First: there is ample precedent for what I am doing. Socrates, for example, examined the religious beliefs of his contemporaries-- especially the belief that we ought to do what the gods command--and showed them to be both ill-founded and conceptually confused. I wish to follow in his footsteps though not to share in his fate. A glass of wine, not of poison, would be my preferred reward.
On the face of it, the answer is "Yes." Hence it is not surprising that many people who say they believe in God like to appeal to Einstein's authority in defense of their own beliefs. It gives them comfort to be able to say that such a great man shared their religious beliefs.
Some Christians do in fact think of the question euphemistically, like this. And some like to suppose, further, that when the children find that Hawaii is a bit like hell - it's far too hot and the locals are giving them a hard time - Father will relent and welcome them to his mansions on high.
As a professional philosopher, now well past his allotted years of three-score-and-ten, I am often asked for words of wisdom about the meaning of life. Yet no sooner do I begin to answer, than I'm asked further questions--questions about God, immortality and free will. Not surprising, really, since each of these bears upon our conception of reality and of our own status and significance within it.
The rivalry between religions is obvious on a number of fronts: in wars between Christians, Muslims, and Hindus; in sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants, or between Shia and Sunni; in the persecution of doctrinal heretics; in the splintering of new sects along doctrinal lines; in efforts to proselytize; and so on.
For more than four decades, many Anglo-American philosophers have been held in thrall by a captivating metaphor, Quine's holistic image of the man-made fabric (or web) of knowledge and belief within which no statement is absolutely immune to revision. And many have been led to think that the following three distinctions are indefensible: (i) that between sentences and the propositions that they express; (ii) that between necessary and contingent propositions; and (iii) that between a priori and empirical knowledge.
It began in 1945 when I was a 14 year old at Mt Albert Grammar. Our Fourth Form English teacher decided we should learn the skills of debating. The topic chosen was "Creation versus Evolution". And I, as an ardent young Baptist, volunteered, along with a Seventh Day Adventist, to take up the cudgels on behalf of Creation.
To answer the question, we need first to consider the notion of necessity and the related notion of contingency. These are so-called "modal" notions. Other modal notions include those of possibility, impossibility, non-necessity, and noncontingency. All play a crucial role in philosophical thinking about matters to do with logic, metaphysics, morality, law, etc. This is because none of these modal notions is univocal in meaning. There are, so to speak, different "species" of the generic notions of necessity, contingency, possibility, and (...) the rest. (shrink)
The MODAL property of contingency is attributed to something X (for instance, a PROPOSITION, STATE OF AFFAIRS, EVENT, or - more debatably - an object) just when X is neither impossible nor necessary, i.e., is both possible and nonnecessary.
Although most cogently formulated by philosophers such as St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), al Ghazali (1058-1111), and Gottfried Leibniz (1646- 1716), cosmological arguments have a powerful appeal also to those nonphilosophers who feel that the "ultimate" explanation for the existence of the natural universe is that it was created by some sort of supernatural entity, viz., God.
Some Christians do in fact think of the question euphemistically, like this. And some like to suppose, further, that when the children find that Hawaii is a bit like hell - it's far too hot and the locals are giving them a hard time - Father will relent and welcome them to his mansions on high.
The question before us is "Can there be an objective morality without God?" By the term "God" we shall mean the God in whom Christians believe, the God of the Bible, not some abstract Higher Power or New Age deity. Dr. Chamberlain believes that the biblical God exists, and that if he didn't exist, there could be no objective moral truths. For myself, I once believed in such a God, but no longer do. My non-belief, however, doesn't mean that I (...) am a moral nihilist, denying that statements about right and wrong are ever objectively true. On the contrary I will argue that there can be objective ethics in the absence of any god whatever. And I'll argue, further, that the existence of objective moral truths actually requires the non-existence of such a God. (shrink)
The abstract noun "Determinism" functions like a family name for a group of philosophical doctrines each of which asserts that, in some sense or other, events occur of necessity when and as they do. Different members of the family stake out different doctrinal territories, some construing the necessity involved in purely logical terms, some in causal terms, and still others in terms of predictability. Each has to do with necessary connections between past, present and future.
