This is the twenty-second 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 these links for links for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21.
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 Owen Flanagan, James B Duke University Professor of Philosophy at Duke University
Can you tell me something about your academic position, and about your current religious affiliation/self-identification – please feel free to say something about your religious upbringing or history, or anything else that might be relevant to your current religious affiliation.
I am James B. Duke University Professor of Philosophy at Duke University in Durham NC, where I am Co-director of the Center for Comparative Philosophy. I was raised as a Roman Catholic and still have that Catholic boy inside me. I received a fantastic education from nuns, most of whom had never been to anything that we would call college. I get Catholicism. It is in my blood and bones. It is familiar. In Rome last year, my wife and I visited Saint Peter’s, many other churches, went to vespers at a convent, and I was consistently moved, engaged. But I haven’t practiced since I was a young teenager. I was bothered by hell, specifically the idea that a good God would have such a place, by the emphasis on sexual sins, and by a sincere worry that although Jesus might be understood as a prophet, as he is in the Koran, but was simply nowhere good enough to be God.
So, I am a certain kind of atheist, a philosophical one, who has never heard a substantive conception of God, the sort that is presented in creedal religions (I believe in god the Father almighty…) that I thought the weight of reasons supported belief in. The reasons always seem to weigh against actually believing in THAT God. This philosophical orientation goes well with a certain resistance to epistemic over-confidence that is needed to speak confidently about the existence or nature of one’s God or gods.
In part, I have been too impressed, in a good way I think, by my interest and study of other great world religions to be confident about the creedal parts of the Catholicism I was raised in, which I was told was the one true religion. Confucianism, which treads lightly on the divinity stuff, and Buddhism, Jainism, and Daoism, are beautiful without being theistic in the familiar senses. Some say Buddhism is atheistic, which is true as far as a creator God goes. But Buddhism, like almost every spiritual tradition seems committed to ideas, which are hard to take literally from the perspective of the scientific image such as rebirth and karma. These ideas can however easily be taken poetically and embodied in rituals without literal commitment.
That said, I get the religious impulse, embrace the feelings of mystery, awe, and existential anxiety about the meaning and significance of life that most every religion responds to. I love the part of most religious traditions that enact, express, and acknowledge the mystery of things. In fact I preferred the old pre-Vatican 2 masses in Latin with more dramatic music, incense, mystery, drama.
In The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World (2007), I make the distinction between assertive theism, where one asserts certain supernatural claims as true, and expressive theism, where one expresses various extra-mundane impulses, feelings, emotions, and expansive not-humanly-possible love. I prefer the latter to the former.
You might think this makes me a familiar type: spiritual but not religious. Maybe. But I am pretty allergic to New Age style religions because they seem self-indulgent, egoistic, and in addition often assert empirically irresponsible stuff such as one hears in homeopathy. So to make things maximally confusing and to conclude this part of our interview: When people ask about my religion, I sometimes say I am Catholic. I say it in the same spirit many of my Jewish friends say and mean they are Jewish. Catholicism is part of me. It is like when I go home to Westchester County, New York where I was raised. The dirt smells right, the way dirt is supposed to smell, the sky, the trees look right; it is familiar, comforting, and grounding. But in both cases, I don’t live there anymore.
This is the twenty-first 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 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. 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 Kevin Timpe, who will be the Jellema Chair of Christian Philosophy starting this fall.
Can you tell me something about your current academic position and work, and your religious affiliation/self-identification?
I’m actually in transition this summer. We’re in the process of moving to Grand Rapids, MI where I’ll be the W. H. Jellema Chair in Christian Philosophy at Calvin College starting this coming fall. I just finished my seventh year at Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho, and before that I taught for six years at the University of San Diego in southern California. As you can tell from this, I’ve been at a number of fairly different Christian universities over the course of my career.
I’m joked a few times that I’ve gone from teaching in a Catholic school to a Wesleyan school and now to a Reformed school without substantively changing my philosophical or religious views, but I actually think there’s a fair bit of truth in that description. I have a strong affinity for what my friend and frequent co-author Tim Pawl calls ‘conciliar Christianity’. I lean toward the medievals (more so than toward modern or postmodern theologians) in a lot of my theological views, which helps explain why I have many Catholic sympathies. A few of my papers have drawn heavily on parts of Augustine’s and Aquinas’s thought. Some of my views are a little unusual for a Protestant, such as my thinking that purgatory fits very nicely with what I think about character formation and a recent paper of mine exploring a particular understanding of limbo. Last year for a paper on grace, I read a fair bit of Maximus the Confessor and would love to engage his thought more in the coming years.
