The Future of the Philosophy of Religion

The Society for Philosophy of Religion, USA is meeting in Savannah, Georgia in February 2012. One of the sessions at that meeting will be a panel on Wesley Wildman's book, Religious Philosophy as Multidisciplinary Comparative Inquiry: Envisioning a Future for the Philosophy of Religion. Panel members are Richard Amesbury (Claremont School of Theology; pictured at left), Timothy Knepper (Drake University; center), and Kevin Schilbrack (Western Carolina University; right), with Wildman responding.

The point of Religious Philosophy as Multidisciplinary Comparative Inquiry is to describe philosophy of religion not as a discipline but as a suite of related disciplinary inquiries that work both across cultures and across academic disciplines—thus, multidisciplinary, comparative inquiry. This vision of the philosophy of religion places it squarely in the secular academy rather than as an explicit adjunct or a surreptitious affiliate of any religious institution or movement. Religious philosophy, so conceived, has a future, both conceptually and institutionally, but it is one that needs to be articulated and defended, as well as contrasted with more common but intellectually less reputable forms of philosophy of religion that effectively promote particular institutionally borne religious ideologies without due concern for their rational standing in relation to the wider words of philosophy and religious studies.

The book includes an analysis of six streams of religious philosophy with long histories in multiple intellectual cultures, evaluating the health status of each. This helps answer the question of whether philosophy of religion is as dead as some philosophers assume—it is alive and well!—while also helping to chart the territory that religious philosophy as multidisciplinary, comparative inquiry can cover. Similarly, the book describes a number of different modes or styles of such inquiry, so as to indicate how rich and diverse religious philosophy can be, when properly conceived.

These issues and others will be discussed at this event by three gifted philosophers with strong interests in the future of the philosophy of religion.

Richard Amesbury is Associate Professor of Ethics at Claremont School of Theology. He works at the intersection of ethics, political theory, and philosophy of religion and has written on human rights, social criticism, and pluralist societies. His major books are Morality and Social Criticism: The Force of Reasons in Discursive Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and Faith and Human Rights: Christianity and the Global Struggle for Human Dignity (Fortress, 2008).

Timothy Knepper is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Drake University. He specializes in philosophy of religion, religious language, and mysticism studies. He has written especially on Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite and ineffability in mysticism and philosophy. He is particularly invested in thinking through the possibilities for the future of the philosophy of religion.

Kevin Schilbrack is Professor and Chair of the Philosophy and Religion department at Western Carolina University. His publications range over a host of questions, from the meaning of heroism (analyzed using the movie Life of Brian!) to the close reading of important figures in the history of religious studies. He also writes in metaphysics, engaging both western and South Asian Buddhist resources.