Duncan Pritchard on “Is There A Future For The Philosophy of Religion?”

UCI professor of philosophy Duncan Pritchard
photo: Steve Zylius/UCI

Duncan Pritchard is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at University of California, Irvine. We invited him to answer the question “Is there a future for the philosophy of religion?” as part of our “Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion” series.

I think the short answer to the question I’ve been posed is simply ‘yes, of course there is a future for philosophy of religion’. Given how fundamental religious questions are to the human condition, and given how philosophy is deeply concerned with the nature of the human condition, then it is hard to see how philosophy could have a future without philosophy of religion being a part of it. On the assumption that I’m right about this, and that philosophy of religion does have a future, the natural next question is what this philosophy of religion of the future will be like. Futurology has a notoriously poor success rate, but I think I can with some confidence offer one general trend that will occur, which is a greater interest within philosophy of religion beyond the Christian traditions that have tended to preoccupy philosophers hitherto (especially philosophers of the broadly analytical tradition). My confidence in this is grounded in the fact that philosophy more generally has become more open to a wider set of cultural reference points (rightly so, in my view), and it is hard to see how this could fail to have an effect on mainstream philosophy of religion. I suspect that this particular trend will also go hand-in-hand with a more geographically diverse reading of the history of religious ideas too, particularly since I think philosophers of religion tend to be more historically-minded than most philosophers anyway. Continue reading

Charles Taliaferro on “Is There A Future For The Philosophy of Religion?”

Charles Taliaferro is Professor of Philosophy and Overby Distinguished Chair at St. Olaf College. He is the author or co-author of over 30 books, including the two editions of the Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Religion. He is the author of the Philosophy of Religion entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Editor-in-Chief of Open Theology. We invited him to answer the question “Is there a future for the philosophy of religion?” as part of our “Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion” series.

In my 40 years in higher education and in giving invited lectures in philosophy of religion at major universities in the USA and UK (Harvard, Yale, U of Chicago, Oxford, Cambridge…) and elsewhere (Russia, China, Brazil) I have found eager audiences hungry for philosophy of religion. Given the overwhelmingly large population of religiously identified persons on this planet (PEW estimates 84%) for philosophers to ignore the importance of religious belief and practice would be negligent. While some popular news media report a decline in religion in parts of the world, sociologists of religion like Randy Stark (in his book The Triumph of Faith; Why The World is More Religious Than Ever) contend that low numbers are often generated if ‘religion’ is defined in terms of membership in churches, temples, and so on; but if ‘religion’ is measured in terms of frequency of praying, believing there is a God or Higher Power, visiting shrines, and so on, numbers are extraordinarily high. I have also seen a study where it was assumed that if persons are self-described atheists then they are classified as non-religious (see chapter one of Stark’s book). But Buddhism is widely considered a religion and it is atheistic. The most well recognized and perhaps best loved religious leader today, the Dalia Lama, is an atheist (or, if you prefer a more modest term ‘a non-theist’; either way, he is quite explicit in denying the reality of a Creator-God). Continue reading

Robert Cummings Neville on “Is There A Future For The Philosophy of Religion?”

Robert Cummings Neville is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion at Boston University. We invited him to answer the question “Is there a future for the philosophy of religion?” as part of our “Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion” series.

To recall my previous blogs here, I believe that the primary meaning of philosophy of religion is when someone with a really big philosophy says something interesting about religion. A secondary meaning is when someone lacks the big philosophy but deals with some aspect of religion. The former is what we usually teach, the latter is what we publish, those of us who lack big philosophies.

What is the future of all this? Let’s project a 15 year future and a 50 year future, beginning with the 15 year one. Continue reading

Dale M. Schlitt’s Brief Musings on “Is There A Future For The Philosophy of Religion?”

Dale M. Schlitt is Professor of Theology, Philosophy and Spirituality at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. We invited him to answer the question “Is there a future for the philosophy of religion?” as part of our “Philosophers of Religion on Philosophy of Religion” series.

Perhaps a little musing about religion in relation to lived experience and then about the relationship between it and philosophy of religion would prove helpful. Focusing on religion as arising out of lived experience might help situate anew philosophy’s essential roles in relation to religion. Though religion, like philosophy, pretty well concerns all forms of experience, that to which it relates most basically is the past and present lived experience of an ultimate or, more generally stated, of some way “beyond.” Whether that be a divinity, an ideal way of living, a specific way of relating to reality as a whole or in one or more of its particulars. Such experience may be characterized more by a self-other structure as, for example, in theistic religions and quasi-religious attitudes toward reality or one or more aspects of it. But such experience may also be witnessed to as a pure experiencing, for example, that affirmed in Advaitic a-dualism. Mutatis mutandis, whether structured or not, such experience could be communal, shared, personal, individual, or several of these forms taken together. It could also be them considered cumulatively. It may also be something witnessed to in the past as, for example, by the architecture and sculpture at the immense Angkor Wat temple complex in northern Cambodia, which provides access to, and a certain understanding of, Hindu and then Buddhist experience centuries ago. It may be originary, giving rise, in each case in its own way, to subsequent religious or quasi-religious communities. Such has occurred in Buddhism with Siddhārtha Gautama and his experience, to put it too simply, as extinction of desire, and in Christianity with Jesus of Nazareth and his experience of God as Father and Spirit. Experience of an ultimate or a “beyond” may be affirmed as occurring in the present, which is the case with the seven-hundred-year-old tradition of entrancing Dervish whirling or with Pentecostal/Charismatic experiences of the Spirit renewing the first Pentecost experience. And such experience may continue to be witnessed to as well as further encouraged in the singing of Charles Wesley’s thousands of often lilting hymns. It may live on as expressed in indigenous attitudes toward sacred reality, for example, the case of aboriginal respect for and honoring of the perhaps 500-million-year-old sacred monolith Uluru in north central Australia. Continue reading