The Doctrine of Double Effect has been defended not only as a test of character but also as a criterion of wrongness for action. This paper criticises one attempt to justify the doctrine in the latter capacity. The justification, first proposed by Warren Quinn, traces the wrongness of intending harm as a means to the objectionable features of certain reasons for making this our intention. As I argue, however, some of the actions which seem to us to be permissible, and (...) whose permissibility the DDE is supposed to explain, can be performed for these objectionable reasons. Since the proposed justification implies that any action is wrong when performed for these reasons, it renders the DDE incapable of accommodating the very intuitions about action which its proponents would have it explain. (shrink)
My conversion into a knower has been a long and winding road. From childhood reverie to the years of formal schooling, education has never ceased to lure me into its magical power. How do we really get to know/see/learn whatever happens on our educational journey? In this paper, I will re-trace my quest for knowledge that reaches beyond the boundaries of traditional epistemology. My wonderings will take me to explore, via Jung, the possibilities of imaginative education through Gnosis and (...) class='Hi'>Sophia. The paper intends to weave together several Jungian discourses with their versions by other thinkers who have contributed to the fields of depth psychology, esotericism, and educational philosophy. (shrink)
In this paper I challenge the reader to witness the environmental and feminist aegis as an epicine confrontation with nature whose main goal is to reconcile a lost partnership with the archetype I have labeled Sophia. Sophia, whose providential origins lie somewhere amid the great pre-Hellenic gnostic cults, can only bring salvation if she is liberated by humanity through the resacralization of nature. It is this change in consciousness that points toward a radical environnlental ethic and a total (...) reconceptualization of the becoming process. (shrink)
My first experience of philosophy at the University of Sydney was as a commencing undergraduate in the tumultuous year of 1973. At the start of that year, there was one department of philosophy, but by the beginning of the next there were two. These two departments seemed to be opposed in every possible way except one: they both professed to be committed to a form of materialist philosophy. One could think that having a common enemy at least might have been (...) the cause for some degree of unanimity, but no: the traditional enemy of materialism—idealism—was regarded to have been long dead and buried. For the Marxists in the then “Department of General Philosophy”, it had been Marx who, in the second half of the nineteenth century, had “inverted” Hegelian idealism into a form of materialism, while for the analytic philosophers in the “Department of Traditional and Modern Philosophy”, it had been Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore who had triumphed over British idealism at the turn of the twentieth. There may have been many things that were atypical about philosophy as it was done at Sydney in the early 1970s, but its resistance to idealism was not among them. (shrink)
By reconstructing it and tracing its vicissitudes, David Conway rehabilitates a time-honored conception of philosophy, originating in Plato and Aristotle, which makes theoretical wisdom its aim. Wisdom is equated with possessing a demonstrably correct understanding of why the world exists and has the broad character it does. Adherents of this conception maintained the world to be the demonstrable creation of a divine intelligence in whose contemplation supreme human happiness resides. Their claims are defended against various latter-day skepticisms.
In his recent paper in Sophia , ‘Theodicy: The Solution to the Problem of Evil, or Part of the Problem?’ Nick Trakakis endorses the position that theodicy, whether intellectually successful or not, is a morally obnoxious enterprise. My aim in this paper is to defend theodicy from this accusation. I concede that God the Creator is a moral monster by human standards and neither to be likened to a loving parent nor imitated. Nonetheless, God is morally perfect. What is (...) abhorrent is not tough-minded theodicy but the hubris of imitating God. I further claim that it is no accident that the same sort of objection is made to act utilitarianism as to tough-minded theodicy if the latter is misinterpreted as implying a guide for human action. (shrink)
Many theists believe that the so-called ‘free will defence’ successfully undermines the antitheist argument from moral evil. However, in a recent issue of Sophia Joel Thomas Tierno provides the ‘adequacy argument’ in order to show an alleged difficulty with the free will defence. I argue that the adequacy argument fails because it equivocates on the notion of moral evil.
Review of Avital Wohlman, Al-Ghazali, Averroës and the Interpretation of the Qur'an: Common Sense and Philosophy in Islam, Translated by David Burrell Content Type Journal Article Pages 637-639 DOI 10.1007/s11841-010-0207-3 Authors Scott Girdner, Western Kentucky University, 1906 college Heights Blvd., Bowling Green, KY 42101, USA Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527 Journal Volume Volume 49 Journal Issue Volume 49, Number 4.
Review of Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, Religion and the Specter of the West: Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality, and the Politics of Translation Content Type Journal Article Pages 499-501 DOI 10.1007/s11841-011-0250-8 Authors Brian K. Pennington, Division of Humanities, Maryville College, 502 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Maryville, TN 37804, USA Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527 Journal Volume Volume 50 Journal Issue Volume 50, Number 3.
