Descartes argues that, apart from the existence of a veracious God, we can have no reason to believe that we possess reliable cognitive faculties, with the result that, if atheism is true, not even our seemingly most certain beliefs can count as knowledge for us. Since the atheist denies the existence of God, he or she will be precisely in this position. I argue that Descartes' argument is sound, and that atheism is therefore self-refuting.
In Meditation I, Descartes dismisses the possibility that he might be insane as a ground for doubting that the senses are a source of knowledge of the external world. In this paper, I argue that Descartes was justified in so doing, and draw some general epistemological conclusions from this result.
In this paper, I argue that Kant's famous critique of the Ontological Argument largely begs the question against that argument, and is no better when supplemented by the modern quantificational analysis of "exists." In particular, I argue that the claim, common to Hume and Kant, that conceptual truths can never entail substantive existential claims is false,and thus no ground for rejecting the Ontological Argument.
In this essay, I argue that neurophysiological materialism - the thesis that all of our mental contents are caused by non-mental, purely physical brain states - is epistemically self-refuting, and ought to be rejected even if it cannot be otherwise disproved.
In this paper, I argue that, if a common form of materialism is true, I cannot know my own thoughts, or even that I am thinking. I conclude that, since I can and do know these things, materialism about mind as I characterize it must be false.
In this essay I explore some of the basic elements of consciousness from a substance dualist point of view, incorporating some elements of Kant's Transcendental Analytic into an overall account of the constitution of consciousness.
In his Beweisgrund (1762), Kant presents a sketch of "the only possible basis" for a proof of God's existence. In this essay, I attempt to present that proof as a valid and sound argument for the existence of God.
I agree with about 95% of what Paul Moser has written in his book The Elusive God. However, I have three main points of disagreement with Moser, two of which I ventilate in this paper. The third I discuss in my paper "What's Love Got to Do with It?" also on this website.
In the course of writing a book on Free Will, I took the opportunity to read a good deal of contemporary literature on the Free Will problem. This paper is a survey and reflection on that reading, responding to the current trends and state of play concerning the existence of free will.
Based on a recently published essay by Jeremy Gwiazda, I argue that the possibility that the present state of the universe is the product of an actually infinite series of causally-ordered prior events is impossible in principle, and thus that a major criticism of the Secunda Via of St. Thomas is baseless after all.
This is the second of a series of papers inspired by a paper I wrote around 1989. In this paper, I consider the notion of material contingency and relate it to the traditional, metaphysically loaded Principle of Sufficient Reason.
In this paper, I explore the concept of happiness by relating it to those of desire, pleasure, and love, arriving at the classical view that objective happiness consists in the possession and enjoyment of the good.
Recently, I was reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: Background Source Materials, and read selections from Wolff, Baumgarten, Crusius, and Kant's own teacher, Martin Knutzen. It was dope - real philosophical comfort food - and inspired this piece, written in the style of one of their textbooks.
I argue that, despite claims that might be made to the contrary, no scientific evidence could ever prove that introspection is unreliable, even in principle. This paper was read at the annual POH symposium in Lake Wenatchee in May, 2011.
In this essay, I use a thought experiment to illustrate the human predicament if determinism is true, then draw the implications of this result for human rationality. This paper was read at the Eastern Division of the Society for Christian Philosophers at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts in 2009.
In this paper, I argue that neuroscience not only is not complemented, but rather is positively undermined, by the substantive commitments of materialist philosophers of mind. Thus, we can have neuroscience or "neurophilosophy" but not both. Since neuroscience is a real science, to the extent that it is in tension with materialistic neurophilosophy, the latter should be abandoned and the former retained.
Inspired by Paul Moser's recent work, this paper presents a new parable on the topic of belief and unbelief in the tradition of Wisdom and Flew. -/- This paper was read at the annual POH Symposium at Lake Wenatchee, WA in May, 2010. An edited version of this paper has appeared in the second issue of the Seattle Critical Review (online).
