Saturday, November 26, 2011

Orwell Was Right, Installment 9,457

"The United States gets reassuring stories on stress and overwork. The rest of the world learns about the fight for democracy in Egypt"

Two Helpful Papers for Evaluating van Inwagen's The Problem of Evil

Fischer, John Martin and Neal Tognazzini. "Exploring Evil and Philosophical Failure: A Critical Notice of Peter van Inwagen's The Problem of Evil", Faith & Philosophy 24:4 (October 2007), 458-474.

Boyce, Kenneth and Justin McBrayer. "Van Inwagen on the Problem of Evil: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly"

McBrayer's New Contextualist/Contrastivist Twist on Skeptical Theism

Justin McBrayer (Fort Lewis College) is an excellent young philosopher. He's also an up-and-comer in philosophy of religion, with special focus on the skeptical theist response to the problem of evil (We've noted his overview of recent work on skeptical theism in Philosophy Compass, and his IEP entry on the topic on other occasions). His most recent contribution makes an advance in the discussion by applying recent work on epistemic contextualism (and also, in this case, Schaeffer's contrastivism) to the topic. The paper can be found here.

A while back, I complained about the strange dearth of work in philosophy of religion that applies the recent hot topic of contextualism in epistemology. It's nice to see that things are starting to change in that regard.

Excellent Online Collection of van Inwagen's Work

Andrew M. Bailey has done the philosophical community a great service by providing an online collection of Peter van Inwagen's papers.

A teaser: two of van Inwagen's most important papers on the problem of evil:

"The Magnitude, Duration, and Distribution of Evil: A Theodicy"

"The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence"

UPDATE: Bailey also has an online collection of John Martin Fischer's papers (here)! HT: Paul

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oppy, Moreland, and the Common Apologetic Strategy

Over at the Secular Outpost, Graham Oppy recently noted a series of exchanges he's been having with J.P. Moreland on the argument from consciousness for theism. One of Oppy's main points in the post is that a naturalist can (a la Chalmers) take consciousness or proto-conscious representational properties as fundamental features of the natural world, thereby undercutting the argument from consciousness.[1] As Oppy puts it:

The most important point to note -- vis a vis this discussion -- I think, is this: The worst case for the naturalist is one in which 'conscious state' is an ideological primitive, with an ideologically primitive connection to 'neural state' (or the like). But, for theists like Moreland, 'conscious state' is evidently an ideological primitive -- for, of course, Moreland thinks that God is conscious, and does not suppose that God's consciousness is explained in terms of something else -- and the connection between consciousness and the rest of God's 'state' is also ideologically primitive. So, on a proper accounting of theoretical costs, the worst case for the naturalist is no worse than par with the view that Moreland defends.

And as Oppy points out, Moreland completely ignores this reply, choosing instead to argue that less "liberal" forms of naturalism can't account for consciousness.

I think this is an excellent demonstration of the failure of what I have called the Common Apologetic Strategy.
[1] I've tried to make this point as well. See, for example, here and here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Podcast Interview with Graham Oppy


HT: The Secular Outpost

Quote for the Day

"I’ll conclude with a brief comment on the exceedingly low standard Bill [Craig] sets for a “good” philosophical argument. The premises don’t even need to be “plausible,” he says – “just more plausible than their opposites.” But surely, when you don’t know enough even to say, “This is plausible,” you don’t have a foundation on which to build an argument for a conclusion that you can believe! To see just how bad the problem is, suppose that each of the logically independent premises Bill needs to get all the way to the conclusion that a personal God created the universe meets this low standard. By way of illustration, suppose that there are just four logically independent premises, and make the very generous assumption that the probability is two to one in favor of each of them. Then the probability that all of them are true is less than 0.2, and the probability that at least one of them is false is greater than 0.8! Imagine a ladder with four rungs, and suppose that the probability that at least one of them will break is in the neighborhood of 0.8. Would you trust that ladder? No? Then you shouldn’t put too awfully much weight on this version of the cosmological argument!"

