Philosophers and their religious practices: Part 25, A personal connection with God
November 2, 2016 — 17:59

Author: Helen De Cruz  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 0

This is the twenty-fifth installment of a series of interviews I am conducting with academic philosophers about their religious practices. In this series of interviews, I ask philosophers about their religious practices and the influence on their philosophical work.

This interview is with John Torrey, PhD student at the University of Memphis.

Can you tell me something about your current academic position and work, and your religious affiliation/self-identification?

My current work focuses on rectificatory justice and argues that the negative social and moral perceptions of Black Americans work to prevent Blacks from gaining rectificatory justice.  This is because of connections between American colorblind liberalism and gaining rectificatory justice within the liberal paradigm.  Liberalism is a political philosophy that espouses the mutual equality of persons, individual liberty, and that a set of moral rights flow from their mutual equality.  Rectificatory justice is the branch of justice concerned with setting unjust situations right, which may require a number of different actions.  Within the liberal tradition, injustice is violating someone’s rights.  When one’s rights are violated, the victim has the right to have their injustices rectified in some manner.  I plan to defend these positions: rights have a social dimension that is based in being recognized as one’s equal; that Blacks have not received rectificatory justice; and that racial reconciliation (which includes the dominant group changing their negative perceptions about Blacks) is a necessary step for Blacks to receive rectificatory justice.

A particular institution that has indoctrinated and educated millions about ethical behavior, respect, and following the moral law is the Christian Church. My father is a Baptist (his side of the family having faithfully attending Christ Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church for decades), and his side of the family introduced me to what Baptist church services were like. My mother’s side of the family, however, is Catholic. Something I find interesting is how quickly I identify with having an upbringing in the Catholic Church, and yet I have little memory of choosing to be Catholic rather than Baptist. My older brother and I would attend church often as children, going to Dad’s church some weeks and Mom’s church (St. Bridget’s) other weeks. I surmise it was a decision more or less made by Mom that her sons would grow up in the same kind of faith that she did. Since the difference is more in how people praise rather than who people praised, Dad acquiesced on this issue. That said, it was never unheard of for the whole family to go to both churches on holidays or important services.

 

I was never confirmed, but I was baptized as an infant by the priest at St. Bridget’s. When I learned that being baptized meant that I chose to take God in, it struck me as peculiar that it was a choice made for me. Not that I wasn’t happy that the choice was made – I have an unwavering belief in the existence of God, thanks in no small part to God’s existence being indoctrinated in me from birth. The conviction in the value of a church community that my parents held meant St. Bridget’s to be my first church home: where I did a confession for the first time; I sang in the choir; I learned hymns and songs to affirm the story of Christ and the glory of God; and I knew church to be where I would see many of my cousins, aunts, and uncles regularly. My family loves to get together, and church was another excuse to get together as I grew up. The building itself was supposed to be respected as a place of worship, a concept that taught me how important the worship was to any sort of faith practice that I would adopt.

In my early teens, St. Bridget’s closed. This destabilized my sense of church community and led me to seriously consider the purpose of attending church. By that time I understood certain theoretical differences between Baptists and Catholic, such as the existence of Purgatory, and had chosen Catholicism as my preferred brand of Christianity.   For one, I figured that Heaven takes way too perfect a person to get in but that I wouldn’t be evil enough to deserve Hell and thought Purgatory would be a nice middle ground for eternity (at least it’s not Hell). The other thing that swayed me was how short the services were in Catholic churches; we come in, say a few prayers, sing a couple of songs, hear a good message from the priest, have communion and we’re done. In my mind, as long as we were genuinely engaging in religious rites that heaped praise and respect upon God then it shouldn’t necessarily take all day to do so. And man, Baptist church services just go on forever.

