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This guide accompanies the following article: Amir Dastmalchian, ‘The Epistemology of Religious Diversity in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion.’Philosophy Compass 8/3 (2013): 298–308, doi:10.1111/phc3.12007

Author’s Introduction

  •  ‘Religious diversity’ is the term used to refer to the existence of a multitude of religious traditions.
  •   Religious diversity is now one of the major subjects of the philosophy of religion.
  •   Philosophical reflections on the topic of religious diversity can be split into: (a) first-order reflections and (b) second-order reflections.
  •   First-order: matters directly arising from the phenomenon of religious diversity i.e. (a) the epistemology of religious beliefs, (b) concepts of the Ultimate, and (c) the possibility of salvation/liberation across religious traditions.
  •   Second-order: categorising and assessing first-order reflections.
  •   Terminology: second-order reflections have produced the terminology of ‘exclusivism’, ‘inclusivism’, and ‘pluralism’. These terms can be combined with adjectives such as ‘epistemic’, ‘salvific’, ‘experiential’, ‘doctrinal’, ‘ethical’, etc.
  •   Epistemic exclusivism: only one particular religion is epistemically advantaged to the exclusion of all the other religions.
  •   Epistemic pluralism: more than one religion is epistemically advantaged.

Author Recommends:

Introductory

Basinger, David. Religious Diversity: A Philosophical Assessment. Aldershot & Burlington (VT): Ashgate, 2002.

A book-length introduction to the topic of religious diversity in the philosophy of religion. Some of Basinger’s positions are debatable (such as restricting religious diversity to theistic religions). A key contribution of the book is a chapter on religious diversity in the context of teaching.

Griffiths, Paul J. Problems of Religious Diversity. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

A book-length introduction to the topic of religious diversity in the philosophy of religion. Includes a brief Roman Catholic argument for inclusivism.

King, Nathan. ‘Religious Diversity and its Challenges to Religious Belief.’Philosophy Compass, 3.4 (2008): 830-853. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00149.x/abstract

A helpful overview of the terminology and key positions on religious diversity. Objections to doctrinal exclusivism are considered together with further issues for research.

Quinn, Philip L. and Kevin Meeker, eds. The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

An anthology of fourteen important readings on religious diversity. All readings are contemporary with the exception of one reading by David Hume. The readings have been selected for the way they argue for individual responses to religious diversity and for the way in which they engage with each other.

Meister, Chad, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

An anthology of thirty-two surveys of religious diversity from an interesting range of perspectives. The surveys are grounded in historical, religious studies, philosophical, and sociological approaches to religious diversity. This anthology is noteworthy for its consideration of contemporary concerns, for example, globalisation, environmentalism, and feminism.

Meister, Chad and Paul Copan, eds. Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2012.

Part 3 of this anthology consists of eight survey articles on religious diversity. These articles include ‘Truth in Religion’, ‘Comparing Rival Religious Systems’, ‘Religious Pluralism’, ‘Inclusivism and Exclusivism’, ‘Interreligious Dialogue’, ‘Non-theistic Conceptions of God’, ‘Mysticism Among the World’s Religions’, and ‘Death and the Afterlife’.

Thune, Michael. ‘Religious Belief and the Epistemology of Disagreement.’Philosophy Compass 5.8 (2010): 712–24. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1747-9991.2010.00314.x/abstract

Discusses a burgeoning field in epistemology – disagreement – and its relevance to religious belief. Thune’s article is a good companion to the article associated with this teaching guide.

Advanced

Hick, John. An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

This text is not advanced in the sense that it is particularly difficult to read but rather in the sense that it offers a sustained argument for one particular response to religious diversity, namely, religious pluralism. Hick’s pluralism is not the only type of pluralistic response to the challenge of religious diversity but due to Hick’s prominence in discussions on religious diversity the work is of central importance. For a survey of alternative pluralist positions see Hick’s article in the Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion mentioned above.

McKim, Robert. On Religious Diversity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Similar in scope to the works of Basinger and Griffiths listed above, this monograph is a little more challenging and draws upon the author’s work on religious ambiguity.

