Plantinga’s The Nature of Necessity (1974) contains a largely neglected argument for the claim that the proposition “God is omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good” is logically consistent with “the vast amount and variety of evil the universe actually contains” (not to be confused with Plantinga’s famous “Free Will Defense,” which seeks to show that this same proposition is logically consistent with “some evil”). In this paper I explicate this argument, and argue that it assumes that there is more moral good (...) than evil in the cosmos. I consider two arguments in favour of this assumption, proposed by William King and Plantinga respectively, and argue that they are flawed. I then consider a sceptical objection to the assumption due to David Hume, and argue that this objection is at least prima facie plausible. (shrink)
Philo's argument from evil in a much-discussed passage in Part X of Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) has been interpreted in three main ways: as a logical argument from evil, as an evidential argument from evil, and as an argument against natural theology's inference of a benevolent and merciful God from the course of the world. I argue that Philo is not offering an argument of any of these sorts, but is arguing that there is a radical disanalogy between (...) the meanings of terms like ‘merciful’ and ‘benevolent’ when applied to God and human beings respectively. Drawing on the new ‘Irreligious Interpretation’ of Hume's philosophy developed by Paul Russell (2002, 2008), I suggest that the underlying aim of Philo's argument appears to be to show, in opposition to Christian teaching, that these terms, when applied to God, are in effect meaningless. (shrink)
The paper surveys two contrasting views of first‐order analyses of classical theistic doctrines about the existence and nature of God. On the first view, first‐order logic provides methods for the adequate analysis of these doctrines, for example by construing ‘God’ as a singular term or as a monadic predicate, or by taking it to be a definite description. On the second view, such analyses are conceptually inadequate, at least when the doctrines in question are viewed against the background of classical (...) theism’s doctrine of divine simplicity, for first‐order analyses presuppose an ontological complexity on the part of the propositions which they analyze, which fits ill with this doctrine. (shrink)
I argue that three main interpretations of the aim of Russell’s early logicism in The Principles of Mathematics (1903) are mistaken, and propose a new interpretation. According to this new interpretation, the aim of Russell’s logicism is to show, in opposition to Kant, that mathematical propositions have a certain sort of complete generality which entails that their truth is independent of space and time. I argue that on this interpretation two often-heard objections to Russell’s logicism, deriving from Gödel’s incompleteness theorem (...) and from the non-logical character of some of the axioms of Principia Mathematica respectively, can be seen to be inconclusive. I then proceed to identify two challenges that Russell’s logicism, as presently construed, faces, but argue that these challenges do not appear unanswerable. (shrink)
The paper offers a historical survey of the emergence of logical formalization in twentieth-century analytically oriented philosophy of religion. This development is taken to have passed through three main ?stages?: a pioneering stage in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (led by Frege and Russell), a stage of crisis in the 1920s and early 1930s (occasioned by Wittgenstein, logical positivists such as Carnap, and neo-Thomists such as Maritain), and a stage of rehabilitation in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s (led (...) by the Cracow Circle and Quine). (shrink)
In seeking to undermine Mackie’s logical argument from evil, Plantinga assumes that Mackie’s argument regards it as a necessary truth that a wholly good God would eliminate all evil that he could eliminate. I argue that this is an interpretative mistake, and that Mackie is merely assuming that the theist believes that God’s goodness entails that God would eliminate all evil that he could eliminate. Once the difference between these two assumptions, and the implausibility of Plantinga’s assumption, are brought out, (...) Plantinga’s celebrated critique of Mackie’s argument can be seen to be far less compelling than is often assumed to be the case. (shrink)
In this paper I explicate and assess a logical argument from evil put forth by the Swedish analytic philosopher Ingemar Hedenius in his book Tro och vetande, by far the most famous and influential critique of Christianity in Swedish intellectual history. I seek to show that Hedenius’ argument is significantly different from, and indeed stronger than, the paradigmatic logical argument from evil in the analytic tradition, i.e. that of John Mackie. Nevertheless, Hedenius’ argument is, I argue, ultimately unconvincing.
