Friday, January 28, 2011

Wolterstorff's Recent Books

Nicholas Wolterstorff was among the original movers and shakers in Reformed Epistemology, alongside Alvin Plantinga and William Alston. The following two volumes collect Wolterstorff's most important past work in philosophy of religion, as well as a number of new essays representing his latest work:

Inquiring about God: Selected Essays, Volume I (ed. Terence Cuneo). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2009.

Blurb: Inquiring about God is the first of two volumes of Nicholas Wolterstorff's collected papers. This volume collects Wolterstorff's essays on the philosophy of religion written over the last thirty-five years. The essays, which span a range of topics including Kant's philosophy of religion, the medieval (or classical) conception of God, and the problem of evil, are unified by the conviction that some of the central claims made by the classical theistic tradition, such as the claims that God is timeless, simple, and impassible, should be rejected. Still, Wolterstorff contends, rejecting the classical conception of God does not imply that theists should accept the Kantian view according to which God cannot be known. Of interest to both philosophers and theologians, Inquiring about God should give the reader a lively sense of the creative and powerful work done in contemporary philosophical theology by one of its foremost practitioners.

Practices of Belief: Selected Essays, Volume II (ed. Terence Cuneo). Cambridge: Cambdridge University Press. 2009.

Blurb: Practices of Belief, the second volume of Nicholas Wolterstorff's collected papers, brings together his essays on epistemology from 1983 to 2008. It includes not only the essays which first presented 'Reformed epistemology' to the philosophical world, but also Wolterstorff's latest work on the topic of entitled (or responsible) belief and its intersection with religious belief. The volume presents five new essays and a retrospective essay that chronicles the changes in the course of philosophy over the last fifty years. Of interest to epistemologists, philosophers of religion, and theologians, Practices of Belief should engage a wide audience of those interested in the topic of whether religious belief can be responsibly formed and maintained in the contemporary world.

Two Forthcoming Books to Watch for From OUP

Perszyk, Ken (ed.). Molinism: The Contemporary Debate. Molinism provides an important account of divine providence that has held out hope for many a philosopher of religion in solving such issues as the problem of freedom and foreknowledge, the logical problem of evil (think Plantinga's molinist free will defense), etc. But molinism seems to be losing ground these days (witness, for example, the current prominence of "Open Future" views of God's foreknowledge). This volume assesses the current state of the debate, and the prospects for molinism.

Clark, Kelly James and Van Arragon, Raymond (eds.) Evidence and Religious Belief. Here's the blurb:

A fundamental question in philosophy of religion is whether religious belief must be based on evidence in order to be properly held. In recent years two prominent positions on this issue have been staked out: evidentialism, which claims that proper religious belief requires evidence; and Reformed epistemology, which claims that it does not. Evidence and Religious Belief contains eleven chapters by prominent philosophers which push the discussion in new directions. The volume has three parts. The first part explores the demand for evidence: some chapters object to it while others seek to restate it or find space for compromise between Reformed epistemology and evidentialism. The second part explores ways in which beliefs are related to evidence; that is, ways in which the evidence for or against religious belief that is available to a person can depend on that person's background beliefs and other circumstances. The third part contains chapters that discuss actual evidence for and against religious belief. Evidence for belief in God includes the so-called common consent of the human race and the way that such belief makes sense of the moral life; evidence against it includes profound puzzles about divine freedom which suggest that it is impossible for a being to be morally perfect.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hume Quote

“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.”

-Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dennis Whitcomb's New Argument for Atheism

Dennis Whitcomb (Western Washington University) has recently offered a new argument for atheism in his paper, "Grounding and Omniscience", which will appear in a forthcoming volume of Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. The penultimate draft can be found here.[1] As he summarizes the argument of the paper:

"This paper argues that omniscience is impossible and therefore that the traditional “perfect being theological” God does not exist. The argument appeals to grounding, that is to say the “in virtue of” relation."

