Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Notes on Ch. 11 of Rowe's Philosophy of Religion: Many Religions

Notes on Rowe’s Philosophy of Religion, Ch. 11 – “Many Religions”

1. The Problem:
1.1 There are many, many religions in the world
1.2 The teachings of these religions seem to be logically incompatible with one another
1.2.1 Ultimate reality: personal or impersonal? One god or many?
1.2.2 Human life: cycle of life, death, and rebirth, or a single, finite earthly life followed by a single, unending afterlife?
1.2.3 Ultimate human destiny: lose individual consciousness and merge with ultimate reality, or retain individual consciousness and distinctness?
1.2.4 Locus of revelation: the Bible? The Torah? The Koran? The Bhagavad-Gita?
1.2.5 Incarnation of the divine: never? Once only? Many times?
1.2.6 The diagnosis of the human condition: Sin? Ignorance? Something else?
1.2.7 The cure of the human condition: atonement and grace? Enlightenment and action? Something else?
1.2.8 And on and on it goes with the differences among religions
1.3 If so, then they can’t all be true in any literal sense
1.4 Therefore, at least some religions have false views about at least some of these things
1.4.1 Many say that all religions are true for the believers of each religion
1.4.2 But this can’t be right in any literal sense
1.4.3 What people mean here is the harmless claim that people in the various religions believe that the tenets of their religion are true, which is of no help in resolving the problem
1.5 So, how should believers within the various religions view the matter of religious diversity?

2. The Exclusivist Response:
2.1 Exclusivism: Only one religion is true, and one cannot be saved, enlightened, or what have you, without explicitly embracing that religion
2.2 How religions become exclusivistic
2.2.1 People didn’t know about the religions of distant cultures when their religions originated
2.2.2 It naturally arose with the rise of monotheism – one God, one faith, one means of salvation
2.3 Criticisms of exclusivism
2.3.1 It implies that vast multitudes of people are damned as a result of something morally irrelevant, viz., living in a time and region of the globe in which the exclusive religion is unknown
2.3.2 It implies that many morally and spiritually developed and religiously devoted individuals – indeed, saints – in religions outside of the true religion are damned, merely because they didn’t respond positively to the message of the relevant exclusive religion (think “Gandhi” – damned? Is Mother Theresa damned because she’s not a Muslim?)

3. The Inclusivist Response:
3.1 Inclusivism: Only one religion is true, but the god of that religion also saves virtuous believers of other religions.
3.2 Criticism of inclusivism: it’s unjustifiably dogmatic
3.2.1 The evidence for the truth of each religion is the same
3.2.1.1 religious experiences
3.2.2.2 personal transformation
3.2.2 But if so, then there are only two possible rational responses to take about this
3.2.2.1 no religious beliefs are justified, since the evidence from the experiences and personal transformations that occur in each religion mutually cancel each other out
3.2.2.2 (the pluralist option – see below) each religion, while not strictly speaking “true”, is (roughly) equally effective as a means of (i) contact with the divine and (ii) a means of personal transformation
3.2.3 It would be unreasonable to say that although the experience and personal transformation that occur in one’s own religion is roughly the same as that in the other religions, those of the other religions are illusory, while those of one’s own are authentic and accurate reflections of ultimate, divine reality (for the reason, see 3.2.2.1)

