Gary Colwell is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Condordia University of Edmonton. 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.
Thesis: As long as there is a future with a sufficient number of humans philosophy of religion will have a future.
(For, if there is no future, nothing has a future; and if there are no humans, no human endeavour has a future; and if there is not a sufficient number of humans philosophy of religion may not be one of the human endeavours.)
Definition PR: Philosophy of Religion is philosophical thinking about a religion.
(Briefly, it’s questioning the foundations of religious belief; i.e., deep questioning involving analysis and synthesis. PR is here taken to refer to a human cognitive activity, one not limited to the requirements of an academic course titled “Philosophy of Religion.”)
Assumption A: The future of humans is the only future under consideration.
(We shall set aside a consideration of supernatural beings who do philosophy. And although there is a remote possibility that aliens and squirrels do philosophy we have no evidence to support that view.)
Assumption B: A sufficient number of humans to guarantee philosophical thinking about religious belief is 1000.
(The number may be more or less, but whatever it precisely is, if indeed there is such a number, let’s assume that we will have that number.)
Assumption C: Human nature will not change.
(For, if it does change, then the cognitive inclination to do philosophy may become a casualty, and along with it philosophy of religion.)
Assumption D: The phrase “there will always be” is elliptical for “so long as there is a future with a sufficient number of humans there will always be.”
1. There will always be some humans who are religious.
(by nature, nurture or conversion).
2. Among religious humans there will always be those who question the foundations of their religious belief.
(by nature, nurture or other influence)
3. Among non-religious humans there will always be those who question the foundations of religious belief.
(by nature, nurture or other influence.)
4. Therefore, there will always be religious and non-religious questioners of the foundations of religious belief.
5. Therefore, there will always be a future for the philosophy of religion.
(4, PR) Q.E.D.
* Thanks to Travis Dumsday for his encouragement.