Agenda de l'ENS de Lyon

The Sceptical Dilemma of Religious Disagreement and Its Pragmatic Solution

ven 07 avr 2023



M. Sheng XU du laboratoire IHRIM, sous la direction de Messieurs Jean-Michel ROY, Sebastien GANDON et Zhenhua YU de l'East China Normal University.

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It is usually asked nowadays from a doctoral dissertation that it be useful for society. This requirement, whose legitimacy is not as obvious as it might seem, is often a source of
embarrassment in the discipline of philosophy. Not because philosophical inquiry is not useful to society. It clearly is, and has always been, if only because there was for the longest time no difference between philosophy and the pursuit of scientific truth. The embarrassment comes rather from the fact that the answer can only be a trivially general one.
This dissertation might be seen as an exception to this general rule. Indeed, as emphasized in the introduction, although the problem it tries to solve is highly theoretical, its practical consequences are the most down to earth ones, as they have to do with the peace of human societies. Differences in religious belief have been undeniably in the course of history, until today, one of the main sources of conflict between human beings, leading to the worst bloodsheds. Finding a way to overcome these differences is therefore nothing else than finding a way to stop such warring and bloodsheding.
And such is ultimately the ambition of the present thesis by adressing the question of the foundations of the differences or disagreement among religious beliefs. Adressing this issue is of course nothing new, and the entreprise might in turn sound for this very reason quite trivial also. But this triviality feeling vanishes once it is further emphasized, firstly, that its ambition is to find an epistemological and not an ethical way to overcome religious beliefs. This is the reason why, it deliberately sets aside in its first chapter the option of tolerance. Tolerating differences in religious belief, it is argued, is just circumventing the core of the problem of religious differences, not solving it. And as a consequence, it is not eliminating in a secure enough way its potentiallly tragic implications in terms of peacelessness for human societies. But the impression of triviality vanishes even more when it is also specified that this epistemological solution is sought in the idea of providing legitimacy to difference in religious believing itself. The goal is in other words to establish the claim that all religious beliefs are not to be simply tolerated, but, however opposed one to each other, justified in the epistemological sense of the term: that it is to say, that it is equally justified to hold any one of them true.
This claim is established in the fourth chapter, after a systematic inquiry eliminating all other possible options in chapter 2, by resorting to a neo-pragmatist theory of truth. The basic idea defended by the dissertation is in short that the problem of the incompatibility of religious beliefs is commanded by a problematic notion of truth (and consequently of belief), and that once we modify in a neo-pragmatist way this notion, the issue of incompatibility disappears, and religious beliefs can be epistemologically justified in their full diversity.