4. The Pluralist Response
4.1 Pluralism: The view that the various religions are culturally conditioned interpretations and conceptualizations of a single underlying divine reality. Each is equally valid as a means of contact with the divine, and as a vehicle of salvation, transformation, and/or liberation.
4.2 Key features of Hick’s pluralism
4.2.1 There is a distinction between the Real-as-it-is-in-itself, and the Real-as- it-is-experienced-by-us
4.2.1.1 the Real as it is in itself = the divine as it really is
4.2.1.2 the Real as it is experienced by us = the experiences of the divine + the interpretive frameworks that are the various religious traditions in which they occur
4.2.2 We can’t have direct contact with the Real as it is in itself, and thus none of our concepts of the divine really apply to it
4.2.3 Rather, we can only have direct contact with the Real as it is experienced by us – i.,e., we can only have direct contact with various manifestations and experiences of the real in various religions, which are shaped by our cultural and religious interpretive frameworks
4.2.4 Strictly speaking, the religions of the world are all false, in the sense that they are not accurate representations of the Real as it is in itself
4.2.5 However, they’re true in the sense that they are accurate representations of the Real as it is experienced by us
4.3 Hick’s argument for pluralism:
4.3.1 There are three possible explanations of religious diversity:
4.3.1.1 Skepticism: diversity shows that no religion is true; they’re all illusory
4.3.1.2 Dogmatism: one religion is true, and all the others are illusory. Diversity is to be handled be adopting some form of exclusivism or inclusivism
4.3.1.3 Pluralism
4.3.2 But the hypothesis of pluralism is the best explanation of the facts:
4.3.2.1 It explains, better than skepticism and dogmatism, why people in various religious traditions have experiences that seem to be of the divine
4.3.2.2 It explains, better than skepticism and dogmatism, why the various religions are each (roughly) equally effective in transforming people from being self-centered to Reality-centered
4.4 Criticisms of pluralism
4.4.1 It claims that none of our concepts of the divine apply to Real as it is in itself. But if not, then how can we even claim that the Real is divine?
4.4.2 It claims that the Real as it is in itself is neither personal nor impersonal, neither one being nor many beings, etc. But on the face of it, this seems to be logically impossible – necessarily, the Real as it is in itself is either a person or it isn’t; necessarily, the Real as it is in itself is either one being or it isn’t, etc.
4.4.3 If literally nothing at all can be known of the Real as it is in itself, then, contrary to what Hick says, it seems that it can’t function as an explanation of religious diversity – since it can do no explanatory work at all.

Notes on Ch. 5 of Rowe's Philosophy of Religion: Religious Experience, Part II

3. Mystical Religious Experience as a Rational Basis for Theism
3.1 Extrovertive mystical experience:
3.1.1 Looks outward at the world experienced through the senses and sees the divine in it
3.1.2 Common features (taken virtually verbatim from p.74)
3.1.2.1 Looks outward through the senses
3.1.2.2 Sees the inner essence of things, an essence that appears to be alive, beautiful, and the same in all things
3.1.2.3 Sense of union of one’s deeper self with this inner essence
3.1.2.4 Feeling that what is experienced is divine
3.1.2.5 Sense of reality, that one sees things as they really are
3.1.2.6 Sense of peace and bliss
3.1.2.7 Timelessness, no sense of the passage of time during the experience
3.2 Introvertive mystical experience:
3.2.1 Looks inward into the self and finds the divine reality there
3.2.2 Common features (taken virtually verbatim from p. 81)
3.2.2.1 A state of consciousness devoid of its ordinary contents: sensations, images, thoughts, desires, etc.
3.2.2.2 An experience of absolute oneness, with no distinctions or divisions
3.2.2.3 Sense of reality, that what one is experiencing is ultimately real
3.2.2.4 Feeling that what one is experiencing is divine
3.2.2.5 Sense of complete peace and bliss
3.2.2.6 Timelessness, no sense of the passage of time during experience
3.3. Our focus: Introvertive mystical experience
3.4 The unanimity thesis: Mystics everywhere have fundamentally the same type of introvertive mystical experience.
3.5 Unanimity as evidence for veridicality
3.5.1 In general, when there is widespread agreement among different people’s experiences, that is good evidence that the thing experienced is real, and accurately represented in those experiences
3.5.2 However, if some don’t experience what others do, this isn’t automatically evidence that the thing experienced isn’t real. In order for their lack of experiencing the thing to count as evidence against veridicality:
3.5.2.1 They must be in the right place to experience it, if that is relevant
3.5.2.2 They must be in the right frame of mind, if that is relevant
3.6 The Basic Argument from introvertive mystical experience:

1. If the unanimity thesis is true, then it’s reasonable to think mystical experiences are veridical, unless we have a good reason to think otherwise.
2. The unanimity thesis is true.
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3. Therefore, it’s reasonable to think mystical experiences are veridical, unless we have good reason to think otherwise.

