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2009 Seminars

Philosophical Reflections on Liturgy
June 22 - July 10, 2009

Directed by
Nicholas P. Wolterstorff , Terence D. Cuneo


Seminar Description

Over the past fifty years, there has been a tremendous resurgence of philosophy of religion within the analytic tradition of philosophy. The main focus of this resurgence has been in three areas: religious experience, the epistemology of religious belief, and philosophical theology. There has been almost no philosophical reflection on liturgy. The focus on religious experience, epistemology of religious belief, and philosophical theology is not accidental; it can be explained by reference to developments within philosophy in general. Nonetheless, the absence of reflections on liturgy is very much to be regretted, since in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (to mention no other religions) liturgy is a central part of the religious life. At least some of those who teach and write about liturgy regard this lack of philosophical reflections on liturgy as regrettable from the side of their work as well.

The purpose of this seminar will be to engage together in philosophical reflections on liturgy. Most sessions of the seminar will be devoted to discussions of essays by participants. The possibility will be kept in mind of the work of the seminar eventuating in a volume of essays edited by the seminar directors.

About the Directors

Nicholas Wolterstorff received his A.B. from Calvin College in 1953, and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University in 1956.  After teaching philosophy for two years at Yale, he returned to the philosophy department at his alma mater in 1959.  He returned to Yale in 1989, where he was a member of the Divinity School, of the Philosophy Department, and of the Religious Studies Department.  He has taught, during leaves of absence, at Haverford College, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, the University of Texas, Notre Dame University, and the Free University of Amsterdam.  He retired from teaching at the end of 2001, and is Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University.  Currently he is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, at the University of Virginia. He has been President of the American Philosophical Association, and of the Society of Christian Philosophers; he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Among the lectures he has given are the Wilde Lectures at Oxford University, the Gifford Lectures at St Andrews University, and the Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary.   Among the books he has published are On Universals, Works and Worlds of Art, Art in Action, Until Justice and Peace Embrace, Reason within the Bounds of Religion, Divine Discourse, John Locke and the Ethics of Belief, Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology, Educating for Shalom, Lament for a Son and Justice: Rights and Wrongs He has probably done more writing on liturgy than all other living philosophers together.

Terence Cuneo works primarily in the areas of ethics and history of modern philosophy. In addition to have published numerous articles in these areas, he is the author of The Normative Web: An Argument for Moral Realism (Oxford, 2007). He has also edited six books, including The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Reid (Cambridge, 2004), Religion in the Liberal Polity (Notre Dame, 2005), The Foundations of Ethics (Blackwell, 2007), and three forthcoming volumes of Nicholas Wolterstorff's papers (Cambridge and Oxford, 2009). Having most recently taught at Calvin College, Cuneo is now Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vermont.

About the Speaker

Howard Wettstein is Professor of Philosophy at University of California, Riverside (since 1989). He previously taught at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Minnesota, Morris, and held visiting positions at Stanford University and the University of Iowa. He is the editor of Midwest Studies in Philosophy, and has edited several books and collections including, Diasporas and Exiles: Varieties of Jewish Identity, University of California Press, 2002. In 2004 Oxford University Press published Wettstein’s book, The Magic Prism: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language." He is currently at work on a new book in the philosophy of religion. He is married to Dr. Barbara Wettstein, a clinical psychologist, and has two children and an adorable grandson. In a former life, Wettstein studied to be an orthodox rabbi.