Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bryan Frances on the Problem of Gratuitous Evil

Bryan Frances (Fordham) is writing a short book on the problem of gratuitous evil: The Horrific Evil God Allows. A draft of the book can be found at his department webpage.

If you've read some of Frances' other work, you know his work is characterized by the following three virtues (among others): (i) it's written in a very clear, conversational style (ii) it's penetrating, and (iii) it exhibits a great sense of humor often lacking in analytic philosophy.

Announcement: The Society of Christian Philosophers Midwestern Conference

The Society of Christian Philosophers Midwestern Conference


February 24-26, 2011

Hope College

Holland, Michigan


Topic: Values and Virtues


Plenary speakers:


Robert C. Roberts (Baylor University)

Address: “Emotions in the Sense of Duty”


Eric Wielenberg (DePauw University)

Address: “Divine Deception”


Papers are especially encouraged on matters of virtue ethics, the
relation between religion and ethics, applied ethical topics
(especially as they might relate to the Christian tradition), or value
theory more generally. Papers on any topic of philosophical interest
will be considered. We welcome the submissions of both Christians and
non-Christians as presenters, commentators, and participants.
Submissions should be 3,000 words or less, prepared for blind review,
and saved in an accessible format (hard copy submissions will not be
accepted). Please indicate whether you would be willing to serve as a
commentator, should your paper not be accepted.


Deadline for submission: November 12, 2010.


For more information, please visit the conference website:

http://www.hope.edu/academic/philosophy/scp/index.html


Please send any queries, submissions, or requests to comment to Jack
Mulder at mulderj@hope.edu.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Announcement: Center for Philosophy of Religion Fellowships for 2011-2012

The Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame
announces up to five fellowships for the 2011 - 2012 academic year:
the Alvin Plantinga Fellowship ($60,000), awarded to a distinguished
senior scholar; up to two Research Fellowships ($40,000 - $50,000,
depending on rank); the Frederick J. Crosson Fellowship ($45,000)
reserved for foreign scholars and those outside the field of
philosophy; and one Visiting Graduate Fellowship ($20,000) awarded to
a graduate student in philosophy who is working on a dissertation in
the philosophy of religion and who would profit from spending a year
at the Center. All Fellows will receive up to $2,000 reimbursement for
moving expenses, as well as up to $2,000 for research-related
expenses. The Plantinga Fellow and the Research Fellows may have the
option of teaching one course in philosophy per semester as well.
Those who do teach receive up to an additional $7,500 annually.

To apply, please submit the following materials electronically, if
possible, to cpreligion@nd.edu, or by mail to Michael Rea, Director,
Center for Philosophy of Religion, 418 Malloy Hall, University of
Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556:

1. A complete curriculum vitae.
2. Three letters of recommendation.
3. A statement of no more than three pages (double-spaced) specifying
the fellowship for which you are applying and describing the project
on which you would like to work while at the Center.
4. A project abstract of no more than 150 words.
5. One published or unpublished paper.

Application Deadline: February 1, 2011

You may apply for more than one fellowship for which you are eligible.

Announcement: Templeton Research Fellowships on Evil and Skeptical Theism for 2011-2012

The Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame
announces up to four one-year residential Research Fellowships on the
topic of 'Evil and Skeptical Theism', open rank, funded by the John
Templeton Foundation. (Skeptical theism is an increasingly widely
discussed strategy for responding to the problem of evil.) Fellows
will be expected to spend the year in residence at the University of
Notre Dame. Each successful applicant will receive a total fellowship
award of $55,000 to $85,000. Stipend will depend on rank and
circumstances of the applicant, and up to $15,000 of each award may be
received as reimbursement for travel, re-location, or research-related
expenses.

In addition, there will be funding available to invite outside
scholars of interest to the fellows for brief visits during the 2011 –
2012 academic year. There will also be funding available for a
workshop on the theme of skeptical theism in late spring of 2012.
(Details of the workshop are still to be determined. Applicants who
are interested in helping to organize the workshop should indicate as
much in their cover letter.)

For further details, including a brief characterization of skeptical
theism and information about appropriate topics of research, please
visit www.evilandtheodicy.com and follow the “Fellowships” and
"Skeptical Theism" links.

To apply, please submit the following materials electronically, if
possible, to cpreligion@nd.edu, or by mail to Michael Rea, Director,
Center for Philosophy of Religion, 418 Malloy Hall, University of
Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556:

• A complete curriculum vitae
• Three letters of recommendation
• A project abstract of no more than 150 words
• A project description of no more than 1200 words
• One published or unpublished paper

All application materials must be received by January 15, 2011 to
assure full consideration. Questions may be addressed to Michael Rea
at cpreligion@nd.edu.

