Monday, June 30, 2014

Williamson's Necessitism and Anselmian Theism

Timothy Williamson has recently argued for necessitism, according to which anything that exists in one possible world exists in every possible world; that is, that every possible being is a necessary being. However, that doesn't mean that every possible being has the property of being concrete at every possible world (and so there are plenty of worlds at which we are mere abstract objects).

If true, necessitism would to have interesting implications for certain views in philosophy of religion. For example, it would mean that if an Anselmian being exists, then it is just one among infinitely many other necessary beings. Of course, one could reply that an Anselmian being still retains its unique and superlative status in virtue of being the only being who exists concretely at every possible world. Perhaps that's a difference that matters. Still, it seems to me that it would chip away at at least some of an Anselmian being's greatness.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Kalam Cosmological Argument + the Principle of Material Causality = Panentheism

Consider the following set of propositions, which I’ll call A:

Set A:
1. There is a temporal beginning to all physical reality.
2. If there is a temporal beginning to all physical reality, then there is an ontic beginning[1] to all physical reality.
3. If there is an ontic beginning to all physical reality, then there is an ontic beginning to all concrete reality besides God.
4. Whatever has an ontic beginning has an efficient cause.
5. Whatever has an ontic beginning has a material cause.
6. If there is an ontic beginning to all concrete reality besides God, then it cannot have a material cause.

Set A is inconsistent. Which proposition should go? Craig thinks it’s (5). But why think that? Craig admits that both (4) and (5) are extremely well-supported, but reasons that rejecting (5) is better than rejecting both. Perhaps that's right. But of course that’s not the only option. Given the extremely strong grounds for both causal principles[2], it seems that the most reasonable option is to reject neither (4) nor (5), and to reject one of the other propositions instead, if one of them is at least slightly less well-grounded as they are.[3]

Well, are any of the other propositions less well-grounded than (4) and (5)? I think it's clear that the answer is 'yes'. My own view is that each of the earlier propositions (1)-(3) is much less well-supported than (4) and (5), and so rejecting one or more of them is much more reasonable than rejecting (5). 

But let’s grant Craig all of them.  Here I’d like to raise another option, one that (surprisingly) has not been seriously considered in the literature, viz., rejecting (6). According to this option, the universe is made from the stuff of God’s own being. In other words, a more reasonable option, given the evidence for both causal principles (and also granting, at least arguendo, the truth of (1)-(3)), is panentheism. Of course, that clashes with the theistic, and specifically, Christian, commitments of Craig. But that’s neither here nor there in the current context. For Craig is offering the argument not just to theists, but also to non-theists, as adequate epistemic grounds for something close enough to theism to rule out these other alternatives. And we've just seen that from within this context, at least, the argument does not succeed.

To sum up, in the best case, Craig’s kalam cosmological argument should push a rational non-theist to panentheism, not to theism.

[1] A case of an entity that has a temporal, but not an ontic, beginning would be one in which it exists in a timeless mode of existence "prior" to its temporal mode of existence.
[2] Actually, it seems to me that (4) has less going for it than (5), given the plausibility of various interpretations of quantum mechanics that entail the falsity of (4). Therefore, it seems to me that if one were to reject one of the causal principles, it should be (4), not (5).
[3] Wes Morriston makes this sort of point in "Must the Beginning of the Universe Have a Personal Cause? A Critical Examination of the Kalam Cosmological Argument", Faith & Philosophy 17:2 (2000); "Causes and Beginnings in the Kalam Cosmological Argument: Reply to Craig", Faith & Philosophy 19:2 (2002). In the relevant passages, he focuses on the option of rejecting (3). I focus on another option below.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nolan's New Paper on Hyperintensional Metaphysics

Nolan, Daniel. "Hyperintensional Metaphysics", Phil. Studies (forthcoming. Penultimate draft here).

