Philosophy Epistemology of Religious Belief
by
Duncan Pritchard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0104

Introduction

Interest in the epistemology of religion has experienced a resurgence since the late 1980s, prompted for the most part by the rise of reformed epistemology, which has energized the debate and brought this topic into mainstream epistemology. Alongside standard topics in the epistemology of religion, such as that concerning the effectiveness of putative demonstrations of God’s existence, new topics are also coming to the fore in the contemporary debate, such as the issue of how the epistemology of disagreement relates to specifically religious disagreements.

General Overviews

The dramatic increase in interest in the epistemology of religion is reflected in the wide range of overview articles that are now available. Wolterstorff 1999 and Plantinga 2009 share the distinctive merit of having been written by two of the leading figures in the reformed epistemology movement. Plantinga 2009 needs to be read in conjunction with Bergmann 2009, since the latter covers ground left uncovered by the former. Forrest 2013 and Clark 2009 are two excellent introductions to the topic that are also freely available on the Internet. Plantinga and Tooley 2008 is a series of exchanges between two prominent philosophers on the epistemology of religion. Bishop 2006 is an overview of contemporary philosophy of religion rather than the epistemology of religious belief, but it would still be very useful to someone interested in the latter topic because it approaches the philosophy of religion largely via epistemological issues. Quinn 2002 is an in-depth survey of the main issues in the epistemology of religious belief, whereas Zagzebski 2010 is far more introductory, though it has the additional merit of being very up to date.

  • Bergmann, Michael. “Religious Belief, Epistemology of: Recent Developments.” In A Companion to Epistemology. Edited by Jonathan Dancy, Ernest Sosa, and Matthias Steup, 697–699. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This piece should be read in conjunction with Plantinga 2009, since it covers ground left uncovered by that article. Collectively, they represent an excellent up-to-date overview of the main issues in regard to the epistemology of religion.

    Find this resource:

    • Bishop, John. “The Philosophy of Religion: A Programmatic Overview.” Philosophy Compass 1.5 (2006): 506–534.

      DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2006.00039.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Although this article is focused on philosophy of religion rather than specifically on the epistemology of religion, the author’s approach to this topic is primarily epistemological, so it will be helpful to those interested in contemporary epistemology of religion.

      Find this resource:

      • Clark, Kelly James. “Religious Epistemology.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Bradley Dowden and James Fieser. Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College, 2009.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A thorough and up-to-date overview of the main issues in contemporary epistemology of religion.

        Find this resource:

        • Forrest, Peter. “The Epistemology of Religion.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2013.

          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          A comprehensive introduction to the main topics in the epistemology of religion.

          Find this resource:

          • Plantinga, Alvin. “Religious Belief, Epistemology of.” In A Companion to Epistemology. Edited by Jonathan Dancy, Ernest Sosa, and Matthias Steup, 692–697. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009.

            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            This relatively concise introduction to reformed epistemology, while somewhat partisan, is thus of intrinsic interest. This article should be read in conjunction with Bergmann 2009, since the latter covers ground left uncovered by this article. Collectively, they represent an excellent up-to-date overview of the main issues in regard to the epistemology of religion.

            Find this resource:

            • Plantinga, Alvin, and Michael Tooley. Knowledge of God. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

              DOI: 10.1002/9781444301304Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              An extremely useful book, this is a series of exchanges between two prominent philosophers on the epistemology of religion.

              Find this resource:

              • Quinn, Philip L. “Epistemology in Philosophy of Religion.” In The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology. Edited by P. K. Moser, 513–538. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

                DOI: 10.1093/0195130057.003.0019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                This is an in-depth discussion of the epistemology of religion by one of the leading figures in the debate.

                Find this resource:

                • Wolterstorff, Nicholas. “Epistemology of Religion.” In The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. Edited by John Greco and Ernest Sosa, 303–324. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999.

                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  An excellent overview of the epistemology of religion. It is written by one of the main philosophers behind so-called reformed epistemology, which has been one of the most widely discussed proposals in religious epistemology in recent years. While offering a snapshot of the main issues in the contemporary debate, this article also has the added virtue of introducing some of the main historical discussions relevant to the contemporary debate.

