This article is a brief overview of major ontological arguments. The most noteworthy feature of this article is the statement of a new parody of the Anselmian and Cartesian arguments that is obviously immune to objections adverting to intrinsic minima and maxima.
In this book, Graham Oppy examines arguments for and against the existence of God. He shows that none of these arguments is powerful enough to change the minds of reasonable participants in debates on the question of the existence of God. His conclusion is supported by detailed analyses of the arguments as well as by the development of a theory about the purpose of arguments and the criteria that should be used in judging whether or not arguments are successful. Oppy (...) discusses the work of a wide array of philosophers, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Kant, Hume and, more recently, Plantinga, Dembski, White, Dawkins, Bergman, Gale and Pruss. (shrink)
This is a short introduction to ontological arguments. It begins with a brief characterization of ontological arguments that proceeds mainly by way of example. The rest of the discussion is given over to consideration of what looks like a very simple ontological argument. This consideration turns up many of the issues that arise when more complex ontological arguments are examined.
This book is an exploration of philosophical questions about infinity. Graham Oppy examines how the infinite lurks everywhere, both in science and in our ordinary thoughts about the world. He also analyses the many puzzles and paradoxes that follow in the train of the infinite. Even simple notions, such as counting, adding and maximising present serious difficulties. Other topics examined include the nature of space and time, infinities in physical science, infinities in theories of probability and decision, the nature of (...) part/whole relations, mathematical theories of the infinite, and infinite regression and principles of sufficient reason. (shrink)
Sceptical theists--e.g., William Alston and Michael Bergmann--have claimed that considerations concerning human cognitive limitations are alone sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil. We argue that, if the considerations deployed by sceptical theists are sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil, then those considerations are also sufficient to undermine inferences that play a crucial role in ordinary moral reasoning. If cogent, our argument suffices to discredit sceptical theist responses to evidential arguments from evil.
Latest version of my SEP entry on ontological arguments, which first appeared in 1996. General discussion of ontological arguments. Includes a brief historical overview, a taxonomy of different kinds of ontological arguments, a brief survey of objections to the different kinds of ontological arguments identified in the taxonomy, and more extended discussions of Anselm's ontological argument (Proslogion 2), Godel's ontological argument, and Plantinga's ontological argument.
This book is a unique contribution to the philosophy of religion. It offers a comprehensive discussion of one of the most famous arguments for the existence of God: the ontological argument. The author provides and analyses a critical taxonomy of those versions of the argument that have been advanced in recent philosophical literature, as well as of those historically important versions found in the work of St Anselm, Descartes, Leibniz, Hegel and others. A central thesis of the book is that (...) ontological arguments have no value in the debate between theists and atheists. There is a detailed review of the literature on the topic (separated from the main body of the text) and a very substantial bibliography, making this volume an indispensable resource for philosophers of religion and others interested in religious studies. (shrink)
This chapter consists of a series of reflections on widely endorsed claims about Christian philosophy and, in particular, Christian philosophy of religion. It begins with consideration of some claims about how (Christian) philosophy of religion currently is, and then moves on to consideration of some claims about how (Christian) philosophy of religion ought to be. In particular, the chapter offers critical scrutiny of the oft-repeated claim that we are currently in a golden age for Christian philosophy of religion.
This book begins with a careful taxonomy of divine attributes. It continues with detailed examinations of: divine infinity; divine simplicity; divine perfection; divine necessity; omnipotence; omniscience; divine goodness; divine beauty; divine fundamentality; divine will; divine freedom; etc.
There has been a recent explosion of interest in the epistemology of disagreement. Much of the recent literature is concerned with a particular range of puzzle cases (discussed in the Cases section of my paper). Almost all of the papers that contribute to that recent literature make mention of questions about religious disagreement in ways that suggest that there are interesting connections between those puzzle cases and real life cases of religious disagreement. One important aim of my paper is to (...) cast doubt on that suggestion. More generally, the aim of my paper is to give a reasonably full account of the recent literature on the epistemology of disagreement, and then to give a serious discussion of some of the epistemological issues that are raised by real world religious disagreements. (shrink)
This paper presents an attempt to integrate theories of causal processes—of the kind developed by Wesley Salmon and Phil Dowe—into a theory of causal models using Bayesian networks. We suggest that arcs in causal models must correspond to possible causal processes. Moreover, we suggest that when processes are rendered physically impossible by what occurs on distinct paths, the original model must be restricted by removing the relevant arc. These two techniques suffice to explain cases of late preëmption and other cases (...) that have proved problematic for causal models. (shrink)
This paper offers a short extension of the dialogue between Anselm and the Fool that is contained in "The Ontological Argument Simplified" by Gary Matthews and Lynne Rudder Baker. My extension of the dialogue ends with the Fool proclaiming that "what looks like an argument of elegant simplicity turns out to be no argument at all".