His disagreements with them were philosophical. Just as he rejected their claim that experimental results in quantum mechanics implied that nothing exists unless it is being observed by a conscious human being, so also he disagreed with their claim that these results implied that the so-called “deterministic” philosophy of Newtonian mechanics was false.
He did so because he had long disagreed with a lot of the most important and influential physicists of his time, about the interpretation of that area of physics known as quantum physics that deals with the behaviour of objects in the microphysical, subatomic, world. Many of these physicists were committed to an interpretation from which it follows that nothing - the moon included - exists unless it is being observed. Einstein wanted to know whether Pais was on his side (...) or theirs. (shrink)
The belief in fatalism, like many others, has its roots in the quasi-religious mythologies of ancient peoples many of whom personified the notion of fate. Thus Greek mythology supposed that three Fates, daughters of the goddess of Necessity, had control of our lives from beginning to end and that it was therefore impossible for us to do anything contrary to what they had prescribed for us. We may think we are in control of our own destinies. But we are mistaken. (...) Both Homer's Odysseus and Aeschelus's Prometheus Unbound, depict mortals as puppets of the gods. (shrink)
Some children seem blessed, almost from birth, with a capacity for critical thinking. They won't let a fallacious argument pass unnoticed or unscathed. And some are fortunate enough to be exposed at an early age to fine examples of good reasoning. In their listening and their reading they learn, by intellectual osmosis as it were, to think logically. Yet even these fortunate ones, like the rest of us, can benefit by having their logical intuitions and reasoning skills sharpened by precept (...) and practice. (shrink)
[Abstract: Anti-realism – the denial that reality exists apart from our conceptions of it – is rampant, not just among Postmodernists and other literati, but also among many of the leading spokesmen of orthodox quantum theory – from Born, Bohr, and Heisenberg to Wheeler and Wigner. Undoubtedly they've done good physics. Why, then, do they indulge in bad metaphysics? This paper offers some answers.].
The ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates (477-399 BCE), liked to pose questions in abstract terms. What is Justice? What is Beauty? What is Goodness? And so on. Not surprisingly, many who tried to answer tied themselves up in knots. And so it is also with the highly general question: What is truth?
I come not to praise God but to bury him along with the dead gods of now forgotten religions. Not to praise him as the source of all that's good in the world, and hence the ultimate guide to human morals, but to indict him as the self-confessed source of all that's wrong with it. When the Christian God says in his Holy Scriptures, that he is the creator of evil, I am prepared to take him at his word.
Infinite regress arguments are used by philosophers as methods of refutation. A hypothesis is defective if it generates an infinite series when either such a series does not exist or its supposed existence would not serve the explanatory purpose for which it was postulated.
By "a possible world" philosophers mean a total state of affairs in the conception of which no contradiction is involved. Our own world - the real world, the actual one - is just one of many possible worlds. Indeed, it is just one of infinitely many, since for any possible world containing say n atoms there is another logically possible world containing n+1 atoms, and so on ad infinitum. All possible worlds other than the actual world we inhabit are nonactual.
