In ‘The Power of God’ (Gleeson 2010) I elaborate and defend an argument by the late D.Z. Phillips against definitions of omnipotence in terms of logical possibility. In ‘Which God? What Power? A Response to Andrew Gleeson’ (Hasker 2010), William Hasker criticizes my defense of Phillips’ argument. Here I contend his criticisms do not succeed. I distinguish three definitions of omnipotence in terms of logical possibility. Hasker agrees that the first fails. The second fails because negative properties (like (...) disembodiedment and simplicity) do not amount to a nature that licenses the attribution of causal powers. The third fails because it does not identify actions that can be performed without a body. It cannot be saved by appeal to the idea of purely mental acts. (shrink)
Philip Pettit has argued that universalizability entails consequentialism. I criticise the argument for relying on a question-begging reading of the impartiality of universalization. A revised form of the argument can be constructed by relying on preference-satisfaction rationality, rather than on impartiality. But this revised argument succumbs to an ambiguity in the notion of a preference (or desire). I compare the revised argument to an earlier argument of Pettit’s for consequentialism that appealed to the theoretical virtue of simplicity, and I raise (...) questions about the force of appeal to notions like simplicity and rationality in moral argument. (shrink)
The 2006 trial of Suman Sood put criminal abortion on the public agenda for the first time in 25 years in NSW. Response to the case highlights tenacious myths about abortion law in Australia; namely that the common law “is an ass” that allows for abortion only by way of a lack of application of the law. By briefly explaining the history of abortion in Australia, I argue that the Sood case does not represent a general failure of the common (...) law to allow abortion, nor does it support the popular myth that abortion is “technically” illegal, or that doctors who perform abortions have historically been the target of the criminal law in Australia. I show that contrary to myths promoted particularly around the 1998 Western Australian reforms, abortion has long been lawful in Australia, and the common law has merit compared to other regulatory regimes. Hence, arguments for alternative abortion regimes should not depend on myths which are shown to be unrepresentative of the political and legal situation in Australia. (shrink)
Much contemporary analytic philosophy understands the power of God as belonging to the same logical space as the power of human beings: a power of efficient causation taken to the maximum limit. This anthropomorphic picture is often explicated in terms of God’s capacity to bring about any logically possible state of affairs, so-called omnipotence. D.Z. Phillips criticized this position in his last book, The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God. I defend Phillips’s argument against recent criticism by William (...) Hasker, contending that the omnipotence thesis is either false or trivial. I trace the superficial plausibility of the thesis to a Cartesian understanding of personal agency, in the light of which God’s power over the whole material world is an inflated version of our more modest power over our own bodies: it is the power of immaterial souls to control material phenomena. This comparison is expressed to perfection in the work of Richard Swinburne, my main target. I argue that by making God a force among other possible forces, in-principle able to be resisted, however feebly, by contrary forces, this picture reduces the Creator to a creature. (shrink)
Frank Jackson has argued that, in principle, all mental truths are deducible from all physical science truths: 'deducibility'. Jackson's defence of deducibility relies upon the method for producing naturalistic definitions of mental states championed in the analytical functionalism of himself, David Lewis, and others. Two arguments are presented. The first contends that the particular naturalistic definitions of analytical functionalism fail because they do not take account of the extraordinary kind of bodily animation displayed by human beings, which I argue is (...) necessary to (at least one kind of) mentality; machines lacking (at least this one kind of) mentality can satisfy the naturalistic definitions of analytical functionalism. So Jackson's defence of deducibility fails as it stands. The second argument contends that no naturalistic conceptual analysis of the mental can be adequate, because understanding (certain) mental concepts requires a special kind of affective reaction here named 'personal response', while understanding naturalistic concepts does not require this- therefore no naturalistic analysis can ever capture our common-sense mental concepts. The upshot is that Jackson's defence of deducibility cannot be repaired. No defence of deducibility will work which relies upon the possibility of naturalistic conceptual analyses of mentality. (shrink)
Herbert McCabe and Brian Davies defend an Aquinas-inspired, anti-anthropomorphic natural theology that emphasises the mysterious distance between the Creator and his creation. This theology gives rise to a powerful response to the problem of evil, powerful enough to scuttle the academic problem of evil that is based on a confused anthropomorphic understanding of God. But that does not dispose of the problem of evil per se. The McCabe–Davies natural theology can succeed only by appropriating a personal understanding of “the ultimate (...) question” (why is there something rather than nothing?), which is at odds with their reluctance to give up on a metaphysical argument to establish the reality of God from outside religious faith and practice. But if that same personal understanding is applied to the problem of evil we find it generates “the unprecedented charge,” a form of the problem that does not depend on an anthropomorphic conception of God. The way forward for the McCabe–Davies natural theology is to follow Dewi Phillips in his rejection of philosophy's aspiration to find “external justifications” for our religious lives. (shrink)
