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The Table Video

Keith Ward

Personal Encounter with the World: Intuitions for Philosophical Idealism

Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Oxford / Fellow of the British Academy / Priest of the Church of England
July 24, 2013

Keith Ward sat down with the Biola University Center for Christian Thought in San Diego, California in July of 2013. In this clip, Ward reflects on his sense of “personal encounter,” our perception of the external world, and what this suggests about philosophical idealism.


In your experience with the world there is more than just physical objects. That when you see a beautiful sunset even somehow now or I’m looking at now a beautiful sky and sea then this communicates with you in a personal way. I’d now say this is God speaking through nature, but before I thought about things like that I still had a sense of personal encounter if you like. The philosopher Martin Buber talks about this he calls it having an I-thou relation with the world as opposed to an I-it relation.

If you have an I-it relation you treat things as objects and you manipulate them and you use them. If you have an I-thou relation you respect them and you respect them for their innate beauty or worth and you try to conserve them. I mean I think ecology is a movement which is making much of this that you’d regard the world as in a sense sacred. Well I think that’s a very basic sense before you start doing philosophy.

Anyway, I had that and I think most children have it frankly but they’re told that it’s false. [laughing] You know, not to be silly. But that’s a root of religious belief because you know now in my morning philosophical terminology I’d say well there actually is a personal presence behind everything in the world, and that’s God. [“Raise Them High” by Cinema Cycle]