Resilient Beliefs: Religion and Beyond

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Trilateral EUREGIO-Project

Duration: 2022 - 2024

Project leader: Univ.-Prof. Katherine Dormandy, ao. Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr.Dr. Winfried Löffler

In collaboration with: Prof. Christoph Amor and Prof. Martin Lintner (Philosophical-Theological University of Bressanone/Brixen), and Dr. Paolo Costa und Dr. Boris Rähme (Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Centro per le scienze religiose Trento)

Interview with W. Löffler in Kathpress,  05.02.2022

We are familiar with the phenomenon of “resilient” opinions or beliefs, i.e., beliefs that people would not give up under almost any circumstances, and would vehemently defend against objections and counterarguments.

Some of these resilient beliefs appear completely rational. The beliefs that one cannot breathe under water or fly by flapping one’s arms are even life-preserving. And most people would never give up many aspects of our contemporary scientific worldview. However, the Corona crisis has shed light on questionable forms of belief resilience. Some people defend unusual beliefs even against clear empirical evidence, calling into question science as a whole or positing giant collective delusion. But what distinguishes “rational” from “irrational,” “good” from “bad” forms of belief resilience? And what about religious or political opinions – what domain do they fall under, and how can we characterize their resilience more precisely? For example, do such beliefs have anything in common with unproblematic belief resilience, or should they be described differently? And what do the religious and theological traditions reveal about these questions? 

We are pursuing these and other questions in a trilateral, “pan-Tyrolean”, EUREGIO Science Fund research project (total volume: 390,159 euros, of which 150,234 is for Innsbruck), which was approved in August 2021. It is overseen by Prof. Katherine Dormandy and Prof. Winfried Löffler together with Prof. Christoph Amor and Prof. Martin Lintner (Philosophical-Theological University of Bressanone/Brixen) and Dr. Paolo Costa and Dr. Boris Rähme (Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Trento). The three research groups have different and complementary research focuses. The Innsbruck group will focus on epistemological questions concerning resilient aspects of worldviews and their epistemic justification. The Trento group will focus on the empirical and religious aspects of belief resilience and disagreement. The focus in Bressanone/Brixen is the nature of religious beliefs and the role of religious justification in public discourse.

Since early summer 2022, Dr. Scott Hill works at the Innsbruck Institute for Christian Philosophy as a scientific PostDoc member of the project; on the one hand, he will be responsible for essential parts of the research work (currently on the inner structures and preconditions of so-called "conspiracy theories"), on the other hand, he will provide organisational support for the complex research project from internal meetings, public conferences, publications, etc. In Bressanone and Trento, Dr. Martin Koči and Dr. Eugenia Lancellotta perform analogous tasks as PostDoc staff.

In addition to workshops and conferences, the concrete outcomes of the project will include approximately 10 scholarly articles in respected journals and the publication of the workshop and conference presentations.

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