugural Lecture (1912)
A History Of Philosophy (1915)
Studies In The History Of Natural Theology (1915)
Contains Errata note.
Contains Ancient Greek terminology in Chapter 2 "The Natural Theology Of Plato".
"THE following pages contain the substance of three courses of lectures delivered by the author as Wilde Lecturer on Natural and Comparative Religion in the University of Oxford during the academical years 1911-12 and 1912-13. They may be considered as contributions to the history of Natural Theology in Europe. The first is a general introduction to the subject, the second deals with the Natural Theology of Plato as expounded in the tenth book of the Laws, the third with mediaeval Natural Theology as represented by six writers, St. Anselm, Abelard, St. Thomas Aquinas, Raymond of Sebonde, Pietro Pomponazzi, and Lord Herbert of Cherbury. The inclusion of the thinker last named, who might at first seem to belong to the modern rather than to the mediaeval period, was suggested by the plan of Dr. Pfleiderer's Religionsphilosophie auf geschichtlicher Grundlage. Dr. Pfleiderer takes Spinoza as the first representative of the Philosophy of Religion, which he regards, on grounds which I have ventured to criticize, as a branch of speculation unknown alike to antiquity and to the Middle Ages. I cannot for my own part draw so sharp a line between the Philosophy of Religion and the Natural Theology which admittedly existed in those earlier periods." (Preface)
Group Theories Of Religion And The Individual (1916)
Contains Errata note.
"In 1914 Mr. Clement Webb delivered a course of lectures at Oxford on certain sociological theories of religion. In their present form they are still lectures. They contain a most interesting commentary for anyone who is reading the works of Durkheim and Lévy-Bruhl; and they constitute a very able polemic. There was needed just such an attack upon the theories of these men from just such an antagonist as Mr. Webb. It is as a polemic that the book must be read; not as an exposition or a detailed criticism. On the one side we should have ranged all the varieties of contemporary thought represented by Bergson, Sorel, and in philosophy of religion Durkheim, Lévy-Bruhl, Cornford, Harrison; on the other, the Oxford tradition headed by Mr. Webb. Mr. Webb's assault is forceful, but rather scattered. He turns too suddenly from criticism of special theories to criticism of general tendency, and from criticism of M. Lévy-Bruhl to criticism of M. Durkheim, who does not hold quite the same views. And sometimes where he has felt an antipathy he has failed to elaborate a refutation; so that one is left in doubt as to whether he has quite understood M. Durkheim's point of view.
When we examine Mr. Webb's objections one by one, we find that they may be summed up in two classes: one religious, the other philosophical. He objects on religious grounds, because he believes that the tendency of the group theory is to reduce all religion to illusion, to "objectifications of feeling." He objects on philosophical grounds, because the theory of the "social origin of the categories" seems to invalidate all human knowledge. These two classes of objection should be kept quite distinct. A theory is hardly likely to be thoroughly positivist and pragmatist at the same time. So that one is led to a restatement of the positions of both the two sociologists in question.
First M. Lévy-Bruhl. In his book on " Les fonctions mentales dans les societés inferieures" this author distinguishes sharply between a pre-logical and a logical mentality. The former is that of the Bororo of Brazil who has a parrot for his totem. Now, according to M. Lévy-Bruhl, this is not merely the adoption of parrot as an heraldic emblem, nor a merely mythological kinship or participation in qualities; nor is the savage deluded into thinking that he is a parrot. In practical life, the Bororo never confuses himself with a parrot, nor is he so sophisticated as to think that black is white. But he is capable of a state of mind into which we cannot put ourselves, in which he is a parrot, while being at the same time a man. In other words, the mystical mentality, though at a low level, plays a much greater part in the daily life of the savage than in that of the civilized man. M. Lévy-Bruhl goes on to insist quite rightly upon a side of the primitive mind which has been neglected by older anthropologists, such as Frazer, and produces a theory which has much in common with the analyses of mythology recently made by disciples of Freud. It is true that he exaggerates the difference between the mind of the savage and the mind of the civilised man, and that, as Mr. Webb points out, his contrast between "contradiction" and "participation" is misleading. But it is also true that the growth of the scientific spirit has been unfavourable to mysticism, and that mysticism has had an obscurantist effect in science. The contrast is a sound one. Lévy-Bruhl maintains that a sharp differentiation of function is necessary, without abandoning either of two essential attitudes of the human mind. This is the "empiricism" to which Mr. Webb objects. His objection is, at bottom, the objection of the theologian-neither mystic nor scientist. It is the struggle between the theologian and the mystic, rather than that between the believer in religion and the scientist, which is here represented.
