Summary: Philosophy of religion, religion and mental health, philosophy of emotion, philosophy of psychiatry, indigenous religions, new religious movements
My current research is on how spiritual, religious, medical and other interpretations of experiences often described as 'mental illness' shape those experiences. So, for example, I am interested in the spiritual and religious meanings that people ascribe to depression, whether this be attributing depression to demons or jinn, viewing it as a punishment for sin, seeing it as a sign of holiness, or regarding it as an opportunity for personal transformation. I am also interested in experiences such as hearing voices, which is often thought of as symptomatic of mental illness in western society, but which religious traditions today and in the past have made sense of in other ways. In addition to the philosophical and pastoral evaluation of religious beliefs, I am interested in their potential for clinical application particularly in the ways they may complement, challenge, and be challenged by medical accounts of mental illness.
More generally, my interests span philosophy of religion, emotion and psychiatry. My PhD thesis, book and many of my earlier publications were concerned with the divine impassibility debate, and ways in which philosophy of emotion may shed light on this. The impassibility debate relates to whether the God of classical theism could have emotions, and so of course what emotions are is a crucial question. If emotions are, as they have often been thought to be, irrational, involuntary and primarily physiological, then they would seem to be inappropriate to an all-knowing, all-powerful and incorporeal (non-physical) God. If, on the other hand, they can be rational, voluntary and non-physiological, then emotions would not seem to be intrinsically inappropriate to God, even if specific instances of emotion are. Furthermore, if emotions provide a form of intelligence that cant be provided by other means, there may be reason to think they would be necessary for divine wisdom and omniscience.
I joined PRHS at Leeds in August 2012. Before that, I was the Frederick Crosson research fellow in the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana (2011 2012), and an Associate Lecturer for the Open University (2006 2012). I completed my MA and PhD at Durham University (during which I was a part-time teacher in the Department of Theology and Religion), and my undergraduate M.Theol. (Hons) at the University of St Andrews. During my time at Leeds, I have had the opportunity to spend two significant periods of research time in Brazil, during which I have been an honorary Visiting Scholar at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre. In addition to the Frederick Crosson research fellowship at the University of Notre Dame, in 2014 my research was supported through a Mind Association research fellowship.
Teaching and PhD supervision
At undergraduate level, I teach modules on both philosophy of religion, and New Testament studies. At postgraduate level, I am primary supervisor for a WRoCAH-funded project on how people with experience of both Christianity and mood disorders relate these experiences to one another. I would be keen to hear from potential PhD students interested in the following:
1. Philosophy of religion
2. Religion and mental health
3. Emotion and religion/spirituality
4. New religious movements and indigenous religions
2011. Thinking through Feeling: God, Emotion and Passibility. New York: Continuum.
For reviews of my book, see:
Creel, R.E. 2012. Faith and Philosophy 29.4, pp. 487 490
McDermid, D. 2013. The Heythrop Journal 54.2, pp. 324 325
Hampson, P. 2013. New Blackfriars 94.1051, pp. 378 379
Chanderbhan, S. 2011. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2012.04.11)
Forthcoming. Can jinn be a tonic? The therapeutic value of spirit-related beliefs, practices and experiences. Filosofia Unisinos
Forthcoming. Is depression a sin or a disease? A critique of moralising and medicalising models of mental illness. Journal of Religion and Disability.
Forthcoming. Is depression a sin? A philosophical consideration of Christian voluntarism. Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology
Forthcoming. Why philosophy? (Response to commentaries on my paper Is depression a sin? A philosophical consideration of Christian voluntarism.) Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology
Forthcoming. What could it mean to live well with depression? Journal of Religion and Disability
2015. Two Christian theologies of depression. Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology 22.4, 275 - 289
2015. Interpretation, meaning, and the shaping of experience: against depression being a natural entity and other forms of essentialism. (Response to commentaries on my paper Two Christian theologies of depression.) Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology 22.4, 299 - 301
Forthcoming. Can being told youre ill make you ill? A discussion of psychiatry, religion, and out of the ordinary experiences. Think: Philosophy for Everyone
2016. Why not believe in an evil God? Pragmatic encroachment and some implications for philosophy of religion. Religious Studies 52.3, 345 - 360 (Available at CJO 2015 DOI: 10.1017/S0034412515000360)
2015. Schizophrenia or possession? A reply to Kemal Irmak and Nuray Karanci. Journal of Religion and Health 54.5, 1963 - 1968 (DOI 10.1007/s10943-015-0027-4)
2015. Suffering as potentially transformative: a philosophical and pastoral consideration drawing on Henri Nouwens experience of depression. Pastoral Psychology 64.1, 99 - 109 (DOI 10.1007/s11089-013-0589-6)
2013. Divine passibility: God and emotion. Philosophy Compass Volume 8 Issue 9: 866 - 874
2013. Divine eros: A Christian argument for a pagan love. In: Nederduitse Gereformeerde Teologiese Tydskrif journal Volume 53 Supplement 12: 113 - 120
2012. Do compassion and other emotions make us more intelligent? In: Think: Philosophy for Everyone 30.1: 45 - 57
2009. Living like common people: emotion, will and divine passibility. Religious Studies: An International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion. 45.4: 373 - 393
2005. Emotion in Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas: a way forward for the impassibility debate? International Journal for Systematic Theology 7.2: 169 177
2005. Human and divine suffering: the relation between human suffering and the rise of passibilist theology. Ars Disputandi: The online journal for philosophy of religion 5
Forthcoming. Mental Illness. Routledge Handbook for Epistemic Injustice
2011. Suffering as transformative: some reflections on depression and free will. Religious Pluralism and the Modern World: An Ongoing Engagement with John Hick. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
2008. The truth will set you free: salvation as revelation. In: Bauckham, R., and Mosser, C. (ed.s), The Gospel of John and Christian Theology. Grand Rapids Michigan: Eerdmans