Theistic philosophers have perennially cited mystical experiences-- experiences of God--as evidence for God's existence and for other truths about God. In recent years, the attractiveness of this line of thought has been reflected in its use by a significant number of philosophers.1 But both philosophers and mystics agree that not all mystical experiences can be relied upon; many are the stuff of delusion.2 So they have somehow to be checked out, their bona-fides revealed. But can they be? I will be (...) arguing that (a) they must indeed be cross-checked to serve as good evidence; and that (b) they can't be--or not nearly well enough to permit pressing them into service as serious support for theism. The need for cross-checking, necessary in any case, is made acute by two facts: the extreme variability of mystical experiences and the doctrines they are recruited to support, and the fact that, especially in the face of this variability, mystical experiences are much more effectively explained naturalistically. Furthermore, our ability adequately to cross-check mystical experiences (hereafter, ME's), in a way that would reveal the hand of God, is crippled by the fact that theists offer no hypothesis concerning the causal mechanism by means of which God shows Himself to mystics. (shrink)
It has become something of a leitmotif among evangelical apologetes to argue that morality can have no objective foundation if there is no God. Using a strategy that appeals to many people's strong intuitions that there are objective rights and wrongs, they claim seek to convict atheists of being intellectually committed to moral relativism, subjectivism, or nihilism. Those are, of course, ethical positions that have been advocated by some atheists. But others share the intuition that there are objective moral norms, (...) and also that we can, on the whole, come to know what they are. (shrink)
A popular proof for the existence of God assumes that there are objective moral duties, arguing that this can only be explained by there being a supreme law-giver, namely God. The upshot is either a Divine command theory (DCT) -- or something similar -- or a natural-law theory. I discuss two prominent theories, Robert Adams’s DCT and Stephen Evans’s hybrid DCT/natural-law theory. I argue that they suffer from fatal difficulties. Natural-law theories are plausible, if God exists, but can’t be used (...) to prove His existence; and are less plausible, on the evidence, than a naturalistic natural-law theory, which has the best prospects for providing an objective foundation for morality. (shrink)
Introduction -- How does God do things? -- Divine governance and the laws of nature -- Trouble with time -- Eternal God as author of nature -- What can God know? -- Healed hearts, inspired minds -- Mystical revelations -- Is science a mystic's friend?
I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name 'the LORD'; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But ... you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live. Exodus 33:19-20, RSV..
Foundationalist epistemologies, whether internalist or externalist, ground noetic structures in beliefs that are said to be foundational, or properly basic. It is essential to such epistemologies that they provide clear criteria for proper basicality. This proves, I argue, to be a thorny task, at least insofar as the goal is to provide a psychologically realistic reconstruction of our actual doxastic practices. I examine some of the difficulties, and suggest some implications, in particular for the externalist epistemology of Alvin Plantinga.
Literal-minded Christians are enjoying resurgent respectability in intellectual circles. Darwin isn’t the only target: also under attack is the application of modern historiography to Scripture According to Reformed epistemologists, ordinary Christians can directly know that, e.g., Jesus rose from the dead, and evidential concerns can be dismissed. This reversion to a sixteenth century hermeneutic deserves response.
