Most theists do not put a (subjective) probability of 1 (certainty) on God's existence. Most atheists do not put a probability of 0 on God's existence. I argue that these familiar positions are incoherent. On the assumption of S5 and the probability calculus it can be shown that the only coherent (subjective) probabilities an agent can assign to God's existence/non-existence are 0 or 1. Believers must be completely committed believers and non-believers must be completely committed non-believers. Agnosticism is not a (...) coherent position. (shrink)
Religious disagreement – the existence of inconsistent religious views – is familiar and widespread. Among the most fundamental issues of such disagreement is whether to characterise the divine as personal or non-personal. On most other religious issues, the diverse views seem to presuppose some view on the personal/non-personal issue. In this essay, I address a particular question arising from disagreement over this issue. Let an exclusivist belief be a belief that a doctrine d on an issue is true, and that (...) doctrines on the issue that differ from d are false. Assume that for at least some people, there is no epistemic reason to prefer any one exclusivist view on the personal/non-personal question. This might be because disagreements act as defeaters for disputants’ beliefs, or because someone comes at the question without already holding a belief on the matter, and finds each view equally plausible. In these circumstances, is it still possible to engage with particular traditions in a realist, truth-seeking way? I answer that it is, arguing for a new pluralist approach to the personal/non-personal issue. By ‘pluralist’, I mean an approach that reinterprets a doctrine d on a given issue to be consistent with doctrines on the issue that differ from d. I start with probably the best-known pluralist account of religion, that of John Hick. After presenting his account I identify a problem that it faces which any pluralist account must address, one that has clear relevance to the personal/non-personal question. I then draw on Thomas Merton to outline an alternative pluralist route, illustrating how such an approach can apply to Christian and Buddhist ideas of an ultimate spiritual goal. The personal/non-personal issue is a good test for the approach I develop: because of the issue’s fundamentality, if the approach succeeds here then the prospects look bright for applying it to other topics of religious disagreement. (shrink)
According to a simple Bayesian argument from evil, the evil we observe is less likely given theism than given atheism, and therefore lowers the probability of theism. I consider the most common skeptical theist response to this argument, according to which our cognitive limitations make the probability of evil given theism inscrutable. I argue that if skeptical theists are right about this, then the probability of theism given evil is itself largely inscrutable, and that if this is so, we ought (...) to be agnostic about whether God exists. (shrink)
It is not uncommon in the history of science and philosophy to encounter crucial experiments or crucial objections the truth-value of which we are ignorant, that is, about which we suspend judgment. Should we ignore such objections? Contrary to widespread practice, I show that in and only in some circumstances they should not be ignored, for the epistemically rational doxastic attitude is to suspend judgment also about the hypothesis that the objection targets. In other words, suspension of judgment "propagates" from (...) the crucial objection to the hypothesis. In this paper I study under which conditions this phenomenon occurs, and discuss its significance for the topics of skepticism and scientific realism. (shrink)
What should the Buddhist attitude be to rebirth if it is believed to be inconsistent with current science? This chapter critically engages forms of Buddhist agnosticism that adopt a position of uncertainty about rebirth but nevertheless recommend ‘behaving as if’ it were true. What does it mean to behave as if rebirth were true, and are Buddhist agnostics justified in adopting this position? This chapter engages this question in dialogue with Mark Siderits’ reductionist analysis of the Buddhist doctrine of the (...) two truths, conventional and ultimate. Richard Hayes (1998) characterises talk of rebirth as a useful fiction. Siderits characterises talk of persons as a useful fiction and explains and justifies statements that involve it as conventionally true despite persons not featuring in our final or ultimate ontology. Does rebirth satisfy the same criteria to count as conventionally true, and does thinking of it in these terms help explain and justify what it might mean to behave as if rebirth were true? This chapter will defend a conditional yes to these questions. In the process, it will clarify what is distinctive about the traditional Buddhist approach to rebirth, provide an analysis of how the concept of rebirth might relate to practical outcomes, and address some limitations of this approach. (shrink)
I endorse the following claims in this paper. (1) Agnosticism is suspension of judgment on existence claims concerning gods and God. (2) Historical agnostics accepted (1) but unwisely insisted on further conditions best set aside. (3) Particular case agnosticism is less problematic than general principle-based agnosticism. (4) Agnostics should suspend judgment on—or, on occasion, reject—atomic claims of the form ‘God is F’.
