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Hugh Burling


- PhD, St John's College, Cambridge, 2013-present

- MPhil, St John's College, Cambridge, 2012-2013
(thesis: "The Imperceptibility of a Simple God") (Distinction; Theological Studies Prize; College Scholarship)

- Teacher of Religious Studies and Head of Public Speaking, Brighton College, 2011-2012

- Teacher of Critical Thinking, Mulberry School for Girls, 2011

- Office Manager, Politeia, 2010-2011

- BA (Theology and Religious Studies), St John's College, Cambridge, 2007-2010 (*1st; Theological Studies Prize; College Scholarship)

Subject area and speciality

Philosophy of Religion specialists:

Divine Discretion: How to Evaluate Basic Beliefs about God

Research Interests

- Ancient iterations and modern reconstructions of divine simplicity

- The nature and value of different kinds of evidence for theological inquiry

- Disputes between 'Classical Theism' and contemporary philosophical conceptions of God

- theological disagreement and religious diversity

- applications of insights from formal epistemology to philosophy of religion

 - 'Divine hiddenness' and the relationship between natural and revealed theology.

My thesis develops a framework for comparatively evaluating religious experiences, and the 'basic' beliefs about God often supported by them, from outside any particular theistic religious tradition. I argue that criticisms of approaches to the epistemology of religious experience in the late twentieth century are really criticisms that spiritual seekers, waverers and theologians are offered no appropriate guidance by these approaches, which either tell them to depend on a religious tradition they are in no position to depend on, or offer generic epistemological rules of thumb which are not sufficiently fine-grained. Accordingly, I take a decision-theoretic approach to perfect being theology to show one way of ensuring our beliefs about what God would do, an hence whose religious experiences are more likely to be veridical, can be made to track the moral and other non-theological beliefs which parties to theological disagreements might be thought to share. This approach has therapeutic applications in several debates in contemporary philosophy of religion, such as the problem of divine hiddenness, whether religious diversity should lead to theological skepticism, and whether skeptical theism is a helpful response to the evidential problem of evil. Showing that the approach is acceptable to all theists regardless of their tradition also involves an investigation of the stakes of theological disagreement and the notion of ultimacy or worthiness of worship.


Cambridge Faculty of Divinity (2015-16)

Paper A8: Introduction to Philosophy of Religion and Ethics

Paper B10: God, Freedom and the Soul

Paper C11: Metaphysics.


Past Experience


KS3 (ages 10-14) religious studies, philosophy and ethics courses (locally determined).

GCSE (ages 14-16) religious studies;

A-level (ages 16-18) philosophy of religion and ethics.

Public Talks and Outreach

“If we can't tell God from a Headache, we can't tell Right from Wrong: what to do about important but irrational beliefs”, St John's College Theological Society, St John's College, Cambridge, 10/03/2014

 “Do we need a special theory about God-talk?”, delivered for visiting sixth-formers in the Faculty of Divinity, 12/09/2014

“Introducing Epistemology”, a taster lesson for attendees of the Sutton Trust Cambridge Summer School, 23/07/2015 and 19/07/2016.

“When Should I believe in something I can’t see?”, delivered for sixth-formers at Oundle School, 17/03/2016.

“Perfect Being Theology”, a distance learning enrichment unit for sith-formers studying philosophy of religion contributed to the HE+ scheme ( at 13/02/2015).


Other Professional Activities

Conference Presentations

"Evaluating the Practical Argument for Engaging in Mystical Practices", Bristol Postgraduate Conference in Religion and Theology, University of Bristol, 8/03/2014

"Idolatry Arguments against Natural Theology: How they Work and Why they Fail", RS@50, University of Leeds, 26/06/2014

"Undercutting the Problem of Evil: Must the First Cause be a Perfect Being?", Evil: Interdisciplinary Explorations, TORCH, University of Oxford, 27/06/2014

“Whom Should I Worship?”, delivered at the Annual Christian Philosophy Conference, St John’s Seminary Wonersh, 7/01/2016.


Seminar and Workshop Presentations

“Divine Immutability and ‘Mystical Perception’”, defended at the Annual Logos Workshop, University of Notre Dame, 9/05/2015.

 “Predicting Divine Action”, delivered at the St Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of Religion, University of St Thomas, Minnesota, 26/06/2015.

“What’s at stake in theological disagreements?”, delivered at the Noesis seminar, University of Cambridge, 23/02/2016.

“How to think about Being: an Analytic Perspective”, delivered at the Philosophy of Religion Graduate Study Day, University of Cambridge, 20/04/2016.

Key Publications

Peer-Reviewed Articles

“‘Idolatry’ Arguments Against Natural Theology: How they Work and Why They Fail”, in Religious Studies 51 (2015), 401-410.

Other Publications


John Rist, Plato's Moral Realism: The Discovery of the Presuppositions of Ethics (Catholic University of America Press, 2012), Reviews in Religion and Theology 20

Robert Lovering, God and Evidence: Problems for Theistic Philosophers (Bloomsbury, 2013), Reviews in Religion and Theology 21

Graham Ward, Unbelievable (I. B. Tauris, 2014), Oxonian Review 27:1



"Errol's Transworld Heroism: A Hybrid Ontological Argument" in Noesis: Theology, Philosophy, Poetics 1 (2014)

"Three Problems of Onto-theology" in Noesis: Theology, Philosophy, Poetics 3 (2016)


Current students and supervisors can access the Faculty’s Moodle page by clicking on the image below.