Descartes, Boyle and Hooke shared, with many other seventeenth-century figures, the view that mechanical explanations were the only intellectually satisfactory ones. They also all accepted the view that we have incorporeal souls. This generated a problem for them when they wrote about perception. In this area, indeed, Descartes seems to be almost a reluctant Cartesian. When we read his scientific writings, the incorporeal soul is not stressed, and Descartes happily speaks of physical, or of corporeal, ideas in discussing sensation, memory (...) and imagination. (shrink)
In John Schellenberg’s important trilogy he offers us reasons, individually and cumulatively impressive, for adopting a sceptical attitude towards religious claims, both positive and negative. Part of Schellenberg’s argument consists in reminding us of the necessity of not overestimating our present state of intellectual development. In this paper, while allowing the force of the overestimation points, I consider the very real strength of the arguments he develops for atheism, and suggest that they outweigh his sceptical arguments in favour of non-commitment.Whenever (...) I hear that a writer of real ability has demonstrated away the... existence of God, I am eager to read the book, for I expect him by his talents to increase my insight into these matters. Already, before having opened it, I am perfectly certain that he has not justified... his specific [claim] because... as reason is incompetent to arrive at affirmative assertions in this field, it is equally unable, indeed even less able, to establish any negative conclusion in regard to these questions. (shrink)
There are five main claims that may be made about life after death: We are reincarnated in the self-same body we had in life. We are reincarnated in another body. We are revived, or continue to live in a disembodied form.
In Warranted Christian Beliet Alvin Plantinga claims that “The Enlightenment looked askance at testimony and tradition; Locke saw them as a preeminent source of error.” Locke, Plantinga suggests, is the “fountainhead” of this stance. This is importantly wrong about Locke and Locke”s views, and an examination of the views of Locke’s much admired friend and slightly older contemporary, Robert Boyle, reveals that the claim is mistaken about him as well, reinforcing the view that Plantinga is in general mistaken about the (...) intellectual milieu in which Locke wrote. In this paper I consider the views of Locke and Boyle on demonstration, observation, experiment, and testimony with a view to showing what, in the case of science and religion, their views actually were. For Locke I draw mainly on the Essay, while for Boyle I draw heavily on the MSS in the Royal Society Library, as well as on the printed works. (shrink)
In the first section of this paper I offer a necessary condition for members of a particular class of arguments to be acceptable asproofs. In the second section, I point out that a plausible extension of this principle reveals that a number of additional arguments cannot function successfully as proofs. Finally, I note that a number of theological arguments, particularly cosmological and ontological arguments, are suspect in the light of this extended principle. Standardly in the ontological argument, criticism falls on (...) the conditional, modality-enriching premise which involves a move from possibility to actuality. I offer two defences of this premise, and argue that—as the use of Moore's extended maxim shows—the problem lies with the premise that asserts mere possibility. (shrink)
Abstract Boyle distinguished clearly between the areas which we would call scientific and theological. However, he felt that they overlapped seamlessly, and that the truths we discovered (or which were revealed to us) in one of these areas would be relevant to us in the other. In this paper I outline and discuss Boyle's views on the limitations of human knowing, Boyle's arguments in favour of accepting the revelations of the Christian faith, and his views on the kind of epistomological (...) standing that scientific knowledge claims have. Given this background I then consider the relation between hypotheses, theories and facts in Boyle's work, and consider a particular case, that of Boyle's Law, as an exemplification of the claims made in the rest of the paper. (shrink)
In early life, the philosopher, theologian and scientist Robert Boyle wrote extensively on moral matters. One of the extant early documents written in Boyle's hand deals with the morality of our treatment of non-human animals. In this piece Boyle offered a number of arguments for extending moral concern to non-human animals. Since the later Boyle routinely vivisected or otherwise killed animals in his scientific experiments, we are left with the biographical questions, did his views change, and if so, why? as (...) well as with the philosophical questions, what were his arguments and how good are they? (shrink)
In this paper I look at two connections between natural philosophy and theology in the late 17th century. In the last quarter of the century there was an interesting development of an argument, earlier but sketchier versions of which can be found in classical philosophers and in Descartes. The manoeuvre in question goes like this: first, prove that there must, necessarily, be a being which is, in some sense of "greater", greater than humans. Second, sketch a proof that such a (...) being is necessary. Move from the fact that there must be at least one such being to the conclusion that there is precisely one such being. Raise the question: could this necessary being be matter, the entire material universe, or must it be God? Produce an argument from natural philosophy to show that matter cannot be the required necessary being. Either explicitly or implicitly run the obvious disjunctive syllogism and conclude with a few remarks about the foolishness of atheism. The argument, which has classical roots, found a number of 17th-century exponents. Cudworth provided the most important version, and Locke, Bentley and Clarke adapted Cudworth's version with varying success. The argument touches on natural philosophy in two ways. First, the basis of the argument invites consideration of a problem in the philosophy of science - the relation between micro properties and macro properties - which was seen clearly enough in some contexts but which was overlooked in others, particularly when the theological aspect was uppermost. The second point of contact involves a direct application of a scientific result - the existence of a vacuum - to the theological issue. (shrink)
In ‘Belief-In and Belief in God’ , J. N. Williams suggests that belief in God cannot be rational unless one has rational beliefs that God exists. While agreeing with his conclusion , I disagree at almost every step with his method of arriving at it. In particular I suggest that Williams goes astray concerning the dual aspect of belief in , the nature of performatives, the arousal of belief states, and the correct account of belief in God.
In 'Belief-In and Belief in God' ("Religious Studies", 28, 1992), J. N. Williams suggests that belief in God cannot be rational unless one has rational beliefs that God exists. While agreeing with his conclusion (though not with his statement of it), I disagree at almost every step with his method of arriving at it. In particular I suggest that Williams goes astray concerning the dual aspect of belief in, the nature of performatives, the arousal of belief states, and the correct (...) account of belief in God. (shrink)
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