The core of George Orwell’s novel 1984 is a debate—if the verbal and intellectual component of an extended episode of brainwashing can properly be said to constitute a debate—, the debate between Winston Smith and O’Brien in the cells of the Ministry of Love. It is natural to read this debate as a debate between a realist (as regards the nature of truth) and an anti-realist. I offer a few representative passages from the book that demonstrate, I believe, that if (...) this is not the only possible way to understand the debate, it is one very natural way. I begin with some thoughts that passed through Winston’s mind as he was writing in his diary long before his arrest. (shrink)
In a book I once wrote about free will, I contended that the best and most important argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism was “the Consequence Argument.” I gave the following brief sketch of the Consequence Argument as a prelude to several more careful and detailed statements of the argument: If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us (...) what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.[i] The reading that follows this one, Reading 41, “The Mystery of Metaphysical Freedom,” contains a statement of the Consequence Argument. The argument is contained in the paragraph (p. xxx) that starts, “As Carl Ginet has said . . . .” But, as you will see if you compare the “brief sketch” with that paragraph, “The Mystery of Metaphysical Freedom” presents the Consequence Argument in a disguise that is not easy to penetrate. Some teachers of philosophy who have used the first edition of Metaphysics: The Big Questions as a textbook have asked for a more straightforward statement of the Consequence Argument (since much of the recent discussion of the question of the compatibility of free will and determinism in the philosophical literature has taken the form of criticisms of the Consequence Argument that are rather hard to apply to the argument in the form in which it is presented in Reading 41). This essay is an attempt to meet this request. (shrink)
This paper examines the so-called modal ontological argument. It pays special attention to the role that the symmetry and transitivity of the accessibility relation play in the argument, and examines various approaches to a defense of the “possibility premise,” the premise of the argument that states that the existence of a perfect being is metaphysically possible. It contains an analysis of Gödel’s attempt to show that this premise is true, and of a recent formulation by David Johnson of Gödel’s argument.
In this essay I present what is, I contend, the free-will problem properly thought through, or at least presented in a form in which it is possible to think about it without being constantly led astray by bad terminology and confused ideas. Bad terminology and confused ideas are not uncommon in current discussions of the problem. The worst such pieces of terminology are "libertarian free will" and "compatibilist free will." The essay consists partly of a defense of the thesis that (...) the use of these phrases by writers on the problem of free will can only generate conceptual confusion and partly of a formulation of the problem that does not make use of them. I contend that this formulation is neutral with respect to the historically important positions on free will (e. g., compatibilism and incompatibilism). (shrink)
In this classic, exciting, and thoughtful text, Metaphysics , Peter van Inwagen examines three profound questions: What are the most general features of the world? Why is there a world? and What is the place of human beings in the world? Metaphysics introduces to readers the curious notion that is metaphysics, how it is conceived both historically and currently. The author's work can serve either as a textbook in a university course on metaphysics or as an introduction to metaphysical thinking (...) for the interested reader. This second edition, revised though not fundamentally changed, includes the basis of the first edition with a new chapter on the nature of time. (shrink)
This extensively revised and expanded edition of van Inwagen and Zimmerman’s popular collection of readings in metaphysics now features twenty-two additional selections, new sections on existence and reality, and an updated editorial commentary. Collects classic and contemporary readings in metaphysics Answers some of the most puzzling questions about our world and our place in it Covers an unparalleled range of topics Now includes a new section on existence and reality, expanded discussions on many classic issues, and an updated editorial commentary.
Alvin Plantinga has recently turned his attention to materialism. More precisely, he has turned his attention to the thesis that philosophers of mind call materialism.[i] This thesis can be variously formulated. In this essay, I will take “materialism” to be the conjunction of the following two theses.
The nature of persons is a perennial topic of debate in philosophy, currently enjoying something of a revival. In this volume for the first time metaphysical debates about the nature of human persons are brought together with related debates in philosophy of religion and theology. Fifteen specially written essays explore idealist, dualist, and materialist views of persons, discuss specifically Christian conceptions of the value of embodiment, and address four central topics in philosophical theology: incarnation, resurrection, original sin, and the trinity.
Many philosophers think not. Many philosophers, in fact, seem to suppose that anyone who raises the question whether mereological sums can change their parts displays thereby a failure to grasp an essential feature of the concept “mereological sum.” It is hard to point to an indisputable example of this in print,[i] but it is a thesis I hear put forward very frequently in conversation (sometimes it is put forward in the form of an incredulous stare after I have said something (...) that implies that mereological sums can change their parts). (shrink)
A proper presentation of this theory [sc. of properties] would treat properties as a special kind of relation. And it would treat propositions as a special kind of relation: it would treat properties as monadic relations and propositions as 0-adic relations. But I will not attempt to discuss relations within the confines of this paper.[ii].
The vast amount of suffering in the world is often held as a particularly powerful reason to deny that God exists. Now, one of the world's most distinguished philosophers of religion presents his own position on the problem of evil. Highly accessible and sensitively argued, Peter van Inwagen's book argues that such reasoning does not hold: his conclusion is not that God exists, but that suffering cannot be shown to prove that He does not.
