Philosophical percolations philosophy of religion

Posted on December 11, by Joshua Stein. There are a number of pragmatic and pedagogical reasons to teach philosophy of religion. It gets students, most of whom are religious, motivated to look carefully at philosophical problems; it helps non-religious students understand the history and anthropology of religion and philosophy; it allows professors to cover a broad array of topics in other philosophical sub-disciplines with a unifying subject matter; etc.

philosophical percolations philosophy of religion

As Loftus responds in his own discussion:. It basically follows the same strategy Dr.

Philosophy of religion

Essentially his call is to debunk the Bible for the good of any future society we might have. There are parts of this to which I must admit I am very sympathetic; I think Loftus is right that the arguments to the existence of God fail, and fail fairly spectacularly. I think that the arguments, further, are generally pretty bad philosophy. Because one might imagine that if the problem were pervasive enough and localized enough to philosophy of religion, he might be justified in making this sort of claim.

Like teaching about safe sex, teaching students about how to make better arguments, giving them the skills to make and evaluate arguments about the things that interest them, is important. Given that, like sex, we can reasonably expect students to have discussions about God at 3am in the dorms, we ought to like sex do our best to ensure that they make good decisions and avoid disastrous consequences.

philosophical percolations philosophy of religion

Rather, the goal has to be to illustrate why the arguments are bad, and ultimately that requires at least initially entertaining the possibility that they might not be bad, interpreting them charitably, and evaluating them critically.

December 11, Like Liked by 1 person. December 12, However, I also understand that there are a number of uses for philosophy of religion, including showing the ontological, metaphysical, and ethical frameworks underlying deeply culturally integrated belief systems.

philosophical percolations philosophy of religion

Thus, I still see a role for philosophy of religion though I am in line with your point that it is important that teachers of philosophy of religion are teaching properly and putting the concepts taught into context in terms of their epistemological limitations, and how they track with logic, reason, and evidence. We may not endorse cognitive biases or desire them, but it is important to know how they effect our beliefs whether ontological, epistemological, metaphysical, ethical, etc.

Therefore maintaining the instruction of a philosophy that seeks to outline these beliefs systems or much of their foundation is important. Good post!

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This is where the analogy splits off to me, and perhaps a point of substantive disagreement with Loftus. I suspect Loftus and I agree that, if philosophy of religion is going to be taught, that it be taught well.

Like Like. December 13, My main point was that religion pervades the thoughts and belief systems of many individuals and cultures as do cognitive biases so having philosophy courses and fields that address these highly influential components of our belief systems is important regardless of whether we want to reduce those cognitive biases or reduce religion in some way.

It is more a matter of better understanding these phenomena since they are so ubiquitous and influential. It just happens to be the case that by better understanding them, many are persuaded to combat cognitive biases and discard or actively combat religion. Know what I mean? As someone who does work in the social sciences, it seems like this is some important disciplinary slippage.The main themes that arise in the philosophy of religion have been shaped by issues concerning the relation between human language and thought on the one hand and the nature of the divine on the other.

If it is possible neither to think nor to speak about God, then it is obviously impossible to argue philosophically about him. The difficulties can be seen by considering some extreme positions. If language about God or the divine is totally equivocalthen saying that God is good or claiming to know that God is good bears no relation whatever to standards of human goodness.

If language about God is wholly anthropomorphicthen God is reduced to human proportions, eliminating any transcendent reference.

Yet if God is utterly transcendent, it is doubtful that humans could possess an adequate concept of him or form true propositions about him. It is sometimes argued that such language is best expressed in negative terms: God is infinite not finitetimeless not in timeand so on.

The main epistemological question in the philosophy of religion is: Can God be known? This apparently simple question quickly leads to issues of considerable complexity. There are two main areas of debate: 1 whether it is possible to prove the existence of God—and, if not, whether there is nevertheless a sense in which religious belief is reasonable—and 2 whether knowledge of God is obtainable from sources other than human reason and sense experience.

Proofs of the existence of God are usually classified as either a priori or a posteriori—that is, based on the idea of God itself or based on experience. An example of the latter is the cosmological argumentwhich appeals to the notion of causation to conclude either that there is a first cause or that there is a necessary being from whom all contingent beings derive their existence. Other versions of this approach include the appeal to contingency—to the fact that whatever exists might not have existed and therefore calls for explanation—and the appeal to the principle of sufficient reasonwhich claims that for anything that exists there must be a sufficient reason why it exists.