This paper reflects on the origins and subsequent reception of the paper "Ontological Gerrymandering: The anatomy of social problems explanations", published in 1985. It describes the circumstances of my turning up at McGill University as a Visiting Professor in Sociology and meeting Dorothy, then a graduate student and the TA assigned to an undergraduate course on Social Problems which I was asked to teach. The paper reflects on the twin benefits: of an interloper, from Europe and from Science and Technology (...) Studies (STS), entering the exotic and heady fray of North American social problems; and of Dorothys steady and resolute guidance in introducing me to a new field. The paper suggests some reasons for the endurance of the papers arguments, more than 35 years after its publication, drawing on some parallel developments in Social Problems and STS. It asks why has there been rather little mutual interaction between these disciplines, given their common concern with questions, among others, about values, effects and interventions in academic scholarship. The paper concludes that many more of us might have done well to pursue the path of strident agnosticism. (shrink)
Hope beyond certainty is a significant element in contemporary theological discourse after the death of God. This relation between hope and uncertainty is not new. In the nineteenth century, a growing number of intellectuals started to call themselves agnostic, but did not always end up in scepticism and nihilism. On the contrary, new ways to search for meaning and fulfilment in life beyond the traditional answers of institutional religions (i.e. the church) were explored. The Dutch intellectual Allard Pierson (1831–1896) is (...) a good case in point. From a contemporary postsecular perspective and radical theology, this article argues that Pierson’s agnosticism should not be seen as an attitude of indifference, but as opening up the possibility for an eschatological hope beyond certainty. First, the (im)possibility of hope is discussed by debating the views of David Newheiser, Richard Kearney, and John D. Caputo. Second, the article analyses Pierson’s view by focusing upon hermeneutics instead of epistemology, an openness to transcendence, and imagination. The article thereby contributes to the understanding of nineteenth-century religious and secularisation developments as well as to contemporary theological debates on the (im)possibility of faith and hope after the death of God. (shrink)
I defend a proposition-directed, sui generis account of agnosticism, according to which being agnostic about some proposition, P, involves a sceptical or questioning mental stance towards both the truth and falsity of P. Call this the questioning-attitude account. The questioning-attitude account contrasts with the question-directed attitude account of Jane Friedman, which holds that the object of agnosticism is a question rather than a proposition. I argue that the questioning-attitude account not only avoids a major weakness of Friedman’s question-directed attitude account, (...) but it also displays the following three attractive features: (1) it offers an explanation of why ascriptions of agnosticism often take an interrogative compliment, (2) it offers a univocal account of the content of all three doxastic attitudes, and (3) it fleshes out the claim that agnosticism is sui generis by describing what makes agnosticism distinct from both belief and disbelief. (shrink)
This book deals with the intricate issue of approaching atheism—methodologically as well as conceptually—from the perspective of cultural pluralism. What does ‘atheism’ mean in different cultural contexts? Can this term be applied appropriately to different religious discourses which conceptualize God/gods/Goddess/goddesses (and also godlessness) in hugely divergent ways? Is my ‘God’ the same as yours? If not, then how can your atheism be the same as mine? In other words, this volume raises the question: Is it not high time that we (...) proposed a comparative study of atheism(s) alongside that of religions, rather than believing that atheism is centered in the ‘Western’ experience? Apart from answering these questions, the book highlights the much-needed focus on the philosophical negotiations between atheism, theism and agnosticism. The fine chapters collected here present pluralist negotiations with the notion of atheism and its ethical, theological, literary and scientific corollaries. (shrink)
We provide a framework for understanding agnosticism. The framework accounts for the varieties of agnosticism while vindicating the unity of the phenomenon. This combination of unity and plurality is achieved by taking the varieties of agnosticism to be represented by several agnostic stances, all of which share a common core provided by what we call the minimal agnostic attitude. We illustrate the fruitfulness of the framework by showing how it can be applied to several philosophical debates. In particular, several philosophical (...) positions can be aptly conceived of as instances of agnosticism whilst retaining their differences and distinguishing features. (shrink)
Starting from the case of insurance claims, I investigate the dynamics of acceptance, rejection and denial. I show that disagreement can be more varied than one might think. I illustrate this by looking at the Warren/Sanders controversy in the 2020 democratic primaries and at religious agnosticism.
