Matthew C. Bagger, the Goodwin-Philpott Eminent Scholar in Religion at Auburn University, will give a lecture at Washington and Lee University on Monday, March 4, at 5:30 p.m. in Northen Auditorium, Leyburn Library.
The title of Bagger’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is “William James on the ‘Science of Religions’ and the Province of Faith.”
As the author of "The Will to Believe" and The "Varieties of Religious Experience," William James is often interpreted as an apologist for supernaturalism and religious faith. This view of James is no doubt accurate, but it overshadows James's interest in establishing and contributing to a science of religions that explains religion in naturalistic terms.
The key to an undistorted reading of James on religion lies in properly relating his apologetic interests to his naturalism. One way to achieve this reading is to read The Varieties in light of the response to "The Will to Believe."
Bagger teaches and writes in the areas of philosophy and theory of religion. He is the author of “The Uses of Paradox: Religion, Self-Transformation, and the Absurd” (2007, Columbia University Press) and “Religious Experience, Justification, and History” (1999, Cambridge University Press).
His articles on topics such as the epistemology of religious experience, mysticism, Hume, the ethics of belief, pragmatism and the place of religion in American public life have appeared in a variety of journals. He is currently working on the topic of pragmatism and religion.
He previously taught at Dartmouth College, Columbia University and Brown University.
Bagger holds an A.B. from Dartmouth and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.