The paper won him The Younger Scholar Prize in Philosophical Theology in 2010.

--------------------------------
[1] Note: Whitcomb mentioned on his webpage that he'll expand the paper a bit before it appears in print.

Krugman on the Competition Myth

Here.

Dear Government and College Officials:

Economic growth is not, and should not be, the sole aim and justification of colleges. In support of this claim, please read (e.g.) this.

Sincerely,
EA

Saturday, January 22, 2011

House Republicans unveil plan to end federal arts and humanities agencies and aid to public broadcasting

House Republicans unveil plan to end federal arts and humanities agencies and aid to public broadcasting

Two salient passages:

"The arts and humanities endowments each get $167.5 million a year; the broadcasting agency, which supports public radio and television, gets $445 million"

"the government's existing arts-funding model follows conservative budgetary principles: A small federal investment that's important to the health of the nonprofit arts sector helps sustain its 5.7 million jobs and the $30 billion in annual returns to federal, state and local coffers that those workers pay in taxes."

HT: TM

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two Recent Short Pieces by Maitzen

Stephen Maitzen has recently written two nice short pieces that are accessible to the non-philosopher:

"On God and Our Ultimate Purpose", Free Inquiry (Feb/Mar 2011), 35-37. (a reply to Craig's argument that God is required if our lives are to be sufficiently meaningful or significant.)

"Does God Destroy Our Duty of Compassion?", Free Inquiry (Oct/Nov 2010), 52-53. (a non-technical version of his argument in "Ordinary Morality Implies Atheism", European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 1:2 (2009), 107-126.[1])

--------------
[1] Jerome Gellman has written a reply to Maitzen's "Ordinary Morality Implies Atheism". See his “On God, Suffering, and Theodical Individualism,” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 2:1 (2010): 187-191 Maitzen's rejoinder can be found here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Paper on Theism and Inference to the Best Explanation

van Holten, Wilko. "Theism and Inference to the Best Explanation", Ars Disputandi (2011).

More from Peter Millican on Hume on Miracles

Peter Millican (Oxford) has recently written an extremely helpful and illuminating new paper on Hume on miracles ("Twenty Questions About Hume's "Of Miracles"), which is commissioned to appear in Antony O'Hear (ed.), Philosophy and Religion (Cambridge University Press).


(P.S. We've noted Millican's very nice reply to Earman's Hume's Abject Failure on another occasion.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Some Concerns for Rasmussen's Third Premise

SECOND DRAFT: DO NOT COPY OR CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR. COMMENTS WELCOME!

We recently noted Joshua Rasmussen's interesting new paper in AJP[1], in which he offers a novel variation on the Leibnizian cosmological argument for a necessary being. Recall that his argument runs as follows:

(1) Normally, for any intrinsic property p that (i) can begin to be
exemplified and (ii) can be exemplified by something that has a cause,
there can be a cause of p’s beginning to be exemplified.
(2) The property c of being a contingent concrete particular is an intrinsic
property.
(3) Property c can begin to be exemplified.
(4) Property c can be exemplified by something that has a cause.
Therefore,
(5) There can be a cause of c’s beginning to be exemplified (1–4).
(6) If (5), then there is a necessary being.
Therefore,
(7) There is a necessary being.

I have three main concerns about the justification for premise (3). First, it appears that Rasmussen's basis for (3) is that one can imagine all concrete particulars -- whether they be those of the actual world or of some other metaphysically possible world -- having a beginning of existence[2], where imaginability is then taken as at least prima facie evidence of metaphysical possibility. However, even if we grant this, one might worry that the justification-conferring ability of such imaginings does not extend to states of affairs as remote from ordinary experience as the beginning of all concrete particulars, any more than it does to the modal premises in (for example) the modal ontological argument and conceivability arguments for dualism.

