Some Preliminaries To My Proposal For Ending the Philosophy of Religion

As announced earlier I intend to do a series of posts on my call to end the philosophy of religion (PoR) discipline in secular universities, by answering the following questions: 1) Why do I propose ending PoR as a subdiscipline of Philosophy proper in the secular universities?; 2) What should we know when it comes to ending the PoR?; 3) What exactly is my proposal?; 4) What are the best ways to examine the claims of religion?; 5) What are some practical steps to help facilitate this proposal?; and 6) Why do secular philosophers of religion object to this proposal? In this post I intend to answer question #2. To read other posts in this series click on the tag below, "Ending Philosophy of Religion."

First, I want to add to what I said in post #1 a few thoughts before moving on. Graham Oppy said in a recent interview: "Philosophy of religion as a discipline, I would think, probably doesn't date much earlier than the second World War." This historical lesson is significant, I think, for we did without it for centuries and we can do without it again. All we have to do is ask how these questions were treated in the secular universities before that time. Later Oppy offers his criticism, saying, "Most of the people who have done philosophy of religion have been theists." So it stands to reason "it has had an extremely narrow focus...It hasn't really been the philosophy of religion but rather Christianity with a very great emphasis on theism," and even apologetics/Christian theology. Keith Parsons echos his last thought by saying, "If proclaiming the 'death of PoR' only means the death of a certain way of doing it, then I would certainly applaud this...I think that we have had enough of theistic apologetics. It's over." Jeff Lowder agreed by saying: "[T]he philosophy of religion is not 'dead,' but it is in serious condition, if not on life support. This can be shown by counting the number of philosophy departments at secular colleges and universities which have faculty lines for philosophy of religion. (They are very rare.) Why is this? I think that one contributing factor to this state of affairs is the blatant partisanship which is very much the norm in the philosophy of religion." This isn't all they said, but we all agree about this half of the problem.

I also need to offer a provisional definition of the PoR: "The Philosophy of Religion discipline concerns itself with the claims and arguments of religion. It seeks to understand those claims (if possible) and examine the arguments put forth both pro and con by the canons of reason and evidence." This is my definition. I know there are others. The primary goal of the PoR is not to merely understand religion. That's for a Religion or Comparative Religion discipline or class. It's to understand the claims of religion (if possible) and examine the arguments by the canons of reason and evidence.

My definition probably stands within the Analytic tradition in philosophy because I'm more familiar with it. There is a difference between Analytic PoR, which is largely the type in the US, from Continental PoR, which is largely the type found on the European Continent. Without going into these differences (aside from the above two links) Analytical PoR is probably dominant in the US where Christian professors dominate the field, because it's in large part germane to the goals of Christian religious philosophy. However, Nick Trakakis in his book The End of Philosophy of Religion, shows us "the weaknesses of the analytic approach in philosophy, particularly when it is applied to religious and aesthetic experience."In any case, the PoR in the US is still shown itself to be parochial rather than global in perspective, as I previously argued.

Let me now state what I'm not proposing when I call for the ending of the PoR. This will better clarify my specific proposals later.

1) I'm not saying Philosophy itself is stupid or dead, or that there has been no progress in Philosophy itself. Richard Carrier addresses these questions right here. Note that he addresses the question "What is pseudo-philosophy?" His answer is this:
Philosophy that relies on fallacious arguments to a conclusion, and/or relies on factually false or undemonstrated premises. And isn't corrected when discovered. All supernaturalist religion is pseudo-philosophy. Religious philosophy is to philosophy what "creation science" is to science.
2) I'm not proposing we should end philosophical discussions about religion or writing about it. Anyone who thinks about the PoR is doing PoR, and anyone who writes about it is doing the PoR.

3) I'm not proposing that the PoR should not be taught in the secular universities. It should, with only a limited role and also done right, until such time as it isn't needed at all.

4) I'm not proposing that if students don't agree with secular professors they should fail the classes.

One more important thing before I proceed. I don't expect believers to agree with any of my proposals. Some secular professors may disagree too, depending on what they think of the merits of faith and the arguments on behalf of religion. The dividing line is between secular philosophers who think faith has some epistemic warrant who also think the arguments on behalf of religion have some merit along with it, from those who don't. I don't. Faith has no method, solves no problems, and is an utterly unreliable guide to knowing anything objective about the nature of nature. The arguments on behalf of religion have no merit either. All of them have been soundly refuted, as Keith Parsons is quoted as saying in post # 1. All of them are based on special pleading and begging the question. So to the degree secular philosophers agree with this they can agree with my proposals, especially since we're talking about teaching the PoR in secular universities, where no other intellectual discipline of learning can appeal to faith as an explanation or as a justification.

To keep this in bite size chunks, since this post is the most important one in this series I'll have to wait until next time to make my specific proposals.