This isn't a philosophy of religion paper, but it's an absolutely essential read to those working in the field. Possible-worlds analyses (e.g. of concepts, properties, essences, dispositions, etc.) are now widely seen to be too coarse grained to "carve reality at her joints", as it were. Therefore, the future of analyses for God's attributes, of the viability of divine command theory, of the standards for what counts as a counterexample, etc., is likely to be a hyperintensional one, in which case consideration of impossible worlds will more frequently be seen as relevant to their evaluation.  Let the hyperintensional revolution continue!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Aikin's Forthcoming Book on Clifford and James

Aikin, Scott. Evidentialism and the Will to Believe (Bloomsbury, forthcoming). The book is due to come out in July. Here's the blurb:
Work on the norms of belief in epistemology regularly starts with two touchstone essays: W.K. Clifford's "The Ethics of Belief" and William James's "The Will to Believe." Discussing the central themes from these seminal essays, Evidentialism and the Will to Believe explores the history of the ideas governing evidentialism.

As well as Clifford's argument from the examples of the shipowner, the consequences of credulity and his defence against skepticism, this book tackles James's conditions for a genuine option and the structure of the will to believe case as a counter-example to Clifford's evidentialism. Exploring the question of whether James's case successfully counters Clifford's evidentialist rule for belief, this study captures the debate between those who hold that one should proportion belief to evidence and those who hold that the evidentialist norm is too restrictive.

More than a sustained explication of the essays, it also surveys recent epistemological arguments to evidentialism. But it is by bringing Clifford and James into fruitful conversation for the first time that this study presents a clearer history of the issues and provides an important reconstruction of the notion of evidence in contemporary epistemology.
And here's the table of contents:
1. The objectives of commentary
2. Three themes
3. Five evaluative theses
Chapter 1: Reading Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief”
William Kingdon Clifford and the Metaphysical Society
Section I – The Duty of Inquiry
1. The ship owner case
2. The island case
3. Beliefs and actions
4. Beliefs and their consequences
5. Ethics and belief
6. Endorsing evidentialism
Section II – The Weight of Authority
1. Anti-skepticism
2. Testimonial evidence
3. Miraculous testimony
4. The publicity requirement
5. The sacred tradition of humanity
Section III – The Limits of Inference
1. A burnt child dreads the fire
2. Regulative principles
3. Three norms
Chapter 2: Reading James’s “The Will to Believe”
William James and “The Will to Believe”
Section I – Hypotheses and Options
1. Introduction and definitions
2. Live and dead options
3. Forced options
4. Momentous options
5. Religion as a genuine option
Section II – Pascal’s Wager
1. Four stages of “The Will to Believe”
2. Voluntarism and its limits
3. The wager
4. Clifford’s veto
Section III – Psychological Causes of Belief
1. A concession to evidentialism
2. Truth and other useful ideas
3. Pascal is a regular clincher
Section IV – The Thesis of the Essay
1. A thematic transition
2. The thesis
Sections V and VI – Absolutism and Empiricism
1. Two forms of faith
2. Objective evidence and its discontents
3. Truth for Empricism
Section VII – Two Different Sorts of Risks in Believing
1. The two commandments
2. The case for the Truth Norm
3. Two critical points
Section VIII – Some Risk Unavoidable
1. Applying the meta-epistemology
2. Interested inquiry
3. Two analogies
Section IX – Faith May Bring Forth Its Own Verification
1. Moral and scientific questions
2. Moral skepticism
3. The argument from friendship
4. The argument from social coordination
5. Doxastic efficacy and the will-to-believe
Section X – Logical Conditions of Religious Belief
1. The overall form of James’s argument
2. Religion’s dual essence
3. Religion as live and momentous
4. Religion as forced
5. The conversion fallacy
6. Religion as doxastically efficacious
7. Evidentialism as irrational
8. Religious tolerance
Chapter 3: The Ethics of Belief and Philosophy of Religion
Question 1: Must evidentialism be an ethical doctrine?
Question 2: Can practical reasons trump theoretical reasons?
Question 3: Can religion be pragmatically reconstructed?
Question 4: What about the power of positive thinking?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Oppy's Forthcoming Book on Reinventing Philosophy of Religion

