|Assistant Professor of Religion
Associate Director, Program in the History and Philosophy of Science
Departmental Area: Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy
Address: Department of Religion
Matthew Day (Ph.D., Brown 2003) teaches courses in the History of Religion and Science in the West, Theorizing the Academic Study of Religion, and the Philosophy of Religion. He is currently the Editor of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion.
- Cognitive Approaches to the Study of Religion
- History of the Anthropology of Religion
- History and Philosophy of Biology
- History of the Brain Sciences
“Reading the Fossils of Faith: Thomas Henry Huxley and the Evolutionary Subtext of the Synoptic Problem,” Church History. Volume 74, 3 (2005).
“The Undiscovered and Undiscoverable Essence: Species and Religion After Darwin,” Journal of Religion. Volume 85, 1 (January 2005): 58-82.
- “Religion, Off-Line Cognition and the Extended Mind,” Journal of Cognition and Culture. Volume 4, 1 (2004): 101-121.
- History of Religion and Science in the West
- Philosophy of Religion
- History of Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Religion
- Modern Religious Thought
- 19th and 20th Century Anglo-American Literature
Recent Graduate Seminars
- Empiricism Before Science
- The Historiography of Religion & Science: The Problem of “Revolution”
- Power, Knowledge and Control: Foucault and the History of the Social Sciences
- Freud and the Invention of the Modern Mind
REL3142 Religion: Self and Society
This course is structured around the principle that we should abandon the habit of treating some discourses or practices as being irreducibly distinct from mundane political and economic life. Rather, we must learn to recognize how the behaviors commonly identified as tokens of “religion” represent a form of politics that has been strategically represented as non-political in nature. Figures discussed will include John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, J.S. Mill and Carl Schmidt.
REL3493 Religion and Science
Rather than addressing science in general, this course focuses on the tradition of theorizing about economic activity—what Thomas Carlyle once famously called “the dismal science.” The goal will be to determine whether historical and philosophical insights into the nature of production, consumption, exchange, debt, money, and profit might also allow us to make sense of various collective activities often assembled under the category of “religion” (e.g., sacrifice, ritual, ideology). Figures discussed will include Karl Marx, Max Weber, Marcel Mauss, and Georg Simmel.
REL3142 Religion, Self and Society
The Spring 2012 version of this course is framed by one thesis and one question. First, the thesis: there is no such thing as religion—only “religion.” That is to say, we should abandon the habit of treating some discourses or practices as being irreducibly distinct from mundane political and economic life. Rather, we must learn to recognize how the category of "religion" itself mystifies a variety of all-too-human phenomena by isolating them from everything else. There is a rich tradition of modern social theory regarding religion, but we have barely begun articulating a social theory of "religion" as an expression of both the will to order and the will to power. Thus, the question this course sets out to answer is: Which elements from our past theories of religion can be most fruitfully refashioned in order to theorize ―religion"?
REL3493 Religion and Science (Honors)
The Spring 2012 version of this course is designed as a semester-long exercise in theory construction. We begin with Bruno Latour’s expansive notion of politics as "the entire set of tasks that allow for the progressive composition of a common world." Considered against this backdrop, there is nothing more political than attempts to identify what really does or really does not exist because they help distinguish which actors can be mobilized, recruited, dismissed or deported as part of the collective’s demography. This suggests that the history of naturalistic accounts of religion—which typically begin from the premise that gods, ghosts and spirits aren’t real—should be treated as a form of political labor which, at times, has been decisive in determining the contours of modern social life.