Agnostics as well as theists should answer evidential arguments from evil, at least when confronted with them. In this paper, I answer such an argument by appealing to sceptical agnosticism. A sceptical agnostic is not only undecided about the existence of a perfectly good and omnipotent God, but also believes that we cannot make any judgement about whether or not seemingly gratuitous evil probably is gratuitous. I argue that such agnosticism has several advantages compared with sceptical theism.
In che cosa crede chi pratica la meditazione buddhista? Dare una risposta univoca e coerente è assai difficile; il Buddhismo infatti si concretizza in una molteplicità di scuole e dottrine caratterizzate da complesse logiche e metafisiche. Ci sono tuttavia delle indicazioni minimali che fungono da denominator comune per chi si accosta alla meditazione. Esse riguardano soprattutto l’assenza di punti di vista determinati, l’esperienza del tempo e la relazione di dipendenza reciproca di ogni cosa con ogni altra. Utilizzando gli strumenti della (...) filosofia analitica, questo libro propone una interpretazione dei princìpi basilari che guidano la meditazione buddhista, facendo leva sulle potenzialità del senso comune, inteso non semplicemente come l’opinione generica della maggioranza – troppo spesso già infarcita di presupposti metafisici discutibili - bensì come insieme di credenze che tutti noi possediamo, ma di cui non sempre siamo consapevoli. (shrink)
This chapter aims to examine parallels between two ancient Indian philosophical schools, Jaina (Jainism) of Mahāvīra and Ajñāna (Unending Agnosticism) of Sañjaya Belaṭṭhiputta. Jaina and Ajñāna traditions were a part of the Non-Vedic larger Śramaṇa movement of seventh to sixth-century BCE India, where Śramaṇa were monastics, who dwelled in forests and lived a retired life, focussing themselves in the search of discovering the knowledge of truth, reality and existence. Sañjaya and Mahāvīra were contemporaries and were a prominent and well-known Śramaṇa (...) of their time. The chapter is broadly divided into two parts, with two sections each. The first part aims to discuss Sañjaya’s ajñānavāda (epistemological method) and Mahāvīra’s doctrine of anekāntavāda (metaphysical pluralism) and saptabhanginaya (sevenfold predication). The second part aims to explore the logical relationship and similarities between ajñānavāda and anekāntavāda and its metaphysical consequences, and conclusively the major part of the paper will discuss the claim first made by the German Jaina scholar Hermann Jacobi, about the possible influence that Sañjaya’s ajñānavāda had on the establishment of Mahāvīra’s anekāntavāda. In brief, the chapter intends to present and discuss the contemporary scholarship claims on Sañjaya and his possible influence it had on the development of the Jaina thought. (shrink)
In 'Weak agnosticism defended' Graham Oppy set out to ’show that agnosticism can be so formulated that it is no less philosophically respectable than theism and atheism’. Oppy begins by differentiating between strong agnosticism, which obliges rational persons to suspend judgment on the question of God’s existence, and weak agnosticism, which allows rational persons to do so. Weak agnosticism is thus the philosophical position that it is possible and rational - but not obligatory - to suspend judgment on the question (...) of God’s existence. The question I discuss in this paper is whether one can consistently practice agnosticism, as opposed to merely suspending judgment regarding the existence of God? Does acceptance of the the sis that ’agnosticism can be so formulated that it is no less philosophically respectable than theism and atheism’ entail the possibility of actual consistent practice of agnosticism? (shrink)
This book contains a unique perspective: that of a scientifically and philosophically educated agnostic who thinks there is impressive—if maddeningly hidden—evidence for the existence of God. Science and philosophy may have revealed the poverty of the familiar sources of evidence, but they generate their own partial defense of theism. Bryan Frances, a philosopher with a graduate degree in physics, judges the standard evidence for God’s existence to be awful. And yet, like many others with similar scientific and philosophical backgrounds, he (...) argues that the usual reasons for atheism, such as the existence of suffering and success of science, are weak. In this book you will learn why so many people with scientific and philosophical credentials are agnostics despite judging all the usual evidence for theism to be fatally flawed. (shrink)
