Interesting Discussion of Genocide and the Old Testament... Prosblogion. We've noted Wes Morriston's recent paper on genocide and the Old Testament. It's good to see some of his arguments being discussed over there -- and Wes has joined the discussion in the comments.

Non-Physicalistic Materialism: Follow-Up Questions to Those from the Previous Post

Continuing the discussion from the previous post:

There are a lot of issues to untangle and sort out here.

 Let me start with this: Suppose there is just one kind of substance, and it has both ordinary physical properties and informational/representational properties essentially and fundamentally. Suppose further that it's an uncreated, eternal, and at least de facto indestructible substance (since it's a "free-standing", metaphysically independent sort of stuff, and it turns out that nothing else that exists in our world has what it takes to annihilate it). Call this "The Quasi-Spinozistic View".

On The Quasi-Spinozistic view, then, consciousness and other mental properties don't emerge from, and aren't caused by, the physical. Furthermore, no god is required to create such properties, anymore than a god is needed to make its physical properties. Finally, there's no special problem about where this substance came from or why it exists. For it never came from anything -- it's eternal and (de facto) indestructible.

Now given The Quasi-Spinozistic View of substance, here are some of my initial questions:


What's so implausible about such a picture of substance from a theistic point of view? Is it that we can't get the informational/representational properties without an external cause, like a god? Well, if this is a serious problem, then it's an equally serious problem for theism. For theism likewise entails that informational/representational properties are a basic feature of an eternal substance, i.e., God, and that both they and the substance in which they inhere (viz., God) lack an external cause. 

So theism has no epistemic advantage over The Quasi-Spinozistic View in at least these respects.

2. What's so implausible about it from an atheistic point of view? Is it that the representational properties aren't properly physicalistic, scientifically describable and/or observable properties? Well, that just faults non-physical properties for not behaving like physical properties. And why, in an atheistic universe, should we expect the world to conform to what's convenient for human interests?

So these are just some initial thoughts and issues I have. I don't know whether consciousness is reducible to the physical. All I'm interested in here is this: if it should turn out that it isn't, would that provide even slight epistemic support of theism over naturalism? At this stage in my inquiry, my suspicion is that the answer is 'no'.

What do you think?

Talk Amongst Yourselves


Is there some special reason to think that non-physical concreta can't -- or even probably wouldn't -- exist if theism weren't true? In particular, why think it's even slightly more likely than not that theism is true if, say, the mental or quasi-mental is a fundamental feature of concrete substances?

Just to be clear: The hypothesis on the table isn't that the mental supervenes upon or emerges from the physical. Rather, the hypothesis is that the mental or quasi-mental is part of the bedrock of concrete reality.


UPDATE: Here is a link to the SEP entry on neutral monism. It also includes helpful descriptions of somewhat similar views (e.g., panpsychism, dual aspect theory, neo-Russellianism, etc.). Non-physicalistic naturalist views of concreta such as these seem to me to pose one sort of problem for apologetical arguments from consciousness to theism.

The World's Flags Given Letter Grades

Comic relief from philosopher Josh Parsons. Parsons grades the world's flags, here. The comments under various flags are generally hilarious (and his criteria are excellent, in my view!).

You're welcome.

The 2010 St. Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology

The 2010 St. Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology

Organized by
Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers)
Michael Rota (University of St. Thomas)

Recent PhDs and current graduate students in philosophy, theology, or religious studies are invited to apply to participate in the 2010 St. Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology. Twenty participants will be selected; each will receive a stipend of $2,800 and will be provided with accommodations and meals for the duration of the seminar. (Regrettably, funding for travel costs cannot be provided.)

Seminar Dates: June 15 - July 2, 2010

Location: University of St. Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Topics and Speakers

The epistemology of religious belief Alvin Plantinga (Notre Dame) and Richard Feldman (Rochester)

Science and religion Alvin Plantinga (Notre Dame) and Elliott Sober (UW-Madison)

The cosmological argument Alexander Pruss (Baylor) and Peter van Inwagen (Notre Dame)

The problem of evil Peter van Inwagen (Notre Dame) and Evan Fales (University of Iowa)

The epistemology of disagreement Roger White (M.I.T.) andThomas Kelly (Princeton)

Reductionism and the philosophy of biology Alan Love (University of Minnesota)

Writing for audiences outside the academy Peter Kreeft (Boston College)

Application Deadline: Applications must be received by December 1, 2009.

Click here for more details.

Review of (ed.) Dean-Peter Baker's Alvin Plantinga

Edward Wierenga (University of Rochester) reviews the book for NDPR, here.

Jobs for Philosophers

Hi gang,

Sorry for the dearth of posts as of late. I recently (Spring 2009) got my Ph.D. in Philosophy, and this is my first (and, if things go well, last!) serious run on the Philosophy job market, which officially began yesterday with the publication of the October issue of Jobs for Philosophers. Unfortunately for myself and others going on the market, this is the worst job season in a few decades. In any case, polishing my dossier and sending out applications (on top of teaching and family matters) is pretty much all-consuming, and will be so for a good while. As such, posting may well be light for about a month or two.

Wish me luck!

Ok, One More Time, People...

In response to the effects of the California budget crisis on the University of California system, George Lakoff explains how California got into its current mess, and how we can get out of it. Learn it, know it, live it.


I saw Hope Sandoval in concert the other night, in promotion of her new album, Through the Devil Softly:

Words fail.

Life's too short not to catch one of her shows -- God knows when she'll be touring again.

Schmid's Excellent New Paper on the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Schmid, Joseph C. " Benardete paradoxes, patchwork principles, and the infinite past ", Synthese , forthcoming. Abstract: Benardet...