One might object that the criticism relies on an arbitrarily selective form of modal skepticism, on the grounds that the demand for justification for exotic possibility claims should then apply to the humdrum possibility claims as well. And since we accept the latter without argument, we should, to be consistent, accept the former. But this objection is unpersuasive, as a number of plausible proposals of our knowledge of humdrum metaphysical possibilities have been proposed. For example, it has been proposed that such knowledge is grounded in (i) our facility with counterfactual reasoning in ordinary contexts[3], (ii) our folk theory of how the world works [4], and (iii) arguments from analogy/relevant similarity with the actual world [5]. Such accounts can nicely explain the epistemic force of relatively uncontroversial thought experiments involving humdrum metaphysical possibilities (e.g., the Gettier cases), while leaving the more "far out" or "exotic" modal claims (e.g., that an Anselmian Being is possible, that our minds can exist apart from matter, etc.) unjustified.

But suppose this is wrong, and that imaginability is indeed sufficient prima facie evidence of metaphysical possibility in this case. This brings me to my second criticism of premise (3). For even if that's right, it's not clear that it would follow that all concrete particulars are contingent in the requisite sense. For it's at least epistemically possible that at least some such particulars are metaphysically contingent and yet factually necessary. That is, it’s at least epistemically possible that while there are metaphysically possible worlds at which they do not exist, they are eternal, metaphysically independent, "free standing" beings at all the worlds in which they do exist. And if that's right, then even if our ability to imagine them failing to exist provides us with sufficient evidence that they do not exist in some metaphysically possible worlds, it would not provide sufficient evidence that they began to exist.

But perhaps Rasmussen need not appeal to armchair considerations of modal epistemology and thought experiments to justify premise (3). For he might say that we can appeal to scientific confirmation of the beginning of all concrete particulars in the singularity described in standard models of the Big Bang theory of the origin of our universe. This is at least hinted at in his assertion that, "...we can imagine a beginning to the existence of contingent bits of matter as they explode out of an initial singularity" [6]. This brings me to my third and final criticism of premise (3), for unless one is an expert in the relevant scientific fields, one will likely not be competent to evaluate the evidence for this claim on one’s own. I take it that that applies to most of us. We must therefore defer to the relevant experts. But the problem is that there is significant divergence of opinion among the experts on this issue, as there is no consensus among them that our universe had an absolute beginning in a singularity[7]

One might reply that my last two criticisms miss the point. For Rasmussen’s argument doesn't assume that all concrete particulars in fact began to exist, but rather that they can begin to exist. But the problem is that such a reply requires the denial of the widely shared intuition that things have their origins of metaphysical necessity. To see this, suppose origin essentialism is true (i.e., things have their origins of metaphysical necessity), and suppose we give our universe a Kripkean baptism: We say (pointing to the universe), "Let that be called 'Uni'. 'Uni' is now a Kripkean rigid designator, and thus refers only to our universe in all the possible worlds in which it exists.

Holding our universe fixed via the term ‘Uni’, we can start considering modal claims about it. There are two relevant possibilities for us to consider in this regard: (i) Uni has its origin in the causal activity of a necessary being, and (ii) Uni has no origin. Now if (i) is true, then by origin essentialism, this is an essential property of Uni, in which case there is no possible world in which Uni lacks such an origin. On the other hand, if (ii) is true, then Uni lacks an origin in the causal activity of a necessary being, and so this fact about Uni is essential to it, in which case there is no possible world in which it has an origin in the causal activity of a necessary being.

The moral, then, is that if we accept origin essentialism like good Kripkeans, then we will think that facts about whether our universe has an explanation in terms of a necessary being don't vary from world to world. But if so, then we can't know whether our universe could have a beginning unless we know beforehand that it in fact had a beginning.[8]

In conclusion, I have argued that Rasmussen’s new case for a necessary being is unsuccessful. The main reason is that it relies on a modal premise that lacks sufficient justification from both armchair and scientific sources. Unless Rasmussen can offer such justification, the argument will remain unpersuasive.

