Eun Young Hwang (PhD Student, Religious Ethics): “A Constructive Comparative Religious Ethical Analysis of Augustine and Xunzi: The Sacred Origin of Human Rights and Its Demand for Just Society”

Wednesday, February 3, 4:30, Swift 106 (co-sponsored with Global Christianities Workshop)


While referring to some contemporary theoretical concern for human rights grounded on the person’s potential for sacred experience (Joas) and their implication to the institutional demand not to violate the entitled access to flourishing according to some universal criteria of minimal justice (Pogge), this project engages with a comparative reading of two historically unrelated traditions, Augustine and Xunzi. I will show how Augustine and Xunzi show differences and similarities when dealing with the sacred capability of human person as the source of entitlement for human flourishing and the institutional demand of securing basic rights for human flourishing according to their culture-specific visions of personal fulfillment and social order, which all resonate with the universal concern for human rights and universal criteria of thin justice.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Anil Mundra ( in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.



Dan Wyche on Georges Friedmann and the Politics of Self-Overcoming

 Dan Wyche: “The Politics of Self-overcoming: Notes on Georges Friedmann.”

Tuesday, January 19 4:30pm, Swift 106

Pub reception to follow



For this workshop meeting, I will be presenting the sections of the first Chapter of my dissertation dealing specifically with the work of the French sociologist of science Georges Friedmann, from whom Pierre Hadot would adopt the term “spiritual exercises.” This material deals with the experiences and reasons for Freidmann’s interest in the question of practices of the self, focusing specifically on the political motivations for his turn towards these themes. By focusing on the politics of his conception of spiritual exercises, this section of the chapter will attempt to set up what I take to be two of the primary questions that confront any contemporary engagement with the question of spiritual exercises, and thus to sketch the beginnings of a response to those challenges through Friedmann’s work in this area.


The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Anil Mundra ( in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Jason Cather on Anselm’s Ontological Argument

Jason Cather (University of Chicago)

“Anselm and the Existential Fallacy”

Wednesday, December 2, 4:30 pm

Swift 200


after Unknown artist, line engraving, late 16th century

Virtually every critic of the ontological argument agrees that it is fallacious, but it is hard to find consensus on the fallacy (or fallacies) committed.  This paper covers a number of these accusations, and explains why we should not find them troubling. It then turns to an objection, offered by John Hick, that the argument in Anselm commits the existential fallacy. In focusing on this fallacy in particular, I offer a defense of Anselm against these charges. Since Anselm’s day, there has been a shift from Aristotelian understanding of existential syllogisms to Boolean interpretations. This paper will examine the significance of that shift for Anselm’s argument, and suggest how we might rescue Anselm from trouble caused by this development. No prior experience with formal logic is assumed. Reading Hick’s objection would be appreciated, though not required.

Franklin I. Gamwell (University of Chicago): “Comparative Philosophy of Religion: The Foreword Revisited”

Franklin I. Gamwell (University of Chicago): “Comparative Philosophy of Religion: The Foreword Revisited”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015, 4:30pm: Swift 106; reception to follow

Two decades ago, a series of publications called “Toward a Comparative Philosophy of Religions” helped spawn the Philosophy of Religions program at the Divinity School. Professor Gamwell, then Dean of the Divinity School, contributed “A Foreword to the Comparative Philosophy of Religions” that still resonates with the work that goes on in the PR program today. Professor Gamwell will look back on that essay and the intervening years to reflect on where the Philosophy of Religions at Chicago has come from and might be going, and what comparison has to do with it.

Please read Professor Gamwell’s “Foreword”, which is Chapter 1 of the volume Religion and Practical Reason.


Religious Studies PhD Application Clinic

Application Clinic: PhD Programs in Religious Studies

Wednesday, November 18, 2015, 4:30pm: Swift 200

RSVP (Nov 1)

Are you applying to PhD programs in Religious Studies? Let us help you! The Philosophy of Religions Club and Workshop is teaming up with several other groups to offer an application clinic, in which current Div School PhD students will read your statement of purpose and offer constructive feedback to help you score that offer.


RSVP to Workshop Coordinator Anil Mundra ( by November 1st.

If you want to participate please tell us:

  1. a) what area/departments you intend to apply for;
  2. b) whether you are comfortable having your statement read and discussed by the whole group, or would prefer a one-on-one critique.

We will need you to send us the draft of your statement of purpose (NOT your writing sample) by November 11th so the readers have time to formulate their comments.

Then we will meet on November 18th to discuss the statements (over dinner and beverages to take the edge off!)


The PR Workshop

Anil Mundra on Naturalness and Normativity in Religious Studies

Anil Mundra (University of Chicago):

“The Natural, The Normative, and the Study of Religion”

Wednesday, October 28th, 4:30pm: Swift 200

The religious studies academy routinely opposes descriptive or historical to prescriptive or constructive methodologies—witness the categories of the AAR’s book awards, and the committees of the University of Chicago’s Divinity School. Such a bifurcation reflects an ambivalence about the nature of religion: some of us are to conceive of religion as naturally or historically determined, such that it is subject to an explanatory analysis; others must view it as a free activity, such that it is susceptible to injunctive intervention. The dilemma, in short, is whether the academic study of religion is to be normatively evaluative or not. Integrating the insights of thinkers from Hegel to Donald Davidson, I will argue that normativity is an ineliminable (even if often implicit or invisible) element of humanistic description; and that, insofar as religious studies claims to study human agents it inevitably has humanistic dimensions. These dimensions depend on the ability of scholars to recognize the equal humanity of those that they study, which proceeds not only from an imperative to fairness, but more rigorously from the admission that both scholars and their subjects are at once historically conditioned and free.

CONFERENCE – Martin Buber: Philosopher of Dialogue


Martin Buber: Philosopher of Dialogue

Sunday, October 18, 2015 to Monday, October 19, 2015

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership & the University of Chicago Divinity School

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Buber’s death, this two-day conference brings together leading scholars from around the country to generate new questions and explore answers relating to the issues at the heart of Buber’s thought.  One of the most profound and influential Jewish philosophers of the twentieth century, Martin Buber articulated his concept of “dialogue” most famously in his 1923 book I and Thou.  He continued to develop it throughout his life in writings on Hasidism and the Hebrew Bible, philosophy, Christianity, and Zionism. This conference will explore various aspects of his dialogical thought.

Dr. Michael Fishbane of the Divinity School, University of Chicago, will present the October 18 keynote address, Religious Authenticity and Spiritual Resistance: Martin Buber and Biblical Hermeneutics.

Dr. Elliot Wolfson of the Department of Religious Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, will present the keynote address on October 19.

*Please see Registration and Conference Information here.