This is a reply to W. Paul Franks’ critique (‘Why a Believer Could Believe that God Answers Prayers’) of my recent paper in Sophia (2007). I argue that Franks’ Plantinga-inspired criticism fails because it turns on the dubious assumption that the efficacy of prayer could provide evidence for the existence of God.
Abstract A distinction which is often rehearsed in some strands of Christian writing on the ‘Eastern’ religions, especially Hinduism, is that while they are full of ‘mythological’ fancies, Biblical faith is based on the solid rock of ‘historical’ truth. I argue that the sharp contours of this antithesis are softened when we consider two issues regarding the relation between ‘myth’ and ‘history’. First, the decades–long attempts to separate the ‘historical’ facts about Jesus Christ from the interpretive elements in the Biblical (...) narrative highlight the presence of ‘mythical’ imagination in Christian thought. Second, a comparative study of the Christian understanding of Jesus Christ as the Incarnate God and the Hindu conception of avatāras reveals a highly significant set of differences and analogies, and shows how the supposed equivalences between ‘historical as real’ and ‘mythological as unreal’ need to be reformulated. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-15 DOI 10.1007/s11841-011-0260-6 Authors Ankur Barua, Department of Philosophy, St Stephen’s College, Delhi, India Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527. (shrink)
This essay, which will be divided between two SOPHIA editions, proposes to test the consensus in Maimonidean scholarship on the alleged intellectualism of Leo Strauss’ Maimonides by making a close interpretive study of Strauss’ 1963 essay ‘How to Begin to Study the Guide for the Perplexed’. While the importance of this essay, which is Strauss’ last extended piece on the Guide, is established in Maimonidean scholarship, its recognised esotericism has been matched by a dearth of detailed studies of the (...) piece. We aim in this essay to try to rectify this situation, by reading ‘How to Begin to Study’ as Strauss directs us to read esoteric texts in Persecution and the Art of Writing. As one control on our exegetical claims, we will close by situating our reading of ‘How to Begin to Study’ and Strauss’ positions there on philosophy, prophecy and the Torah alongside the claims of his earlier, much less esoteric, but also rarely studied: ‘Some Remarks on the Political Science of Maimonides and Farabi’. Because of the now widely recognised foundational importance of Maimonides in understanding Leo Strauss’ own lasting positions, this work will have wider importance in Strauss scholarship, and hopefully make a contribution to the continuing task of trying to understand Strauss’ important thoughts on Athens and Jerusalem, reason and revelation, the city and man. (shrink)
Review of Leesa S. Davis, Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism: Deconstructive Modes of Spiritual Inquiry Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-3 DOI 10.1007/s11841-012-0297-1 Authors David R. Loy, Boulder, CO, United States Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527.
Conferring on Religion: Notes from the 2010 Australasian Philosophy of Religion Association Conference Content Type Journal Article Pages 521-521 DOI 10.1007/s11841-010-0229-x Authors Morgan Luck, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, & The Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527 Journal Volume Volume 49 Journal Issue Volume 49, Number 4.
Environmental Ethics and the Mahābhārata : The Case of the Burning of the Forest Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-20 DOI 10.1007/s11841-011-0264-2 Authors Christopher G. Framarin, Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527.
Abstract ‘Prayer’ can be defined as ‘the offering, in public worship or private devotion, of petition, confession, adoration, or thanksgiving to God; also the form of words in which such an offering is made’ (cf. Cohn-Sherbok 2010 ). In addition to this simple definition it could be said that there are different forms of prayer: some are vocal and articulate and others are only mental in nature; some prayers are communal and liturgical and other prayers are spontaneous or at least (...) composed by the one saying the prayer (cf. Stump 1999 ). Accordingly, it is evident that there are manifold intricacies involved in any characterisation of ‘prayer’. In this article my aims are twofold. First, I explore the implications of Martin Buber’s philosophy, particularly of his conception of God as Thou for our understanding of ‘prayer’; second, I will argue that Buber’s understanding of ‘prayer’ as dialogue serves as a way for the individual to seek reconciliation with itself, with others, and with God. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-14 DOI 10.1007/s11841-011-0282-0 Authors Alexandre Guilherme, Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527. (shrink)
Abstract In this article we develop a relational understanding of sociality, that is, an account of social life that takes relation as primary. This stands in contrast to the common assumption that relations arise when subjects interact, an account that gives logical priority to separation. We will develop this relational understanding through a reading of the work of Martin Buber, a social philosopher primarily interested in dialogue, meeting, relationship, and the irreducibility and incomparability of reality. In particular, the article contrasts (...) Buber’s work with that of poststructuralist theorists who take as their starting point the deconstruction of the Hegelian logic of binary oppositions. Deconstruction understands difference as the excess that undoes the binary, but Buber, we argue, shows how difference derives from the primacy and ontological undefinability of relation. Relational logic does not exclude the logic of separations and oppositions: relation is the primal ground that makes separations possible. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-13 DOI 10.1007/s11841-011-0278-9 Authors Andrew Metcalfe, School of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia Ann Game, School of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527. (shrink)
