Philosophy and Religion in the Modern Age

Wed, 18 May 2011 18:30 in Discussion Forums

Where: Kennet Room, Reading Borough Council Civic Centre, Reading, RG1 7AE
With: Professor Emeritus John Cottingham, University of Reading


The Dialogue Society, Southampton Branch, was delighted to host Prof John Cottingham for a fascinating discussion on Philosophy and Religion in the Modern Age, which explored the proper roles of science, religion and philosophy and the relationship between them. Prof Cottingham’s presentation was followed by a question and answer session covering evolution, Islam and different faith perspectives on the role of philosophy. Seminar participants included graduate students and academics from the University of Reading and representatives from local community organizations.


  • Current disputes between militant atheists and fundamentalist believers have distorted our conception of religion.
  • We need to distinguish science, one of humanity’s greatest achievements, from scientism – the dogmatic claim that all reality can be explained in scientific terms.
  • Religion is not primarily about explaining the origins of the universe or of human beings, but about the meaning of human life, and what is of ultimate value.
  • Philosophy can help us understand the nature of value, and what aspects of it are resistant to being explained in purely scientific or naturalistic terms.

Biography of Professor John Cottingham

John Cottingham is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Reading, Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, University of London, and an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford.

He is an authority on early-modern philosophy, especially Descartes, and has published widely on moral philosophy and the philosophy of religion. His recent titles include On the Meaning of Life (Routledge, 2003), The Spiritual Dimension (Cambridge University Press, 2005), Cartesian Reflections (Oxford University Press, 2008), and Why Believe? (Continuum, 2009). He is editor of the international philosophical journal Ratio.

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