Thomas Metcalf on “Science and the Future of Philosophy of Religion”

Thomas Metcalf is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. 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.

It’s rare to ask whether a certain academic discipline, or its subfields, have a future. But it’s reasonable to ask that question about the philosophy of religion, given that religiosity has declined so much in recent years, and given that philosophers sometimes ask whether philosophy of religion as we know it should exist at all. I’ve already read several interesting and plausible entries on this blog about how philosophy of religion’s future partly lies in diversifying its subject matter and audience. But what about a future for its historically central topics in the academic, Anglophone world, such as arguments for and against the existence of the classical-theistic or Anselmian God? In this post, I want to suggest that this area of philosophy of religion will have a future as long as the sciences have a future.

Anyone reasonably familiar with analytic or Anglophone-style philosophy of religion is aware of the very close connections that debates in the philosophy of religion have with the natural sciences. Much of my own work, for example, has been about the Fine-Tuning Argument, which depends on relatively recent scientific discoveries. Other justifiably famous arguments in the philosophy of religion at-least-partly depend on cosmology or on natural history or evolutionary biology. Indeed, neuroscience and some of the social sciences are also relevant to the philosophy of religion, for example to the topics of religious experiences, the afterlife, dualism-versus-physicalism, and religious disagreement. Therefore, I think we should provisionally expect that there will be a future for philosophy of religion. Continue reading

Segun Ogungbemi on “Is There A Future For The Philosophy Of Religion?”

Segun Ogungbemi is Professor of Philosophy at Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba, Ondo State Nigeria. 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.


Let me say from the outset that I don’t intend to answer directly all the questions raised in the letter because of the limited words and space. With my backgrounds in Philosophy, Theology, Ethics and Religious Studies, I am delighted to make my little contribution because that is the essence of being in the field of philosophy including philosophy of religion. I want to premise my argument on three things that will guarantee the future of philosophy of religion which are: human beings, institutions and knowledge production.

Philosophy of Religion: a multicultural approach

The world has become a global village hence the predominant analytical and continental approaches in the western world have to be receptive to other approaches across diverse cultural dimensions of philosophy of religion to enhance its future relevance. In other words, from time immemorial every race and nationality had produced its traditional intellectuals who sought to rationalize their religious beliefs systems. In Kenya, Africa, Professor H. Odera Oruka called them Sage philosophers. In modern Africa, there are professional philosophers who specialize in Philosophy of Religion. Africa has therefore, both Sage and modern philosophers of religion using both approaches to guarantee the future of Philosophy of Religion. When philosophy of religion is taught from the cultural background of students either in the western world or in Africa, their inquisitiveness to know more gave me the encouragement to believe that philosophy of religion has a future. Let me give some concrete examples of African universities where I have taught philosophy of religion for several decades i.e., Ogun State University Ago-Iwoye now Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria, Moi University, Eldoret Kenya, Lagos State University, Nigeria and Adekunle Ajasin University, Nigeria. The number of students that have been impacted by philosophy of religion has multiplying effects that will, in my opinion, continue from generation to generation. Continue reading