In this paper, I address the way in which Plato’s Sophist rethinks his lifelong dialogue with Heraclitus. Plato uses a concept of logos in this dialogue that is much more Heraclitean than his earlier concept of the logos. I argue that he employs this concept in order to resolve those problems with his earlier theory of ideas that he had brought to light in the Parmenides. I argue that the concept of the dialectic that the Stranger develops rejects, rather than (...) continues, the idea reached at the end of the Theatetus that knowledge has to be grounded in a nous aneu logou (a non-logical, divine intellect) even while the Stranger appropriates the concerns that lead to his conclusion. Ultimately, I suggest that my differentiation of the later Plato’s appropriation of the tradition from Aristotle’s appropriation of that tradition is closely related to the re-thinking of the full sense of logos in the later Heidegger on Heraclitus and on Parmenides. I end by suggesting that the question that Plato and Heraclitus pose to us is to ask what such a divine logos tells about human ways of knowing. (shrink)
Abstract To be open-minded is to be willing to revise or entertain doubts about one’s beliefs. Commonly regarded as an intellectual virtue, and often too as a moral virtue, open-mindedness is a trait that is generally desirable for a person to have. However, in the major theistic traditions, absolute commitment to one’s religious beliefs is regarded as virtuous or ideal. But one cannot be completely resolved about an issue and at the same time be open to revising one’s beliefs about (...) it. It appears, then, that religious devotion is inconsistent with open-mindedness. The more religiously devout a person is, the more firmly she will hold to her convictions. And the stronger her belief commitments, the less open-minded she will be regarding these beliefs. So there appears to be a paradox here, where from the standpoint of religious devotion, it is virtuous to display an intellectual vice, namely closed-mindedness. I discuss this problem and explore some potential routes of escape from the paradox. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-16 DOI 10.1007/s11841-012-0305-5 Authors James S. Spiegel, Taylor University, 236 West Reade Ave., Upland, IN 46989, USA Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527. (shrink)
In a recent issue of Sophia, Jason A. Beyer introduced objections to the antitheist arguments that purport to show the inconsistencies between God’s attributes. In this short response I argue that Beyer’s objections are untenable.
Abstract This review discussion outlines Justin Barrett’s Preparedness Model. This evolutionary model for belief in God is shown to posit a maladaptive mind for infants. Questions about its implications and the supporting data are considered. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-3 DOI 10.1007/s11841-012-0300-x Authors Dwayne Raymond, Department of Philosophy, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527.
Abstract This essay examines the theory of ritual propriety presented in the Xúnzǐ and criticisms of Xunzi-like views found in the classical Daoist anthology Zhuāngzǐ . To highlight the respects in which the Zhuāngzǐ can be read as posing a critical response to a Xunzian view of ritual propriety, the essay juxtaposes the two texts' views of language, since Xunzi's theory of ritual propriety is intertwined with his theory of language. I argue that a Zhuangist critique of the presuppositions of (...) Xunzi's stance on language also undermines his stance on ritual propriety. Xunzi contends that state promulgation of anelaborate code of ritual propriety is a key to good social order ( zhi ) and that state regulation of language is a key to smooth communication and thus also good order. The Zhuāngzǐ provides grounds for doubting both contentions. Claiming that ritual propriety causally produces social order is analogous to claiming that grammar causally produces smooth linguistic communication, when in fact it is more likely our ability to communicate that allows us to develop shared rules of grammar. Humans have fundamental social and communicative capacities that undergird our abilities to speak a language or engage in shared ritual performances. It is these more fundamental capacities, not their manifestation in a particular system of grammar or ritual norms, that provide the root explanation of our ability to communicate or to live together harmoniously. The Xunzi-Zhuangzi dialectic suggests that ritual is indispensable, but normatively justified rituals will be less rigid, less comprehensive, less fastidious, and more spontaneous than a Xunzian theorist would allow. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-26 DOI 10.1007/s11841-012-0303-7 Authors Chris Fraser, Department of Philosophy, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527. (shrink)
Abstract The translation of the Guru Granth Sahib (GGS), or Sikh ‘scripture’, within the discourse of (European) colonial/modernity was enacted by the use of hermeneutics—which oversaw the shift from the openness of praxis to the closure of representation and knowledge. Such a shift demoted certain indigenous interpretive frames, wherein the GGS is assumed to enunciate an excess that far transcends the foreign demand to fix the text’s ‘call’ into singular meanings (beyond time), but rather transforms the hermeneutic desire into a (...) process of learning (Sikhi) through multiple meanings (in time). Thus the GGS is not translated according to a particular life-world, but actively transforms the life-world of those that respond to its excessive call. How should hermeneutics be reformed in this case? If the GGS as text demands interpretation, then the text as Guru demands engagement, and together they would necessarily call forth a radicalization of hermeneutics via a certain poetic reticence to all philosophical messengers. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-28 DOI 10.1007/s11841-011-0281-1 Authors Balbinder Singh Bhogal, S.K.K. Bindra Chair of Sikh Studies, Hofstra University, 104 D Heger Hall, 115 Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11549, USA Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527. (shrink)
Review of Owen Flanagan, The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-3 DOI 10.1007/s11841-012-0298-0 Authors Connor Wood, Division of Religious and Theological Studies, Boston University, 145 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215, USA Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527.
