Looking for New Ideas
April 15, 2011 — 18:10

Author: Jon Kvanvig  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: ,   Comments: 14

I edit Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, and run at least one conference every year designed to help me find out what’s new, both people and ideas, in philosophy of religion. So I solicit input. Feel free to put ideas in the comments, but also to email me directly. My email is my first name, underscore, last name. At baylor.edu. For those confused my first name is “Jonathan”; my last name is “Kvanvig”. I think the email isn’t case-sensitive. Thanks for any input!

Comments:
  • Mark

    Hey there. I don’t know if this is the sort of suggestion that is what you are looking for, but here it is.
    How about calling for some papers, and facilitating some discussions on the philosophical tensions involved in the topic of Sola Scriptura. I think that looking at this topic is helpful not just for ecumenical purposes, but also because it helps get down to the finer points of the assent to Christian religion.
    This topic has under extensive discussion at calledtocommunion.com. Neal Judisch (philosophy professor), Bryan Cross (graduate philosophy student), and Michael Liccione (philosophy professor) have written articles. Keith Matthison has been involved in the dialogue, and wrote a response (which was then also responded to). It’s a lively discussion.
    Because of how important this is, I really do think that this topic deserves some very delicate treatment, as well as a lots of attention from the philosophical community.
    Best,
    Mark

    April 16, 2011 — 0:47
  • On a closely related topic, more work on inspiration of Scripture and inerrance informed by the best philosophy of language would be good. Here are some difficult questions that there has been some work on some of, but not enough:
    – Which propositions are to be taken as inerrant by inerrantists? Those asserted by the writers? Those intended to be asserted by the writers? Those asserted or implicated by the writers? If authorial intent is important, how does that work in texts with multiple authors and/or editors (there may be some useful stuff to draw on in regard to the exegesis of legislative texts)?
    – What does inspiration imply about speech acts other than assertion found in Scripture?
    – How do humans and God cooperate in the production of Scripture?
    – What is the relationship between the “senses” of Scripture?
    – What sort of modality is involved in claims like that Scripture is inerrant?

    April 16, 2011 — 8:50
  • But even more what I’d love to see is more work on the problem of evil by really, really good ethicists.

    April 16, 2011 — 8:56
  • I concur with Pruss on both points.

    April 16, 2011 — 10:59
  • David Efird

    I would like to see some work on the metaphysics of the Church. While there has been a good deal of work on the metaphysics of the first two forms of the Body of Christ, namely, the Incarnate Son of God and the consecrated Eucharistic host, there has been little, if any, work on the metaphysics of the third form of the body of Christ, the Church. It would be a good time to do such work since there has been some advances in the metaphysics of social groups, which could prove helpful.

    April 17, 2011 — 8:02
  • Geoff Pynn

    I only casually follow work in some areas of philosophy of religion but an Oxford Studies that contained papers on any of the topics Alexander Pruss suggests (in particular something by a good ethicist on the problem of evil) would definitely be something I would pick up and read.

    April 18, 2011 — 12:05
  • Gene Witmer

    It may be that I’ve just not run across the appropriate literature, but I think it would be extremely interesting to solicit work on the role apparent providence might play in justifying theistic belief. Let me explain what I mean.
    When I talk with my believing friends and students, I find that they very commonly tell me that they believe because of events in their lives that just “work out” in the right way. They don’t cite miracles in the sense that would require a violation of laws of nature; no particular event stands out in that way. Rather, an overall pattern (not over a whole life, but a significant segment) seems to them designed to serve divine purposes, and this is the sort of thing they look to as providing motivation to believe.
    I am sure philosophers of religion have written on this already, but from my very limited overview of the literature, I’ve not seen anything that tackles head on whether this sort of evidence could provide a justification of theistic belief. And given that many believers, at least in my experience, really do lean on this, I think an assessment of “arguments from providential events,” as we might call it, would be important.
    (And if there is already something good on this topic that anyone can point me to, that would be most appreciated.)