These are questions we won't even try to engage here. For whatever else the disputants may disagree about, they will almost certainly agree about this: that developing the skills of reading and writing (the first two "R"s) is not only a precondition of being well-educated, but also a precondition of being able to function satisfactorily in a civilized society. Someone who cannot read or write is said to be "illiterate" in a quite strict sense of the word (or perhaps "literacy (...) deprived", if one subscribes - as we shall not - to the passing fads of political correctness). And illiteracy, as we all know, is something to be deplored. It is one of the scourges - along with ignorance, hunger, disease, crime, social and political repression - from which most of us would like to see the world, and elements of our own society, freed. (shrink)
Back in 1922, American essayist H. L. Mencken wrote a little essay titled "Memorial Service". Here's how he began: Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a day when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance [power] was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter today? And what of Huitzilopochtli [wee-tsee-lohpoch'-tlee]? In one (...) year-- and it is no more than five hundred years ago--50,000 youths and maidens were slain in sacrifice to him. Mencken went on to name a total of 189 pagan gods.1 He told how millions worshipped them; how men laboured for generations to build them vast temples; how priests, evangelists, bishops, and archbishops served them; how to doubt them was to die, usually at the stake; how armies took to the fields to defend them against infidels; and how villages were burned, women and children slaughtered, and cattle driven off. All these, he pointed out in conclusion: were gods of the highest standing and dignity--gods of civilized peoples--worshipped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead. The death of the gods. (shrink)
Logic is the science of correct reasoning in any field whatever. But what are the foundations of its laws? Are they, as some have claimed, best viewed as "the laws of thought", laws grounded in facts about human psychology? Do they have their warrant merely in the conventions for linguistic behavior? Are they, as others have claimed, grounded in facts about reality more generally? Or are they, as still others would say, grounded in facts about how this and any other (...) possible world must be? Let's take a brief look at each of these four views. (shrink)
Availing ourselves of the previously introduced notion of a statementvariable, we can express Aristotle's point even more simply. We can say that, where the letter "P" stands for any statement whatever, the concept of truth is captured by the following schematic statement (we'll call it "Equivalence Schema" or "E" for short) of the necessary and sufficient conditions for a statement's being true: E: It is true that P iff P.2..
Decision making typically requires judgements about causal relations: we need to know both the causal e¤ects of our actions and the causal relevance of various environmental factors. Judgements about the nature and strength of causal rela- tions often di¤er, even among experts. How to handle such diversity is the topic of this paper. First we consider the possibility of aggregating causal judgements via the aggregation of probabilistic ones. The broadly negative outcome of this investigation leads us to look at aggregating (...) causal judgements independently of probabilistic ones. We do so by transcribing causal claims into the judgement aggregation framework and applying some recent results in this …eld. Finally we look at the implications for probability aggregation when it is constrained by prior aggregation of causal judgements. (shrink)
We distinguish three qualitatively different types of uncertainty—ethical, option and state space uncertainty—that are distinct from state uncertainty, the empirical uncertainty that is typically measured by a probability function on states of the world. Ethical uncertainty arises if the agent cannot assign precise utilities to consequences. Option uncertainty arises when the agent does not know what precise consequence an act has at every state. Finally, state space uncertainty exists when the agent is unsure how to construct an exhaustive state space. (...) These types of uncertainty are characterised along three dimensions—nature, object and severity—and the relationship between them is examined. We conclude that these different forms of uncertainty cannot be reduced to empirical uncertainty about the state of the world without inducing an increase in its severity. (shrink)