The paper continues the model I began in a previous issue of Sophia . It is argued that the predominance of purely ascending or ‘top down’ forms of spirituality which stemmed largely from the axial period and have been carried forward into modern, transpersonal theories of evolutionary spirituality is a mistake and that there exists a lost or largely ignored form of spirituality—which I name somatic—which was the predominant domain of early Neolithic and Palaeolithic experience. Aspects of what I (...) call somatic mystical experiences have certainly been acknowledged at times to a limited degree, though they have rarely been fully explored, and have usually been considered as basic to other kinds of mystical experience, rather than fully developed forms in their own right. This article offers a fuller exploration and places such states more accurately within a detailed developmental framework than has previously been the case. Other issues relating to the horizon model across the two papers are also expanded. (shrink)
Abstract Sabzawari is one of the greatest Muslim philosophers of the nineteenth century. He belongs to Sadrian Existentialism, which became a dominant philosophical tradition during the Qajar dynasty in Iran. This paper critically analyses Sabzawari’s ontological discussion on the dichotomy of existence and quiddity and the relation between existence and non-existence. It argues against Sabzawari by advocating the idea that ‘Existence’ rather than quiddity is the ground for identity as well as for diversity, and that non-existence, like existence, is able (...) to produce an effect. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-12 DOI 10.1007/s11841-011-0283-z Authors Muhammad Kamal, Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3010 Australia Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527. (shrink)
Review of Pankaj Jain, Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities Sustenance and Sustainability Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-2 DOI 10.1007/s11841-011-0286-9 Authors Rita Roy Chowdhury, Dept. of Philosophy, Vivekananda College for Women, (Residence) 56, M.C.Garden Road, Kolkata, 700030 West Bengal, India Journal Sophia Online ISSN 1873-930X Print ISSN 0038-1527.
This essay develops standards for grading religions including various forms of spiritualism. First, I examine the standards proposed by William James, John Hick, Paul Knitter, Dan Cohn-Sherbok, and Harold Netland. Most of them are useful in grading religions with or without conditions. However, those standards are not enough for refined and piercing evaluation. Thus, I introduce standards used in spiritualism. Although those standards are for grading spirits and their teachings, they are useful in refined and piercing evaluation of religious phenomena. (...) The spiritual standards complement James's, Hick's, Knitter's, and Netland's standards. Although most of the spiritual standards are rationally unjustifiable, they have practical value. (shrink)
Degrees of belief are familiar to all of us. Our conﬁdence in the truth of some propositions is higher than our conﬁdence in the truth of other propositions. We are pretty conﬁdent that our computers will boot when we push their power button, but we are much more conﬁdent that the sun will rise tomorrow. Degrees of belief formally represent the strength with which we believe the truth of various propositions. The higher an agent’s degree of belief for a particular (...) proposition, the higher her conﬁdence in the truth of that proposition. For instance, Sophia’s degree of belief that it will be sunny in Vienna tomorrow might be .52, whereas her degree of belief that the train will leave on time might be .23. The precise meaning of these statements depends, of course, on the underlying theory of degrees of belief. These theories offer a formal tool to measure degrees of belief, to investigate the relations between various degrees of belief in different propositions, and to normatively evaluate degrees of belief. (shrink)
This paper provides an analysis of suffering and compassion in the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas describes compassion as ‘the nexus of human subjectivity’ and the ‘supreme ethical principle’. In his early texts, suffering discloses the burden of being, the limits of the self, and thus the approach of alterity. Levinas’s later phenomenology of suffering as passive, meaningless, and evil, functions as a refutation of rational explanations of suffering. I argue that Levinasian substitution, the traumatic election to an excessive responsibility, (...) is the compassionate suffering that Levinas terms the nexus of human subjectivity. For Levinas, ethics is the compassionate response to the vulnerable, suffering Other. (shrink)
The concept of divine justice has been the subject of considerable scrutiny in recent philosophical theology, as it bears upon the notion of punishment with respect to the doctrine of eternal damnation. In this essay, I set out a version of the traditional retributive view of divine punishment and defend it against one of the most important and influential contemporary detractors from this position, Thomas Talbott. I will show that, contrary to Talbott’s argument, punishment may satisfy divine justice, and that (...) perfect justice is commensurate with retribution, rather than, as he suggests, reconciliation and restoration. (shrink)
In recent years skeptical theism has gained currency amongst theists as a way to escape the problem of evil by invoking putatively reasonable skepticism concerning our ability to know that instances of apparently gratuitous evil are unredeemed by morally sufficient reasons known to God alone. After explicating skeptical theism through the work of Stephen Wykstra and William Alston, I present a cumulative-case argument designed to show that skeptical theism cannot be accepted by theists insofar as it crucially undermines epistemic license (...) to the very theism it is invoked to defend. I also argue that attempts to defend a theism-friendly moderate version of skeptical theism either fail to halt the spread of damaging skepticism, or lack philosophical validity. (shrink)
The simplest Divine Command Theory is one which identifies rightness with being commanded or willed by God. Two clear and appealing arguments for this theory turn on the idea that laws require a lawgiver, and the idea that God is sovereign or omnipotent. Critical examination of these arguments reveals some fundamental principles at odds with the Divine Command Theory, and yields some more penetrating versions of traditional objections to that theory.