Announcement: The 2011 St. Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology

The 2011 St. Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of Religion and
Philosophical Theology

Recent PhDs and current graduate students are invited to apply to
participate in the 2011 St. Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of
Religion and Philosophical Theology, a three-week long seminar
organized by Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers) and Michael Rota (University of
St. Thomas).

The seminar will be held at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul,
Minnesota, from June 13th to July 1st, 2011. Participants will receive
a stipend of $2900, as well as room and board. The deadline for
receipt of applications is December 1, 2010.

http://www.stthomas.edu/philosophy/templeton/project.html

Topics and speakers:

THE FINE-TUNING ARGUMENT

Robin Collins (Messiah College)
John Hawthorne (Oxford)
Bradley Monton (Colorado-Boulder)
Luke Barnes (Dept of Physics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology,
Zurich)

EVOLUTIONARY EXPLANATIONS OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF

Justin Barrett (Oxford)
Jesse Bering (Queen's University)
John Greco (Saint Louis University)

DIVINE HIDDENNESS

J. L. Schellenberg (Mount Saint Vincent)
Peter van Inwagen (Notre Dame)

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

Paul Draper (Purdue)
Eleonore Stump (Saint Louis University)

For more information, including information on how to apply, go to

http://www.stthomas.edu/philosophy/templeton/project.html

This seminar program is funded by a generous grant from the John
Templeton Foundation.

Announcement: The 2011 Purdue Summer Seminar on Perceptual, Moral, and Religious Skepticism

The 2011 Purdue Summer Seminar on Perceptual, Moral, and Religious Skepticism (June 8-24)



Recent PhDs and ABD graduate students in philosophy, theology, psychology, or cognitive science are invited to apply for the 2011 Purdue Summer Seminar on Perceptual, Moral, and Religious Skepticism to be held at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN from June 8th to June 24th, 2011. The seminar will be directed by Michael Bergmann (Purdue) and the guest speakers will be Justin Barrett (Oxford) and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke).



The topics of the seminar are:



EPISTEMOLOGY: The epistemology of perceptual, moral, and religious belief

SKEPTICISM: Responses to skepticism about perceptual, moral, and religious belief

DISAGREEMENT: Moral and religious disagreement as grounds for unbelief

EVOLUTION: Evolutionary accounts of moral and religious belief as reasons for skepticism



Participants will receive a stipend of $5,000 from which they will pay for their travel, food, and lodging. The deadline for receipt of applications is December 1, 2010. For more information, including information on how to apply, go to: http://www.knowinginreligionandmorality.com/seminar.html



This seminar is funded by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Announcement: Templeton Dissertation Fellowships

The Templeton Dissertation Fellowships program in Evil, Pain, and
Contemporary Philosophy of Mind, hosted by the Center for Philosophy
of Religion at the University of Notre Dame, will provide up to three
one-year residential fellowships for the 2011 – 2012 academic year.,
with the possibility of a second year renewal in 2012. These
Fellowships fund research focused on the biological and psychological
nature and utility of pain and suffering, and/or the relations between
pain and suffering and the problem of evil.

Fellows will be expected to spend the year in residence at the
University of Notre Dame. Each successful applicant will receive a
$25,000 fellowship award, plus up to $5,000 for relocation, travel and
research. In addition, fellows will have joint access to funding to
bring in outside speakers and visitors for short periods during their
tenure, under the oversight of the fellowship directors (Logistical
and administrative details will be handled by the Center’s
administrative staff.)

For further details, including information about appropriate topics of
research, please visit www.evilandtheodicy.com and follow the
“Fellowships” and “Dissertation” links.

To apply, please submit the following materials electronically, if
possible, to cpreligion@nd.edu, or by mail to Michael Rea, Director,
Center for Philosophy of Religion, 418 Malloy Hall, University of
Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556:

• A complete curriculum vitae
• Three letters of recommendation
• A project abstract of no more than 150 words
• A project description of no more than 1200 words
• One published or unpublished paper

All application materials must be received by January 15, 2011 to
assure full consideration. Questions may be addressed to Michael Rea
at cpreligion@nd.edu.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Discussion of the Value of Analytic Philosophy of Religion at Jerry Coyne's Blog

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne (author of the best-selling book, Why Evolution is true) has started a thread on the value of analytic philosophy of religion. The comments are often terrible or uninformed (inclusive 'or' here), and so the discussion would be greatly helped if more philosophers would jump in (looks at readers).

