Long one of the School of Religious Studies’ principal disciplinary foci, McGill’s program in Philosophy of Religion is anchored by the John W. McConnell Chair in Philosophy of Religion. The Chair was established when the unit itself was founded as a Faculty of Divinity, in 1948. It has afforded the philosophy of religion a central position in the critical study of religion at McGill. Professors James Sutherland Thomson (Theology, Glasgow) and Joseph C. McClelland (Theology, Edinburgh), the first holders of the Chair, were also Deans of the Faculty, before Maurice Boutin (Theology, Munich) held the Chair from 1991-2010. The Chair has long been dedicated to the investigation of historical and systematic relations between European Philosophy and Theology.
The Philosophy of Religion program is led currently by two members of the School of Religious Studies: Professors Garth Green (Associate Professor of Philosophy of Religion) and Jim Kanaris (Associate Professor of Philosophy of Religion). Professor Green focuses on medieval philosophical theology, particularly Christian neo-Platonism, on German Idealism, particularly Kant and Fichte, and on French Phenomenology. Professor Kanaris focuses on the relation between contemporary, post-phenomenological philosophy and theory of religion. Two contributing members of the Department of Philosophy are actively involved in several graduate co-supervisions: Professor George di Giovanni (an Associate Faculty Member of Religious Studies) and Professor Philip Buckley, as are members from within the School of Religious Studies itself.
Teaching: Philosophy of Religion at SRS offers a uniquely wide range of introductory and advanced undergraduate courses that address traditional topics in the field while cultivating forms of philosophizing germane to religious studies. Courses range from the 300-student Introduction to the Study of Religions (RELG 207), which traces the history of philosophy and theory of religion, to the more discipline-specific, 50-student "Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion" (RELG 341), to advanced courses in Phenomenology of Religion (RELG 351; RELG 555), Religion, Philosophy, Modernity (RELG 380), and Theories of Religion (RELG 456), amongst others. The principal focus of our program is a large and dynamic graduate community. All graduate students are enrolled in coursework in the theory and philosophy of religion. Graduate seminars include, for example, Professor Green’s Modern Philosophy of Religion (RELG 641) and Contemporary Philosophy of Religion (RELG 642). The program also offers seminars from contributing faculty and associate members. Further, all doctoral students take Professor Kanaris’ required seminar, Meaning and Interpretation (RELG 745), to engage the methodological controversies surrounding the history and concept of religion.
Strategic Partnerships Initiative
Strategic Partnerships Initiative: In 2014 and 2015, formal partnership agreements with Louvain (Belgium) and with Padova (Italy) were signed: in 2017, another partnership with Strasbourg (France) was finalized. These partnerships afford graduate students access to an international network of leading institutions and scholars in the field, as well as unparalleled research, publication, and professional development opportunities. It is intended that these partnerships will effect a new model of graduate formation in the field. Funded by both internal and external grants, McGill students at both the MA and the PhD levels have participated already in seminars, research exchanges, conferences, and translation and publication projects with colleagues in our partner institutions.
Program Initiatives: In 2015, with the help of a SSHRC Connections Grant, Professor Green co-hosted (with Professor Jean Grondin, Université de Montréal) the International Conference of the Société Francophone de Philosophie de la Religion, entitled Religion et Vérité: Tâches et défis d’une philosophie de la religion à l’âge post-séculier. Podcasts of keynote addresses by Charles Taylor and Jean Greisch are available here and here. The proceedings will be published in 2017 as Religion et vérité: La philosophie de la religion à l’âge séculier (Garth Green and Jean Grondin, eds. (Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, Collection "Philosophie de la religion," 2017). In 2013, with the help of a SSHRC Research Grant, Professor Kanaris hosted an international conference on the future of philosophy of religion. The proceedings have been published by the State University of New York Press as Reconfigurations of Philosophy of Religion: A Possible Future (2018). In 2010, he also hosted a conference in honor of School of Religious Studies emeritus professor Maurice Boutin. The proceedings were published in 2013 by Brill entitled Polyphonic Thinking and the Divine.
Graduate Students meet and present their work regularly in the student-run Philosophisches Seminar that includes both graduate students and faculty members. Current advanced graduate students include the following:
Nathan Strunk (2011-) earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from Taylor University, and a M.T.S. and Th.M from Duke University. While at McGill, his studies have been funded by a Samuel Finlay Fellowship and a Graduate Excellence Fellowship. He has served as a Faculty Lecturer in Religious Studies at St. Michael’s College (Vermont), and has presented papers at Harvard, Oxford, Emory, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. In addition to publishing several reviews (including Emmanuel Falque’s The Metamorphosis of Finitude, Ray Hart’s God Being Nothing, and Joeri Schrijvers’ Between Faith and Belief) and translations (including Vincent Holzer’s "Philosophy With(In) Theology: Karl Rahner’s Philosophy of Religion" and Olivier Boulnois’, “When Does Ontotheology Begin? Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus”), Nathan has authored a forthcoming book chapter on Nicholas of Cusa’s doctrine of the soul. His dissertation, “The Metamorphosis of the Transcendental: Philosophy, Theology, and the Truth of the Active Intellect,” focuses on the transposition of Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart in the work of Joseph Maréchal and Michel Henry, respectively, and the broader implications of their thought for the contemporary philosophy of religion.
Marco Dozzi (2012-) earned an Honours B.A. in Philosophy and Religious Studies (Allegheny College), a M.A. in Philosophy (SUNY- Buffalo), and a MA in Religious Studies (The University of Pittsburgh). Since his arrival at McGill, he has presented papers on Schelling and on Sartre in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, has held a DAAD Fellowship for study in Berlin, and currently holds a McGill Graduate Mobility Award for study in Philosophy at the University of Padova, where he is pursuing research for his dissertation, entitled “The Unconscious Absolute: Schelling’s Phenomenology of Consciousness and Ontology of Self,” is co-supervised with Professor George di Giovanni.