In this paper I suggest that near-death experiences (NDEs) provide a rational basis for belief in life after death. My argument is a simple one and is modeled on the argument from religious experience for the existence of God. But unlike the proponents of the argument from religious experience, I stop short of claiming that NDEs prove the existence of life after death. Like the argument from religious experience, however, my argument turns on whether or not there is good reason (...) to believe that NDEs are authentic or veridical. I argue that there is good reason to believe that NDEs are veridical and that therefore it is reasonable to believe in the existence of what they seem to be experiences of, namely, a continued state of consciousness after the death of the body. I will then offer some comments on the philosophical import of NDEs, as well as reflections on the current state of contemporary philosophy in light of the neglect of this phenomenon. (shrink)
I argue that the simple foreknowledge view, according to which God knows at some time t 1 what an agent S will do at t 2 , is incompatible with human free will. I criticize two arguments in favor of the thesis that the simple foreknowledge view is consistent with human freedom, and conclude that, even if divine foreknowledge does not causally compel human action, foreknowledge is nevertheless relevantly similar to other cases in which human freedom is undermined. These cases (...) include those in which certain human actions are logically, rather than causally, foreclosed. (shrink)
Theodicy, the enterprise of searching for greater goods that might plausibly justify God’s permission of evil, is often criticized on the grounds that the project has systematically failed to unearth any such goods. But theodicists also face a deeper challenge, one that places under question the very attempt to look for any morally sufficient reasons God might have for creating a world littered with evil. This ‘anti-theodical’ view argues that theists (and non-theists) ought to reject, primarily for moral reasons, the (...) project of ‘justifying the ways of God to men’. Unfortunately, this view has not received the serious attention it deserves, particularly in analytic philosophy of religion. Taking my cues from such anti-theodicists as Kenneth Surin, D.Z. Phillips and Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov, I defend several reasons for holding that the way of thinking about God and evil enshrined in theodical discourse can only add to the world’s evils, not remove or illuminate them. (shrink)
This essay argues the Stoics are rightly regarded as pantheists. Their view differs from many forms of pantheism by accepting the notion of a personal god who exercises divine providence. Moreover, Stoic pantheism is utterly inimical to a deep ecology ethic. I argue that these features are nonetheless consistent with the claim that they are pantheists. The essay also considers the arguments offered by the Stoics. They thought that their pantheistic conclusion was an extension of the best science of their (...) day. Some of their most interesting arguments are thusa posteriori. (shrink)
A central theme in the Christian contemplative tradition is that knowing God is much more like ‘unknowing’ than it is like possessing rationally acceptable beliefs. Knowledge of God is expressed, in this tradition, in metaphors of woundedness, darkness, silence, suffering, and desire. Philosophers of religion, on the other hand, tend to explore the possibilities of knowing God in terms of rational acceptability, epistemic rights, cognitive responsibility, and propositional belief. These languages seem to point to very different accounts of how it (...) is that we come to know God, and a very different range of critical concepts by which the truth of such knowledge can be assessed. In this paper, I begin to explore what might be at stake in these different languages of knowing God, drawing particularly on Alvin Plantinga’s epistemology of Christian belief. I will argue that his is a distorted account of the epistemology of Christian belief, and that this has implications for his project of demonstrating the rational acceptability of Christian faith for the 21st century. (shrink)
Many theists who identify themselves with the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) maintain that it is perfectly acceptable to have faith that God exists. In this paper, I argue that, when believing that God exists will affect others, it is prima facie wrong to forgo attempting to believe that God exists on the basis of sufficient evidence. Lest there be any confusion: I do not argue that it is always wrong to have faith that God exists, only that, under (...) certain conditions, it can be. (shrink)
It is widely believed that (1) if theological determinism were true, in virtue of God’s role in determining created agents to perform evil actions, created agents would be neither free nor morally responsible for their evil actions and God would not be perfectly good; (2) if metaphysical compatibilism were true, the free-will defense against the deductive problem of evil would fail; and (3) on the assumption of metaphysical compatibilism, God could have actualized just any one of those myriad possible worlds (...) that are populated only by compatibilist free creatures. The primary thesis of this essay is that none of these propositions is true. This thesis is defended by appealing to a recently proposed novel, acausal, composite, unified theory of free action – the Theory of Middle Freedom – that evades the central problems plaguing traditional theories of metaphysical compatibilism. (shrink)
This paper argues that Pascal's formulation of his famous wager argument licenses an inference about God's nature that ultimately vitiates the claim that wagering for God is in one's rational self-interest. In particular, it is argued that if we accept Pascal's premises, then we can infer that the god for whom Pascal encourages us to wager is irrational. But if God is irrational, then the prudentially rational course of action is to refrain from wagering for him.