3.7 Objection: Premise (2) is false: mystics have differing experiences
3.7.1 True, they all claim to experience “the divine”
3.7.2 But different mystics report the divine in different ways
3.7.3 Some experience a Christian Trinitarian god; others experience Brahman
3.7.4 Some experience the divine as being impersonal; others as personal, etc.
3.7.5 If so, then isn’t this evidence that they aren’t having the same sorts of experiences?
3.8 Reply: No.
3.8.1 There’s a difference between one’s experience of a thing, on the one hand, and one’s interpretation of it, on the other.
3.8.2 Mystics from different religions come to their experiences of the divine with different interpretive frameworks that they inherit from their differing religious traditions
3.8.3 The differences in the reports are due to their having different interpretations of the same sort of experience
3.9 A caveat: unanimity is not a guarantee of veridicality, but only a fairly reliable indicator of it. (So how can we tell when such experiences are veridical?)
3.9.1 The “santonin” case
3.9.2 The “alcohol” case
3.10 Russell’s objection:
3.9.1 In general, abnormal mental and bodily states cause distorted, unreliable perceptions (the “alcohol” illustration)
3.9.2 But mystics are in abnormal mental and bodily states when they have their mystical experiences
3.9.3 Therefore, it’s probable that mystical experiences are unreliable/delusory
3.11 Broad’s reply:
3.11.1 Russell’s objection assumes that abnormal states that distort one’s experiences of the physical world will also distort one’s experiences of the spiritual world
3.11.2 Russell might be right about this assumption, but so far we have no reason to think he’s right
3.11.3 In fact, there may be good reason to think that such abnormal states may enhance one’s perception of the spiritual
3.11.4 But more importantly, there’s a real difference between the delusory alcoholic and santonin experiences and the mystical experiences.
3.11.4.1 In the former cases, the experiences of the physical world that occur during abnormal states conflict with our experiences of the physical world that occur during abnormal states.
3.11.4.2 By contrast, mystical experiences don’t conflict with our experiences of the physical world that occur during normal states
3.12 Rowe’s assessment of the debate:
3.12.1 There’s a difference between ordinary and mystical experiences, even after we make Broad’s distinction, viz., that in the former cases, we have a good idea of how to resolve disputes, whereas in the latter case we don’t. If so, then it appears that we have a stalemate between theist and non-theist.
3.12.2 Even if mystical experiences are veridical, it’s at least not clear that they get us all the way to theism.
3.12.2.1 For many mystics report that the divine being experienced isn’t personal.
3.12.2.2 But if so, then the experience/interpretation distinction may apply here: it’s plausible to think that mystic reports of the divine being a person may be due to their interpretation of the experience, and not a part of the experience itself.
3.12.2.3 To the extent that this is plausible, the evidence for theism from mystical religious experience is weakened

