The concept of divine agency is central to the narrative traditions inherited by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The scriptures of the Abrahamic religions include repeated references to the intentional actions and intentional outcomes of the actions of God. For instance, in the “Song of Moses” (Exodus 15:1-18), Moses celebrates the freedom of the Hebrews from bondage, declaring that Yahweh is “awesome in splendor, doing wonders” (5:11 NRSV). Alongside the picture of God as an agent who performs actions is a conception (...) of God that developed over the centuries as a simple, immutable, impassable, timelessly eternal being. To many philosophers and theologians, this conception of God as a being who exists in a durationless eternity is inconsistent with the way God is characterized in the scriptures, viz., as an agent who acts in time, often in direct response to the actions of other agents. In this paper, I will assume that if the God of Judeo-Christian-Islamic theism exists, then God is an agent who has performed intentional actions. I will argue that if God is such an agent, then God cannot exist outside of time.1 This is because of how.. (shrink)
The case is discussed for the doctrine of hell as posing a unique problem of evil for adherents to the Abrahamic religions who endorse traditional theism. The problem is particularly acute for those who accept retributivist formulations of the doctrine of hell according to which hell is everlasting punishment for failing to satisfy some requirement. Alternatives to retributivism are discussed, including the unique difficulties that each one faces.
I take it that the following is a desideratum of our theories in the philosophy of mind. A theory in the philosophy of mind should help us better understand ourselves as agents and aid in our theorizing about the nature of action and agency. In this paper I discuss a strategy adopted by some defenders of nonreductive physicalism in response to the problem of causal exclusion. The strategy, which I refer to as “intralevelism,” relies on treating mental causation as intra (...) level mental to mental causation, rather than as involving any inter level mental to physical causation. I raise problems for intralevelist theories of mental causation that stem from action-theoretic considerations. Specifically, I focus on the failure of intralevelist proposals to account for the problem of basic causal deviance in the etiology of action. To the extent that intralevelism fails to make room for basic causal deviance, the strategy fails to satisfy the aforementioned desideratum, viz ., that our theories in the philosophy of mind should be of use in theorizing about action and agency. The upshot is that intralevelism is a less promising strategy for nonreductive physicalists than it appears at first glance. (shrink)
In this article, I challenge the dominant view of the importance of the debate over action-individuation. On the dominant view, it is held that the conclusions we reach about action-individuation make little or no difference for other debates in the philosophy of action, much less in other areas of philosophy. As a means of showing that the dominant view is mistaken, I consider the implications of accepting a given theory of action-individuation for thinking about doxastic agency. In particular, I am (...) interested in the implications for thinking about the variety of evaluative control we can exercise over the formation of our doxastic attitudes. I show that our assumptions about how to individuate actions matters for how we think about doxastic agency and, hence, the conclusions we reach about action-individuation are of greater significance than some have thought. (shrink)
Research on the nature of dispositionality or causal power has flourished in recent years in metaphysics. This trend has slowly begun to influence debates in the philosophy of agency, especially in the literature on free will. Both sophisticated versions of agent-‐causalism and the new varieties of dispositionalist compatibilism exploit recently developed accounts of dispositionality in their defense. In this paper, I examine recent work on agent-‐causal power, focusing primarily on the account of agent-‐causalism developed and defended by Timothy O’Connor’s in (...) his work on free will. Assuming the existence of irreducible causal powers, I offer an. (shrink)
This paper identifies and critiques a theory of mental causation defended by some proponents of nonredutive physicalism that I call “intralevelism.” Intralevelist theories differ in their details. On all versions, the causal outcome of the manifestation of physical properties is physical and the causal outcome of the manifestation of mental properties is mental. Thus, mental causation on this view is intralevel mental to mental causation. This characterization of mental causation as intralevel is taken to insulate nonreductive physicalism from some objections (...) to nonreductive physicalism, including versions of the exclusion argument. This paper examines some features of three recent versions of intralevelism defended by John Gibbons, Markus Schlosser, and Amie Thomasson. This paper shows that the distinctive problems faced by these three representative versions of intralevelism suggest that the intralevelist strategy does not provide a viable solution to the exclusion problem. (shrink)
In this paper we examine and critique the constitution view of the metaphysics of resurrection developed and defended by Lynne Rudder Baker. Baker identifies three conditions for an adequate metaphysics of resurrection. We argue that one of these, the identity condition, cannot be met on the constitution view given the account of personal identity it assumes. We discuss some problems with the constitution theory of personal identity Baker develops in her book, Persons and Bodies . We argue that these problems (...) render the constitution theory of personal identity as stated by Baker untenable. The upshot for the debate over the metaphysics of resurrection is that the constitution view of the metaphysics of resurrection must either be rejected or modified. (shrink)
