Hector Varela-Rios — Between God and nothingness: shifting meanings of res in Descartes’ Meditations

Hector Varela-Rios

Between God and nothingness: shifting meanings of res in Descartes’ Meditations

Tuesday, May 31, 4:30pm

By closely tracing the varied conditions placed on the concept res throughout the Meditations, one can make a parallel framework of one of its main arguments: ‘Ego sum, ego existo’. To wit: Descartes starts by doubting things in general, then allowing the possibility of certain things (or certainty in/through things), continues by looking for the essence of things, and ends arguing for their existence. Interestingly enough, this existence is based on the facticity of the body, Descartes’ own body. Could he have been referring to his body’s ‘thingness’ (as constituted by all the conditions he uses), furtively but all along, as basis for ‘Ego sum, ego existo’? We will explore this together.

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 (amundra@uchicago.edu) 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.

Pamela Sue Anderson (Oxford) on the Future of the Philosophy of Religion

Pamela Sue Anderson

Professor of Modern European Philosophy of Religion, Oxford University


“Concepts to Live By:

Change for the Future of Philosophy of Religion”

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015


Swift Hall Common Room, University of Chicago



Suggested pre-workshop reading:

“Editorial: In Guise of a Miracle,” Pamela Sue Anderson. From Sophia (2014) 53:171-181.


“Restoring Faith in Reason,” Pamela Sue Anderson.  From Re-visioning Gender in Philosophy of Religion (Ashgate, 2012), chapter 6 (pp. 113-138).


“Encouraging a Thoughtful Love of Life: Pamela Sue Anderson and Gillian Howe on Practising Philosophy,” Patrice Haynes.  From Sophia (2014) 53:193-214.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is pleased to welcome Oxford’s Pamela Sue Anderson to the University of Chicago on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015.  Professor Anderson will be discussing the future of philosophical reflection on religion and the methodological challenges that the future poses. For instance, do we need to create new concepts?  This would be to replace the dominant focus on traditional theism and the omni-perfect God.  But it is also to raise questions about the social and material locatedness of the concepts which have been used, as if they were inclusive and ‘neutral.’  Another example of where this conceptual issue could take our discussion is whether we should be focusing more on religious practices; and if so, how do we ensure that these practices are not mystifying; that is, empty of content?

Philosophy of Religions and Theology and Ethics Workshops Co-sponsored Event: Evan Kuehn on post-Kantian Theology

Evan Kuehn (PhD Candidate, Theology, UChicago)

“From Postulates of Reason to Doctrines of Faith: On Doing Theology After Kant”

Dec 9th, 12:00pm – 1:20pm (room TBA)

Russell Johnson (PhD Student, Philosophy of Religions) will respond

Lunch will be served


This paper will attempt to lay out some theses for the task of doing theology after Kant and in the spirit of his philosophical work. In particular, I am interested in the problem that faces any would-be Kantian theologian of how to offer a theological account of things like God, or the immortality of the soul, or human freedom. Kant sees these sorts of ideas as necessary postulates of reason which can, however, never become objects of knowledge for us. Yet in many cases, theologians do not consider ideas like these from such an epistemological remove. Ideas which according to Kant are merely regulatory for theoretical knowledge and at most objects of faith are, for theological inquiry, often treated as objects of knowledge. Can theology engage these objects (systematically, critically, and theoretically) as objects of theological knowledge without thereby abandoning the original Kantian framework of human knowledge limited to the categories of understanding? And what resources are available within Kant’s Critiques for dealing with these theological ideas as objects of theological knowledge?