Adams’s Thesis, the claim that the probabilities of indicative conditionals equal the conditional probabilities of their consequents given their antecedents, has proven impossible to accommodate within orthodox possible-world semantics. This essay proposes a modification to the orthodoxy that removes this impossibility. The starting point is a proposal by Jeffrey and Stalnaker that conditionals take semantic values in the unit interval, interpreting these (à la McGee) as their expected truth-values at a world. Their theories imply a false principle, namely, that the (...) probability of a conditional is independent of any proposition inconsistent with its antecedent. But they also point to something important, namely, that our uncertainty about conditionals is not confined to uncertainty about the facts (what the actual world is like) but also expresses uncertainty about the counterfacts (what the world would be like if one or another supposition were true). To capture this observation, this essay proposes that the semantic contents of conditionals be treated as sets of vectors of possible worlds, not singleton worlds, with the coordinates of each specifying the world that is or would be true under the supposition that it represents. The probabilities of truth for conditionals will then depend on the joint probabilities of the facts and counterfacts, the latter in turn depending on the mode of supposition. The implication of this treatment is that the probabilities of conditionals are conditional probabilities whenever the mode of supposition is evidential. (shrink)
Brian Hill argues for a restriction of the Preservation condition that is based on a notion of epistemic, as opposed to logical, consistency. In this reply I consider possible criteria for epistemic consistency and suggest that a natural candidate for one leads to a more severe restriction on the Preservation condition than Hill proposes. I also question whether his proposed restriction is either necessary or sufficient to avoid the impossibility results for the Preservation condition, suggesting that it is the way (...) in which belief expansion is characterized within the AGM framework that is the real source of the problem. Finally, I draw on the notion of belief undermining to support a different resolution of the problem. (shrink)
An allocation problem is a type of aggregation problem in which the values of individuals' opinions on some set of variables (canonically a set of mutually exclusive and exhaustive possibilities) sum to a constant. This paper shows that for realistic allocation problems, namely ones in which the set of possible opinion values is finite, the only universal aggregation methods that satisfy two commonly invoked conditions are the dictatorial ones. The two conditions are, first, that the aggregate opinion on any variable (...) depends only on the individuals' opinions on that variable and not on their opinions on any other variable and, secondly, that the aggregate opinion minimally preserves unanimous individual opinion. Connections between this result and similar ones in the literature on judgment aggregation are explored and their significance assessed. (shrink)
Multiple-vote majority rule is a procedure for making group decisions in which individuals weight their votes on issues in accordance with how competent they are on them. When individuals are motivated by the truth and know their relative competence on different issues, multiple-vote majority rule performs nearly as well, epistemically speaking, as rule by an expert oligarchy, but is still acceptable from the point of view of equal participation in the political process.
The principles of classical and quantum holography are used to develop the theoretical basis for a non-phonemic method of detecting membership in secret social groups, such as cults, criminal gangs, drug cartels, and terrorist cells. Grounded in the basic sociological premise that every group develops a distinctive sociocultural order, the theory postulates that the primary features of a group's collective identity will be encoded, via a multilevel socio-psycho-physiological process, into the field of bio-emotional relations connecting group members. The principles of (...) classical holography (Gabor 1948) are used to describe how this information is recorded in the members' brains and communicated in interaction by a holographic-like process as a tacit signature of group affiliation —a constancy in group-related interactions. It is hypothesized that the identity signature is enfolded as a hologram in the energy spectra of vocal interactions among group members. The principles of quantum holography (Gabor 1946) are used to provide a description of the group's ongoing interactions as a dynamic process—a continuous, quantized series of snapshots (quantum holograms). Linked together, two forms of holography provide a model of how the group's collective identity evolves and is communicated over time to its members, as the group adapts to the ever-changing reality of its endogenous and exogenous circumstances. Using spectral analysis techniques, it should be possible to detect the group's identity signature in the recordings of relatively small samples of vocal interactions. In clandestine groups, the effort to remain hidden actually enhances the signal strength of the identity signature. It is predicted, therefore, that detection of unknown members can be achieved by using the spectral commonality identified in the analysis of recordings of vocal interactions among known members as a reference signature for comparison with those of the vocal spectra of suspected or potential members. (shrink)
Case-based reasoning is a familiar method of evaluating sentences. But when applied to conditionals, it seems to lead to implausible conclusions. In this paper I argue that the problem arises from equating the probability of a conditional sentence on the evidential supposition of some condition with the conditional probability of the former, given the latter.