Notes on Ch. 5 of Rowe's Philosophy of Religion: Religious Experience, Part I

Notes on Rowe’s Philosophy of Religion, Chapter 5
0. Introduction
0.1 Indirect knowledge of God: knowledge by inference
0.2 Direct knowledge of God: knowledge by acquaintance
0.3 Religious experience as direct and superior knowledge of God
1. Toward a Definition of Religious Experience
1.1 Dependence, otherness, union
1.1.1 Schleiermacher: Dependence
1.1.1.1 Relative dependence
1.1.1.2 Absolute dependence
1.1.1.3 Religious experience as absolute dependence (“creature- feeling”)
1.1.1.4 First criticism: wrongly defines religious experience in purely subjective terms – not characterized as awareness of another being, but rather one’s self as dependent.
1.1.1.5 Second criticism: makes knowledge of God indirect and inferential: feel dependent, then infer that God must be the being causing my feeling of dependence.
1.1.2 Otto: Otherness
1.1 Immediate, direct awareness of another being – not inferential
1.2 Awareness of the being as holy/divine
1.3 The awareness of its holiness involves a sense of dread, awe, mystery
1.4 Schleiermacher had it backwards: one is directly aware of a holy/divine being, and this in turn causes one’s sense of creature- feeling/absolute dependence
1.5 A criticism: the highest forms of religious experience seem to be an awareness of union with the divine. If so, then the highest forms of religious experience don’t meet Otto’s account – one isn’t aware of a being distinct from and external to oneself.
1.2 Our working definition: religious experience as the immediate presence of the divine
1.2.1 The divine may be experienced as either distinct or not distinct from the self
1.2.2 Merely believing vs. sensing that the divine is present
1.2.3 This definition is narrower and vaguer than the others
1.2.3.1 other pious experiences don’t count as religious experience
1.2.3.2 experiences of God that one doesn’t recognize as being of God don’t count as religious experience here (compare: the “walnut tree/maple tree illustration)
1.2.3.3 experiences need not be of the God of theism – any deity counts
1.2.3.4 we’re not assuming from the beginning that religious experiences are caused by God – allows for both delusory and veridical religious experiences
1.2.4 Religious experience may contain both sensory and non-sensory elements (illustration, p. 74)

2. Religious Experience as a Rational Basis for Theism
2.1 The question before us: does religious experience provide good reason to believe that a god exists?
2.2 Objection: Religious experiences are just feelings (e.g., joy, awe, etc.) that occasionally occur within people who are already theists who are eagerly yearning for and expecting to have them. How can these count as evidence for theism?
2.3 Reply:
2.3.1 Many religious persons report a difference between experiences of such feelings, on the one hand, and experiences that seem to be of the presence of a divine being, on the other
2.3.2 They also know that they can mistake the presence of a divine being for their feelings, or for some other object, especially when they’re anticipating or longing for the presence of the divine
2.3.3 Unless we have good reason not to, we should take such reports as sincere and accurate accounts of their experiences, and that they seem to be of a mind-independent entity – not as just experiences of their feelings
2.4 Still, why should we think that such experiences are really of a mind-independent being, such as a god? After all, there are such things as illusions and hallucinations. Why shouldn’t we think that religious experiences aren’t in one of these categories?
2.5 Answer:
2.5.1 In general, if it seems that an F is present, you’re entitled to think that an F is present unless you have a good reason to think otherwise (Swinburne’s “principle of credulity” – a basic principle of rationality)
2.5.2 Reasons for thinking otherwise: underminers and rebutters
2.5.2.1 An underminer is something that neutralizes your reason to think that a claim is true. (Cf. the “red wall” illustration)
2.5.2.2 A rebutter is a reason to think that a claim is positively false. (Cf. the “LSD in the coffee” illustration)
2.5.3 But if you have no underminer or rebutter for your experience as of an F, then you’re entitled to believe that an F is present.
2.5.4 But many people report experiences where it seems to them that God is present.
2.5.5 Therefore, they’re entitled to think that God is present in such experiences unless they have good reason to think otherwise.
2.6 Notice that the argument allows that religious experience can be rebutted or undermined in principle.
2.7 However, if you grant the principle of credulity, then it seems that it would be arbitrary to deny that it applies to religious experience.
2.8 Thus, it looks as though those who have religious experiences are rational in believing that God exists, unless or until they are undermined or rebutted.
2.9 The argument:

1. If it seems that God is present, then you’re entitled to think that God is present unless you have a good reason to think otherwise.
2. It seems that God is present.
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3. Therefore, you’re entitled to think that God is present unless you have a good reason to think otherwise.

