In this article, we argue that John Henry Newman was right to think that our passional nature can play a legitimate epistemic role. First, we unpack the standard objection to Newman’s understanding of the relationship between our passional nature and the evidential basis of faith. Second, we argue that the standard objection to Newman operates with a narrow definition of evidence. After challenging this notion, we then offer a broader and more humane understanding of evidence. Third, we survey recent scholarship (...) arguing that emotions, a key aspect of our passional nature, are cognitive. In this light, they plausibly have a proper epistemic role. Fourth, we defend Newman’s reliance on the passional nature in epistemic matters by showing how reasonable it is in light of this recent work on evidence and the nature of emotions. Newman’s insistence that the formation of a right state of heart and mind is crucial for epistemic success is far from untenable. (shrink)
In recent years, Duncan Pritchard has developed a position in religious epistemology called quasi‐fideism that he claims traces back to John Henry Newman's treatment of the rationality of religious belief. In this paper, we give three reasons to think that Pritchard's reading of Newman as a quasi‐fideist is mistaken. First, Newman's parity argument does not claim that religious and non‐religious beliefs are on a par because both are groundless; instead, for Newman, they are on a par because both often stem (...) from implicit rather than explicit reasoning. Second, pace Pritchard, Newman's distinction between simple and complex assent does not map onto the Wittgensteinian distinction between groundless hinge commitments and beliefs that flow from these hinges. For Newman, simple and complex assent differ in terms of the believer's level of awareness of their grounds. Third, and finally, Newman does not reject Locke's evidentialism in toto. Instead, he argues that certitude is not restricted to beliefs stemming from intuition and demonstration but often rightly includes probabilistically supported (or fallibly evidenced) beliefs. (shrink)
It is still a live question in epistemology and philosophy of science as to what exactly evidence is. In my view, evidence consists in experiences called “seemings.” This view is a version of the phenomenal conception of evidence, the position that evidence consists in nonfactive mental states with propositional content. This conception is opposed by sense-data theorists, disjunctivists, and those who think evidence consists in physical objects or publicly observable states of affairs—call it the courtroom conception of evidence. Thomas Kelly (...) has recently argued that the phenomenal conception cannot play all the roles evidence plays and is thus inadequate. Having first explained the nature of seemings, in this essay I utilize Kelly’s own understanding of the four major roles of evidence and argue that the phenomenal conception can play each one. Experience is a good candidate for evidence. (shrink)
The role of certitude in our mental lives is, to put it mildly, controversial. Many current epistemologists (including epistemologists of religion) eschew certitude altogether. Given his emphasis on certitude, some have maintained that John Henry Newman was an infallibilist about knowledge. In this paper, we argue that a careful examination of his thought (especially as seen in the Grammar of Assent) reveals that he was an epistemic fallibilist. We first clarify what we mean by fallibilism and infallibilism. Second, we explain (...) why some have read Newman as an infallibilist. Third, we offer two arguments that Newman is at least a fallibilist in a weak sense. In particular, the paradox he seeks to resolve in the Grammar and his dispute with John Locke both indicate that he is at least a weak fallibilist. We close with a consideration of whether Newman is a fallibilist in a much stronger sense as well. (shrink)
For some years now, Michael Bergmann has urged a dilemma against internalist theories of epistemic justification. For reasons I explain below, some epistemologists have thought that Michael Huemer’s principle of Phenomenal Conservatism can split the horns of Bergmann’s dilemma. Bergmann has recently argued, however, that PC must inevitably, like all other internalist views, fall prey to his dilemma. In this paper, I explain the nature of Bergmann’s dilemma and his reasons for thinking that PC cannot escape it before arguing that (...) he is mistaken: PC can indeed split its horns. (shrink)
We all have an intuitive grasp of the concept of evidence. Evidence makes beliefs reasonable, justifies jury verdicts, and helps resolve our disagreements. Yet getting clear about what evidence is is surprisingly difficult. Among other possibilities, evidence might consist in physical objects like a candlestick found at the crime scene, propositions like ‘a candlestick was found at the crime scene,’ or experiences like the experience of witnessing a candlestick at the crime scene. This dissertation is a defense of the latter (...) view. Evidence, we will argue, consists in experiences or mental states called ‘seeming states.’ We begin with a look at why the logical positivists came to abandon the experiential or “phenomenal” conception of evidence and adopted what I call “the courtroom conception.” Despite its appeal, we argue that this latter view is too objective; it has trouble playing the role of subjective reasons-provider. Being more subjective, the phenomenal conception deserves another look. However, many have thought that the phenomenal conception itself is unable to fulfill other important roles of evidence. In chapter two we dispute this, arguing that the phenomenal conception can play all four of the chief roles of evidence. Examining the religious epistemology of Alvin Plantinga in chapter three we come to see that the phenomenal conception, while attractive, is in danger of being too subjective. If the phenomenal conception of evidence is to be tenable, it must be offered in conjunction with a conservative epistemic principle which tethers together experiences with the beliefs they evidence in an epistemically appropriate manner. Hence in chapter four we consider a number of conservative epistemic principles and argue for the superiority of one in particular. But these principles have themselves been subject to criticism. For this reason, in chapter five we close by responding to a recent and pressing challenge to conservative principles in epistemology (Michael Bergmann’s dilemma for internalism) which might prevent their deployment alongside the phenomenal conception. If our arguments are correct, the phenomenal conception of evidence is still an attractive account of evidence today. (shrink)
