All My Relations: A Process-Indigenous Study In Comparative Ontology

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Over the past few decades, issues associated with how to understand the diversity of religions and the religious ‘other’ have been at the forefront of Religious Studies. There have been numerous critiques of both the ‘New Comparative Theology,’ which advocates practical engagement in dialogue and/or textual comparison between traditions, and ‘Theologies of Religions,’ which is a more theoretical approach to how the diversity of religions are, or should be, understood. These critiques have centred around accusations of imperialistic hegemony, the use and reification of categories, and whether the variety of religions can, or should, be understood in a manner that acknowledges rough equality in epistemic and soteriological value. This thesis argues that the particular theological perspective and methodology of John Cobb Jr., based on the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, manages to avoid most, if not all, such critiques by advocating a form of complementary, transformationist, pluralism. Cobb understands the diversity of religious perspectives as potentially complementary rather than contradictory, and argues for mutual transformation of the traditions involved, based on the understanding that each has something to be learned from the other. The process approach and perspective presupposed by Cobb is not only uniquely suited to address the issues of religious diversity but also promotes equal openness to the religious ‘other.’ To illustrate this, I undertake a comparative experiment between a Whiteheadian metaphysic and Indigenous ontology to show that a process based, relational metaphysic is better capable of interpreting and accommodating Indigenous ontology/epistemology than the traditional Western, materialistic/mechanistic view. The experiment reveals how universal relationality and interconnectedness in process terms are exemplified through various Indigenous concepts, language structures, cultural and religious practices, and epistemology. I contend that process thought not only provides a better understanding of religious pluralism but also meets the challenge posed by Indigenous scholars who call for a Western perspective that reconciles the contemporary worldview of science with the relational ontology of Indigenous cultures and facilitates a recognition of Indigenous peoples as equal partners in inter-religious and inter-cultural encounters and dialogue.
Philosophy, Religion, Religion--Philosophy of
Daniels, C. P. (2013). All My Relations: A Process-Indigenous Study In Comparative Ontology (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/24772