Anselmian theists claim (a) that there is a being than which none greater can be conceived; and (b) that it is knowable on purely—solely, entirely—a priori grounds that there is a being than which none greater can be conceived. In this paper, I argue that Anselmian Theism gains traction by conflating different interpretations of the key description ‘being than which no greater can be conceived’. In particular, I insist that it is very important to distinguish between ideal excellence and maximal (...) possible excellence. At the end of my paper, I illustrate the importance of this distinction by applying my discussion to the recent defence of Anselmian Theism in Nagasawa (Philos Q 58:577–591, 2008). (shrink)
This paper provides a survey of philosophical discussion of the "the Turing Test". In particular, it provides a very careful and thorough discussion of the famous 1950 paper that was published in Mind.
I provide a classification of varieties of pantheism. I argue that there are two different kinds of commitments that pantheists have. On the one hand, there is an ontological commitment to the existence of a sum of all things. On the other hand, there is an ideological commitment: either collectively or distributively, the sum of all things is divine.
In On the Nature and Existence of God, Richard Gale follows majority opinion in giving very short shrift to the doctrine of divine simplicity: in his view, there is no coherent expressible doctrine of divine simplicity. Rising to the implicit challenge, I argue that---contrary to what is widely believed---there is a coherently expressible doctrine of divine simplicity, though it is rather different from the views that are typically expressed by defenders of this doctrine. At the very least, I think that (...) I manage to show that there are ways of understanding the doctrine of divine simplicity that have not yet been adequately examined. (shrink)
This paper aims to show that Godel's ontological argument can be parodied in much the same kind of way in which Gaunilo parodied Anselm's Proslogion argument. The parody in this paper fails; there is a patch provided in "Reply to Gettings" (Analysis 60, 4, 2000, 363-7).
This paper is a critical examination of Stephen Neale's *The Philosophical Significance of Godel's slingshot*. I am sceptical of the philosophical significance of Godel’s Slingshot (and of Slingshot arguments in general). In particular, I do not believe that Godel’s Slingshot has any interesting and important philosophical consequences for theories of facts or for referential treatments of definite descriptions. More generally, I do not believe that any Slingshot arguments have interesting and important philosophical consequences for theories of facts or for referential (...) treatments of definite descriptions. Friends of facts and referential treatments of definite descriptions can, and should, proceed with the construction of their theories, blithely ignoring the many Slingshots which now litter the landscape. (Of course, there may be other considerations which should give such theorists pause -- but those are other considerations.). (shrink)
In Pascal's Wager: A Study Of Practical Reasoning In Philosophical Theology , Nicholas Rescher aims to show that, contrary to received philosophical opinion, Pascal's Wager argument is "the vehicle of a fruitful and valuable insight--one which not only represents a milestone in the development of an historically important tradition of thought but can still be seen as making an instructive contribution to philosophical theology". In particular, Rescher argues that one only needs to adopt a correct perspective in order to see (...) that Pascal's Wager argument is a good argument. Moreover, there seems to be a certain amount of contemporary support for Rescher's claim that Pascal's Wager argument can be seen to be a good argument when properly construed . However, despite this recent trend to adopt a more sympathetic stance towards Pascal's Wager argument, I propose to defend the traditional view that Pascal's Wager argument is almost entirely worthless--at least from the theological standpoint. (No doubt, it has historical significance from the standpoint of decision theory; but that's a separate matter.). (shrink)
This paper is a very broad-brush introduction to my way of thinking about problems of evil. While I note some of the places in which my views are controversial, I attempt neither justification nor defence. I say little about arguments from evil; I have had plenty to say about this elsewhere. I begin with an account of worldviews, and the proper ways to go about comparing and assessing worldviews. I argue that many theorists—both theists and naturalists—greatly over-estimate the significance of (...) considerations concerning the distribution of evil in our universe for the evaluation of the comparative theoretical virtues of theism and naturalism. I am tempted to think that, in fact, theists do typically incur ‘additional’ theoretical commitments because of the explanations they give of the distribution of evil in our universe. However, whether theists typically incur ‘additional’ theoretical commitments because of the explanations that they give of the distribution of evil in our universe has no special significance for either the second (‘internal’) or third (‘comparative’) stages of the assessment of best formulations of theistic and naturalistic worldviews. (shrink)
