Chapter

Science, Religion, Metaphor, and History

Jeffrey Burton Russell

in Science, Religion, and the Human Experience

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780195175325
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199784707 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195175328.003.0007
 							Science, Religion, Metaphor, and History

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This essay begins by distinguishing between universe and cosmos, the human understanding of the universe. To Russell, both science and religion are concerned with cosmos or meaning, yet cosmos is seriously fragmented in modern times, so he proposes an exploration of history and metaphor to heal cosmos. Augustine understood that God’s creation of the universe was a creation of meaning (cosmos) as well as substance, and biblical truths were understood in a symbolic as well as overt sense. Dante’s Paradiso culminated this rich tradition of cosmos, yet by the 16th century, religious reformation led to overemphasis on literal truth and de-emphasis on symbolism. With the growth of a concept of science in the 17th and 18th centuries, the reduction of cosmos to universe was secured. The loss of cosmos can, however, be healed by considering the importance of metaphor; metaphor opens up the meaning of reality. Russell introduces the term “metaphorical ontology” to suggest how deep meanings of things — cosmos — can be suggested in language, and claims that the proper language of religion is thus metaphor. The healing of cosmos will be aided by metaphorical ontology as it is enacted through religion, science, and other vistas on the ultimate nature of reality, leading humankind along paths yet unknown.

Keywords: cosmos; language; meaning; metaphor; ontology; universe

Chapter.  8350 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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