Thanks to J.L. Schellenberg for calling my attention to this.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thomas Senor's Critical Review of Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief

Senor, Thomas. "A Critical Review of Alvin Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief", International Philosophical Quarterly 42:3 (September 2002), pp. 389-396. Senor proposes a counterexample to Plantinga's analysis of warrant on pp. 393-396. We've mentioned some of the counterexamples that others have proposed here and here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wandering in Darkness

Eleonore Stump's magnum opus on the problem of evil, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering, is due out this month with Oxford University Press. Here's the blurb:

Only the most naïve or tendentious among us would deny the extent and intensity of suffering in the world. Can one hold, consistently with the common view of suffering in the world, that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good God? This book argues that one can.

Wandering in Darkness first presents the moral psychology and value theory within which one typical traditional theodicy, namely, that of Thomas Aquinas, is embedded. It explicates Aquinas's account of the good for human beings, including the nature of love and union among persons. Eleonore Stump also makes use of developments in neurobiology and developmental psychology to illuminate the nature of such union.
Stump then turns to an examination of narratives. In a methodological section focused on epistemological issues, the book uses recent research involving autism spectrum disorder to argue that some philosophical problems are best considered in the context of narratives. Using the methodology argued for, the book gives detailed, innovative exegeses of the stories of Job, Samson, Abraham and Isaac, and Mary of Bethany.

In the context of these stories and against the backdrop of Aquinas's other views, Stump presents Aquinas's own theodicy, and shows that Aquinas's theodicy gives a powerful explanation for God's allowing suffering. She concludes by arguing that this explanation constitutes a consistent and cogent defense for the problem of suffering.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Phenomenal Conservatism and the Epistemology of Religious Belief

A "hot" view in epistemology at the moment is a version of evidentialism called "phenomenal conservatism", the view that if it seems or appears to one that P, then one thereby has at least some defeasible evidence that P. Variations of the view have been around for a long, long time, but the recent popularity of the view traces to at least two works by Michael Huemer (University of Colorado, Boulder): (i) Skepticism and the Veil of Perception, and (ii) "Compassionate Phenomenal Conservatism", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2007), pp. 30-55.

Well, the thesis of phenomenal conservatism is fast becoming a "hot" application topic in philosophy of religion (in particular, in supporting the rationality of theism). For a top-notch example, see Chris Tucker's paper, "Phenomenal Conservatism and Evidentialism in Epistemology", forthcoming in VanArragon, Raymond and Kelly James Clark (eds.). Evidence and Religious Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (For Tucker's general defense of phenomenal conservatism, see this paper, which is forthcoming in Philosophical Perspectives.)

Get ready for a boatload of papers on this, folks. Evidentialism just became sexy again among theists.

Langtry's Reply to Gale

Bruce Langtry (University of Melbourne) has kindly posted a helpful overview (including chapter summaries) of his recent book, God, the Best, and Evil. You can also find his reply to Richard Gale's criticisms of the book at his department webpage.

P.S., Perhaps it's worth noting that he critiques Plantinga's Free Will Defense in the current issue of Faith and Philosophy. See his paper, "The Prospects for the Free Will Defense", Faith and Philosophy 27:2 (2010)

Annual EPS Meeting

This year's annual meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society will take place November 17-19 at the Atlanta Hilton in Atlanta, Georgia. Click here for more details. The event program can be found here.

Faith and Philosophy Table of Contents Online

Having recently found the table of contents for the current and past issues of Faith & Philosophy, I've updated the link to F&P in my list of philosophy of religion specialty journals, and have added an RSS feed in the column on the right.

P.S., If you would like to do so, you can add this blog to your Google Reader (or to another blog aggregator), by clicking the "Subscribe to: Posts" button at the top of the column on the right.

Online Papers from Baylor's 5th Annual Philosophy of Religion Conference

Baylor University hosts an important annual philosophy of religion conference. Here is the link to the one that occurred earlier this year. From there, you can find links to many of the papers that were presented. Here is the link to their previous conferences.

My favorite paper from this year's conference is Nathan L. King's "We're Not Very Good at This: Dealing With Evidence of Unreliability". King is a recent PhD from Notre Dame, and is an up-and-comer in the epistemology of disagreement debate. Those interested in the debate about the problem of reasonable religious disagreement shouldn't miss his recent paper, "Religious Diversity and its Challenges to Religious Belief", Philosophy Compass (2008)

New Paper on the Design Argument

Dan Moller's "A Simple Argument Against Design", forthcoming in Religious Studies.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Quote from Mackie on Design Arguments

"The argument from design, therefore, can be sustained only with the help of a supposedly a priori double-barrelled principle, that mental order (at least in a god) is self-explanatory, but that all material order not only is not self-explanatory, but is positively improbable and in need of further explanation...this double-barrelled principle is recognizable as the core of the cosmological argument...The argument will not take us even as far as Kant seems to allow without borrowing the a priori thesis that there is a vicious metaphysical contingency in all natural things, and, in contrast with this, the 'transcendental' concept of a god who is self-explanatory and necessarily existent. It is only with the help of these borrowings that the design argument can introduce the required asymmetry, that any natural explanation uses data which call for further explanation, but that the theistic explanation terminates the regress. Without this asymmetry, the design argument cannot show that there is any need to go beyond the sort of hypothesis that Hume foreshadowed and that Wallace and Darwin supplied... The dependence of the argument for design on the ideas that are the core of the cosmological one is greater than Kant realized."