2.10 Extending the argument? Testimonial evidence for those who’ve never had a religious experience
2.11 Criticisms of the argument from non-mystical religious experience
2.11.1 Religious experience is not similar enough to ordinary perception to think the principle of credulity applies to it.
2.11.1.1 Granted, there are some things that can serve as underminers and rebutters of religious experience (e.g., if the experience is of a being that tells you to murder all the good people, then that defeats the belief that it came from the god of theism)
2.11.1.2 However, unlike ordinary perception, the object(s) perceived in religious experience are typically private (often only a single person has the experience, and so others can’t be questioned if they had a similar experience at the same time and location). Furthermore, unlike the ordinary physical objects detectable by the five senses, God can choose whether and when human beings can be aware of him – he can’t be “pinned down” to return to, or to have others come “see” him, in the way that physical objects can
2.11.1.3 But if so, then the worry is that there aren’t enough “checks and balances” to religious experience for the principle of credulity to apply to it.
2.11.2 A person’s religious experience can’t function as evidence for those who haven’t had them.
2.11.2.1 People of many religions have religious experiences
2.11.2.2 The central doctrines of each of these various religions are incompatible with those of each of the others
2.11.2.3 Now since the religious experiences within each of these religions has the same basic nature and structure, then if the principle of credulity applies to the religious experiences within one religion, it applies to all
2.11.2.4 But if religious experiences are to indicate the truth of a given religion – or at least the reality of their god as the “true” god –, then since the religions contradict one another, what should a reasonable “outsider” make of these religious experiences?
2.11.2.5 It seems clear that they should all be rejected as unreliable indicators of the truth of a religion or the reality of a god – i.e., the diversity of experiences is a rebutting defeater for the testimony of those with religious experiences.

Notes on Rowe's Chapter 1 of his Philosophy of Religion: The Concept of God

Rowe’s Philosophy of Religion – Chapter 1

0. Preliminaries: Varieties of Views about God(s)
0.1 Polytheism: many gods
0.2 Henotheism: many gods, but one limits one’s worship/adherence to just the god of one’s tribe
0.3. Anthropomorphic Monotheism: the God “up there”
0.3.1 A physical being
0.3.2 Located in a specific region of space
0.3.3 Associated with a pre-scientific cosmology
0.4 Non-anthropomorphic Monotheism: the God “out there”
0.4.1 Our focus
0.4.2 The concept of God developed by the famous philosopher-theologians (Augustine, Boethius, Bonaventure, Avicenna, Anselm, Maimonides, Aquinas)
0.4.3 A spiritual, immaterial being
0.4.4 All-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good, creator and sustainer of the universe (from which God is separate and independent), omnipresent, self- existent, and eternal

