Marilyn McCord Adams agrees with D. Z. Phillips that instrumental theodicy is a moral failure, and that sceptical theists and others are guilty of ignoring what we know now about the moral reality of horrendous evils to speculate about unknown ways these evils might be made sense of. In place of theodicy, Adams advocates ‘the logic of compensation’ for the victims of evil, a postmortem healing of divine intimacy with God. This goes so deep, she believes, that eventually victims will (...) see the horrors they suffered as points of contact with the incarnate, suffering God and cease wishing they had never suffered them. I argue Adams’s position falls foul of the very criticisms she and Phillips make against instrumental theodicy. (shrink)
This unique collection of essays has two main purposes. The first is to honour the pioneering work of Cora Diamond, one of the most important living moral philosophers and certainly the most important working in the tradition inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein. The second is to develop and deepen a picture of moral philosophy by carrying out new work in what Diamond has called the realistic spirit. The contributors in this book advance a first-order moral attitude that pays close attention to (...) actual moral life and experience. Their essays, inspired by Diamond's work, take up pressing challenges in Anglo-American moral philosophy, including Diamond's defence of the concept 'human being' in ethics, her defence of literature as a source of moral thought that does not require external sanction from philosophy, her challenge to the standard 'fact/value' dichotomy, and her exploration of non-argumentative forms of legitimate moral persuasion. There are also essays that apply this framework to new issues such as the nature of love, the connections of ethics to theology, and the implications of Wittgenstein's thought for political philosophy. Finally, the book features a new paper by Diamond in which she contests deep-rooted philosophical assumptions about language that severely limit what philosophers see as the possibilities in ethics. Morality in a Realistic Spirit offers a tribute to a great moral philosopher in the best way possible--by taking up the living ideas in her work and taking them in original and interesting directions. (shrink)
Much contemporary analytic philosophy understands the power of God as belonging to the same logical space as the power of human beings: a power of efficient causation taken to the maximum limit. This anthropomorphic picture is often explicated in terms of God’s capacity to bring about any logically possible state of affairs, so-called omnipotence. D.Z. Phillips criticized this position in his last book, The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God. I defend Phillips’s argument against recent criticism by William (...) Hasker, contending that the omnipotence thesis is either false or trivial. I trace the superficial plausibility of the thesis to a Cartesian understanding of personal agency, in the light of which God’s power over the whole material world is an inflated version of our more modest power over our own bodies: it is the power of immaterial souls to control material phenomena. This comparison is expressed to perfection in the work of Richard Swinburne, my main target. I argue that by making God a force among other possible forces, in-principle able to be resisted, however feebly, by contrary forces, this picture reduces the Creator to a creature. (shrink)
Iris Murdoch develops a version of the Ontological Argument as a moral argument for the existence of a transcendent and perfect Platonic Good. I argue that her version of the argument over-emphasises moral goodness as a distant and intangible ideal to which we are inevitably attracted, and towards which we may progress, but which, apart from occasional revelations in saintly lives and great art, is normally only available in glimpses and intimations, and which remains mysterious. The argument is better construed (...) as concerning the moral reality of human beings as sacred or inviolable, and the moral demands this makes upon us—a reality that is proximate, palpable, inescapable and highly familiar. (shrink)
Over several decades, Cora Diamond has articulated a distinctive way of thinking about ethics. Prompted by a recent critique of Diamond, we elucidate some of the main themes of her work, and reveal their power to reconfigure and deepen moral philosophy. In concluding, we suggest that Diamond’s moral philosophical practice can be seen as one plausible way of fleshing out what Wittgenstein might have meant by his dictum that “ethics is transcendental”.
Here is a very common philosophical opinion: being human plays no important role in moral thinking. Call this the anti-humanist thesis. I argue that a thirty-year old paper by Cora Diamond, ‘Eating Meat and Eating People' (‘EMEP') can help us to see that the anti-humanist thesis is false.
