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Conceivability, Possibility, and the Ontological Argument

I don’t want to go into a full-dress exposition of the ontological argument, because I think it would be distracting to a simple yet decisive objection to it. For our purposes, then, we can express its structure crudely as follows:

1. It’s possible that there is a necessary being.
2. If it’s possible that there is a necessary being, then a necessary being exists.
3. Therefore, a necessary being exists.

The argument is valid; so, if its premises are true, its conclusion follows of necessity. Well, what reasons can be offered for the premises?

Premise (2) is just an instantiation of Axiom S5 of S5 modal logic. The underlying idea of Axiom S5 is that what is necesssarily the case doesn't vary from possible world to possible world: if something is necessary in one possible world, it's necessary in every possible world. I accept Axiom S5; so I accept premise (2). That leaves us with premise (1). Is it more reasonable to believe it than not -- or at least: is it more reasonable to…

Outline of Section X of Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

[In an effort to promote the habit of understanding a position before accepting or rejecting it, here is my attempt at providing a close outline of the relevant passage from Hume's writings in which he argues against the rationality of testimony-based belief in miracles: Section X of his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding]


Section X, Part I:
0. Introductory stuff:

0.1 Quick summary of theologian John Tilotson's argument against Transubstantiation.
0.1.1 Scripture and tradition are based on the testimony of the apostles
0.1.2 But the evidence of testimony is always weaker than the evidence of the senses
0.1.3 So, even if scripture and/or tradition tell us that the bread and wine turn into the body and blood of Christ, the evidence of the senses tells us that they remain bread and wine: they have all the sensible properties of bread and wine; nothing more.
0.1.4 Therefore, since the evidence of the senses trumps the evidence of testimony, it is unreasonable to believe in T…

A Priori Naturalism, A Priori Inerrantism, and the Bible

Christian apologists often complain about New Testament critics who bring an a priori rejection of the supernatural to their studies of the New Testament. The underlying rationale, I take it, is that such a presupposition will determine a non-supernatural historical reconstruction of Jesus before they even begin their historical investigations. But if the historical Jesus turns out to be the miracle-working, resurrected Son of God that conservative Christians take him to be, such an assumption will lead them to construct a historically inaccurate conception of Jesus.

I agree with them in this regard: one shouldn't assume what can or can't be true on empirical matters before one even begins one's investigations. Although it's probably unavoidable that we bring assumptions about reality to all of our empirical inquiries, we should hold them tentatively, and allow them to be altered in light of our findings.

Of course, this assumes that supernatural events, if they …

William Lane Craig on the Origin of the Belief in Jesus' Resurrection

I had a brief moment between grading stacks of papers, so I thought I'd make a quick point:

One argument that William Lane Craig uses as a part of his case for Jesus' resurrection can be summarized as follows:

The origin of belief in Jesus' resurrection must have been derived from either Christian sources, Jewish sources, or from experiencing Jesus as risen from the dead. But the belief couldn't have been derived from Christian sources, for Christianity didn't arise until after (or simultaneous with) the belief that he had risen from the dead. Nor could it have been derived from Jewish sources, since the Jews had no concept of a single individual being resurrected prior to the general resurrection at the end of time. Therefore, it must have arisen from experiences that they took to be of a resurrected Jesus.


The argument can be expressed a bit more carefully as follows:

1. If belief in Jesus' resurrection was due to something other than experiences as of Jes…