Phillip H. Wiebe
Phillip H. Wiebe is Professor of Philosophy at Trinity Western University, Canada. We invited him to answer the question “What is Philosophy of Religion?” as part of our “Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion” series.
If philosophy consists of critical reflection on logic, ontology, epistemology, axiology, and linguistic meaning – its core historical content – then philosophy of religion consists of these kinds of critical reflection on beliefs and behaviors “associated in some way with a supernatural realm, a sphere of divine or spiritual beings.” This rough definition of religion is from Daniel Pals, who thus distils (Seven Theories of Religion) the views of seven great theorists of the last century: Frazer, Freud, Durkheim, Eliade, Evans-Pritchard, Tylor, and Geertz. I consider the most insightful general approach to the ontological status of religious claims to be that of W. V. O. Quine, who observed that the gods are cultural posits whose epistemological footing is similar, although inferior, to that of physical objects (“Two Dogmas of Empiricism”).
Graham Oppy is Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean of Research at Monash 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.
While there are many other parts of philosophy of religion, the part that seems to me to be both central and of the greatest interest is the assessment or evaluation of worldviews.
Not all worldviews are religious. Along with Christian worldviews, Islamic worldviews, Jewish worldviews, Hindu worldviews, Buddhist worldviews, Jain worldviews, Sikh worldviews, Daoist worldviews, and so forth, there are worldviews that are at most marginally religious — e.g. Confucian worldviews — and worldviews that are decidedly not religious — e.g. secular worldviews, naturalistic worldviews, and so forth. Nonetheless, philosophy of religion is properly concerned with the assessment of all of these kinds of worldviews.
There are three major stages in the assessment of worldviews.