In ‘Professor Mackie and the Kalam Cosmological Argument’ , 367–75), Professor William Lane Craig undertakes to demonstrate that J. L. Mackie's analysis of the kalam cosmological argument in The Miracle of Theism is ‘superficial’, and that Mackie ‘has failed to provide any compelling or even intuitively appealing objection against the argument’ . I disagree with Craig's judgement; for it seems to me that the considerations which Mackie advances do serve to refute the kalam cosmological argument. Consequently, the purpose of this (...) paper is to reply to Craig's criticisms on Mackie's behalf. (shrink)
Bartha (2012) conjectures that, if we meet all of the other objections to Pascal’s wager, then the many-Gods objection is already met. Moreover, he shows that, if all other objections to Pascal’s wager are already met, then, in a choice between a Jealous God, an Indifferent God, a Very Nice God, a Very Perverse God, the full range of Nice Gods, the full range of Perverse Gods, and no God, you should wager on the Jealous God. I argue that his (...) requirement of [strongly] stable equilibrium is not well-motivated. There are other types of Gods, no less worthy of consideration than those that figure in Bartha’s deliberations, which are intuitively no worse wagers than the Jealous God. In particular, I have suggested that one does no worse to wager on a jealous cartel than one does to wager on a Jealous God. Moreover, I argue that there are other types of Gods, no less worthy of consideration than those that figure in Bartha’s deliberations, that make trouble for Pascal’s wager, but not because one would do better to wager on them rather than on a Jealous God. Finally, I argue that, if we suppose that infinitesimal credences are in no worse standing the infinite utilities, then we cannot accept the assumption—built into the relative utilities framework—that there cannot be infinitesimal credences. (shrink)
Nick Trakakis and Yujin Nagasawa criticise the argument in Almeida and Oppy . According to Trakakis and Nagasawa, we are mistaken in our claim that the sceptical theist response to evidential arguments from evil is unacceptable because it would undermine ordinary moral reasoning. In their view, there is no good reason to think that sceptical theism leads to an objectionable form of moral scepticism. We disagree. In this paper, we explain why we think that the argument of Nagasawa and Trakakis (...) fails to overthrow our objection to sceptical theism. (shrink)
I think that there is much about contemporary philosophy of religion that should change. Most importantly, philosophy of religion should be philosophy of religion, not merely philosophy of theism, or philosophy of Christianity, or philosophy of certain denominations of Christianity, or the like. Here, however, I shall complain about one fairly narrow aspect of contemporary philosophy of religion that really irks me: its obsession with derivations that have as their conclusion either the claim that God exists or the claim that (...) God does not exist. I shall work myself up by degrees. (shrink)
Richard Gale and Alexander Pruss contend that their ‘new cosmological argument’ is an improvement over familiar cosmological arguments because it relies upon a weaker version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason than that used in those more familiar arguments. However, I note that their ‘weaker’ version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason entails the ‘stronger’ version of that principle which is used in more familiar arguments, so that the alleged advantage of their proof turns out to be illusory. Moreover, I (...) contend that, even if their argument did rely on a weaker version of the Principle of Sufficient reason, nontheists would still be perfectly within their rights to refuse to accept the conclusion of the argument. (shrink)
This paper begins with a fairly careful and detailed discussion of the conditions under which someone who presents an argument ought to be prepared to concede that the argument is unsuccessful. The conclusions reached in this discussion are then applied to William Lane Craig’s defense of what he calls “the kalam cosmological argument.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chief contention of the paper is that Craig ought to be prepared to concede that “the kalam cosmological argument” is not a successful argument. The (...) paper pays particular attention to Craig’s recent criticisms of Adolf Grünbaum’s contention that “the kalam cosmological argument” presupposes “the normalcy of nothingness”; and it also addresses some methodological issues raised by Craig’s response to my previous criticisms of his replies to critiques of “the kalam cosmological argument” provided by Grünbaum, Hawking, and Davies. (shrink)
I defend the view that it is possible for reality to have a contingent initial state under the causal relation even though it is impossible for any other (non-overlapping) parts of reality to have no cause. I claim that, while there are good theoretical and commonsense grounds for maintaining that it is simply not possible for non-initial parts of reality to have no cause, these good grounds do not require one to claim that it is impossible that reality has an (...) uncaused initial state. (shrink)
This article is a reply to Michael Gettings' criticisms of a previous paper of mine on Godel's ontological argument. (All relevant bibliographical details may be found in the article.) I provide a patch to my previous -- faulty -- attempt to provide a parody of Godel's ontological argument on the model of Gaunilo's parody of Anselm's Proslogion 2 argument.
