May 7-9, 2015 at the University of Notre Dame
Religious experience is central to religious faith and practice. It often serves as evidence for belief; it contributes to the development of doctrine; and it, or the desire for it, is often a major motivator for church attendance, meditation, commitment to spiritual disciplines, and other religious practices. Religious experience has received a great deal of attention within both philosophy and theology; but important questions remain unanswered. What is the nature of religious experience? What, exactly is (or should be) its relationship to religious belief and religious practice? If God exists and loves human beings, why aren’t vivid, unambiguous religious experiences more widely available? What can religious experiences tell us about the nature of God? Might religious experiences be the result, in part, of particular skills or virtues of the people who have them? The 2015 Logos Workshop will be devoted to addressing these and other philosophical and theological aspects of religious experience.
To have your paper considered for presentation at Logos 2015, please submit an abstract of the paper or the paper itself no later than October 15, 2014. Other things being equal, preference will be given to those who submit full papers by the deadline. We will let you know by December 1, 2014 whether your paper has been provisionally accepted. Full acceptance will be conditional on submission of the full reading version of the paper by April 1, 2015. It is expected that papers presented at the Logos workshop will be works in progress that can benefit from the group discussion. Consequently, we ask that authors not submit papers that will be published before the conference has ended.
Please send Abstracts or Full Papers to: email@example.com
For more information, please click here.
The Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion is hiring a Research & Development Officer. Details here.
In a recent article in The Stone, Notre Dame’s own Gary Gutting argues that “[t]he mistake of the Obama administration [in the ruling that requires certain Catholic institutions to offer insurance covering birth control] was to accept the bishops’ claim that their position on birth control expresses an authoritative ‘teaching of the Church'”. According to Gutting, “the ultimate arbiter of religious authority is the conscience of the individual believer”; so “it follows that there is no alternative to accepting the members of a religious group as themselves the only legitimate source of the decision to accept their leaders as authorized by God.” And, Gutting says, the members of the Catholic Church have voted decisively: “Most Catholics…now reserve the right to reject doctrines insisted on by their bishops and to interpret in their own way the doctrines they do accept.”
I am a Reformed Protestant; so I have no personal stake in defending the absolute authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, I deny its authority (over me). That is part of what makes me non-Catholic. But rejecting Rome’s claims to authority is one thing; saying that they are wholly groundless is another. The latter I would not say.
Gutting asks “who decides that God has given, say, the Catholic bishops his authority,” and begins to answer his own question by saying: “It makes no sense to say that the bishops themselves can decide this.” However, one might just as easily ask, “Who decides that individual believers can reserve the right to reject doctrines insisted on by their bishops and to interpret in their own way the doctrines they do accept?” I suppose it depends on what one means by ‘decides’. Absolutely anyone can form and announce the belief that she has a certain kind of authority; absolutely anyone can form and announce the belief that she has certain kinds of rights. But, of course, these beliefs and announcements do not confer either rights or authority. I assume that Gutting’s point is that ecclesial declarations of authority do not confer authority. But the point cuts both ways: declarations on the part of the laity that they have certain kinds of rights does not necessarily confer rights–at least not if the bishops’ claims to authority are in fact correct, which is precisely what is at issue.
The real question, of course, is whether the bishops or anyone else has good reason for thinking that God has conferred upon Rome the authority to teach doctrine and interpret scripture. Plenty of people, of course, have considered this question and concluded (with Gutting) that we do not have good reason to believe this. Indeed, Gutting’s claim that individual believers have the right to reject the doctrines of the Catholic Church and to interpret the scriptures in their own way was central to the Protestant Reformation. But, tellingly, the Reformers did not purport to establish this conclusion with the simple declaration that Church authority derives from the laity–or, at any rate, does not derive from God. Even if they believed such a thing, they could not have simply announced the conclusion, at least not sensibly, because of a wide variety of background views that have been historically central to Christianity–views to the effect that the Christian scriptures are authoritative, that they teach (among other things) that Christ intended for his followers to worship in communities that have a certain kind of institutional hierarchy with certain kinds of authority vested in the leaders, that the power to validly administer sacraments derives from the authority vested in the leaders of the Church, and so on. Gutting’s assertion that ecclesial authority derives from the laity impinges upon all of these claims. I am not saying that it is not viable. (I think that it is the basic view of churches with a congregationalist structure.) But it is certainly not the sort of claim that someone who claims to stand within the Christian tradition–and especially the Roman Catholic tradition–can sensibly declare without argument as if it should be obvious to all.
