I define the primary sense of philosophy of religion as the work of more universal philosophers who have something interesting to say about religion, for instance, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Whitehead, Dewey, Tu Weiming, and Cheng Chungying. In the contemporary sense, philosophy of religion is based on a comparative understanding of East Asian, South Asian, West Asian, Native American, and African religions.
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My research has always involved the comparative study of religion and developing indigenous Yoruba theory on and about religion, making the Global-Critical Philosophy of Religion project a natural fit. Some of the traditions I study —especially the Yoruba tradition of Ifa—have their own perspectives and critical approaches to other religious traditions, and his work often addresses how African traditions have responded creatively to encounters with other religious traditions on the continent and in diaspora.
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Philosophies of Religion: A Global and Critical Approach is an undergraduate textbook in philosophy of religion. It is the first textbook in philosophy of religion to rethink the basic topics and questions of philosophy of religion in a manner that is equitably inclusive of a global diversity of religious traditions. It also engages critical theoretical and methodological issues in the academic study of religion, especially as they implicate issues of power regarding who speaks for and represents religious traditions and philosophies.
Each chapter includes religious philosophies from East Asia, South Asia, West Africa, and Native North America, along with traditional material from the Abrahamic religious traditions and modern-academic philosophy of religion. Most chapters explore philosophical questions with regard to either the “self” or the “cosmos,” encouraging students not only to explore a global diversity of religious philosophies but also to philosophize about this content. The textbook therefore avoids the “God-first” approach of traditional philosophy of religion that marginalizes and denigrates many religious traditions.
Readers discover an approach to philosophy of religion that engages our contemporary access to information about the world’s diversity. The textbook includes a global diversity of religious philosophies (East Asia, South Asia, West Asia, West Africa, North America, and Europe). The objective is to restructure the basic topics and questions of philosophy of religion so they are appropriate to a variety of religious philosophies, and, to engage critical issues in the academic study of religion, especially as they implicate issues of power regarding who speaks for and represents religious traditions and philosophies.
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Gereon Kopf and Purushottama Bilimoria, Editors.
How can a variety of different approaches be put into dialogue within one book? A dialogue between a multiplicity of equal voices eschews the notion of a “meta-narrative” (métarécits) or a dominant paradigm. The volume has has multiple possible beginnings and endings, since it contains a variety of narratives. In conceiving of this volume, we are inspired by the Mahāyāna Buddhist image of Indra’s net and Mark Taylor’s, albeit unreadable, Hiding. The former presents an image of the cosmos with no center and infinite entry points, the latter a book that is non-linear in design.
The multi-entry approach proposes to rethink our discipline by introducing 18 different ways to envision philosophy of religion. “18,” of course, is an arbitrary number that emerged from the participants in the GCPR project.
The approach has five fundamental features.
1) A multi-entry approach shifts the focus from traditions such as “Christianity” or “indigenous religions” to systems such as “monotheism” and “communalism.”
2) Systems are driven by governing paradigms. Each paradigm determines unique questions and concerns with regard to what may be “philosophy” and/of “religion.”
3) Each system has a concrete historical context that has shaped its development, even if it can be thought through and applied independent from this particular context.
4) Each system develops its own language (translation into English will be an interesting problem) to envision what we call “religion” and “philosophy.” Every author either adopts an existing language or develops a new one.
5) All systems are regarded equal. There will be no overarching paradigm or language. Every chapter engages two other chapters on its own terms.