“What is the first business of philosophy? To part with
self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn what he thinks
that he already knows.” –Epictetus, Discourses, Book 2, Ch. 17.
[cross-posted at CERC] At HECC and CERC we study religion–its cultural evolution and transmission, its psychology, its
emotional and cognitive makeup and more. But you might think that studies about
how the plebs experience religion are fundamentally different than studies
about how sophisticated academics experience religion. In a recent paper Paul Draper and I diagnose bias not just in
religious persons but in philosophers of religion. If the guiding hypotheses of
CERC about the psycho-social purposes of religion are accurate, extensive
biases even amongst elite thinkers are what we would expect.
Before knickers get in twists, we are not arguing in this
work that religious belief is epistemically unwarranted or unjustified. We
aren’t crafting a debunking argument based on spurious causal sources of religious
belief. Matter of fact religion is a sine qua non of modern life. It would be
not only silly but wrongheaded to attempt to banish religion from the world.
Religiosity covaries with lots of positive outcomes. (You wouldn’t want to live
longer and be healthier, would you?) In the words of the Doobie Brothers,
internal and external forms of religiosity are alright with me. More than
alright. Besides, folks in and out of the phil religion biz have narrowed the
meaning of ‘religion’ leaving out intriguing options like Ietsism
and the religious implications of the Simulation
Argument. At least those who want to “commit it then to the
flames”, a la Hume in the immortal conclusion to his Enquiry Concerning Human
Understanding, should first get straight one what they want to burn.