The paper is concerned with John Searle’s famous Chinese room argument. Despite being objected to by some, Searle’s Chinese room argument appears very appealing. This is because Searle’s argument is based on an intuition about the mind that ‘we’ all seem to share. Ironically, however, Chinese philosophers don’t seem to share this same intuition. The paper begins by first analysing Searle’s Chinee room argument. It then introduces what can be seen as the (implicit) Chinese view of the mind. Lastly, it (...) demonstrates a conceptual difference between Chinese and Western philosophy with respect to the notion of mind. Thus, it is shown that one must carefully attend to the presuppositions underlying Chinese philosophising in interpreting Chinese philosophers. (shrink)
I discuss the relations between God and spatial entities, such as the universe. An example of a relation between God and a spatial entity is the relation,causes. Such relations are, in D.M. Armstrong’s words, ‘realm crossing’ relations: relations between or among spatial entities and entities in the realm of the spatially unlocated. I discuss an apparent problem with such realm crossing relations. If this problem is serious enough, as I will argue it is, it implies that God cannot be the (...) creator of the universe I also discuss that if God cannot be the creator of the universe, then God does not exist. (shrink)
Paleo-compatibilism is the view that the freedom required for moral responsibility is not incompatible with determinism about the factors relevant to moral assessment, since the claim that we are free and the claim that the psychophysical elements are causally determined are true in distinct and incommensurable ways. This is to be accounted for by appealing to the distinction between conventional truth and ultimate truth developed by Buddhist Reductionists. Paleo-compatibilists hold that the illusion of incompatibilism only arises when we illegitimately mix (...) two distinct vocabularies, one concerned with persons, the other concerned with the parts to which persons are reducible. I explore the view, its roots in Buddhist Reductionism, and its prospects. (shrink)
In ‘The Presuppositions of Religious Pluralism and the Need for Natural Theology’ I argue that there are four important presuppositions behind John Hick’s form of religious pluralism that successfully support it against what I call fideistic exclusivism. These are i) the ought/can principle, ii) the universality of religious experience, iii) the universality of redemptive change, and iv) a view of how God (the Eternal) would do things. I then argue that if these are more fully developed they support a different (...) kind of exclusivism, what I call rational exclusivism, and become defeaters for pluralism. In order to explain rational exclusivism and its dependence on these presuppositions I consider philosophers J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, and Alvin Plantinga, who offer arguments for their forms of exclusivism but I maintain that they continue to rely on fideism at important points. I then give an example of how knowledge of the Eternal can be achieved. (shrink)
This paper explores the Rousseauian background to Kant’s critique of metaphysics and philosophical theology. The core idea is that the rejection of metaphysics and philosophical theology is part of a turn from theoretical to practical reason influential on European philosophy of religion, a turn we associate with Kant but that is prefigured by Rousseau. Rousseau is not, however, a thinker normally associated with the notion of metaphysical criticism, nor the notion of the primacy of practical reason. The paper draws out (...) this dimension of Rousseau’s thinking and its importance for Kantian thought. It will proceed by discussing the Kant-Rousseau connection; demonstrate the importance of practical philosophy for Kant and the critical project generally; overview Kant’s critique of metaphysics; and turn to a consideration of Rousseau, particularly from the text Émile . Given the indisputable influence of Rousseau on Kant, the purpose of this paper is to explore the ways that Rousseau’s own rejection of philosophical theology might be suggestive to those interested in Kant and the way in which it throws new light on Kant’s philosophy of religion. As well as drawing out the Kant-Rousseau connection, it also, implicitly, defends the general orientation of these philosophers as one that is important, perhaps vital, to philosophy of religion. (shrink)
The concept of wisdom is largely ignored by contemporary philosophers. But given recent movements in the fields of ethics and epistemology, the time is ripe for a return to this concept. This article lays some groundwork for further philosophical work in ethics and epistemology on wisdom. Its focus is the distinction between practical wisdom and theoretical wisdom or between phronesis and sophia . Several accounts of this distinction are considered and rejected. A more plausible, but also considerably more complex, (...) account is offered. The discussion sheds light on the relation between practical wisdom and theoretical wisdom, and on the positive character of each. (shrink)