The notion of a proposition as a set of possible worlds or states occupies central stage in probability theory, semantics and epistemology, where it serves as the fundamental unit both of information and meaning. But this fact should not blind us to the existence of prospects with a different structure. In the paper I examine the use of random variables—in particular, proposition-valued random variables— in these fields and argue that we need a general account of rational attitude formation with respect (...) to them. (shrink)
This article examines Becker's thesis that the hypothesis that choices maximize expected utility relative to fixed and universal tastes provides a general framework for the explanation of behaviour. Three different models of preference revision are presented and their scope evaluated. The first, the classical conditioning model, explains all changes in preferences in terms of changes in the information held by the agent, holding fundamental beliefs and desires fixed. The second, the Jeffrey conditioning model, explains them in terms of changes in (...) both the information held by the agent and changes in her prior beliefs, holding her fundamental desires fixed. The final model, that of generalized conditioning, allows for explanations in terms of changes in the values of all three variables. Key Words: preference change • decision theory • probability • desirability • attitude change. (shrink)
Bayesian models typically assume that agents are rational, logically omniscient and opinionated. The last of these has little descriptive or normative appeal, however, and limits our ability to describe how agents make up their minds (as opposed to changing them) or how they can suspend or withdraw their opinions. To address these limitations this paper represents the attitudinal states of non-opinionated agents by sets of (permissible) probability and desirability functions. Several basic ways in which such states of mind can be (...) changed are then characterised and compared with those found in AGM style models of attitude revision. Finally these models are employed to describe how agents make up their mind when deliberating. (shrink)
On Hume’s account of motivation, beliefs and desires are very different kinds of propositional attitudes. Beliefs are cognitive attitudes, desires emotive ones. An agent’s belief in a proposition captures the weight he or she assigns to this proposition in his or her cognitive representation of the world. An agent’s desire for a proposition captures the degree to which he or she prefers its truth, motivating him or her to act accordingly. Although beliefs and desires are sometimes entangled, they play very (...) different roles in rational agency. In two classic papers (Lewis 1988, 1996), David Lewis discusses several challenges to this Humean picture, but ultimately rejects them. We think that his discussion of a central anti-Humean alternative – the desire-as-belief thesis – is in need of refinnement. On this thesis, the desire for proposition p is given by the belief that p is desirable. Lewis claims that ‘[e]xcept in trivial cases, [this thesis] collapses into contradiction’(Lewis 1996, p. 308). The problem, he argues, is that the thesis is inconsistent with the purportedly plausible requirement that one’s desire for a proposition should not change upon learning that the proposition is true; call this the invariance requirement. In this paper, we revisit Lewis’s argument. We show that, if one carefully distinguishes between non-evaluative and evaluative propositions, the desire-asbelief thesis can be rendered consistent with the invariance requirement. Lewis’s conclusion holds only under certain conditions: the desire-as-belief thesis conflicts with the invariance requirement if and only if there are certain correlations between non-evaluative and evaluative propositions. But when there are such correlations, we suggest, the invariance requirement loses its plausibility. Thus Lewis’s argument against the desire-as-belief thesis appears to be valid only in cases in which it is unsound. (shrink)
1. The Down Under Logical Disproof of the Theist's God 1.1 Plantinga's Attempted Refutation of the Logical Disproof 1.2 Plantinga Refuted and God Disproved: A Preview 2. Plantinga's Formal Presentation of his Free Will Defense 3. First Formal Flaw: A Non Sequitur Regarding the Consistency of (3) with (1) 4. Further Flaws Regarding the Joint Conditions of Consistency and Entailment 4.1 A Non Sequitur Regarding the Entailment Condition 4.2 Telling the Full Story in Order to Satisfy the Entailment Condition 4.3 (...) Two Non Sequiturs Involving the Consistency Condition 4.4 The Russell Scenario: A Refutation by Logical Analogy 5. Plantinga's Leibnizian Definition of Omnipotence 5.1 Logical Consequences of the Definition 5.2 Why Leibniz Didn't Lapse 5.3 A Fatal Equivocation Over the Scope of Transworld Depravity 5.4 It Was All "Up to God" 5.5 The Distinction Between Absolute and Consequential Modalities 5.6 Plantinga's Ploy 5.7 Plantinga's Modal Muddle 5.8 Interlude on the Prevalence of the Modal Muddle 5.9 Back to Plantinga's Modal Muddle 5.10 Interim Verdict 6. Judgment Day: God Almighty and All Knowing Not Morally Perfect.. (shrink)