-Wes Morriston (from his opening statement in is dialogue with William Lane Craig)

Wes's comments on the dialogue with Craig can be found here.

Update on the Synthese Affair


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT: Killeen Chair Conference on Religious Disagreement

HT: Prosblogion

Killeen Chair Conference on Religious Disagreement

Hosted by St. Norbert College, Green Bay, Wisconsin
April 14th through 15th, 2012

The organizing committee for the Killeen Chair of Theology & Philosophy announces a conference on the epistemology of religious disagreement, to be held at St. Norbert College on April 14-15, 2012.

Keynote Speakers:
Michael Bergmann (Purdue)
Thomas Kelly (Princeton)
Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern)

Additional Speakers:
Nathan King (Whitworth)
Jonathan Matheson (North Florida)
Andrew Moon (Missouri)
Tim Pickavance (Biola)

The organizing committee invites the submission of papers for two or three additional speakers. Papers should relate in some way to the epistemic significance of religious disagreement, and each should be suitable for a thirty-five minute presentation (roughly 3,500 words).

Papers should be prepared for blind review and submitted electronically. Please send your file attached to an e-mail message in which you state your name, contact information, and the title of your paper. Preferred file formats include Word 97-2003 (.doc), Word 2007 (.docx), and PDF. Please send submissions to tomas DOT bogardus AT snc DOT edu.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, February 10th, 2012.

The organizing committee warmly invites all interested philosophers to attend and participate in the conference. If you plan to attend, please email Tomas Bogardus at the above address so that we can plan to accommodate the group's size.

Commentators will be selected for some papers. If you would be willing to comment, please indicate your interest in an email (with a current CV attached) by Friday, February 10th, 2012. One need not present a paper in order to serve as a commentator.

For further information on the Killeen Chair in Theology & Philosophy, please visit

New IEP Entry on Omnipotence


Monday, November 07, 2011

5th Anniversary

I recently realized that last month marked this blog's 5th anniversary. I'm still enjoying it quite a bit, so I plan on continuing for the foreseeable future. Thanks to all of you for visiting and/or commenting.


Thursday, November 03, 2011

Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality

... is the name of a new book by R. Scott Smith (Biola). Here is the blurb:

Philosophical naturalism is taken to be the preferred and reigning epistemology and metaphysics that underwrites many ideas and knowledge claims. But what if we cannot know reality on that basis? What if the institution of science is threatened by its reliance on naturalism?

R. Scott Smith argues in a fresh way that we cannot know reality on the basis of naturalism. Moreover, the "fact-value" split has failed to serve our interests of wanting to know reality. The author provocatively argues that since we can know reality, it must be due to a non-naturalistic ontology, best explained by the fact that human knowers are made and designed by God. The book offers fresh implications for the testing of religious truth-claims, science, ethics, education, and public policy. Consequently, naturalism and the fact-value split are shown to be false, and Christian theism is shown to be true.

And here is the table of contents:


Part 1 Direct Realism: An introduction to direct realism:
-The views of D.M. Armstrong
-The representationalism of Dretske, Tye, and Lycan
-Searle's naturalism and the prospects for knowledge

Part 2 Philosophy as Science: Neuroscience, Neurophilosophy and Naturalized Epistemology:
-Cognitive science, philosophy, and our knowledge or reality, part 1: the views of David Papineau
-Cognitive science, philosophy, and our knowledge of reality part 2: the views of Daniel Dennett
-Can the Churchlands' neurocomputational theory of cognition ground a viable epistemology? (Errin Clark)

Part 3 Other Alternatives and Naturalism's Future:
-Other proposals: Pollock's internalism, Kim's functionalism (with Peggy Burke) and more externalist considerations
-The future directions of naturalism and the scientific method, and other implications

I haven't read it yet, but it looks like yet another instance of The Common Apologetic Strategy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

An Excellent Overview of St. Thomas's Five Ways

Timothy Pawl (St. Thomas) provides an extremely clear explication of Aquinas's five proofs of God's existence, as well as key objections and replies, in "The Five Ways", forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Thomas Aquinas (ed. Brian Davies and Eleonore Stump).
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