The Seventeenth Annual Religion and the Humanities Conference
September 19th - 20th, 2013
Library Lakeview Room
Utah Valley University
This conference will explore the theoretical dimensions of religious diversity in light of the most recent philosophical work on the nature of disagreement. Conference participants include leading thinkers in the contemporary discussion surrounding religious and ethical pluralism, the epistemology of religious belief, and the value of philosophy in clarifying theological differences.
Schedule of Events
Thursday, September 19, 2013
8:30 - 9:45 a.m.
"Religious Disagreement: The Importance of the Internal Debate"
David Basinger, Roberts Wesleyan College
No one denies that disagreements over religious beliefs abound or that these disagreements are a significant contributing factor to an increasing amount of harmful, sometimes violent, interpersonal and social conflict in our world today. What remains an open question is how best to minimize such non-constructive disagreement. If, as I believe, there are no non-question-begging criteria for objective adjudication between/among comprehensive, self-consistent religious perspectives, then the answer is not to help those who differ come to agree on the truth of the matter. In this presentation, I argue, rather, that (1) the most effective way to increase respectful, constructive dialog among those who hold differing religious beliefs is to encourage serious belief assessment – to encourage those holding differing beliefs to consider seriously why they and their epistemic competitors affirm their respective beliefs – and (2) that the most effective way to increase this sort of belief assessment is to focus on disagreements within given religious traditions (internal disagreements) rather than disagreements between religious traditions (external disagreements).
David Basinger is professor of philosophy at Roberts Wesleyan College. His books include Divine Power in Process Theism: A Philosophical Critique (SUNY Press, 1988), Religious Diversity: A Philosophical Assessment (Ashgate Press, 2002), Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford Press, 2003).
10:00 - 11:15 a.m.
"Agreement, Philosophical Knowledge and the Problem of Evil"
Kevin Meeker, University of South Alabama
Our question is urgent: What are we to make of the religious disagreement in this world? Asking this question from a philosophical perspective is dangerous because philosophers are notorious for disagreeing with each other about every issue imaginable. In other words, it might appear that discussing religious disagreement from the perspective of a discipline plagued with extensive and ineliminable disagreement is akin to attempting to understand the enigmatic by appeal to the obscure. In this paper I examine the philosophical/religious issue of the problem of evil to mount an argument that we can achieve a significant level of agreement even on perennially controversial issues. More specifically, I contend that philosophy as a discipline can achieve knowledge and make progress with regard to the problem of evil. The hope is that a clear case of philosophical agreement on a controversial religious issue that is significant enough to produce philosophical knowledge will help us to understand the more common cases of philosophical and religious disagreement.
Kevin Meeker is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Alabama. With Phillip Quinn, Prof. Meeker co-edited one of the most important volumes in the discussion of religious diversity: The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity (Oxford University Press, 2000). He has also published widely on Hume's epistemology in journals such as Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophia and Hume Studies.
Meeker: Exclusivism, and the Theoretical Virtues
11:30 - 1:00 p.m.
1:00 - 2:15 p.m.
"I’m Okay, You’re Okay (more or less)"
Robert McKim, University of Illinois
I make a case for adopting a magnanimous attitude towards those who disagree with us about religious matters, and a case against thinking that there is something wrong with those who disagree with us. The idea of religious ambiguity is central to my reasoning. I explain this idea. And I make a case for the religious ambiguity of the human situation.
Robert McKim is Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has published in philosophy of religion, the history of philosophy, and applied ethics. His current research interests include the implications of religious diversity and the relevance of religion to environmental thought. His publications include these books with Oxford University Press: On Religious Diversity; The Morality of Nationalism, co-edited with Jeff McMahan; and Religious Ambiguity and Religious Diversity.
Mckim: Theism and Proper Basicality
2:30 - 3:45 p.m.
