Current evolutionary and cognitive theories of religion posit that supernatural agent concepts emerge from cognitive systems such as theory of mind and social cognition. Some argue that these concepts evolved to maintain social order by minimizing antisocial behavior. If these theories are correct, then people should process information about supernatural agents’ socially strategic knowledge more quickly than non-strategic knowledge. Furthermore, agents’ knowledge of immoral and uncooperative social behaviors should be especially accessible to people. To examine these hypotheses, we measured response-times (...) to questions about the knowledge attributed to four different agents—God, Santa Claus, a fictional surveillance government, and omniscient but non-interfering aliens—that vary in their omniscience, moral concern, ability to punish, and how supernatural they are. As anticipated, participants respond more quickly to questions about agents’ socially strategic knowledge than non-strategic knowledge, but only when agents are able to punish. (shrink)
Some people have supposed that utility is good in itself, non-in-strumentally good, as distinct from good because conducive to other good things. And in modern versions of this view, utility often means want-satisfaction, as distinct from pleasure or happiness. For your want that p to be satisfied, is it necessary that you know or believe that p, or sufficient merely that p is true? However that question is answered, there are problems with the view that want-satisfaction is a non-instrumental good. (...) What if you want something only because you have a false belief? What if the time at which you want that p is fifty or five hundred years before the time to which p itself refers? To meet these difficulties, qualifications have to be introduced, and much has been written about how exactly these qualifications are to be framed.1 There is however what may be a rather more serious objection to the view that want-satisfaction is a non-instrumental good, or rather to the combination of that view with the principle that it is sufficient for your want that p to be satisfied simply that p is true. The objection is that this combination forces you to give undue weight to the mere acquisition of desires when you come to make judgements about changes in the value of things. It forces you to say that for any true proposition p, which initially you do not want to be true, your mere acquisition of a desire that p will, other things being equal, make the world better. Non-instrumental value can be increased merely by multiplying desires, even though everything else remains the same. Surely, however, improving the world is not as easy as that. (shrink)
You have a body, but you are a soul or self. Without your body, you could still exist. Your body could be and perhaps is outlasted by the immaterial substance which is your soul or self. Thus the substance dualist. Most substance dualists are Cartesians. The self, they suppose, is essentially conscious: it cannot exist unless it thinks or wills or has experiences. In this paper I sketch out a different form of substance dualism. I suggest that it is not (...) consciousness but another immaterial feature which is essential to the self, a feature in one way analogous to a non-dispositional taste. Each self has moreover a different feature of this general kind. If this is right then simple and straightforward answers are available to some questions which prove troublesome to the Cartesian, consciousness-requiring type of substance dualist. I mean the questions, How can the self exist in dreamless sleep?, What distinguishes two simultaneously existing selves, and What makes a self the same self as a self which exists at some other time? (shrink)
I argue for two principles by combining which we can construct a sound cosmological argument. The first is that for any true proposition p's if ‘there is an explanation for p's truth’ is consistent then there is an explanation for p's truth. The second is a modified version of the principle that for any class, if there is an explanation for the non-emptiness of that class, then there is at least one non-member of that class which causes it not to (...) be empty. (shrink)
Beneath metaphysical problems there often lies a conflict between what we want to be true and what we believe to be true. Nathan provides a general account of the resolution of this conflict as a philosophical objective, showing that there are ways of thinking it through systematically with a view to resolving or alleviating it. The author also studies in detail a set of interrelated conflicts about the freedom and the reality of the will. He shows how difficult it (...) is to find a freedom either of decision or of action which is both an object of reflective desire and an object of rational belief. He also examines conflicts about volition as such, contending that the veridicality of volitional experience is no less easy to doubt than the veridicality of our experience of colors. In this context, arguments emerge for a voluntarist theory of the self. Nathan's important book will be essential reading for all philosophers interested in free will, volition, the self, and the methodology of metaphysics. (shrink)
A systematic study of rational or justified belief, which throws fresh light on current debates about foundations and coherence theories of knowledge, the validation of induction and moral scepticism. Dr Nathan focuses attention on the largely unsatisfiable desires for active and self-conscious assurance of truth liable to be engendered by philosophical reflection about total belief-systems and the sources of knowledge. He extracts a kernel of truth from the doctrine that a regress of justification is both necessary and impossible, contrasts (...) the resultant scepticism with more familiar complaints about the inapplicability of supposedly essential cognitive concepts and explores the feasibility of non-Humean modes of consolation. This is an original and carefully constructed book, which will interest professional philosophers and advanced students of epistemology. (shrink)
The Price of Doubt is an important contribution to the problem of scepticism. It offers a new standard for the appraisal of philosophical arguments. Nicholas Nathan confronts the sceptic. He questions the value of his argument and the knowledge it contains and provides a potential remedy to the frustrations of anti-sceptical epistemology.
