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There is a disconnect between public debate about rationality and religious faith—which is persistent and flourishing—and engagement with these same topics in top philosophy departments—which remains marginal. Notre Dame wants to bring big questions about religion into closer conversation with high-level research. In the process, we will incentivize and train highly promising scholars for this work. While public engagement has increasingly been a career advantage for research philosophers, work on questions in religion has lagged.

Philosophy and Religion Engaged with the Public (PREP) Workshops will bring together a dozen Ph.D. candidates and junior faculty from leading philosophy departments. Participants will have demonstrated strength in a mainstream subfield and an interest in religion and public philosophy. A two-week summer PREP workshop will feature research guidance from senior faculty mentors with experience on topics that bridge current research and larger audiences. PREP workshops will also feature coaching and mentorship from writers and editors at a mainstream media outlet.

This planning grant will support a two-week pilot PREP workshop in July 2019 and a one-day planning meeting in Fall 2018. The theme of the pilot will be Epistemology, Scientific Methodology, and Questions of Rational Faith. PREP Participants will produce: 1) a five-page research proposal for a project connecting research with a publicly-engaged question, and 2) an op-ed draft or other suitable public engagement piece. Organizers will disseminate a report collecting these drafts, identifying challenges and opportunities for publicly engaged work on religion, and offering a full proposal for a sequence of future PREP workshops.

We aim at three outcomes from the pilot project: 1) have 100% of participants commit to continuing their proposed research project; 2) publish 1-2 of op-eds in high-quality venues; 3) sustain research networks among PREP philosophers.