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Showing posts from December, 2011

Old Epistemology, New Epistemology, and Natural Theology

As we near the end of another year, it's natural to look back on the highlights of the year's events. In a similar spirit, I've been looking back on the highlights of recent and semi-recent work in philosophy of religion, with special focus on religious epistemology.  Epistemology has come a long way over the last several decades, and the insights gained along the way have, for the most part, been helpfully applied to issues in philosophy of religion. Two familiar examples include:


(i) Bayesianism and IBE: Theists (most prominently, Richard Swinburne) have employed Bayes' Theorem and inferences to the best explanation in their formulations of individual arguments (e.g., the cosmological argument, the design argument, etc.) and cumulative case arguments for theism. And non-theists (e.g., Paul Draper and William Rowe) have done the same for (e.g.) the problem of evil.


(ii) Epistemic externalism: Theists (most prominently, Alvin Plantinga) have argued that belief in God can…

Underexplored Epistemological Resources for the Cosmological Argument (and Other Arguments in Natural Theology)

Cosmological arguments standardly include a causal or explanatory premise, and proponents of cosmological arguments have argued that such premises are supported in virtue of being analytic or synthetic a priori truths, or via induction, or via claiming that they are presuppositions of reason. However, these bases are often criticized: they don't seem to be analytic or synthetic a priori truths; the sample size of evidence isn't sufficiently large or representative to support them via induction; they aren’t presuppositions of reason. But there are at least three more avenues of support for such premises that seem worthy of further exploration. The first has recently been explicitly appealed to, but so far as I know, the second has not:(i) Reflective equilibrium: we have the data of our intuitions or reflective judgements about whether this or that particular case has, doesn't have, or must have a cause or sufficient reason for its existence or occurrence. We also…

Quote for the Day

God might have made us so that when we consider evidence for the non-existence of God or the unreliability of the Scriptures or the illusory nature of religious experience, the strength of our theistic belief would actually increase. Maybe all such evidence is in the end deeply misleading and God does not want us to err in matters of ultimate importance. So a student, call her “Faith", takes a philosophy of religion class from a brilliant atheist who presents convincing versions of arguments for all the above theses. She cannot see a thing wrong with any of them. But in accordance with her design-plan, the strength of Faith’s conviction in the central tenets of Christianity is thereby strengthened, not weakened. Indeed, perhaps with enough apparently sound arguments for the falsity of Christianity her belief will become maximally warranted!

Now Plantinga can, of course, say that her design plan is not like this. There are potential defeaters for God’s existence and the claims of C…

New Blog Look

Hi gang,

As you can see, the blog looks a bit different than it did yesterday.  I'm not sure, though, if I'm going to keep it.  Thoughts?

Also, I haven't been able to figure out how to get the RSS feeds and links to display with the new look.  Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.

Best,
EA

A Quick Thought About the Phenomenon of Reasonable Religious Disagreement

Here's a hypothesis I'm toying with that's inspired by recent work in the pragmatic encroachment literature and the epistemology of disagreement literature (although it employs the notions from both bodies of literature in a bit of an unorthodox way):


Suppose that A and B are true epistemic peers, and that they are aware of the same body of evidence E for some religious proposition P. E pushes A to accept P; E fails to push B to accept P; A and B bring up the topic of P, and then discuss E. After patient and careful discussion of E, A and B still disagree about whether E is sufficient to put one in a position to know (or be justified in believing) that P is true. What's going on here? Are they both epistemically in the right, or has the awareness of their disagreement deflated their evidence at least a bit, (in which case they should each move at least a bit closer toward the other in terms their propositional attitudes)? 

Here's my tentative hypothesis: It depends. …

More Forthcoming Books to Look For from OUP

Leftow, Brian. God and Necessity.


Blurb:
An original account of necessity and possibilityA new argument for God's existenceA detailed theory of the mind of GodEngages with medieval and modern philosophy and theologyA landmark work at the intersection of metaphysics and philosophy of religionBrian Leftow offers a theory of the possible and the necessary in which God plays the chief role, and a new sort of argument for God's existence. It has become usual to say that a proposition is possible just in case it is true in some 'possible world' (roughly, some complete history a universe might have) and necessary just if it is true in all. Thus much discussion of possibility and necessity since the 1960s has focussed on the nature and existence (or not) of possible worlds.God and Necessityholds that there are no such things, nor any sort of abstract entity. It assigns the metaphysical 'work' such items usually do to God and events in God's mind, and reduces 'bro…

Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, Vol. 4

It looks like it'll be a while until it hits the presses (Aug. 2012!), but as has come to be expected with the series, it looks to be very good. Below is the table of contents:


Jonathan Kvanvig: Editor's Introduction
List of Contributors
1: Yuval Avnur: In Defense of Secular Belief
2: Daniel Bonevac: Two Theories of Analogical Predication
3: William L. Craig: Nominalism and Divine Aseity
4: Neal Judisch: Meticulous Providence and Gratuitous Evil
5: Shieva Kleinschmidt: Many-One Identity and the Trinity
6: Christian Miller: Atheism and Theistic Belief
7: Paul Moser: God, Flux, and the Epistemology of Agape Struggle
8: Duncan Pritchard: Wittgensteinian Quasi-Fideism
9: Meghan Sullivan: Semantics for Blasphemy
10: Dennis Whitcomb: Grounding and Omniscience

Christopher Hitchens: RIP

(photo of a younger Hitchens, taken at a protest in the 60s)

Although I could never quite understand his defense of the Iraq War during the Bush (Jr.) Administration, he was of course a great man and a sharp mind.

