‘The Meaning of Life’ and ‘The Philosophy of Religion’ have meant different things to different people, and so I do well to alert my reader to what these phrases mean to me and thus to the subject area of this review of recent work on their intersection. First, ‘The Meaning of Life’: within the analytic tradition, an idea has gained widespread assent; whatever the vague and enigmatic nature of the phrase ‘the meaning of life’, we may sensibly speak of meaningfulness (...) in a life as a particular, positive, normative feature that some individuals’ lives may well have, and this feature is to be distinguished from, though closely related to, other positive features – satisfaction, wellbeing, virtue and so forth. There has been much work done on these assumptions in recent years. An excellent summary of this work up to its date of publication is given by Thaddeus Metz (in his 2007 a). Many – though by no means all – philosophers retain an instinctive scepticism toward the phrase ‘the meaning of life’ and a reluctance to engage with it, for it seems to connote vague and/or impossible-to-fulfil cosmic expectations. (See Thomson , chapter 11 and Seachris 2009 for attempts to engage with it nonetheless.) But philosophers are not generally now so sceptical about talk of meaningfulness in life and thus not so sceptical about the phrase ‘the meaning of life’ if it is taken to be referring merely to this. And that is how I shall be taking it. Secondly, ‘The Philosophy of Religion’: in the analytic tradition, this has usually been taken to be philosophical reflection on the rational acceptability or otherwise of classical theism and on what God's existence, should He exist, entails ontologically, metaphysically, metaethically and so forth. Therefore, I shall be talking about recent reflection in the analytic tradition on the relationship between the God of classical theism's existence (or lack of it) and meaningfulness (or lack of it) in human lives. (shrink)
In this paper, I evaluate the adequacy of various multiverse hypotheses relative to classical theism in explaining the fine tuning of the universe to life and the fine tuning of our life to the universe. I conclude that, despite its rational attractiveness in explaining the fine tuning of the universe to us in a more conclusive and arguably simpler manner than the God hypothesis, due to its failure to explain the continuing fine tuning of us to the universe, we should (...) discard even the explanatorily strongest multiverse hypothesis, what I call the ’maximal multiverse’ hypothesis, and instead believe in the God hypothesis. (shrink)
In this journal Steve Maitzen has recently advanced an argument for atheism premised on theodical individualism, the thesis that God would not permit people to suffer evils that were underserved, involuntary, and gratuitous for them. In this paper I advance reasons to think this premise mistaken.
In this paper, I argue that atheists who think that the issue of God's existence or non-existence is an important one; assign a greater than negligible probability to God's existence; and are not in possession of a plausible argument for scepticism about the truth-directedness of uttering such prayers in their own cases, are under a prima facie epistemic obligation to pray to God that He stop them being atheists.
In "On Liberty", Mill says that 'the same causes which make... [a person] a Churchman in London, would have made him a Buddhist or a Confucian in Pekin'. Despite Mill's not having drawn it out, there is an argument implicit in his comments that is germane to both externalist and internalist understandings of the epistemic justification of religious beliefs, even though some of these understandings would not wish to use the term 'epistemic justification' to refer to whatever it is that (...) they suggest must be added to true belief for it to count as knowledge. In this paper, we shall articulate this argument; examine how it challenges those religious believers who would wish to claim their religious beliefs as knowledge; and consider what they may do to meet this challenge. (shrink)
I argue that Open Theism leads to a retreat from ascribing to God ‘complete omniscience’. Having surrendered this ground, the Open Theist cannot but retreat from ascribing to God complete omnipotence; the Open Theist must admit that God might perform actions which He reasonably expected would meet certain descriptions but which nevertheless do not do so. This then makes whatever goodness (in the sense of beneficence, not just benevolence) God has a matter of luck. Open Theism is committed to a (...) partially ignorant God, one who is subject to the vagaries of luck for the efficacy of at least some of His actions and for His goodness. (shrink)
I argue for the rational inescapability of value objectivism, the thesis that at least some normative appraisal is not simply a matter of how, subjectively, we feel about the world; it is a matter of how, objectively, the world ought to be. I do this via a two-stage argument, the first stage of which is based around a thought experiment, the second stage of which is based on how those who reject the argument of the first stage must present their (...) doing so to themselves if they are to consider themselves rationally justified. I sketch a way in which this argument might lead one rationally to favour moral objectivism. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider what difference knowledge of outcomes – both past and future – might make to the rationality of praying for them on a traditional theistic model. More specifically, I address four questions: (1)‘Could it be rational to pray for outcomes one knows will obtain?’; (2)‘Could it be rational to pray for outcomes one knows will not obtain?’; (3)‘Could it be rational to pray for outcomes one knows have obtained?’; (4)‘Could it be rational to pray for outcomes (...) one knows have not obtained?’. I argue that, on certain common theistic assumptions, the answer to all of these questions is yes. (Published Online January 15 2007). (shrink)
Belief in God answers two questions: what, if anything, is it that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are agreeing about when they join in claiming that there is a God; and what, if any, prospects are there for rationally defending or attacking this claim? -/- In the context of a sustained argument for particular answers to these questions, Tim Mawson tackles many of the most prominent topics in the philosophy of religion. He argues that those who believe that there is a (...) God are best interpreted as believing that there is a being who is essentially personal, transcendent, immanent, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, perfectly free, perfectly good, and necessary; and non-essentially creator of the world and value; revealer of Himself; and offerer of everlasting life. Having explored the meaning and consistency of this conception of God in the first half of the book, Mawson goes on to consider whether or not belief or the absence of belief in such a God might be the sort of thing that does not rationally require argument and, if not, what the criteria for a good argument for or against such a God's existence might be. Having established some criteria, he uses them to evaluate specific arguments for and against the existence of such a God. He looks at the Argument to Design; the Cosmological Argument; the Ontological Argument; the Argument from Religious Experience; the Argument from Apparent Miracles; the Problem of Evil; and Pascal's Wager. Finally, he explores the relation between faith and reason. -/- In the course of his argument, Mawson makes striking new claims and defends or attacks established positions in new ways. His conversational style, lively wit, and enlightening examples make Belief in God as pleasurable as it is instructive and thought-provoking. It makes an ideal text for beginning undergraduate courses and for anyone thinking about these most important of questions. (shrink)
“(1) All major religious traditions are equal in respect of making common reference to a single transcendent sacred reality. (2) All major traditions are likewise equal in respect of offering some means or other to human salvation. (3) All traditions are to be seen as containing revisable, limited, accounts of the nature of the sacred none is certain enough in its particular dogmatic formulations to provide the norm for interpreting the others.” P. Byrne, Prolegomena to Religious Pluralism (NY: Macmillan, 1995), (...) p. 12. In this paper, I argue that of the three claims that constitute the form of Religious Pluralism outlined by Peter Byrne in his Prolegomena to Religious Pluralism, the first is something proponents of the theory can’t think of themselves as having the resources to defend; the second is something that is in danger of being rendered trivial by the definition of religions offered; however, if one makes it non-trivial, it becomes implausible (and offering a defence of it inconsistent with other elements of the theory); and, even if the first half of the third is right, the second half is wrong. (shrink)
In this paper I seek to show how God's freedom is not reduced or His power diminished by His inability to be less than perfectly good even though ours would be. That ours would be explains why it might prima facie appear to us that there is a ‘conceptual tension’ between some of the claims of traditional theism and reveals some interesting (well, to me anyway) differences between human freedom and divine freedom.
