This seminar is hosted by the Institute for Science and Ethics, an Oxford Martin School Institute and the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Lecture 1: "Some Problems about Religion in the Political Sphere: the dangers of instability and violence"
Abstract: There seem to be several sources of anxiety about the role that religion plays or might play in the world of public democratic politics. Some concern an alleged tendency for religion to provoke instability, conflict, even violence. Others refer to questions of unfairness if religion is given a certain sort of place in the political order. Another source is the view that any role for religion in the public sphere must be incompatible with the “secular” nature of the modern democratic state. Yet another source (sometimes voiced by the same people) concerns the supposed “irrationality” of religious faith which is seen as inimical to the public rationality regarded as central to modern democracy: religions ought not be able to coerce the non-religious by having the power to implement policies that are not amenable to the right sort of public contestation. A related concern is the worry that the sort of personal autonomy required by liberal democracy is rejected by (all?many?some?) religions. This series of lectures attempts to sort out the nature of these complaints and critically assesses their validity. It will also explore whether possible relations between some typical religious virtues, attitudes and practices and what are said to be typical democratic virtues, attitudes and practices must be a source of conflict or can be mutually supportive.
Speaker: Professor Tony Coady, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University
Biography: Tony Coady is one of Australia's best-known philosophers. He has an outstanding international reputation for his writings on epistemology and on political violence and political ethics. His book Testimony: a Philosophical Study (OUP, 1992) has been particularly influential and more recently he published Morality and Political Violence (CUP, 2008) In 1990 he founded and became director of the Centre for Philosophy and Public Issues at the University of Melbourne, the first centre in Australia to be concerned with broad issues of philosophy and public affairs. CPPI later became absorbed into CAPPE where Coady was Deputy-Director for its first four years. In 2005, he gave the Uehiro Lectures on Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, which were subsequently published in 2008 by Oxford University Press under the title, Messy Morality: the Challenge of Politics.