Most of my account has focused so far on my relationship with the church and how that helped me forge my religious view of the world. Losing St. Bridget’s put things in perspective for me about what the important part of going to church is – building a relationship with God. Attending church wasn’t a requirement for building a relationship with God, prayer was. So I went into my parent’s bedroom around 15 or 16 and told them I didn’t want to go to church anymore because I didn’t know what I was supposed to get out of it. At least as a youngster, I knew that church meant family time in a sacred place. Without a church community, it felt like I was going to church to sing songs and hear a story and none of it made sense. God exists, that made sense. Jesus story? Sure, I can roll with that. But I wasn’t very clear on the point of church any longer, and that moment of truth with my parents emboldened me to my newfound beliefs. I was nervous that they would be upset or even punish me for not wanting to go to church, but church felt like a chore that was not providing me any benefit. I distinctly remember my parents asking me if I still believed in God, which was met with a crystal clear, “Of course!” God wasn’t the issue – church was the issue.

Since that moment, I really avoided taking on any labels regarding my belief structure. If asked, I respond that I’m a Christian, and that I was raised Catholic. It doesn’t concern me if I’m considered nondenominational, Catholic, or whatever someone thinks of me. The only thing that matters is maintaining a relationship with God, which I do through prayer and appreciation. Since May 1, 2009, I try my best to say daily, “Thank you God for today, thank you for yesterday, and thank you for a chance at tomorrow.”

more…

The new creation part 2: Animals and the imago dei, by Trent Dougherty
September 22, 2016 — 10:54

Author: Helen De Cruz  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 0

In this brief post—based somewhat on a section of my book The Problem of Animal Pain: A Theodicy for All Creatures Great and Small—I defend the thesis that animals are created in the image of God. I will argue that the notion of bearing the imago dei is “graded.” That is, bearing the image is a property that comes in degrees, of, if it is not the same thing, there are many ways of bearing the image of God, which can be placed along a spectrum from triviality to very substantive.

I write from a Christian perspective, but won’t focus on the biblical data. However, it is very much worth noticing one feature of the Genesis narrative. One frequently hears—including in sermons—that the imago dei doctrine is taught in Genesis 2:7. Man “becomes a living being” when the “breath of life” is “breathed into his nostrils.” God had just said “Let us make man in our image” and nothing follows that is a better candidate for the imaging happening than the instilling of the breath of life. As with the Greek pneuma, the use of the Hebrew neshamah evokes a connection between breath and soul. And it is often thought that the soul, whatever else it is, is the locus of the image of God. But Genesis 1:30 had just abbreviated a long list of animals with the covering phrase “everything that has the breath of life” (1:30). And, like its cousin neshamah, nefesh—used here—is sometimes rendered “soul.” And, again, there is nowhere else in the creation narrative that is a plausible ground for the imago dei. Nowhere in Scripture is a premium put on abstract thought and there’s certainly nothing about it in the creation narrative. (It is perhaps there by implication in the act of speech in the naming of the animals by Adam, but that’s a bit obscure.) And speaking of abstract thought…

Once when presenting a paper at a regional meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Society in Western New York, I made reference to Sosa’s distinction between animal knowledge and reflective knowledge. A guy pointed out to me than “animal knowledge” might not be an apt phrase, since, in certain respects, apt belief (in Sosa’s sense) is more like God’s knowledge than human knowledge. The relevant respect was that animal knowledge is “direct” in a way that included being non-discursive but also included being “hooked up” to the world in a way that “skips” ratiocination involved in much human knowledge, especially Sosa’s reflective knowledge. This is inchoate, but it points the direction to a way in which animal cognition might be much more in the image of God’s cognition than distinctively human cognition. An extension of this is the fact that humans are plagued by doubt in ways most animals don’t seem to be.

more…

Toronto Philosophy of Religion Work-in-Progress Group
August 25, 2016 — 10:27

Author: Klaas Kraay  Category: News Uncategorized  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 0

For the past few years, I have organized a lively philosophy of religion work-in-progress group at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto.