The arguments by Aquinas known as the Five Ways —the argument from motion, from efficient causation, from contingencyfrom degrees of perfection, and from final causes or ends in nature—are generally regarded as cosmological.

Something must be the first or prime moverthe first efficient cause, the necessary ground of contingent beings, the supreme perfection that imperfect beings approach, and the intelligent guide of natural things toward their ends. This, Aquinas said, is God. The argument from design also starts from human experience: in this case the perception of order and purpose in the natural world. The argument claims that the universe is strongly analogousin its order and regularity, to an artifact such as a watch; because the existence of the watch justifies the presumption of a watchmaker, the existence of the universe justifies the presumption of a divine creator of the universe, or God.

Despite the powerful criticisms of the Scottish philosopher David Hume —76 —e. Other modern variants of the argument attempt to ground theistic belief in patterns of reasoning that are characteristic of the natural sciences, appealing to simplicity and economy of explanation of the order and regularity of the universe.

Perhaps the most sophisticated and challenging argument for the existence of God is the ontological argumentpropounded by Anselm of Canterbury.

According to Anselm, the concept of God as the most perfect being—a being greater than which none can be conceived—entails that God exists, because a being who was otherwise all perfect and who failed to exist would be less great than a being who was all perfect and who did exist.

It may be possible or impossible to prove the existence of God, but it may be unnecessary to do so in order for belief in God to be reasonable. Chief among these is the appeal to religious experience —a personal, direct acquaintance with God or an experience of God mediated through a religious tradition.Philosophy of religiondiscipline concerned with the philosophical appraisal of human religious attitudes and of the real or imaginary objects of those attitudes, God or the gods.

The philosophy of religion is an integral part of philosophy as such and embraces central issues regarding the nature and extent of human knowledge, the ultimate character of reality, and the foundations of morality. Philosophical interest in religion may be said to have originated in the West with the ancient Greeks.

Many of the enduring questions in the philosophy of religion were first addressed by them, and the claims and controversies they developed served as a framework for subsequent philosophizing for more than 1, years.

On Teaching Philosophy of Religion

Plato — bcewho developed the metaphysical theory of Forms abstract entities corresponding to the properties of particular objectswas also one of the first thinkers to consider the idea of creation and to attempt to prove the existence of God. The Stoicism of the Hellenistic Age bce — ce was characterized by philosophical naturalismincluding the idea of natural law a system of right or justice thought to be inherent in nature ; meanwhile, thinkers such as Titus Lucretius Carus in the 1st century bce and Sextus Empiricus in the 3rd century ce taught a variety of skeptical doctrines.

In the Hellenistic Age philosophy was considered not so much a set of theoretical reflections on issues of abiding human interest but a way of addressing how a person should conduct his life in the face of corruption and death.

It was natural, therefore, that the various positions of Hellenistic philosophers should both rival and offer support to religion. By the 3rd century, Christian thinkers had begun to adopt the ideas of Plato and of Neoplatonists such as Plotinus.

The most influential of these figures, St. For Augustine, God, like the Forms, was eternal, incorruptible, and necessary.

Yet Augustine also saw God as an agent of supreme power and the creator of the universe out of nothing. They borrowed key Greek terms, such as person soma ; personanature physis ; naturaand substance ousia ; substantiain an effort to clarify their own doctrines.

In the 12th and 13th centuries the influence of Plato was gradually replaced by that of Aristotlewhose philosophical importance was most clearly demonstrated in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas —74the foremost philosopher of Scholasticism. Aquinas, however, was only the first among many equals in philosophical reflection on the nature of religion in this period. The rediscovery of the philosophical writings of Aristotle by Islamic scholars ushered in a period of intense philosophical activity, not only in the schools of Islam but also among Jewish and Christian thinkers.

In the late Middle Ages the cooperation between philosophy and theology broke down. Later medieval theologians such as William of Ockham moved away from the Platonic and Aristotelian discourse that had dominated both philosophy and theology.

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Ockham and other nominalists of the period rejected the claim that the properties displayed by objects e. Philosophers and theologians of the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation looked upon Scholasticism as a highly sophisticated but needlessly speculative welding of pagan philosophy and Christian theology that tended to obscure authentic Christian themes.