                  Find this resource:

                  • Zagzebski, Linda. “Religious Knowledge.” In The Routledge Companion to Epistemology. Edited by Sven Bernecker and Duncan H. Pritchard, 393–399. New York: Routledge, 2010.

                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    This article offers an introductory overview of the main issues in the epistemology of religion. It is written by one of the leading figures in the debate and has the added merit of being up to date.

                    Find this resource:

                    Anthologies

                    The classic anthology in contemporary epistemology of religion is Plantinga and Wolterstorff 1983. This source has played a large part in the surge of interest in reformed epistemology since the late 1980s, which has, in turn, revitalized epistemology of religion more generally. Helm 1999 is an excellent resource for those working in the epistemology of religion, since it brings together not only a number of important contemporary readings, but also a wealth of relevant historical texts. Geivett and Sweetman 1992 offers a well-organized and thorough selection of readings in contemporary epistemology of religion, usefully divided into expository and critical readings. These are the only three anthologies currently available that exclusively focus on the epistemology of religion, but a number of other more general anthologies exist that focus, in large or significant part, on this topic. Audi and Wainwright 1986 is mostly concerned with the epistemology of religion, though this book can be somewhat difficult to find now. Loades and Rue 1991 and Clark 2008 both contain an excellent selection of classic contemporary papers on faith and rationality, with very little overlap; the latter also includes some relevant historical readings. Peterson and VanArragon 2003 is a collection of new articles that covers a selection of topics. For each topic, two authors take opposing views and several topics covered in this volume are relevant to the epistemology of religion (e.g., concerning religious experience, whether one can be justified in believing in miracles, and the cosmological argument for God’s existence). Pojman 2003 reprints a fairly extensive range of classic and contemporary readings in the epistemology of religion. The volume is organized into sections covering particular topics, with the editor offering a useful introduction to the articles reprinted as part of each section.

                    • Audi, Robert, and William J. Wainwright, eds. Rationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment: New Essays on the Philosophy of Religion. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.

                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      This volume is mostly concerned with the epistemology of religion and contains a number of important articles that are available only in this text. Note that this book can be somewhat difficult to find now.

                      Find this resource:

                      • Clark, Kelly James, ed. Readings in the Philosophy of Religion. 2d ed. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2008.

                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        Reprints a significant number of classic articles in the epistemology of religion, both historical and contemporary.

                        Find this resource:

                        • Geivett, R. Douglas, and Brendan Sweetman, eds. Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          This anthology offers a well-organized and thorough selection of readings in contemporary epistemology of religion, usefully divided into expository and critical readings.

                          Find this resource:

                          • Helm, Paul, ed. Faith and Reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            An excellent resource for those working in the epistemology of religion, since it brings together not only a number of important contemporary readings, but also a wealth of relevant historical texts.

                            Find this resource:

                            • Loades, Ann, and Loyal D. Rue, eds. Contemporary Classics in the Philosophy of Religion. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1991.

                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              Although this volume is not focused on epistemology of religion, it does contain an excellent selection of important contemporary papers on faith and rationality.

                              Find this resource:

                              • Peterson, Michael L., and Raymond J. VanArragon, eds. Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                This is a collection of new articles that cover a selection of topics. For each topic, two authors take opposing views and several topics covered in this volume are relevant to the epistemology of religion (e.g., concerning religious experience, whether one can be justified in believing in miracles, and the cosmological argument for God’s existence).

                                Find this resource:

                                • Plantinga, Alvin, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, eds. Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  The classic anthology in contemporary epistemology of religion that has played a large part in the surge of interest in reformed epistemology since 1990.

                                  Find this resource:

                                  • Pojman, Louis P., ed. Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003.

                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    This book offers a fairly extensive range of classic and contemporary readings in the epistemology of religion. The volume is organized into sections covering particular topics, with the editor offering a useful introduction to the articles reprinted as part of each section.

