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New Philosophy of Religion Papers in Philosophy Compass

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-Jordan, Matthew Carey. "Theism, Naturalism, and Metaethics

Abstract: The relationship between God and morality has been a topic of philosophical discussion since Socrates engaged Euthyphro in the agora. In recent years, it has received a lot of attention, as theistic philosophers have attempted to show that divine command theory and other theistic meta-ethical accounts are defensible. Whether metaphysical naturalism is compatible with moral realism is a related (and equally controversial) topic. This essay surveys the main issues in these debates.

(Note: Those who are aware of Jordan's other recent work know that much of of it is focused on critiquing non-theistic metaethical theories, and in developing and defending a theistic metaethical theory. He is a recent PhD whose dissertation defended a variation of divine command theory (divine attitude theory), according to which (roughly) an action X is morally wrong just in case God would be displeased with you for doing X. Interested parties would do well to follow his work on these issues.)


Abstract: This article explores “pragmatic arguments” for theistic belief – that is, arguments for believing in God that appeal, not to evidence in favor of God’s existence, but rather to alleged practical benefits that come from belief in God. Central to this exploration is a consideration of Jeff Jordan’s recent defense of “the Jamesian wager,” which portrays itself as building on the case for belief presented in William James’s essay “The Will to Believe.” According to Jordan, religious belief creates significant gains in this-worldly happiness (i.e. gains in “secular utility,” I shall say), and provided the individual does not have decisive evidence against God’s existence, these gains give the individual sufficient reason to strive to believe in God. In its exploration of this argument, the article presents an overview of recent social scientific work on the this-worldly effects of religious belief. It canvases several challenges to pragmatic arguments, namely, a challenge according to which happiness rooted in false belief is worth less than that rooted in truth, a perfectionistic challenge alleging that one should strive for personal excellence rather than happiness, and a challenge alleging that any happiness gains of religious belief are outweighed by the potential harms brought about by religious belief.


Abstract: The place and significance of religious community is a central concern in recent continental philosophy of religion. Although Kierkegaard is a significant influence for many recent continental philosophers of religion, recent work on his social thought is largely ignored. I begin the paper by describing how recent continental philosophers of religion, in particular John Caputo, John Milbank, and Jürgen Habermas, have used Kierkegaard in order to address social questions. Then I show how recent work on Kierkegaard’s social thought – namely, his social ontology and his account of community – that can enrich discussion in recent continental philosophy of religion about the nature of religious community.


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