In this paper we examine and critique the constitution view of the metaphysics of resurrection developed and defended by Lynne Rudder Baker. Baker identifies three conditions for an adequate metaphysics of resurrection. We argue that one of these, the identity condition, cannot be met on the constitution view given the account of personal identity it assumes. We discuss some problems with the constitution theory of personal identity Baker develops in her book, Persons and Bodies. We argue that these problems render (...) the constitution theory of personal identity as stated by Baker untenable. The upshot for the debate over the metaphysics of resurrection is that the constitution view of the metaphysics of resurrection must either be rejected or modified. (shrink)
On the Causal Theory of Action (CTA), internal proper parts of an agent such as desires and intentions are causally responsible for actions. CTA has increasingly come under attack for its alleged failure to account for agency. A recent version of this criticism due to François Schroeter proposes that CTA cannot provide an adequate account of either the executive control or the autonomous control involved in full-fledged agency. Schroeter offers as an alternative a revised understanding of the proper role of (...) consciousness in agency. In this paper we criticize Schroeter’s analysis of the type of consciousness involved in executive control and examine the way in which the conscious self allegedly intervenes in action. We argue that Schroeter’s proposal should not be preferred over recent versions of CTA. (shrink)
In Crossing the Threshold of Divine Revelation,1 William Abraham offers a rich, subtle defense of an epistemology of divine revelation. While I believe there is much about Abraham’s work that is commendable, my remarks in this paper will be primarily critical. But the fact that Abraham’s work is worthy of critical comment should be evidence enough of the importance of Abraham’s book. My focus here will be on a cluster of metaepistemological claims made by Abraham. Specifically, I will argue that (...) Abraham’s remarks about epistemic fit and the epistemic standards we bring to bear in making evaluations of divine revelation claims commit him to a species of epistemic relativism. This may not be a problem. I am not interested in offering an argument against epistemic relativism.2 I suspect, however, that Abraham does not think of himself as an epistemic relativist.3 If this is the case, then I believe Abraham needs to rethink his metaepistemological commitments that imply epistemic relativism. (shrink)
The mentalistic orthodoxy about reason-explanations of action in the philosophy of mind has recently come under renewed attack. Julia Tanney is among those who have critiqued mentalism. The alternative account of the folk practice of giving reason-explanations of actions she has provided affords features of an agent�s external environment a privileged role in explaining the intentional behaviour of agents. The authors defend the mentalistic orthodoxy from Tanney�s criticisms, arguing that Tanney fails to provide a philosophically satisfying or psychologically realistic account (...) of reason-explanation of action. (shrink)
In our paper, ‘Escaping hell: divine motivation and the problem of hell’, we defended a theory of hell that we called ‘escapism’. We argued that given God’s just and loving character it would be most rational for God to maintain an open door policy to those who are in hell, allowing them an unlimited number of chances to be reconciled with God and enjoy communion with God. In this paper we reply to two recent objections to our original paper. The (...) first is an argument from religious luck offered by Rusty Jones. The second is an argument from Kyle Swan that alleges that our commitments about the nature of reasons for action still leaves escapism vulnerable to an objection we labeled the ‘Job objection’ in our original paper. In this paper we argue that escapism has the resources built into it needed to withstand the objections from Jones and Swan. (shrink)
In their recent book, Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment, Michael Bishop and J.D. Trout have challenged Standard Analytic Epistemology (SAE) in all its guises and have endorsed a version of the "replacement thesis"--proponents of which aim at replacing the standard questions of SAE with psychological questions. In this article I argue that Bishop and Trout offer an incomplete epistemology that, as formulated, cannot address many of the core issues that motivate interest in epistemological questions to begin with, and (...) so is not a fit replacement. (shrink)
Many philosophers of action afford intentions a central role in theorizing about action and its explanation. Furthermore, current orthodoxy in the philosophy of action has it that intentions play a causal role with respect to the etiology and explanation of action. But action theory is not without its heretics. Some philosophers have challenged the orthodox view. In this paper I examine and critique one such challenge. I consider David-Hillel Ruben's case against the need for intentions to play a causal role (...) in the etiology and explanation of mental actions. Contra Ruben, I defend the orthodox view that intentions play an indispensable causal and explanatory role with respect to mental actions. (shrink)
Sharon Ryan has recently argued that if one has compatibilist intuitions about free action, then one should reject the claim that agents cannot exercise direct voluntary control over coming to believe. In this paper I argue that the differences between beliefs and actions make the expectation of direct voluntary control over coming to believe unreasonable. So Ryan's theory of doxastic agency is untenable.
