Friday, December 26, 2008

Michael Almeida's New Book...

...The Metaphysics of Perfect Beings, has recently come out.

Here is the summary of the book at its Routledge Press page:
The Metaphysics of Perfect Beings addresses the problems an Anselmian perfect being faces in contexts involving unlimited options. Recent advances in the theory of vagueness, the metaphysics of multiverses and hyperspace, the theory of dynamic or sequential choice, the logic of moral and rational dilemmas, and metaethical theory provide the resources to formulate the new challenges and the Anselmian responses with an unusual degree of precision. Almeida shows that the challenges arising in the unusual contexts involving unlimited options sometimes produce metaphysical surprise.

And here are the chapters listed in the table of contents:

Chapter One: Atheistic Arguments from Improvability
Chapter Two: Rational Choice and No Best World
Chapter Three: On Evil's Vague Necessity
Chapter Four: The Problem of No Maximum Evil
Chapter Five: On the Logic of Imperfection
Chapter Six: Supervenience, Divine Freedom and Absolute Orderings
Chapter Seven: Vague Eschatology
Chapter Eight: Theistic Modal Realism, Multiverses and Hyperspace

In my humble opinion, Michael Almeida is one of the most brilliant and rigorous philosophers of religion alive today. I look forward to reading his new book.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Some Nice Siren Music to Round Off the Year

Alright, I admit it: I have a soft spot for female musicians. If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know I'm a big fan of Hope Sandoval. Here are some other femaie musicians I've been listening to recently that I'm happy to recommend:

Merrick: A live performance on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. The songs around the 3/4 mark are the best -- especially "Automatic" and "Flick" at the end. The duo -- Inara George and Bryony Atkinson -- has since disbanded, and each does their own thing. Each musician is still very much worth listening to.

Nellie McKay: Here's a clip from a live interview and performance on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Jesca Hoop: Here's a live (video) studio performance (on NPR) of her song, "Enemy". And here's a link to "Love and Love Again".

Happy Holidays!

-Exapologist

Monday, December 22, 2008

Paul Draper's Forthcoming Work in Philosophy of Religion

...looks very interesting. It looks like his forthcoming work falls under three main headings: (i) the problem of evil, (ii) confirmation theory (and its implications for issues in philosophy of religion), and (iii) the negative impact of partisanship and polemics in contemporary philosophy of religion.

With respect to (i), he has a forthcoming monograph, The Evidential Problem of Evil, in which he develops a Bayesian version of the problem of evil, and defends it against the responses of various theodicies, the Skeptical Theist response, natural theology, and reformed epistemology. In addition, he's drafting a chapter in a collection of papers edited by Quentin Smith and Paul Pistone (Theism and Naturalism: New Essays). His chapter will be entitled, "Darwin's Argument from Evil".

With respect to (ii), Draper has at least four pieces in preparation. In one paper ("A New Theory of Intrinsic Probability"), Draper develops a theory of intrinsic probability for use in Bayesian probability arguments, and argues that it's more plausible than Richard Swinburne's theory of intrinsic probability. The other three works look to be "application" pieces. In one of these ("Evolution and the Problem of Induction"), Draper raises a worry for naturalists re: the problem of induction. He then uses his new theory of intrinsic probability to answer it. In another, ("Why Theists Bear a Heavy Burden of Proof"), Draper argues that the intrinsic probability of theism is low, and thus theism bears a heavy burden of proof to make its case. The third application piece critiques probabilistic arguments for theism. The piece will be an entry in the new (revised and massively expanded) edition of The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Notably, Draper is co-editing the new edition (with Charles Taliaferro, taking up the editorial role of the late Phillip Quinn).

With respect to (iii), Draper is working on a paper (originally delivered at the 2006 APA Central Division Meeting) that distinguishes between philosophy of religion on the one hand, and atheistic and theistic apologetics on the other. His central contention is that there has been too much of the latter and not enough of the former in contemporary philosophy of religion.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hume's Version of the Problem of Evil in Part XI of the Dialogues

Remember the fine-tuning design argument? Recall that that version isn't an argument from analogy, but rather an inference to the best explanation (alternatively, it can be construed via the machinery of confirmation theory), where the data is the fine-tuning of the fundamental constants of nature for life to evolve within it, and the hypotheses are theism and naturalism.

