Wesley Wildman is one of the foremost philosophers of religion calling for the evolution of the discipline from its present narrow focus on theistic beliefs to become a discipline concerned with religions in all their diversity. Towards this end, he proposes that philosophers of religion understand what they do as multidisciplinary comparative inquiry. This article assesses his proposal.
Many point to Peter Winch’s discussion of rationality, relativism, and religion as a paradigmatic example of cultural relativism. In this paper, I argue that Winch’s relationship to relativism is widely misinterpreted in that, despite his pluralistic understanding of rationality, Winch does allow for universal features of culture in virtue of which cross-cultural understanding and even critique is possible. Nevertheless, I also argue that given the kind of cultural universals that Winch produces, he fails to avoid relativism. This is because in (...) order to provide the standards without which relativism ensues, one requires a certain kind of criteria of rationality, namely, what I here call substantive universals, a kind of criteria which Winch rejects. (shrink)
Existentialism claims that there is no human reality except in action: pragmatism argues that meaning and truth are given only in practice. Wittgenstein calls for attention to forms of life, Marxism calls for attention to doing, and feminism calls for attention to the body. What do these tell us about ritual acts and their connection to spirit and to truth in Christianity and other world religions? Religious rituals have a special status as virtually pure forms of belief in action. Thinking (...) Through Rituals asks how philosophical tools like existentialism and Marxism can help us to understand the thought behind actions such as tasting the Christian host, joining in ceremony and speaking sacred words. Thinking Through Rituals proposes a new philosophical understanding of rituals as mental strategies giving access to knowledge of the world, in opposition to traditional approaches which see rituals as forms of social organization and control. Covering areas including the body, pilgrimage,initiation, sacrifice and art, this is an exciting look at the relationship between doing and meaning which is implied by ritual practice, but most fully explained by philosophical theory. (shrink)
Though others have surveyed the different methods in comparative religious ethics, relatively little attention has been given to different approaches to pedagogy (exceptions include Lovin and Reynolds; Juergensmeyer; Twiss). The field of comparative religious ethics has now reached a level of maturity so that there are a variety of ways such courses can be taught. In this review I consider the approaches to comparative religious ethics found in four recent texts by Jacob Neusner, Darrell Fasching and Dell deChant, Regina Wolfe (...) and Christine Gudorf, and Sumner Twiss and Bruce Grelle. In the essay I note the strengths and weaknesses of each text, with special attention given to how the texts might work in the classroom. I then argue that the different texts reflect different understandings of the goal of teaching comparative religious ethics, and I make these goals explicit in order to help teachers decide how they might approach the teaching in this growing field. (shrink)
Myths disclose alternative worlds. From the perspective of modern philosophy, the belief in mythic worlds was seen as an aspect of culture that was soon to be superseded. But what is the place of myths, after modernity? Mythical Thinking brings together essays that use the philosophical tools- including phenomenology, metaphysics, semiotics and moral philosophy- to study these worlds and to think through myths.
It is argued here that metaphysics is an overlooked but fruitful category for cross-cultural philosophy, and this hypothesis is demonstrated with the writings of Dōgen Kigen. A definition of metaphysics is introduced that, although drawn from the Western philosophical tradition, should be useful for the study of philosophy elsewhere, and its application to Dōgen is defended against popular interpretations that Dōgen's Zen is phenomenological rather than metaphysical.