J. Aaron Simmons on “A Future Worth Pursuing”

J. Aaron Simmons is Professor of Philosophy at Furman 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.

Teleology has rarely proven helpful for moral life and social flourishing. Claims regarding the “end of history” or necessary directions in discursive practice are all fraught due to the contingencies that define embodied finitude. History is not best understood as a story about how we got to where we were supposed to be, but about the fragility of where we could have ended up. In this way, prognostication is less about clear vision and more about announcing an invitation that would be worthy of our effort. However, we should own up to the very real difference between what we would like to see and what is likely to be seen. Desire does not serve to constitute actuality. If it did, I would catch more fish and be able to dunk a basketball. Instead, actuality often serves to circumscribe our desire. One of the great benefits of philosophy, though, is that we are not bound by the logistics of what is, but instead are able to pursue the horizons of what could be.

Working through the question “Is there a future for philosophy of religion?” requires that we acknowledge that there is no necessary or obvious future for anything. The future is what we allow to occur. As such, maybe the better question is “What future is worth pursuing for philosophy of religion?” This question moves us away from what we think will actually be the case and instead encourages us to explore what case is worth making actual. When framed in this way, we can both admit of promising aspects in the current discourse and yet better see where problems remain. Philosophy of religion’s future is brighter than it could have been due to an increasing emphasis within the field on religious practice, a concerted effort to think about embodied issues concerning disability, gender, and race, and hints at attempts to abandon the historical opposition between analytic and continental approaches. Nonetheless, challenges remain for the sort of future that I believe is worth pursuing. Continue reading

Leah Kalmanson on “Is There A Future For The Philosophy Of Religion?”

University of North Texas portrait of Leah Kalmanson, Philosophy and Religion, Associate Professor. Photographed on 15, December 2021 in Denton, Texas. (Sky Allen/UNT Photo).

Leah Kalmanson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Bhagwan Adinath Professor of Jain Studies at University of North Texas. We invited her 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.

For the sake of conversation, let’s say: The future of philosophy of religion is existential. In other words, one way to philosophize about religious matters is to ask questions about the meaning of existence, sources of meaning, and practices for meaning-making. As I’ll propose here, such a future philosophy of religion will be better able to engage diverse traditions on the politicized terrain of religious diversity, where by “politicized” I mean the shifting dynamics of social power under conditions of disparity. Let me contextualize this.

The terms “religion” and “philosophy” are specific to European history, or as Robert Ford Campany (2003) says: “To speak of ‘religions’ is to demarcate things in ways that are not inevitable or immutable but, rather, are contingent on the shape of Western history, thought, and institutions. Other cultures may, and do, lack closely equivalent demarcations” (289). My own training is not in philosophy of religion but in various intellectual and scholarly traditions that, to borrow Campany’s words, demarcate things differently. Continue reading