Research Conference « Fake Faiths: God, Belief, and the rationality of assent.»
The international's research conference organized by the Centre for Theology and Philosophy of Religions (TheiRs) and the Chair of Philosophy at the Faculty of Theology takes place in Luzern from July 3 to the 5th. It will address the afformentioned questions and follow three main strands of investigation.
Necessity of reality
One important debate that the speakers will address is if faith needs to involve assent to propositions that correspond to reality. There is a long tradition of agnosticism that says religious beliefs do not need to correspond to reality. This view has recently been given a rigorous articulation in the form of so-called religious fictionalism. Religious fictionalism says that religious beliefs can be treated in an analogous way to how we treat beliefs about works of fiction. For example, consider the proposition ‘Sherlock Holmes lives on Baker Street’. That might seem like a true proposition, yet Sherlock Holmes is not a real person, so the proposition does not correspond to reality. What a fictionalist says is that the proposition is true in the fictional story of Sherlock Holmes. The religious fictionalist says that one can give a similar assessment of religious claims like ‘Jesus Christ is God incarnate’. The idea is that religious fictionalism might provide the agnostic with a way to have religious faith without assenting to propositions that correspond to reality. However, as one might expect, other philosophers will find this to be a fake faith, and argue that genuine faith requires assent to propositions that do in fact correspond to reality.
Prove and trust God?
Another important debate concerns the rationality of religious beliefs. Do religious beliefs require evidence, and if so, what does that evidence look like?
One final debate focuses on the nature of God and the role that plays in religious faith. Religious faith is placing one's trust in the nature of God and the promises that God has made to humanity. Religious faith requires orienting one's life around God's commands, and cultivating particular emotional and moral character traits in the pursuit of having a close relationship with God. This raises a series of important questions. Is God a trustworthy being? Is God the kind of being that one can develop a close, personal relationship with? Answers to such questions depend on what God is like, and there are many rival models of God throughout history and today. Since each Abrahamic religion makes different claims about the nature of God, and the commands and promises that God makes, it is crucial to develop a healthy debate over the question of God's trustworthiness.
The conference gathers internationally renowned scholars from leading faculties all over the world. Speakers include: Katherine Dormandy (Innsbruck), Amber Griffioen (Duke), Roberto di Ceglie (Vatican City), Tasia Scrutton (Leeds), Simon Hewitt (Leeds), Benham Zolghadr (Munich) and, last but not least, ours Giovanni Ventimiglia (TheiRs Director at Lucerne), Ryan Mullins (Lucerne) and Ursula Schumacher (Lucerne).
Given the diversity of the speakers' religious backgrounds, research interests and intellectual perspectives, this conference is in a unique position to lay the groundwork for new research and debates on God, beliefs, and the rationality of assent within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Also, the conference will be an opportunity for the scholars of the University of Lucerne to present and get expert feedback on their most recent research results.
Inputs for current and future research projects
Indeed, the topics of the conference are also relevant about some of the strands of the research projects currently being developed under the supervision of Giovanni Ventimiglia and financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). Particularly relevant are the project on the Medieval reception of Aristotle's doctrine of the senses of being which involves researchers both in the Latin and Arabic traditions (Dr. Mostafa Najafi, Dr. Marta Borgo, Dr. Jacopo Costa and Davide Falessi); the ongoing project on Monastic and Reformed Metaphysics which focuses on the exchanges between monasteries and Reformed schools in early modern Switzerland (employees: Dr. Chiara Paladini and Dr. Marco Lamanna); David Anzalone's doctoral research project (Doc.CH) on the Medieval reception of Plato's doctrine of Being and its theological repercussions in the Abrahamic religions.
While it brings together leading experts in the philosophy of religions, the research conference also includes a session for graduate students selected by a committee of researchers from the Faculty of Theology through an open call for papers.