The attraction between religion and politics is perennial. Sometimes, in its long and checkered history, it has led to an adulterous affair. I want to ask what lies at the heart of this attraction, and whether that can shed any light on the current religious/political scene. But the romance metaphor is at bottom not a good one. I shall argue that, in their originary condition, religion and politics are "closer," both ontologically and in their motivation, than woman and man, closer (...) than siblings. Perhaps the image of siamese identical twins would serve best as a figure for the union which binds together these domains, in spite of the peculiar political history which has, in the West and especially in this country, attempted to sunder them. Let me emphasize right here that my project is a descriptive one: I am seeking a deeper understanding of the phenomena, not attempting to develop a prescriptive or normative position concerning what is to be done. Indeed, I shall only be able to sketch the outlines of the descriptive position I shall propose. (shrink)
Jerome Gellman has recently disputed my claim that a naturalistic explanation for mystical experiences is available, a better explanation than any current attempt to show that God is sometimes perceived in those experiences. Gellman argues (i) that some mystics do not 'fit' the sociological explanation of I. M. Lewis; (ii) that the sociological analysis of tribal mysticism cannot properly be extended to theistic experiences; and (iii) that mystical experiences merit prima facie credence, so the burden of proof falls on the (...) naturalist. I reply (i) that the alleged counter-examples either do fit Lewis's explanation or are too poorly known to judge; (ii) that Lewis's theory, supplemented by recent neurophysiological findings, provides a strong explanation for all mystical experiences; and (iii) that the burden of proof, if there is one, now falls on the theist. (shrink)
Some philosophers deny that science can investigate the supernatural - specifically, the nature and actions of God. If a divine being is atemporal, then, indeed, this seems plausible - but only, I shall argue, because such a being could not causally interact with anything. Here I discuss in detail two major attempts, those of Stump and Kretzmann, and of Leftow, to make sense of theophysical causation on the supposition that God is eternal. These views are carefully worked out, and their (...) failures are instructive for any attempt to reconcileeternality with causal efficacy. I conclude by arguing that if knowledge of God is possible, in virtue of His effects upon the world, then it is science that must play the preeminent role in producing that knowledge. (shrink)
In Warrant and Proper Function, Alvin Plantinga claims that metaphysical naturalism, when joined to a naturalized epistemology, is self-undermining. Plantinga argues that naturalists are committed to a neoDarwinian account of our origins, and that the reliability of our cognitive faculties is improbable or unknown relative to that theory. If the theory is true, then we are in no position to know that, whereas theism, if true, underwrites cognitive reliability. I seek to turn the tables on Plantinga, showing that neoDarwinism provides (...) strong reasons for expecting general cognitive reliability, whereas the likelihood of that relative to theism is unknowable. (shrink)
In Part I of this paper, I argued that the mystical experiences of Teresa of Avila are well explained by the anthropological theory of I. M. Lewis. In Part II, I discuss how the causal gap between the social circumstances identified by Lewis and individual phenomenology can be filled in. I then show that Lewis's theory, thus supplemented, is a genuine competitor to the theistic understanding of mystical experience, and that it is much more strongly confirmed by the available (...) evidence than the latter view. If that is right, then Alston and Wainwright, among others, are mistaken in claiming that science cannot offer serious competition to theism in this arena. (shrink)
Several writers have argued for the implausibility of there being naturalistic explanations of mystical experience. These writers recognize that the evidential significance of mystical experiences for theism depends upon whether explanations that exclude supernatural agency can be discounted; but they seem unaware of some of the best scientific work done in this area. Part I of the present paper introduces the theory of I. M. Lewis, an anthropologist, and tests it against the case of St Teresa. I use (...) class='Hi'>Teresa because of her prominence, and because we have considerable biographical data for her. I conclude that Lewis's approach, suitably supplemented, is strikingly successful in explaining this case. (shrink)
This paper is a discussion of Eleonore Stump’s “The Problem of Evil.” Stump, I argue, has attempted a theodicy with several desirable features; among them, an effort to provide a positive account of the compatibility of natural evils with God’s goodness that makes use of specifically Christian doctrines. However, the doctrines Stump makes use of---and, in particular, her conception of hell and her interpretation of original sin---raise, I suggest, more problems than they solve.
Essentialism--understood as the doctrine that there are natural kinds--can be sustained with respect to the most fundamental physical entities of the world, as I elsewhere argue. In this paper I take up the question of the existence of natural kinds among complex structures built out of these elementary ones. I consider a number of objections to essentialism, in particular Locke's puzzle about the existence of borderline cases. A number of recent attempts to justify biological taxonomy are critically examined. I conclude (...) that theory partially justifies such taxonomies but supports only a weaker form of essentialism. (shrink)
This paper presents an argument for the claim that historical events are unique in a nontrivial sense which entails the inapplicability of the Hempelian D-N model to historical explanations. Some previous criticisms of Hempel are shown to be general criticisms of the D-N model which can be outflanked in cases where a reduction to fundamental laws is available. I then survey grounds for denying that explanations by reasons can be effectively reduced to causal explanations, and for rejecting methodological individualism. I (...) conclude with some positive remarks concerning the structure of historical explanations and sense in which historical events are unique. (shrink)
Theoretical simplicity is difficult to characterize, and evidently can depend upon a number of distinct factors. One such desirable characteristic is that the laws of a theory have relatively few "counterinstances" whose accommodation requires the invocation of a ceteris paribus condition and ancillary explanation. It is argued that, when one theory is reduced to another, such that the laws of the second govern the behavior of the parts of the entities in the domain of the first, there is a characteristic (...) gain in simplicity of the sort mentioned: while I see no way of quantitatively measuring the "amount" of defeasibility of the laws of a theory, microreduction can be shown to decrease that "amount.". (shrink)