Recently, the Intelligent Design (ID) movement has challenged the claim of many in the scientific establishment that nature gives no empirical signs of having been deliberately designed. In particular, ID arguments in biology dispute the notion that neo-Darwinian evolution is the only viable scientific explanation of the origin of biological novelty, arguing that there are telltale signs of the activity of intelligence which can be recognized and studied empirically. In recent years, a number of Catholic philosophers, theologians, and scientists have (...) expressed opposition to ID. Some of these critics claim that there is a conflict between the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas and that of the ID movement, and even an affinity between Aquinas’s ideas and theistic Darwinism. We consider six such criticisms and find each wanting. (shrink)
Recent authors, emphasizing Newman’s distaste for natural theology—especially William Paley’s design argument—have urged us to follow Newman’s lead and reject design arguments. But I argue that Newman’s own argument for God’s existence (his argument from conscience) fails without a supplementary design argument or similar reason to think our faculties are truth-oriented. In other words, Newman appears to need the kind of argument he explicitly rejects. Finding Newman’s rejection of natural theology to stem primarily from factors other than worries about cogency, (...) however, I further argue that there is little reason not to pursue design arguments in order to save the argument from conscience. (shrink)
This essay shows how John Henry Newman reconciled the certitude of faith with a fallibilist epistemology. While Newman holds that many of our beliefs are held with certitude, he does not conceive of all certitude as Cartesian, apodictic certitude. In this way, he walks a middle road between rationalism and fideism.
In this article, we examine in detail the New Atheists' most serious argument for the conclusion that God does not exist, namely, Richard Dawkins's Ultimate 747 Gambit. Dawkins relies upon a strong explanatory principle involving simplicity. We systematically inspect the various kinds of simplicity that Dawkins may invoke. Finding his crucial premises false on any common conception of simplicity, we conclude that Dawkins has not given good reason to think God does not exist.
In this chapter, Logan Paul Gage examines the only real attempt to disprove God’s existence by a New Atheist: Richard Dawkins’s “Ultimate 747 Gambit.” Central to Dawkins’s argument is the claim that God is more complex than what he is invoked to explain. Gage evaluates this claim using the main extant notions of simplicity in the literature. Gage concludes that on no reading does this claim survive scrutiny. Along the way, Dawkins claims that there are no good positive arguments for (...) God’s existence. Gage attempts to show that Dawkins’s argument depends upon distinctively philosophical assumptions that do not appear to withstand scrutiny. (shrink)
Contextualism (the view that ‘knowledge’ and its variants are context-sensitive) has been supported in large part through appeal to intuitions about Keith DeRose’s Bank Cases. Recently, however, the contextualist construal of these cases has come under fire from Kent Bach and Jennifer Nagel who question whether the Bank Case subject’s confidence can remain constant in both low- and high-stakes cases. Having explained the Bank Cases and this challenge to them, I argue that DeRose has given a reasonable reply to this (...) initial challenge. However, I proceed to argue that the current stalemate can be broken. Seeking to extend the Bach-Nagel critique, I offer a novel interpretation of the Bank Cases according to which the subject’s evidence changes between low- and high-stakes cases. If I am correct, then, given the amount of support the Bank Cases have been thought to lend contextualism, the case for contextualism is seriously weakened. (shrink)
In this chapter, Gage and McAllister respond to various objections to the phenomenal conservative position in religious epistemology. In particular, they respond to the objections that seemings are the ultimate source of justification, that PC makes epistemic justification too easy, that PC involves conceptual circularity, and that PC lacks an objective connection to truth.
In a time when conservatives believe that the traditional family is under increasing fire, some think an appeal to Darwinian science may be the answer. I argue that these conservatives are wrong to maintain that Darwinian theory can serve as the intellectual foundation for the traditional conception of the family. Contra Larry Arnhart and James Q. Wilson, a Darwinian philosophy of nature simply lacks the stability the traditional family requires; it cannot support the traditional conception of human nature and the (...) normativity it was thought to contain. If conservatives are to maintain these traditional ideas, the theoretical foundation must lie elsewhere. (shrink)