I critique Matthias Steupâs account of exercising direct voluntary control over coming to have doxastic attitudes via doxastic decisions. I show that the sort of agency Steup argues is exercised in doxastic decision-making is not sufficient for agents to exercise direct voluntary control over their doxastic attitudes. This counts against such putative decisions being the locus of direct control in doxastic agency. Finally, I briefly consider what, if any, consequences the failure of Steupâs theory of doxastic agency may have for (...) epistemic deontologism. (shrink)
Mark Heller has recently offered a proposal in defense of a fairly strong version of doxastic voluntarism. Heller looks to the compatibilist theory of free will proposed by R.E. Hobart in the first half of the twentieth century for an account of doxastic control. Heller�s defense of Hobartian Voluntarism is motivated by an appeal to epistemic deontologism. In this paper I argue that Heller�s defense of a version of strong or direct doxastic voluntarism ultimately fails. I finally argue that the (...) failure of his theory of epistemic agency does not imply the untenability of epistemic deontologism. (shrink)
Richard Scheer has recently argued against what he calls the 'mental state' theory of intentions. He argues that versions of this theory fail to account for various characteristics of intention. In this essay we reply to Scheer's criticisms and argue that intentions are mental states.
The problem of doxastic agency concerns what sort of agency humans can exercise with regard to forming doxastic attitudes such as belief. In this essay I defend a version of what James Montmarquet calls "The Asymmetry Thesis": Coming to believe and action are asymmetrical with respect to direct voluntary control. I argue that normal adult human agents cannot exercise direct voluntary control over the acquisition of any of their doxastic attitudes in the same way that they exercise such control over (...) their actions, particularly basic actions. I argue, however, that normal adult human agents can exercise indirect voluntary control over coming to have some of their doxastic attitudes just as they can exercise indirect voluntary control over the outcomes of actions. Furthermore, coming to believe as the outcome of some agency performed with the goal of acquiring a particular doxastic attitude towards a specific proposition can be the intentional outcome of some doxastic agency. So if an agent intends to come to believe that p, under some circumstances she can bring it about that she comes to believe that p as the outcome of her exercise of agency. In critiquing the thesis that agents can exercise direct voluntary control over forming their doxastic attitudes, I argue that some ways of exercising such control are conceptually impossible. But even if other ways of exercising direct voluntary control over the formation of doxastic attitudes are not conceptually impossible, I argue that it is psychologically impossible to exercise direct voluntary control over the acquisition of any doxastic attitudes. I consider proposals offered in defense of the claim that normal adult human agents can exercise direct voluntary control over acquiring doxastic attitudes by Carl Ginet, Mark Heller, Sharon Ryan, and Matthias Steup. I argue that none of the theories of doxastic agency defended by these authors is tenable. So while I argue that the variety of doxastic agency normal adult humans can exercise is fairly robust, the most we can hope for is indirect voluntary control over our doxastic attitudes. (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal, John Bishop argues in defence of conceiving of Christian faith as a ‘doxastic venture’. That is, he defends the claim that, in exercising faith, agents believe beyond ‘what can be established rationally on the basis of evidence and argument’. Careful examination reveals that Bishop fails adequately to show that faith in the face of inadequate epistemic reasons for believing is, or can even be, a uniquely doxastic venture. I argue that faith is best (...) conceived of as a sub-doxastic venture that involves pragmatically assuming that God exists. (shrink)
I examine Galen Strawson's recent work on mental action in his paper, 'Mental Ballistics or The Involuntariness of Spontaneity'. I argue that his account of mental action is too restrictive. I offer a means of testing tokens of mental activity types to determine if they are actional. The upshot is that a good deal more mental activity than Strawson admits is actional.