One defense of the “steadfast” position in cases of peer disagreement appeals to the idea that it's rational for you to remain deeply agnostic about relevant propositions concerning your peer's judgment, that is, to assign no credence value at all to such propositions. Thus, according to this view, since you need not assign any value to the proposition that your peer's judgment is likely to be correct, you need not conciliate, since you can remain deeply agnostic on the question of (...) how the likelihood of your peer's judgment bears on the likelihood of your own. This paper argues that the case for deep agnosticism as a response to peer disagreement fails. Deep agnosticism implies that it is sometimes permissible to withhold judgment about whether there is a non-zero chance of a proposition's being true. However, in cases of disagreement where deep agnosticism is supposed to support the steadfast position, such withholding isn't rational. This is because of constraints placed on rational credence by objective probability or chance, which ensure that rational credence adequately reflects strength of evidence. (shrink)
Agnosticism has always had its fair amount of criticism. Religious believers often described the first agnostics as infidels and it is not uncommon to see them described as somewhat dull fence-sitters. Moreover, the undecided agnostic stance on belief in gods is often compared with being unsure about such obviously false statements as the existence of orbiting teapots, invisible dragons or even Santa Claus. In this paper, I maintain that agnosticism can properly be endorsed as a default stance. More precisely, I (...) use a strategy presented by Alvin Plantinga and argue that it is rationally acceptable to be agnostic about the existence of God. I also anticipate and answer a number of objections. Finally, I offer my conclusion. (shrink)
Synthetic biologists attempt to apply engineering principles to biological systems. This involves treating organisms as “chassis” – neutral frames into which synthetic constructs can be inserted, rather than living entities with distinctive features. Here we focus on a particularly charismatic organism – Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer's yeast) – and the attempt to make a synthetic version of its genome. We argue that the “personality” of the yeast and the affective relationship scientists (and others) have to it, challenges the “organism agnosticism” of (...) synthetic biology. This leads us to ask whether synthetic biologists have straightforwardly exploitative relationships to the organisms they work on. We connect this “feeling for the (micro)organism” to the activity of engineering whole genomes, rather than discrete genetic parts. We argue that this connection is significant because we are likely to see an escalation in attempts to synthesize complete genomes in the future, including the human genome. (shrink)
I have always found Robin’s writings on religion delightfully insightful and stimulating, and this piece was no exception. What follows are some of the thoughts that occurred to me, in order of occurrence.
In a recent series of papers, Jane Friedman argues that suspended judgment is a sui generis first-order attitude, with a question as its content. In this paper, I offer a critique of Friedman’s project. I begin by responding to her arguments against reductive higher-order propositional accounts of suspended judgment, and thus undercut the negative case for her own view. Further, I raise worries about the details of her positive account, and in particular about her claim that one suspends judgment about (...) some matter if and only if one inquires into this matter. Subsequently, I use conclusions drawn from the preceding discussion to offer a tentative account: S suspends judgment about p iff S believes that she neither believes nor disbelieves that p, S neither believes nor disbelieves that p, and S intends to judge that p or not-p. (shrink)
I often tell my students that the only thing that is not controversial in philosophy is that everything else in it is controversial. While this might be a bit of an exaggeration, it does contain a kernel of truth, as many exaggerations do: philosophy is a highly contentious discipline. So it is remarkable the extent to which there is agreement in the philosophy of religion amongst theists, agnostics, and atheists alike that John Mackie’s argument for atheism is either invalid or (...) unsound. As a result, the focus has entirely shifted from the logical problem of evil to the so-called evidential one. But I think that this is a mistake, not necessarily because I think Mackie’s argument is sound, but rather because I reject an assumption made by apparently all parties to the debate, which is that there is only one logical problem of evil. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to defend a deductive argument that God* does not exist. As far as I can tell, the basic idea of this argument is a novel one: while Mackie’s argument has a more or less consequentialist framework, mine has a deontological one. The evil of which I will speak is that of our having been thrown into the world. (shrink)