1. Omnipotence and Perfect Goodness
1.1 Omnipotence: being all-powerful
1.1.1 Relative vs. absolute possibility
1.1.1.1 A relative possibility is something that a being or type of being can do. E.g., flying is a relative possibility: it falls within the scope of a bird’s abilities, but not a human’s.
1.1.1.2 An absolute possibility is something that isn’t logically impossible, i.e., isn’t self-contradictory
1.1.2 The classical definition of God’s omnipotence is in terms of absolute possibility: God can do anything that isn’t self-contradictory
1.1.2.1 Power itself is limited to what is logically possible.
1.1.2.2 Therefore, to say that God can’t do the logically impossible isn’t to say that God’s power has limitations, since they aren’t things that can be accomplished by power
1.1.3 Non-logical limits? God’s attributes
1.1.3.1 God’s goodness: can God do what is unethical?
1.1.3.2 God’s eternity: can God commit suicide?
1.1.4 Revising the definition of omnipotence: the ability to do anything that is absolutely possible, and consistent with God’s essential attributes.
1.1.4.1 This helps resolve the paradox of the stone – can God make a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it?
1.1.4.2 For now we can say that making such a rock would mean that God could not lift it, which is a task that is inconsistent with his essential attribute of omnipotence
1.1.5 A problem for the new definition of omnipotence: changing the past
1.1.5.1 The description of such a task isn’t self-contradictory
1.1.5.2 Also, such a task doesn’t conflict with God’s essential attributes
1.1.5.3 Still, it seems impossible for any being to change the past – even God
1.1.5.4 So it looks as though we need to modify our definition of omnipotence further to eliminate this problem and others
1.2 Perfect Goodness
1.2.1 Unsurpassible, essential goodness
1.2.1.1 Many theologians have thought that if God isn’t perfectly good, then God isn’t worthy of unconditional worship and gratitude
1.2.1.2 Thus, many theists hold that God is unsurpassably good
1.2.3 Also, theists don’t typically think that God just happens to be perfectly good, but rather that he’s perfectly good by nature – essentially perfectly good.
1.2.2 Good in both moral and non-moral senses
1.2.2.1 God is morally perfect: perfectly virtuous (benevolent, just, patient, etc.)
1.2.2.2 But also, his life is good: happy, worthwhile, full, etc.
1.2.3 God’s moral goodness as the standard for morality
1.2.3.1 A common view: The source of positive and negative duties
1.2.3.1.1 How is God the “ground” of morality?
1.2.3.1.2 morality grounded in his commands
1.2.3.1.3 a worry: the Euthyphro Dilemma
1.2.3.1.4 compare: mathematical truths: grounded in God?
1.2.3.2 Other common views
1.2.3.2.1 Even if God is not the ground of moral facts, still, God plays the crucial role of revealing morality to us – say, by commanding them and then revealing them to us via scripture or conscience
1.2.3.2.2 God is required to motivate us to be moral by rewarding good actions and punishing bad actions (in this life or in an afterlife)
1.2.3.2.3 A worry: if we do what’s right only if someone threatens to punish or harm us, are we truly virtuous, or are we merely imitating virtue?

2. Self-existence
2.1 Part of the very nature of God is to exist; He can’t fail to exist -- he exists of necessity
2.2 Why think this?
2.2.1 Anselm: God’s existence must be explained either by something else, nothing, or his own nature.
2.2.2 But he can’t be explained by something else. For God is supremely great, and if he depends on something else, then he wouldn’t be supreme or superior to all other things.
2.2.3 And we can’t say that his existence is explained by nothing whatsoever, for nothing exists without a sufficient reason for why it exists.
2.2.4 Therefore, God’s existence must be explained in virtue of God himself – it’s part of his very essence to exist
2.2.5 How could this be? The “stone and fire” analogy
2.3 My side note: a debate among theists: factually vs. logically necessary existence
2.4 We’ll talk more about self-existence when we discuss the cosmological argument

3. Separation, Independence, and Eternity
3.1 Unlike pantheism (the view of God expressed in forms of Hinduism and Buddhism), the god of theism is distinct from the material world, and the creator and sustainer of it
3.2 God can exist apart from the material world, and from anything else whatsoever; the universe cannot exist without God creating it and sustaining its moment-by- moment existence.
3.3 God is not in space and time. What does that mean? God is subject to neither the law of space nor the law of time
3.3.1 Unlike material objects, all of God can be present at multiple regions of space at the same time – indeed, all of God is simultaneously present at every region of space
3.3.2 Unlike material objects, God’s whole life – past, present, and future – is simultaneously present to him at every moment of time
3.4 The idea that God is not in time (i.e., timeless) is currently controversial among theists. Some think he’s timeless -- outside of time altogether. Others think he’s everlasting – inside the stream of time, but he has no beginning or end to his life.

4. Summing it all up: Theism is the view that there is exactly one god, and that this god is a self-existent immaterial spirit, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal (whether timeless or everlasting), perfectly good, creator of the universe, from which he is distinct and independent.

5. Basic stances about the god of classical theism
4.1 Theist: believes that a theistic god exists
4.2 Atheist: believes that no god exists
4.3 Agnostic: suspends judgment either way: don’t know/can’t tell whether a god exists
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