The seminar takes an interdisciplinary approach to two questions that lie at the intersection of epistemology and the study of religion. (1) Is religious belief subject to epistemological standards continuous with those that we apply to everyday or scientific questions? (2) In light of (1), is there a genuine conflict between religious and more scientifically oriented ways of understanding reality? In addition to exploring these questions from philosophical and theological perspectives, the seminar will add historical and anthropological dimensions in order to assess whether many contemporary disputes over ‘religious belief’ may result in part from a peculiarly modern conception of what it means to ‘believe’ something in the first place.
In addition to forming a bridge between the faculties of Divinity and Philosophy, our interdisciplinary approach will be of interest to those pursuing questions of religion and belief in Cambridge Faculties and Departments such as History, English, Psychology, and Anthropology. The wider need arises from the fact that the public debate on religion, nowadays probably as ill-tempered as at any time since the Inquisition, is generally conducted in terms that simply take for granted that the answer to (1) is ‘yes’. The result is that much contemporary discourse often ends up treating ‘religious belief’ as formal intellectual assent to a list of metaphysical articles, thereby creating a polarized atmosphere of dispute. By seeking a richer examination of what ‘belief’ might mean philosophically, or has meant historically, the seminar will contribute to more fruitful engagement with the relation between scientific and religious questions, both on the academic as well as the public level.
Daniel H Weiss is a CRASSH Mellon Teaching Fellow during Michaelmas 2014. He is also a CRASSH Early Career Fellowin Lent Term 2015.
Dr Daniel Weiss is Polonsky-Coexist Lecturer in Jewish Studies and Fellow and Director of Studies in Theology and Religious Studies at Murray Edwards College. His research interests include modern Jewish religious thought and philosophy (esp. Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas), theories and practices of interreligious dialogue and communication, the (contested) relationship between scripture and philosophy, both in the Jewish intellectual tradition and more generally, aspects of ethics, hermeneutics and theopolitics in classical rabbinic literature Publications include 'Embodied Cognition in Classical Rabbinic Literature.' Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, 48.3 (September 2013), 788-807 and 'The Fruits of Contradiction: Evolution, Cooperation and 'Ethics in an Inter-Religious Context.' Studies in Christian Ethics, 26.2 (May 2013), 186-195.
Mellon Teaching Fellow 2014-15
August 2014 - December 2014