ANNOUNCEMENT: Conference: The Infinity of God

Thursday, August 8 2013 - Sunday, August 11 2013
Faculty of Theology, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Bochum, Germany



All speakers:
Franz Krainer, Ruhr-University Bochum
William Carroll, Oxford University
Christina Schneider. LMU Munich
Ruben Schneider, Munich School of Philosophy
Georg Essen, Ruhr University Bochum
Christian Tapp, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Philip Clayton, Claremont Graduate University
Kenneth Perszyk, Victoria University of Wellington
Richard Swinburne, Oxford University
Benedikt Göcke, Ruhr University Bochum
Paul Helm, Regent’s Park College
Anna Ijjas, Harvard University
Brian Leftow, Oxford University
William Hasker. Huntingdon College
Kenneth Pearce, University of Southern California
Thomas Schärtl, Universität Augsburg
Bernhard Lang, Universität-GH Paderborn


Benedikt Göcke, Ruhr University Bochum
Christian Tapp, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Topic areas :

Philosophy of Religion

Talks at this conference

Details here.

Pacific APA

I'll be at the Pacific APA on Thursday. Shoot me an email if you'd like to grab a beer.

A Slew of Excellent New Papers from Schellenberg

  1. J. L. Schellenberg (forthcoming). A New Logical Problem of Evil. In Justin McBrayer & Daniel Howard-Snyder (eds.), Companion to the Problem of Evil. Blackwell. (*Latest version. Recently revised*)
    J. L. Schellenberg (forthcoming). God for All Time: From Theism to Ultimism. In Andrei Buckareff Yujin Nagasawa (ed.), Alternative Conceptions of God. Oxford University Press.
  2. J. L. Schellenberg (forthcoming). How to Make Faith a Virtue. In Timothy O'Connor Laura Goins (ed.), Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. Oxford University Press.
  3. J. L. Schellenberg (forthcoming). Religious Diversity and Religious Skepticism. In Kevin Schilbrack (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Religious Diversity. Wiley-Blackwell.
  4. J. L. Schellenberg (forthcoming). Skeptical Theism and Skeptical Atheism. In Justin McBrayer Trent Dougherty (ed.), Skeptical Theism: New Essays. Oxford University Press.
  5. The links to the papers above are available via PhilPapers, but they are also available (with many others) via direct link at Schellenberg's website.

Reconstructing Craig's New Scientific Argument for the Beginning of the Universe

I'm trying to get clear on Craig's new a posteriori argument for the beginning of the universe, and I'd be grateful for any constructive feedback. As far as I can make out, the core of his argument can be expressed as follows:

1. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem (BGV) is true.
2. If the BGV is true, then each universe or multiverse which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history has a beginning to its expansion. (implication of BGV)
3. Each universe or multiverse has, on average, been expanding throughout its history.
4. Therefore, each universe or multiverse has a beginning to its expansion.
5. Each universe or multiverse that has a beginning to its expansion has a beginning of its existence.
6. If each universe or multiverse has a beginning of its existence, then there is a beginning to the existence of all physical reality -- including all universes and multiverses there may be.
7. Therefore, there is a beginning to the existence of all physical reality.

Some questions and comments:

(i) I'm assuming (1) is the consensus view among the relevant scientists, and that (2) just falls out of (1). 

(ii) I have no idea why we're supposed to accept (3).

(iii) I'm not entirely sure what the justification for (5) is supposed to be, but I think it's roughly as follows: (a) The initial state I of any given expanding universe U must be one of quiescence or activity. But (b) if I was a state of quiescence, then it would've remained in that state forever, as (c) there would be no way for an event to begin within U (which contradicts the assumption that it's expanding). On the other hand, (d) if the initial state of U was one of activity, then the expansion of U would have had an infinite amount of time to start its expansion phase I, in which case (e) it would've been expanding for eternity (which contradicts the assumption that U's expansion had a beginning). Therefore, (f) any universe that has a beginning of its expansion has a beginning of its existence.

As I said, I'm not sure if that's Craig's reasoning, but if it is, it seems pretty bad. One problem with it is that (c) doesn't entail (b). For even if the initial state of a universe were quiescent, and even if there is no way for an event to begin from within a quiescent universe, it doesn't follow that there's no way for a physical entity or event outside of a quiescent universe to initiate activity within it. 

Furthermore, the best way I know of to support the inference from (d) to (e) ("if x can be completed in an infinite stretch of time S, then x must (or at least will) be completed within S") is Craig's a priori "immortal counter" argument, but that argument has an undercutting defeater.

