How Shall I Praise Thee? Brian Leiter on Respect for Religion

Andrew Koppelman

San Diego Law Review

Abstract: In two recent papers, Brian Leiter argues that there is no good reason for law to single out religion for special treatment and religion is not an apt candidate for respect in the “thick” sense of being an object of favorable appraisal. Special treatment would be appropriate only if there were some “moral reason why states should carve out special protections that encourage individuals to structure their lives around categorical demands that are insulated from the standards of evidence and reasoning we everywhere else expect to constitute constraints on judgment and action.” Favorable appraisal would be called for “[o]nly if there were a positive correlation between beliefs that were culpably without epistemic warrant and valuable outcomes. Both arguments depend on a radically impoverished and conception of what religion is and what it does. In this paper, I will explain what Leiter leaves out and offer a hypothesis about why. I will also engage with some related reflections by Simon Blackburn and Timothy Macklem, both of whom influence, in different ways, Leiter’s analysis.


Koppelman A. How Shall I Praise Thee? Brian Leiter on Respect for Religion. 47 San Diego L. Rev. 961 (2010).

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