                                    Find this resource:

                                    Arguments for God’s Existence

                                    Historically, the dominant way of defending the epistemic standing of religious belief was by appeal to the evidence provided by reason and experience, what is known as natural theology. In its strongest form, natural theology attempts to demonstrate God’s existence, and key contemporary works that fall into this category are Plantinga 1974, Craig 1979, Braine 1988, and Miller 1992. Less ambitiously, some philosophers, following the influential book Swinburne 1979, attempt something weaker, such as an abductive or a probabilistic defense of the existence of God. Mitchell 1973 and Forrest 1996 fall into this category. See Oppy 2006 for a thorough discussion of the various arguments for God’s existence, with strong historical emphasis.

                                    Criticism of Arguments for God’s Existence

                                    The classic text for critical discussion of the various arguments for God’s existence is Mackie 1982, but see also the more recent Sobel 2004. Martin and Monnier 2003 brings together an impressive collection of articles critical of arguments for God’s existence, including papers by J. L. Mackie, John Pollock, and Anthony Kenny, among others. See Gale and Reichenbach 2003 for a useful recent symposium on the effectiveness of the cosmological argument for God’s existence (albeit one that is on the whole broadly sympathetic to this argument).

                                    • Gale, Richard M., and Bruce R. Reichenbach. “Is God’s Existence the Best Explanation of the Universe?” In Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by Michael J. Peterson and Raymond J. VanArragon, 95–134. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      This is a symposium between Gale and Reichenbach. Reichenbach offers a defense of the cosmological argument for God’s existence. Gale responds by criticizing this argument, but he also claims that a cosmological argument that has more limited ambitions could succeed.

                                      Find this resource:

                                      • Mackie, J. L. The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982.

                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        A systematic and sophisticated critique of arguments for the existence of God. Very influential.

                                        Find this resource:

                                        • Martin, Michael, and Ricki Monnier, eds. The Impossibility of God. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2003.

                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          An anthology that collects a number of important papers making the case against the existence of God. Contains contributions from J. L. Mackie, John Pollock, Anthony Kenny, Quentin Smith, and Michael Martin, among others.

                                          Find this resource:

                                          • Sobel, Jordan H. Logic and Theism: Arguments for and against Beliefs in God. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            A thorough and careful critical discussion of the main arguments for the existence of God.

                                            Find this resource:

                                            Religious Skepticism

                                            Ever since Hume, a rich skeptical vein of debate has run through the literature on the philosophy of religion. In the contemporary literature, the figurehead for such skeptics has been Antony Flew, who argues that unless we have strong positive reasons to believe in God (Flew believes we do not), then we are rationally obliged to be atheists (Flew 1972). See also Scriven 1966 on this point. Martin 1990 offers a more recent in-depth defense of skepticism about religious belief, whereas Moser 2008 makes the anti-skeptical case for religion.

                                            • Flew, Antony. “The Presumption of Atheism.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 2.1 (1972): 29–46.

                                              DOI: 10.1080/00455091.1972.10716861Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              A much discussed defense of the idea that atheism occupies a kind of “default” position, such that if there are not adequate positive reasons available to believe in God, then one is rationally obliged to be an atheist. See also Scriven 1966.

                                              Find this resource:

                                              • Martin, Michael. Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.

                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                An in-depth defense of atheism that presents a thoroughgoing skepticism about religious belief.

                                                Find this resource:

                                                • Moser, Paul K. “Religious Skepticism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism. Edited by John Greco, 200–224. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  Offers a defense of religious belief from various skeptical challenges.

                                                  Find this resource:

                                                  • Scriven, Michael. “The Presumption of Atheism.” In Primary Philosophy. By Michael Scriven. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.

                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Offers a very clear and accessible defense of the idea that unless we have strong positive reasons to believe in God, we are rationally obliged to be atheists. See also Flew 1972.