We argue that it is most rational for God, given God's character and policies, to adopt an open-door policy towards those in hell – making it possible for those in hell to escape. We argue that such a policy towards the residents of hell should issue from God's character and motivational states. In particular, God's parental love ought to motivate God to extend the provision for reconciliation with Him for an infinite amount of time.
ABSTRACT: Defending the distinction between believing and accepting a proposition, I argue that cases where agents allegedly exercise direct voluntary control over their beliefs are instances of agents exercising direct voluntary control over accepting a proposition. The upshot is that any decision to believe a proposition cannot result directly in one’s acquiring the belief. Accepting is an instrumental mental action the agent performs that may trigger belief. A model of the relationship between acceptance and belief is sketched and defended. The (...) consequences of the distinction between belief and acceptance, and the model of belief control sketched are then applied to the recent case made by Carl Ginet in defense of the conceptual and psychological possibility of agents exercising direct voluntary control over their beliefs. n. (shrink)
We reply to Andrew Sneddon’s recent criticism of the causal theory of action (CTA) and critically examine Sneddon’s preferred alternative, minimal causalism. We show that Sneddon’s criticism of CTA is problematic in several respects, and therefore his conclusion that “the prospects for CTA look poor” is unjustified. Moreover, we show that the minimal causalism that Sneddon advocates looks rather unpromising and its merits that Sneddon mentions are untenable.
We focus on the recent non-causal theory of reasons explanationsof free action proffered by a proponent of the agency theory, Timothy O'Connor. We argue that the conditions O'Connor offersare neither necessary nor sufficient for a person to act for a reason. Finally, we note that the role O'Connor assigns toreasons in the etiology of actions results in further conceptual difficulties for agent-causalism.
: The suffering of creatures experienced throughout evolutionary history provides some conceptual difficulties for theists who maintain that God is an all-good loving creator who chose to employ the processes associated with evolution to bring about life on this planet. Some theists vexed by this and other problems posed by the interface between religion and science have turned to process theology which provides a picture of a God who is dependent upon creation and unable to unilaterally intervene in the affairs (...) of the world and avert suffering. In the present paper I seek to critique process theism, focusing on divine action and the aforementioned problem posed by evolutionary suffering. I show that the promise of a more compelling account of a loving God who suffers with creation advanced by the process theist is illusory. Rather, the process God is less dynamic than promised. And on such an account the freedom of both God and the world are significantly more circumscribed than one may find in other forms of theism. (shrink)
The doctrine of agent-causation has been suggested by many interested in defending libertarian theories of free action to provide the conceptual apparatus necessary to make the notion of incompatibility freedom intelligible. In the present essay the conceptual viability of the doctrine of agent-causation will be assessed. It will be argued that agent-causation is, insofar as it is irreducible to event-causation, mysterious at best, totally unintelligible at worst. First, the arguments for agent-causation made by such eighteenth-century luminaries as Samuel Clarke and (...) Thomas Reid will be considered alongside the defenses of agent-causation proffered in this century by C.A. Campbell, Roderick Chisholm, and Richard Taylor. It will be shown that the case for agent-causation made by these figures is ultimately unconvincing. Two defenses of agent-causation made within the past ten years will then be taken up for examination and critique. First, Timothy O'Connor's attempt at advancing an unrefined and unrepentant doctrine of agent-causation will be shown to suffer from the same maladies as its predecessors. Next, Randolph Clarke's causal agent-causal theory of free action, which seeks a via media between agent-causal theories of free action and causal theories of action, is examined. Clarke's theory is an attempt at providing an account of how both events and agents qua substances can be the codeterminants of free actions. Despite the improvement of Clarke's theory over more conventional agent-causal theories of free action, it will be shown that agent-causation makes his theory more cumbersome than it needs to be. Clarke is able to get as much mileage out of a causal indeterminacy theory of action that does not require him to posit obscure agent-causes. Finally, a sketch of an alternative theory of free action will be offered. While it may suffer from its own conceptual deficiencies, it may not suffer from the same conceptual problems as agent-causal theories of free action. (shrink)