Hume gives an "evil twin" of that argument in Part X of his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, and then a slightly different version of it in Part XI. We've already discussed the version in Part X. The version in Part XI can be expressed as follows:

There are four major causes of natural evil in the world:

1. Pleasure and pain as the mechanisms of species preservation: Why pain? Prima facie, the same end could be achieved by via the mechanisms of pleasure and its diminishment in the appropriate circumstances.[1]

2. Laws of Nature: Granted, humans and the other animals might well need the world to exhibit a fairly high degree of regularity for a recognizable and decent life, and natural laws provide such regularity. But prima facie, the requisite degree of regularity is compatible with God's frequent direct intervention in the world to prevent apparently gratuitous suffering and enable flourishing. And prima facie, it would’ve been much better for humans and animals if God frequently intervened in nature to achieve such ends (perhaps incognito, if that is required to achieve his aims).[2]

3. The frugal distribution of powers and faculties among humans and animals: Relatively few sentient creatures have a quality of life that can be properly characterized as 'flourishing'. In fact, the quality of life for very many sentient creatures scarcely rises above the minimum required for survival and reproduction. Indeed, most creatures languish for at least a significant portion of their lives. The presence of an advantageous ability in a human or an animal is almost always offset by the lack of one or more other abilities that would allow them to flourish. It appears that the bulk of human and animal suffering could be avoided if they were endowed with just a slightly larger variety of traits and abilities -- or even just a slight improvement of those they do have. Prima facie, then, the aims of nature do not include the flourishing of living things, but only their mere propagation and preservation.[3]

4. The flaws in nature’s mechanisms: To the impartial observer, Nature’s mechanisms appear to operate at a level that's far from optimal. Some mechanisms are sub-optimal in the sense that they not infrequently yield too little or too much of their output. So, for example, the mechanisms that give us rain often don’t operate when they should (leading to drought), or operate in excess (leading to flooding). Other forms of sub-optimal function are more invasive. So, for example, the mechanisms responsible for the functioning of cells and other parts often malfunction, leading to cancer, birth defects, and other ills. Thus, if the universe is really God’s machine (as Cleanthes' version of the design argument in Part II of the Dialogues aims to show), and creaturely flourishing is part of its design plan, it appears to be a tragically imperfect and inefficient one.[4]

Call circumstances (1)-(4), “the data”. What hypothesis best explains the data? Hume points out that the hypotheses reduce to four:

H1. The cause(s) of the universe is (are) perfectly good.
H2. The cause(s) of the universe is (are) perfectly evil.
H3. Some of the causes of the universe are good, and some are evil.
H4. The cause(s) of the universe is (are) neither good nor evil. (Paul Draper calls this ‘the hypothesis of indifference’)

Hume argues that hypotheses H1-H3 are explanations for the data that are less than best:

-H1 and H2 are each ruled out as the best explanation, as unmixed causes (either perfect goodness or perfect evil) can't be the best explanation of mixed phenomena (both good and evil).
-H3 is ruled out as the best explanation, as there is too much regularity in the world to suggest a “battle” between good and evil played out in the universe.

In contrast to H1-H3, H4 conforms very well to what we see with respect to data (1)-(4): we would expect such data if the cause(s) of the universe were neither good nor evil, but rather non-moral entities or mechanisms (such as the mechanisms of the natural world studied in the sciences). Therefore, H4 is the best explanation of the data.

To quote Hume: “Look round the universe. What an immense profusion of beings, animated and organized, sensible and active! You admire this prodigious variety and fecundity. But inspect a little more narrowly these living existences, the only things worth regarding. How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of them for their own happiness! How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind nature, impregnated by a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children.”[5]
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Notes:
[1] Hume, David. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, J.C.A. Gaskin, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), Part XI, pp. 107-8.

[2] Hume notes that it seems that even relatively infrequent divine intervention would lead to a drastic reduction in the worlds ills. "A few...events..., regularly and wisely distributed, would change the face of the world; and yet would no more seem to disturb the course of nature or confound human conduct, than the present economy of things, where the causes are secret, and variable, and compounded. Some small touches, given to Caligula's brain in his infancy, might have converted him into a Trajan: one wave, a little higher than the rest, by burying Caesar and his fortune in the bottom of the ocean, might have restored liberty to a considerable part of mankind. There may, for aught we know, be good reasons, why providence interposes not in this manner, but they are unknown to us: And though the mere supposition, that such reasons exist, may be sufficient to save the conclusion concerning the divine attributes [i.e., that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly good], yet surely it can never be sufficient to establish that conclusion." Ibid, p. 109.

