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Justification and Critique: The Will to Believe and the Public Nature of Religious Belief
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology, Studies in Faith and Ideologies, Philosophy of Religion. (Impact of religion)
2016 (English)In: William James Studies, ISSN 1933-8295, Vol. 12, no 2, 28-51 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

“The Will to Believe” remains one of the most intriguing and controversial pragmatic contributions to philosophy of religion. Richard Rorty has offered an interesting analysis of its controversial character and suggests that we should see James as arguing for a privatization of religion: the right to adopt a believing attitude is limited to those private projects that in no way affect others. I propose another reading that (a) acknowledges that religious (and other existential commitments) have an inevitably public dimension and (b) uses that element as a vehicle for critical reflection. To that end, I make a heuristic distinction between two phases of inquiry that I label justification and critique, and go on to argue that when combined with a pragmatic philosophical anthropology, a Jamesian approach helps clear the ground for a more comprehensive critical reflection on religion and religious traditions. Whereas Rorty sees any acknowledgement of a public dimension of religious belief as a threat to democracy, I believe that we can rather say that such acknowledgements offer resources for those who seek to develop more democratic forms of religion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 12, no 2, 28-51 p.
Keyword [en]
James, Rorty, will to believe, pragmatism
National Category
Religious Studies
Research subject
Philosophy of Religion
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-220621OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-220621DiVA: diva2:705834
Impact of religion
Available from: 2014-03-18 Created: 2014-03-18 Last updated: 2016-10-19

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