Friday, May 30, 2014

Contrarian Philosophy of Religion Assertion Friday

Plantinga appears to have been wrong: the crucial premise of his modal ontological argument -- viz., that a maximally great being (as Plantinga understands that notion) is metaphysically possible -- is contrary to reason. For the notion of a being that is the creator of all other concrete objects distinct from himself is on a par with the concept of the creator and sustainer of round squares, as both entail a metaphysical impossibility.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

An Ontological Disproof of Classical Anselmian Theism

Here's a rough draft of yet another argument I'm toying with that's in the same vein as several others I've discussed here recently:

Suppose for reductio that it's metaphysically possible that a necessary being exists, and that this being is the god of classical Anselmian theism. Let's follow Plantinga's claim here that such a being has the property of maximal greatness, where: (i) a being's maximal greatness entails maximal excellence in every possible world, (ii) maximal excellence includes the classical attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection, and (iii) omnipotence includes the capacity to create or sustain concrete objects distinct from itself without a material cause. Therefore, if it's metaphysically possible that a maximally great being exists, then such a being exists in all metaphysically possible worlds. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in all metaphysically possible worlds. By the above conception of maximal excellence, for any world W that contains a universe of concrete objects distinct from God, if God exists in W, then God originates or sustains the universe in W without a material cause. But the origination or sustenance of any such universe without a material cause is metaphysically impossible. Now a universe of concrete objects exists at the actual world. Therefore, the god of classical Anselmian theism did not originate or sustain the universe that exists at the actual world. Therefore, the god of classical Anselmian theism doesn't exist at the actual world. But this contradicts the above line that he exists in all possible worlds. Therefore, the existence of the god of classical Anselmian theism is metaphysically impossible.

The upshot is that Plantinga appears to have been wrong: the crucial premise of the modal ontological argument -- viz., that a maximally great being (as Plantinga understands that notion) is metaphysically possible -- is contrary to reason. For we've just seen that the notion of a being that is the creator of all other concrete objects distinct from himself is on a par with the concept of a being that is the creator of round squares, as both entail a metaphysical impossibility.

Monday, May 26, 2014

New Paper Raises A Serious Challenge to Molinism...

...and, by implication, Plantinga's Free Will Defense:

Anders, Paul C., Joshua C. Thurow, and Kenneth Hochstetter. "On Counterfactuals of Libertarian Freedom: Is There Anything I Would Have Done if I Could Have Done Otherwise?", American Philosophical Quarterly 51:1 (Jan. 2014), pp. 85-94.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

About that Dawes Interview...

UPDATE: It looks as though Brian Leiter beat me to the punch on this point.

In the last post I noted the 3AM interview with Gregory Dawes. Here I want to highlight a portion of the interview that I'd like to discuss.  It's the point where Richard Marshall brings up the recent hot topic of bias in philosophy of religion, pointing to Chalmers' PhilSurveys results. Here is Marshall's question, followed by Dawes' response:  
3:AM: David Chalmers has done a survey that suggests that although most philosophers are atheists most philosophers of religion are not. Why do you think that philosophers generally don’t seem to be bothered that the sub group specializing in philosophizing about religion are disagreeing with them? It’s a strange situation isn’t it, that a sub group of experts are disregarded by the rest of the field. 
GD: Yes, but it’s an interesting fact, and it tells us something about the nature of religious faith and its relation to reason. 
Christian philosopher William Lane Craig writes somewhere about what he calls the “ministerial” and the “magisterial” use of reason. (It’s a traditional view — he’s merely citing Martin Luther — and one that Craig endorses.) On this view, the task of reason is to find arguments in support of the faith and to counter any arguments against it. Reason is not, however, the basis of the Christian’s faith. The basis of the Christian’s faith is (what she takes to be) the “internal testimony of the Holy Spirit” in her heart. Nor can rational reflection can be permitted to undermine that faith. The commitment of faith is irrevocable; to fall away from it is sinful, indeed the greatest of sins. 
It follows that while the arguments put forward by many Christian philosophers are serious arguments, there is something less than serious about the spirit in which they are being offered. There is a direction in which those arguments will not be permitted to go. Arguments that support the faith will be seriously entertained; those that apparently undermine the faith must be countered, at any cost. Philosophy, to use the traditional phrase, is merely a “handmaid” of theology. 
There is, to my mind, something frivolous about a philosophy of this sort. My feeling is that if we do philosophy, it ought to be because we take arguments seriously. This means following them wherever they lead. This may sound na├»ve. There are moral commitments, for instance, that few of us would be prepared to abandon, even if we lacked good arguments in their support. But if the followers of Hume are right, there is a close connection between our moral beliefs and our moral sentiments that would justify this attitude. In any case, even in matters of morality, we should not be maintaining positions that have lots of arguments against them and few in their favour, just because we have made a commitment to do so. 
So why does the philosophy of religion have such a marginal status within the philosophical community? It may be (as some Christians assert) because atheist philosophers “love darkness more than light,” but I suspect it’s because many atheist philosophers not only find the arguments unconvincing but also regard this style of philosophy as distasteful.
Now as a matter of fact, Dawes doesn't get Craig's official view about the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit quite right, but I do have serious worries that something troublingly similar to his diagnosis might be correct. I also suspect that Dawes here captures the essence of why many philosophers who don't have an AOS in philosophy of religion steer clear of it. Thoughts?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