Renaissance thinkers rejected the medieval tradition in favour of the pristine sources of Western philosophy in Classical civilization. The Reformers emphasized both the supremacy of Scripture and the relative inability of the unaided human mind to reason about God in a reliable fashion. But although both movements were critical of medieval thought, neither was free of its influence. Philosophy of religion Article Media Additional Info.

Article Contents. Print print Print. Table Of Contents. Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article requires login. External Websites. Paul Helm J. See Article History.

Plato is shown pointing to the heavens and the realm of forms, Aristotle to the earth and the realm of things. Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription.

Subscribe today. Load Next Page.The philosophy of religion became a recognizable subdiscipline in philosophy in the mid- to late 20th century, together with other notable subdisciplines such as the philosophy of science and the philosophy of language. Work in the philosophy of religion has always been present in the history of philosophy, but prior to the 20th century, it tended to be embedded in larger philosophical projects.

By the midth century, however, the process of specialization in philosophy led to an identifiable subfield with identifiable specialists in the area. This subfield can be roughly characterized in terms of its epistemological and metaphysical aspects. On the metaphysical side are controversies about a proper conception of the nature of God, both about specific characteristics of God such as omnipotence, omniscience, simplicity, eternity, and moral perfection, and also about what general approach to the issue of the nature of God is appropriate e.

Finally, there is the further question of the significance of religious language itself, whether sense can be made of talking about a being and realms of reality that are difficult to account for in terms of empirical acquaintance and, if so, exactly what precise account can be given of the content of such language. General overviews of the subject are available in the various high-quality encyclopedias of philosophy that have been published since the late s.

Clark, Kelly. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden. A lucid summary of the evidentialist objection to religious belief and the primary responses on behalf of religious belief: natural theology and the attempt to demonstrate the truth of various religious beliefs, the fideistic response that views the demand for justification as ill-formed, and reformed epistemology defending the idea that belief in God can be rational apart from argument or evidence.

Forrest, Peter. Edited by Edward N. Devoted to the epistemological issues, especially the debate between evidentialists, who maintain that one cannot rationally believe in the absence of good evidence or arguments for what one believes, and alternative positions such as Wittgensteinian fideism, according to which criticisms from outside a language game misunderstand the logic, grammar, or justification, and reformed epistemology, according to which certain beliefs can be properly held in the absence of argument or evidence.

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Stump, Eleonore. Edited by Edward Craig. London: Routledge, A general introduction to the variety of issues and topics involved in the philosophy of religion, by one of the major philosophers in the philosophy of religion since Available online by subscription. Taliaferro, Charles. An introduction to the philosophy of religion containing unusually extensive discussion of the history of the subdiscipline as well as an extensive and useful bibliography.

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philosophical percolations philosophy of religion

Forgot password? Don't have an account? Sign in via your Institution.Philosophy of religion is the philosophical examination of the themes and concepts involved in religious traditions as well as the broader philosophical task of reflecting on matters of religious significance including the nature of religion itself, alternative concepts of God or ultimate reality, and the religious significance of general features of the cosmos e.

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Philosophy of religion also includes the investigation and assessment of worldviews such as secular naturalism that are alternatives to religious worldviews. Philosophy of religion involves all the main areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, value theory including moral theory and applied ethicsphilosophy of language, science, history, politics, art, and so on. Section 1 offers an overview of the field and its significance, with subsequent sections covering developments in the field since the mid-twentieth century.

These sections address philosophy of religion as practiced primarily but not exclusively in departments of philosophy and religious studies that are in the broadly analytic tradition. The entry concludes with highlighting the increasing breadth of the field, as more traditions outside the Abrahamic faiths Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have become the focus of important philosophical work.

Ideally, a guide to the nature and history of philosophy of religion would begin with an analysis or definition of religion. Unfortunately, there is no current consensus on a precise identification of the necessary and sufficient conditions of what counts as a religion. We therefore currently lack a decisive criterion that would enable clear rulings whether some movements should count as religions e.

But while consensus in precise details is elusive, the following general depiction of what counts as a religion may be helpful:. This definition does not involve some obvious shortcomings such as only counting a tradition as religious if it involves belief in God or gods, as some recognized religions such as Buddhism in its main forms does not involve a belief in God or gods.