Since the 1960s an increasing number of philosophers have endorsed the thesis that there can be no such thing as “the best possible world.” In this paper I examine the main arguments for this thesis as put forth by George Schlesinger, Alvin Plantinga, Bruce Reichenbach, Peter Forrest, and Richard Swinburne. I argue that none of these arguments succeed in establishing the thesis and that the logical possibility of the best possible world is as yet an open question.
According to Paul Russell’s irreligious interpretation of Hume’s Treatise, the aim of the Treatise is to discredit “Christian theology” generically construed. In this paper, I argue that in seeking to discredit Christian theology in the Treatise, Hume uses an early eighteenth-century Anglican version of Christian theology rather than “Christian theology” in a generic sense as his theological paradigm. Taking Hume’s attacks on “hidden powers” and “the liberty of indifference” as test-cases, I show that whereas Hume’s views on these topics are (...) subversive of the Anglican theology of his day, they are not subversive of other major forms of Christian theology that were current at the time, including the Calvinist theology of the Kirk of Scotland. If this is right, then the immediate theological target of Hume’s Treatise should be deemed narrower than Russell’s irreligious interpretation takes it to be. (shrink)
James Harris’s new Hume biography offers, among other things, ‘a series of conjectures as to what Hume’s intentions were in writing in the particular ways that he did about human nature, politics, economics, history, and religion’. The biography is particularly novel with regard to Hume’s intentions when writing about religion, which, Harris argues, were rather benign. Harris fails to appreciate the full extent of the difficulties attaching to his series of conjectures, however.
In two recent articles in this journal Kenneth Himma has launched an attack on what he describes as the of the Free-Will Argument, the first of which he describes as version and the second of which he identifies with Plantinga's Free-Will Defence in God, Freedom, and Evil (1974). In this article I argue for three main claims: (i) that Himma's objections against Free-Will Argument are directed at a straw man; (ii) that Himma's critique of Plantinga's Free-Will Defence is based on (...) a misunderstanding; and (iii) that Himma's critique nevertheless is relevant to Plantinga's relatively neglected (also found in Plantinga's God, Freedom, and Evil), but fails to undermine this further defence due to its reliance on the unjustified assumption that the afterlife is irrelevant to the problem of evil. (shrink)
This guide accompanies the following article: ‘Logic and Divine Simplicity’. Philosophy Compass 6/4 : pp. 282–294, doi: Author’s IntroductionFirst‐order formalizations of classical theistic doctrines are increasingly used in contemporary work in philosophy of religion and philosophical theology, as a means for clarifying the conceptual structure of the doctrines and their role in inferential procedures. But there are a variety of different ways in which such doctrines have been formalized, each representing the doctrines as having different conceptual structures. Moreover, the adequacy (...) of such formalizations as such has, at least with respect to some classes of doctrines, been disputed. One reason for disputing their adequacy derives from the conceptual impact of classical theism’s doctrine of divine simplicity.Author RecommendsFrege, Gottlob ‘Begriffsschrift: a formula language of pure thought,’ trans. Michael Beany, in The Frege Reader, ed. Beany. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 47–78. The preface contains interesting remarks about the purpose of formalization as understood by the chief pioneer of modern formal logic. These remarks are also connected by Frege to his views on the relation between thought and language more generally.Russell, Bertrand, and Whitehead, A.N. Principia Mathematica, Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.The preface and first section of the long introduction contain remarks on the purpose and advantages of formalization. Chapter 1 of the introduction contains what is probably one of the first formalizations ever of a theistic doctrine, and is given in terms of a definite description analysis.Suppes, Patrick ‘The Desirability of Formalization in Science,’The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 65, No. 20, pp. 651–64.Clear and concise discussion of some of the advantages of formalization in philosophical inquiry, written by a prominent contemporary American philosopher‐logician.Nieznański, Edward ‘The Beginnings of Formalization in Theology,’ in Advances in Scientific Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Paul Weingartner, eds. Gerhard Schurz and Gregory J.W. Dorn. Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Ropodi, pp. 551–9.A valuable paper that narrates, among other things, the programme of formalizing theistic doctrines that emerged in Poland in the 1920s under the influence of the Lvov‐Warsaw School. Various examples of formalizations are also given.Quine, W.V.O. Mathematical Logic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.In Section 27 of this classic study, Quine offers a formalization of theistic doctrines which seeks to avoid the difficulties of earlier formalizations by means of a subtle extensional singleton set analysis. The proposal has not won many adherents, but is worthy of careful study nonetheless.Woleński, Jan ‘Theism, Fideism, Atheism, Agnosticism,’ in Logic, Ethics and All That Jazz: Essays in Honour of Jordan Howard Sobel, eds. Lars‐Göran Johansson, Jan Österberg, and Rysiek Sliwinski. Uppsala: Uppsala Philosophical Studies, pp. 387–400.A concise but lucid survey of some attempts to formalize theistic doctrines and some problems besetting these attempts. Woleński also proposes his own method of formalization, which could be described as a simplified version of Quine’s method in Mathematical Logic.Bocheński, Joseph The Logic of Religion. New York: New York University Press.The first book‐length treatment of the relation between modern logic and theism. It covers much ground, and remains very readable.Alston, William P. ‘Religious Language and Verificationism,’ in The Rationality of Theism, eds. Paul Moser and Paul Copan. London: Routledge, pp. 17–34.Identifies some problems with attempts at articulating theistic doctrines by means of subject‐predicate language. Highly relevant to formalizations of theistic doctrines, even though this topic is not dealt with explicitly.Kraal, Anders ‘Logic and Divine Simplicity,’Philosophy Compass.Offers a survey of three main methods of formalizing theistic doctrines, and of some variants of these methods. Argues that certain formalizations of theistic doctrines are bound to be rejected as conceptually inadequate by all who understand the doctrines at hand within the framework provided by the traditional doctrine of divine simplicity.Sample Syllabus Week I: The Idea of Formalization and the Project of Formalizing Theistic Doctrines Reading:Frege, Gottlob ‘Begriffsschrift: a formula language of pure thought,’ trans. Michael Beany, in The Frege Reader, ed. Beany. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 47–78. Russell, Bertrand, and Whitehead, A.N. Principia Mathematica, Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Suppes, Patrick ‘The Desirability of Formalization in Science,’The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 65, No. 20, pp. 651–64.Nieznański, Edward ‘The Beginnings of Formalization in Theology,’ in Advances in Scientific Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Paul Weingartner, eds. Gerhard Schurz and Gregory J.W. Dorn. Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Ropodi, pp. 551–9. Week II: Formalizing Theistic Doctrines: Three Alternative Methods Reading:Woleński, Jan ‘Theism, Fideism, Atheism, Agnosticism,’ in Logic, Ethics and All That Jazz: Essays in Honour of Jordan Howard Sobel, eds. Lars‐Göran Johansson, Jan Österberg, and Rysiek Sliwinski. Uppsala: Uppsala Philosophical Studies, pp. 387–400.Russell, Bertrand, and Whitehead, A.N. Principia Mathematica, Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Quine, W.V.O. Mathematical Logic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Week III: Arguments for and Against Some Formalizations of Theistic Doctrines Reading:Bocheński, Joseph The Logic of Religion. New York: New York University Press. Kraal, Anders ‘Logic and Divine Simplicity,’Philosophy Compass, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 282–94.Focus Questions1 What do Frege, Russell and Whitehead, and Suppes understand the purpose or purposes of logical formalization to be, and why do they think formalization can achieve these purposes?2 Woleński sketches some simple ways of formalizing theistic doctrines such as ‘God exists’ or ‘God is almighty’ in terms of 1‐place predicates which he subsequently abandons in favour of other methods. What reasons lead him to abandon these more simple methods of formalization?3 What are the advantages of the definite description formalization of theistic doctrines offered by Russell and Whitehead?4 Quine offers a subtle formalization of the theistic doctrine ‘God exists’ in terms of singleton sets. What problems are Quine’s formalization intended to accommodate, and how does it seek to accommodate them?5 Which relative merits or demerits are there in Bocheński’s and Kraal’s respective arguments for and against the adequacy of certain formalizations of theistic doctrines? (shrink)