Luis Oliveira's Recent Work on Skeptical Theism

"Skeptical Theism: A Panoramic Overview, Part I", Philosophy Compass. First published: 16 August 2023.

"Skeptical Theism: A Panoramic Overview, Part II", Philosophy Compass. First published: 18 August 2023.

"God and Gratuitous Evil: Between the Rock and the Hard Place", International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. Published online 21 July 2023.

Three New Objections to the Fine-Tuning Argument for Theism

First objectionNothing can create concrete objects ex nihilo. So the posterior probability of the fine-tuning of the universe of concrete objects on the hypothesis that the god of classical theism both (i) designed it and (ii) ultimately created it ex nihilo is nil. But according to classical theism, for any world containing concrete objects, God ultimately created the concrete objects in W ex nihilo. Therefore, classical theism entails that God ultimately creates ex nihilo any world containing concrete objects he designs. Therefore, the posterior probability of fine-tuning on the hypothesis of classical theism is nil.

Second objection: The evidence for fine-tuning confirms both demiurgism and panentheism over theism, and in this way is good evidence against theism. This is because the intuitive and empirical evidence against creation ex nihilo creates a strong drag on theism’s prior probability not suffered by demiurgism and panentheism, and so they lap the former in terms of posterior probability. A fortiori, the posterior probability of the inclusive disjunction of demiurgism and panentheism is considerably higher than that of theism given the evidence of fine-tuning.

Third objectionThere are final causes in God's nature that are ontologically prior to his intelligent agency. For example, God's intellect and will work together to perform various functions, such as designing and creating things.  God's life is also meaningful and purposeful according to classical theism. On classical theism, therefore, final causes are built into God's nature without a prior cause. But if that's right, then classical theism entails the existence of final causes at the metaphysical ground floor that God cannot create. And if that's right, then theism entails that non-conscious teleology is a more fundamental feature of reality than teleology caused by intelligence. And if that's right, then we'd expect base-level teleology in the universe that's not caused by God on the hypothesis of theism. Therefore, absent a further reason for thinking cosmic fine-tuning isn't expected unless caused by a divine fine-tuner, cosmic fine-tuning doesn't confirm theism vis-a-vis naturalism.

New Paper on the Problem(s) of Divine Manipulation for Christian Theism

Aku, Visala. "The Problems of Divine Manipulation", Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 65:2 (July 2023).

Abstract: Many Christian theologians believe in the existence of cases of divine hardening and divine election, where God either actively contributes to human evil or preordains it. God seems to act like a manipulator, who first covertly incites or determines people’s evil actions and then condemns those actions and punishes the wrongdoers. I raise three questions regarding such cases: (1) how can humans be responsible for wrongdoings that are determined by God via either direct involvement or predestination; (2) is God justified in using covert manipulation to achieve his goals; (3) how can God judge human evil, if God predestines them or actively incites humans to commit evils? The article outlines two cases of supposed divine manipulation, discusses the general nature of manipulation and then examines each question outlined above. The argument is that the problems surrounding divine manipulation present significant challenges to especially those Christian theists that subscribe to divine determinism.

Structural Evil

Rough draft: First pass.

Consider the following two lists of evils:
List A
1. The suffering and death of a fawn caused by a forest fire due to a relatively rare natural event.
2. The death of an explorer by a volcano in a remote and unoccupied region.
3. The suffering caused by an extremely rare birth defect.
4. A death from being hit by a relatively small meteor fragment.

List B
5. The suffering caused by the mechanisms of pleasure and pain to condition the behavior of sentient creatures.
6. Suffering caused by predation.
7. The suffering caused by innate mechanisms in the cognitive architecture of humans that naturally and reliably cause out-group hostility and genocide.
8. The suffering caused by sickness and death due to microbes in many natural bodies of water.
The traditional distinction between moral and natural evil treats all instances of evil on both lists as roughly the same, viz., as just a bunch of instances of natural evil. This is bad. For intuitively, the evils on List B are relevantly different from those on List A, and in a way that is significant. In particular, natural evils on List A seem like one-offs in the normal course of things, while those on List B are a constitutive part of the normal course of things. To put it in terms of a popular idiom: List-A evils are bugs in the system of nature, while List-B evils are features. I therefore propose that we mark the distinction between the two types of evil with some labels. Call evils of the sort on List B structural evils, and call evils List A non-structural evils.

As a first approximation, structural evils are characterized by at least the following three features:
1. They are a species of natural evil.
2. They are caused by structural features of the universe or a specific portion thereof.
3. If left to run their course, such features either (a) reliably produce suffering/harm in human or non-human creatures or (b) significantly raise the probability of suffering/harm.
The structural/non-structural evil distinction holds out the promise of an advance in the problem of evil debate. For discussion of the problem of evil not infrequently focuses on  non-structural  evils. But these can seem like one-off evils, in which case one might naturally infer that they are foreseen but unintended evils in a universe that generally runs in a way that supports the well-being of its creatures. By contrast, it's intuitive that structural evils are such that, if God exists, then they are foreseen and intended, thereby eliciting a natural presumption of depraved indifference or actual malice. As such, they seem to be a much more formidable category of evil to account for on the hypothesis of theism. 

Alter's New Book Defending Russellian Monism

Torin Alter's new book, The Matter of Consciousness: From the Knowledge Argument to Russellian Monism (Oxford University Press, 2023) is now out. For an overview, listen to this nice podcast interview with Alter (by Carrie Figdor) on New Books in Philosophy.

Cawdron on Theism and Dissociative Identity Disorder

 Cawdron, Harvey. "Divided Minds and Divine Judgement", TheoLogica 7:1 (2023).

Abstract: In this paper, I shall argue that Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a disorder in which seemingly independent identities (alters) arise within the same individual, can have considerable consequences in Christian theology. I shall focus on traditional Christian understandings of the afterlife. I shall begin by outlining DID, and shall argue that in some DID cases, alters appear to be different persons according to some definitions of personhood in Christian theology. I shall then illustrate the difficulty this raises for two influential ideas in the Christian tradition: the heaven and hell understanding of the afterlife, and the idea of the resurrection of the body. Finally, I shall consider some objections to the problem, and shall highlight which responses are the most plausible.

Happy reading!

Cawdron's New Paper on Agentive Cosmopsychism and the Problem of Evil

 Cawdron, Harvey. "Cosmopsychism and the Problem of Evil", Sophia (2023).

Abstract: Cosmopsychism, the idea that the universe is conscious, is experiencing something of a revival as an explanation of consciousness in philosophy of mind and is also making inroads into philosophy of religion. In the latter field, it has been used to formulate models of certain forms of theism, such as pantheism and panentheism, and has also been proposed as a rival to the classical theism of the Abrahamic faiths. It has been claimed by Philip Goff that a certain form of cosmopsychism, namely agentive cosmopsychism, poses a threat to classical theism because it can explain features of the universe like fine-tuning without having to deal with the problem of evil. This is because, unlike the classical theist, the cosmopsychist can deny at least one of the divine attributes motivating the problem of evil, namely omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. In this paper, I shall consider which of the divine attributes the cosmopsychist should focus on when responding to the problem of evil and shall conclude that the rejection of omnibenevolence is the most satisfactory option.

Yet another nice example of a rival hypothesis with greater explanatory power than theism. (For what it's worth, I defend a non-agentive version of cosmopsychism as a rival hypothesis to theism here.) Happy reading!

Luis Oliveira's Recent Work on Skeptical Theism

" Skeptical Theism: A Panoramic Overview, Part I ",  Philosophy Compass.  First published: 16 August 2023.