                                                    Find this resource:

                                                    Fideism

                                                    In marked contrast to natural theology, the fideistic idea holds that religious belief does not require grounds (in its strongest form, the claim is that religious belief is in some sense opposed to reason). This view is often attributed to Wittgenstein 1966, and a number of writers in the contemporary literature argue for a specifically Wittgensteinian form of fideism. For two classic defenses of this view, see Malcolm 1977 and Phillips 1970. For an important critical treatment, see Nielsen 1967. For a recent presentation of the main themes in Wittgensteinian fideism, written by one of its chief proponents, see Phillips 2005. For a strong contemporary defense of a form of fideism that takes its inspiration from the work of Kierkegaard, see Evans 1998. For a helpful overview of the philosophical issues with regard to fideism, see Amesbury 2016.

                                                    • Amesbury, Richard. “Fideism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2016.

                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      A very helpful overview of the main issues in this debate.

                                                      Find this resource:

                                                      • Evans, C. Stephen. Faith beyond Reason: A Kierkegaardian Account. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        An important contemporary defense of fideism that takes its inspiration from Kierkegaard.

                                                        Find this resource:

                                                        • Malcolm, Norman. “The Groundlessness of Belief.” In Reason and Religion. Edited by Stuart C. Brown. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977.

                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          One of the classic papers on Wittgensteinian fideism.

                                                          Find this resource:

                                                          • Nielsen, Kai. “Wittgensteinian Fideism.” Philosophy 42.161 (1967): 191–209.

                                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0031819100001285Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            An important critical treatment of Wittgensteinian fideism.

                                                            Find this resource:

                                                            • Phillips, Dewi Z. Faith and Philosophical Enquiry. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970.

                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              An influential defense of Wittgensteinian fideism by one its chief proponents.

                                                              Find this resource:

                                                              • Phillips, Dewi Z. “Wittgensteinianism: Logic, Reality, and God.” In Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by William J. Wainwright, 447–471. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

                                                                DOI: 10.1093/0195138090.003.0019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                A helpful recent survey of the main themes in Wittgensteinian fideism, written by one of its main advocates.

                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief. Edited by Cyril Barrett. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.

                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  Although a number of aspects of Wittgenstein’s writings are relevant to the philosophy of religion, it is this text that has inspired most of the interest in the brand of fideism with which he is associated.

                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                  Quasi-Fideism

                                                                  A recent development with regard to the epistemology of religious belief has concerned quasi-fideism, which is meant to be rooted in the work of Newman 2014 (originally published in 1870) and Wittgenstein 1969. The claim is that while religious commitment is ultimately a matter of a rational faith rather than belief, this does not set it apart from ordinary non-religious belief since this also incorporates a rational commitment at its core. If that is correct, then the rationality of one’s basic religious commitments is no bar to one’s other nonbasic religious commitments being rationally held. See Pritchard 2012 for a statement of the position. See Pritchard 2015 for a development of the position with the specific historical antecedents of Newman and Wittgenstein in mind.

                                                                  • Newman, John Henry. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. Repr. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2014.

                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Originally published in 1870. An important and influential account of the epistemology of religious belief, which arguably offers a quasi-fideistic thesis. This book almost certainly influenced Wittgenstein’s On Certainty (Wittgenstein 1969).

                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                    • Pritchard, Duncan H. “Wittgensteinian Quasi Fideism.” In Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Vol. 4. Edited by Jonathan L. Kvanvig, 145–159. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      The first detailed account of what a Wittgensteinian quasi-fideism might look like, and how it relates to other positions in the contemporary literature.

                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                      • Pritchard, Duncan H. “Wittgenstein on Faith and Reason: The Influence of Newman.” In God, Truth and Other Enigmas. Edited by Miroslaw Szatkowski, 141–164. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2015.

                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Offers an overview not just of quasi-fideism, but also of how this view is arguably rooted in the work of John Henry Newman.

                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                        • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. On Certainty. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe and Georg H. von Wright. Translated by Denis Paul and G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell, 1969.

                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Presents an account of a so-called hinge epistemology, which, when applied to the rationality of religious belief, arguably results in a position that can be understood along quasi-fideistic lines.