Paolo Livieri (2013-), who also holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Philosophy from the University of Padova, is co-supervised with Professor di Giovanni (Philosophy). He holds a PBEEE Fellowship (2014-2017) for his study at McGill, on German Idealism and its philosophies of religion. He is the author of one book on Hegel in Italian, two book-length translations, six articles, and fourteen reviews. His most recent conference papers include addresses in Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden. In 2016, he was Research Fellow at Forschungszentrum für Klassische Deutsche Philosophie (Bochum, Germany), and in 2017, he will be HIF Fellow at Hosei University (Tokyo). He currently is preparing a translation and critical edition of F.H. Jacobi’s On Divine Things and their Revelation.
Jingjing Li (2013-), a PBEEE Doctoral Fellow (2013-2016), earned a B.A. from East China Normal University (ECNU) and a M.A. from the joint ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieur) - ECNU Graduate Program in Early Modern Chinese Philosophy. She has been OeAD Fellow at the University of Vienna, and has held an ECNU Award for research at the University of Copenhagen. While at McGill, she has presented papers at the APA-Pacific meeting, AAR Annual Meeting, and the International Kant Congress. She has published in both English and Chinese on Yogacara Buddhism, Husserl’s phenomenology, modern Chinese Buddhism, modern Confucianism, and German idealism (Kant and Fichte). She serves as Assistant Editor for the Journal of Tsinghua Studies of Western Philosophy, and is currently researching her dissertation, entitled “Same Road, Different Tracks: A Study of Xuanzang's Buddhist Phenomenology”.
Hadi Fakhoury (2013-), a SSHRC Doctoral Fellow (2015-18), earned a B.A. in Religious Studies at McGill University and an M.A. at the Institute of Islamic Studies with a thesis on the influence of Russian religious thinkers in the work of the French philosopher and orientalist Henry Corbin (1903-1978). Hadi has also held a visiting position at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris), a DAAD bursary for study in Leipzig, and a Québec-Bavaria Premiers Scholarship at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (Munich). He published a two-part peer-reviewed article in successive issues of Dionysius, and presented three papers at international conferences in 2015. His dissertation project, co-supervised with Professor George di Giovanni, is entitled "Reason and Religion in Schelling's Late Philosophy".
Jason Blakeburn (2016-) was a Bishop's and Oikos Scholar at Oklahoma City University where he earned his BA in Philosophy and Religion and received a Gold Letzeiser Medal for his work. He was the Dean’s Fellow at Boston University (in Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics), where he earned his Master of Theological Studies and Master of Sacred Theology degrees, with a thesis entitled "Nothing Matters: Philosophical and Theological Varieties of Nothingness.” He has presented at numerous conferences in the United States, Canada, and Europe. His dissertation project is tentatively titled "Nothing Suffering Being: Toward an Anthropogony.” At McGill, he serves on several university committees, and as the Religious Studies representative to the Post Graduate Student Society.
Matthew Nini (2017-) holds a MA in Philosophy of Religion (McGill). During that degree, he was a SSHRC-CGM Fellow, and earned the Birks Award for highest MA average. He was also a member of the organizing committee for the SSHRC funded international conference “Thinking the Sacred with Roger Scruton.” He has given several papers at conferences across Canada - at Memorial University (St. John’s, Newfoundland), Concordia University (Montréal), and l’Université de Montréal, on topics in philosophy and theology as diverse as Hegel’s Logic, Karl Rahner, and the theological implications of Peter Sloterdijk’s philosophy. He is a collaborator at Relations magazine, where he has written and translated texts relating to theology. His dissertation research, funded by a McGill University Tomlinson Doctoral Fellowship and a Max Stern Fellowship, focuses on Joseph Maréchal, and is concerned with both the German Idealistic context, and the Neo-Platonic origins, of his work.
A.J. Smith (SSHRC M.A. Fellow; 2016-2017) earned a B.Th. from the University of Winnipeg. Since his arrival at McGill, he has presented papers on Martin Heidegger, Giorgio Agamben, and Jean-Luc Nancy. He currently is focusing on the issue of subjectivity in Michel Henry. While writing his thesis, entitled “Is the Soul Religious? Theology and Self-Knowledge in the Phenomenology of Michel Henry,” he is Research Associate at the University of Winnipeg.
Anne-Marie de Vreede (2017-) earned a B.A. with Honours from Leiden University College (The Hague). At McGill, she will focus her studies on the development of philosophy of religion as a discipline in early modern and modern Europe: her thesis research will concern Spinoza’s influence on 19th-century philosophical conceptions of God.
Recently Completed Supervisory Projects (2014- ) Include :
Wawrzyniec Jack Prus (M.A., 2016); “Materializing Religion: The New Materialism in Religious Studies.”
Matthew Nini (M.A., 2015; SSHRC M.A. Fellow); “Analogy as the Foundation of a Transcendental Thomism in the works of Joseph Maréchal.”
Jacob Benjamins (M.A., 2014); “Metaphor and Phenomenology of Religion: Paul Ricoeur's Hermeneutics and the Inter-Animation of Discourses.”
Elvira Vitouchanskaia (M.A., 2014; FQRSC M.A. Fellow); “The Transcendental Idea of ‘Religion’: Kant and Fichte.”
Roberto Formisano (European Union-Marie Curie Post-Doctoral Fellow); “Kant et Michel Henry: Une phénoménologie transcendantale” (2014-15).
James Bryson (SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellow), “Franz von Baader's Philosophy of Religion: A Neo-Platonic Response to Hegelian Idealism.”