In this paper, I set out a fairly careful argument for the claim that natural reality ("the universe') does not have--and could not have--a cause. I being with a discussion of the question whether causal reality could have a cause. I claim that it is obvious that causal reality cannot have a cause. I then turn to a discussion of natural reality. I contend that, necessarily, natural reality exhausts causal reality: necessarily, natural reality and causal reality are one and the (...) same. Given that it is impossible for causal reality to have a cause, it follows immediately that natural reality cannot have a cause. -/- The paper is a chapter in a 'debate' book. My 'debate' partner is Rob Koons. There is also a brief response to Koons' contribution that is not uploaded here. (shrink)
In the first part of this essay, some of the strategies atheists use to claim undeserved privileges for their position are analyzed. In particular, the connection between evidentialism and the idea that atheism is the natural starting position (“presumption of atheism”, Anthony Flew) is discussed. In addition, the extent to which the elimination of agnosticism as the third option between theism and atheism contributes to the discursive privilege of atheism is examined (with Paul Cliteur). In the second part, evidentialism is (...) reconstructed as a context-dependent theory of justification and the (A) theism problem is situated in the context of action instead of the context of knowledge. This avoids one-sided distribution of the burden of justification, especially the atheistic attempt to to burden the theist with the full burden of justification and at the same time to free the atheist from all burdens of justification. In this way, the discourse on the (a) theism problem can be reconstructed without assigning undeserved privileges. (shrink)
Religious exclusivism is the biggest threat for multi-religious society at the same time, ambivalent thoughts among religion in religious pluralism due to religious diversity often yields religious violence. In both of the extreme, (religious exclusivism and religious pluralism) there is the possibility of religious violence, i.e., religious riots, terrorism, mob lynching, and communalism. The objective of this paper is to discuss the significance of interreligious dialogue (IRD), its basic principle, how IRD will help us for addressing the problems of humanity (...) (i.e., Religious diversity and contradictory thoughts in major religions, Religious Dogma, superstition, and terrorism). If there is any biggest challenge for religion in the 21st century, is this one that how religion can deal with these problems and became a good tool for establishing peace and prosperity in the region. (shrink)
The Middle Way is the practical principle of avoiding both positive and negative absolutes, so as to develop provisional beliefs accessible to experience. Although inspired initially by the Buddha’s Middle Way, in Middle Way Philosophy Robert M Ellis has developed it as a critical universalism: a way of separating the helpful from the unhelpful elements of any tradition. In this book, the Middle Way is applied to the Christian tradition in order to argue for a meaningful and positive interpretation of (...) it, without the absolute beliefs that many assume to be essential to Christianity. Faith as an embodied, provisional confidence is distinguished from dogmatic belief. Recent developments in embodied meaning, brain lateralization from neuroscience, Jungian archetypes and the Jungian model of psychological integration are drawn on to support an account of how Christian faith is not only possible without ‘belief’ in God or Christ, but indeed puts us in a better position to access inspiration, moral purpose, responsibility and the basis of peace. (shrink)
This book guides readers through an investigation of religion from a naturalistic perspective and explores the very meaning of the term ‘religious naturalism’. Oppy considers several widely disputed claims: that there cannot be naturalistic religion; that there is nothing in science that poses any problems for naturalism; that there is nothing in religion that poses any serious challenges to naturalism; and that there is a very strong case for thinking that naturalism defeats religion. -/- Naturalism and Religion: A Contemporary Philosophical (...) Investigation is an ideal introduction for undergraduate and postgraduate students of religious studies and philosophy who want to gain an understanding of the key themes and claims of naturalism from a religious and philosophical perspective. (shrink)
This is a Cambridge *Element*, on the topic of atheism and agnosticism. It contains four main parts. First, there is an introduction in which atheism and agnosticism are explained. Second, a theoretical background to assessment. Third, a case for preferring atheism to theism. Fourth, a case for preferring agnosticism to theism.