Oppy, Graham. Reinventing Philosophy of Religion (Palgrave, forthcoming). The book is due to come out in July. Here's the blurb:
Widespread conflict between worldviews prompts philosophical questions. Are all worldviews religious? Is there a common core to all worldviews? Is there one true worldview? Are some worldviews better than others? Are there proofs that ought to bring an end to all disputes about worldviews? Might we reasonably agree to disagree when it comes to questions about worldviews? Can one lead a worthwhile life if one subscribes to a false worldview? Are people who do not have a religious worldview necessarily wicked or immoral? Should worldview education be an entirely private matter? This book is an introduction to these—and other—central questions in the philosophy of religion, as well as a defense of the idea that these kinds of questions are the central subject matter of philosophy of religion.
And here's the table of contents:
Introductory Remarks
1. Disagreement, Opinion and Expertise
2. Belief, Faith and Evidence
3. Debate, Reason and Argument
4. Science, Nature and Transcendence
5. Mind, Body and Spirit
6. Cause, Freedom and Responsibility
7. Flourishing, Virtue and Happiness
8. Trust, Violence and Power
9. Meaning, Understanding, and Narrative
References and Further Reading

Dougherty's Forthcoming Book on the Problem of Animal Pain

Dougherty, Trent. The Problem of Animal Pain (Palgrave, forthcoming). The book is due to come out in July. Interestingly (and plausibly) it rejects the neo-Cartesian response to the problem of animal suffering defending by Michael J. Murray and endorsed by William Lane Craig. Here's the blurb:
The problem of evil constitutes the greatest challenge to rational belief in the existence of God. Animal suffering constitutes perhaps the most powerful version of the problem. Considerations that render human suffering theologically intelligible seem inapplicable to non-human animals. It is commonly held that they do not have morally significant free will, they do not have immortal souls, and they do not have a direct relationship with God. In this book, Dougherty defends radical possibilities for animal afterlife that allow a soul-making theodicy to apply to animals. He defends that animals have souls, and a novel model of materialist resurrection if they don't. He then proposes that animals will undergo theosis and given the expanded cognitive resources to understand and embrace their place in the scheme of salvation. Along the way we get tours of probability theory, four-dimensionalism, and chimpanzee behavior. From the split-brain experiment to the relationship between mammalian and avian brains, this tour de force challenges conventional wisdom on the theology of animals.
And here's the table of contents:
Series Editors' Preface Acknowledgements 1. The Plan of this book2. The Problem of Animal Pain3. The Bayesian Argument from Animal Pain4. Is there Really a Problem? The Challenge of Neo-Cartesianism5. There is a problem. The Defeat of Neo-Cartesianism6. The Saint-Making Theodicy I: Negative Phase7. The Saint-Making Theodicy II: Positive Phase8. Animal Saints9. Animal AfterlifeBibliography Index 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Forthcoming Book on God and the Multiverse

Kraay, Klaas (ed). God and the Multiverse (Routledge). The book is due out in October. Here's the blurb:
In recent decades, scientific theories have postulated the existence of many universes beyond our own. The details and implications of these theories are hotly contested. Some philosophers argue that these scientific models count against the existence of God. Others, however, argue that if God exists, a multiverse is precisely what we should expect to find. Moreover, these philosophers claim that the idea of a divinely created multiverse can help believers in God respond to certain arguments for atheism. These proposals are, of course, also extremely controversial. This volume collects together twelve newly published essays – two by physicists, and ten by philosophers – that discuss various aspects of this issue. Some of the essays support the idea of a divinely created multiverse; others oppose it. Scientific, philosophical, and theological issues are considered.

