Theism and Realism: A Match Made in Heaven?




Philosophy of religion, realism, Dummett, Wittgenstein


There is no interesting entailment either way between theism and various forms of realism. Taking its cue from Dummett’s characterisation of realism and his discussion of it with respect to theistic belief, this paper argues both that theism does not follow from realism, and that God cannot be appealed to in order to secure bivalence for an otherwise indeterminate subject matter. In both cases, significant appeal is made to the position that God is not a language user, which in turn is motivated by an account of understanding as aptitude possession. The resulting picture sits comfortably with the apophatism common within living religious traditions and with the view that the philosophy of religion ought to reorientate itself away from metaphysics towards more practical questions.


Baras, Dan. 2017. “A Reliability Challenge to Theistic Platonism”. Analysis 77, no. 3: 479–87. doi:10.1093/analys/anx135.

Benacerraf, Paul. 1973. “Mathematical Truth”. Journal of Philosophy 70, no. 19: 661–79. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139171519.022.

Bergmann, Michael, and Jeffrey E. Brower. 2006. “A Theistic Argument against Platonism (and in support of truthmakers and divine simplicity)”. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: 357–86.

Berkeley, George. 1710. A Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge. Aaron Rhames.

Brandom, Robert B. 1994. Making it Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment. Cambridge MA.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Brock, Stuart, and Edwin Mares. 2006. Realism and Anti-Realism. London: Routledge.

Burrell, David. 2010. “Distinguishing God from The World”. In Language, Meaning, and God Essays in honour of Herbert McCabe with a new introduction, edited by Brian Davies, 75–91.

Craig, William L. 2011. “Nominalism and Divine Aseity”. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion: 44–65. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199656417.003.0003.

—. 2016. God Over All. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

—. 2017. God and Abstract Ojects. New York: Springer.

Craig, William L., and J. P. Moreland. 2003. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Westmont, Il.: InterVarsity Press.

Davies, Brian. 2000. “A Modern Defence of Divine Simplicity”. In Philosophy of Religion, edited by Brian Davies, 549–64. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Dummett, Michael, ed. 1978. Truth and Other Enigmas. Harvard Univ. Press.

—. 1991. The Logical Basis of Metaphysics. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard Univ. Press.

—. 1996. “Realism”. In The Seas of Language, edited by Michael Dummett, 230–76. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. doi:10.1093/0198236212.003.0011.

—. 1996. “Realism and Anti-Realism”. In The Seas of Language, Michael Dummett, 462–78. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

—. 2000. Elements of Intuitionism. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

—. 2004. Truth and the Past. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

—. 2006. Thought and Reality. Oxford Univ. Press.

—. 2014. Origins of Analytical Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury.

Eklund, Matti. 2017. “Intuitions, Conceptual Engineering, and Conceptual Fixed Points”. In Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods, edited by Chris Daly.

Ellis, Fiona, ed. 2017. New Models of Religious Understanding. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Evans, Stephen C. 2008. “Moral Arguments for the Existence of God”. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta.

Feuerbach, Ludwig. 2008. The Essence of Christianity. Mineola: Dover.

Freud, Sigmund. 2011. The Future of an Illusion. Seattle: Pacific.

Goldschmidt, Tyron, and Kenneth L. Pearce, eds. 2017. Idealism: New Essays in Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Hewitt, Simon. “Semantic Realism, Actually”, last modified 2018.

Kant, Immanuel. 1997. Critique of Practical Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Leftow, Brian. 2012. God and Necessity. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Lowe, E. J. 1998. The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

MacFarlane, John. “In What Sense (If Any) Is Logic Normative for Thought?”, last modified 2004.

McCabe, Herbert. 1987. God Matters. London: Geoffrey Chapman.

Miller, Alexander. 2003. “The Significance of Semantic Realism”. Synthese 136, no. 2: 191–217. doi:10.1023/A:1024742007683.

Moore, Adrian. 2003. Realism and Christian Faith: God, Grammar, and Meaning. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Nagasawa, Yujin. 2007. “A New Defence of Anselmian Theism”. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly: 577–97. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9213.2008.578.x.

Owen, H. P. 2000. “Why Morality Implies the Existence of God”. In Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology, edited by Brian Davies. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Priest, Graham. 1987. In Contradiction. Dordrecht: Martinus Nojhoff.

Rumfitt, Ian. 2015. The Boundary Stones of Thought: An essay on the philosophy of logic. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Scott, Michael, and Graham Stevens. 2007. “Is God an Antirealist?”. American Philosophical Quarterly 44, no. 4: 383–93.

Scrutton, Anastasia, and Simon Hewitt. “The Philosophy of Lived Religion”, last modified 2018.

Stalnaker, Robert. 1984. Inquiry. Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press.

Swinburne, Richard. 2016. The Coherence of Theism. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Swinton, John. 2012. Dementia: Living in the Memories of God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Tennant, Neil. 1987. Anti-Realism and Logic: Truth as Eternal. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

van Inwagen, Peter. 2009. “Being, Existence, and Ontological Commitment”. In Metametaphysics New essays on the foundations of ontology, edited by David J. Chalmers, David Manley and Ryan Wasserman, 472–506. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1922. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

—. 2009. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.




How to Cite

Hewitt, Simon Thomas. 2018. “Theism and Realism: A Match Made in Heaven?”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (4):27-53.



Research Articles