Many point to Peter Winch’s discussion of rationality, relativism, and religion as a paradigmatic example of cultural relativism. In this paper, I argue that Winch’s relationship to relativism is widely misinterpreted in that, despite his pluralistic understanding of rationality, Winch does allow for universal features of culture in virtue of which cross-cultural understanding and even critique is possible. Nevertheless, I also argue that given the kind of cultural universals that Winch produces, he fails to avoid relativism. This is because in (...) order to provide the standards without which relativism ensues, one requires a certain kind of criteria of rationality, namely, what I here call substantive universals, a kind of criteria which Winch rejects. (shrink)
Recent work on the evidential argument from evil offers us sundry considerations which are intended to weigh against this form of atheological arguments. By far the most provocative is that on a priori grounds alone, evil can be shown to be evidentially impotent. This astonishing thesis has been given a vigorous defense by Keith Yandell. In this paper, we shall measure the prospects for an a priori dismissal of evidential arguments from evil.
Exclusivism is a highly appealing option in religious terms. It reflects the believers’ commitment to their religion as well as their conviction that their religion is true, and that other religions are therefore false. My central argument is that the justification of inter-religious pluralism, while not less well established than that of exclusivism, successfully preserves the social intuitions of religious devotion and commitment. The effect of this justification, which remains valid despite objections raised against various forms of inter-religious pluralism, is (...) to undermine exclusivism. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that Leibniz’s form/matter defense of omnipotence is paradoxical, but not irretrievably so. Leibniz maintains that God necessarily must concur only in the possibility for evil’s existence in the world (the form of evil), but there are individual instances of moral evil that are not necessary (the matter of evil) with which God need not concur. For Leibniz, that there is moral evil in the world is contingent on God’s will (a dimension of (...) divine omnipotence), with the result that even though it is necessary that God exerts his will, there are particular products of his will that are contingent and unnecessary—including human moral evil. If there are instances of evil which are contingent on God’s will and yet unnecessary, then the problematic conclusion for Leibniz’s view must be that human evil depends upon divine concurrence, not just for its possibility in the world (which is necessary) but for its instance (which is contingent). If the form/matter defense of omnipotence contains a true paradox, then God concurs in the form as well as the matter of evil. To assuage this difficulty for Leibniz, I will argue that he could either give up an Augustinian notion of evil, or rely upon a distinction between *potenta absoluta* and *potenta ordinate*, which was popular among important thinkers in the medieval period. (shrink)
This paper critically examines what I call the ‘testing theodicy,’ the widely held idea that natural evil exists in order to test our faith in God. This theodicy appears numerous times in the scriptures of all three Abrahamic faiths. After examining some of these scriptural passages, we will argue that in light of these texts, the notion of faith is best understood as some type of commitment such as trust, loyalty or piety, rather than as merely a belief in (...) God’s existence. After carefully showing the form this theodicy must take, I argue that the testing theodicy suffers from serious difficulties and fails to adequately account for the existence of natural evil. (shrink)
In this exchange, Peter Coghlan and Nick Trakakis discuss the problem of natural evil in the light of the recent Asian tsunami disaster. The exchange begins with an extract from a newspaper article written by Coghlan on the tsunami, followed by three rounds of replies and counter-replies, and ending with some final comments from Trakakis. While critical of any attempt to show that human life is good overall despite its natural evils, Coghlan argues that instances of natural evil, even horrific (...) ones, can be justified as the unavoidable by-product of a natural system on which human life and culture depends. Trakakis, however, rejects this view, counselling instead a degree of skepticism about our ability to construct a plausible theodicy for horrific evil. (shrink)
Drawing on principles relating to the duty of easy rescue, I argue that any atheist who is less than wholly certain of the non-existence of a God or gods will in some circumstances be morally obliged to pray.