Slate has a nice collection of remembrances (here).

The Secular Outpost -- Revamped!

Jeff Lowder has done a great job of reviving the Secular Outpost. There is now a regular stream of interesting posts, and he has gotten a lot of excellent philosophers and other scholars on board as contributors (e.g, Graham Oppy, Louise Antony, Bradley Monton, Stephen Law, and Julian Baggini, to name a few). I have a link to the blog in the column on the right, but here is a link to save you the trouble of scrolling and searching for it.

Doom.

"Critics accused the president of caving in again to pressure from some Republicans on a counter-terrorism issue for fear of being painted in next year's election campaign as weak and of failing to defend America.

Human Rights Watch said that by signing the bill Obama would go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law."

Details here.

My only hope is that Obama did what he did because he thinks his concession to the GOP won't go through, on the grounds that it will be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: More doom.

"About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, …

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Monist: Special Call for Papers

96:3 (July 2013)
Naturalizing Religious Belief
Deadline for Submissions: July 31, 2012
Advisory Editor: James Beebe, University at Buffalo (jbeebe2@buffalo.edu) The cognitive science of religion brings the methods and resources of the cognitive sciences to bear on questions about religious thought and action, such as how ordinary cognitive structures inform and constrain the transmission of religious ideas, why people believe in gods, why religious rituals tend to have the forms that they do, and why afterlife and creation beliefs are so common. Findings in the cognitive science of religion raise a variety of philosophical questions, such as whether these findings undermine, threaten or explain away religious belief; whether those who believe in the supernatural can consistently accept a strongly naturalistic explanation of those beliefs; and whether traditional notions of religious belief are compatible with the view that explicit expressions of religious commitment are …

New RSS Feeds

I've recently added two new RSS feeds in the bar on the right:  (i) one announcing the latest calls for papers, talks, and conferences of interest to philosophers of religion, and (ii) one for the latest papers in philosophy of religion.[*] I hope you find them useful.

Together with the extant RSS feeds for new and forthcoming issues of the standard philosophy of religion speciality journals, the blog now provides a single location for virtually all the latest available work in philosophy of religion.

[*]In providing these features, I'm indebted to David Chalmers and David Bourget for their extremely helpful philosophical tools, PhilPapers and PhilEvents.

Cheers,
EA
HT: C.L.

Proposal for a New Entry in the Philosophical Lexicon

craig, v. (a) to engage in dialectically illegitimate argumentative maneuvering, such as (e.g.) construing an interlocutor as offering a rebutting defeater for P when it's more charitable to construe them as offering an undercutting defeater for P[1]; (b) to maintain a somewhat positive image of one's positions in part by choosing not to address, mention, or cite the strongest criticisms of them; (c) to take up, critique, and/or ridicule an uncharitable construal of the theses and arguments of one's interlocutor.

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[1] Relatedly: to infer or otherwise assume that because a reply fails to rebut P, it also fails to undercut P.

Some Great Papers from Schellenberg Now Available Online

-(forthcoming). "Skepticism as the Beginning of Religion", In Ingolf Dalferth (ed.), Skeptical Faith. Mohr Siebeck.

-(2010) "Divine Hiddenness", in Paul Draper & Charles Talliaferro (eds.), A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

-(2009). "The Evolutionary Answer to the Problem of Faith and Reason", in Jonathan Kvanvig (ed.), Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, vol. 2.

-(2009). "Why Am I a Nonbeliever? I Wonder...", in Udo Schuklenk & Russell Blackford (eds.), 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. Wiley-Blackwell.
More here.

These are great, too.

HT: KT

Required Reading

Schellenberg, J.L."God, Free Will, and Time: The Free Will Offense Part II", International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, forthcoming (Published Online Nov 2011).

As indicated in the title, the paper further develops Schellenberg's line of argument in his "The Free Will Offense" (IJPR 56, pp. 1-15), and ch. 12 of his The Wisdom to Doubt: A Justification of Religious Skepticism (Cornell UP, 2007).

A Note on Craig's Standard Reply to Mackie on the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Suppose one were to believe in the possibility of a beginningless past on the basis of the following inference:

1. Every finite subset of events in a beginningless past is traversable.
2. Therefore, the whole set of events in a beginningless past is traversable.

This is obviously a bad reason for that belief. For to infer (2) from (1) is to commit the fallacy of composition.

Interestingly, William Lane Craig attributes this fallacious inference to the late J.L. Mackie in reply to Mackie's criticism of the Kalam argument in the latter's The Miracle of Theism.[1] It's perhaps worth noting that Craig repeats this reply to Mackie's criticism in virtually all of his books and contributing chapters in which he defends the kalam cosmological argument. Furthermore, Mackie's is arguably the main criticism he raises to his argument in these writings.

I think Craig's characterization of Mackie's criticism of the kalam argument here is uncharitable at best, and mista…