The Last Philosophy

Don Cupitt, SCM Press, 1995.

Reviewed by Lloyd Geering, SOF NZ Newsletter #12, July 1995

This book is a little different from Don's earlier ones, though not by too much. Those who have been stimulated by the others will also find this very intriguing. Those who will not like it are the professional philosophers and theistic theologians. Indeed. traditional religious thought, with its "realist" view of God and its hope for another world, is completely undermined by the argument expounded here.

There is no easy way to summarize this book. I am not sure that I understood and/or agreed with every sentence but I responded warmly to most of it immediately; I found it remarkably consistent with what I had been coming to understand about the human condition while writing Tomorrow's God, particularly in the importance it attributes to language.

If we ask Cupitt what he means by "the last philosophy", he answers, "Recognizing as we must that this is the last life we'll ever live, these bodies are the last bodies we'll ever have, and this world is the last world we will ever know, the last philosophy seeks to persuade people that there's nothing structurally wrong with the human condition..[such as that implied by the Christian doctrine of sin] ..We are no longer in transition: we are there. We have arrived at our final destination. The world is, in a very strong sense, our world, our home".

As traditional theology assumes there is an objective God "out there", so traditional morality appeals to a natural moral law "out there", which exists independently of us. Cupitt declares this to be obviously erroneous _ "our moral principles and our values everywhere presuppose our own human mode of life and social relations. So we must have invented our moralities ourselves, just as we have invented our own languages".

This is not a book to be skipped through quickly. I have now read it twice, got more out of it the second time and intend to read it again. Those SOFN groups who are looking for something meaty to study should consider this. There is enough to chew over here to keep a group going for a year or more. It needs to be discussed and challenged as well as its implications being explored.