And here's the table of contents:
Introduction Klaas Kraay

Part 1: Physicists on God and the Multiverse
1. Puzzled by Particularity Robert B. Mann
2. A The Everett Multiverse and God Don N. Page

Part 2: Theistic Multiverses: Details and Applications
3. The Multiverse: Separate Worlds, Branching, or Hyperspace? And What Implications are there for Theism? Peter Forrest
4. An Argument for Modal Realism Jason Megill
5. Revisiting the Many-Universes Solution to the Problem of Evil Donald A. Turner

Part 3: Criticisms of Theistic Multiverses
6. Kraay's Theistic Multiverse Michael Schrynemakers
7. Best Worlds and Multiverses Michael Almeida
8. On Multiverses and Infinite Numbers Jeremy Gwiazda

Part 4: Pantheistic Multiverses
9. Multiverse Pantheism Yujin Nagasawa
10. God and Many Universes John Leslie

Part 5: Multiverses and the Incarnation
11. Extraterrestrial Intelligence and the Incarnation Robin Collins
12. Incarnation and the Multiverse Timothy O'Connor and Philip Woodward

Monday, June 16, 2014

Goldschmidt's New Paper on Commanding Belief...

... looks really interesting. Here's the abstract:

This essay shows three things: first, that we cannot comply with a command from God to believe in God; second, that God cannot command us to believe in God; and, third, that the divine command theory is false. The third conclusion follows from the second, and the second follows from the first. The essay focuses on an argument from the medieval Jewish philosopher, Hasdai Crescas. It also draws from, and is something of a sequel to, an argument from Brown and Nagasawa published previously in this journal.
And if I should find a copy in my email, I wouldn't mind in the least.
Update: Thanks!

H/T: G.O.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

New Paper Replies to (Some of) Morriston's Important Critiques of Divine Command Theory

Brian Davis, Richard and W. Paul Franks. "Counterpossibles and the ‘Terrible’ Divine Command Deity", Religious Studies (forthcoming). The pre-publication version can be found here (No-citation or circulation rules apply).

Here's the abstract:
In a series of articles in this journal, Wes Morriston has launched what can only be considered a full-scale assault on the divine command theory (DCT) of morality. According to Morriston, proponents of this theory are committed to an alarming counterpossible: that if God did command an annual human sacrifice, it would be morally obligatory. Since only a ‘terrible’ deity would do such a ‘terrible’ thing, we should reject DCT. Indeed, if there were such a deity, the world would be a terrible place – certainly far worse than it is. We argue that Morriston's non-standard method for assessing counterpossibles of this sort is flawed. Not only is the savvy DCT-ist at liberty to reject it, but Morriston's method badly misfires in the face of theistic activism – a metaphysical platform available to DCT-ists, according to which if God didn't exist, neither would anything else.

Their key points are very similar to those made elsewhere by Baggett & Walls. I think the underlying point is worth addressing, though, viz., that the criticism would have more force if (i) it was tied to a specific account of the semantics of counterpossibles, (ii) that account is plausible, and (iii) the account entails the (non-vacuous) truth of the damning counterpossibles leveled against DCT. (An example of such a "damning counterpossible" would be, "if (per impossibile) God commanded rape, then rape would be obligatory.")

A few thoughts about the current state of the discussion on the topic:

1. I don't think it would take too much trouble to point to a relevant account of the semantics of counterpossibles that would meet desiderata (i)-(iii) above. See, for example, Barak Krakauer's recent account. Like most other accounts, his extends the Lewis/Stalnaker similarity or "closeness" relation so as to include impossible worlds. However, unlike many other accounts, his distinguishes between "nearer" and "farther" impossible worlds in a way that's sufficiently principled and fine-grained to determine the truth-values of the relevant counterpossibles here. I'd bet dollars to donuts that such an account would vindicate Morriston's intuitions (which I share) here.

