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Showing posts from December, 2008

Michael Almeida's New Book...

...The Metaphysics of Perfect Beings, has recently come out.

Here is the summary of the book at its Routledge Press page:
The Metaphysics of Perfect Beings addresses the problems an Anselmian perfect being faces in contexts involving unlimited options. Recent advances in the theory of vagueness, the metaphysics of multiverses and hyperspace, the theory of dynamic or sequential choice, the logic of moral and rational dilemmas, and metaethical theory provide the resources to formulate the new challenges and the Anselmian responses with an unusual degree of precision. Almeida shows that the challenges arising in the unusual contexts involving unlimited options sometimes produce metaphysical surprise.

And here are the chapters listed in the table of contents:

Chapter One: Atheistic Arguments from Improvability
Chapter Two: Rational Choice and No Best World
Chapter Three: On Evil's Vague Necessity
Chapter Four: The Problem of No Maximum Evil
Chapter Five: On the Logic of Imperfection
Chapter S…

Some Nice Siren Music to Round Off the Year

Alright, I admit it: I have a soft spot for female musicians. If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know I'm a big fan of Hope Sandoval. Here are some other femaie musicians I've been listening to recently that I'm happy to recommend:

Merrick: A live performance on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. The songs around the 3/4 mark are the best -- especially "Automatic" and "Flick" at the end. The duo -- Inara George and Bryony Atkinson -- has since disbanded, and each does their own thing. Each musician is still very much worth listening to.

Nellie McKay: Here's a clip from a live interview and performance on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Jesca Hoop: Here's a live (video) studio performance (on NPR) of her song, "Enemy". And here's a link to "Love and Love Again".

Happy Holidays!


Paul Draper's Forthcoming Work in Philosophy of Religion

...looks very interesting. It looks like his forthcoming work falls under three main headings: (i) the problem of evil, (ii) confirmation theory (and its implications for issues in philosophy of religion), and (iii) the negative impact of partisanship and polemics in contemporary philosophy of religion.

With respect to (i), he has a forthcoming monograph, The Evidential Problem of Evil, in which he develops a Bayesian version of the problem of evil, and defends it against the responses of various theodicies, the Skeptical Theist response, natural theology, and reformed epistemology. In addition, he's drafting a chapter in a collection of papers edited by Quentin Smith and Paul Pistone (Theism and Naturalism: New Essays). His chapter will be entitled, "Darwin's Argument from Evil".

With respect to (ii), Draper has at least four pieces in preparation. In one paper ("A New Theory of Intrinsic Probability"), Draper develops a theory of intrinsic probability for…

Hume's Version of the Problem of Evil in Part XI of the Dialogues

Remember the fine-tuning design argument? Recall that that version isn't an argument from analogy, but rather an inference to the best explanation (alternatively, it can be construed via the machinery of confirmation theory), where the data is the fine-tuning of the fundamental constants of nature for life to evolve within it, and the hypotheses are theism and naturalism.

Hume gives an "evil twin" of that argument in Part X of his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, and then a slightly different version of it in Part XI. We've already discussed the version in Part X. The version in Part XI can be expressed as follows:

There are four major causes of natural evil in the world:

1. Pleasure and pain as the mechanisms of species preservation: Why pain? Prima facie, the same end could be achieved by via the mechanisms of pleasure and its diminishment in the appropriate circumstances.[1]

2. Laws of Nature: Granted, humans and the other animals might well need the world to ex…

Bradley Monton's New Critique of Contemporary Design Arguments

I mentioned Bradley Monton in an earlier post. Well, he has a very nice chapter forthcoming in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (Vol. II). It's entitled, "Design Inferences in an Infinite Universe". It's an excellent critique of Behe's design argument from irreducible complexity, as well as design arguments based on Dembski's explanatory filter. He also offers a great critique of Dembski's explanatory filter itself, concluding with a better model. A draft of his paper can be found here.

One reason why I think this paper is important is that it brings the recent experimental evidence that the universe is spatially infinite[1] to bear on issues in philosophy of religion.

P.S. Recall that Monton is an atheist, and yet he's a defender of the in-principle legitimacy of intelligent design in the sciences (as I mentioned in the earlier post, he's coming out with a monograph defending ID, entitled, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelli…

Hume’s Criticisms of the Cosmological Argument in Part IX of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

(N.B. In reviewing Hume's criticisms, it's interesting that they anticipate, in rudimentary form, contemporary worries for the argument (e.g., a posteriori necessities and the problems they generate for evaluating modal claims pertinent to the argument; and Peter van Inwagen's worries for the argument raised by the material composition debate).)

1st criticism: Any being’s non-existence is conceivable, including God’s. But conceivability is the only relevant evidence we have of possibility. So, any evidence we might have had for the conclusion of a necessary being is rebutted or, at the very least, undercut.

-Reply: God doesn’t wear his necessity on his sleeve, as it were. If we could just grasp his essence, we would see that he exists of necessity.