NYT Piece: Philip Kitcher on the Case for "Soft Atheism"

Here.

Design Arguments Succeed Only if Classical Theism is False

Here's another argument I'm toying with that's in the same vein as several others I've discussed here previously:

Suppose some natural order (e.g., teleology in organic and non-organic structures, fine-tuning, irreducibly complex biochemical structures, etc.) is best explained in terms of intelligent design. Now if the designer is the God of classical theism, then God ultimately produced the objects of design ex nihilo, without preexisting things or stuff. But all finite concrete objects are ultimately produced from preexisting things or stuff. Therefore, some natural order is best explained in terms of intelligent design only if classical theism is false.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

New Paper on Evolutionary Arguments Against Theism

Jong, Jonathan and Aku Visala. "Evolutionary Debunking Arguments Against Theism, Reconsidered", International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (forthcoming. DOI 10.1007/s11153-014-9461-6).

Here's the abstract:

Evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) against religious beliefs move from the claim that religious beliefs are caused by off-track processes to the conclusion that said religious beliefs are unjustified and/or false. Prima facie, EDAs commit the genetic fallacy, unduly conflating the context of discovery and the context of justification. In this paper, we first consider whether EDAs necessarily commit the genetic fallacy, and if not, whether modified EDAs (e.g., those that posit falsehood-tracking or perniciously deceptive belief-forming mechanisms) provide successful arguments against theism. Then, we critically evaluate more recent attempts to argue that a more promiscuous evolutionary scepticism renders religious belief unjustified because, unlike commonsense and scientific beliefs, religious beliefs have no way out of such scepticism.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Plantinga, Chisholm, Particularism, and Irony

It's final's time, and I'm buried in work. So in lieu of a new post, here's an old comment of mine pulled from the archives:

Plantinga follows Roderick Chisholm in his rejection of epistemological methodism, on the grounds that always requiring criteria for how one knows something leads to a vicious infinite regress, and thus to skepticism. He also follows Chisholm in adopting a particularlist, inductive method of generating criteria of proper basicality. As Plantinga puts it:
"We must assemble examples of beliefs and conditions such that the former are obviously properly basic in the latter, and examples of beliefs and conditions such that the former are obviously not properly basic in the latter. We must then frame hypotheses as to the necessary and sufficient conditions of proper basicality and test these hypotheses by reference to those examples." (Plantinga, Alvin. "Reason and Belief in God", in Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God (U of Notre Dame Press, 1983), p. 76.).
So the idea is that clear cases of particular instances of knowledge are epistemically prior to general criteria for knowledge. From the particular cases, one examines what features they have in common, and then formulates hypotheses to the effect that all beliefs with those features are tokens of knowledge.

I think Plantinga goes wrong by liberalizing and relativizing Chisholmian particularism. Plantinga intends his use of "obviously" in the passage above to be relativized to epistemic communities ("obvious to us folks"), so as to allow controversial beliefs that are nonetheless strongly held in a given epistemic community to qualify as "obvious", and thereby to allow for correspondingly relativized, theism-friendly criteria of proper basicality. This goes against the spirit of Chisholm's approach, as his intent was to only countenance Moorean facts as clear cases of knowledge. 

Ironically, Chisholm warns against the dangers of a liberalized standard of clear cases of knowledge in The Problem of the Criterion, the very book Plantinga appeals to as the basis of his fundamental epistemological approach: “We are all acquainted with people who think they know a lot more than in fact they do know. I’m thinking of fanatics, bigots, mystics, and various types of dogmatists.”