Although critics often argue that the new atheists are arrogant, dogmatic, closed-minded and so on, there is currently no philosophical analysis of this complaint - which I will call 'the vice charge' - and no assessment of whether it is merely a rhetorical aside or a substantive objection in its own right. This Chapter therefore uses the resources of virtue epistemology to articulate this ' vice charge' and to argue that critics are right to imply that new atheism is intrinsically (...) epistemically vicious, and it ends with some remarks about the rationality of allowing such intrinsically vicious doctrines to feature within public debate about important matters concerning science, religion, and politics. (shrink)
In this paper, I aim to bring out the implausibility of the claim that there is a class of philosophers of religion—holders of a particular constellation of beliefs about religion—whose religious beliefs are either uniquely rational or uniquely supported by a stock of cogent arguments. My initial focus will be on models of parties to religious disagreements. These models may be simple, but I believe that there is much to be learned from them.
Centrando la mirada en Cristo, las enseñanzas de Benedicto XVI desarrollan la íntima conexión que existe entre las tres virtudes teologales y la Verdad Encarnada, el Hijo de Dios hecho hombre. En efecto, no nos es posible creer en Jesucristo, amarlo y esperar en Él, si no conocemos su verdadero rostro, que se revela al intelecto humano iluminado por la fe. Este hecho pone en evidencia que el hombre necesita su natural capacidad de conocer la verdad para poder descubrir el (...) rostro de Cristo. Si se disocia de la razón, la fe cristiana pierde credibilidad y se convierte en una opción existencial arbitraria, pues resulta imposible argumentar racionalmente sobre ella. Por otra parte, las relaciones sociales y políticas se deshumanizan si se expulsa de la vida pública a las razones de la fe, porque una cultura que cierra sus puertas a Dios deja también afuera al hombre. Podremos alejar estos peligros sólo si la razón y la fe se reencuentran de un modo nuevo. Sin embargo, antes tenemos que recuperar la fe en la razón, es decir, nuestra confianza en su capacidad de conocer la verdad en toda su amplitud. (shrink)
(Awarded the International Society for Intellectual History’s Charles Schmitt Prize) Mīrzā Fatḥ 'Alī Ākhūndzāda’s Letters from Prince Kamāl al-Dawla to the Prince Jalāl al-Dawla (1865) is often read as a Persian attempt to introduce European Enlightenment political thought to modern Iranian society. This essay frames Ākhūndzāda’s text within a broader intellectual tradition. I read Ākhūndzāda as a radical reformer whose intellectual ambition were shaped by prior Persian and Arabic endeavors to map the diversity of religious belief and to critically assess (...) the limits of religion. That Ākhūndzāda’s critique of religion reached further than that of his predecessors is due in part to the influence of the European Enlightenment, but Ākhūndzāda’s form of critical reasoning was also substantially shaped by prior early modern intellectual genealogies. -/- . (shrink)
For many people, the phenomenon of divine hiddenness is so total that it is far from clear to them that God exists at all. Reasonably enough, they therefore do not believe that God exists. Yet it is possible, whilst lacking belief in God’s reality, nonetheless to see it as a possibility that is both realistic and attractive; and in this situation, one will likely want to be open to the considerable benefits that would be available if God were real. In (...) this paper I argue that certain kinds of desire for God can aid this non-believing openness. It is possible to desire God even in a state of non-belief, since desire does not require belief that its object exists. I argue that if we desire God in some particular capacity, and with some sense of what would constitute satisfaction, then through the desire we have knowledge -- incomplete yet vivid in its personal significance -- about the attributes God would need in order to satisfy us; thus, if God is real and does have those attributes, one knows something about God through desiring him. Because desire does not require belief, neither does the knowledge in question. Expanding on recent work by Vadas and Wynn, I sketch the epistemology of desire needed to support this argument. I then apply this epistemology to desire for God. An important question is how one might cultivate the requisite kinds desire for God; and one way, I argue, is through engaging with certain kinds of sacred music. I illustrate desire’s religiously epistemic power in this context, before replying to two objections. (shrink)
This book is a philosophical critique of the Buddhist tradition (not a scholarly work about the Buddhist tradition), applying the standards of judgement developed in 'A Theory of Moral Objectivity'. It is argued that although the Buddhist tradition provides access to the insights of the Middle Way, many other aspects of Buddhist tradition are inconsistent with this central insight. The sources of justified belief in Buddhism, karma, conditionality, concepts of reality, monasticism and Buddhist ethics are all subjected to the same (...) critique. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: The Alpha Privative Atheism and Liberal Concepts of God Atheism as an Unpopular Position A Definition of Atheism Motives for Atheism Atheist Values Spiritual Excellences and the Liberal Decalogue Agnosticism The History of Agnosticism Huxley and Russell Pascal's Wager Pascal's Insight Atheism or Non‐Theism?