In terms of research, most of my early work focused on issues relating to the metaphysics of free will and various issues in the philosophy of religion. At the University of San Diego, I taught a general-education ethics course entitled “Virtues and Vices” that got me thinking more about virtue ethics, particularly about the connections between our actions and our moral character. Though initially primarily a teaching interest, I came to write some on moral character and virtue, and eventually edited a collection (with Craig Boyd) entitled Virtues and Their Vices (OUP, 2014). A little over a year ago, I started a new research project on philosophy of disability, largely as the result of having a disabled child and having to do some significant advocating for him once he entered elementary school. Though my other interests remain, I think that disability (including how it intersects with agency) will be the primary focus of my research for the next few years.
This is the twentieth 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 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19. 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 Tyler Dalton McNabb, PhD student and tutor at the University of Glasgow.
Can you tell me something about your current academic position and work, and your religious affiliation/self-identification?
I am currently a tutor at the University of Glasgow. I also teach online as an Adjunct Instructor at Southeastern University. Given that I’ll be turning in my PhD thesis in a few weeks, I am currently looking for a full-time position. Speaking of my PhD thesis, now might be a good time to address my work. My thesis and recent publications pertain to defending both Plantinga’s proper functionalism and his Reformed epistemology.
I grew up in Texas and like all good Protestant Texans, I was raised a Southern Baptist. My family wasn’t the most devout family (though they were one of the most loving!) though. We would go to church off and on and there were times where we went a very long time without going. This being so, there was still a sense of needing to honour Christ in one’s actions.
This would change a bit in my senior year of high school where I began to struggle with doubt. I found myself convinced (and I am still convinced) of the following conditional: if atheism is true, then nihilism is true. I started really asking the ‘big’ questions about God’s existence and the resurrection of Jesus.
Though I always felt naturally inclined to just believe that God exists, I didn’t have a good argument (which I thought I had to have) for believing in theism or Christianity. One day, I told God that if He wouldn’t reveal Himself to me that I would become a nihilist. That night, through the internet, I came across what theologians call ‘Messianic prophecy’ and I found myself believing that passages like Isaiah 53 spoke of Jesus. I immediately believed that Jesus was the Messiah and that the Bible was God’s Word. The next day, being that I was already late to school, I figured that I would pull over and take out my Bible. I prayed to God and asked Him if Jesus was indeed the Second Person of the Trinity. I did that unpardonable sin and randomly flipped open the Bible. As Providence would have it, I read a verse that to me, clearly reflected Jesus’ deity. It was from this point on that I began to have a great love for God and I immediately felt convicted to share the Gospel with strangers. In total, from the time of getting right with God to starting my street evangelism career, there was about 2 months.
I ended up going to a theologically liberal Baptist college after high school and I was quickly forced to again confront scepticism. I began to study apologetics which would eventually lead me to philosophy. I ended up going to Israel to share the Gospel and there, I would be forced to put what I learned into action. At the end of the trip, I felt God asking or calling me to share and defend my faith on a larger scale. I told God that as long as I didn’t lose my faith in the process that I would accept His call. And while I didn’t lose my faith, I did struggle with great doubt for about a year soon after. This was partly due to having Cartesian epistemology. Though through this time I had a couple of occasions where I did feel God’s presence in incredible ways. I believe God let me experience His presence like this in order to preserve my faith during this time of doubt. It was eventually through the work of William Lane Craig and especially Alvin Plantinga (surprising to you, I’m sure) that the season of doubt ended and my desire to be a professional philosopher began.
While I now feel very confident in my Christian faith, I have struggled with which Christian tradition I should belong to. In fact, I have now had the pleasure of belonging to almost all of the main Christian traditions. I believe that, my warrant for my belief that Christianity is true is very high, while my belief in the so called ‘secondary doctrines’ carries significantly lower warrant (though still enough for knowledge, I think). Because of this, I feel most comfortable calling myself an Evangelical Christian before anything else. The struggle hasn’t prevented me from evangelism or pursuing a long philosophy career though. Fast forward to current times, I am not only teaching philosophy, but I am using philosophy to help share the Gospel through open air preaching and personal evangelism.
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:
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.
October 20-22, 2016
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 email@example.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)
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 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 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…
META-PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION & META-THEOLOGY
We are delighted to announce the new journal TheoLogica, a peer-reviewed international journal. TheoLogica is a multidisciplinary research journal focused on philosophy of religion and theology (analytic theology, natural theology, philosophical theology), exploring philosophical and theological topics with the standards of conceptual clarity and rigorous argumentation, which are recognized (in particular but not exclusively) in the analytic tradition. The Journal adopts the Open Access Journal (free access) in order to promote research and development of philosophy of religion and theology in the Spanish-speaking academy. In order to contribute equally to international scientific discussions held in several languages, articles and reviews written in Spanish, French, English, Italian and German are accepted.
We invite submissions for the first issue of the journal: Meta-philosophy of religion & Meta-theology. The authors will be expected to discuss the nature, methods and aims of philosophy of religion and/or theology from a metaphilosophical or metatheological perspective. The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of possible research topics:
- What are philosophy of religion and/or analytic theology? What are their subject, their methods and aims?