-J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism, pp. 144-145.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Keith Parsons No Longer Doing Philosophy of Religion

... on the grounds that he no longer finds theism sufficiently credible to warrant devoting further time to research in that field. You all knew that (if not, go here and here), but now Brian Leiter has started a discussion on the topic at his blog. Here is the link.

For the record, my own sentiments about the value of philosophy of religion, and the current state of the field, are captured perfectly by J.L. Schellenberg's comment in the thread at Prosblogion.

UPDATE: Parsons has since left the following comment in the thread of his original announcement at The Secular Outpost:

Thanks again for the many kind and generous comments. I do certainly agree that those who have the stomach for it should continue to subject theistic apologetics to stringent critique. I would especially like for somebody to debunk stuff like that by Robin Collins and John Leslie in the last issue of Philo.

When I helped found Philo, I expressed my chagrin that there were so very few replies to the theistic philosophy that had proliferated. Since that time the publication of books like Graham Oppy's Arguing About Gods, Jordan Howard Sobel's Logic and Theism and Nicholas Everitt's The Non-Existence of God have supplied the logically rigorous and sophisticated critiques that were sorely needed. To really effectively critique the theistic arguments, you need to know as much modal logic as Plantinga, as much Bayesian confirmation theory as Swinburne, and as much physical cosmology as Craig. I am glad to see that critics who have those qualifications are having their say.

Again, I admire and encourage those who continue the battle against theistic obscurantism, but I have such a sense of ennui and disgust that I am going to be hors de combat. I saw a quote attributed to Nietzsche one time that said "I cannot spend my time swatting flies." Swatting flies is what it feels like I've been doing for some time.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Disagreement

For those interested in the current debate about the problem of reasonable religious disagreement, don't miss this important collection of papers on the epistemology of disagreement, which is due out this month.

Does Belief in God Confer an Evolutionary Advantage?

The topic was recently discussed on NPR. Here is the link.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Help for Getting Clearer on Ruth Millikan's Account

I found this paper helpful in getting a better grasp of Ruth Millikan's naturalistic teleological account of mental content:

Kingsbury, Justine. (2006). A proper understanding of Millikan. Acta Analytica, 21(3), 23-40.

Stephen Hawking's Recent Remarks on God and Creation

Here. It's basically a plug for his new book, The Grand Design (due out September 7th!). It looks like the basic idea is that M-Theory is probably true, and that it explains the existence and fine-tuning of our universe.[1] Hey, that's pretty much my view, too![2]
--------------------
[1] Objection: "But I can imagine the fundamental stuff posited in the M-theory multiverse failing to exist. And since conceivability is sufficient evidence for possibility, it's possible for the fundamental stuff posited in the M-Theory multiverse to fail to exist, in which case we have reason to doubt that such stuff is metaphysically necessary, in which case it can't provide an ultimate explanation of the existence of our contingent universe. On the other hand, theism can explain such data. For it ultimately grounds the existence of our contingent universe in a factually or metaphysically necessary being, viz., God. Therefore, the hypothesis of a naturalistic M-theory multiverse fails to provide a better explanation of the existence of our contingent universe than theism."

Reply: Either conceivability is sufficient evidence of possibility or it isn't. If it isn't, then of course the data of the conceivable non-existence of an M-Theory multiverse isn't sufficient evidence of its possible non-existence, in which case the objection fails to show that the fundamental stuff of the M-theory multiverse isn't a metaphysically necessary being. On the other hand, suppose conceivability is sufficient evidence of possibility. Then since it's conceivable that both God and the M-theory multiverse fail to exist, then there's sufficient evidence that it's possble that both God and the M-theory multiverse fail to exist, in which case it looks as though no being of the relevant sort could be metaphysically necessary, in which case the jig is up for arguments from contingency, in which case contingency falls out of the range of data that needs explaining. Either way, then, the objection fails.

[2] I add the qualification that it's "pretty much" my view, since my view is the weaker one that the M-Theory hypothesis explains the data of the existence and fine-tuning of our universe at least as well as the theistic hypothesis, in which case such data doesn't favor theism over naturalism, in which case the existence and fine-tuning of our universe doesn't provide sufficient evidence for moving one from atheism or agnosticism to theism.
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