    April 18, 2011 — 14:19
  • Terence Cuneo

    Nick Wolterstorff and I led a three week summer seminar at Calvin in 2009 entitled “Philosophical Reflections on Liturgy.” One of our guests was Howie Wettstein, who talked about Jewish liturgical practices. Since, however, we both know the Christian liturgical traditions best, that’s what we focused on. (“Liturgy,” I should mention, is to be understood in a wide sense to mean the religious service. It doesn’t mean liturgy as understood in the “high” liturgical traditions.)
    Among the topics we considered: Liturgy is plausibly thought of as scripted action. What is a script? What is it for a sequence of actions to be scripted? Why should we want liturgical actions to be scripted — what goods are thereby available?
    We participate in the liturgy for reasons of various sorts. But is there an implicit rationale or ratio behind the various types of liturgy that makes sense of their components and structure?
    And, what’s going on at various points in the liturgy? What would make sense of the way art is used? What is going on when, in the course of the liturgy, someone recites the Creed? Is this a collective action of some sort? Is it a public mental act? Is there a way authentically to participate in the recitation of the Creed if one could not describe oneself as a believer? Does it even matter much what’s going on in one’s head? In their approach to liturgy, have the more ancient Christian traditions, which emphasize the performance of scripted actions, operated with something akin to semantic externalism?
    What’s going on with the eucharist? Baptism? What is the nature of commemoration? More generally, what is the role of symbolic actions in the liturgy? Are there relations of fittingness between liturgical actions and how those actions are performed? Between the actions and what they signify?
    Are liturgical actions to be understood as cases of divine action in which God appropriates human actions?
    To what extent should liturgical practices be normative for theology? Some traditions pray for the dead — even those in hell. Should we theologize in light of these liturgical practices? To what extent should the rule of worship ground belief?
    Anyway, that’s a laundry list of some of the topics that caught our interest.

    April 18, 2011 — 16:12
  • Ted Poston

    Let me second Terence’s idea. I’m currently reading Nick’s new collection of essays “Hearing the call: Liturgy, Justice, Church, and World” and there are plenty of worthy ideas to explore in there. One of Nick’s interesting ideas is that proper liturgical practice requires social justice. I’d like to see some more work in general on social justice from a theistic perspective. Nick has some very interesting starting points on social justice with in a Christian perspective. This needs to be picked up on and developed.

    April 18, 2011 — 17:32
  • Mark

    My idea, posted above, would in many ways turn out to be an epistemological topic. It has to do with the role of testimony, ways of knowing the divine quality of a text, and other related considerations.
    I think it’s very very important because if we are going to defend divinely revealed truths and explore them deeper by using our philosophical reasoning, we should have some rationally defensible reasons (for ourselves, and for the consideration of other) for thinking that we have a message from God Himself in the form of a book.
    A crucial part of this is gong to involve giving a rationally defensible account of the discrimination that was made historically, especially in the environment of competing claims about which books are divinely inspired.
    Also, something else I’ve been thought about lately. What about the empirical claims of Christianity that involve religious experience- claims like, those who follow Christ and trust Him, will have peace. What about joy? For example, how do things go if someone were to say that they followed Christ but did not have peace? Are we justified in thinking that they are reporting falsely? I think that this is a very interesting question.
    Best,
    Mark

    April 18, 2011 — 17:50
  • Francis J. Beckwith

    I second Terrence’s suggestion. Not having attended the seminar he directed with Wolterstorff (though I wish I had), I think there can be fruitful discussion on the relationship between liturgical practices and certain philosophical assumptions on the nature of matter. For example, how did the ascendancy of nominalism in the early Reformation shape Protestantism’s understanding of the liturgy and its relation to the receptivity of grace?

    April 18, 2011 — 22:47
  • Ted Poston

    Another idea that might be worth pursuing is the nature of second person experience and its connection to religious experience. Some questions: What is second-person experience? How does it differ from 1st person and 3rd person experience and also differ from the experience of nature? Is there second person experience in literature, with historical figures? What relation is there between second person experience and love & friendship? What are the necessary conditions for second person experience? Does second person experience require the willingness of mutual self-relevantion? What is the nature of skeptical scenarios apropos second person experience? And, in connection with Terence’s suggestion, can one have second person experience of God via the liturgy? I’d say, yes. Eleanore Stump has written an excellent article on this topic in *Liberal Faith*. Here’s the NDPR review to that book, with sizable discussion of Eleanore’s paper: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=18747

    April 19, 2011 — 11:34
  • Dani Rabinowitz

    I would like to support Mark’s and Alex’s first point, in particular, with relation to the epistemic issues involved. Interestingly, there is a robust literature on these issues within the Jewish tradition, where, on at least some very traditional theologies,the Jewish legal system is grounded on the claim of being divinely revealed in all its specificity and hence epistemically unchallengeable.

    April 20, 2011 — 12:12
  • Dani Rabinowitz

    How about something on repentance?

    May 6, 2011 — 6:46