Tobias Tan

Tobias Tan


Thesis title:

Corporeal Theology: The Nature of Theological Understanding in Light of Embodied Cognition


Professor Graham Ward


My research considers how recent develops in cognitive science might reshape theological methodologies. In particular, I explored the emerging field of embodied cognition, which considers how factors beyond the brain—such as emotional body states, perceptual interactions or engagement with material culture—might participate in our cognitive processes. If we ought to broaden our understanding of what it means to think to include such factors, as theories of embodied cognition suggest, might we similarly expand our assumptions about theological thinking? Might embodied religious practices include cognitive content and therefore theological in interesting ways?


Foundation Ertegun Scholar (2012–2014)

Arthur Peacocke Graduate Scholarship in Science and Religion, Exeter College (2014–2016)

Selected Publications:

Edited Volumes

Hardke, Thomas, Ulrich Schmiedel, and Tobias Tan, eds. Experience or Expression? Religious Experience Revisited. Edited by Jan Willem van Henten and Thomas Quartier, Studies in Theology and Religion Series. Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.

Refereed Articles and Chapters

Tan, Tobias. ‘The Corporeality of Religious Experience: Embodied Cognition in Religious Practices.’ In Experience or Expression? Religious Experience Revisited, edited by Thomas Hardke, Ulrich Schmiedel and Tobias Tan. Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.

Tan, Tobias. 2012. “Confined Genius? Composition and Creativity in the Oral Poetry of Homer.” Burgmann Journal (1): 5–11.


Tan, Tobias. 2010. Living Metaphor: Birth from Above and the Birth of Meaning. Honours dissertation, Charles Sturt University, Canberra, Australia.

Tan, Tobias. 2014. Challenges to Theological Methodology in Light of Merleau-Ponty and Embodied Cognition. Master of Philosophy dissertation, University of Oxford.

Conference Presentations

Tan, Tobias. April 2016. Respondent to Plenary Talk by Louise Lawrence. Society for the Study of Theology, University of Durham.

Tan, Tobias. April 2016. Human Conceptual Capacities and Theological Language. Society for the Study of Theology, University of Durham.

Tan, Tobias. April 2015. The Corporeality of Religious Experience: William James Revisited in Light of Embodied Cognition. Society for the Study of Theology, University of Nottingham.

Tan, Tobias. July 2014. Emotional Priming in Religious Practices. The Role of Emotion in Religious Experience, University of Konstanz.

Tan, Tobias. June 2014. Emotion and Cognition in Theology. Emotions and the Humanities: A conversation with Martha Nussbaum, Ertegun House, University of Oxford.

Tan, Tobias. May 2014. Affective Religious Experience: The Role of Feeling in Schleiermacher and Damasio. Do Emotions Shape the World? The European Society for the Study of Science and Theology, Assisi, Italy.

Tan, Tobias. September 2013. Response to Imke Scheib’s ‘Jüdishe Kritik an Adolf Stöcker’. Bonn-Oxford Faculty Exchange Conference, University of Bonn.

Academic-related Activities:

Ad Hoc Peer Reviewing

Burgmann Journal, The Australian National University

Institutional and Organisational Affiliations

Society for the Study of Theology, UK (Member)

Exeter College, University of Oxford (Graduate Student)

Graduate Theology Society, University of Oxford (Committee Member, 2013–2014)

Affections and Ethics Network, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (Member)

Embodiment and Materiality Network, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (Member)


Emotions and the Humanities: A Conversation with Martha Nussbaum, Ertegun House, University of Oxford, June 2014 — Co-organiser

Interpreting Experience/Experiencing Interpretation, St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford, April 2014 — Co-organiser

Bodies: Boundaries and Bridges, Postgraduate Conference of the Society for the Study of Theology, St John’s College, University of Oxford, January 2014 — Planning committee coordinator

Bonn-Oxford Theology Faculties Joint Conference, University of Bonn, September 2013 — Participant and respondent

The Service of Faith: Christian Entanglements with International Development, Ertegun House, University of Oxford & Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, August 2013 — Co-host and symposium administrator

Oxford Graduate Theology Society Conference, Ertegun House, University of Oxford, July 2013 — Co-organiser

About me:

I grew up in Canberra, Australia and undertook my undergraduate studies at The Australian National University and Charles Sturt University. Before coming to Oxford, my academic journey was broadly inter-disciplinary, including studies in Classics, Commerce, Information Technology and Theology. I have also immersed myself in several research-intensive environments as a research assistant on an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant Project on Biblical Hebrew Linguistics, as Pastoral Fellow at Burgmann College (ANU), and through working in the Oral History and Folklore Collection at the National Library of Australia. I am currently the Hastings Rashdall Graduate Scholar at the chapel of New College, Oxford and a Waynflete Intern in Theology at Magdalen College School, Oxford.