                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                          Reformed Epistemology

                                                                          The main reason why epistemology of religion has witnessed such growth since the late 1980s is the interest in reformed epistemology. This view argues against the austere epistemic demands imposed on religious belief by evidentialism and instead advances a new way of thinking about the epistemology of religious belief on which it is far more plausible that such belief can enjoy a positive epistemic standing. The foremost exponent of reformed epistemology is Plantinga, who has argued for this view in a number of works. Although it is difficult to select two key texts from this body of work, Plantinga 1983 offers a useful overview of the main elements of reformed epistemology as the author understands it, whereas Plantinga 2000 presents an in-depth and more up-to-date book-length account of his view. Wolterstorff 1976 has also been extremely influential in this debate. See also Plantinga 1986 for a subtle account of the historical background to the evidentialist thesis objected to by reformed epistemologists such as Wolterstorff. Greco 2007 is an excellent recent overview of the proposal. See also Bolos and Scott 2016.

                                                                          • Bolos, Anthony, and Kyle Scott. “Reformed Epistemology.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Bradley Dowden and James Fieser. Richmond: Virginia Commonwealth University, 2016.

                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Useful overview of the contemporary literature on reformed epistemology.

                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                            • Greco, John. “Reformed Epistemology.” In The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Edited by Chad Meister and Paul Copan, 629–639. London: Routledge, 2007.

                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              An excellent recent overview of the reformed epistemology proposal.

                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                              • Plantinga, Alvin. “Reason and Belief in God.” In Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God. Edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, 16–93. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                A clear and accessible early statement of reformed epistemology from its foremost exponent.

                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                • Plantinga, Alvin. “The Migration of the Theistic Arguments: From Natural Theology to Evidentialist Apologetics.” In Rationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment: New Essays on the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by Robert Audi and William J. Wainwright, 38–81. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.

                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  A very useful overview of the historical background to the evidentialist thesis that reformed epistemologists object to.

                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                  • Plantinga, Alvin. Warranted Christian Belief. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/0195131932.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    An in-depth book-length account of his view from the foremost exponent of reformed epistemology.

                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                    • Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Reason within the Bounds of Religion. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976.

                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      A tremendously influential work in the development of reformed epistemology.

                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                      Criticisms of Reformed Epistemology

                                                                                      A wealth of critical literature has appeared on reformed epistemology. Some of it has been quite trenchant in opposing the view; Kretzmann 2000 falls into this category. Alston 1985 is interesting in that it exposes some tensions between different forms of reformed epistemology, in this case the variety endorsed in Alston 1985 and the more influential proposal put forward by Plantinga. Pritchard 2003 also argues for modest alterations to the view. A helpful introduction to some of the critical issues is provided by the exchange between Quinn 1985 and Plantinga 1986, which is also usefully discussed in Hasker 1998. Zagzebski 2010 critiques reformed epistemology by arguing that the appropriate analogy with religious knowledge is not perceptual knowledge but rather ethical knowledge.

                                                                                      Religious Experience

                                                                                      One of the key topics in the epistemology of religion is whether religious experiences can offer epistemic support for religious belief and, if so, how. In the contemporary literature this debate has tended to run side-by-side with the discussion regarding reformed epistemology. This is because one way of developing the reformed epistemology proposal is by claiming that once we reject the austere epistemic demands imposed on religious belief by evidentialism, then the path is clear to allow religious experiences to justify religious belief in much the same way that perceptual experiences can justify perceptual belief. For the key contemporary defense of this line of thought, see Alston 1991. See also Yandell 1993, which has the unusual feature of considering religious experiences from the perspective of both Eastern and Western religions. For a helpful recent symposium on this topic, with each participant taking an opposing line, see Alston and Fales 2003. See Kwan 2006 for a detailed critical discussion of the recent literature on this topic. See Alston 2005 and Gellman 2005 for two recent overviews of the main issues in this area.

                                                                                      • Alston, William P. Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        This is the key contemporary text discussing the possibility that religious experience can justify religious belief in much the same way that perceptual experience can justify perceptual belief. Very influential.

                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                        • Alston, William P. “Mysticism and Perceptual Awareness of God.” In The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by William E. Mann, 198–219. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          A useful recent survey of the main issues in this debate, from one of the foremost figures working in this area.