– If you would like to be added to the mailing list for this group, please email me: kraay@ryerson.ca

– If you are (or plan to be) in the Toronto area this semester, and would like to present a paper to this group, please let me know.

– If you would like to present a paper to this group via Skype this semester,  please let me know. (We have an 80″ screen in our department’s meeting room!)

Klaas Kraay
Department of Philosophy
Ryerson University
www.ryerson.ca/~kraay

William L. Rowe Memorial Conference (Update)
May 9, 2016 — 10:39

Author: Michael Bergmann  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 0

The “William L. Rowe Memorial Conference” will be held on July 26 – July 27, 2016 at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.  This conference celebrates the life and career of William Rowe, who taught at Purdue University for 43 years and was one of the preeminent philosophers of religion in the past century.

The speakers and commentators will be:

Kevin Corcoran: “The Presence (or Absence) of Theistic Experience and the Preservation (or Loss) of Religious Faith: An Exploration”

  • Commentator: Timothy O’Connor

Jeff Jordan: “The ‘Loving Parent’ Analogy”

  • Commentator: Scott Davison

John Schellenberg: “The Religiously Sensitive Atheist”

  • Commentator: Beth Seacord

Eleonore Stump: “Atonement and Shame”

  • Commentator: Evan Fales

William Wainwright: “Rowe, Tillich and Religious Symbols”

  • Commentator: William Hasker

Erik Wielenberg: “Rowe’s Evidential Argument and the Demise of Skeptical Theism”

  • Commentator: Michael Bergmann

Stephen Wykstra: “On the Importance of Being a Version: New Uses for Rowe’s Distinction between Restricted and Expanded Theism”

  • Commentator: Bruce Russell

The conference will begin at 1:00pm on Tuesday, July 26, and end at 5pm on Wednesday, July 27th. A banquet in honor and remembrance of Professor Rowe will be held on the 26th.

Registration is at:

www.conf.purdue.edu/rowe

The conference is being organized by Paul Draper (Purdue University), Bertha Alvarez Manninen (Arizona State University, West Campus), Jack Mulder (Hope College), and Kevin Sharpe (St. Cloud State University) and is sponsored by Purdue University (Department of Philosophy, College of Liberal Arts, and Religious Studies), The Society of Christian Philosophers, and The University of Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion.

2016 SCP Eastern Regional Meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers (and Panel Discussion of Pascal’s Wager)
April 26, 2016 — 12:48

Author: Michael Bergmann  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 0

October 20-22, 2016

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, NJ

Conference Theme: Acquiring Faith

Call for Papers

Submissions exploring any topic in the philosophy of religion, and more generally topics of interest to theistic philosophers, are welcome. Papers on the conference theme will be given special consideration. The theme should be interpreted broadly. It includes not only consideration of the viability, legitimacy, and rationality of Pascalian approaches to acquiring faith, but a variety of other issues including, for example, the importance of various putative elements of faith (e.g., affect, trust, belief) and how else these may or may not be acquired.  Submissions are encouraged from all philosophers with interests in these topics — Christians and non-Christians, including members of other religious traditions. Submissions should be 3,000 words or less and prepared for blind review (please send a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file with no identifying ‘marks’). Include a cover letter with your name, institutional affiliation, email address, paper title, and an abstract of 150 words or less. Submissions are due by July 15, 2016. Please send your paper to 2016scpconference@gmail.com. If you do not receive an e-mail acknowledgement within one week of your submission, please re-submit.

The SCP offers a $500 prize for the best graduate student paper. For a paper to be eligible, it must be submitted by July 15, 2016. The $500 award will be presented publicly at the conference. If you are a graduate student and would like your paper to be considered for the prize, please indicate that you are a graduate student in your submission email.

The conference will culminate in a round-table panel discussion of Pascal’s Wager, with our Plenary Speakers as participants.

