Graduate Programs Strong in Philosophy of Religion
February 23, 2009 — 9:31

Author: Keith DeRose  Category: General  Comments: 18

The new Philosophical Gourmet Report rankings of graduate philosophy programs are out, including the rankings for the best programs in philosophy of religion, which are here.
For any prospective philosophers of religion looking for good graduate programs, or for potential advisors of such prospective philosophers of religion, who might be reading this, I have a suggestion of a program for philosophy of religion to consider that (again) didn’t make this list: Rutgers. (Others may have other suggestions, and might leave them in the comments.) Many of the programs that are listed seem to be on the list primarily due to the presence of one philosopher who works in the area. Well, Dean Zimmerman, at Rutgers, is a absolutely top-notch philosopher, and he is really into philosophy of religion, and it seems to me he would be an excellent guide and advisor in the area. I imagine Rutgers didn’t make the list because Dean is best known for his work in metaphysics, where most of his best papers have been. And it looks like he will continue to be a committed metaphysician (metaphysicist?). But while he hasn’t done as much work in philosophy of religion as in metaphysics, he’s done some fine work there, too, and he seems to be very much into philosophy of religion (as well as metaphysics) now, and he knows the area very well. Plus, in going to Rutgers, you will be going to one of the very best overall philosophy programs in the English-speaking world. (See the overall rankings here.) Of course, that also means Rutgers is probably a very difficult program to get into (and Rutgers reports here that they admit only 2-3% of applicants), so I guess this is primarily a suggestion for extremely well-qualified prospective philosophers of religion.
Another hot tip: With Marilyn and Robert Adams going to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, that program is suddenly an excellent choice for philosophy of religion, too. (This change was just announced, and so isn’t reflected in even the new PGR.) And Chapel Hill is also a very strong overall program (see again the overall rankings).
Prospective philosophers of religion should probably inquire into job prospects in philosophy for candidates with that area of specialization before committing to that path. Last I heard, it was supposed to be a bad AOS for getting an initial job when one goes on the job market. But I don’t know how accurate that impression of mine is. (I believe that issue has been discussed here on this blog?) I do believe (but, again, am not sure) that philosophy of religion is often a very helpful AOC (area of competence) to have: Many programs would like to offer courses in the area, and so would welcome someone who could teach it, but don’t want to use up one of their slots on someone who does it as their main thing.

Praying to the God of Many Understandings
January 14, 2009 — 11:06

Author: Kevin Timpe  Category: General  Comments: 13

Bishop Gene Robinson has been chosen to give the invocation at the “We are One” concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of Barack Obama’s inauguration.  Bishop Robinson gave an interview with NPR regarding the invocation, which can be heard here.  In the interview, Robinson describes reading the past 30-40 years of inaugural prayers in preparation and being

“schocked at how aggressively Christian they are.  And my intention is not to invoke the name of Jesus, but to make this a prayer for Christians and non-Christians alike.  Although I hold the Scripture to be the word of God, you know those Scriptures are holy to me and to Jews and Christians, but many other faith traditions have their own sacred texts.  And so rather than insert that and exclude them from the prayer by doing so, I want this to be a prayer to the god of our many understandings and a prayer that all people of faith can join me in.”*

I’ve heard other people claim similar intentions in other contexts, so I’m taking Robinson as an example of a wider phenomenon. 

It seems to me that what we have here in an instance of the following schema:

  • x claims to be a person of religious tradition T1
  • x offers a prayer which is explicitly formulated to be acceptable to people not only of T1, but also of other religious traditions T2, T3 (and perhaps more) [assuming that T1, T2, and T3 are contraries]

I wonder how we’re to understand such prayers, as it seems to me that they involve one form or other of either bad faith or confusion:

Bad Faith 1: x publicly claims to belong to religious tradition T1, but does not actually consider himself to belong to T1

Bad Faith 2: x really does belong to T1, but offers a prayer which he realizes is not to the god of T1.

Bad Faith 3: x really does belong to T1 and intends the prayer to fall under T1 rather than T2 or T3, and hopes that the members of T2 and T3 who ‘join in’ with x in the prayer fail to notice the tacit promoting of T1.

Confusion 1: x thinks that he belongs to religious tradition T1, but is confused about what commitment to T1 requires of him (e.g., the promotion of the god of T1 rather than the god of T2 or T3).

Confusion 2: x really does belong to T1, but is mistaken in thinking that a prayer can be neutral with respect to the god of T1, the god of T2, and the god of T3.

Confusion 3: x really does belong to T1, but is mistaken in thinking that members of T2 and T3 can pray to the god of T1 without violating their own traditions.

I’m not claiming that Robinson himself is acting in bad faith or under such a confusion.  But I’m having a hard time seeing how prayers which fit the schema above don’t involve either some element of bad faith or confusion. 



(*the transcription is my own, but I think I’ve got it correct.)


Specialization in Philosophy of Religion and Jobs
October 3, 2008 — 12:37

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: General Religion and Life Teaching  Comments: 22

I’ve heard from older, experienced professors that doing a dissertation on or specializing in philosophy of religion may hurt your chances of getting a philosophy job or getting tenure at a secular university. It’s better to focus on some other subject and then do philosophy of religion after you get tenure.
Is this true? If so, why? It doesn’t make sense to me; it seems that schools would want professors who could teach philosophy of religion.


May 10, 2008 — 10:06

Author: Jon Kvanvig  Category: General  Comments: 3

Just got my advance copies of Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion I. The Oxford link is here, which has the table of contents for your perusal.
Word has it that quality of critical essays on material in the book goes up when you own your own copy!