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Although controversial, the definition provides some reason for thinking Scientology and the Cargo cults are proto-religious insofar as these movements do not have a robust communal, transmittable body of teachings and meet the other conditions for being a religion.

For a discussion of other definitions of religion, see Taliaferrochapter one, and for a recent, different analysis, see Graham Oppychapter three. But rather than devoting more space to definitions at the outset, a pragmatic policy will be adopted: for the purpose of this entry, it will be assumed that those traditions that are widely recognized today as religions are, indeed, religions.

It will be assumed, then, that religions include at least Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and those traditions that are like them. This way of delimiting a domain is sometimes described as employing a definition by examples an ostensive definition or making an appeal to a family resemblance between things. Given the above, broad perspective of what counts as religion, the roots of what we call philosophy of religion stretch back to the earliest forms of philosophy.

From the outset, philosophers in Asia, the Near and Middle East, North Africa, and Europe reflected on the gods or God, duties to the divine, the origin and nature of the cosmos, an afterlife, the nature of happiness and obligations, whether there are sacred duties to family or rulers, and so on. As with each of what would come to be considered sub-fields of philosophy today like philosophy of science, philosophy of artphilosophers in the Ancient world addressed religiously significant themes just as they took up reflections on what we call science and art in the course of their overall practice of philosophy.

While from time to time in the Medieval era, some Jewish, Christian, and Islamic philosophers sought to demarcate philosophy from theology or religion, the evident role of philosophy of religion as a distinct field of philosophy does not seem apparent until the mid-twentieth century. A case can be made, however, that there is some hint of the emergence of philosophy of religion in the seventeenth century philosophical movement Cambridge Platonism.

The Cambridge Platonists provided the first English versions of the cosmological, ontological, and teleological arguments, reflections on the relationship of faith and reason, and the case for tolerating different religions. While the Cambridge Platonists might have been the first explicit philosophers of religion, for the most part, their contemporaries and successors addressed religion as part of their overall work.

There is reason, therefore, to believe that philosophy of religion only gradually emerged as a distinct sub-field of philosophy in the mid-twentieth century. Today, philosophy of religion is one of the most vibrant areas of philosophy. Articles in philosophy of religion appear in virtually all the main philosophical journals, while some journals such as the International Journal for Philosophy of ReligionReligious StudiesSophiaFaith and Philosophyand others are dedicated especially to philosophy of religion.

Philosophy of religion is in evidence at institutional meetings of philosophers such as the meetings of the American Philosophical Association and of the Royal Society of Philosophy. What accounts for this vibrancy? Consider four possible reasons. First: The religious nature of the world population.

To engage in philosophy of religion is therefore to engage in a subject that affects actual people, rather than only tangentially touching on matters of present social concern. Perhaps one of the reasons why philosophy of religion is often the first topic in textbook introductions to philosophy is that this is one way to propose to readers that philosophical study can impact what large numbers of people actually think about life and value.Philosophy of Religion is the branch of philosophy that is concerned with the philosophical study of religionincluding arguments over the nature and existence of Godreligious languagemiraclesprayerthe problem of eviland the relationship between religion and other value-systems such as science and ethics.

It is often regarded as a part of Metaphysicsespecially insofar as it is interested in understanding what it is for something to existalthough arguably it also touches on issues commonly dealt with in EpistemologyEthicsLogic and the Philosophy of Language. It asks such questions as "Are there sound reasons to think that God does or does not exist?

It does not ask "What is God? Theism : The belief in the existence of one or more divinities or deities, which exist within the universe and yet transcend it. These gods also in some way interact with the universe unlike Deismand are often considered to be omniscientomnipotent and omnipresent. The word "theism" was first coined in the 17th Century to contrast with Atheism. Monotheism : The view that only one God exists. The Abrahamic faiths JudaismChristianity and Islamas well as Plato 's concept of God, all affirm monotheism, and this is the usual conception debated within Western Philosophy.

Jews, Christians and Muslims would probably all agree that God is an eternally existent being that exists apart from space and time, who is the creator of the universeand is omnipotent all-powerfulomniscient all-knowingomnibenevolent all-good or all-loving and possibly omnipresent all-present.

