Religion and Practical Reason: New Essays in the Comparative Philosophy of Religions is the third and culminating collection of essays generated by a series of nine international conferences on the comparative philosophy of religions. Held from 1986 to 1992, these conferences were sponsored by the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago and were largely funded by a grant from the Booth-Ferris Foundation. When it became clear that a ninth conference was needed, supplementary support was made available by the Divinity School.
Like this third volume of collected essays, the first two were both edited by David Tracy and myself and were published in the SUNY toward a Comparative Philosophy of Religions Series. Like the first two collections, this one contains both programmatic essays that focus on broad ranging proposals for re-envisioning a discipline of comparative philosophy of religions and a number of case studies that focus on the interpretation of particular religio-historical data from comparatively oriented philosophical perspectives.
Since the nine conferences were attended by a relatively stable group of thirty scholars (approximately half from the University of Chicago, and half from other universities in the United States, Canada, and Europe), a certain trajectory of development can be traced. Discussions at the earliest conferences generated a set of essays on the topic of Myth and Philosophy (SUNY Press, 1990) that accomplished at least two purposes. These essays demonstrated the value of rethinking positions that presume or seek to defend any kind of simplistic or overly hierarchical dichotomy between myth and philosophy, both in the academy and in the religio-philosophical traditions being studied. These same essays also pointed to the need to focus much more specific attention on the ways in which both myth and philosophy are related to practice.
In the middle phase of the project, the group moved on to a set of discussions that produced a second volume of essays entitled Discourse and Practice (SUNY Press, 1992). Here, once again, two closely related results were achieved. The collection served to demonstrate the interpretive power of approaches which examine the philosophical discourse of the academy and the philosophical discourse of religious traditions as different but related modes of practice. In addition, the collection provided a background against which the group was able to identify "practical reason" as a term that could provide a creative locus around which the study of such practice-oriented approaches to the comparative philosophy of religions could be further pursued and enriched.
As Sally Gressens suggests in her summary report of the discussions that occurred during the last of the nine conferences:
"practical reason" is not a certain "something"-not, say, Aristotelian practical versus theoretical reason-which has attracted our attention. Rather, "practical reason" (or "practical theory") is a motto of sorts. It signals our interest in a realm where those details of contingent human life that we include in "practice" actually meet the sorts of disciplined thinking we mean by "theory," where excellence in one is linked to excellence in, or an understanding of, the other.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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