Unfortunately, I don't know of another way to support (5), but perhaps there is one, and Craig has stated it somewhere (it may be that it's in his chapter in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and I missed it, though. It's been a while since I've read it, so it's quite possible that that's what's going on). If so, I'd be grateful for help on this.

(iv) Without independent justification, the inference from the antecedent to the consequent in (6) is an instance of a quantifier shift fallacy or the fallacy of composition. Thus, grant that each universe and multiverse is an inflating structure, and grant that each particular inflating universe or multiverse must have a beginning. It doesn't follow from these claims that the set of all such structures must have a beginning (let alone all physical reality. Note that the argument assumes the two are co-extensive). So, for example, it's epistemically possible that each inflating universe or multiverse has a beginning, but that there is a beginningless series of such universes or multiverses. It's also epistemically possible that there is some non-inflationary structure that's eternal (say, some sort of field structure), from which a finite or infinite number of inflating universes or multiverses arise.

Are such structures scientifically acceptable? Given Craig's ultimate argumentative aims, that's neither here nor there[1]. For Craig's ultimate aim is to establish God as the originating cause of all other concrete entities that exist.[2] As such, it's not enough for Craig to rule out all scientifically acceptable rival hypotheses of the origin of the universe besides theism; he must also rule out all metaphysically acceptable rival hypotheses of the origin of the universe besides theism. Perhaps, though, Craig has other arguments for (5) that can achieve this stricter aim. If so, I'd be grateful to learn what they are. 

(v) Assume my reconstruction of Craig's argument adequately captures Craig's reasoning and that all the concerns raised above can be answered. The argument is nonetheless undercut by the following G.E. Moore Shift argument:

1. If all of premises 1-6 are true, then there is a beginning to the existence of all physical reality.
2. There is not a beginning to the existence of all physical reality.
3. Therefore, not all of premises 1-6 are true. 

The argument's valid, and (1) is true in virtue of the validity of my reconstruction of Craig's argument. Furthermore, (2) is justified in virtue of our a priori and a posteriori evidence for the following version of the principle of material causality (PMC): every concrete object (or aggregate thereof) that begins to exist has a material cause of its existence (i.e., it's made from pre-existing stuff, whether material or immaterial). So unless we allow that either (a) physical reality is made out of God's being, (b) physical reality is ultimately made out of some eternal stuff distinct from God, or (c) things that begin to exist but aren't preceded by other events don't need causes (all of which Craig is committed to rejecting), PMC should push one to accept (2). 

Now here's the rub: if the G.E. Moore Shift argument is sound, then Craig's argument is unsound. And if Craig's argument is sound, then the G.E. Moore Shift argument is unsound. Unfortunately, The premises in the latter have at least as much going for them as those in Craig's argument. And if that's right, then the epistemic force of each cancels out that of the other, in which case Craig's argument is subject to an undercutting defeater.

[1] Of course it goes without saying that Craig's posited immaterial, tri-personal creator-out-of-nothing is scientifically unacceptable.
[2] Indeed, Craig also wants to argue that God is the cause of all abstract objects as well, but that's a topic for another day.

Morriston's Latest Reply to Craig

Here.  I find Morriston's "future praises" argument fascinating. However, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that Morriston has a slew of other papers in which he has offered undercutting defeaters for every last one of Craig's philosophical (i.e., a priori) arguments against the existence and traversability of actual infinites. Also worth noting is that many of these papers are over a decade old, and, to date, Craig has failed to adequately address even a single one of them. To his credit, though, Craig has attempted to reply to a number of Morriston's other criticisms of the kalam cosmological argument (e.g., Morriston's criticisms of the causal premise, of the a posteriori (i.e., empirical) arguments for a finite past, and of the grounds for inferring that the cause of the beginning of the universe is a personal agent). I leave it to the reader to decide if any of those replies are successful.

New Philosophy of Religion Papers in Philosophy Compass

(Subscription required)

-Jordan, Matthew Carey. "Theism, Naturalism, and Metaethics

Abstract: The relationship between God and morality has been a topic of philosophical discussion since Socrates engaged Euthyphro in the agora. In recent years, it has received a lot of attention, as theistic philosophers have attempted to show that divine command theory and other theistic meta-ethical accounts are defensible. Whether metaphysical naturalism is compatible with moral realism is a related (and equally controversial) topic. This essay surveys the main issues in these debates.

(Note: Those who are aware of Jordan's other recent work know that much of of it is focused on critiquing non-theistic metaethical theories, and in developing and defending a theistic metaethical theory. He is a recent PhD whose dissertation defended a variation of divine command theory (divine attitude theory), according to which (roughly) an action X is morally wrong just in case God would be displeased with you for doing X. Interested parties would do well to follow his work on these issues.)