2. I think the proponents of DCT make it easy on themselves with the examples of counterpossibles they consider against DCT. So, for example, instead of examples of commands that go strongly against the nature of a morally perfect being, how about something like, "If God commanded nothing one way or the other about rape, then rape would've been a morally neutral act". It seems to me this sort of counterpossible (if indeed it is such, and not an ordinary counferfactual or subjunctive conditional) is much harder to handle via the current sort of reply offered by Davis & Franks, Baggett & Walls et al.

3. For what it's worth, my own view is that the deepest point about the arbitrariness horn of the Euthyphro dilemma (which is at the heart of the current discussion at issue here) is that DCT entails that nothing is intrinsically right or wrong. So, for example, if DCT is true, then slavery and rape aren't intrinsically wrong -- wrong in themselves. Rather, their wrongness essentially depends upon the commands of a God. But the problem is that many have the intuition that rape, slavery, etc. are intrinsically wrong. As such, these intuitions are pieces of data that legitimately count against DCT for those who have them. And I don't think any amount of progress with respect to the formal semantics of counterpossibles is going to do anything to touch this point.

4. Those responding to Morriston's critique sometimes make things easy on themselves by failing to meet some of their dialectical obligations. To see this, consider the following two types of dialectical context:
(a) Proponent to critic: I've shown that *you are unreasonable* to think that DCT is false or unjustified. 

(b) Proponent to critic: I've shown you that *I'm not unreasonable* to think that DCT is true or justified.
Both dialectical contexts arise in the current discussion here. However, proponents of DCT have  sometimes responded in a way that's only relevant to dialectical contexts of the weaker type (b). Perhaps this comes out most clearly when proponents appeal to theistic activism to try to block the relevant counterpossibles from coming out true.

5. A perhaps small(ish) point: I find the polemical tone -- in both replies mentioned above -- to be extremely distasteful. It smells too much like apologetics, and not philosophy -- a point touched on recently by Gregory DawesI suspect I'm not alone on this. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Paper on Epistemic Contextualism and James's "The Will to Believe"

Holley, David M. "Practical Considerations and Evidence in James's Permission to Believe", Religious Studies (forthcoming).

Here's the abstract:
Philosophers often read ‘The will to believe’ as defending the substitution of non-epistemic reasons for inadequate epistemic reasons. I contend that a more charitable reading of James's argument is to understand him as proposing a contextualist account of the kind of evidence needed for responsible believing. On my reading, James claims that evidential support that might be insufficient in a purely theoretical context may be good enough when there is a pressing need to decide on a course of action.

For my own part, I'm not concerned about the issue of how to properly interpret James's argument. I'm interested in the fundamental insight, pointed out by Aaron Rizzieri et al. and now Holley, that recent research on contextualism and pragmatic encroachment blurs -- and perhaps obliterates -- the traditional distinction between pragmatic/prudential reasons for belief in God (Pascal's Wager, James's Will to Believe, etc.) and epistemic reasons for belief in God. I think this is an important and significant insight.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, Vol. 6... due out next February. Here's the table of contents:

Editor's Introduction
1: Alexander Arnold: Knowledge First and Ockhamism
2: Michael Bergmann: Religious Disagreement and Rational Demotion
3: Gregory W. Dawes: The Act of Faith: Aquinas and the Moderns
4: Laura W. Ekstrom: Religion on the Cheap
5: Gregory Fowler: Simplicity or Priority?
6: John Heil: Cartesian Transubstantiation
7: Jonathan D. Jacobs: The Ineffable, Inconceivable, and Incomprehensible God: Fundamentality and Apophatic Theology
8: Bruce Langtry: Rightmaking and Wrongmaking Properties, Evil, and Theism
9: R. Zachary Manis: The Doxastic Problem of Hell
10: Richard Swinburne: Could God be a Necessary Being?
11: N. N. Trakakis: The Ecclesiological Problem of Evil
12: Christina van Dyke: Aquinas's Shiny Happy People: Perfect Happiness and the Limits of Human Nature

Further details here.
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