Political Uniformity and Religion in Philosophy

Q: How do you feel about Trump’s performance thus far? Is this what you expected?
A: I’m very pleased with his performance.

If you were looking to read something unusual this morning, look no further than the interview with Daniel Bonevac (University of Texas) at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher?

Much of the interview is about Bonevac’s life and education (“Hempel has been my model, not only of how to do philosophy, but of how to live”), but also includes a discussion of politics and philosophy.

Bonevac, who blogs at the conservative Newsmax site, seems to be a rather charitable, perhaps credulous, interpreter of our current president. Yet when it comes to philosophers, he is somewhat less generous. His explanation for why “the profession has moved significantly to the left since I entered it” is that liberals have been largely replaced by “leftists in a postmodern mold.” It doesn’t seem to me that post-modernism is popular at all in mainstream philosophy, but then again, it is not usually clear what “postmodernism” is supposed to mean. Bonevac’s gloss on it is as follows: liberals “believed in objectivity, freedom of expression, and intellectual debate,” while postmoderns, “not so much.” So, according to Bonevac, today’s philosophers on the left do not so much believe in objectivity, freedom of expression, and intellectual debate. Leaving aside the matter of objectivity, which could mean a range of things, it does not seem to me that philosophers on the left are any less enthusiastic about freedom of expression and intellectual debate than those elsewhere on the political spectrum, though I understand that fits with a certain popular narrative about academia (yet see this, which just happened to be published earlier today).

Bonevac adds:

The number of faculty members who would vote against hiring someone because of their political views has increased significantly. The number who would defend freedom of expression has shrunk.

On religion, interviewer Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina), asks Bonevac, who has “no doubts” about “the basic doctrines of Christianity”: “Why do you think most philosophers are atheists or agnostics?”

Bonevac replies:

Again, this hasn’t always been true. Philosophers, like other groups, however, are herd animals. At some point religious belief went out of fashion.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed a lot of intellectual assaults on religious belief, from the “higher criticism” of the Bible to Marx and Nietzsche to the anthropological/sociological/psychological attacks of Durkheim, Malinowski, Freud, Eliade, etc. And what is avant garde at one point tends to become orthodoxy about a century later—while still considering itself edgy and avant garde!

I’ve taught a course at my church on these attacks on religious belief, and, going back to the sources, it’s striking how unscientific it all is. The evidence is thin. The arguments are terrible when they exist at all. But the attitude persists that a scientifically minded person can’t believe in God.

Inspired by Alvin Plantinga, among others, more Christians are studying philosophy and becoming philosophers. So, I think this attitude’s days may be numbered.

Though I’m not a theist, I do agree with Bonevac that philosophy is likely to become more religious.

The whole interview is here.

And by the way, you can follow Clifford Sosis on Twitter, and What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher? on Facebook.


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