Christians commonly speak of and to God as ‘a person’. The propriety of such talk depends on how the concept of a person is being used and understood, and that concept is much contested in contemporary analytic philosophy. In this article, I note the presuppositions of one current debate about what it is to be a human person, and then propose an alternative approach to persons—both human and divine—that draws upon the Thomistic philosophical and theological tradition. In this tradition, ‘person’ (...) is neither an essence-determining kind term, nor a merely nominal or functional kind term, but is applicable analogously to entities of various ‘kinds’ (e.g. humans, angels and God). The origins of this account in Aquinas’ theology of the Trinity will be examined, and I will conclude by noting a recent development of Thomas’ thought in relation to what it is to be a human person. (shrink)
The United States' pursuit of increasingly TRIPS-Plus levels of intellectual property protection for medicines in bilateral and regional trade agreements is well recognized. Less so, however, are U.S. efforts through these agreements to influence and constrain the pharmaceutical coverage programs of its trading partners. Although arguably unsuccessful in the Australia- U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), the U.S. nevertheless succeeded in its bilateral FTA with South Korea (KORUS) in establishing prescriptive provisions pertaining to the operation of coverage and reimbursement programs for (...) medicines and medical devices, which have the potential to adversely impact future access in that country. More recently, draft texts leaked from the current Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations show that U.S. objectives include not only AUSFTA-Plus and KORUS-Plus IP provisions but also ambitious inroads into the domestic health programs of its TPPA partners. This highlights the apparent conflict between trade goals — pursued through multilateral legal instruments to promote economic “health”— and public health objectives, such as the development of treatments for neglected diseases, the pursuit of efficiency and equity in priority setting, and the procurement of medicines at prices that reflect their therapeutic value and facilitate affordable access. (shrink)
Background: There is little research into medical students’ or doctors’ attitudes to abortion, yet knowing this is important, as policy makers should be aware of the views held by professionals directly involved in abortion provision and changing views may have practical implications for the provision of abortion in the future. Methods: We surveyed 300 medical students about their views on abortion, their beliefs about the status of the fetus and the rights of the mother, their attitude towards UK law and (...) their willingness to be involved in abortion provision as qualified doctors. Results: 62% of medical students were pro-choice, 33% pro-life and 7% undecided. Students’ views correlated with gender, year of study and holding a religious belief. Their beliefs about abortion, the status of the fetus and the rights of women significantly correlated with their attitudes towards the UK law and their willingness to be involved in abortion provision. Students’ willingness to be involved in abortion provision was related to their views on abortion, the extent of participation required, the circumstances of the pregnancy and the stage of pregnancy. Conclusions: The percentage of pro-choice students was lower than that found in research on general practitioners’ attitudes to abortion. It is unclear whether this is because students become more pro-choice as they progress through their medical career or because there is genuinely a change in attitudes to abortion. (shrink)
Andrew H. Gleeson has written an essay commenting on an exchange between Dewi Z. Phillips and me, arguing that I was mistaken to dismiss Phillips’ criticism of the standard definition of omnipotence as unsuccessful. Furthermore, he charges Swinburne, me, and analytic theists in general, with an excessive anthropomorphism that obliterates the distinction between Creator and creature. In response, I contend that all of Gleeson’s criticisms are unsound.
Rice, Robert James William Gleeson was born in Balaklava, a town in the mid-north of South Australia, on 24 December 1920. The son of John Joseph Gleeson and Margaret Mary O'Connell, he was the third born of six children - the elder brother of Thomas, John and Raphael (Ray), and the younger brother of Mary. The first-born child, also Mary, born in Balaklava on 6 May 1918, died one hour after birth. She was baptised during her short life.
Lakatos: An Introduction is the first comprehensive analysis on the intellectual life and theories of the distinguished thinker Imre Lakatos. This book clearly presents Lakatos's development of a philosophy of mathematics and empirical science, Lakatos's thought as an important hybrid of Popperian philosophy and Hegelian-Marxist thought, the relationship between Lakatos's views on science and mathematics and his more general philosophical beliefs. Brendan Larvor clearly locates Lakatos in the liberal-rationalist tradition and explains connections between the philosopher's life, philosophy, politics, and (...) technical work in science and mathematics. (shrink)
Daly, Brendan A famous case involving the seal of confession was that of Father Francis Douglas. In 1938, a New Zealand Columban priest, Father Francis Douglas was appointed to Pililla, a town near Manila in the Philippines. It was a difficult assignment, made worse by the Japanese occupation of the country in January 1942. In July 1943 he was asked to visit some guerrillas who said that they needed his priestly services. Afterwards, the Japanese then thought he was a (...) spy. He was tortured for 3 days and presumably killed because among other things he would not break the seal of confession. Many regard him as a martyr for being faithful to his priestly obligations. (shrink)