Research programs

Faith and Reason

The purpose of this program is to study the relationship between various conceptions of truth, knowledge and rationality that are prominent within the sciences and within religious and secular worldviews. Attention is given both to the impact of science on people’s understandings of their own beliefs and worldviews and to their understandings of others’ religious beliefs and worldviews. Further, it is asked what impact religious and secular worldviews have on science.

Key questions within the program are: How are faith and reason related to each other? Is faith a condition for knowledge, or is it something radically different from to knowledge? Are there different forms of knowledge? Or, as scientism claims, does science set the limits for what we can know? Could it even be the case that what is true – not just what we believe is true – depends on a person’s context, culture or worldview? What might happen to the different claims made within science and religion if we were to see not only truth but also knowledge as socially constructed? Would such a relativistic perspective imply that we must accept that even science can be shaped by atheistic or religious (e.g., Christian or Muslim) worldviews? Should science then be “worldview-customized,” or should science be regarded as neutral with respect to the various worldviews that set people apart?

Religions and Worldviews in a Pluralistic Age

The objective of this program is to study philosophical problems that result from today’s diversity of religious and secular worldviews. These problems can be understood, analyzed and solved from the perspectives of individuals, of institutions and of society as a whole. In private and public contexts, the number of encounters between secular and religious worldviews has increased significantly; that increased interaction stems from a number of social developments, such as globalization, secularization and increased immigration. In addition, a growing number of people claim that secular societies, where religion is relegated entirely to the private sphere, are incapable of handling the great challenges that confront humanity today. This perceived lacuna in what a secular society can offer to solve humanity’s existential problems has led to a renewed interest in the contributions that religious traditions can make to public issues and debates.

Key questions within the program are: What kind of attitudes could we adopt toward people of other faiths and worldviews? Could both religious and secular worldviews play a constructive role in public debate, and to what extent may public debate have a constructive influence on different worldviews? Is it possible to develop an understanding of “freedom of religion” that takes into account both the need to respect minority groups and the need to protect the human rights of individuals within those groups?

Worldviews and the Creation of Meaning in Transition

Today in the Western world, we witness an increasing reliance on subjectivity in the formation and the defense of beliefs and worldviews. This trend fosters a trend toward privatization and emotionalization within both religious and secular worldviews. The purpose of this program is to study the implications of this trend for the creation of meaning, for understanding established religious traditions and secular worldviews, and for the academic study of religion. Particular attention is paid to the role that emotions can play in the creation of existential meaning, to how new conceptions of God and the human condition are shaped and justified, and to the implications of the growing interest in spirituality.

Key questions within the program are: Which conceptions of God and humankind are prominent today, and how are those conceptions related to established theological doctrines? How can we understand philosophically and articulate the tension between personal conceptions of God and those conceptions that hold that God is a reality beyond human experience or an impersonal life-force within every human being? What characterizes “spirituality,” and how can it be studied from a scientific point of view? In what way does an appeal to emotion challenge established theories of rationality and established practices of justification of one’s position within the philosophy of religion? How does an increased reliance on subjectivity influence public debates about religious beliefs and worldviews?