                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                          • Alston, William P., and Evan Fales. “Does Religious Experience Justify Religious Belief?” In Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by Michael J. Peterson and Raymond J. VanArragon, 135–163. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            This is a symposium between Alston and Fales, with Alston arguing that religious experience can justify religious belief and Fales arguing that it cannot. It offers a useful overview of the main issues in this debate.

                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                            • Gellman, Jerome I. “Mysticism and Religious Experience.” In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion. Edited by William J. Wainwright, 138–167. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/0195138090.003.0007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              A useful recent survey of the main issues in this debate.

                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                              • Kwan, Kai-man. “Can Religious Experience Provide Justification for the Belief in God? The Debate in Contemporary Analytic Philosophy.” Philosophy Compass 1.6 (2006): 640–661.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2006.00037.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                A detailed critical discussion of the recent literature on this topic.

                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                • Yandell, Keith E. The Epistemology of Religious Experience. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  An important recent defense of the idea that religious experience can justify religious belief. Unusually, the author considers religious experiences from the perspective of both Western and Eastern religions.

                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                  Science and Religious Belief

                                                                                                  The conflict between science and religion is of course long-standing, but it is notable that the conflict has become more heated in recent years, in large part because of the debate surrounding creationism (in particular, whether this view should be taught alongside evolutionary theory in public schools). Kitcher 1982 is a seminal discussion of the issues regarding creationism. Plantinga 1993 offers a spirited defense of religious belief in light of the challenge posed by science via an influential argument to the effect that the combination of evolutionary theory and naturalism is self-defeating. See Beilby 2002 for a collection of new articles discussing Plantinga’s argument, along with a response from Plantinga himself. See Padgett 2008 for a good up-to-date critical discussion of the relationship between science and religion, and see Ratzsch and Worrall 2003 for a very helpful symposium on this issue, with each participant taking an opposing position.

                                                                                                  • Beilby, James K., ed. Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002.

                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    A collection of new articles discussing the evolutionary argument against naturalism put forward Plantinga 1993. Many of the most prominent philosophers involved in this debate are represented here, including William Alston, Jerry Fodor, and Ernest Sosa. Plantinga also replies to his critics.

                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                    • Kitcher, Philip. Abusing Science: The Case against Creationism. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1982.

                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      A seminal critical discussion of creationism.

                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                      • Padgett, Alan G. “Science and Religion: Philosophical Issues.” Philosophy Compass 3.1 (2008): 222–230.

                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        A good up-to-date critical discussion of the topic.

                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                        • Plantinga, Alvin. Warrant and Proper Function. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/0195078640.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Offers a widely discussed argument to the effect that the combination of evolutionary theory and naturalism is self-defeating. In doing so, Plantinga attempts to turn the evolutionary case against religion back on science itself.

                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                          • Ratzsch, Del, and John Worrall. “Does Science Discredit Religion?” In Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by Michael J. Peterson and Raymond J. VanArragon, 59–94. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            A very helpful symposium on the relationship between science and religion, with each participant taking an opposing position.

                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                            Pluralism and Religious Disagreement

                                                                                                            One of the key problems in the philosophy of religion is how to deal with religious pluralism and, relatedly, religious disagreements. For two helpful recent overviews of the problem posed by religious diversity, see Hick 1997 and Wainwright 2005. King 2006 offers a good critical discussion of the issues in this regard. See van Inwagen 1995 for an influential defense of the idea that religious pluralism does not pose any special epistemological problems. Recently, the discussion in this area has tended to focus on the more general issue of religious disagreement, and what implications this has for religious belief. This literature draws on important recent work on the epistemology of disagreement. See especially Feldman 2007 for an influential discussion in this regard. Kraft 2007 is a good recent article on the relevance of the epistemology of disagreement to philosophy of religion. Frances 2008 motivates a distinctive kind of skepticism about religion by appealing to the epistemology of disagreement. Pritchard 2011 discusses religious disagreement in the specific context of epistemological relativism.

                                                                                                            • Feldman, Richard. “Reasonable Religious Disagreements.” In Philosophers without God: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life. Edited by Louise Antony, 194–214. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              A recent paper on the relevance of the epistemology of disagreement to philosophy of religion that is already quite influential in the field. Argues that in the context of such disagreement, one is epistemically obliged to suspend judgment.