In this paper, I offer a new account of mind/body interaction that shows how it is possible for an immaterial mind or soul to influence a physical system without entering the horizontal system of efficient causes studied by natural science.
In this paper I argue that there is no problem of Divine Hiddenness for Christians and offer a alternate explanation for the widespread claim that God's existence is hidden based on the Christian doctrine of Original Sin.
I examine the notion of the authoritative command of divine love developed by Paul Moser in his book The Elusive God. Using a Calvinist objection to Moser's contention that God must love every one, including His enemies, I conclude that the notion of an authoritative command of divine love is paradoxical. I then offer a resolution of this paradox on terms that I judge to be in line with Moser's intentions.
After discussing the manifest inconveniences of Galilean physicalism for both science and common sense, I propose an alternate, Aristotelian ontology of material things and show how it solves the epistemological problems engendered by the New Science. Read at the annual POH Symposium in Lake Wenatchee, WA, May 2011.
In this paper, I present some ruminations on Hume's argument from miracles and the distorted view of rationality that it reflects (along with religious skepticism generally) contrasting it with what I take to be a better account of rationality, one more sympathetic - at least less hostile - to religious claims.
The standard foil for recent theories of hope is the belief-desire analysis advocated by Hobbes, Day, Downie, and others. According to this analysis, to hope for S is no more and no less than to desire S while believing S is possible but not certain. Opponents of the belief-desire analysis argue that it fails to capture one or another distinctive feature or function of hope: that hope helps one resist the temptation to despair;2 that hope engages the sophisticated capacities of (...) human agency, such as planning;3 or that hope involves the imagination in ways desire need not.4 Here, I focus on the role of imagination in hope, and discuss its implications for hope’s relation to practical commitment or end-setting. (shrink)
In the previous article Mary M. Brabeck and Lauren Rogers called for dialogue between moral educators of North America and human rights educators of South America, noting that the latter group has much to offer the former for its work in the United States. In what follows, I posit that moral educators can learn not only from South American human rights workers but also from North Americans who have challenged US human rights violations, especially those occurring within their own national (...) borders. I use race as an analytical device in this article to illustrate human rights abuses, given the blatant nature and institutionalised character of these particular violations as they occur in the United States. In my view, such an examination is useful for investigating other issues of concern for human rights and moral educators. I conclude the article by discussing some of the implications for crossing boundaries between human rights work and moral education, the praxis that Brabeck and Rogers propose for the creation of more just social structures and more caring communities. (shrink)
According to Lewis's modal realism, all ways the world could be are represented by possible worlds, and all possible worlds represent some way the world could be. That there are just the right possible worlds to represent all and only the ways the world could be is to be guaranteed by the principle of recombination. Lewis sketches the principle (put roughly: anything can co-exist with anything else), but does not spell out a precise version that generates just the right possibilities. (...) David Efird and Tom Stoneham have offered a principle that aims to do just that.In this paper, we argue that Efird's and Stoneham's principle of recombination is not successful – it fails to generate the right possibilities – but we also suggest ways that their account might be improved to solve the problem we raise. We also argue against Efird's and Stoneham's claim that the correct principle of recombination demonstrates the possibility of nothing concrete – it is true that their principle of recombination has models consistent with the existence of an empty world, but we only get the possibility of nothing if mereologically null individuals are possible. The Lewisian should only think mereologically null individuals are possible if he or she has some independent reason for believing in the possibility of an empty world, so the principle of recombination provides no new evidence for that possibility. We draw some morals from this for the correct way to formulate the principle of recombination. (shrink)