-Rejoinder: No. It’s clear that even if we could grasp his essence, we still would see that his existence is not necessary. For we can see that it’s true of every being, no matter what their nature might turn out to be like, that …

Spotting and Avoiding Debating Tricks, Part 1: Mischaracterizing the Scope or Degree of Commitment of a Claim

1. Scope
1.1 Claims can have a wider or narrower scope:
1.2 One? Some? Many? Most? All?
1.3 Example: All men are pigs vs. most men are pigs vs. many men are pigs vs. some men are pigs vs. one man is a pig

2. Commitment
2.1 Claims can also have a weaker or stronger degree of commitment
2.2 Certain that P? Probable that P, Plausible that P? Not inconceivable that P, etc.?
2.3 Examples: It is certain that Steve's a pig vs. I know Steve's a pig vs. it's probable that Steve's a pig vs. It's plausible that Steve's a pig vs. it's possible that Steve's a pig

3. Scope, Commitment, and Evidential Standards
3.1 The stronger a claim's degree of commitment, the harder it is to justify it
3.2 The weaker a claim's degree of commitment, the easier it is to justify it
3.3 The wider a claim's scope, the harder it is to justify it
3.4 The narrower a claim's scope, the easier it is to justify it

4. Morals, part I: When arguing your own position
4.1 When arguing your posi…

Another Review of Recent Books on Hume on Miracles

Speaking of reviews of recent books on Hume on miracles, here's one that's hot off the press: Michael Jacovides (Purdue) has a brand-new review of the following books in The Philosophical Review, 117 (2008):

David Johnson, Hume, Holism, and Miracles
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002. ix + 106 pp.

John Earman, Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. xi + 217 pp.

Robert J. Fogelin, A Defense of Hume on Miracles
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003. xii + 101 pp.

Elliot Sober's Review of Earman's Hume's Abject Failure

As many readers of this blog no doubt know, John Earman wrote an important evaluation and critique of Hume's critique of testimony-based belief in miracles (Section X of Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding). Elliot Sober wrote a helpful review of Earman's book in the March 2004 issue of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. The review can be found here.

Conceivability Arguments for Dualism, Part II: Stoljar's Critique of David Chalmers' Argument

Notes on Daniel Stoljar's “The Conceivability Argument and Two Conceptions of the Physical” (Phil. Perspectives 15, 2001)

In this paper, Stoljar attacks Chalmers’ conceivability argument for property dualism. Recall that the conceivability argument runs as follows:

1. It is conceivable that I have a zombie-twin, i.e., someone physically identical to me and yet who lacks phenomenal consciousness.
2. If it is conceivable that I have a zombie-twin, then it is possible that I have a zombie-twin.
3. If it is possible that I have a zombie-twin, then physicalism is false.
4. Therefore, physicalism is false.

In addition to his t-physical/o-physical property distinction, Stoljar brings in Van Cleve’s weak/strong conceivability distinction. Weak conceivability is the inability to conceive that P is impossible, and strong conceivability is the ability to conceive that P is possible. Among other problems, the former allows that Goldbach’s Conjecture both is and isn’t conceivable, in which case it…

Conceivability Arguments for Dualism, Part I: Stoljar's Critique of Frank Jackson's Argument

Notes on Daniel Stoljar's “Two Conceptions of the Physical” (PPR, 2002)

This paper is a critique of Jackson’s Knowledge Argument. It distinguishes two conceptions of physical properties: theoretical physical properties (t-physical properties) and intrinsic, categorical, physical properties (o-physical properties). The t-physical properties are exactly those properties dictated to us by physical theory. They are all dispositional, extrinsic, relational properties. The o-physical properties are exactly those properties that are required to give a complete account of the intrinsic, categorical properties of physical objects. The two categories are not co-extensive, as o-properties are intrinsic, and t-properties are not.

Stoljar uses this distinction to construct a dilemma against the Knowledge Argument, the latter of which can be stated as follows:

1. It is possible to know all of the physical facts about seeing red and yet not know all the facts about seeing red.
2. If it is pos…

John Hawthorne's Critique of the Fine-Tuning Design Argument

John Hawthorne is another "star" philosopher (currently at Oxford) who is also a Christian.[1] However, he's not a fan of the fine-tuning design argument. Here is a paper on religious belief he's discussed with undergraduates, in which he offers a good criticism of the argument.

[1] Some philosophical lore: I mentioned Dean Zimmerman a few posts ago. Well, John Hawthorne, Dean Zimmerman, and Ted Sider were known as "The Syracuse Three": the young stars seemed inseparable when they were all faculty at Syracuse in the late 90s-2002, or thereabouts. They hung out all the time, and discussed each other's papers as they were drafting them for publication. I'm not absolutely certain, but I think they were all originally Christians (however, Ted Sider -- son of Christian writer and activist Ron Sider -- seems to have left the fold. See his paper, "Hell and Vagueness", in Faith and Philosophy). All the top philosophy prog…

Tyler Wunder's Dissertation

Tyler Wunder is a recent (2007) philosophy PhD from Boston University. His dissertation, Warrant and Religious Epistemology: A Critique of Alvin Plantinga's Warrant Phase, is (as the title gives away) a critique of Plantinga's externalist account of warrant (as explicated and defended in Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief). I've only read parts so far, but it looks to be very good. A revised chapter from his dissertation is published in the June issue of Religious Studies. It's a critique of Plantinga's argument from the existence of proper function in living things to theism. The article's entitled, "Anti-Naturalism and Proper Function". I've just read it, and I must say that it's a thorough and compelling critique.

I should mention that the current issue of Religious Studies is chock full of excellent articles. See, e.g., the exchange on the argument from religious demographics, the Molinist's reply, and the rejoinder. See also …