This paper examines an evidential argument from evil recently defended by William Rowe, one that differs significantly from the kind of evidential argument Rowe has become renowned for defending. After providing a brief outline of Rowe’s new argument, I contest its seemingly uncontestable premise that our world is not the best world God could have created. I then engage in a lengthier discussion of the other key premise in Rowe’s argument, viz., the Leibnizian premise that any world created by God (...) must be the best world God can create. In particular, I discuss the criticisms raised against this premise by William Wainwright as well as Rowe’s attempt to meet these criticisms. The Wainwright-Rowe exchange, I argue, highlights some insuperable difficulties in Rowe’s challenge to theism. (shrink)
In responding to Peter Forrest’s defence of ‘tough-minded theodicy’, I point to some problematic features of theodicies of this sort, in particular their commitment to an anthropomorphic conception of God which tends to assimilate the Creator to the creaturely and so diminishes the otherness and mystery of God. This remains the case, I argue, even granted Forrest’s view that God may have a very different kind of morality from the one we mortals are subject to.
I argue for the following four theses: (1) The Dread Thesis: human beings should fear having false religious beliefs concerning some religious doctrines; (2) The Radical Uncertainty Thesis: we, namely most human beings in our culture at our time, are in a situation where we have to commit ourselves on the truth or falsity of some propositions of ultimate importance; (3) The Radical Choice Thesis: considerations of expected loss or gain do not always provide guidance as to how to commit (...) ourselves on matters of religious doctrine that are both radically uncertain and of ultimate importance; (4) The Scandal Thesis: radical choice on matters of ultimate importance is neither good nor inevitable, but due to the collective failure of philosophers of religion. Then I consider some inadequate responses: playing the faith card; contra-Pascalian decision theory; spiritual chauvinism; that faith presupposes uncertainty; the older pachyderm; irony, subjectivity, relativism and non-cognitivism; tainted truth; and muddling through. Finally I submit that the way forward is quite simply to become better philosophers. (shrink)
Is it possible to talk about God without either misrepresentation or failing to assert anything of significance? The article begins by reviewing how, in attempting to answer this question, traditional theories of religious language have failed to sidestep both potential pitfalls adequately. After arguing that recently developed theories of metaphor seem better able to shed light on the nature of religious language, it considers the claim that huge areas of our language and, consequently, of our experience are shaped by metaphors. (...) Finally, it considers some of the more significant implications of this claim for our understanding of both religious language and religious experience. (shrink)
Numerous examples have been offered that purportedly show that God cannot be omnipotent. I argue that a common response to such examples (i.e., that failure to do the impossible does not indicate a lack of power) does not preserve God’s omnipotence in the face of some of these examples. I consider another possible strategy for preserving God’s omnipotence in the face of these examples and find it wanting.
This paper addresses the intellectual motivation of some of those involved in the intelligent design movement. It identifies their concerns with the critique of the claim that Darwinism offers an adequate explanation of prima facie teleological features in biology, a critique of naturalism, and the concern on the part of some of these authors including Dembski, with the revival of 'Old Princeton' apologetics. It is argued that their work is interesting and is in principle intellectually legitimate. It is also suggested, (...) however, that it needs to be appraised qua 'research programme' (after the fashion of the early work of Lakatos), and that, seen in that light, what needs to be accomplished might seem daunting. (shrink)
Causation is in trouble?at least as it is pictured in current theories in philosophy and in economics as well, where causation is also once again in fashion. In both disciplines the accounts of causality on offer are either modelled too closely on one or another favoured method for hunting causes or on assumptions about the uses to which causal knowledge can be put?generally for predicting the results of our efforts to change the world. The first kind of account supplies no (...) reason to think that causal knowledge, as it is pictured, is of any use; the second supplies no reason to think our best methods will be reliable for establishing causal knowledge. So, if these accounts are all there is to be had, how do we get from method to use? Of what use is knowledge of causal laws that we work so hard to obtain? (shrink)
My own philosophical interests led me to investigate the letter which Smith submitted to The Times, along with eighteen other signatures from renowned philosophers, each objecting to the honorary degree which Cambridge was about to award Jacques Derrida. While Smith's letter has been esteemed for sober defense of philosophy, it has also been viewed as rather notorious by Derrida and postmodern sympathizers. After having contacted Smith at the State University of New York at Buffalo, we agreed to meet and discuss (...) the matter in more detail. What follows are my inquiries, and his account, of his letter to The Times letters page, 9 May, 1992. (shrink)
There is overwhelming agreement amongst naturalists that a naturalistic ontology should not allow for the possibility of supernatural entities. I argue, against this prevailing consensus, that naturalists have no proper basis to oppose the existence of supernatural entities. Naturalism is characterized, following Leiter and Rea, as a position which involves a primary commitment to scientific methodology and it is argued that any naturalistic ontological commitments must be compatible with this primary commitment. It is further argued that properly applied scientific method (...) has warranted the acceptance of the existence of supernatural entities in the past and that it is plausible to think that it will do so again in the future. So naturalists should allow for the possibility of supernatural entities. (shrink)