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The religions, however, differ in the details: Christians, for example, would further affirm that there are three aspects to God the Fatherthe Son and the Holy Spirit. Exclusive Monotheism : The belief that there is only one deityand that all other claimed deities are distinct from it and false. The Abrahamic religionsand the Hindu denomination of Vaishnavism which regards the worship of anyone other than Vishnu as incorrect are examples of Exclusive Monotheism.

Inclusive monotheism : The belief that there is only one deityand that all other claimed deities are just different names for it. The Hindu denomination of Smartism is an example of Inclusive Monotheism. Substance Monotheism : The belief found in some indigenous African religions that the many gods are just different forms of a single underlying substance. Pantheism : The belief that God is equivalent to Nature or the physical universeor that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God.

The concept has been discussed as far back as the time of the philosophers of Ancient Greeceincluding ThalesParmenides and Heraclitus. Baruch Spinoza also believed in a kind of naturalistic pantheism in which the universe, although unconscious and non-sentient as a whole, is a meaningful focus for mystical fulfillment.

Panentheism : The belief also known as Monistic Monotheismsimilar to Pantheismthat the physical universe is joined to God, but stressing that God is greater than rather than equivalent to the universe.Philosophy of religion is the philosophical study of the meaning and nature of religion.

It includes the analyses of religious concepts, beliefs, terms, arguments, and practices of religious adherents. The scope of much of the work done in philosophy of religion has been limited to the various theistic religions. More recent work often involves a broader, more global approach, taking into consideration both theistic and non-theistic religious traditions.

The range of those engaged in the field of philosophy of religion is broad and diverse and includes philosophers from the analytic and continental traditions, Eastern and Western thinkers, religious believers and agnostics, skeptics and atheists. Philosophy of religion draws on all of the major areas of philosophy as well as other relevant fields, including theology, history, sociology, psychology, and the natural sciences.

There are a number of themes that fall under the domain of philosophy of religion as it is commonly practiced in academic departments in North America and Europe. The practice of philosophy, especially in the analytic tradition, places emphasis on precision of terms and clarity of concepts and ideas. Religious language is often vague, imprecise, and couched in mystery. In the twentieth century this linguistic imprecision was challenged by philosophers who used a principle of verifiability to reject as meaningless all non-empirical claims.

For these logical positivistsonly the tautologies of mathematics and logic, along with statements containing empirical observations or inferences, were taken to be meaningful.

Many religious statements, including those about God, are neither tautological nor empirically verifiable. When logical positivism became prominent mid-century, philosophy of religion as a discipline became suspect. This development, along with other factors including the philosophical insights on the nature and meaning of language offered by Ludwig Wittgenstein — and the rise of a pragmatic version of naturalism offered by W.

Quine —caused logical positivism to wane. By the s verificationism virtually collapsed, and philosophical views that had been suppressed, including those having to do with religion and religious language, were once again fair game for philosophical discourse.

With the work of certain analytic philosophers of religion, including Basil Mitchell —H. Farmer —Alvin Plantinga —Richard Swinburne —and John Hick —religious language and concepts were revived and soon became accepted arenas of viable philosophical and religious discourse and debate.

After the collapse of positivism, two streams emerged in philosophy of religion regarding what religious language and beliefs are about: realism and non-realism. The vast majority of religious adherents are religious realists. Realists, as used in this context, are those who hold that their religious beliefs are about what actually exists, independent of the persons who hold those beliefs.

The implication is that statements about them can and do provide correct predications of the behavior of Allah and Brahman and so forth. If Allah or Brahman do not actually exist, assertions about them would be false.

Religion is a human construct and religious language refers to human behavior and experience. An important figure who had much influence on the development of religious non-realism was Ludwig Wittgenstein.

In his later works, Wittgenstein understood language to be not a fixed structure directly corresponding to the way things actually are, but rather a human activity susceptible to the vicissitudes of human life and practice. In many cases, then, the meaning of a word is its use in the language. For Wittgenstein, this is true in all forms of discourse, including religious discourse. In speaking of God or other religious terms or concepts, their meanings have more to do with their use than with their denotation.

The language games of the religions reflect the practices and forms of life of the various religious adherents; religious statements should not be taken as providing literal descriptions of a reality that somehow lies beyond those activities. Some non-realists have been highly critical of religion, such as Sigmund Freud —


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