Sample Syllabus:

This sample syllabus suggests reading to accompany lectures or to discuss with students in class. The reading is suitable for advanced undergraduates and postgraduates. Classes have been categorised as essential, recommended, and optional so that instructors can choose classes to match their requirements. Class 1 is essential; if there is only one class in which to cover religious diversity then recommend the reading for class 1. Classes 2–4 are recommended; offer as many of these classes as possible. Classes 5–8 are optional and are for exploring particular responses to religious diversity or for reading contemporary journal articles on specific features of the religious diversity debate. More lessons can be added or classes can be combined, if necessary. If set reading cannot easily be obtained then choose relevant pages from the introductory references recommend above.

Class 1: Introduction [essential]

King, Nathan. ‘Religious Diversity and its Challenges to Religious Belief.’Philosophy Compass, 3.4 (2008): 830-53. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00149.x/abstract

Class 2: Epistemology of Religious Diversity [recommended]

Amir Dastmalchian. ‘The Epistemology of Religious Diversity in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion.’Philosophy Compass 8/3 (2013): 298–308. doi: 10.1111/phc3.12007

Koehl, Andrew. ‘On Blanket Statements about the Epistemic Effects of Religious Diversity.’Religious Studies 41.4 (2005): 395–414. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S003441250500778X

Class 3: Differing Conceptions of Ultimate Reality [recommended]

Byrne, Peter A. Prolegomena to Religious Pluralism: Reference and Realism in Religion. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995. 137–65.

McKim, Robert. ‘Could God Have More Than One Nature?’Faith and Philosophy 5.4 (1988): 378–98. http://secure.pdcnet.org/faithphil/content/faithphil_1988_0005_0004_0378_0398

Class 4: Salvation/Liberation [recommended]

Griffiths, Paul J. Problems of Religious Diversity. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001. 138–69.

Class 5: Exclusivism [optional]

Netland, Harold. ‘Inclusivism and Exclusivism.’The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Eds. Meister, Chad and Paul Copan. Abingdon (Oxon) and New York: Routledge, 2007. 226–36.

or Netland, Harold. ‘Religious Exclusivism.’Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues. Eds. Copan, Paul and Chad Meister. Malden (MA) & Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2008. 67–80.

Class 6: Pluralism [optional]

Hick, John. ‘Religious Pluralism.’The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Eds. Meister, Chad and Paul Copan. Abingdon (Oxon) and New York: Routledge, 2007. 216–25.

Amir Dastmalchian. ‘The Core Argument in An Interpretation of Religion.’Philosophy Compass 8/3 (2013): 298–308. doi: 10.1111/phc3.12007 (A supplement to the main article.)

Class 7: Inclusivism [optional]

Griffiths, Paul J. Problems of Religious Diversity. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001. 56–65.

Legenhausen, Muhammad. ‘A Muslim’s Non-Reductive Religious Pluralism: Religious Pluralism and the Pursuit of Peace.’Islam and Global Dialogue. Ed. Boase, Roger. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. 51–73. (An expanded version of this paper can be found at <http://www.uibk.ac.at/theol/leseraum/texte/626.html>, accessed 1 April 2012.)

Class 8: Relativism [optional]

Runzo, Joseph. ‘God, Commitment, And Other Faiths: Pluralism Versus Relativism.’Faith and Philosophy, 5 (1988): 343–64.

or Runzo, Joseph. ‘Pluralism and Relativism.’The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity. Ed. Meister, Chad. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Optional:

Focus Questions

  • 1
     What are the most interesting varieties of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism? Is the exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism typology for discussing responses to religious diversity effective? Are inclusivism and pluralism really distinct from exclusivism? Are there any plausible responses to religious diversity which are not covered by the exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism typology?
  • 2
     Is it irrational to believe only one set of religious beliefs can be true? Is it immoral to believe only on group of people can be saved/liberated?
  • 3
     What are the factors that determine an individual’s response to religious diversity? What is your opinion on each of these?
  • 4
     Is rejection of religious belief a good solution to the challenge of religious diversity?

Seminar/Project Idea:

  •   Draw a diagram to illustrate the different possible responses to religious diversity.
  •   Identify a number of philosophers who have responses to religious diversity (four philosophers are discussed in the main article). Either individually, or as a group, choose one philosopher to adopt. Organise a class debate so that the different views of the philosophers can be presented and defended.