A visiting assistant professor of philosophy from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is presenting their paper to the Murray State community on making philosophy of religion queer-friendly.
On Friday, Oct. 23, Blake Hereth will be giving a colloquium talk titled “Queering Philosophy of Religion” to challenge Christain philosophers to make space for queer people in the philosopy of religion.
Hereth got their doctorate degree in philosophy from the University of Washington in 2019. Their interest in philosophy developed after struggles with feeling blame over their brother’s disability, as well as searching for answers to larger-than-life questions.
“I felt extreme guilt about my brother’s disability, fearing it to have been caused by a vengeful God for my queerness,” Hereth said. “Like most anyone with such guilt, I wanted answers, and philosophy offered them.”
Hereth thinks that inclusivity is vital to philosophy for two main reasons. The first reason is that they believe our philosophically rich experiences and intuitions are shaped by our identities.
The second reason Hereth believes philosophy should be inclusive is because everyone, not just privileged people, are curious about and have philosophical interests.
“Of course, traditionally underrepresented people can do philosophy, but the kinds of philosophy they do are often frowned upon,” Hereth said. “There are traditionally few venues and little funding for Black or disabled philosophers, for example, to bring their interests as Black and disabled people to center stage.”
The colloquium talk stems from a paper Hereth wrote after being invited to contribute to a special journal issue on the future of philosophy of religion. Hereth based their contribution on the esteemed Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s research agenda for Christian philosophy titled “Advice to Christian Philosophers.”
“I don’t think Plantinga went far enough when he encouraged Christian philosophers to serve the Christian community by analyzing the Incarnation, Trinity and all that,” Hereth said. “It’s imperative that Christian philosophers, as philosophical representatives of their broader Christian community, do justice by elevating voices and perspectives the Christian Church has traditionally oppressed, including queer ones.”
Hereth wants their colloquium talk to focus on Christian philosophers, since they dominate philosophy of religion, and their duty to aid queer people in shaping the philosopy of religion.
“One reason they have this duty is because the Christian Church has frequently (and unjustly) repressed queer people and their perspectives,” Hereth said. “And this is true even by the lights of many conservative Christian philosophers, who, for example, oppose the violent silencing of queer people.”
Inclusivity in the philosophy of religion can begin in the classroom for many philosophy students. Hereth said Murray State already has a lead on inclusivity with the help of their friend and colleague.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t compliment Dr. Michelle Panchuk, who is ever a glowing example of allyship for queer people and queer philosophy,” Hereth said.
The next steps for colleges to make philosophy more inclusive is for faculty and staff to educate themselves on queer-friendly education, Hereth said. They encourage faculty and staff to stop expecting queer people to do the work for them and instead of always debating, opting to listen.
“Don’t ‘out’ queer people or pressure them to share, but also don’t pressure them to stop sharing,” Hereth said. “And if you are queer and want to pursue projects of importance to you as a queer person, do it. Find a faculty member who supports you and your project, like Dr. Panchuk and others, and then pursue it with maximal excellence.”
Hereth also offered advice to queer studens who are interested in philosophy. They clarified that while they aren’t a “queer sage,” they want to encourage students to challenge traditional philosophical thinking.
“Philosophy has not been made in our image,” Hereth said. “Many of the dominant debates in philosophy were shaped by cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, able-minded, white men of economic privilege. This can cause us queers to feel like misfits in philosophy–as if we didn’t already feel like misfits in every other context.”
Hereth’s colloquium talk, Queering Philosophy of Religion, will be from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23. The event is taking place via Zoom and you can register in advance from this link: uark.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ITuiHwc4SkOfkBcX-DVNFw.