Endnotes
[1] Rasmussen [2010: 1-6].
[2] Rasmussen [2010: 4].
[3] Williamson [2007].
[4] Williamson [2007]; Hanrahan [2007: 125-146].
[5] Hawke [forthcoming].
[6] Rasmussen [2010: 4].
[7] There are several alternative models to the standard Big Bang model that don't involve the origin of the universe in a singularity, but here's one. According to M-theory (the theory that unifies the five versions of superstring theory), there are entities called 'branes', or multi-dimensional membranes (ranging from 0 (for point-particles) to 10 dimensions, and our universe is just one 4-dimensional brane among many branes existing within a larger 11-dimensional space-time. Thus, according to M-theory, the beginning of our universe is not the absolute beginning of concrete particulars, and the realm of concrete particulars may well have no beginning. On M-theory, then, the need for an absolute temporal beginning of concrete particulars doesn't arise. For a popular account of M-theory, see, e.g., Greene [2003].
[8]One could of course reject origin essentialism, or restrict its scope in a way favorable to the argument, but then the worry is that the audience for the argument will shrink considerably.


References
Greene, Brian 2003. The Elegant Universe, New York: Norton & Norton Company, Inc.
Hanrahan, Rebecca 2007. "Imagination and Possibility", The Philosophical Forum 38/2: 125-146.
Hawke, Peter forthcoming. "Van Inwagen's Modal Skepticism", Philosophical Studies (forthcoming).
Rasmussen, Joshua 2010. “A New Argument for a Necessary Being”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88/3: 1-6.
Williamson, Timothy 2008. The Philosophy of Philosophy, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Martha Nussbaum on Liberty of Conscience and Religious Equality

Nussbaum discusses her book, Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America's Tradition of Religious Equality.

The Shins - Sea Legs

Physics-Based Intelligent Design Arguments are Based on False Physics

Or so argues Bradley Monton in this conference paper. Especially helpful in evaluating Craig's appeal to Big Bang cosmology in support of the kalam cosmological argument. (N.B., A small criticism: It seems to me that the argument would be better titled, "Physics-Based Design and Cosmological arguments are Based on False Physics")

Baylor Philosophy of Religion Conference

Sorry -- thought I'd posted an announcement on this earlier:

Baylor's 6th annual philosophy of religion conference is just around the corner (Jan. 28th). Details here.

To whet your appetite, here is the list of speakers and papers:


“Social Evil” Ted Poston

“Rawls and the Essentially Religious Temperament” David Reidy

"Compatibilism and the Complicity of Morality: A New Kind of Argument against Compatibilism" Patrick Todd

“Kant on Religion and the Hope for Human Progress” Andrew Chignell

TBA: Lara Buchak

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Against Conciliatory Response to Religious Disagreement” Matt Mullins

“Two-No, Three-Dogmas of Philosophical Theology” Michael Almeida

“Against Multiverse Theodicies” Bradley Monton

TBA: Robert Garcia

“Multiverses and Possible Worlds" Hugh McCann

“Plantinga’s ‘Defeat’” Ed Wierenga

“On the Importance of Being Sensitive” Steve Wykstra & Tim Perrine

“Intelligent Design Reliabilism” Peter Graham



Papers from previous conferences can be downloaded here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Some Questions About Rasmussen's Third Premise

DRAFT: DO NOT COPY OR CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR. COMMENTS WELCOME!

We recently noted Joshua Rasmussen's interesting new paper in AJP[1], in which he offers a novel variation on the Leibnizian cosmological argument for a necessary being. Recall that his argument runs as follows:

(1) Normally, for any intrinsic property p that (i) can begin to be
exemplified and (ii) can be exemplified by something that has a cause,
there can be a cause of p’s beginning to be exemplified.
(2) The property c of being a contingent concrete particular is an intrinsic
property.
(3) Property c can begin to be exemplified.
(4) Property c can be exemplified by something that has a cause.
Therefore,
(5) There can be a cause of c’s beginning to be exemplified (1–4).
(6) If (5), then there is a necessary being.
Therefore,
(7) There is a necessary being.

