“Monograph publishing must keep up with the times,” says Professor of Philosophy of Religion Sami Pihlström

In his monograph, Pragmatic Realism, Religious Truth, and Antitheodicy, which is published in open access by Helsinki University Press, Sami Pihlström examines suffering and the meaning or meaninglessness of human life. In this interview, Pihlström shares his views on the book’s themes and scholarly publishing.

In his new book, Pragmatic Realism, Religious Truth, and Antitheodicy: On Viewing the World by Acknowledging the Other, Sami Pihlström examines some ‘eternal’ questions that occupy people’s minds throughout times.

“My work is basic philosophical research focused on the philosophy of religion and the most common questions of ethics and metaphysics. Philosophical questions related to suffering, the meaning or meaninglessness of human life, the rationality or irrationality of religious belief, as well as the fundamental nature of reality are permanently topical.”

In his work, Pihlström discusses the problem of suffering and evil through the pragmatist philosophy of religion. He criticises theodicist argumentation, which justifies suffering by highlighting the good outcomes that follow from suffering. This kind of thinking is damaging, since it disregards the individual’s perspective on the world and suffering. Hence, antitheodicist thinking runs through Pihlström’s study.

“In my book, I argue that theodicies are based on metaphysical realism, which deserves to be criticised not only from the perspective of pragmatism in general but from the perspective of antitheodicist thinking in particular, because it disregards the unique perspective of the victim of suffering when aiming for a harmonious overall idea – the ‘God’s-Eye View’.”

Another dimension to the topic is offered by a chapter examining theodicist thought in the context of Wittgensteinian philosophy of religion.

“This is relevant to the topic as the Wittgensteinian tradition has criticised both realism and theodicies partly in a way that is analogous to pragmatism.”

When Helsinki University Press was established, Pihlström ended up both offering his book idea to HUP and participating in the Press’s activities as a member of the academic board. Pihlström finds that publishing research results in open access is the best way to reach relevant scholarly audiences.

“The importance of open-access publishing increases in all fields. In the humanities, monograph continues to be the primary form of publication. However, even monograph publishing must keep up with the times, which, in my opinion, makes open-access publishing important and worthy of further development.”

According to Pihlström, it is likely that open-access publishing will not be able to completely replace traditional commercial book publishing, but its status will keep on strengthening.

“It seems unlikely that the humanities could entirely give up commercial publishing. However, open-access publishing initiatives, such as HUP, are an important step in the right direction.”


Sami Pihlström is professor of philosophy of religion at the University of Helsinki. He has published extensively on, for example, the tradition of pragmatism, the problem of realism, and the philosophy of religion.

This news item is part of a series introducing new publications of Helsinki University Press and presenting HUP authors as well as their views on open-access publishing.


Translation: Language Services, University of Helsinki.