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Showing posts from September, 2014

The Argument from Tragic Moral Dilemmas

Here's another argument I'm toying with. It's a variation on the problem of evil. The basic line of thought is that there are tragic moral dilemmas in our world, i.e., contexts in which a moral agent must make a choice, but all available choices will ruin a good person -- they must choose something that is a moral abomination. The paradigm case of this sort of tragic moral dilemma is the central case in the movie, Sophie's Choice. Recall that in this case, the mother must choose which of her two children to hand over to be killed by the Nazis. If she refuses to choose, both children will die. (We can add that if she offers herself in their place, the Nazi soldier will kill all of them).  The argument can be stated simply as follows:
1. If theism is true, then there are no tragic moral dilemmas. 2. It's not the case that there are no tragic moral dilemmas. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 3. Therefore, theism is false.

The Argument from Environmental Mismatch

Here's another argument I'm toying with. The Earth is filled with harmful and lethal flora and fauna. Furthermore, such flora and fauna are often either undetectable, or look harmless upon first inspection. Theism makes this surprising, as the Earth is supposed to be our home, and not a Hunger Games scenario. By contrast, such a human-inhospitable environment is expected on the conjunction of naturalism and evolution. So if theism is true, then there appears to be a root mismatch between goal and outcome. Such an argument is conceptually distinct from arguments from evil; it's a planning or implementation problem at root, and not a moral problem.
In any case, that's the basic idea. Thoughts?

Getting Clear on One of Smith's Core Argument in Part I of Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality

(Rough Draft)

In this post, I'd like to try to get clear on the master argument of Smith's critique of naturalistic accounts of concept acquisition in Part I of Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality.  

Smith's master argument in Part I relies on his own picture of concept acquisition, correction, and application, so it's crucial to get clear on the latter first. Unfortunately, Smith's account is never explicitly laid out, relying on several illustrative examples in lieu of such. His account is thus frustratingly under-explicated. But we can extract from Smith's examples a programmatic sketch of his account of concept acquisition and application in terms of the following five phases, adding labels to each one for ease of reference: Phase 1: Acquaintance: One becomesdirectly awareof the entity (for knowledge of an individual), or of a sufficiently large quantity of particular tokens of a type of entity (for knowledge of kinds of entity), in an unvarnished,pre-conc…

CfP Announcement: Explaining and Explaining Away in Science and Religion

CFP: Explaining and Explaining Away in Science and Religion
Submission deadline: November 7, 2014
Conference date(s): January 8, 2015 - January 9, 2015
Go to the conference's page Conference Venue: University of Ulster  Belfast, United Kingdom
Topic areas Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Science, Miscellaneous
Overview In discussions about the relationship between science and religion, it is sometimes argued that scientific explanations remove or undermine the need for religious explanations. Although such explanations might be logically compatible, the claim is that there is no need for two explanations when one will do. Given Occam's razor and the success of science, it is claimed that religious explanations are no longer needed for features of the world around us. Is this correct? Has science 'explained away' the need for religion? This conference will address this issue by e…

Quote for the Day

Craig’s example of the stranded astronaut . . . admits of a similar reply. Contemplating the predicament of a man who has nothing but a rock to sit on and must endure his solitude for all eternity does indeed come close to contemplating something meaningless. But this is simply the result of the fact that, by completely isolating the man, the example surreptitiously removes the vast majority of human goods from his life. Let the man be on the Earth, not on an asteroid lost in space. Instead of being alone, let him be surrounded by family, friends, and opportunities for growth and understanding. Let him live a human life with access to the full range of human goods. Suddenly, it is no longer obvious that his life would be meaningless. If it were a finite life, it would still contain many important goods capable of carving a niche for meaningfulness in the face of any suffering the man may endure along the way. And if he inadvertently drank the potion for immortality, as in the example …

On Ch.2 of Smith's Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality

(Caveat emptor: I don't think I've got Smith's arguments quite right in this draft. Revisions to come.)

In Chapter 2 of Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality, Smith continues his critique of naturalistic accounts of our knowledge of the external world. As with chapter 1, the primary topic of ch. 2 is naturalistic accounts of perceptual knowledge, and of direct realist accounts in particular.  Here, however, his focus shifts from Armstrong’s theory to those of DretskeTye, and Lycan.

All three accounts are similar to Armstrong's in at least two ways: (i) they reject sense-data theories and embrace a form of direct realism (indeed, like Armstrong, they reject "internal" phenomenal qualia in general. More on this below), and (ii) they see perceptual knowledge as reliably caused true belief that arises in virtue of the senses. They all thus likewise hold to some form of epistemic externalism about perceptual knowledge.

Although the acco…