- Is theology continuous with philosophy and with science? Can it be called a science and in what sense?
- What are the ultimate sources of theology (Scripture, Councils, Tradition, Reason, etc.) and their relative roles? What is the relationship between Scripture and the analytical style of philosophizing? What is the epistemological status of the Scripture in these disciplines?
- What is the place of argumentation in the methodology of theology?
- Is there such a thing as theological knowledge? What are the epistemic sources of theological knowledge?
- Is theological knowledge necessary? Are there epistemic conditions for Salvation?
- Do philosophy of religion and theology aim at Wisdom? How is this sapiential dimension to be fostered? Is the analytic style a hindrance for this aim?
Deadline for sending the paper: April 30st, 2016
Full papers should be submitted via our website: http://revistatheologica.com, or send your paper to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the TheoLogica homepage for a description of the journal and instructions to authors.
Call for Abstracts
Second Annual Theistic Ethics Workshop
October 6-8, 2016
Marilyn McCord Adams (Rutgers University)
Robert M. Adams (Rutgers University)
Russ Shafer-Landau (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Chris Tucker (William and Mary)
Candace Vogler (University of Chicago)
Goal: Contemporary philosophy of religion has been richly informed by important work in metaphysics and epistemology. At the same time, there has not been nearly as much work done at the intersection of philosophy of religion and metaethics or normative theory. To help inspire more good work in this area, Christian Miller (Wake Forest), Mark Murphy (Georgetown), and Chris Tucker (William and Mary) are organizing a series of annual workshops on theistic ethics.
Logistics: The second workshop will be held on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, DC. We will begin with the first talk and a reception in the evening on Thursday, October 6 and will conclude at the end of the day on Saturday, October 8, 2016. There will be five invited papers and four spots for submitted papers. All papers will have 40 minutes for presentation and at least 40 minutes for discussion.
Themes: “Theistic ethics” is to be understood broadly to include such topics as divine command and divine will theories, God and natural law, ethics and the problem of evil, moral arguments for a theistic being, infused and acquired virtues, the harms and benefits of theistic religions, specific ethical issues in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, and many other topics as well.
Applying: Those interested in participating should submit an abstract of up to 750 words and a current C.V. to Mark Murphy at email@example.com by May 1, 2016. Word or PDF file formats only. Please prepare abstracts for anonymous review. For although the organizers seek to have a balanced program both in terms of topics and presenters, the initial stage of review will be done anonymously.
Submitters to last year’s event, whether successful or unsuccessful, are welcome to apply to this year’s workshop.
Questions about the workshop should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Notification will be made by June 1, 2016. If your abstract is selected, we will cover all of your expenses for the workshop, including travel (this includes international travel). Co-authors are welcome, but only one author’s expenses can be covered. You do not have to send your paper in advance of the workshop, and it certainly can be a work in progress.
Supported by the Robert L. McDevitt, K.S.G., K.C.H.S. and Catherine H. McDevitt L.C.H.S. Chair in Religious Philosophy
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: email@example.com
– 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 (we have an 80″ screen in our department’s meeting room!) please let me know.
Department of Philosophy
This is the seventeenth 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. Follow the links for parts 1, 2,3,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. The contributors are in various stages of their career, tenured and untenured. Interviews were conducted through e-mail and responses are not edited.
Can you tell me something about your current academic position and work?
I’m a Muslim trainee-philosopher born in Iran. I studied BSc in Business and Economics and MA in Islamic and Western philosophy at the University of Tehran and Shahid Beheshti University, Iran. I spent my doctoral journey in moral philosophy at the University of Reading and Oxford under the supervision of Prof. Stratton-Lake, Prof. Hooker and Dr. Rini. My thesis was on “Mind, Epistemology and Neuroethics: A Defence of Epistemological Intuitionism”. Currently, I’m doing research on “Ethics of Migration” and “Compassion in Islamic and Christian Theology” for the department of Theological Ethics and Christian Social Ethics at Universität Luzern. I’m also an associate researcher and adjunct lecture on “Metaphor and Cognition” and “Neuroethics” at Institute for Cognitive Science Studies.
The areas that I’m working on are mostly normative ethics, applied ethics, moral epistemology (esp. intuitionism), moral psychology, neuroethics, metaphor, philosophy of religion, Islamic mysticism and philosophy of Persian music. In 2015, I established “School of Rumi” as an online charity institute for teaching ethics, mysticism and religion. In 2014, my book, Metaphor and Science, has been published in Persian. I have also published a Persian translation of James Brown’s The Laboratory of the Mind. My recent publications in English are, among others, “Success of Public Knowledge Management in the Light of Rossian Ethics” (2013), “Medical Ethics in Qiṣāṣ Punishment” (2015), “Ontological Nominalism and Analytic Philosophy” (2015) and “Playing with the “Playing God”” (forthcoming).