[3] Hume so masterfully illustrates this point that he deserves to be quoted at length: "Every animal has the requisite endowments; but these endowments are bestowed with so scrupulous an economy, that any considerable diminution must entirely destroy the creature. Wherever one power is increased, there is a proportional abatement in the others. Animals, which excel in swiftness, are commonly defective in force. Those, which possess both, are either imperfect in some of their senses, or are oppressed with the most craving wants. The human species, whose chief excellency is reason and sagacity, is of all others the most necessitous, and the most deficient in bodily advantages; without clothes, without arms, without food, without lodging, without any convenience of life, except what they owe to their own skill and industry. In short, nature seems to have formed an exact calculation of the necessities of her creatures; and like a rigid master, has afforded them little more powers or endowments, than what are strictly sufficient to supply those necessities. An indulgent parent would have bestowed a large stock, in order to guard against accidents, and secure the happiness and welfare of the creature, in the most unfortunate concurrence of circumstances. Every course of life would not have been so surrounded with precipices, that the least departure from the true path, by mistake or necessity, must involve us in misery and ruin. Some reserve, some fund would have been provided to ensure happiness; nor would the powers and the necessities have been adjusted with so rigid an economy. The Author of Nature is inconceivably powerful: His force is supposed great, if not altogether inexhaustible: Nor is there any reason, as far as we can judge, to make him observe this strict frugality in his dealings with his creatures...In order to cure most of the ills of human life, I require not that man should have the wings of an eagle, the swiftness of the stag, the force of the ox, the arms of the lion, the scales of the crocodile or rhinoceros; much less do I demand the sagacity of an angel or cherubim. I am contented to take an increase in one single power or faculty of his soul. Let him be endowed with a greater propensity to industry and labour; a more vigorous spring and activity of mind; a more constant bent to business and application. Let the whole species possess naturally an equal diligence with that which many individuals are able to attain by habit and reflection; and the most beneficial consequences, without any allay of ill, is the immediate and necessary result of this endowment. Almost all the moral, as well as the natural evils of human life arise from idleness; and were our species, by the original constitution of their frame, exempt from this vice or infirmity, the perfect cultivation of the land, the improvement of arts and manufactures, the exact execution of every office and duty, immediately follow; and met at once may fully reach that state of society, which is so imperfectly attained by the best-regulated government. But as industry is a power, and the most valuable than any, nature seems determined, suitably to her usual maxims, to bestow it on men with a very sparing hand; and rather to punish him severely for his deficiency in it, than to reward him for his attainments. She has so contrived his frame, that nothing but the most violent necessity can oblige him to labour; and she employs all his other wants to overcome, at least in part, the want of diligence, and to endow him with some share of a faculty, of which she has thought fit to naturally bereave him." Ibid., pp. 110-11.

[4] Ibid., pp. 111-12.

[5] Ibid., p. 113.

Bradley Monton's New Critique of Contemporary Design Arguments

I mentioned Bradley Monton in an earlier post. Well, he has a very nice chapter forthcoming in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (Vol. II). It's entitled, "Design Inferences in an Infinite Universe". It's an excellent critique of Behe's design argument from irreducible complexity, as well as design arguments based on Dembski's explanatory filter. He also offers a great critique of Dembski's explanatory filter itself, concluding with a better model. A draft of his paper can be found here.

One reason why I think this paper is important is that it brings the recent experimental evidence that the universe is spatially infinite[1] to bear on issues in philosophy of religion.

P.S. Recall that Monton is an atheist, and yet he's a defender of the in-principle legitimacy of intelligent design in the sciences (as I mentioned in the earlier post, he's coming out with a monograph defending ID, entitled, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design). So here is yet another critique of Dembski's account of detecting design from someone not antecedently against the legitimacy of ID.


