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Request for Proposals

Research on The Nature and Value of Faith Funded by the Templeton Religion Trust

Yearly Research Proposals

Applications are solicited for twelve research proposals each year to engage in research projects on the nature and value of faith. Winners of research awards will participate in a collaborative research group consisting of the winners of the twelve awards, two post-doctoral research fellows working with this project on the Nature and Value of Faith, and will be led by Jonathan L. Kvanvig, Daniel Howard-Snyder, and Trent Dougherty.

The research group will spend a month of intensive research at a seminar in Columbia, MO, June or July of 2014, 2015 and 2016. The first seminar was held from mid-June to mid-July of 2014 and focused on the nature of faith. The second seminar was held in the summer of 2015 and focused on the value and evaluation of faith. The third seminar will focus on the virtue of faith and will be held in Bellingham, Washington in the summer of 2016.

The proposal request for each year includes a list of questions and issues not meant to be exhaustive, but merely indicative of some of the types of issues that can fruitfully be pursued within the scope of the project.

The application will consist of (i) a research proposal of no more than 5 pages, detailing the proposed research to be conducted and any relevant prior work related to it, (ii) a curriculum vita, and (iii) a cover letter. The evaluation committee will consist of the co-directors of the project, and the criteria for selection are demonstrated expertise in philosophy of religion or theology, with evidence of the ability to undertake significant research which will contribute to the aims of the project.

Applicants should explain in their application how their intended research addresses the nature of faith. Among the issues that might be investigated vary by year and are listed below. Electronic applications only, and may be sent to The Directors (Kvanvig, Howard-Snyder, Dougherty) with "RFP Response" in the subject line.

Baylor is a Baptist University affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. As an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity employer, Baylor encourages minorities, women, veterans, and persons with disabilities to apply.

Past Recruiting Efforts

2014: The Nature of Faith

  1. What is faith? Is it distinct from having faith that something is so and having faith in someone? Similarly, what is it to be faithful to someone or something? How is being faithful related to faithfulness? We sometimes speak of an adherent of a particular religious tradition as being a person of faith. Is there a broader secular notion here of a person of faith? If so, what is it? What conditions must be met in order for someone to have or be any of these things? How are all they related to each other? Is any more fundamental? Are they reducible to one?
  2. According to Steven Pinker, faith is “believing something without good reasons to do so”. Richard Dawkins goes further: “[f]aith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence”. But no one goes as far as Mark Twain: faith is “believing what you know ain’t so”. Are they right? Is faith necessarily epistemically defective? If so, why? If not, why not? Even if they are wrong, are they onto something important about the nature of faith?
  3. Is there a distinctively religious sort of faith? If so, what is it? How is it different from faith more generally, and the other things mentioned above, for example faith in someone, or faithfulness to something? What conditions must be met to have this distinctively religious faith?
  4. Can any of the varieties of faith mentioned above vary in different ways? For example, we sometimes say that someone’s faith is stronger than another person’s faith, or that one’s faith is stronger or weaker at different times. What is this strength or weakness? Are there different dimensions of strength and weakness? If so, what are they? How are they related to each other? What other dimensions of variation are there?
  5. Faith is often thought to be incompatible with doubt, especially in religious contexts. What is doubt? If faith is incompatible with doubt, why is it? If not, why not? Might doubt be positively related to faith in some way?
  6. Do we have any power over whether we have faith? Is it voluntary? What role does luck play in its acquisition and maintenance?

2015: The Value and Evaluation of Faith

  1. Is the possession of faith valuable? If so, does its value depend on contingencies like the value of its object, or the circumstances in which it is possessed, or what caused it? Is its value merely instrumental? Or is there something valuable in its own right in possessing it?
  2. How should faith be evaluated? Along what parameters? Epistemic, moral, aesthetic, what? If on some particular understanding of, for example, faith that something is so, it involves cognitive, conative, and behavioral-dispositional components, is an overall evaluation of an instance of it even possible? Or are the evaluations of the components incommensurable? If they are commensurable, how are these different evaluations to be weighted in such a way that a determination of overall value can be arrived at?
  3. How is faith related to other things we care about as human beings? How is it related to friendship, marriage, parenthood, childhood, and so on? Might it relate one part of a person's life to other parts, bringing them together into a cohesive unity? Is it at all relevant to how we might face difficulties of various sorts? What is the relationship between faith and inquiry, whether scientific inquiry or inquiry of any other sort?
  4. How is faith related to other things we care about as scholars? In the religious domain, might a deeper understanding of faith provide fresh ways to think about toleration, pluralism, divine hiddenness, disagreement, skepticism in religion, evidence for religious claims, the problem of faith and reason, evidentialist objections to religious faith, methodology, religious struggle and so on?
  5. Assuming there is a God, why is faith in God important? What is it about faith that makes it crucial to being in proper relation with God? To salvation, etc.?
  6. Can faith be taught? If so, should it be taught? If so, by whom and how? Relatedly, what specific novels, biographies, films, artworks, etc. exhibit faith, or a conspicuous lack thereof? Do some forms of thought—those characteristic of psychology, philosophy, theology, etc. (if any)—serve to cultivate faith in their practitioners? 

2016: The Virtue of Faith

  1. Faith is commonly thought of as a virtue. Is it? If so, why? And why is it so often portrayed as vicious, e.g. by the New Atheists? Even if they are wrong, are they onto something? Is it a mean between extremes? If so, which ones and why? Do the answers to these questions depend on the kind of thing that possesses it, e.g. God, apes, humans? Within a kind, say humans, is it a virtue for, say, some sorts of humans to possess it but a vice for other sorts of humans to possess it? Is it a virtue for a single sort of human to possess it in one phase of her life but a vice for that sort of human to possess it in another phase of her life?
  2. How is faith related to other intellectual virtues? Can we have it without the others, or the others without it? Is it more or less central to intellectual virtue than other intellectual virtues?
  3. How is faith related to intellectual vice? Is there an intellectual vice that it is more naturally paired with than other intellectual vices?
  4. How is faith related more generally to virtue and vice, including both intellectual and moral virtue and vice? Is it just a moral virtue? Even if it isn't, can we learn anything important about faith through a deeper understanding of moral virtue and vice, or particular moral virtues and vices? How it is related to trust, hope, love?
  5. Can faith, or any variety thereof, conflict with other virtues? For example, can it ever happen that in order to acquire it you must forego acquiring another virtue, or first rid yourself of the other? Alternatively, can it ever happen that you have two virtues, this variety of faith and X, and intellectual virtue requires that you do one thing and X requires that you do not do it?
  6. How is human faith related to normative questions such as: How ought we to behave? What is a good human life? What is knowledge, understanding, wisdom, humility?
  7. Do the arts and literature contribute to our understanding of faith: its nature, value and evaluation, and virtue? For example, might a novelist contribute to such understanding? Do certain narratives central to certain religious traditions aid in that task? If so, how? How might the visual and performing arts contribute?