Plenary Speakers & Panel Participants:

Laurie Paul (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Daniel Garber (Princeton University) 

Alan Hájek (Australian National University)

Lara Buchak (University of California, Berkeley)

Philosophers and their religious practices part 19: On Bringing pentecost to Pentecostalism and Diving Deep in Philosophy
March 16, 2016 — 17:06

Author: Helen De Cruz  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 1

This is the nineteenth installment of a series of interviews I am conducting with academic philosophers about their religious practices. In this series of interviews, I ask philosophers about their religious practices and the influence on their philosophical work. Follow the links for parts 1234567891011121314151617 and 18. The contributors are in various stages of their career, tenured and untenured. Interviews were conducted through e-mail and responses are not edited.

This interview is with J. Aaron Simmons, Associate Professor in philosophy at Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina.

Can you tell me something about your current academic position and work, and your religious affiliation/self-identification?

Currently, I am an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. I have been at Furman for five years and prior to coming here I held positions at Hendrix College, The University of the South (Sewanee), and Vanderbilt University.

Most of my work is in philosophy of religion and occurs in light of phenomenology and existentialism. That said, I have also done work in political philosophy, environmental philosophy, and the history of philosophy (especially focusing on the thought of Søren Kierkegaard, Emmanuel Levinas, and the “new phenomenology” of Michel Henry, Levinas, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Louis Chrétien, and Jean-Luc Marion).

In general, there are two questions that keep me up at night and continue to cause me to get up every morning and keep working. The first is “What are the possibilities for and the fate of determinate religious belief and identity in postmodernism?” The second is “How might philosophers stop calling for the overcoming of the so-called analytic/continental divide and simply do constructive work that no longer reinforces the divide?” Ultimately, these two questions dovetail together in my thinking and writing.

more…

Science, Philosophy, and Religious Commitment: Catholic engagement in philosophy of science
February 16, 2016 — 13:32

Author: Tim Pawl  Category: News Uncategorized  Tags: , , , , ,   Comments: 0

Science, Philosophy, and Religious Commitment:

Catholic engagement in philosophy of science

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

26 – 28 June 2016

The aim of this conference is to cultivate sober perspective and insight into the history and current state of engagement with philosophy of science among Catholic intellectuals with an eye to “What now?” sorts of questions. We hope to begin to articulate, explore, and evaluate a variety of approaches to philosophy of science present in Catholic thought over the last 150 years (roughly from John Henry Newman to the present). These approaches include explicit philosophies of science, as well as ones implicit in and shaping theological work, hierarchical church documents and actions, and evaluations of the relevance of the special sciences to metaphysics, philosophy of nature, and theology.

The conference is interested to explore a broad range of issues, approaches, and figures and aims to cultivate productive cross-fertilization, collaboration, and exploration among philosophers, theologians, and scientists today.

Speakers:

Paul Allen (Concordia University)

Nicanor Austriaco, OP (Biology, Providence College)

Stephen Barr (University of Delaware)

Gianfranco Basti (Pontifical Lateran University)

Robert Deltete (Seattle University)

David Diekema (Seattle Pacific University)

Flavia Marcacci (Pontifical Lateran University)

Patrick McDonald (Seattle Pacific University)

Meghan Page (Loyola University Maryland)

Anne Peterson (University of Utah)

Lidia Obojska (Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities)

Brendan Sweetman  (Rockhurst University)

Nicholas Teh  (University of Notre Dame)

Free and open to the public. (Registration will be required.)

Future information, including schedule and registration, will be posted at the conference website.

Questions or inquiries? Contact Peter Distelzweig.

Hosted and sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Philosophy. Cosponsored by the Terrence J. Murphy Institute, the Science and Theology Network, and the International Research Area on Foundations of the Sciences at the Pontifical Lateran University.

Coorganized by Peter Distelzweig (University of St. Thomas) and Karen Zwier (Drake University).