In the past 250 years, David Hume probably had a greater impact on the field of philosophy of religion than any other single philosopher. He relentlessly attacked the standard proofs for God's existence, traditional notions of God's nature and divine governance, the connection between morality and religion, and the rationality of belief in miracles. He also advanced radical theories of the origin of religious ideas, grounding such notions in human psychology rather than in divine reality. In the last decade of (...) his life Hume wrote 'I cou'd cover the Floor of a large Room with Books and Pamphlets wrote against me'. Indeed, most of these targeted his writings on religion. This, the third part of the Early Responses to Hume series, and perhaps the most eagerly awaited, collects responses to Hume's writings on religion published during his life, namely, 'Of Miracles', 'Of a Particular Providence and a Future State', The Natural History of Religion , and the posthumously published works Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion , 'Of Suicide' and 'Of the Immortality of the Soul'. The set covers a wide range of the replies Hume's writings provoked, including contributions by Philip Skelton, William Adams, Thomas Rutherforth, William Warburton, Anthony Ellys, John Douglas, John Leland, Thomas Stona, Voltaire, George Campbell, Herman Andrew Pistorius, Duncan Shaw, William Samuel Powell, Thomas Hayter, Joseph Milner, William Paley, Charles Moore, Richard Joseph Sulivan, John Hey, Samuel Vince, Lord Brougham and Thomas De Quincey. (shrink)
Wisdom, J. L. Susan Stebbing, 1885-1943, an appreciation.--Acton, H. B. Moral ends and means.--Laird, J. Reflections occasioned by ideals and illusions.--Edgell, B. The way of behaviour.--Oakeley, H. D. Is there reason in history?--Mace, C. A. The logic of elucidation.--Ewing, A. C. Philosophical analysis.--Duncan-Jones, A. The concert ticket.--Black, M. Logic and semantics.--Saw, R. L. The grounds of induction in Professor Whitehead's philosophy of nature.--Russell, L. J. Epistemology and the ego-centric predicament.--Susan Stebbing: publications (p. 155-156).
A great deal of discussion in the recent literature has been devoted to the so-called 'McKinsey' paradox which purports to show that semantic externalism is incompatible with the sort of authoritative knowledge that we take ourselves to have of our own thought contents. In this paper I examine one influential epistemological response to this paradox which is due to Crispin Wright and Martin Davies. I argue that it fails to meet the challenge posed by McKinsey but that, if it is (...) set within an externalist epistemology, it may have application to a related paradox that concerns the problem of radical scepticism. (shrink)
: In this paper I add credence to Linda Zagzebski's (1994) diagnosis of Gettier problems (and the current trend to abandon the standard analysis) by analyzing the nature of luck. It is widely accepted that the lesson to be learned from Gettier problems is that knowledge is incompatible with luck or at least a certain species thereof. As such, understanding the nature of luck is central to understanding the Gettier problem. Thanks by and large to Duncan Pritchard's seminal work, (...) Epistemic Luck, a great deal of literature has been developed recently concerning the nature of luck and anti-luck epistemology. The literature, however, has yet to explore the very intuitive idea that luck comes in degrees. I propose that once luck is recognized to admit degrees even the slightest non-zero degree (of the relevant sort) precludes knowledge. Connecting this to Zagzebski's thesis, I propose that a given theory of warrant must guarantee truth in order to avoid Gettier counterexamples (or subsequently deny that warrant bears any relationship to the truth whatsoever), simply because a sufficient standard analysis of knowledge cannot allow for knowledge that is even marginally lucky. (shrink)
It is widely thought among philosophers that Joseph Butler's criticism of psychological egoism in his Sermons is, in the words of A.E. Duncan-Jones, 'the classic refutation of it.' Indeed, no less a philosopher than David Hume restated and put forth Butler's central argument against hedonistic egoism - without due credit - as part of his own critique. Yet recent commentators have begun to question Butler's arguments, albeit usually with sympathy and in the hope of saving what they take to (...) be his insights. I propose to focus on Butler's main objection to hedonistic psychological egoism, to show how and why it fails to refute plausible forms of the thesis, and briefly to indicate why philosophical attempts to disprove this theory of motivation are misguided. (shrink)