I have three main concerns about the justification for premise (3). First, it appears that Rasmussen's basis for (3) is that one can imagine all concrete particulars having a beginning of existence[2], where imaginability is then taken as at least prima facie justification of metaphysical possibility. However, even if we grant this, one might worry that the justification-conferring ability of such imaginings does not extend to states of affairs as remote from ordinary experience as the beginning of all concrete particulars, any more than it does to the modal premises in (for example) the modal ontological argument and conceivability arguments for dualism.

One might object that the criticism relies on an arbitrarily selective form of modal skepticism, on the grounds that the demand for justification for exotic possibility claims should then apply to the humdrum possibility claims as well. And since we accept the latter without argument, we should, to be consistent, accept the former. But this objection is unpersuasive. For a number of plausible proposals of our knowledge of humdrum metaphysical possibilities have been proposed. For example, it has been proposed that such knowledge is grounded in (i) our facility with counterfactual reasoning in ordinary contexts[3], (ii) our folk theory of how the world works [4], and (iii) arguments from analogy/relevant similarity with the actual world [5]. Such accounts can nicely explain the epistemic force of relatively uncontroversial thought experiments involving humdrum metaphysical possibilities (e.g., the Gettier cases), while leaving the more "far out" or "exotic" modal claims (e.g., that an Anselmian Being is possible, that our minds can exist apart from matter, etc.) unjustified.

But suppose this is wrong, and that imaginability is indeed sufficient prima facie evidence of metaphysical possibility in this case. This brings me to my second criticism of premise (3). For even if that's right, it's not clear that it would follow that all concrete particulars are contingent in the requisite sense. For it's at least epistemically possible that at least some such particulars are metaphysically contingent and yet factually necessary. That is, it’s at least epistemically possible that while there are metaphysically possible worlds at which they do not exist, they are eternal, metaphysically independent, "free standing" beings at all the worlds in which they do exist. And if that's right, then even if our ability to imagine them failing to exist provides us with sufficient evidence that they do not exist in some metaphysically possible worlds, it would not provide sufficient evidence that they began to exist.

But perhaps Rasmussen need not appeal to armchair considerations of modal epistemology and thought experiments to justify premise (3). For he might say that we can appeal to scientific confirmation of the beginning of all concrete particulars in the singularity described in standard models of the Big Bang theory of the origin of our universe. This is at least hinted at in his assertion that, "...we can imagine a beginning to the existence of contingent bits of matter as they explode out of an initial singularity" [6]. This brings me to my third and final criticism of premise (3), for unless one is an expert in the relevant scientific fields, one will likely not be competent to evaluate the evidence for this claim on one’s own. I take it that that applies to most of us. We must therefore defer to the relevant experts. But the problem is that there is significant divergence of opinion among the experts on this issue, as there is no consensus among them that our universe had an absolute beginning in a singularity[7]

One might reply that my last two criticisms miss the point. For Rasmussen’s argument doesn't assume that all concrete particulars in fact began to exist, but rather that they can begin to exist. But the problem is that such a reply requires the denial of the widely shared intuition that things have their origins of metaphysical necessity. To see this, suppose origin essentialism is true (i.e., things have their origins of metaphysical necessity), and suppose we give our universe a Kripkean baptism: We say (pointing to the universe), "Let that be called 'Uni'. 'Uni' is now a Kripkean rigid designator, and thus refers only to our universe in all the possible worlds in which it exists.

Holding our universe fixed via the term ‘Uni’, we can start considering modal claims about it. There are two relevant possibilities for us to consider in this regard: (i) Uni has its origin in the causal activity of a necessary being, and (ii) Uni has no origin. Now if (i) is true, then by origin essentialism, this is an essential property of Uni, in which case there is no possible world in which Uni lacks such an origin. On the other hand, if (ii) is true, then Uni lacks an origin in the causal activity of a necessary being, and so this fact about Uni is essential to it, in which case there is no possible world in which it has an origin in the causal activity of a necessary being.