This paper considers two “mysteries” having to do with vagueness. The first pertains to existence. An argument is presented for the following conclusion: there are possible cases in which ‘There exists something that is F’ is of indeterminate truth-value and with respect to which it is not assertable that there are borderline-cases of “being F.” It is contended that we have no conception of vagueness that makes this result intelligible. The second mystery has to do with “ordinary” vague predicates, such (...) as ‘tall’. An argument is presented for the conclusion that although there are people who are “tall to degree 1”—definitely tall, tall without qualification—, no greatest lower bound can be assigned to the set of numbers n such that a man who is n centimeters tall is tall to degree 1. But, since this set is bounded from below, this result seems to contradict a well-known property of the real numbers. (shrink)
This book gathers together thirteen of Peter van Inwagen's essays on metaphysics, several of which have acquired the status of modern classics in their field. They range widely across such topics as Quine's philosophy of quantification, the ontology of fiction, the part-whole relation, the theory of 'temporal parts', and human knowledge of modal truths. In addition, van Inwagen considers the question as to whether the psychological continuity theory of personal identity is compatible with materialism, and defends the thesis that possible (...) states of affairs are abstract objects, in opposition to David Lewis's 'extreme modal realism'. A specially-written introduction completes the collection, which will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in metaphysics. (shrink)
This paper has two parts. In the first part, I concede an error in an argument I have given for the incompatibility of free will and determinism. I go on to show how to modify my argument so as to avoid this error, and conclude that the thesis that free will and determinism are compatible continues to be—to say the least—implausible. But if free will is incompatible with determinism, we are faced with a mystery, for free will undeniably exists, and (...) it also seems to be incompatible with indeterminism. In the second part of this paper, I will defend the conclusion that the concept of agent causation is of no use to the philosopher who wants to maintain that free will and indeterminism are compatible. I conclude that free will remains a mystery---that is, that free will undeniably exists and that there is a strong and unanswered prima facie case for its impossibility. (shrink)
In his classic paper, The Principle of Alternate Possibilities, Harry Frankfurt presented counterexamples to the principle named in his title: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. He went on to argue that the falsity of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) implied that the debate between the compatibilists and the incompatibilists (as regards determinism and the ability to do otherwise) did not have the significance that both parties had attributed (...) to it -- since moral responsibility could exist even if no one was able to do otherwise. I have argued that even if PAP is false, there are other principles that imply that moral responsibility entails the ability to do otherwise, and that these principles are immune to Frankfurt-style counterexamples. Frankfurt has attempted to show that my arguments for this conclusion fail. This paper is a rejoinder to that reply; I argue that he has failed to show this. (shrink)
Many important metaphysical arguments validly deduce an actuality from a possibility. For example: Because it is possible for me to exist in the absence of anything material, I am not my body. I argue that there is no reason to suppose that our capacity for modal judgment is equal to the task of determining whether the "possibility" premise of any of these arguments is true. I connect this thesis with Stephen Yablo's recent work on the epistemology of modal statements.
_This is an account of his present thinking by an excellent philosopher who has been_ _among the two or three foremost defenders of the doctrine that determinism and_ _freedom are incompatible -- that logically we cannot have both. In his 1983 book,_ _An Essay on Free Will_ _, he laid out with unique clarity and force a fundamental_ _argument for this conclusion. What the argument comes to is that if determinism is_ _true, we are not free, since our actions are (...) effects of causal circumstances in the_ _remote past, and those circumstances are certainly not up to us. To that line of_ _thought, in the article below, by way of the supposition of a world of angels, he adds_ _something new. This is a fundamental difficulty with the freedom that we cannot_ _have if determinism is true. The difficulty, indeed a mystery, is one having to do with_ _the opposite of determinism -- indeterminism._. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen is a philosopher who became a Christian at the age of forty. His conversion was not a return to the religion of his childhood, but, on the contrary, consisted of the adoption of beliefs that had been held in explicit contempt by the Unitarian Sunday school teachers of his youth, the philosophers responsible for his professional training, and his colleagues in the philosophy department where he had been teaching for ten years at the time of his conversion.This (...) collection of classic writings represents van Inwagen’s attempts to answer the philosophical objections to Christianity that he encountered in these intellectually hostile environments. They include reflections on the charge that religious belief is belief that is unsupported by evidence, on arguments that purport to show that the doctrine of resurrection is metaphysically impossible, on the problem of evil, and on Hume’s famous argument against belief in miracles. (shrink)
"This is an important book, and no one interested in issues which touch on the free will will want to ignore it."--Ethics. In this stimulating and thought-provoking book, the author defends the thesis that free will is incompatible with determinism. He disputes the view that determinism is necessary for moral responsbility. Finding no good reason for accepting determinism, but believing moral responsiblity to be indubitable, he concludes that determinism should be rejected.
In this paper I shall define a thesis I shall call 'determinism', and argue that it is incompatible with the thesis that we are able to act otherwise than we do (i.e., is incompatible with 'free will'). Other theses, some of them very different from what I shall call 'determinism', have at least an equal right to this name, and, therefore, I do not claim to show that every thesis that could be called 'determinism' without historical impropriety is incompatible with (...) free will. I shall, however, assume without argument that what I call 'determinism' is legitimately so called. In Part I, I shall explain what I mean by 'determinism'. In Part II, I shall make some remarks about 'can'. In Part III, I shall argue that free will and determinism are incompatible. In Part IV, I shall examine some possible objections to the argument of Part III. I shall not attempt to establish the truth or falsity of determinism, or the existence or nonexistence of free will. (shrink)