William L. Rowe Memorial Conference
February 13, 2016 — 8:26

Author: Michael Bergmann  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   Comments: 0

We are pleased to announce the “William L. Rowe Memorial Conference” to be held July 26 – July 27, 2016, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.  The conference will celebrate the life and career of William Rowe, a long time professor of Philosophy at Purdue University and one of the preeminent philosophers of religion in the past century.

The speakers will be:

  • Michael Bergmann
  • Kevin Corcoran
  • Scott Davison
  • Evan Fales
  • William Hasker
  • Jeff Jordan
  • Timothy O’Connor
  • Bruce Russell
  • John Schellenberg
  • Beth Seacord
  • Eleonore Stump
  • William Wainwright
  • Erik Wielenberg
  • Stephen Wykstra

On the evening of July 26, the organizers will host a banquet in honor of Rowe and have invited members of his family to participate.

The conference is being organized by Paul Draper (Purdue University), Bertha Alvarez Manninen (Arizona State University, West Campus), Jack Mulder (Hope College), and Kevin Sharpe (St. Cloud State University) and is sponsored by Purdue University (Department of Philosophy, College of Liberal Arts, and Religious Studies), The Society of Christian Philosophers, and The University of Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion.

Additional information, including a complete schedule of events and registration information, will be sent out in the near future.

December 1 Application Deadline for Faith Project Summer Seminar Applications
November 14, 2015 — 15:25

Author: Jon Kvanvig  Category: News Uncategorized  Tags:   Comments: 0

For summer 2016 seminar, to be held in St. Louis on the campus of Washington University. We just noticed that one announcement went out with an incorrect date of December 31, but the deadline is 12/1/2015. Couple of weeks away, so get those applications in!

More information about the project can be found here, and further information about the call for applications can be found here.

In Memoriam: William L. Rowe (1931-2015)
August 22, 2015 — 10:23

Author: Michael Bergmann  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 23

Paul Draper shares the following:

It is with great sadness that I inform you that my friend, William Rowe, died this morning (August 22nd, 2015). As most of you know, he was a philosopher of religion and metaphysician, best known for his work on the cosmological argument, the problem of evil, and Thomas Reid’s theory of agent causation. What follows is a brief summary of some of his accomplishments.

Rowe earned his Ph.D. in 1962 at the University of Michigan under William P. Alston and wrote a dissertation—the basis for his first book (1968)—on Paul Tillich’s philosophical theology. He taught at Purdue University from 1962 to 2005 and, in 1986-7, was President of the American Philosophical Association’s Central Division.

Rowe wrote a second book (1975) focusing mainly on Samuel Clarke’s version of the cosmological argument for the existence of a necessary being. Hume had attacked this sort of argument by claiming that if each member of an infinite series of dependent beings is explained by another member of that series, then the entire series is explained. Rowe rejects Hume’s claim on the grounds that explaining each dependent being in terms of another leaves unexplained why the collection of all dependent beings has any members at all. He nevertheless finds Clarke’s argument unpersuasive because it depends on a dubious principle of sufficient reason.

Beginning in 1979 with his famous paper “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” Rowe published numerous papers defending an argument from evil against theism. Rowe denies that a logical incompatibility between God’s existence and known facts about evil can be established. He maintains instead that theists face an evidential problem of evil. In Rowe’s distinctive argument, however, the crucial evidence is not that our world contains horrendous evils, but that we cannot even conceive of any goods that justify God’s allowing those evils.

Rowe’s most recent book (2004) challenges the view that God is both free and perfectly good. For either there is a best of all possible worlds or there isn’t. If there is, then a perfectly good God must create it and so is not free. If there is not, then no matter which world God freely chooses to create, it is possible to create a better one, which, Rowe argues, implies that God is not perfectly good.

Bill Rowe was much more than a great thinker. He was a warm and extraordinarily gracious man, a mature and beautiful soul who had a gift for making others feel welcome and at ease. He will be sorely missed both by those who had the great fortune of knowing him personally and by those who know him only through his brilliant philosophical work.

Paul Draper
Purdue University