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[1] based on the measurments of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) of the cosmic background radiation. Its measurements provide strong prima facie evidence that the universe is spatially flat, thereby providing strong prima facie evidence that it's spatially infinite.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hume’s Criticisms of the Cosmological Argument in Part IX of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

(N.B. In reviewing Hume's criticisms, it's interesting that they anticipate, in rudimentary form, contemporary worries for the argument (e.g., a posteriori necessities and the problems they generate for evaluating modal claims pertinent to the argument; and Peter van Inwagen's worries for the argument raised by the material composition debate).)

1st criticism: Any being’s non-existence is conceivable, including God’s. But conceivability is the only relevant evidence we have of possibility. So, any evidence we might have had for the conclusion of a necessary being is rebutted or, at the very least, undercut.

-Reply: God doesn’t wear his necessity on his sleeve, as it were. If we could just grasp his essence, we would see that he exists of necessity.

-Rejoinder: No. It’s clear that even if we could grasp his essence, we still would see that his existence is not necessary. For we can see that it’s true of every being, no matter what their nature might turn out to be like, that they could’ve failed to exist. For we can see that necessity is only a property of certain propositions (e.g., ‘all bachelors are unmarried’), and not of beings.

2nd criticism: But even if it were true that necessity can be a property of beings, and not just propositions, we have no reason to privilege God as the necessary being. For it could equally turn out that the universe is a necessary being.

-Anticipated reply: No. For we can conceive of the non-existence of the universe. And since conceivability is the only relevant source of evidence for possibility, we have good reason to think it’s possible for the universe to fail to exist. And if so, we have good reason to think the universe is not a necessary being.

-Rejoinder: Again, the same goes for God: we can conceive of each – God and the universe -- as failing to exist. So neither hypothesis about the necessary being has an epistemic advantage over the other. (But this point works to the advantage of the skeptic. For the proponent of the argument is offering it as an argument to take one from a state of disbelief or suspension of judgment about theism to a state of belief. So if neither hypothesis is more plausible than the other, then it fails in this task.)

3rd criticism: We can’t rule out – and the defender of the cosmological argument here allows – that the universe is eternal: it could be that there is an infinite, beginningless series of dependent beings, each one caused or explained in terms of the one that preceded it. But if so, then it makes no sense to say that such a series has a cause. For one thing can only be a cause of another if the former preceded the other in time. But there is nothing prior in time to a beginningless series of dependent beings.

4th criticism: If each dependent being in an infinite, beginningless series is caused or explained by the dependent being that preceded it, then nothing’s left to explain. To say that the series of dependent beings needs an explanation in addition to an explanation of each individual being in the series is absurd. For the series of dependent beings isn’t itself a being, any more than a collection of objects in a room is itself an object. One might call collections of objects like this, ‘objects’, but such “objects” go no deeper than linguistic or conceptual convention.

Spotting and Avoiding Debating Tricks, Part 1: Mischaracterizing the Scope or Degree of Commitment of a Claim

1. Scope
1.1 Claims can have a wider or narrower scope:
1.2 One? Some? Many? Most? All?
1.3 Example: All men are pigs vs. most men are pigs vs. many men are pigs vs. some men are pigs vs. one man is a pig

2. Commitment
2.1 Claims can also have a weaker or stronger degree of commitment
2.2 Certain that P? Probable that P, Plausible that P? Not inconceivable that P, etc.?
2.3 Examples: It is certain that Steve's a pig vs. I know Steve's a pig vs. it's probable that Steve's a pig vs. It's plausible that Steve's a pig vs. it's possible that Steve's a pig

3. Scope, Commitment, and Evidential Standards
3.1 The stronger a claim's degree of commitment, the harder it is to justify it
3.2 The weaker a claim's degree of commitment, the easier it is to justify it
3.3 The wider a claim's scope, the harder it is to justify it
3.4 The narrower a claim's scope, the easier it is to justify it

4. Morals, part I: When arguing your own position
4.1 When arguing your position, don't make a claim with a wider scope than is absolutely required to justify your position
4.2 When arguing your position, don't make a claim with a stronger degree of commitment than is absolutely required to justify your position
4.3 Example 1: "I'm arguing that it's certain that no gods exist"
4.3.1 The claim has maximal scope, and maximal degree of commitment
4.3.2 So, the claim is very hard to justify
4.3.4 Example 2: "I'm arguing that the evidence fails to make the existence of the God of orthodox Christian theism more reasonable than not."
4.3.4.1 Significantly mitigated scope and commitment
4.3.4.2 Thus, your evidential burden is much, much lower
4.3.4.3 But if established, it's sufficient to undercut the rationality of orthodox Christian theism (leave the issue of properly basic beliefs for another occasion)

