Call for Papers – The Metaphysics and History of Design Discourse: Abrahamic Perspectives
Organisers: E. V. R. Kojonen (University of Helsinki) & Shoaib Malik (Zayed University)
Conference Date: 1st and 2nd of April 2023
Abstract Deadline: 30th of September 2022
The design argument, also known as the teleological argument, is one of the most commonly used evidences of the existence of a Creator God. Over the centuries, the argument has taken many forms, from the pre-Socratics to Jewish rabbis to Hindu philosophy and the modern debate over Intelligent Design (ID) and theistic evolution (TE). Present day controversies seem to show that disagreements over the apparent design of nature have roots in deep historical and metaphysical differences. We believe there is much to learn from how different religious traditions (here, Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have engaged or are engaging with design discourse. So, we are arranging a two-day online closed-door workshop on the history and metaphysics of design arguments, to be hosted at the University of Helsinki.
We are inviting papers on the topic from all relevant disciplines. We are particularly interested in submissions which constructively re-evaluate historical and metaphysical perspectives, as well as papers comparing different religious perspectives to design. However, purely descriptive papers exploring and re-evaluating historical arguments are also welcome.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of interesting exemplar questions:
- What is the relationship between particular design arguments and metaphysics – for example, do design arguments presuppose a mechanistic worldview, or would they also be compatible with non-reductionistic approaches to nature? Do design arguments depend on using machine-metaphors about nature, are there alternative metaphors that work, and what do the metaphors used say about the metaphysics? Do design arguments support belief in a Creator, or does applying the language of design to nature actually depend pre-existing religious metaphysics?
- How should we correctly understand historical versions of the teleological argument, like the ones presented by Rabbi Akiva, John of Damascus and al-Ghazali? Was William Paley’s design argument actually undermined by the criticisms presented by David Hume? Are there any Paley-like thinkers from the Islamic or Jewish traditions?
- What is the relationship between design arguments and natural, scientific explanations, and how have these been historically understood? For example, is it metaphysically and philosophically possible to harmonize design with Neo-Darwinian mechanics (natural selection and random mutations)? What about design arguments and indeterminism?
- How do historical understandings of design and teleology relate to the contemporary discussions about Intelligent Design and theistic evolution? What about contemporary developments in the natural sciences and the philosophy of science, including topics like convergent evolution, the extended evolutionary synthesis, fine-tuning and the philosophy of explanation?
For consideration of your proposal, please send a 300-word abstract in English to email@example.com along with your full name, institutional affiliation, and job title by 30th of September 2022. Please use the e-mail heading “DESIGN WORKSHOP ABSTRACT” to make sure your message is noticed. The language of the conference will be English.
Select participants might be asked to send in full articles which will be published either as an article in a special volume of a journal, or as a book chapter in a collected volume.
The workshop is supported by a grant from the New Visions in Theological Anthropology project, University of St. Andrews / The John Templeton Foundation.