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.
Recently, many philosophers have supposed that the divine attribute of omnipotence is properly understood as some kind of maximal power. I argue that all of the best known attempts to analyse omnipotence in terms of maximal power are multiply flawed. Moreover, I argue that there are compelling reasons for supposing that, on orthodox theistic conceptions, maximal power is not one of the divine attributes.
There seems to be a widespread conviction — evidenced, for example, in the work of Mackie, Dawkins and Sober — that it is Darwinian rather than Humean considerations which deal the fatal logical blow to arguments for intelligent design. I argue that this conviction cannot be well-founded. If there are current logically decisive objections to design arguments, they must be Humean — for Darwinian considerations count not at all against design arguments based upon apparent cosmological fine-tuning. I argue, further, that (...) there are good Humean reasons for atheists and agnostics to resist the suggestion that apparent design — apparent biological design and/or apparent cosmological fine-tuning — establishes (or even strongly supports) the hypothesis of intelligent design. (shrink)
This paper is an extended critical discussion of Jerrold Levinson's historical definition of art. I try out various different avenues of attack; it is not clear whether any of them is ultimately successful.
This paper is an examination of the contingent a priori and the necessary a posteriori. In particular, it considers -- and assesses -- the criticisms that Nathan Salmon makes of the views of Saul Kripke.
This paper is a reply to Robert Maydole’s “The Modal Perfection Argument for the Existence of a Supreme Being,” published in Philo 6, 2, 2003. I argue that Maydole’s Modal Perfection Argument fails, and that there is no evident way in which it can be repaired.
In “On Oppy’s Objections to the Modal Perfection Argument,” Philo 8, 2, 2005, 123–30, Robert Maydole argues that his modal perfection argument—set out in his “The Modal Perfection Argument for a Supreme Being,” Philo 6, 2, 2003, 299–313—“remains arguably sound” in the face of the criticisms that I made of this argument in my “Maydole’s 2QS5 Argument,” Philo 7, 2, 2004, 203–11. I reply that Maydole is wrong: his argument is fatally flawed, and his attempts to avoid the criticisms that (...) I have made of his argument are to no avail. (shrink)
Robert Koons claims that my previous critique of his “new” cosmological argument is vitiated by confusion about the nature of defeasible argumentation.In response, I claim that Koons misrepresents—and perhaps misunderstands—the nature of my objections to his “new” cosmological argument. The main claims which I defend are: (1) that the move from a non-defeasible to a defeasible causal principle makes absolutely no difference to the success of the cosmological argument in which it is contained; and (2) that, since it is perfectly (...) well understood that non-theists have many reasons for rejecting the defeasible causal principle, it is pointless to claim that the move to a defeasible principle brings about a shift in the “burden of proof”. (Since some people may have forgotten—or may choose to ignore—the fact that non-theists do have reasons for rejecting the defeasible causal principle, I also provide a discussion of a modest sample of these reasons.). (shrink)
Robert Koons has recently defended what he claims is a successful argument for the existence of a necessary first cause, and which he develops by taking “a new look” at traditional arguments from contingency. I argue that Koons’ argument is less than successful; in particular, I claim that his attempt to “shift the burden of proof” to non-theists amounts to nothing more than an ill-disguised begging of one of the central questions upon which theists and non-theists disagree. I also argue (...) that his interesting attempt to bridge (part of) the familiar gap between the claim that there is a necessary first cause and the claim that God exists is beset with numerous difficulties. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the two most prominent recent evidential arguments from evil, due, respectively, to William Rowe and Paul Draper. I argue that neither of these evidential arguments from evil is successful, i.e. such that it ought to persuade anyone who believes in God to give up that belief. In my view, theists can rationally maintain that each of these evidential arguments from evil contains at least one false premise.
This paper consider three families of arguments for atheism. First, there are direct arguments for atheism: arguments that theism is meaningless, or incoherent, or logically inconsistent, or impossible, or inconsistent with known fact, of improbable given known fact, or morally repugnant, or the like. Second, there are indirect arguments for atheism: direct arguments for something that entails atheism. Third, there are comparative arguments for atheism: e.g., arguments for the view that (atheistic) naturalism is more theoretically virtuous than theism.