John Cottingham delivers a public lecture, entitled "Transcending science: humane models of religious understanding." John Cottingham is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at University of Reading, Professorial Research Fellow, Heythrop College, University of London, and Honorary Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford and former editor of Ratio: the International Journal of Analytic Philosophy (1993-2013). Prof. Cottingham is a world-renowned Descartes scholar who has has published extensively on issues in Early Modern Philosophy and Moral Philosophy. In recent years Cottingham has focused on the Philosophy of Religions with celebrated monographs on the nature, justification, and transformative power of religious devotion, including “Why Believe?” (Continuum, 2009) and “How to Believe” (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2016). His books also include “Philosophy and the Good Life: Reason and the Passions in Greek, Cartesian and Psychoanalytic Ethics” (Cambridge, 1998); On the Meaning of Life (Routledge, 2003); “The Spiritual Dimension” (Cambridge, 2005); “Cartesian Reflections” (Oxford, 2008), and “Philosophy of Religion: Towards a More Humane Approach”(Cambridge, 2014). Abstract: In many contemporary debates religion and science are cast as rivals, supposedly offering competing explanations of the origins and nature of the cosmos. Religion often appears at a disadvantage here: given the magnificent achievements of science in uncovering the workings of nature, theistic speculations about the activities of a supposed immaterial divine agent are apt to seem radically impoverished by comparison. This paper will argue that we need a more ‘humane’ model of religious understanding, one that is responsive to the actual role played by religion in the life of the believer. Understanding the world religiously is less about subscribing to explanatory hypotheses than about a certain mode of engagement with reality, requiring a moral and spiritual transformation of the subject. This has crucial implications for the appropriate way to philosophize about religion. Instead of an ‘epistemology of control’, based on the detached evaluation of evidence, we may need to substitute an ‘epistemology of receptivity’. In religion, as in many areas of human life, authentic understanding may require a process of attunement in order for the relevant evidence to become manifest. This lecture is cosponsored by the Office of the Dean and the Philosophy of Religions Workshop.


1 hour, 26 minutes, 14 seconds
June 2, 2016
Published: June 20, 2016
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