Very, very substantive
April 24, 2008 — 0:35

Author: Clayton Littlejohn  Category: General News  Comments: Off

Here’s a news story for those of you who do not particularly like The Beatles and think you will not particularly like Expelled. (In other words, it is a post for me, everyone else in humanity that died before The Beatles, and no one else?)
If you’re too lazy to click:

John Lennon’s sons and widow, Yoko Ono, are suing the filmmakers of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” for using the song “Imagine” in the documentary without permission.

HT to PZ.

Top Philosophers of Religion by Hirsch Numbers
December 7, 2007 — 13:56

Author: Jon Kvanvig  Category: General  Comments: 10

I did this at Certain Doubts for top-rated epistemologists by this metric, so for fun I thought I'd do it here.  I didn't really try to get a comprehensive list of people in philosophy of religion, but simply used the Leiter Report specialty rankings for philosophy of religion departments, and gleaned likely suspects from faculty lists for those departments.  So people at non-PhD programs will be slighted here, but I'll be happy to insert any such philosophers into the list when the omissions are noticed.  Anyway, the list is below the fold, for what it is worth.  But first:  I hereby disavow the implication that I myself think such metrics measure something important–it is true, however, that more and more administrators are thinking it measures something important, so if one doesn't, it will be useful to become acquainted with the metric and its flaws.   The measure used is the Hirsch number, and there are links to more information about it at Certain Doubts; what I've done relies on research citations for people who work in philosophy of religion, excluding citations of edited volumes and other non-research publications.


Great quote
November 8, 2007 — 20:07

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: General  Comments: 4

I thought this was just awesome.  I found it on Dylan Dodd's website.

“Those who deny such manifest things need punishment…, for as Avicenna puts it: "Those who deny a first principle should be beaten or exposed to fire until they concede that to burn and not to burn, or to be beaten and not to be beaten, are not identical." And so to, those who deny that some being is contingent should be exposed to torments until they concede that it is possible for them not to be tormented.”
Duns Scotus, Reportatio I A prol. q. iii. art. i

Allowing evil that good may come of it?
August 3, 2007 — 20:30

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: General  Comments: 34

St Paul denies that Christians do evil that a greater good may come of it.  But what about allowing evil that a greater good may come of it?  Is that permitted?  Suppose that killing Jones would make possible the production of a vaccine that would save thousands.  This is not permitted.  But suppose that I see someone else working in my lab who is going to do this.  Am I obliged to stop him, or can I say that although I am not permitted to do evil that good may come of it, I am permitted to allow evil that good may come of it?

There are two interrelated theological arguments that it is permissible to allow evil that greater good may come of it: (1) standard Christian theodicies suggest that God allows evils to happen in order to bring greater goods out of them, and, specifically, (2) the Christian tradition calls the sin of Adam a felix culpa, rejoicing that this sin made possible Christ's salvific sacrifice, and suggests that this is why God permitted that sin.

On the other hand, once one is talking about allowing an evil that good may come of it, one seems to be implying that the evil is intended as a means, a means that one brings about through non-action rather than action.  But it is always wrong to intend an evil, since that sets one's will on the evil.

The Christian philosopher thus seems to have a trilemma: either (1) undercut theodicy by insisting that one should not even permit an evil that a greater good may come of it, or (2) deny the basic principle that one should not set one's will on evils, even as means, or (3) hold that ethics is essentially different for God and human beings (and not just different in application, so that God may kill me because he owns my life, while you may not because you don't). 

I want to reject the third horn completely.  I am going to argue that there is still a way out of the   dilemma between (1) and (2).

First take the case of Adam and Eve.  Deny Molinism.  Then there is no fact of the matter whether Adam would sin unless Adam in fact chooses between good and evil.  Therefore (and I suppose an argument is needed here, but I am just going to proceed intuitively–I suspect the blanks can be filled in;  I need to refute Frankfurt examples to do this, but that I think should be doable) God cannot ensure that Adam does not sin without taking away Adam's choice between good and evil.  What God intentionally allows is Adam's choice between good and evil.  Let us suppose he foreknows that the choice is in fact going to be for evil.  It does not follow that God intends the choice to be for evil, especially since without Molinism, God's foreknowledge of Adam's choice of evil is going to have to be explanatorily (but not temporally) posterior to God's decision to allow Adam the choice. 

Nonetheless, the insight from the tradition that the sin of Adam is a felix culpa is still relevant.  For God might be argued to be remiss in intentionally allowing Adam to choose between good and evil if the expected value of the effects choice were too low (this is of course like stuff that Swinburne says).  Without actually intending that Adam will sin, God can consider the fact that if Adam sins, things will be even better in the long run than if he doesn't, and this consideration makes it reasonable for God to offer him the choice.  (I might allow my child a decision where I know the child might choose something bad if I know that should the child choose the bad thing, a good will come of it, say the child's learning a lesson.  In doing so, I need not be intending that the child choose the bad thing, but simply considering the contingencies, and thinking that whatever happens, it won't be bad in the long run, so I can allow the decision to the child.)


Where’s the TGR
July 19, 2007 — 13:26

Author: Matthew Mullins  Category: General  Comments: 32

Mike Almeida passed on an interesting student question that I thought Prosblogion readers might be able to answer better than I could.

" . . . . What I'm really interested in is rankings, comparisons, and specialties among departments of theology.  Is there a comprehensive list available in regards to schools of theology?  If not, are there any resources which would be of help?  I'm open to any suggestions.  Much gratitude"

In short, where is the Theology Gourmet Report? 

“Creation and Conservation” now available at SEP
July 12, 2007 — 18:13

Author: Jon Kvanvig  Category: General  Comments: 3

I just got a note from the Stanford Encyclopedia that this entry is now available, so I thought I'd let everybody here know about it.  You can find it here.