Comparative Philosophy of Religion. The Plurality of Religions in Philosophy of Religion


Prof. Hans-Peter Grosshans Dean, Faculty of Protestant Theology Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy of Religion University of Münster, Germany


21 Nov 2019




The plurality of religions, each with their own truth claims and practices, poses fundamental challenges for the Philosophy of Religion. After a brief survey of the various philosophical approaches to understanding and comparing religions that have been historically employed to meet these challenges, the paper offers a new approach, pluralistic exclusivism. Pluralistic exclusivism starts with the observation that all religions makes truth claims justifiable from within the religion and provide practices aimed at helping the believers achieve the religiously relevant goals. Each religion has some doctrines which can be justified independently of the worldview of that religion and some practices which can benefit people, even those not in the fold of that faith. The philosopher of religion, operating on the pluralist exclusivism model, is not trying to find the justified truth claims or useful practices that are somehow common to all religions. Instead they are engaged in two tasks, conceiving of each particular religion as a system of truth claims and practices as understood by someone who practices the religion, the view from inside the faith rendered systematic by philosophical analysis, and then putting the system thus obtained into a framework of comparative analysis with other religious systems. The comparative method can use criteria drawn from within one religion to understand another as well as criteria from outside any particular religion, these criteria being similar to the kinds of functional criteria used in political studies or sociology. The paper concludes by applying the pluralist exclusivism approach to field work done by the author in Indonesia and Myanmar.


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