5. Morals, part II: When others are arguing with you
5.1 It's common for a person to "cheat" by mischaracterizing their interlocutor's claims (cf. the straw man fallacy)
5.2 A common way to do this is to mischaracterize the substance of one's claim or position
5.3 However, another sort of mischaracterization occurs when a person mischaracterizes the scope or degree of commitment of their interlocutor's claim
5.4 Thus, a person will characterize their interlocutor's claim as having a wider scope, a stronger degree of commitment, or both
5.5 In doing this, they unfairly raise the evidential standards for their interlocutor to make their case

Homework: Listen to some William Lane Craig debates. Can you find any instances where Craig mischaracterizes the scope or degree of commitment of his interlocutor's claims? Do his interlocutors mischaracterize the scope or degree of commitment of Craig's claims?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Two Helpful Resources on Epistemological and Metaphysical Issues Pertaining to Miracles

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on miracles.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on miracles.

Another Review of Recent Books on Hume on Miracles

Speaking of reviews of recent books on Hume on miracles, here's one that's hot off the press: Michael Jacovides (Purdue) has a brand-new review of the following books in The Philosophical Review, 117 (2008):

David Johnson, Hume, Holism, and Miracles
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002. ix + 106 pp.

John Earman, Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. xi + 217 pp.

Robert J. Fogelin, A Defense of Hume on Miracles
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003. xii + 101 pp.

Elliot Sober's Review of Earman's Hume's Abject Failure

As many readers of this blog no doubt know, John Earman wrote an important evaluation and critique of Hume's critique of testimony-based belief in miracles (Section X of Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding). Elliot Sober wrote a helpful review of Earman's book in the March 2004 issue of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. The review can be found here.

The Onion: Bush: "I'm Really Gonna Miss Systematically Destroying This Place"

Details here.

Conceivability Arguments for Dualism, Part II: Stoljar's Critique of David Chalmers' Argument

Notes on Daniel Stoljar's “The Conceivability Argument and Two Conceptions of the Physical” (Phil. Perspectives 15, 2001)

In this paper, Stoljar attacks Chalmers’ conceivability argument for property dualism. Recall that the conceivability argument runs as follows:

1. It is conceivable that I have a zombie-twin, i.e., someone physically identical to me and yet who lacks phenomenal consciousness.
2. If it is conceivable that I have a zombie-twin, then it is possible that I have a zombie-twin.
3. If it is possible that I have a zombie-twin, then physicalism is false.
4. Therefore, physicalism is false.

In addition to his t-physical/o-physical property distinction, Stoljar brings in Van Cleve’s weak/strong conceivability distinction. Weak conceivability is the inability to conceive that P is impossible, and strong conceivability is the ability to conceive that P is possible. Among other problems, the former allows that Goldbach’s Conjecture both is and isn’t conceivable, in which case it is not a reliable guide to possibility. Goldbach’s Conjecture isn’t strongly conceivable, however, and therefore (in conjunction with other virtues) strong conceivability provides prima facie justification for modal propositions.

Stoljar brings these two distinctions to bear upon Chalmers’ conceivability argument by using them to construct a dilemma against it: Start off with the assumption that “conceivable” is intended to be read as “strongly conceivable” throughout Chalmers’ argument. Then:

1. Either “the physical facts” are to be read throughout the argument as “the t-physical facts” or as “the o-physical facts”.
2. If they are to be read as “the t-physical facts”, then although the argument is valid, we have no reason to think it is sound. For the extra, o-physical facts, when combined with the t-physical facts, may then metaphysically necessitate that the twin is not a zombie, in which case (3) would be false.
3. If they are to be read as “the o-physical facts”, then the argument is invalid. For then ‘conceivable’ in (1) can only be truly read as ‘weakly conceivable’ (in which case there is an equivocation in the use of “conceivable” between (1) and (2)).
4. Therefore, either the argument is invalid, or we have no reason to think it is sound.

