‘Religion’ as a Philosophical Problem: Historical and Conceptual Dilemmas in Contemporary Pluralistic Philosophy of Religion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In the late nineteenth century, European philosophical theologians concerned about the perceived threat of secularity played a crucial role in the construction of the category of ‘religion,’ conceived as a transcultural universal, the genus of which the so-called ‘world religions’ are species. By reading the work of the late John Hick (1922–2012), the most influential contemporary philosophical advocate of religious pluralism, through an historically informed hermeneutic of suspicion, this paper argues that orientalist-derived understandings of religion continue to play a significant (though often unacknowledged) role within the philosophy of religion today. Though couched in the language of pluralism, Hick’s later work in the philosophy of religion functions apologetically to maintain a version of the religious–secular distinction that, while theologically and politically loaded, is, I show, philosophically arbitrary. Moving the philosophy of religion beyond Eurocentrism, I argue, will require freeing it from the logic of the modern understanding of religion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-496
Number of pages18
JournalSophia
Volume53
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cultural history of the study of religion
  • John Hick
  • Orientalism
  • Philosophy of religion
  • Secular
  • Secularization
  • World religions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy

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