This volume of lectures and essays from William Wallace serve as a much-needed introduction to an underappreciated Scottish philosopher and theologian. Much appreciated in his day as a brilliant tutor and professor of philosophy and well known as a lecturer, Wallace’s insights into German Idealism, theology and ethics hold some remarkable insight. As with the lectures of John Caird, the edition begins with a helpful biographical note from Edward Caird, which details a little of his upbringing and interests in German philosophy, including a translation of Hegel’s Logic, and biographies of Kant and Schopenhauer. The opening lecture dismisses the natural theology of Paley as ‘a mode of thought more appropriate to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,’ (p. 6) and instead suggests that natural theology be thought of as not merely God as great designer, but as philosophical in the tradition of Augustine and the Stoics. From there the lectures turn to the Greek historical context for the emergence of what would, in more modern parlance, be called the philosophy of religion. From there Wallace turns to the natural theology of Christianity, and, in typically Hegelian language, argues that ‘the great deed that seems to emerge as the life of Christ is the bringing into one of God and man: the discovery that the supernatural is in the natural.’ (p. 49.)
From there on Wallace argues for the unification of ethical thinking and religious ideas, and links both the political and ethical (in Aristotelian terms) to argue for a moral basis to civilisation, uniting individual action with the wider political action of a state or group. Civilization is a ‘state of mind and character…a being-in-oneness,’ (p. 148-9) where intellectual and moral life grows from the civic life shared by a group. The final half of the book is divided into two groups, essays on moral philosophy, and critical essays, mostly concerned with German or Idealist philosophy. Here Wallace shows his acumen and insight as a challenging and thoughtful reader and expositor of both Nietzsche and Hegel as well as providing Idealist positions on issues such as Hedonism, Utilitarianism and the relationship of Hegel and Fichte to Socialism. Whilst engaging with these philosophical positions or expounding on the coherence of philosophical theology, Wallace retains a clear commitment to German Idealism, and the necessity of constructing a systematic philosophical framework. With this in mind, this collected volume serves as an extremely compelling introduction to Idealist theology, but provides an excellent means by which Nietzsche and Hegel can be understood and applied more generally.