In short, Chalmers’ argument fails by artificially limiting the consciousness-relevant properties to t-physical properties.

*Stoljar’s own position is “o-physicalism” – the view that physical objects have o-physical properties in addition to their t-physical properties – which is, roughly, a modern version of Russell’s neutral monism.

Conceivability Arguments for Dualism, Part I: Stoljar's Critique of Frank Jackson's Argument

Notes on Daniel Stoljar's “Two Conceptions of the Physical” (PPR, 2002)

This paper is a critique of Jackson’s Knowledge Argument. It distinguishes two conceptions of physical properties: theoretical physical properties (t-physical properties) and intrinsic, categorical, physical properties (o-physical properties). The t-physical properties are exactly those properties dictated to us by physical theory. They are all dispositional, extrinsic, relational properties. The o-physical properties are exactly those properties that are required to give a complete account of the intrinsic, categorical properties of physical objects. The two categories are not co-extensive, as o-properties are intrinsic, and t-properties are not.

Stoljar uses this distinction to construct a dilemma against the Knowledge Argument, the latter of which can be stated as follows:

1. It is possible to know all of the physical facts about seeing red and yet not know all the facts about seeing red.
2. If it is possible to know all of the physical facts about seeing red and yet not know all the facts about seeing red, then physicalism is false.
3. Therefore, physicalism is false.

Stoljar’s dilemma runs as follows:

1. Either “the physical facts” are to be read throughout the argument as “the t-physical facts” or as “the o-physical facts”.
2. If they are to be read as “the t-physical facts”, then although the argument is valid, we have no reason to think it is sound. For the extra facts about what it is like to see red may be o-physical facts, in which case premise (2) would be false.
3. If they are to be read as “the o-physical facts”, then although the argument is valid, we have no reason to think it is sound. For we can’t rule out that knowledge of the o-physical facts, together with knowledge of the t-physical facts, would enable a person to know all the facts about seeing red, in which case premise (1) would be false.
4. Therefore, either way, we have no reason to think that the knowledge argument is sound.

In short, the knowledge argument fails by falsely assuming that knowledge of the physical facts is exhausted by knowledge of the t-physical facts.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

John Hawthorne's Critique of the Fine-Tuning Design Argument

John Hawthorne is another "star" philosopher (currently at Oxford) who is also a Christian.[1] However, he's not a fan of the fine-tuning design argument. Here is a paper on religious belief he's discussed with undergraduates, in which he offers a good criticism of the argument.

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[1] Some philosophical lore: I mentioned Dean Zimmerman a few posts ago. Well, John Hawthorne, Dean Zimmerman, and Ted Sider were known as "The Syracuse Three": the young stars seemed inseparable when they were all faculty at Syracuse in the late 90s-2002, or thereabouts. They hung out all the time, and discussed each other's papers as they were drafting them for publication. I'm not absolutely certain, but I think they were all originally Christians (however, Ted Sider -- son of Christian writer and activist Ron Sider -- seems to have left the fold. See his paper, "Hell and Vagueness", in Faith and Philosophy). All the top philosophy programs wanted (and still want) them. But it seemed that you couldn't hire one of them without hiring the other two. In fact, Rutgers hired the three of them in the mid 2000s. However, the Three have recently been separated: Zimmerman's the only one of the Three left at Rutgers, as Hawthorne has recently taken a position at Oxford, and Sider has recently taken a position at NYU.

Tyler Wunder's Dissertation

Tyler Wunder is a recent (2007) philosophy PhD from Boston University. His dissertation, Warrant and Religious Epistemology: A Critique of Alvin Plantinga's Warrant Phase, is (as the title gives away) a critique of Plantinga's externalist account of warrant (as explicated and defended in Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief). I've only read parts so far, but it looks to be very good. A revised chapter from his dissertation is published in the June issue of Religious Studies. It's a critique of Plantinga's argument from the existence of proper function in living things to theism. The article's entitled, "Anti-Naturalism and Proper Function". I've just read it, and I must say that it's a thorough and compelling critique.

I should mention that the current issue of Religious Studies is chock full of excellent articles. See, e.g., the exchange on the argument from religious demographics, the Molinist's reply, and the rejoinder. See also Robert McKim's article, "On Religious Ambiguity". Some fun reading over Christmas Break!
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