Religion:Religious epistemology

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Short description: Approach to epistemological questions from a religious perspective

Religious epistemology as a broad label covers any approach to epistemological questions from a religious perspective, or attempts to understand the epistemological issues that come from religious belief. The questions which epistemologists may ask about any particular belief also apply to religious beliefs and propositions: whether they seem rational, justified, warranted, reasonable, based on evidence and so on. Religious views also influence epistemological theories, such as in the case of Reformed epistemology.[1]

Reformed epistemology has developed in contemporary Christian religious epistemology, as in the work of Alvin Plantinga (born 1932), William P. Alston (1921-2009), Nicholas Wolterstorff (born 1932) and Kelly James Clark,[2] as a critique of and alternative to the idea of "evidentialism" of the sort proposed by W. K. Clifford (1845-1879).[3][4] Alvin Plantinga, for instance, is critical of the evidentialist analysis of knowledge provided by Richard Feldman and by Earl Conee.[5][6]

D. Z. Phillips (1934-2006) takes this further and says that the argument of the reformed epistemologists goes further and challenges a view he dubs "foundationalism":

The essence of the Reformed challenge is to accuse the foundationalist of claiming to have a criterion of rationality which, in fact, he does not possess. By means of this alleged criterion the foundationalist claims to discern which epistemic practices are rational and which are not. Non-rational practices, he claims, include those of religion.[7]

Much work in recent epistemology of religion goes beyond debates over foundationalism and reformed epistemology to consider contemporary issues deriving from social epistemology (especially concerning the epistemology of testimony, or the epistemology of disagreement), or formal epistemology's use of probability theory.[8] Other notable work draws on the idea that knowing God is akin to knowing a person, which is not reducible to knowing propositions about a person.[9]

Some work in recent epistemology of religion discusses various challenges from psychology, cognitive science or evolutionary biology to the rationality or justification of religious beliefs. Some argue that evolutionary explanations of religious belief undermine its rationality.[10] Others responded to these arguments.[11]

See also


  1. Clark, Kelly James (October 2, 2004). "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 
  2. Clark, Kelly James (March 1990). Return to reason: a critique of Enlightenment evidentialism and defense of reason and belief in God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-0456-3. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  3. Wolterstorff, Nicholas (1995). Divine discourse: philosophical reflections on the claim that God speaks. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 13–16. ISBN 978-0-521-47557-0. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  4. van Woudenberg, René (2008). "Chapter 3: Reformed Epistemology". in Copan, Paul; Meister, Chad. Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-3990-8. 
  5. Feldman, R.; Conee, E. (July 1, 1985). "Evidentialism". Philosophical Studies (Kluwer Academic Publishers) 48: 15–34. doi:10.1007/BF00372404. ISSN 1573-0883. 
  6. Plantinga, Alvin (1993). Warrant and Proper Function. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 185–93. ISBN 978-0-19-507864-0. 
  7. Phillips, D. Z. (1988). Faith After Foundationalism. London; New York: Routledge. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-415-00333-9. 
  8. Benton, Matthew A. (2018-04-22). Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198798705. 
  9. Stump, Eleonore (2010). Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199277421. , and Benton, Matthew (2018). "God and Interpersonal Knowledge". Res Philosophica 95 (3): 421–447. doi:10.11612/resphil.1666. 
  10. Wilkins, John S.; Griffiths, Paul E. (2012). "Evolutionary debunking arguments in three domains". in Dawes, Gregory; Maclaurin, James. Evolutionary debunking arguments in three domains. Routledge. pp. 133–146. doi:10.4324/9780203086131-14. ISBN 9781138108929. 
  11. Van Eyghen, Hans (2019). "Is supernatural belief unreliably formed?". International Journal for Philosophy of Religion: 1–18. 

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