Preview of a Series on Charles Hartshorne

At the suggestion of a professor on my committee, I’ve recently begun reading Charles Hartshorne. He was on my scholarly “to do list” so I was happy to have an excuse to begin reading his books. So far the experience of reading his work has been gratifying and I resonate with much of it to a degree which has surprised me. Part of why this has been surprising is because he has an approach that I normally don’t go in for. As Gary Dorrien and Roland Faber have noted, Hartshorne works out of a rationalist orientation and Hartshorne doesn’t reject the label (though as I will possibly discuss in the future, he would also include important explanations and qualifiers in his embrace of it).

By Rick Dikeman [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0]
via Wikimedia Commons
What has made Hartshorne so enjoyable for me to read thus far is that he weds this orientation to an acerbic tone, and for some reason I’ve found this combination engaging, humorous, and enjoyable, even though at times I doubt it fosters positive academic engagement. Hartshorne may be wrong sometimes, even most of the time (for some), but when being critical of perspectives he really goes for it to make his point. When talking about Hartshorne’s approach with a few of my friends, I like to use a basketball analogy (my other non-familial love); Hartshorne is not content with winning, he wants to win by dunking on people or by hitting deep threes like Steph Curry. While this admittedly may not reflect well on me, as I’ve read him the last couple weeks this approach has to some degree already endeared him to me.

Of course, all of the above is not of ultimate consequence when considering Hartshorne’s thought, and might merely serve to distract from his work or augment the enjoyment of it. Well, that’s definitely not true, because it has also served to preview a future series I will write here at DET! In this series I will write several “Hartshorne 101” posts to introduce his thought to any readers who aren’t familiar with it and to help me process (ha!) what I’m reading and why I’m resonating with it. But for now I want end to this announcement of my intentions by returning to the issue of Hartshorne’s tone.

In setting up his book The Logic of Perfection he admits that one could criticize the book for being “excessively polemical,” noting that one could observe this tendency in “almost any chapter.” (xi) However, he counteracts the notion that this serves no valid purpose. As he puts it, “Since the theories I reject are often deeply entrenched majority opinions, it seems unlikely that moderately expressed objections, unspiced with occasional argumenta ad hominem, will even be noticed.” (ibid) More important than the question of who doesn’t like their (theological and philosophical) food to be a bit spicy, here Hartshorne reveals that he sees himself as a bit of a loner who is trying to win while playing one on five. In upcoming posts I will explain some of the fundamental building blocks of his thought, which will hopefully illuminate what he believed he was fighting against and how he tried to win. Tune in!

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Comments

From what I've gleaned, some of Hartshorne's polemical feistiness has rubbed off on Ogden as well. I look forward to your upcoming installments.
He used some intellectual humor in Beyond Theism when he says a few Barthians (and Marxists) are useful as stimuli, but sanity and profitable discussion depend upon neither group becoming too numerous. Look forward to your comments. I found him generally difficult to follow. Maybe I need to try again.

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