Lara Buchak

Lara Buchak

Associate Professor of Philosophy; Senior Fellow, Berkeley Institute


Understanding Ritual

Whether we are religious or secular, our lives are structured by rituals. Religious believers often participate in liturgies, but our culture is filled with other “liturgies” as well. This seminar will ask what a “ritual” is and what purposes ritual serves. We will examine this issue by looking at specific examples. What is the point of prayer, and what does one need to believe or do for it to be effective? Must a religious service take a specific form? Do spiritual practices need to be tied to a religion, or can secular analogues serve the same purpose? Students will be invited to discuss their own experiences about daily habits and “rituals” that form human character. For more information, please contact

Dates: Tuesdays on 2/25, 3/3, 3/10, 3/17
Time: 5:30-7:00 PM

Discussion and Reading Schedule:

2/25: Ritual and Know-How: How does participating in rituals help us know God?
Reading: Terrence Cuneo, “Ritual Knowledge”

3/3: Prayer and Imagination: What is prayer and what do you need to
believe in order for it to be effective? Reading: Amber Griffioen, “Are You There, God?  It’s Me, the Theist”

3/10: Dietary Practices and Hope: What mindset do you need to have
when engaging in religious or secular dietary practices? Reading: Andrew Chignell, “Religious Dietary Practices and Secular Food Ethics” *CANCELED*

3/17: Spirituality and Religion: Can you engage in spiritual practices apart from a religious tradition? Reading: Jeremiah Carey, “Spiritual, but not Religious?”   



Location: 2134 Allston Way

**This seminar is free and open to all Cal, GTU, and St. Mary’s students**