Ulf Zackariasson

Evil: The 21st Conference of the European Society for Philosophy of Religion

The European Society for Philosophy of Religion (founded in 1976) is Europe s largest society for philosophy of religion, and the biannual conferences gather 75-100 participants from all over Europe and the rest of the world. The twenty-first conference is dedicated to evil, and aims to discuss and initiate new research about evil, its place in human life and its complex relation to religion. The conference is structured around four sessions, one focusing on the different conceptions of evil and the similarities and differences that exist both within and between theological and philosophical traditions, another focusing on the paradoxical fact that although religions are dedicated to struggling against evil and promoting the good, they have a dark history of persecution and oppression, and the question is what this says about religion today and its ability to learn from history. A third session is dedicated to the ways in which evil is portrayed and presented in art and popular culture, and the question of how philosophers can learn from and draw on those sources to learn more about evil. The fourth session, finally, is dedicated to the problem of evil as conceived from a Christian/Muslim/Jewish perspective: how can belief in an almighty and benevolent God be affirmed despite the massive amounts of evil we see around us? Or can it? In each session, two outstanding European scholars present their current research, and then, a panel debate ensues.

On Aug 25-28, 2016, the 21st Conference of the European Society for Philosophy of Religion, Europe's largest society for philosophers of religion, was arranged at the Department of Theology, Uppsala University. The topic of the Conference was "Evil".

The conference gathered more than 110 participants from more than 50 universities located in more than 20 countries on three continents. Nine keynotes were invited, and about 75 scholars also presented their research in different short paper sessions.

The Conference focused on four different themes that transcend established subject- and disciplin-boundaries and also concern both questions about how the concept of evil has been understood and is understood today, and how evil is represented in various ways in Culture and society.

The first session was dedicated to the concept of evil and how the different ways in which it is understood also affects the different ways in which we respond to and seek to live with evil. Here, there was also room for accounts from the history of philosophy and theology.

The second session concerned itself with the ambiguous role played by religion with regard to evil, a role that has been even more discussed in the wake of the so-called "return of religion". What is is about religions that give them this double role of being understood both as causes and remedies of evil?

The third session was dedicated to the representation of evil in art and popular Culture, and not least the question whether there are insights about evil that are best, or even only, generated in fictional form. The further question then becomes how these insights can be translated and made use of in philosophical reflection.

The fourth session, finally, was dedicated to the classical question of theodicy, that is, whether it is possible to reconcile acceptance of the fact that much evil occurs in the world with some kind of faith in a good and powerful deity, or whether this entire question should be rejected as somehow misdirected, as more and more so-called (religious and secular) antitheodicists hold.

Special Issue is planned in Internationa Journal of Philosophy and Theology late in 2017