Dr Guy Axtell

Visiting Research Fellow

September – December 2016

Home institution

Philosophy & Religious Studies, Radford University (Virginia, USA)


Link to home institution faculty pages: http://www.radford.edu/content/chbs/home/phre/faculty-staff/Philosophy.html


A Professor of Philosophy, and a Faculty Fellow of the Radford University Honors Academy, I received my college’s Outstanding Scholar Award in 2013 and published my first monograph, Objectivity, with Polity press in 2015. I did my Ph.D. in Philosophy at University of Hawai’i, where I gained teaching interests in world religions and East Asian thought. Although most of my publications are in the areas of epistemology, philosophy of religion, and pragmatism (William James, John Dewey, and Richard Rorty), I was recently able to renewed my interests in Asian and comparative philosophy through a talk for the 11th East-West Philosophers’ Conference in Honolulu (summer, 2016). This paper, “Moral Learning, Imagination, and the Space of Humour,” focuses on the functions of humour and laughter in the Taoist classic, the Zhuangzi. While doing things other than pursuing my passion for teaching and research, I often seek my ataraxia through tennis, biking, and skiing.


Reasonable Religious Disagreement and the Problem of Religious Luck

My project is on the epistemology of religious disagreement in light of the problem of ‘religious luck.’ It will form the inner chapters of a forthcoming book, Don’t Apologize! Essays on Faith, Reason, and Religious Diversity. There has a good deal of recent philosophical interest in disagreement, and on religious disagreement in particular. How should people respond to awareness of deep disagreement? Can one reasonably maintain the same level of security in religious beliefs they recognize to be contested by their peers? Although there have been many answers given to this question, none have engaged it in light of what I call the problem of religious luck. This is the problem of how we tend to invoke sharp asymmetries to explain the religious standing of insiders and outsiders to the ‘home’ religion. Religious standing might include self-attributions of insiders having special or even exclusive access, through their scriptures, to religious truth or salvation. Explanatory asymmetries where insiders have positive standing, and outsiders don’t, becomes a problem, logically and theologically, when adherents of other religions make formally similar self-other attributions. In my study, explanatory asymmetries like these are shown to be an effective gauge of the degree of fideistic commitment in a particular model of religious faith. So while I present a broadly permissive of religious faith-ventures, and defend the possibility of reasonable religious disagreement, this worry about the illogic, or at least the ‘riskiness’ of explanatory asymmetries that ‘lean on luck,’ is presented as a contribution of the field of comparative fundamentalism. It is also developed as the basis for a more effective critique of religious exclusivism, and for the defence of mutualism, or if one prefers, pluralism.