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Announcement: Baylor-Georgetown-Notre Dame Philosophy of Religion Conference

Baylor-Georgetown-Notre Dame Philosophy of Religion Conference

Thursday, October 9 2014 - Saturday, October 11 2014
Georgetown University

New North 204
Georgetown University
Washington, D. C. 20057
United States

All speakers:
Charity Anderson, (Baylor)
Meghan Dupree (Loyola MD)
Julia Jorati (Ohio State)
Neal Judisch (University of Oklahoma)
Robert Koons (University of Texas, Austin)
Kris McDaniel (Syracuse University)
Christian Miller (Wake Forest University)
Kathryn Pogin (Notre Dame)
Karen Stohr (Georgetown)


Organisers:
Jonathan Kvanvig (Baylor University)
Mark Murphy (Georgetown University)
Michael Rea (Notre Dame)


(source)

Announcement: 6th Philosophy of Religion One-Day Workshop

6th Philosophy of Religion One-Day Workshop
John Hick Centre for Philosophy of Religion, University of Birmingham

13 June, 2014

Room G52, European Research Institute Building (Campus Map:http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/edgbaston-campus-map.pdf)

---
2:00-2:45: Ben Matheson (University of Manchester), ‘The Problem of Evil and Immortality’

2:45-3:30: Toby Betenson (University of Birmingham), ‘Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil’

3:30-3:40: Break

3:40-4:25: Leland Harper (University of Birmingham), ‘Motivations for Divine Action in a Multiverse’

4:25-5:25: Trent Dougherty (Baylor University, USA), ‘Visible Faith in a Hidden God’
---

All welcome!

-----
Yujin Nagasawa

Professor of Philosophy
School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham
B15 2TT
United Kingdom

E-mail: Y.Nagasawa@bham.ac.uk
Web: http://www.yujinnagasawa.com

(via)

Dawes and Jong on Defeating the Christian's Claim to Warrant

Dawes, Gregory and Jonathan Jong. "Defeating the Christian's Claim to Warrant", Philo 15:2 (2013). Here's the abstract:

Alvin Plantinga notes that if what Christians believe is true, their beliefs are warranted. It follows, he argues, that the only decisive objection to Christian belief is a de facto one: an argument that shows that what Christians believe is false. We disagree. A critic could mount a direct attack on the Christian’s claim to warrant by offering a more plausible account of the causal mechanism giving rise to belief, one that shows that mechanism to be unreliable. This would represent a powerful de jure argument against Christian belief.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Substance Dualism is True Only if Classical Theism is False

(Draft. Revised in light of Chris' and Jeffery's comments. Further revisions and developments -- esp. fleshing out support for the premises -- to come.)

So here's a sketch of another argument in the same vein as several others I've blogged about recently:

The basic idea is that classical theism entails that if there are any created minds, then at least one such mind was created without prior materials. Now if substance dualism is true, then minds are concrete objects. But no concrete object can be created without prior things or stuff(s). Therefore, if substance dualism is true, then classical theism is false. 

To make the reasoning more concrete, let's just focus on one mind -- one from the actual world. In particular, let 'Adam's mind' denote the first finite, human mind to come into existence.  Then we can put the reasoning in standard form as follows:



1. If substance dualism is true, then all finite minds are finite concrete objects.
2. Adam's mind is a finite mind.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3. Therefore, if substance dualism is true, then Adam's mind is a finite concrete object.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5. Therefore, if substance dualism is true, then Adam's mind was ultimately created 
from prior things or stuff.
6. Classical theism is true only if Adam's finite mind was not ultimately created 
from prior things or stuff.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7. Therefore, substance dualism is true only if classical theism is false.[1]


[1] Proof: Let: ‘D’=”substance dualism is true”; ‘Mx’ = ‘x is a finite mind; ‘Ox’ = ‘x is a finite concrete object’; ‘Cx’ = ‘x is ultimately created from prior things or stuff’; ‘T’ = ‘classical theism is true’; and let ‘a’ denote Adam’s mind – the first finite human mind. Then we have:

1. D -> (x)(Mx -> Ox)  Premise
2. Ma    Premise
3. (x)(Ox -> Cx)   Premise
4. T -> ~Ca   Premise
5.              D     Assumption
6.              (x)(Mx -> Ox)   1,5 MP
7.              Ma -> Oa   6 UQE
8.              Oa -> Ca    3 UQE
9.              Ma -> Ca    7,8 HS
10.            Ca    2,9 MP
11.            ~T v ~Ca  4 IMPL
12.            ~~Ca   10 DN
13.            ~T      , 12 DS
14. D -> ~T      5-13 CP
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