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Showing posts from 2007

An Excellent Encyclopedia Entry on the Evidential Argument From Evil

...can be found here. The author is Nick Trakakis. Nick is a hot up-and-comer in philosophy of religion. He recently published a monograph with Ashgate Press on Rowe's evidential argument from evil, which displays a command of all the literature on the argument. He has also published a slew of journal articles on it, in which he makes a genuine contribution to the debate. He is therefore an ideal person to learn from on this topic.

Philosophical Gerrymandering and Cumulative Case Arguments For Theism

I've argued that no argument for God, taken by itself, demonstrates theism -- or even makes theism more probable than not. However, this leaves open the possibility that, when taken together, these arguments do demonstrate the truth of theism, or at least make theism more probable than not.

Richard Swinburne is one famous philosopher of religion who takes this approach to arguments for theism[1]. He uses a formula from probability calculus known as Bayes' Theorem to argue in this way. He calls an argument that raises the probability of a hypothesis a good C-inductive argument, and he calls an argument that makes a hypothesis more probable than not a good P-inductive argument. He then considers a large variety of arguments for theism, and admits that none of them, when construed as a deductive argument, constitutes a sound argument for God's existence. However, he argues that a number of them, when reformulated as inductive arguments, each raise the probability of thei…

Online Course on the Old Testament

This looks to be a great course on the Old Testament at Yale. It comes complete with a syllabus and lectures in both audio and video formats. I imagine it's worth browsing around there to find other classes in various disciplines. Isn't it great to know that you can now sit in on courses at Ivy League universities at home in your pajamas, and at no monetary cost to yourself?

The Trouble With Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology In A Nutshell (Draft)

Plantinga rightly points out that classical foundationalist accounts of properly basic beliefs are inadequate -- not enough beliefs count as properly basic. Unfortunately, Plantinga goes too far -- too many beliefs count as properly basic on his account. He wants to widen the circle of properly basic beliefs so as to allow belief in God to count as properly basic, but he can't do so in a way that's plausible.

To see this, recall the inductive procedure Plantinga recommends for generating criteria of proper basicality: a person considers actual and hypothetical circumstances in which a belief of a certain type is formed. In each considered circumstance, the person asks herself whether the belief is rational (i.e., properly basic or properly based) or irrational (i.e., improperly basic or improperly based). If that type of belief is judged to be neither irrational nor rational-but-properly-based, then the belief is judged to be properly basic (at least if it is judged to be …

On One of the Main Reasons Why I Think Christianity is False (Reposted)

An Inference to the Best Explanation: Jesus as a Failed Eschatological Prophet (Re-posted)
I agree with mainstream scholarship on the historical Jesus (e.g., E.P. Sanders, Geza Vermes, Bart Ehrman, Dale Allison, Paula Fredriksen, et al.) that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet. Such a hypothesis, if true, would be a simple one that would make sense of a wide range of data, including the following twenty-one (or so):
D1. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to escape the imminent judgment of the eschaton. Jesus was his baptized disciple, and thus accepted his message -- and in fact preached basically the same message. D2. Many (most?) of Jesus’ “Son of Man” passages are most naturally interpreted as allusions to the Son of Man figure in Daniel. This figure was an end of the world arbiter of God’s justice, and Jesus kept preaching that he was on his way (e.g., “From now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”…

Arguments From Consciousness for God's Existence

A number of contemporary Christian philosophers think there's a good argument for God in the phenomenon of consciousness, including Richard Swinburne, Robert M. Adams, J.P. Moreland, and Victor Reppert. There are at least two forms of the argument.

The first argument postulates God's activity as the best explanation for why our concious states are correlated in a lawlike way with certain brain states. Thus, it's utterly mysterious why one set of brain states actualizes experiences of, say, the color red, rather than some other set of brain states, if God doesn't exist. For if the natural world is all there is, then the conscious states of the color red are indentical to or otherwise reducible to physical states in the brain. But if so, then there should be no mystery: just like any other scientific phenomenon in the physical world, once you know the physical basis of phenomenon, there is no residual mystery why *that* physical state gives rise to *this* phenomen…

Some Varieties of Naturalism

There are several versions of naturalism. Naturalists share in common the view that the natural world is all there is -- there is no supernatural realm of spiritual beings. However, naturalists differ in how they define 'the natural world'. Now there are at least three broad ways of characterizing "the natural world", and so there are at least three kinds of naturalists -- let's call them 'Conservatives', 'Moderates', and 'Liberals'.

Conservative naturalists are straight physicalists -- nothing exists but the physical, and the physical is characterized by all and only the properties listed in physics and chemistry textbooks.

Moderate naturalists differ from Conservative naturalists, in that they expand their conception of natural world so as to include abstracta (e.g., propositions, properties, possible worlds, etc.). Recent proponents include Tyler Burge, Jeff King, W.V.O. Quine, Roderick Chisholm, and Kit Fine.