UPDATE: Alex Pruss has also commented on Gutting’s essay, here.
You might have wondered whether the very useful Philosophy Updates service to which so many of us subscribe and which supplies daily announcements of conferences and calls for papers has principled policies about what sorts of conferences they will and will not announce. It turns out that they do, and it turns out that their policies exclude announcements of conferences like this one, from the Shalem Center in Jerusalem: Philosophical Investigation of Hebrew Bible, Talmud and Midrash. I emailed one of the moderators of Philosophy Updates to find out why they would not announce this conference. I was told that they try to avoid posting ads for conferences that appear to pertain more to theology than to philosophy, and that one part of the policy is to avoid posting ads for conferences that have an explicitly biblical or scriptural focus.
I wonder whether readers of Prosblogion are concerned, as I am, about this policy of excluding what seem to be legitimate (indeed, cutting edge) topics in philosophy of religion. Many of us would like to see philosophy of religion become more interdisciplinary, and also to begin to address a wider variety of philosophical issues arising in connection with religions other than Christianity. Conferences like the one advertised by the Shalem Center are an important part of this new wave. One wonders, too, how many conferences devoted to issues like divine inspiration or meta-theology would survive the cut, since they could easily appear to be ‘too theological’ or ‘too focused on scripture’. No doubt it is a difficult business moderating a service like Philosophy Updates; and the people who have devoted their time–without compensation, as far as I am aware–to that task surely deserve our gratitude. But I, for one, am hopeful that they will find a way to continue what they are doing in a way that would allow them to advertise conferences like this one without taking on too much added burden.
Recent PhDs and ABD graduate students in philosophy, theology, psychology, or cognitive science are invited to apply for the 2011 Purdue Summer Seminar on Perceptual, Moral, and Religious Skepticism to be held at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN from June 8th to June 24th, 2011. The seminar will be directed by Michael Bergmann (Purdue) and the guest speakers will be Justin Barrett (Oxford) and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke).
The topics of the seminar are:
EPISTEMOLOGY: The epistemology of perceptual, moral, and religious belief
SKEPTICISM: Responses to skepticism about perceptual, moral, and religious belief
DISAGREEMENT: Moral and religious disagreement as grounds for unbelief
EVOLUTION: Evolutionary accounts of moral and religious belief as reasons for skepticism
Participants will receive a stipend of $5,000 from which they will pay for their travel, food, and lodging. The deadline for receipt of applications is December 1, 2010. For more information, including information on how to apply, go to: http://www.knowinginreligionandmorality.com/seminar.html
This seminar is funded by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation
Registration is now open for Leibniz’sTheodicy: Context and Content, a conference held at the University of Notre Dame, Sept. 16 – 18, in honor of the 300th Anniversary of the publication of Leibniz’s Theodicy. Speakers include Robert Merrihew Adams, Jonathan Israel, Maria Rosa Antognazza, Augustin EchavarrÃa, Daniel Garber, Nicholas Jolley, Christia Mercer, Michael Murray, Paul Rateau, Donald Rutherford, and Tad Schmaltz. There is also a pre-conference workshop on Bayle on the problem of evil starting at 6:30 on Sept. 15. For details and registration info, please visit the conference website.
in May of this year, the Center for Philosophy of Religion, in partnership with the John Templeton Foundation, Calvin College, the Notre Dame Philosophy Department, and other sponsors put on a conference in honor of Alvin Plantinga’s retirement. The video for that conference is now available here.
As most readers of this blog know, the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame recently hosted a conference about the moral character of God as portrayed in the texts of the Old Testament & Hebrew Bible. Videos of all of the conference sessions (including Q&A) are now posted online here.