Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Conference Announcement: Faith and Reason: Themes from Swinburne


Faith and Reason: Themes from Swinburne

Thursday, September 25 2014 - Saturday, September 27 2014
Purdue University
United States

We are pleased to announce that registration is now open for “Faith and Reason: Themes from Swinburne,” a conference to be held at Purdue University, September 25-27, 2014. Details about registration, lodging, and the schedule of events can be found online at the conference website. We encourage you to register for your hotel room soon to be sure you are able to secure the best rate and location for lodging. This conference is organized by Michael Bergmann and Jeffrey Brower and sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, Purdue University, the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion, and the Society of Christian Philosophers. 

The ten main speakers at the conference will be:
- Marilyn McCord Adams, Rutgers University/Australian Catholic University
- Paul Draper, Purdue University
- Hud Hudson, Western Washington University
- Jonathan Kvanvig, Baylor University
- Alvin Plantinga, University of Notre Dame/Calvin College
- John Schellenberg, Mount Saint Vincent University
- Eleonore Stump, Saint Louis University
- Peter van Inwagen, University of Notre Dame
- Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale University
- Dean Zimmerman, Rutgers University

Our guest of honor, Richard Swinburne, will also be in attendance as will twenty other philosophers of religion who are also on the conference program.

Further details here.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Default Reasoning in Cosmological Arguments for Theism and for Naturalism


Perhaps one of the most important recent innovations with respect to cosmological arguments is the application of groundbreaking work in defeasible reasoning to the formulation of their core explanatory principles (Cf. Joshua Rasmussen and Robert Koons). Defeasible causal and explanatory principles have the following basic form:
(DP) Normally, entities of type T have a cause or explanation.
The "normally" operator indicates that it is a default explanatory principle. Principles of this sort may or may not have exceptions; they are general rules of thumb. From a dialectical point of view, default principles may be preferable to ordinary principles for at least two reasons: (i) they're more modest than unqualified principles, and thus easier to justify, and (ii) when justified, one can't reject the implication that they apply in the given case at stake unless one has a good reason to think that they don't in that very case;  unlike unqualified principles, not any old counterexample is going to do the trick. In this way, they shift a very strong burden of proof onto the "skeptic".

As mentioned above, both Koons and Rasmussen have proposed default causal/explanatory principles in their versions of the cosmological argument. Here they are:
(DPK) Normally, a wholly contingent situation has a cause. 
(DPR) Normally, for any intrinsic property p that (i) can begin to be exemplified and (ii) can be exemplified by something that has a cause, there can be a cause of p’s beginning to be exemplified.
It seems to me that there are arguments for naturalism that should likewise be revised in light of these advances. Here's an example. On previous occasions, I have appealed to a principle of material causality to argue that classical theism is false:
(PMC) All concrete objects with originating or sustaining causes have material causes of their existence.
So far as I know, PMC has no clear counterexample. However, the sorts of considerations sketched above lead me to think that I need not appeal to a causal or explanatory principle anywhere near as strong as that. Rather, I can just rely on a weaker default version of the principle:
(DPMC) Normally, objects with originating or sustaining causes have material causes of their existence.
Then if we replace DPMC for PMC in the previous version of my argument, we get:
1. If classical theism is true, then the universe has an originating or sustaining cause (or both) without a material cause of its existence.
2. Normally, concrete objects (or collections of such) that have an originating or sustaining cause (or both) have a material cause of their existence.
3. The universe is a concrete object (or collection of such).
4. Therefore, classical theism is false.
Assume DPMC is warranted, along with the other premises. Then as with the cosmological arguments that deploy DPK and DPR, the only way for one to rationally resist the conclusion is to give an adequate reason for thinking the principle does not hold in the crucial case in play, viz. the origin or existence of the universe. Not any old counterexample is going to cut it. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Onion on Divine Hiddenness

Here. Their previous piece on the topic can be found here.

(Readers of this blog of course know where to go for the real deal.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Toward a Leibnizian Cosmological Argument Against Theism

So here's a sketch of an argument I'm toying with that's in the same vein as several others I've discussed here recently:

Suppose you think, along with a number of proponents of the Leibnizian cosmological argument, that at least the following version of PSR is true: every object has a sufficient reason or explanation for existence, either in terms of (a) something else or (b) its own nature. Call beings of the former sort 'contingent beings', and call beings of the latter sort 'necessary beings'. Suppose further that you think (again, along with proponents of the Leibnizian cosmological argument) that contingent beings can't be fully explained merely in terms of just other contingent beings, no matter how many (and for the usual reasons offered). If you grant all of this, then it looks like you have good grounds for thinking that at least one necessary being exists that explains the existence of contingent beings.

However, I worry that the train of reasoning the theist has invited you to follow will take her where she doesn't want to go. For it seems to me that there are good grounds -- grounds at least as good as those in support of PSR -- for thinking that all concrete stuff that has an originating cause or a sustaining cause must have a material cause. But if so, then if classical theism entails that contingent beings require an originating cause or a sustaining cause without a material cause -- i.e., if classical theism entails that God creates or sustains the universe ex nihilo -- then the God of classical theism cannot provide a sufficient reason or explanation for the existence of contingent beings. Rather, it looks like matter -- or whatever matter is ultimately made of -- is the only kind thing or stuff around that can suitably occupy the role of necessary being.

In short, PSR seems to entail the falsity of classical theism. Indeed, it looks like the prospects don't look too shabby for an argument that PSR entails naturalism (or at least something close enough to naturalism for classical theists to find unpalatable).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Philosophy of Religion at the 2014 APA Pacific Division Meeting

Looks like there will be a good colloquium on skeptical theism on Friday morning:
7H Colloquium: Evil and Theodicy 9:00-10:00
Chair: Brandon Rickabaugh (Biola University) Speaker: Aaron Rizzieri (LaGuardia Community College) “Theodicy’s Limited Prospects” [abstract + preprint] Commentator: Myron A. Penner (Trinity Western University and Ryerson University)
Chair: Roberto Sirvent (Hope International University) Speaker: Cameron Domenico Kirk-Giannini (Rutgers University) “Skeptical Theism Is Self-defeating” [abstract + preprint] Commentator: Benjamin H. Arbour (University of Bristol)
Chair: Marilena Di Bucchianico (European University Institute) Speaker: Chad Bogosian (Grand Canyon University) “Rowe’s Friendly Atheism and the Epistemology of Religious Disagreement”[abstract + preprint] Commentator: Allison Thornton (Baylor University)

Please shoot me an email if you'd like me to highlight any other talks at the conference.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Announcement: Problem of Evil Workshop


Sunday, July 13 2014 EST - Tuesday, July 15 2014 EST
School of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University

Level 5, room 5.15
250 Victoria Parade
Fitzroy 3065

Selected speakers:
John Bishop
University of Auckland

Beverley Clack
Oxford Brookes University
Andrew Gleeson
Flinders University
Kevin Hart
University of Virginia
Graham Oppy
Monash University
Eleonore Stump
Saint Louis University
Terrence Tilley
Fordham University
Nick Trakakis
Australian Catholic University