Finally, Liberal naturalist…

A Quick Thought About Universals

Sometimes there is, I think, a resistance to Platonism about abstract objects. Here's my hunch about the cause of resistance: only substances can exist independently of other entities, such as physical objects, and perhaps immaterial substances, such as souls, if such there be. But abstract entities aren't substances; therefore, they can't exist independently of other things. But Platonism entails that they *can* exist indepedently of susbtances; therefore, Platonism is false.

I think this line of reasoning is flawed. To see this, consider the following distinction. It's a truism that everything exists. However, not everything that exists is instantiated. So, for example, the property of being a Wal*Mart one cubic foot larger than any currently existing Wal*Mart is a property that *exists*, and yet it isn't *instantiated* anywhere. Lots and lots of properties exist that aren't instantiated; in fact, many properties *can't* be instantiated (e.g., bei…

Does Naturalism Entail Materialism?

Suppose you're a non-theist of the thoroughly secular sort: not only is there no theistic god, but neither is there a deistic god; nor are there any finite gods or a world spirit, or anything of that sort. There is just the natural world. Must you thereby be a materialist? That is, must you believe that everything is composed of matter in the old-fashioned sense? To put it more formally, consider the following strict conditional, which I shall call 'Naturalism Entails Materialism' (NEM for short):

(NEM) Necessarily, If naturalism is true, then materialism is true.

Now my question is this: is NEM true? If it is, then this isn't obvious. I've argued in a previous post that naturalism is compatible with the existence of abstract objects. That is, naturalism is compatible with the existence of immaterial, necessarily existent, non-spatiotemporal entities (I also argued that traditional theism is *incompatible* with the existence of abstract objects in that previo…

The Very Best Debate on Theism is Now Occuring Online

Here. I'm not talking about a circus-show, low-brow debate of the sort William Lane Craig regularly engages in (replete with rhetoric, cheap debating tricks, and showmanship). Rather, I'm talking about a *real* debate between top philosophers on both sides of the fence. It's somewhat difficult to follow if you don't have a background in philosophy, but it's nonetheless accessible if you're willing to think hard, read the footnotes, and exercise patience in following the arguments. I promise you it'll be worth it!

The Real News

This is off the topic of the primary aims of this blog, but I feel that this is too important to leave unmentioned. There is a worldwide movement to get *real news* back on the air. The site is called just that, 'Real News'. Please take a look at it here

Please visit the site, look around, and tell everyone you know about it. Please post a link on your blog for the site, if you are so inclined.

Notes on Ch. 6 of Rowe's Philosophy of Religion Text: "Faith and Reason"

Notes on Rowe, Ch. 6 – “Faith and Reason”

0. Preliminaries:
0.1 So far, we’ve focused our discussion on the issue of whether there is a rational basis for belief in the god of classical theism.
0.2 This discussion has presupposed two ideas
0.1.1 religious beliefs should be evaluated “in the court of reason”
0.1.2 religious beliefs will find favor in this “court” only if they are supported by sufficient evidence
0.3 But a number of people have criticized these two assumptions
0.3.1 against the first assumption: religious beliefs should be accepted by faith, and not by reason must be (a) a free choice, and (b) one that requires unconditional acceptance and commitment But if faith were based on reason, then it would be either based on evidence that proves the truth of the relevant religion, or evidence that makes it probable. if faith were based on evidence that proves the truth of the religion, then we are no longer free to ac…

Some Misgivings About Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology

The main thesis of Alvin Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology is that belief in God is, or can be, properly basic; that is, it can be reasonable to believe in a god without any propositional evidence or arguments whatsoever. His Reformed Epistemology comes in two forms: Old School (the version he developed and defendend from the end of the 70s to the late 80s/early 90s) and New School (the version he developed and defended from the early 90s to the present).

To understand the difference between Plantinga's Old School and his New School Reformed Epistemology, we must first point out a distinction between two competing accounts of knowledge and justification: internalism and externalism. Very rougly (VERY roughly -- there are a gazillion versions of internalism and externalism out there now, and there a lots of subtle distinctions regarding them; my characterization here runs roughshod over them), internalism is the view that the factors that render a belief known or justified …

A Defense of Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology From My Chrstian Days

Here's a paper defending Alvin Plantinga's orginal, epistemically internalist version of reformed epistemology from my first year of grad school.

Plantinga, Sennett, and Reformed Epistemology

In “Reason and Belief in God” (hereafter ‘RBG’), as well as in many other contexts, Alvin Plantinga argues that belief in God is “properly basic” That is, belief in God is rational, or justified, or warranted without being based on propositional evidence. This thesis constitutes the core of what is known as ‘Reformed Epistemology’. Call this thesis ‘RET’. James Sennett, among others, denies RET. For example, in his Modality, Probability, and Rationality, he argues that Plantinga fails to show that it is even epistemically possible that RET is true. In this paper, I will give a sketch of Plantinga’s case for RET, as well as Sennett’s critique of it. Finally, I will argue that although Sennett’s arguments have some force, he ultimately fails to make his case against RET. For he fails …