When Mr. Webb turns to deal with Durkheim, he confuses genuine issues with misinterpretation. He is at his best in picking to pieces M. Durkheim's "definition" of religion. People who are tempted to define religion should read Chapter III. In criticizing the theory of "collective representations" he is not so felicitous. Not that there is not much to be said against this theory. M. Durkheim talks far too much about "society"; everything is ascribed to its influence. And Mr. Webb has our sympathy in his stand for the rights of " individual " religion, though we may not sympathise with his demand for the personality of God or with his demand for individual immortality. But his statement that " for sociologists religion, because it is a 'collective representation,' misrepresents the world" is quite unfair to the author in question. According to Durkheim (in the conclusion to his " Elementary Forms of the Religious Life ") science is no more " individual " than religion. Its faith does not differ essentially from religious faith (p. 458, English trans.). "In all social life, in fact, science rests upon opinion." The function of religion is to help us to live and act, the believer is stronger than the unbeliever. The view of both religion and science is pragmatic. We wish that Mr. Webb had attacked on this issue. Whoever wishes to understand just what the issue is should read Mr. Webb's last two chapters, then M. Durkheim's last chapter. Then he ought to realise that the struggle of "liberal" against "orthodox" faith is out of date. The present conflict is far more momentous than that." (T. Stearns Eliot, International Journal Of Ethics, 10/1916)
"This volume contains the substance of a course of lectures delivered by the author in the summer term of 1914 as Wilde Lecturer on Natural and Comparative Religion in the University of Oxford. It is an attack upon the sociological theories of the origin and nature of religion advanced by M. Émile Durkheim, M. Lévy-Bruhl, and their collaborators in L'Année Sociologique which are styled by the author "group theories of religion," and to which he opposes "the religion of the individual."
Mr. Webb effectively shows the doubtfulness of the existence of "collective representations" supposed by this school to subsist in the collective mentality of groups as wholes, and to be collectively passed down from one generation to another, without having come into existence in the first place upon the initiative of an individual mind. Even if the doctrine be true (and Mr. Webb apparently himself accepts it in less extreme form, cf. p. i9), it does not follow, as some of the writers of the school appear to affirm, that collective representations are necessarily false. M. Lévy-Bruhl's doctrine that primitive man has a "pre-logical mentality" totally different from ours, which is devoid of the law of contradiction, and instead is governed by the "law of participation," comes in for keen criticism upon the part of our author, M. Lévy-Bruhl's illustrations do not show that the savage mind never thinks in terms of the law of contradiction, if this law is rightly understood; moreover, civilized man also sometimes thinks in a manner analogous to 'participation.' That there really is a difference in degree here, however, Mr. Webb seems willing to admit. He also shows that this school has overstated its doctrine of the social origin of the categories. The fact, for instance, that savages have parcelled out universal space along the principles of division of their camps does not show that they owe their capacity to think spatially to their camp divisions, but merely that the latter suggested a mode of classification for which man possessed a capacity in the first place.