The moral, then, is that if we accept origin essentialism like good Kripkeans, then we will think that facts about whether our universe has an explanation in terms of a necessary being don't vary from world to world. But if so, then we can't know whether our universe could have a beginning unless we know beforehand that it in fact had a beginning.[8]

In conclusion, I have argued that Rasmussen’s new case for a necessary being is unsuccessful. The main reason is that it relies on a modal premise that lacks sufficient justification from both armchair and scientific sources. Unless Rasmussen can offer such justification, the argument will remain unpersuasive.

Endnotes
[1] Rasmussen [2010: 1-6].
[2] Rasmussen [2010: 4].
[3] Williamson [2007].
[4] Williamson [2007]; Hanrahan [2007: 125-146].
[5] Hawke [forthcoming].
[6] Rasmussen [2010: 4].
[7] There are several alternative models to the standard Big Bang model that don't involve the origin of the universe in a singularity, but here's one. According to M-theory (the theory that unifies the five versions of superstring theory), there are entities called 'branes', or multi-dimensional membranes (ranging from 0 (for point-particles) to 10 dimensions, and our universe is just one 4-dimensional brane among many branes existing within a larger 11-dimensional space-time. Thus, according to M-theory, the beginning of our universe is not the absolute beginning of concrete particulars, and the realm of concrete particulars may well have no beginning. On M-theory, then, the need for an absolute temporal beginning of concrete particulars doesn't arise. For a popular account of M-theory, see, e.g., Greene [2003].
[8]One could of course reject origin essentialism, or restrict its scope in a way favorable to the argument, but then the worry is that the audience for the argument will shrink considerably.


References
Greene, Brian 2003. The Elegant Universe, New York: Norton & Norton Company, Inc.
Hanrahan, Rebecca 2007. "Imagination and Possibility", The Philosophical Forum 38/2: 125-146.
Hawke, Peter forthcoming. "Van Inwagen's Modal Skepticism", Philosophical Studies (forthcoming).
Rasmussen, Joshua 2010. “A New Argument for a Necessary Being”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88/3: 1-6.
Williamson, Timothy 2008. The Philosophy of Philosophy, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Revision: A Quick Thought on Hume, Miracles, and the Apologists

[Thanks to James Gibson for pushing me to get clearer on the point I'm trying to make here.]

A small point: It seems to me that the apologists tacitly concede more to Hume than is often noted. Narrowly construed, Hume's point was that one couldn't rationally believe that a miracle had occurred merely on the basis of the testimony of others[1]. And in practice, it appears that sophisticated apologists of the likes of Swinburne, Craig, Habermas, et al. agree with this much. For they base their case for the resurrection not on mere testimony, but rather on an inference to the best explanation of a set of data, such as, e.g., the crucifixion, the empty tomb, experiences of the disciples that seemed to be of Jesus after his death[2], and the origin of the Christian faith.[3]

Here, then, is my suggestion to apologists. (Assuming a plausible interpretation of the text can support it,) Change your reply to Hume as follows: Hume went wrong, not in thinking that testimony is insufficient (at least in fact) to justify a miracle-claim, but rather in assuming that the only way to support a miracle-claim is via mere testimony. To see this, consider contemporary arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. Apologists today use the modern tools of source, form, and redaction criticism, as well as the so-called criteria of authenticity (multiple independent attestation, embarrassment, early strata, etc.), to establish a set of "core facts", where these are to be taken as data that require an explanation via an abductive inference. They then argue that the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of the data. In this way, then, it's possible in principle to rationally believe a miracle-claim without relying on the mere testimony of others.

Now my own view is that arguments of this sort have failed to date (see fn. 3 for a sketch of my reasons), but that's a separate issue.


