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Pragmatism and Empiricism in American Religious Thought Unit

Call for Proposals

The Pragmatism and Empiricism in American Religious Thought Unit seeks papers on the following themes:


The Pragmatism and Empiricism in American Religious Thought Unit seeks papers dealing with both/either the Social Activism line of Pragmatism and/or the metaphysical line of Pragmatism.


Pragmatism, Empiricism, Metaphsyics and Social Activism

We will explore these two related-yet-distinct lines of Pragmatism through panels on three influential and/or novel books that deal with integral themes to Pragmatic and Empirical philosophy and theology:

Benjamin Chicka’s 2022 book God the Created: Pragmatic Constructive Realism in Philosophy and Theology attempts to synthesize several lines of thought that are typically understood as antithetical to one another. In philosophy, Chicka attempts to integrate both realistic, metaphysical classical Pragmatism with Analytic or Neo-Pragmatism; in theology, Chicka attempts to integrate Process theology and ground-of-being theology. Chicka proposes a revised version of Charles S. Peirce’s Pragmatism as a third way forward through these debates that avoids the binaries and allows philosophers and theologians to learn from differences and disagreements rather than simply dismissing the opponent(s)’s position(s). We invite papers on Chicka’s book as a whole or papers that deal with Chicka’s treatment of the following themes or topics:

  • empiricism and religion & science;
  • “Pragmatic Constructive Realism (PCR)” and the relationship of metaphysical pragmatism with analytic pragmatism;
  • Charles Peirce, instead of Alfred North Whitehead, as a mediating position for the debate between Process theologians (e.g., John Cobb or Whitehead) and ground-of-being theologians (e.g., Robert Neville or Paul Tillich); or
  • the attempt to derive ethical direction from a ground-of-being theology through this synthesis.


The practical upshot of Chicka’s metaphysical Pragmatism is that it uplifts social justice work for the historically marginalized; the Unit also seeks papers addressing this urgent social action more concretely. In that vein, Cornel West and Jeffrey Stout’s work on social Pragmatism will be placed in dialogue with metaphysical Pragmatism.


2022 marked the 40th anniversary of Cornell West’s Prophesy Deliverance! An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity. 2024 will mark the 20th anniversary of Jeffrey Stout’s Democracy and Tradition. Both of these monumental texts have been extremely influential on Pragmatic thought and action in the decades since their publication. How can Social Pragmatism either draw on these resources to address novel problems or move beyond these paradigms as we work with our hands today? The Unit seeks papers either reflecting on the relevance of these texts for contemporary social action or articulating novel advances on these new classics moving forward.


Pragmatism, and Social Movements (Co-sponsored with Open and Relational Theology Unit)

Despite philosophical disagreements, pragmatists and open and relational thinkers are concerned about ideas that produce change in the world. Open and relational thinkers have been leading the charge to develop ecologically sustainable communities, while some of the strongest voices for racial and ethnic justice in the United States are pragmatists. Both schools of thought engage these issues and more, including feminist and womanist activism and rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, as social conservatives resist movement toward inclusiveness. How might open and relational theology and pragmatism inform one another, analytically and ethically, and work together moving forward?

Statement of Purpose

The mission of the Pragmatism and Empiricism in Religious Thought Unit 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.


Steering Committee Members





Review Process

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