Effective as are Mr. Webb's criticisms of the more radical doctrines of this school, he fails to appreciate their real contributions. That social life has had a tremendous influence in shaping primitive thought, that ideas are handed down from one generation to another through tradition without being subjected to individual examination and criticism, that social life has done much to give the categories their content, that the categories of primitive man, though not totally different from our own, are far more confused and less effective tools for thought and action and that this is due in part to their collective character: these are only a few of the many profound truths regarding the general evolution of human consciousness, including the religious consciousness, that we owe to this school. Mr. Webb fails to see this because he writes less from the standpoint of a philosopher or scientist than from that of an apologist for his own particular form of Christian theology. He views the entire work of this school with suspicion and distrust because its adherents (with the exception, however, of M. Durkheim himself, and one or two partial disciples in England) appear to him to think that religion is a savage survival bound to disappear with the advance of civilization and enlightenment. So he feels it necessary to oppose to them "the religion of the individual." This last consists chiefly of the rather trite truism that religion is a matter of personal experience that every man has to have for himself. The fact that M. Durkheim, the head of the school and its most authoritative exponent, says in the introduction of his principal work on this subject that religion is "un aspect essential et permanent de l'humanité" ought to have reassured Mr. Webb. He could then have done Christianity a larger service by showing that it is able and ready to assimilate whatever of truth the new point of view of this school may ultimately prove to have contributed to a scientific understanding of religion." (William K. Wright, The Philosophical Review, 03/1917)
"Mr. Webb, who is a fellow of Magdalen College, is best known in this country as the author of the little book on the History of Philosophy in the Home University Library, though he has to his credit two much more ambitious volumes of a theological nature. The book under review presents in outline the fundamental views of what might be called the Durkheim school of sociology concerning the nature of religion, and subjects some of them to a rather severe, but probably well-merited criticism. The criticism, though severe, is discriminating, the leader of the school coming off much better than some of his followers. Even so, it is a question whether M. Durkheim does not deserve to fare even better than Mr. Webb permits; for Mr. Webb's book was written (though not published) before the appearance of Les Formes Elémentaires de la Vie Religieuse, and some of the positions criticized in the book under review are to be found only in Durkheim's earlier work (in the Année Sociologique) and are considerably modified in the later and larger treatise. There is, however, still a good deal left in Les Formes Elémentaires de la Vie Religieuse which is open to Mr. Webb's criticism-notably the theory of the social origin of the categories. After analyzing this hypothesis and the facts on which it rests, Mr. Webb concludes that what truth there is in it reduces to the rather mild assertion that the individual gets his point of view from his own group; "what sociology can explain is not why we use categories—meaning by that word 'principles of classification of universal application'—but why certain particular principles of classification were first hit upon rather than others."
The disparaging view of religion held by many of Durkheim's followers—notably Mauss, Hubert, Cornford, and Miss Harrison—which would reduce religion ultimately to the survival of a primitive "collective representation", is attacked with a good deal of enthusiasm and considerable skill. But the best of his ammunition the author reserves for M. Lévy-Bruhl and his theory of a prelogical mentality incapable of using the principle of contradiction—of which low mental state religion is an unfortunate survival. According to our author it is M. Lévy-Bruhl who is innocent of the principle of contradiction and does not even know what it means. Mr. Webb's own view of religion would reconcile both individualistic and group theories. "Religion can never assent to an individualism which finds the characteristic of individuality in bare exclusion of all that is other than the individual itself, and thus robs the individual itself of all content; since the religious soul knows that only in proportion as what it finds in itself is not its own, but God's, has it anything worth calling its own. But, on the other hand, the religious soul must find this in itself; and if it has no self in which to find it, it can not find it at all. That what has become its own should cease to be its own would mean that having found itself in losing itself, it would then lose itself again, and this time without finding itself at all."" (James Bissett Pratt, The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 21/06/1917)
God And Personality (1919)
Contains a limited number of Ancient Greek terms in Lecture II, which are repeated throughout it.
"The most searching inquiry of the religious mind today is concerning the possibility of a definite belief in God. The popular theology of past centuries made frank use of anthropomorphic analogies, and succeeded in bringing to clear consciousness the conception of a definite personal figure with whom men might have intimate relationships. But as the principles of modern scientific and philosophical thinking have become dominant, the older anthropomorphism becomes incredible, and the loved picture of God as a compassionate Father grows dim. If the Christian faith is to persist in its accustomed form, some way must be found in which to make real the idea of personality in God.
It is to this task that Mr. Webb devotes himself in the Gifford Lectures. His previous studies in the field of theological and philosophical thought in antiquity and during the Middle Ages admirably equip him for an exact and historically correct understanding of the precise meaning of theological terminology in the history of Christian thinking. From the point of view of literature, the lectures are a delight. The author is thoroughly at home in his subject, he possesses a charming style, and his spirit of fairness and courtesy is unfailing. The wealth of allusions, the many side lights, and the attempt to do justice to all phases of a question furnish an unusually stimulating discussion. Yet there is preserved an exactness of philosophical reasoning, and an insistence on some abstruse considerations, which lead one to marvel at the intellectual capacity of the audience which listened to these discussions without the aid of the printed page.
