Faith, Reason, Doubt
About the Topic
Around the world, religious fundamentalists from different faith traditions clash with one another, yet are often united in their opposition to a secular modernity that elevates reason above faith. At home, fundamentalists refuse to modify their religious views to accommodate evolutionary theory or stem cell research. Meanwhile, certain postmodern skeptics undermine the foundations of dogmatic religion and scientific rationality alike. Current conflicts over faith, reason, and skepticism are only the latest variants of debates that have occurred for centuries. As Augustine commented in his Confessions, faith cannot exist without its counterparts, reason and doubt.
The lives of millions in modernity have been improved by the scientific, industrial, and economic fruits of the rationality that drove the political separation of church and state. Although acknowledging such achievements, many people familiar with past and contemporary contests over faith and reason conclude that moderns may have also lost something important that skepticism about both faith and rationality cannot address. “Man does not live by bread alone,” so we are told, and we ignore at our peril what William James called the universal “will to believe.”
The humanities and arts have long played crucial roles in expressing, criticizing, hindering, and negotiating a range of historically shifting relationships among faith, reason, and doubt. In some philosophical and religious texts, faith manifests itself as a “reasonable” basis for truth, dependent in some cases on logical rigor, whereas in other texts doubt and reason are eschewed in favor of revelation. In different times and places, the arts have described the agonizing doubt that arises when faith runs up against an apparently indifferent cultural or natural order.
The Center for Humanities and the Arts will spend the year exploring the ways that humanists, artists, and others, past and present, have contributed to differentiating and to showing the interrelation of faith, reason, and doubt.
Emmanuel David: PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder; also teaches in the Women and Gender Studies Program. He has published articles on art and social movements in New Orleans and on collective behavior following disaster. He also co-edited two special issues of Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict, and World Order on the role of art in social justice struggles. He holds a BA from Loyola University of New Orleans, where he studied sociology and photojournalism, and a graduate certificate in Sexuality, Culture, and Society from the University of Amsterdam. His areas of interest include the sociology of gender, social movements, cultural memory, and disaster. His research focuses on social movements that emerged following Hurricane Katrina, with particular attention to women’s participation in efforts to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. In his dissertation, he draws on ethnographic fieldwork to examine the cultural politics of remembrance practices following the storm and women’s strategic use of space, place, and geographic scale in disaster mitigation, recovery, and reconstruction.
Ann Emmons: PhD canidate, Department of English, University of Colorado at Boulder.
Michaele Ferguson: Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Colorado at Boulder. Professor Ferguson's interests include democratic theory, feminist theory, the role of truth in politics, and the philosophy of language. Her most recent publication explores all of these themes via an analysis of the use of feminist rhetoric to justify the U.S. foreign policy of building democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq: "W Stands for Women: Feminism and Security Rhetoric in the Post-9/11 Bush Administration," which appeared in Politics & Gender in 2005. She is also the co-editor with Lori Marso of Union College of a volume of essays further developing these themes entitled W Stands for Women: How the George W. Bush Presidency Has Shaped a New Politics of Gender (forthcoming from Duke University Press). Her work has appeared in Hypatia, Theory & Event, The European Legacy, and Philosophy in Review.
Gabriel Finkelstein: Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Colorado at Denver. Professor Finkelstein held posts at Göttingen, UCLA, and Princeton before his appointment to the University of Colorado-Denver. He teaches classes on Europe, Germany, travel, science, cities, and culture. For the last fifteen years he has worked on a biography of the Berlin physiologist Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818-1896), one of the foremost figures in Imperial Germany. His current research concerns concepts of memory and limitation in science.
David Gross: Professor, Department of History, University of Colorado at Boulder. Professor Gross' current research project focuses on the religious critique of culture in the western world, 1950-2000. By looking a the assessments of modern culture produced by key religious thinkers in Europe and North America since World War II (Guardini, Dawson, Balthasar, Tillich, Hauerwas, and Ratzinger, among others), he hopes to draw attention to a hitherto neglected strain of cultural critique. The project explores both the positive and negative aspects of a religious Kulturkritik, and explains the ways in which such a critique differs from the better known Marxist, liberal, and conservative forms of cultural criticism.
Edward Holland: PhD candidate, Department of Geography, University of Colorado at Boulder. Edward Holland's emphasis is on political geographies of the former Soviet Union. His dissertation research is tentatively focused on the relationship between political structures and varying forms of identity, both ethnic and confessional, throughout the Russian space. A central component of this project is investigating the spatial variation and associated politicization of minority religions in Russia, most notably Islam, in light of the (re)emergence of Russian Orthodoxy as the national religion of the Russian state.
Bradley Monton: Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado at Boulder. Professor Monton works in philosophy of science (especially physics) and in probabilistic epistemology. He's currently interested in critically examining why people do philosophy of quantum mechanics, and in developing a probability theory which can handle indexical propositions (i.e. self-locating beliefs), an area where Bayesian epistemology breaks down. In addition, he's working on a book which will (eventually) come out with Broadview Press, arguing that physics does not provide evidence for the existence of God.
Maria O'Malley: PhD candidate, Department of English, University of Colorado at Boulder.
Sue Zemka: Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Colroado at Boulder.