This work seeks to explain intuitive perception - those perceptions that are not based on reason or logic or on memories or extrapolations from the past, but are based, instead, on accurate foreknowledge of the future. Often such intuitive foreknowledge involves perception of implicit information about nonlocal objects and/or events by the body's psychophysiological systems. Recent experiments have shown that intuitive perception of a future event is related to the degree of emotional significance of that event, and a new study (...) shows that both the brain and the heart are involved in processing a pre-stimulus emotional response to the future event. Drawing on this research and on the principles of quantum holography, I develop a theory of intuition that views the perception of things remote in space or ahead in time (nonlocal communication) as involving processes of energetic resonance connecting the body's psychophysiological systems to the quantum level. The theory explains how focused emotional attention directed to the nonlocal object of interest attunes the bio-emotional energy generated by the body's psychophysiological systems to a domain of quantum-holographical information, which contains implicit information about the object. The body's perception of such implicit information about things distant in space/time is experienced as an intuition. (shrink)
According to the Ramsey Test hypothesis the conditional claim that if A then B is credible just in case it is credible that B, on the supposition that A. If true the hypothesis helps explain the way in which we evaluate and use ordinary language conditionals. But impossibility results for the Ramsey Test hypothesis in its various forms suggest that it is untenable. In this paper, I argue that these results do not in fact have this implication, on (...) the grounds that similar results can be proved without recourse to the Ramsey test hypothesis. Instead they show that a number of well entrenched principles of rational belief and belief revision do not apply to conditionals. (shrink)
This paper provides new foundations for Bayesian Decision Theory based on a representation theorem for preferences defined on a set of prospects containing both factual and conditional possibilities. This use of a rich set of prospects not only provides a framework within which the main theoretical claims of Savage, Ramsey, Jeffrey and others can be stated and compared, but also allows for the postulation of an extended Bayesian model of rational belief and desire from which they can be derived as (...) special cases. The main theorem of the paper establishes the existence of a such a Bayesian representation of preferences over conditional prospects, i.e. the existence of a pair of real-valued functions respectively measuring the agent’s degrees of belief and desire and which satisfy the postulated rationality conditions on partial belief and desire. The representation of partial belief is shown to be unique and that of partial desire, unique up to a linear transformation. (shrink)
On the face of it both aggregation and deliberation represent alternative ways of producing a consensus. I argue, however, that the adequacy of aggregation mechanisms should be evaluated with an eye to the effects, both possible and actual, of public deliberation. Such an evaluation is undertaken by sketching a Bayesian model of deliberation as learning from others.
This paper explores some aspects of the relation between aggregation and deliberation as ways of achieving a consensus amongst a group of indviduals on some set of issues. I argue firstly that the framing of an aggregation problem itself generates information about the judgements of others that individuals are rationally obliged to take into account. And secondly that the constraints which aggregation theories typically place on consensual or collective judgements need not be consistent with the outcomes of rational deliberative processes (...) driven by individuals’ attempts to update on this information. The paper focuses on the particular case of allocation problems, for which there are established results both in aggregation theory and deliberation theory, to make this claim. (shrink)
Richard Jeffrey regarded the version of Bayesian decision theory he floated in ‘The Logic of Decision’ and the idea of a probability kinematics—a generalisation of Bayesian conditioning to contexts in which the evidence is ‘uncertain’—as his two most important contributions to philosophy. This paper aims to connect them by developing kinematical models for the study of preference change and practical deliberation. Preference change is treated in a manner analogous to Jeffrey’s handling of belief change: not as mechanical outputs of combinations (...) of intrinsic desires plus information, but as a matter of judgement and of making up one’s mind. In the first section Jeffrey’s probability kinematics is motivated and extended to the treatment of changes in conditional belief. In the second, analogous kinematical models are developed for preference change and in particular belief-induced change that depends on an invariance condition for conditional preference. The two are the brought together in the last section in a tentative model of pratical deliberation. (shrink)