Abstract: This article explores “pragmatic arguments” for theistic belief – that is, arguments for believing in God that appeal, not to evidence in favor of God’s existence, but rather to alleged practical benefits that come from belief in God. Central to this exploration is a consideration of Jeff Jordan’s recent defense of “the Jamesian wager,” which portrays itself as building on the case for belief presented in William James’s essay “The Will to Believe.” According to Jordan, religious belief creates significant gains in this-worldly happiness (i.e. gains in “secular utility,” I shall say), and provided the individual does not have decisive evidence against God’s existence, these gains give the individual sufficient reason to strive to believe in God. In its exploration of this argument, the article presents an overview of recent social scientific work on the this-worldly effects of religious belief. It canvases several challenges to pragmatic arguments, namely, a challenge according to which happiness rooted in false belief is worth less than that rooted in truth, a perfectionistic challenge alleging that one should strive for personal excellence rather than happiness, and a challenge alleging that any happiness gains of religious belief are outweighed by the potential harms brought about by religious belief.

Abstract: The place and significance of religious community is a central concern in recent continental philosophy of religion. Although Kierkegaard is a significant influence for many recent continental philosophers of religion, recent work on his social thought is largely ignored. I begin the paper by describing how recent continental philosophers of religion, in particular John Caputo, John Milbank, and Jürgen Habermas, have used Kierkegaard in order to address social questions. Then I show how recent work on Kierkegaard’s social thought – namely, his social ontology and his account of community – that can enrich discussion in recent continental philosophy of religion about the nature of religious community.

Announcement: Call for Papers: The Safety Condition for Knowledge and Religious Epistemology

(H/T: Prosblogion)
Call for Papers
Workshop on Religious Epistemology and the Safety Condition for Knowledge
Oxford University 12 & 13 June 2013

The New Insights and Directions in Religious Epistemology project at Oxford University invites the submission of papers related to the application of the safety condition for knowledge to any question in the philosophy of religion or analytic theology.

Keynote Speakers: Timothy Williamson (Oxford)
Duncan Pritchard (Edinburgh)

Papers should be suitable for blind review and be no longer than 4000 words in length. Submissions should be accompanied by a cover letter including the name, affiliation, and contact details of the author.

Papers should be submitted to

Submission deadline is 15 April, 2013.

Partial funding is available to support travel and accommodation expenses for speakers.

Further details of the New Insights project can be found at
This workshop is made possible by the John Templeton Foundation

Dani Rabinowitz
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford University
Radcliffe Humanities Building
Woodstock Road
United Kingdom

Plantinga's Abject Failure?

We noted on another occasion Richard Otte's important paper that demonstrates (and Plantinga concedes) that Plantinga's doctrine of possible transworld depravity (<>TWD), which is the heart of Plantinga's FWD, is necessarily false. Of course, in that paper, Otte offers a repair that gets around the problem. But here's a brand new paper (final draft now out in the current issue of F&P) which argues that Plantinga's <>TWD thesis is necessarily false, and that Otte's repair can't avoid the problem. Almeida has recently argued for a similar conclusion.  We've also seen another recent criticism of <>TWD from Howard-Snyder. Josh Rasmussen argues for an even stronger conclusion.  And let's not forget Schellenberg's new formulation of the logical problem of evil, as well as his Free Will Offense. In addition, we've noted Morriston's critique of Plantinga's (FWD), which raises worries for it that do not rely on concerns about <>TWD. Finally, the notion of transworld depravity relies on the notion of counterfactuals of creaturely (libertarian) freedom (CCFs). But there are powerful reasons to think that the notion of a CCF is incoherent

It's not looking good for Plantinga's FWD. Perhaps it's time to stop calling his response to the logical problem of evil a clear success, folks.