                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                              • Frances, Bryan. “Spirituality, Expertise, and Philosophers.” In Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Vol. 1. Edited by Jonathan L. Kvanvig, 44–81. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Motivates a kind of skepticism about religion by appealing to the epistemology of disagreement.

                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                • Hick, John. “Religious Pluralism.” In A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Edited by Philip L. Quinn and Charles Taliaferro, 607–614. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  A helpful overview of the issues regarding religious pluralism from one of the main figures in the debate.

                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                  • King, Nathan L. “Religious Diversity and Its Challenges to Religious Belief.” Philosophy Compass 3.4 (2006): 830–853.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00149.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    A good critical discussion of the main issues in regard to religious diversity.

                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                    • Kraft, James. “Religious Disagreement, Externalism, and the Epistemology of Disagreement: Listening to Our Grandmothers.” Religious Studies 43.4 (2007): 417–432.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S003441250700916XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      A good recent article on the relevance of the epistemology of disagreement to philosophy of religion.

                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                      • Pritchard, Duncan H. “Epistemic Relativism, Epistemic Incommensurability, and Wittgensteinian Epistemology.” In A Companion to Relativism. Edited by Steven D. Hales, 266–285. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1002/9781444392494.ch14Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Discusses the topic of religious disagreement in the specific context of epistemological relativism. Available online.

                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                        • van Inwagen, Peter. “Non est Hick.” In The Rationality of Belief and the Plurality of Faith: Essays in Honor of William P. Alston. Edited by Thomas D. Senor, 216–241. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          An influential paper that defends the idea that religious pluralism does not pose any special epistemological problems.

                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                          • Wainwright, William J. “Competing Religious Claims.” In The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by William E. Mann, 220–241. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            A helpful overview of the issues regarding religious pluralism.

                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                            Miracles

                                                                                                                            As Hume famously pointed out, miracles pose a serious challenge to the epistemic standing of religious belief. For while belief in miracles is an essential part of most systems of religious belief, it is hard to see how one could have an adequate epistemic basis for one’s belief that a miracle has occurred, especially if one does not have firsthand experience of the event in question. Burns 1981 offers a good historical discussion of this issue. Earman 2000 is a highly critical assessment of Hume’s argument against rational belief in the existence of miracles, whereas Fogelin 2003 is a subtle defense of this argument as written by a leading epistemologist and Hume scholar. Both works have been influential in the contemporary debate. See also Levine 1989 for a subtle and in-depth exploration of the epistemological problem posed by miracles. For a good survey of this topic, see Corner 2009. See also Pritchard and Richmond 2012.

                                                                                                                            • Burns, Robert M. The Great Debate on Miracles: From Joseph Glanvill to David Hume. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1981.

                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              A solid historical discussion of the problem posed by miracles for religious belief.

                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                              • Corner, David. “Miracles.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Bradley Dowden and James Fieser, 2009.

                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                A very helpful overview of the issues regarding miracles, especially in terms of their epistemological significance.

                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                • Earman, John. Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument against Miracles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/0195127382.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  An influential critical appraisal of Hume’s argument against rational belief in the existence of miracles.

                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                  • Fogelin, Robert J. A Defense of Hume on Miracles. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    A subtle and influential defense of Hume’s argument against rational belief in the existence of miracles, written by a leading epistemologist and Hume scholar.

                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                    • Levine, Michael P. Hume and the Problem of Miracles: A Solution. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 1989.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-2245-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      A subtle and in-depth exploration of the epistemological problem posed by miracles.

                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                      • Pritchard, Duncan H., and Alasdair Richmond. “Hume on Miracles.” In Continuum Companion to Hume. Edited by Alan Bailey and Dan O’Brien, 227–245. New York: Continuum, 2012.

                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Offers an overview of the contemporary literature on Hume’s discussion of miracles, especially in terms of their epistemological significance.

                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                        back to top

                                                                                                                                        Article

                                                                                                                                        Up

                                                                                                                                        Down