Cognitive dualism, ontological dualism, and the question of God

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    Roger Scruton is not much interested in the God of the typical philosopher of religion, and his work is of great significance to those, like myself, for whom questions of spirituality and praxis are just as important as those pertaining to metaphysics and theory. I have been equally drawn to his cognitive dualism – a position which promises to accommodate the sense in which the world has its source in God, but without this requiring that God and the world are to be viewed in conjunctive, separatist terms. Scruton’s position is not easy to pin down, and some of what he says suggests an implicit commitment to the ontological dualism he purports to reject. In what follows I spell out the relevant tensions, and clarify what it means to be an ontological or a cognitive dualist in this context. The positive position at which I arrive involves a form of cognitive dualism, and it grants a distinction between God and world, albeit with no concession to the offending form of ontological dualism. It also accords with much of what Scruton himself says, although there is no longer any motive for insisting that ‘things in themselves’ lie on the far and inaccessible side of thought, nor that the concept of the supernatural ‘must be severed from any ontological claims’. I conclude that such a position makes for a more consistent theistic picture.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)409-424
    Issue number3
    Early online date20 Jun 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2019


    • theism, dualism, cognitive dualism, ontological dualism

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