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Showing posts from October, 2006

Intermission: A Quick Point about Plantinga's Free Will Defense

It's often said that Plantinga *refuted* the logical problem of evil -- i.e., that he demonstrated that' there's no logical inconsistency between the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly good god, on the one hand, and evil on the other. This is extremely misleading. To see why, consider the following three claims, in descending order in terms of strength of claim:

1. The following is a fact: Possibly, every creature that God can create would freely perform at least one morally wrong action.
2. Here is a story that we have decent reason to believe is true: Possibly, every creature that God can create would freely perform at least one morally wrong action.
3. Here is a claim that we can't rule out for sure as false: Possibly, every creature that God can create would freely perform at least one morally wrong action.

Now many apologists talk as though Plantinga has shown that (1) or (2) is true. These are the sorts of claims that Plantinga would have …

A Critique of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

(Note: I've posted this previously at Debunking Christianity.
You can go to the archives at that site and read the follow-up of objections
and replies in the "comments" section below the post)

On the Possibility of a Beginningless Past: A Reply to Craig

William Lane Craig has argued vigorously that, cosmological discoveries aside, it’s reasonable to believe on purely a priori grounds that the set of past events is finite in number.1 He offers two main types of a priori arguments for this claim: (i) that it’s metaphysically impossible for an actually infinite set of concrete things to exist, in which case the set of past events can’t be actually infinite, and (ii) that even if such a set could exist, it’s impossible to traverse it even in principle. Craig doesn’t pursue this claim for it’s own sake, however. Rather, he does so as a means to demonstrating that a theistic god exists. He reasons that if the set of past events is finite, then the universe as a whole had an abs…

Problems for PSR (Slightly Revised)

This post completes my discussion of the deductive cosmological argument from contingency. In my previous post, I considered a set of objections to the argument that didn't seem to be persuasive. The moral of that discussion seemed to be that the argument stands or falls with the viability of PSR.

Here, I offer objections to PSR that seem to have some force. These criticisms aren’t original with me, but rather are standard objections (except perhaps the last one, although it's based on ideas of other authors). Furthermore, I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t other versions of the argument from contingency that may avoid these criticisms. However, they do seem to apply to the variants of the argument that one finds in standard “intermediate-level” apologetics books. The criticisms can be divided into two broad categories: (i) those that undercut the reasons offered for accepting PSR, and (ii) those that indicate that PSR is positively false or unreasonable.

1. Type-…

Some Criticisms of the Argument from Contingency that Don’t Seem to Work

In this post, I continue the task of giving the contingency argument its due. To that end, I briefly discuss three criticisms of the deductive argument from contingency that don’t seem to work. Here I’m just summarizing William Rowe’s points from his Philosophy of Religion (Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth, 1978), pp. 16-30.

1. Dependence and the fallacy of composition:

1.1 The argument fallaciously assumes that because each member of the collection of beings within the universe is dependent, that therefore the whole collection of such beings is itself dependent. But this doesn’t follow.

1.2 Reply: It would be fallacious to assume this, but the defender of the cosmological argument need not assume it for the argument to work. Rather, since the existence of the collection of dependent beings is a positive fact, then it follows from PSR alone – i.e., without the need to rely on an inference from dependence of the parts to dependence of the whole -- that there must be a sufficient reason …

The Cosmological Argument from Contingency

The deductive cosmological argument from contingency has a long and illustrious history. It’s been exposited and defended by the likes of, e.g., G.W. Leibniz, Samuel Clarke, and recently (e.g.) Stephen C. Davis, Ronald Nash, Robert Koons, and Alexander Pruss. However, a number of contemporary theists seem to shy away from defending it, such as J.P. Moreland, Peter Van Inwagen, and William Lane Craig (although Craig seems to have warmed up to it slightly in recent years, given his more-positive-than-usual assessment of it in his essay in The Rationality of Theism).

This version of the cosmological argument has been given a number of construals, depending on how its proponents spell out the notions of a contingent being and the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). One common way to spell out these notions is as follows:

A contingent being or state of affairs is a being or state of affairs that exists, but doesn’t have to – its nonexistence is logically (or metaphysically) possible. …

The Current Agenda

As the sub-title of my blog suggests, my goal is to fairly exposit the arguments of christian apologists, and then to fairly evaluate them. I ask those who wish to join me to please stick to the arguments of the actual apologists themselves, and not to discuss those of your own, or those you've seen floating around the internet. I also ask that you refer to the relevant apologetics book and its author. I promise I'll do my best to do the same.

To borrow a scale from the apologists in the Suggested Reading lists in their books, the range of authors discussed will be wide -- from "entry-level" authors like Josh McDowell, to "advanced-level" authors such as Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne. I plan the sequence of discussion of apologetics arguments to begin with the philosophical arguments of natural theology and reformed epistemology. Then, I'll shift focus to historical apologetics, which will include arguments involving the reliability of th…

A Place for Honesty, Civility, and Clarity in the Discussion of Christian Theism

Hi all,

This is my first post on my own blog. As such, I should say a few words about my aims. Although I enjoy scrolling through a number of blogs regarding theism in general, and christian theism in particular, I'm often discouraged at the tone of the discussion. It's all too easy for interlocutors to be so caught up in "dueling" their "opponents" that they lose sight of the goal, viz., the pursuit of truth and understanding and the avoidance of falsehoods and incomprehension. I have no illusions about changing all of this, but at least I can try to make a difference, however trifling. Let me just say what should be obvious: any one of us, including myself, may be completely wrong about our views on some matter. Therefore, it's important to cultivate truth-conducive intellectual virtues that will increase the likelihood that we'll come to have more true beliefs than false ones. Thus, one of my main goals for this blog will be to exercise, as…