David Basinger, Kevin Meeker, Robert McKim, Charles Randall Paul, and Brian Birch
Friday, September 20, 2013
8:30 - 9:45 a.m
"Religious Disagreement as a Process"
Kevin Schilbrack, Western Carolina University
In this paper, I propose that philosophers consider disagreement not simply a state of conflict between those who hold p and those who hold not-p, but as a process of cognitive dissonance and resolution. Doing so lets us see that important philosophical questions about disagreement arise not only when the disagreement is between epistemic peers, but also earlier in the process before one has assessed the other’s evidence or reasoning. This paper argues for three points. First, I argue that the mere fact of disagreement ought to move a person to reduce confidence in one’s belief. Second, drawing on work by Linda Zagzebski, I argue that the mere fact of disagreement ought to move a person to reduce confidence because epistemic egoism is false. Third, I argue that despite lowered confidence one can continue to believe and act on one’s belief. I then show the relevance of these three points to disagreement about religious beliefs.
Kevin Schilbrack is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Carolina University. A graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School, he writes especially on the conceptual and philosophical issues that arise in the cross-cultural study of religions. He is the author of Philosophy and the Study of Religions (Wiley-Blackwell 2014) and the contributing editor of Thinking through Myths (Routledge 2002), Thinking through Rituals (Routledge 2004), and The Blackwell Companion to Religious Diversity (Wiley-Blackwell 2014).
Schilbrack: The Next Pluralistic Philosophy of Religions
Religious Diversity and the Closed Mind
10:00 - 11:15 a.m.
"Religious Disagreements and Higher Order Evidence"
Richard Feldman, University of Rochester
In cases of disagreement with one’s epistemic peers, one often gets evidence about the peer’s evidence concerning a proposition. This is higher order evidence, or evidence of evidence. In this paper, I examine the nature of this kind evidence and discuss several versions of the principle that evidence of evidence for a proposition is evidence for that proposition. I defend one formulation of the principle from objections and argue that it helps to shed some light on some of the puzzles about disagreement, with a focus on disagreements about religious issues.
Richard Feldman is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the College at the University of Rochester. He is the author of numerous articles in epistemology and the books Reason and Argument and Epistemology, the co-author (with Earl Conee) of Evidentialism, and the co-editor (with Ted Warfield) of Disagreement.
Feldman: Reasonable Religious Disagreements
11:30 - 1:00 p.m.
1:00 - 2:15 p.m.
"Self-Trust and Religious Disagreement"
C. Thi Nguyen, Utah Valley University
This paper investigates a contemporary epistemic approach to religious knowledge and religious disagreement. I attempt to present a largely unified account of the epistemic response to disagreement across multiple domains of knowledge. I argue that, as a consequence, peer disagreement is epistemically important in all these domains. Thus, disagreement with one’s religious peers ought to decrease one’s confidence in one’s religious belief. Entitlement theory - a.k.a. the theory of epistemic warrant - argues that cognitive life can only occur within a framework of self-trust. We must begin cognitive life by trusting our cognitive abilities and intuitions, often without proof, arguments, or accounts. This entitled self-trust, however, is tentative, and defeasible. I claim that entitlement theory is likely true, and that it applies to religious knowledge. Thus scientific knowledge, ethical knowledge, and religious knowledge have quite similar epistemic foundations. It is reasonable to trust in one’s senses, trust in one’s ethical intuitions, and trust in one’s religious experience, and it is reasonable to so trust without proof. All these forms of self-trust, however, are tentative, and therefore defeasible. I then offer a generalized argument that such entitled self-trust must extend to one’s peers. If we can trust our own cognitive abilities, without proof, we must also trust the cognitive abilities of one’s peers. If this is true, then disagreement with peers must have epistemic weight, in all forms of entitled knowledge. This raises some crucial questions, namely, what counts as a religious peer? Are religious leaders from radically different religions peers? Does an atheist count as a peer for a Catholic bishop, and vice versa? I outline some possible accounts of religious peer-hood, and show the consequence of each account.
C. Thi Nguyen received his PhD in Philosophy from UCLA in 2011. His dissertation, "An Ethics of Uncertainty: Moral Disagreement and Moral Humility", attempts to use recent developments in epistemology to resolve standing problems in moral disagreement. He works in epistemology and meta-ethics, specializing in comparing the epistemic status of different domains of knowledge - scientific, ethical, religious, and aesthetic. He also occasionally writes food criticism for the Los Angeles Times. He is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Humanities at Utah Valley University.
2:30 - 3:45 p.m.
Kevin Schilbrack, Richard Feldman, C. Thi Nguyen, and Dennis Potter
For more information, contact Dennis Potter at email@example.com.