Donald Crosby is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Colorado State University. We invited him to answer the question “What is Philosophy of Religion?” as part of our “Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion” series.
“What does your dad do?” This question was raised by a friend of my younger daughter when the friend was talking with her on the telephone. My daughter said, “He teaches philosophy at the state university.” The friend then raised an obvious question: “What’s philosophy?” “I don’t really know,” said my daughter. “I’ll ask my dad.” I had no ready terse answer to this difficult and much debated question, so I replied, “Thinking deeply about deep questions.” Philosophers have no corner on such questions, of course, but one class of questions they have addressed over the ages is the class of deeply probing religious questions—questions relating to religious outlooks, expressions, arguments, and practices. When philosophers address these questions, they are called philosophers of religion.
Rolf Ahlers is the Reynolds Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Russell Sage College. We invited him to answer the question “What is Philosophy of Religion?” as part of our “Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion” series.
Philosophy of religion is rooted in the absolute and is therefore skeptical of finite knowledge that is internally contradicted as shown by Kant in his antinomy of reason. All religions thrive on that absolute, the negative form of all that is. It is radically different, ab-solved, separate and independent from and therefore not available to finitude, specifically not available to the conceptual grasp; but as its radical negation it is the opposite of irrationalism, namely reason as such. Reason has since the most ancient times also been known as the certainty of pistis=faith. The absolute, unlike finitude, is autarchic, without presuppositions and self-justifying. Finitude requires justification from outside. Justifying itself, the infinite is unshakably certain. It is necessarily one, and free because it is self-causing and the arche, beginning of all.
Purushottama Bilimori is Honorary Associate Professor of Philosophy at Deakin University, Australia. We invited him to answer the question “What is Philosophy of Religion?” as part of our “Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion” series.
Philosophy of Religion (PR) undertakes a critical examination of the methods and reasoning behind theologies and arguments in a range of religious traditions. It also examines critical responses to the doctrinaire commitments of religions – from the alternative points-of-view of secularism, science, atheism (or variant nontheism and agnosticism), feminism and postcolonialism. Unlike the study of World Religions, which provides a descriptive account of religious beliefs, PR engages in critiquing, comparing and evaluating religious beliefs, theological doctrines and indeed arguments that are worked up within the respective traditions in defence of these. This helps toward gaining an insight into different typologies and patterns of religious beliefs, theological thinking and metaphysical arguments that ground them as well as their ideological and moral ramifications.
David Baggett is Professor of Philosophy at Liberty University. We invited him to answer the question “What is Philosophy of Religion?” as part of our “Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion” series.
The philosophy of religion explores the Big Questions—the questions that philosophy at its best aims to answer. Philosophy should not rest content with merely verbal squabbles, technical debates among specialists, or games of intellectual gymnastics. Whether there’s a God, what God’s like if there is one, whether life persists beyond the grave, what life’s meaning is if one there be—these are the questions that often spur people to pursue the study of philosophy in the first place, and philosophy of religion indulges the chance to explore them.
The questions are engaging even to children, but the difference between a child asking such questions and a philosopher is that the philosopher, in an effort to honor the wide-eyed childlike wonder of it all, has developed tools, strategies, and resources to answer such questions—or at least inch, however incrementally, toward answers. Philosophers do so by refining the questions themselves, ruling out certain answers, defending other answers against objections, revealing how various answers produce yet new questions. In the process they subject various proposals to critical scrutiny every step of the way, separating the wheat from the chaff, in an effort to make progress. It’s exploration predicated on assuming that reason and rationality, properly exercised, make for progress.