Mr. Webb attempts first by a critical study of historical phases of thought to ascertain exactly what the concept of personality means. It cannot be said that he succeeds in giving us a very definite picture. But the fault lies in the difficulty of the concept itself. The definition of Boethius, Persona est naturae rationabilis individua substantia, is considered, on the whole, as about the best description available. On the basis of this definition attempts are made to differentiate personality from mere individuality and from mere rationality. It is discovered that what is really important in the concept of personality is the possibility of social relationships between persons. But the Boethian definition, designed as it is to analyze metaphysical substance, is a poor starting-point for the discussion of the social implications of personality. Those who are accustomed to thinking in terms of modern social psychology will feel the discussion to be curiously medieval in spirit and method.
One of the interesting and valuable conclusions of Mr. Webb is that Christian theology, until very recent times, has never ventured to affirm the personality of God. It has asserted personality in God. God is not a person. This would be such an individualizing of him that he could no longer be considered the Absolute. The doctrine of a finite God is hopelessly wrecked here. But there is that in the character of the Absolute which makes possible reciprocal personal relationships between God and the worshiper. This personality in God, Mr. Webb finds to be well stated in the Christian doctrine of the trinity, with its three "persons" the Godhead.
The evidence for this personal aspect of the divine nature is to be found exclusively in the religious experience of personal communion with God. While this conception may be made rationally plausible, it is yet possible to defend other conceptions of the Absolute if the testimony of the religious consciousness be left out of account. The whole case, then, rests ultimately on the testimony of a profound religious consciousness. The book thus is really a very careful and suggestive study of definitions. Granted the legitimacy of the testimony of the mystic consciousness, Mr. Webb asks how we may best think of the transcendent source of that personal relationship which we experience in religion. It is evident that those who demand a study based on the history of religions will not find it here. The argument moves entirely in the older field of definition of concepts. The author seems to be almost unaware of the interest which modern students find in tracing the psychological and social genesis of concepts." (Gerald Birney Smith, The Journal Of Religion, 09/1921)
Divine Personality And Human Life (1920)
"The second course follows in the footsteps of the first. The various aspects of our human life are considered, and it is argued that the fields of economics, science, aesthetics, morals, politics, and religion are all better interpreted with the help of the conception of personality in the Absolute than by any other alternative. There are, of course, suggestive considerations at every turn; but the general positions are, on the whole, very familiar to students of apologetics. In short, the two volumes are valuable chiefly as an apologetic for that concept of God which was developed by the Christian thinkers who employed the categories and the method of Greek metaphysics. And if the metaphysical presuppositions be granted, it is a most effective presentation. What many readers will miss is an apprehension of the problems presented by the empirical point of view embodied in modern psychology and history." (Gerald Birney Smith, The Journal Of Religion, 09/1921)
A Century Of Anglican Theology: And Other Lectures (1923)
"Mr. Webb in A Century of Anglican Theology, the lecture from which the book takes its title, surveys the way in which the Anglican Church, isolated geographically and intellectually from the churches of the continent, yet reflects in a manner peculiar to itself all the great politico-religious and philosophical movements of Western Europe. The essay is of general interest as showing the influence exercised by what might be called a thought-milieu upon those who come, whether consciously or not, within its radius. The section dealing with "Morality and Religion" strikes a note of immediate and universal interest. Mr. Webb challenges the contention that "religion is morality touched with emotion." Religion and morality are alike social in origin; but "Morality is at first the custom of the tribe, religion at first the attitude of the tribe toward the mystery that encompasses human life." The author contends that while religion and morality affect one another greatly their development has not always been concurrent. Religion, "which is at once the most conservative and also the most revolutionary of the social forces," may in so far as it conserves ancient and outworn customs of the community actually retard morality; or, as in the case of Christianity, may race ahead of the moral code." (Margaret B. Crook, The Journal Of Social Forces, 11/1924)
Suggest and discuss books to read (all languages welcome!)
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1 Book To Go: Bryant
1 Book To Go: Bryant