In this paper I argue that a necessary condition of ones perceiving God is that an experience of the right phenomenological sort be caused in one directly enough by God and – bypassing the issue of what is necessary for an experience to be of the right phenomenological sort – discuss some difficulties in finding reasons for thinking that God has or has not directly enough caused any such experience.
This paper provides a comment on Brian Zamulinksi's article in Religious Studies, 39 (2003), 43–60. Contrary to Zamulinski's claim that religions are not truth-oriented but function as fictions, it is contended that they could not serve the purpose he assigns them unless their adherents regarded them as true. Religions must therefore be truth-oriented. The substantive question is whether any of them are true, and Zamulinski's paper provides no new method for addressing this question. (Published Online August 11 2004).
In this paper, I consider various arguments to the effect that natural evils are necessary for there to be created agents with free will of the sort that the traditional free-will defence for the problem of moral evil suggests we enjoy – arguments based on the idea that evil-doing requires the doer to use natural means in their agency. I conclude that, despite prima facie plausibility, these arguments do not, in fact, work. I provide my own argument for there being (...) no possible world in which creatures enjoying this sort of freedom exist yet suffer no natural evil, and conclude that the way is thus open for extending the free-will defence to the problem of natural evil. (Published Online February 17 2004). (shrink)
Many of those who come to a belief in the God of classical theism do so solely as a result of having had an experience which they believe it is reasonable for them to interpret as a revelation of His existence directly and graciously given to them by God Himself. I shall argue that – at least in the first instance – such people should probably not think of themselves as knowing that there is a God if they are also (...) traditional libertarians and believe in Robert Nozick's theory of knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that classical theists should think of God as having created morality. In form, my position largely resembles that defended by Richard Swinburne. However, it differs from his position in content in that it evacuates the category of necessary moral truth of all substance and, having effected this tactical withdrawal, Swinburne's battle lines need to be redrawn. In the first section, I introduce the Euthyphro dilemma. In the second, I argue that if necessary moral truths are (...) seen as analytically/logically so, then, pace Swinburne, they cannot be regarded as substantive principles. Thus, seeing necessary moral truths as analytically/logically necessary and independent of God does not threaten God's power or sovereignty and leaves open the possibility that all value is contingent upon His will. In the third section, I turn to consider how the claim that all value is contingent upon God's will might best be understood, arguing that classical theists will want to commit themselves to a relatively strong form of objectivism about moral value (even though this is not needed in order to solve the Euthyphro dilemma). I then give and defend an account of God's creation of contingent moral truths which coheres with what I argue is the most plausible form of this commitment. In the following section, I argue that this account avoids the charge that God is arbitrary in His choice of values and, finally, I argue that it avoids the charge that God may not be said to be good without vacuity. Thus, I conclude that the Euthyphro dilemma does not threaten classical theism. (shrink)
In this paper, which is a reply to Wes Morriston's ‘Omnipotence and necessary moral perfection: are they compatible?’, I argue that, contrary to what Morriston suggests, a classical theist need not admit that omnipotence and necessary moral perfection are incompatible. Indeed, I shall argue that a classical theist can show that an omnipotent being is of necessity morally perfect.
The title of T. J. Mawson's article was incorrectly given as “God's creation of mortality” on the Contents page and cover. The publishers would like to apologise to the author and their readers for this error.
Bennett has said that 'Voluntarism casts no useful light on those aspects of the Meditations that have received the most attention: the truth rule, divine veracity, the relation between those, the Cartesian Circle'. In this paper, I shall draw together various strands from recent Descartes scholarship to argue that this is entirely false. When Descartes's voluntarism is understood as central to his epistemological project, not only does it allow us to make more sense of what he says on all these (...) issues, but also it allows us to see what he says as, on certain assumptions, unassailable. The only difficulty that then remains is that these assumptions are widely held to be necessarily false. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that miracles should not be defined as involving violations of natural laws. They should be defined as signs of particular volitions of the deity or of other supernatural agents. I suggest that one may, without any prior belief in the existence of such supernatural agents, reasonably come to believe that one has witnessed miracles.