The Philosophy of Religion

Literature Review:

In recent years, the philosophy of religion has continued to be tested, challenged and questioned in several new ways. So, for example, as society has increasingly turned to cognitive and behavioral science for answers regarding human behavior, the philosophical concepts of Good and Evil may seem to hold a less central place in society in general and philosophy of religion in particular. Another line of inquiry is to look to biases present in philosophy of religion. Psychological and emotional aspects of religion may be the triggers for certain biases in the philosophy of religion. In addition to cognitive biases, group biases may exist. Recent work in social and evolutionary psychology as to group behaviors in religion may be correlated to group bias in philosophy of religion. The very arguments underlying philosophy of religion have been challenged as circular. However, it is these very questions and challenges that demonstrate the continued vitality of philosophy of religion.

Paul Draper, Ryan Nichols. “Diagnosing Bias in Philosophy of Religion.” The Monist. Vol 96, Issue 3, pp. 420-446. 2013


Work in philosophy of religion exhibits at least four symptoms of poor health: it is too partisan, too polemical, too narrow in its focus, and too often evaluated using criteria that are theological or religious instead of philosophical. Our diagnosis is that, because of the emotional and psychosocial aspects of religion, many philosophers of religion suffer from cognitive biases and group influence. We support this diagnosis in two ways. First, we examine work in psychology on cognitive biases and their affective triggers. This work supports the view that, while cognitive biases are no doubt a problem in all inquiry and in all areas of philosophy, they are particularly damaging to inquiry in philosophy of religion. Second, we examine work in social and evolutionary psychology on religious and sociality and its attendant emotions. This work establishes that the coalitional features of religion are correlated with group bias, and we contend that this bias is also harmful to inquiry in philosophy of religion. We close by offering both a prognosis and recommendations for treatment.

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We also realize that cognitive biases in general, and especially the biases that infect philosophy of religion, are threats even when they are exposed and even when those who are biased consciously try to compensate for their biase. Following our recommendations is far from easy. It may be possible for some. And the effectiveness of following those recommendations is, we admit, unproven. Still, we cannot emphasize enough just how important it is for philosophers of religions to heed our warnings. The future health of our discipline may very well depend on it.

I was able to find relevant articles because the Santa Monica Public Library site has a research section that I am used to navigating. Within the research page, I was able to search for “Philosophy of Religion” articles and I was able to refine my search to “full text,” “peer reviewed” articles published from 1999 to present. This search produced many, many articles. However, by reading the article summaries I could tell if the article was a book review or an article. I could also tell from the first few sentences if the article was relevant to my search - i.e. if the article in any way reviewed or criticized trends in Philosophy of Religion or suggested a novel or new approach. Once I had found a handful of articles, I picked the three that sounded best to me.


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