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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K063-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 14, 2024, from

Article Summary

Pantheism contrasts with monotheism (there is one God), polytheism (there are many gods), deism (God created the world in such a way that it is capable of existing and operating on its own, which God then allows it to do) and panentheism (in God there is a primordial and unchanging nature, and a consequent nature that changes and develops). Etymologically, pantheism is the view that Deity and Cosmos are identical. Theologically, it embraces divine immanence while rejecting divine transcendence. If atheism is the denial that anything is divine, pantheism is not atheism; if atheism is the claim that there is no Creator, Providence, transcendent Deity, or personal God, pantheism is atheistic.

Spinoza, perhaps the paradigm figure for pantheism, was described by some as ‘a God-intoxicated man’ and by others as an atheist. On his account, only God or Nature exists, a single, necessarily existing substance whose modes and qualities exhaust reality. Conceivable equally properly as physical or as mental, God or Nature is no proper object of worship, creates nothing, grants freedom to none, hears no prayer, and does not act in history. Personal immortality, on Spinoza’s view, not only does not occur, but is logically impossible. It is one thing to value nature so highly that one calls it a divinity, another to believe in God in any monotheistic sense.

This much said, it must be admitted that ‘pantheism’ is not easy to define precisely. As conceived here, pantheism need not be a variety of materialism, and if it is materialistic it includes a high view of the worth of matter. Yet ‘pantheism’ has served as a term of abuse, and as another term for ‘atheism’ and ‘materialism’ and ‘deism’, terms bearing quite different senses.

Citing this article:
Yandell, Keith E.. Pantheism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K063-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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