PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Pragmatism and Empiricism in American Religious Thought Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

Our mission is to foster the advancement and understanding of the pragmatic and empiricist traditions in American religious thought, as well as the intersections of those traditions with other methodologies, intellectual figures, artistic movements, communities, and issues. This Unit is concerned with critically interrogating, evaluating, and developing the insights and relevance of the pragmatic and empiricist traditions of American thought, broadly construed, for the study of religion and theology, with attention both to the historical interpretation of ideas and contemporary developments within this critical sphere of philosophical and theological reflection. Recent areas of interest include pragmatism and democracy, the continued relevance of empiricism to the revival of pragmatism, multidisciplinary aspects of the tradition (intersections with other fields of inquiry), overlaps with cultural criticism and analyses of gender and race, and the application of pragmatic and empiricist analyses to contemporary problems.

Call for Papers: 

We invite papers on the following topic:

• Islam and Pragmatism
Muhammad Iqbal has stated that “spiritual democracy…is the ultimate aim of Islam.” He also spoke of applying a “pragmatic test” to revelation. This session will explore the intersection of Islam with pragmatism and democracy. Papers might examine topics such as: ways pragmatist thinkers have directly engaged Muslim cultures and Islamic thought; ways Islamic thinkers have directly engaged pragmatist thought; and how democracy is expressed through Islam. Other potential topics could include: Muhammad Iqbal’s interpretation of the pragmatic tradition in The Reconstruction of Religious Thought (1930*); an analysis of John Dewey’s visit to Turkey in 1924; William James use of Islamic source material in the Varieties of Religious Experience; and links between knowledge and behavior in Islamic theology and adab including the concept of beneficial knowledge (al-ilm al-nafi).

• W.E.B. DuBois and Pragmatism
On the 150th anniversary of W.E.B DuBois's birthday, we invite papers that examine the relationship between W.E.B DuBois and pragmatism. Papers might revisit and/or challenge Cornel West and Paul Taylor's incorporation of DuBois into the tradition of American pragmatism; explore how DuBois is relevant for thinking about contemporary concerns and problems; engage the recent studies on DuBois and religion (Edward Blum, Jonathon Kahn, Terrence Johnson).

• Pragmatism and the Progressive Movement
We invite papers that engage and think critically about the relationship between pragmatism and the early twentieth-century progressive movement. We welcome reflections on Jane Addams and Hull House; papers that examine the implications of the progressive movement for contemporary crises and possibilities within democratic life; reflections on the limitations, dangers, and promise associated with the category "progress”.

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
ChairSteering Committee