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The Monist

Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2013

Naturalizing Religious Belief

Paul Draper, Ryan Nichols
Pages 420-446
DOI: 10.5840/monist201396319

Diagnosing Bias in Philosophy of Religion

Work in philosophy of religion exhibits at least four symptoms of poor health: it is too partisan, too polemical, too narrow in its focus, and too often evaluated using criteria that are theological or religious instead of philosophical. Our diagnosis is that, because of the emotional and psychosocial aspects of religion, many philosophers of religion suffer from cognitive biases and group influence. We support this diagnosis in two ways. First, we examine work in psychology on cognitive biases and their affective triggers. This work supports the view that, while cognitive biases are no doubt a problem in all inquiry and in all areas of philosophy, they are particularly damaging to inquiry in philosophy of religion. Second, we examine work in social and evolutionary psychology on religious sociality and its attendant emotions. This work establishes that the coalitional features of religion are correlated with group bias, and we contend that this bias is also harmful to inquiry in philosophy of religion. We close by offering both a prognosis and recommendations for treatment.

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