In ‘The Power of God’ (Gleeson 2010) I elaborate and defend an argument by the late D.Z. Phillips against definitions of omnipotence in terms of logical possibility. In ‘Which God? What Power? A Response to Andrew Gleeson’ (Hasker 2010), William Hasker criticizes my defense of Phillips’ argument. Here I contend his criticisms do not succeed. I distinguish three definitions of omnipotence in terms of logical possibility. Hasker agrees that the first fails. The second fails because negative properties (like disembodiedment and (...) simplicity) do not amount to a nature that licenses the attribution of causal powers. The third fails because it does not identify actions that can be performed without a body. It cannot be saved by appeal to the idea of purely mental acts. (shrink)
Marilyn McCord Adams has defended theodicy by appeal to the idea of post-mortem compensation for the victims of horrendous evil. I have argued that this overlooks the dissociation of theodicy from moral reality that she concedes in her response to criticism of theodicy by D Z Phillips. Joshua Thurow has recently defended Adams against my argument. Here I defend and strengthen that argument against Thurow.
Frank Jackson has argued that, in principle, all mental truths are deducible from all physical science truths: 'deducibility'. Jackson's defence of deducibility relies upon the method for producing naturalistic definitions of mental states championed in the analytical functionalism of himself, David Lewis, and others. Two arguments are presented. The first contends that the particular naturalistic definitions of analytical functionalism fail because they do not take account of the extraordinary kind of bodily animation displayed by human beings, which I argue is (...) necessary to mentality; machines lacking mentality can satisfy the naturalistic definitions of analytical functionalism. So Jackson's defence of deducibility fails as it stands. The second argument contends that no naturalistic conceptual analysis of the mental can be adequate, because understanding mental concepts requires a special kind of affective reaction here named 'personal response', while understanding naturalistic concepts does not require this- therefore no naturalistic analysis can ever capture our common-sense mental concepts. The upshot is that Jackson's defence of deducibility cannot be repaired. No defence of deducibility will work which relies upon the possibility of naturalistic conceptual analyses of mentality. (shrink)
Philip Pettit has argued that universalizability entails consequentialism. I criticise the argument for relying on a question-begging reading of the impartiality of universalization. A revised form of the argument can be constructed by relying on preference-satisfaction rationality, rather than on impartiality. But this revised argument succumbs to an ambiguity in the notion of a preference (or desire). I compare the revised argument to an earlier argument of Pettit’s for consequentialism that appealed to the theoretical virtue of simplicity, and I raise (...) questions about the force of appeal to notions like simplicity and rationality in moral argument. (shrink)
Herbert McCabe and Brian Davies defend an Aquinas-inspired, anti-anthropomorphic natural theology that emphasises the mysterious distance between the Creator and his creation. This theology gives rise to a powerful response to the problem of evil, powerful enough to scuttle the academic problem of evil that is based on a confused anthropomorphic understanding of God. But that does not dispose of the problem of evil per se. The McCabe–Davies natural theology can succeed only by appropriating a personal understanding of “the ultimate (...) question” (why is there something rather than nothing?), which is at odds with their reluctance to give up on a metaphysical argument to establish the reality of God from outside religious faith and practice. But if that same personal understanding is applied to the problem of evil we find it generates “the unprecedented charge,” a form of the problem that does not depend on an anthropomorphic conception of God. The way forward for the McCabe–Davies natural theology is to follow Dewi Phillips in his rejection of philosophy's aspiration to find “external justifications” for our religious lives. (shrink)
This thesis is a critique of functionalism in the philosophy of mind. I distinguish three tenets, or 'dogmas' of functionalism, viz: Mental states are causes of behaviour; Mental states can, in principle, be defined in non-mental terms; We understand everything, or at least everything of importance, about the mental states of people, by subsuming token mental states under one or other mental state type. ;The first dogma is rejected in the form which identifies mental state types with physical types, on (...) the ground that it commits us to the doubtful possibilities of mental states without any relevant behaviour, and behaviour without a relevant mental state . It is found to be not mandatory in the form which identifies mental state types with functional types, on the ground that the phenomena appealed to in support of the dogma is consistent with a view of mental states which endorses the dogma in at best a trite and philosophically uninteresting sense . The second dogma is rejected on the ground that cannot account for what I call the 'affective animation' of the behaviour of creatures with mental states . I develop a concept I call personal response---the kind of response we have to other human beings as opposed to inanimate nature---and defend principle which says: Commonsense understanding that someone is in a mental state requires proneness to a personal response in relation to that person. ;Certain implications are drawn from for reductionism, for meta-ethics, and for the third dogma . I argue that the third dogma is false on the around that it cannot account for our sense of the individuality of persons, unless that very notion of individuality, which comes from quite outside functionalism, is used to gloss the idea of subsumption under a type. (shrink)