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Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto

ISBN: 978-1-4443-3052-6
246 pages
March 2014, Wiley-Blackwell
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Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto advocates a radical transformation of the discipline from its current, narrow focus on questions of God, to a fully global form of critical reflection on religions in all their variety and dimensions.
  • Opens the discipline of philosophy of religion to the religious diversity that characterizes the world today
  • Builds bridges between philosophy of religion and the other interpretative and explanatory approaches in the field of religious studies
  • Provides a manifesto for a global approach to the subject that is a practice-centred rather than a belief-centred activity
  • Gives attention to reflexive critical studies of 'religion' as socially constructed and historically located
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Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xix

Chapter 1: The Full Task of Philosophy of Religion 1

i. What is “Traditional Philosophy of Religion”? 3

ii. The First Task of Philosophy of Religion 10

iii. The Second Task of Philosophy of Religion 14

iv. The Third Task of Philosophy of Religion 19

v. What is the Big Idea? 24

Bibliographic Essay 25

Endnotes 27

Chapter 2: Are Religious Practices Philosophical? 29

i. Toward a Philosophy of Religious Practice 31

ii. Embodiment as a Paradigm for Philosophy of Religion 33

iii. Conceptual Metaphors and Embodied Religious Reason 36

iv. Religious Material Culture as Cognitive Prosthetics 40

v. A Toolkit for the Philosophical Study of Religious Practices 47

Bibliographic Essay 49

Endnotes 51

Chapter 3: Must Religious People Have Religious Beliefs? 53

i. The Place of Belief in the Study of Religions 55

ii. Objections to the Concept of Religious Belief 57

iii. Holding One’s Beliefs in Public 61

iv. What We Presuppose When We Attribute Beliefs 66

v. The Universality of Belief 70

Bibliographic Essay 76

Endnotes 80

Chapter 4: Do Religions Exist? 83

i. The Critique of “Religion” 85

ii. The Ontology of “Religion” 89

iii. Can There be Religion Without “Religion”? 92

iv. “Religion” as Distortion 96

v. The Ideology of “Religion” 101

Bibliographic Essay 105

Endnotes 110

Chapter 5: What Isn’t Religion? 113

i. Strategies for Defining Religion 115

ii. Making Promises: The Functional or Pragmatic Aspect of Religion 121

iii. Keeping Promises: The Substantive or Ontological Aspect of Religion 127

iv. The Growing Variety of Religious Realities 129

v. What this Definition Excludes 135

Bibliographic Essay 141

Endnotes 147

Chapter 6: Are Religions Out of Touch With Reality? 149

i. Religious Metaphysics in a Postmetaphysical Age 151

ii. Antimetaphysics Today 154

iii. Constructive Postmodernism and Unmediated Experience 158

iv. Unmediated Experience and Metaphysics 163

v. The Rehabilitation of Religious Metaphysics 167

Bibliographic Essay 171

Endnotes 172

Chapter 7: The Academic Study of Religions: a Map With Bridges 175

i. Religious Studies as a Tripartite Field 177

ii. Describing and Explaining Religious Phenomena 180

iii. Evaluating Religious Phenomena 185

iv. Do Evaluative Approaches Belong in the Academy? 189

v. Interdisciplinary Bridges 197

Bibliographic Essay 203

Endnotes 205

Works Cited 207

Index 223

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Author Information

Kevin Schilbrack is Professor and Head of Department of Religion and Philosophy at Western Carolina University. Schilbrack has served as president of the American Academy of Religion for the Southeast, as a senior fellow with Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions, and as a participant in a Fulbright-Hays Faculty Development Seminar in Taiwan and Thailand. An award-winning teacher, he has published numerous articles in philosophy and theory of religion, and is the contributing editor of Thinking through Rituals: Philosophical Perspectives (2007) and The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religious Diversity (forthcoming).

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“Here, informed by the work of a wide range of social theorists, anthropologists, and others, Schilbrack seeks to draw philosophers of religion out of their cultural insularity, through a consideration of concepts such as ‘embodied knowledge,’ to contemplate what ‘religion’ might be, feel like, and mean in ‘the rest’ of the world.”  (Church Times, 4 September 2015)

“The book adds considerable momentum to the most innovative developments in philosophy of religion today.”  (Int J Philos Religion, 1 March 2015)

“Schilbrack concludes with strong arguments on the cross-cultural study of religion and suggests a combination of functional (the work religion does in human lives) and substantive (what religion enables people to know).  Each chapter includes a bibliographic essay that will make this book a delight for classroom use.  Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above.”  (Choice, 1 January 2015)

“This book is a valuable resource for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in either field. Similarly, scholars will find important issues raised in this volume that they often ignore given, as Schilbrack argues, the insularity that characterizes the philosophy of religion.”  (Religious Studies Review, 1 September 2014)

“Schilbrack’s important book proposes a transformation of the philosophy of religion which would, if taken seriously, remove its vices while preserving its virtues. He shows, with panache, that the insularity and intellectualism of the field can be overcome by extending its range to include nonwestern and nontheistic forms of religion, and by attending as much to practice as to belief. And he does this without compromising the seriousness of religious claims to truth. It’s a considerable achievement.”
Paul J. Griffiths, Warren Chair Catholic Theology, Duke University

“This book is much-needed and long overdue. Kevin Schilbrack is concerned with a set of controversies that have agitated the field of religious studies for the past generation and more – controversies in which both the proper shape and very legitimacy of the field have seemed to be at stake. Patiently and thoroughly, Schilbrack works through these and sets out a series of robust and well-argued answers. The book not only articulates a program for philosophy of religion, but also displays that program in operation.”
Andrew Dole, Amherst College

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