More on Howard-Snyder's New Paper on the Logical Problem of Evil

I recently mentioned Howard-Snyder's important new paper, "The Logical Problem of Evil: Mackie and Plantinga". Given the importance of the paper, I thought I'd give a rough sketch of the core argument. Plantinga's Free Will Defense (FWD) depends on his claim that there is a possible world at which every creaturely essence suffers from transworld depravity (<>TWD). However, <>TWD depends on a controversial picture of the the distribution of the counterfactuals of freedom to creaturely essences. In particular, it depends on the thesis Howard-Snyder calls Interworld Plenitude, which is (very roughly) the view that while there are an infinite number of creaturely essences and an infinite number of differing bundles of counterfactuals of freedom for each creaturely essence to have, and while each possible bundle is had by one or more essences, the plenitude of essence/bundle pairs is diffused across a large stretch of the space of possible worlds. To be more specific: while each bundle is had by some essences at some possible world or other, not every bundle is had by some essence or other at every possible world. Given Interworld Plenitude, then, (i) there are possible worlds at which every creaturely essence suffers from transworld sanctity, (ii) there are possible worlds at which every creaturely essence suffers from transworld depravity, and (iii) in between these two extremes, each other combination and quantity of essence/bundle pair exists at some possible world or other. If Interworld Plenitude holds, then, TWD is possible, as there will be a possible world at which every creaturely essence suffers from transworld depravity. 

However, there is another basic account of the distribution of counterfactuals of freedom, which Howard-Snyder calls Intraworld Plenitude. Very roughly, this account states that a token of each such bundle is had by at least one (and indeed perhaps infinitely many) creaturely essence(s) at every possible world. But if so, then even if infinitely many creaturely essences suffer from transworld depravity at any given possible world, it's also true that at least one (and indeed perhaps infinitely many) creaturely essence(s) enjoy(s) transworld sanctity at every possible world ([]TWS).[1] And if that's right, then at no possible world are God's hands tied: at every possible world, there are creaturely essences God can instantiate that never freely go wrong. And if so, then <>TWD is false, in which case Plantinga's FWD fails to establish the compatibility of God and evil.

Now here's the rub. As Howard-Snyder puts it:
which picture (if either) accurately represents the distribution of counterfactuals of freedom to essences? Each picture is internally consistent; and each is consistent with everything we know or reasonably believe. So which is it? I submit that none of us is in a position to answer that question. We are in no position to tell which picture (if either) is accurate. But in that case, we are in no position to tell whether S [ i.e., []TWS] or D [i.e., <>TWD] is true. And if we are in no position to tell whether S or D is true, then it is no more reasonable for us to believe D than S and, therefore, it is reasonable for us to refrain from believing D, in which case Plantinga’s FWD fails.
Now those who follow the literature on the logical problem of evil know that Howard-Snyder has made this point before (with John Hawthorne). This paper furthers the discussion in at least two important ways: (i) by fleshing out and motivating both Interworld Plenitude and Intraworld Plenitude (and by  distinguishing weak and strong versions of both. See the paper for the details), and (ii) by responding (in my view, decisively) to the most important replies to the argument, viz., those from Plantinga and Rowe. Howard-Snyder points out that the core of their replies is the same, and that both replies beg the question by assuming that Interworld Plenitude is true and Intraworld Plenitude is false. As such, Howard-Snyder's (and Hawthorne's) defeater for Plantinga's FWD remains undefeated.

In short, FWD succeeds in showing the compossibility of God and evil only if <>TWD is true. But <>TWD is true only if Interworld Plenitude is true and Intraworld Plenitude is false. But we have no reason to prefer one of these two pictures of the distribution of the counterfactuals of freedom to creaturely essences over the other, in which case we have no reason to think <>TWD is true. And if that's right, Plantinga's FWD fails to show the compossibility of God and evil.

My intuitions sometimes incline me toward a stronger construal of Howard-Snyder's (and Hawthorne's) core claim, and Rasmussen has argued persuasively for the latter. I'm grateful that Howard-Snyder (and Hawthorne) have done the hard work to flesh out the case for the weaker claim, and that Rasmussen has done the hard work to flesh out the case for the stronger construal.

[1] It's crucial to note that transworld sanctity, like transworld depravity, isn't construed as an essential property of a given essence; rather, both are contingent, world-indexed properties of creaturely essences.

Provocative New Paper on the Logical Problem of Evil by Howard-Snyder

Howard-Snyder, Daniel. "The Logical Problem of Evil: Mackie and Plantinga", in McBrayer and Howard-Snyder (eds), A Companion to the Problem of Evil (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming).

Abstract: J.L. Mackie’s version of the logical problem of evil is a failure, as even he came to recognize. Contrary to current mythology, however, its failure was not established by Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. That’s because a defense is successful only if it is not reasonable to refrain from believing any of the claims that constitute it, but it is reasonable to refrain from believing the central claim of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense, namely the claim that, possibly, every essence suffers from transworld depravity.

Absolutely required reading. P.S., I told you so.

Linford and Megill's New Paper on Two Underexplored Arguments Against Theism

Linford, Dan and Megill, Jason. "I dolatry, indifference, and the scientific study of religion: two new Humean arguments ", Relig...