----------------------
[1] although I think Hume's claim is probably too strong on that head, at least on the "in principle" (as opposed to the "in fact") interpretation of it. Earman's work has persuaded me that one could pump up the probability of a miracle claim high enough for rational acceptance if the number of (sane, rational) testifiers was sufficiently large. I'm not so sure of Earman's larger critique of Hume on miracles, though. See, e.g., MIllican's reply to Earman's critique of Hume's argument.

[2] And even here, the basis for believing they had such experiences is not merely their saying so, but rather because the hypothesis that they had such experiences is, in turn, the best explanation of a range of data, such as their transformed lives, their willingness to live lives of hardship for their faith, their willingness to die a martyr's death, etc.

[3] Here is a sketch of the main reason why I'm not convinced of this argument, and here is a related criticism.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Quick Note on Hume, Miracles, and the Apologists

A small point: It seems to me that the apologists tacitly concede more to Hume than is often noted. Narrowly construed, Hume's point was that one couldn't rationally believe that a miracle had occurred merely on the basis of the testimony of others[1]. And in practice, it appears that sophisticated apologists of the likes of Swinburne, Craig, Habermas, et al. agree with this much. For they base their case for the resurrection not on mere testimony, but rather on an inference to the best explanation of a set of data, such as, e.g., the crucifixion, the empty tomb, experiences of the disciples that seemed to be of Jesus after his death[2], and the origin of the Christian faith.[3]

----------------------
[1] although I think Hume's claim is probably too strong on that head, at least on the "in principle" (as opposed to the "in fact") interpretation of it. Earman's work has persuaded me that one could pump up the probability of a miracle claim high enough for rational acceptance if the number of (sane, rational) testifiers was sufficiently large. I'm not so sure of Earman's larger critique of Hume on miracles, though. See, e.g., MIllican's reply to Earman's critique of Hume's argument.

[2] And even here, the basis for believing they had such experiences is not merely their saying so, but rather because the hypothesis that they had such experiences is, in turn, the best explanation of a range of data, such as their transformed lives, their willingness to live lives of hardship for their faith, their willingness to die a martyr's death, etc.

[3] Here is a sketch of the main reason why I'm not convinced of this argument, and here is a related criticism.

Review of Moser's The Evidence for God

Thomas Senor reviews the book for NDPR.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Josh Rasmussen's New Argument for a Necessary Being

We've noted some of Rasmussen's work in philosophy of religion on another occasion. Here I'd like to call attention to his new paper, "A New Argument for a Necessary Being" (Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88:3 (Sept. 2010)), which can be found here.

Also worth noting is his helpful overview of recent work on the Leibnizian cosmological argument in the most recent issue of Philosophy Compass (“Cosmological Arguments from Contingency”).

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Announcement: 2011 Midwest Conference of the Society of Christian Philosophers

The conference will take place at Hope College in Holland, MI. Details here.

Call for Papers: The British Society for Philosophy of Religion 2011 Conference

The British Society for the Philosophy of Religion
2011 Conference "God, Mind and Knowledge"

Call for Papers

The next conference of the British Society for the Philosophy of
Religion will be at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford from Wednesday 14th –
Friday 16th September 2011. The theme for the conference will be God,
Mind and Knowledge. The plenary speakers will be John Cottingham,
Anthony Kenny, Robin Le Poidevin, and Charles Taliaferro.

If you would like to present a paper, please send an abstract of a
maximum of 300 words to me (andrew.moore@theology.ox.ac.uk) by the end
of March.

Papers need not be on the theme of the conference, although a
preference may be displayed towards selecting those that are, other
things being equal. Obviously time and space at the Conference will
be limited, so we shall have to be selective, even allowing for the
fact that we plan to run parallel sessions and encourage people
presenting papers to keep to half-hour slots.

In order to keep to the tight timetabling required to permit
participants to hear (the whole of) as many papers as possible,
papers should take ideally fifteen minutes and an absolute maximum
twenty minutes to deliver, leaving ten minutes or so for discussion.

Andrew Moore
Hon. Sec. BSPR
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