In this paper, I propose a specific version of theism which I would call apophatic theism. In the first part of the paper, I argue that this in the only tenableversion of theism. Due to the fact that it may seem indistinguishable from a very strong form of agnosticism (or atheism understood in the etymological sense of the word: as a-theism where ‘a’ means ‘without’), in the second part of my paper, I try to distinguish apophatic theism from agnosticism (or (...) a-theism), and from so called “Wittgensteinian” view of religion, which also may seem similar to the position I propose. (shrink)
Christian theologians have historically described a 'saving faith in God' as containing a fundamental element of 'belief'. However, philosophers present strong arguments exist that we are not capable of freely deciding which beliefs we will hold. Rather, we simply find ourselves believing things as the evidence before us seems to dictate. So, if belief is indeed involuntary, and if certain beliefs are requisite for Christian faith, then how can the matter of one's salvation rest on whether one has freely put (...) one's faith in God? After unpacking this objection to the Christian affirmation that faith is a voluntary matter for which God will hold all people morally accountable, this study in philosophical theology explores how the Christian theist might respond to this objection. Kinghorn uses experimental studies within the psychological literature on self-deception to make sense of the Christian idea of 'spiritual blindness'; and he argues that whether or not a person willfully contributes to self-deception will hinge on decisions s/he makes either to embrace or avoid the truth as s/he sees it. Kinghorn then attempts to show that decisions of this type - more specifically, decisions to embrace or avoid the truth about God, wherever the truth lies - are ultimately more fundamental to the kind of relationship with God commended by the Christian religion than is the question of what a person believes. Kinghorn's conclusion is that the Christian theist can indeed rebut the pending objection about the involuntariness of faith, but only by providing a sharper distinction between faith and belief than is generally found within the Christian tradition. (shrink)
The longstanding philosophical debate between idealism and materialism has recently entered the ontological terrain of critical realism and dialectical critical realism . This has been initiated by Roy Bhaskar’s most recent book, From East to West, which attempts an ambitious synthesis of philosophy, social theory and theology. On the one hand, Bhaskar’s attempt to root his philosophy and social theory in a ‘realist theory of God’ has found an echo within the CR and DCR research camp, some of whose members (...) would urge us to take seriously the possibility of a ‘religious sociology’. On the other hand, Bhaskar’s abrupt ‘idealist turn’ has left many critical realists flabbergasted and horrified, particularly those working at the interface between realist philosophy and Marxist social science, especially since Bhaskar’s new philosophical trajec-tory is radically at odds with the ‘synchronic emergent powers materialism’ outlined in his The Possibility of Naturalism.In response to this ‘split’ within the CR and DCR camp, the spectre of ‘realist agnosticism’ has been raised and defended by Mervyn Hartwig in this journal. Since neither science nor philosophy can settle the issue of what kind of stuff constitutes ‘rock bottom reality’, it is rational to be agnostic on the ‘ultimate question’, to deny positively affirming the claims of either one side or the other. Now this is the move that is resisted in this paper. My argument is that ontolog-ical idealism is disputable on a number of grounds-philosophical, scientific, ethical and political. In particular, I argue that objective idealism is unsupported by rational knowledge, is riddled with conceptual and logical defects, is contrary to the logic of scientific discovery, and is an obstacle to eudaimonia . Further, since realist agnosticism rests its case on the myth of infallible knowledge, and obviously stands or falls with the defensibility or other-wise of objective idealism, this gives us ‘good enough’ reasons for accepting a thoroughgoing materialism as the ontological foundation of social theory. (shrink)
According to the presumption of atheism, we are to presume disbelief unless agnosticism or theism can be adequately defended. In this paper I will defend the presumption of atheism against a popular objection made by Thomas Morris and elucidate an insuperable difficulty for any attempt to argue for a presumption of agnosticism.