, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 539–556 | Cite as

Do Religious Beliefs Have a Place within an ‘Epistemically Naturalized’ Cognitive System?

  • Graham WoodEmail author


The anthropologist Pascal Boyer observes that:

Religious ideas can be called “natural” in (at least) two senses. “Natural” are those aspects of religious ideas which depend on noncultural constraints, like the human genome or the capacities of human brains or the properties of the world humans live in. [And] “natural” can be understood as describing a subjective quality, the fact that certain religious postulates are considered perfectly obvious, self-evident ideas by the people who hold them (1994, p. 3).

Boyer’s observations are representative of the naturalness of religion thesis, a thesis being considered by a number of researchers (e.g., McCauley 2000; Barrett 2004; McCauley and Cohen 2010) within the emerging field of cognitive science of religion (CSR). Boyer’s references to ‘capacities of human brains’ and ‘the fact that certain religious postulates are considered perfectly obvious, self-evident ideas’ bring to mind the project of naturalized epistemology. Willard...


Naturalized epistemology Religious epistemology Web of belief Quine Core knowledge systems Feminist critique of philosophy of science Cognitive science of religion 



This research is an output from a project, undertaken as part of the New Insights and Directions for Religious Epistemology Project within the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the New Insights and Directions for Religious Epistemology Project, the University of Oxford, or the John Templeton Foundation. I thank audience members at the presentation of this paper within the New Insights and Directions for Religious Epistemology Project and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of HumanitiesUniversity of TasmaniaLauncestonAustralia

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