Six recently discussed problems in discrete probabilistic sample space, which have been found puzzling and even paradoxical, are reexamined. The importance is stressed of a sharp distinction between the formalization of mathematical problems and their formal solution that, applied to probability theory, must lead through the explicit partitioning of a sample space. If this approach is consistently followed, such problems reveal themselves to be either inherently ambiguous, and therefore without solution, or quite straightforward. In both cases nothing remains of any (...) sense of paradox. (shrink)
When do two mental items belong to the same life? We could be content with the answer -just when they have certain volitional qualities in common. An affinity is noted between that theory and Berkeley's early doctrine of the self. Some rivals of the volitional theory invoke a spiritual or physical owner of mental items. They run a risk either of empty formality or of causal superstition. Other rivals postulate a non-transitive and symmetrical relation in the set of mental items. (...) They must allow in consequence either for joint ownership of one and the same mental item, or for incompatible simultaneous decisions by one and the same person, or for new forms of death. This makes them disquieting. Another rival invokes a transitive and symmetrical relation defined in terms of co-consciousness. Even that allows for incongruous simultaneities. The volitional theory is free from such disadvantages. (shrink)
In "Warrant and Proper Function" Plantinga argues that atheistic Naturalism is self-defeating. What is the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable, given this Naturalism and an evolutionary explanation of their origins? Plantinga argues that if the Naturalist is modest enough to believe that it is irrational to have any belief as to the value of this probability, then he is irrational even to believe his own Naturalism. I suggest that Plantinga's argument has a false premise, and that even if (...) his argument were sound there would be reasons for doubting whether the Naturalist should respond to it by abandoning his Naturalism. (shrink)
Direct Realists believe that perception involves direct awareness of an object not dependent for its existence on the perceiver. Howard Robinson rejects this doctrine in favour of a Sense-Datum theory of perception. His argument against Direct Realism invokes the principle ‘same proximate cause, same immediate effect’. Since there are cases in which direct awareness has the same proximate cerebral cause as awareness of a sense datum, the Direct Realist is, he thinks, obliged to deny this causal principle. I suggest that (...) although Direct Realism is in more than one respect implausible, it does not succumb to Robinson’s argument. The causal principle is true only if ‘proximate cause’ means ‘proximate sufficient cause’, and the Direct Realist need not concede that there is a sufficient cerebral cause for direct awareness of independent objects. (shrink)
Some Christians combine a doctrine about Christ which implies that there is more than one divine self with the doctrine that God revealed to the Jews a monotheism according to which there is just one divine self. I suggest that it is less costly for such Christians to achieve consistency by abandoning the second of these doctrines than to achieve it by abandoning the first.
[Colour is king in our innate quality space, but undistinguished in cosmic circles.] Most philosophers would agree with at least the second half of Quine's dictum. It is indeed on the general view wrong to believe that, as qualities, colours are extra-mentally actual in even the humblest role. Mind-independent material things have on the general view powers to cause sensations of red or blue, but if, in [sensations of red or blue], [red] and [blue] name qualities, we are not to (...) believe that these qualities are possessed by things causing the sensations. My first thesis, defended in section 2, is that partly because we do count colours as eminent among qualities, we would on reflection want it to be true that some things have such qualities when they are not perceived. It would therefore be sad subsequently to discover the wrongness of believing that this is how things are. My second thesis, defended in sections 3 and 4, is that there is in fact no danger as yet of this kind of disappointment. So far, the philosophers have not shown that, if we believe that colour qualities exist as contents of experience, we ought not also to believe that things have these qualities when they are not perceived. One might of course deny that colour qualities exist even as contents of experience, so that the desire for them to be mind-independently exemplified evaporates on the realization that it lacks an intelligible object. Our pre-scientific concept of red, according to Armstrong, is, apart from being the concept of something falling under a determinable, [all blank or gap]. (shrink)
Jaynes contends that in many statistical problems a seemingly indeterminate probability distribution is made unique by the transformation group of necessarily implied invariance properties, thereby justifying the principle of indifference. To illustrate and substantiate his claims he considers Bertrand's Paradox. These assertions are here refuted and the traditional attitude is vindicated.
Common probabilistic fallacies and putative paradoxes are surveyed, including those arising from distribution repartitioning, from the reordering of expectation series, and from misconceptions regarding expected and almost certain gains in games of chance. Conditions are given for such games to be well-posed. By way of example, Bernoulli's "Petersburg Paradox" and Hacking's "Strange Expectations" are discussed and the latter are resolved. Feller's generalized "fair price, in the classical sense" is critically reviewed.
After briefly vindicating casuistries which successively apply a number of different moral principles, I describe some of the principles of justice liable to figure in such casuistries, assess the relative popularity of these principles and show that some of the most popular cannot be consistently applied in all circumstances.
Nathan Hanna has recently addressed a claim central to my 2013 article ‘Must Punishment Be Intended to Cause Suffering’ and to the second chapter of my 2016 book An Expressive Theory of Punishment: namely, that punishment need not involve an intention to cause suffering. -/- Hanna defends what he calls the ‘Aim To Harm Requirement’ (AHR), which he formulates as follows. AHR: ‘an agent punishes a subject only if the agent intends to harm the subject’ (Hanna 2017 p969). I’ll (...) try to show in this note that Hanna’s latest attempts to defend AHR fail. I’ll start by setting out my own view, drawing attention to one significant, but perhaps understandable, misstatement of Hanna’s. I’ll then discuss two alleged counter-examples that Hanna presents to my view, and show that they both fail in their own terms. I’ll also argue that, given assumptions that Hanna is willing to make a scenario closely related to one that Hanna presents counts against AHR. I’ll then discuss how significant it would be if these counter-examples were successful. My view is that it wouldn’t matter much, and that anyone attracted to abolitionism should agree. I’ll conclude with a brief discussion of Hart, which may be of interest to enthusiasts and Hart scholars. (shrink)
Previous empirical studies concerned with the association between paranormal beliefs and conventional religiosity have produced conflicting evidence. Drawing on Rice's distinction between classic paranormal beliefs and religious paranormal beliefs, the present study proposed a modified form of the Tobacyk Revised Paranormal Belief Scale to produce separate scores for these two forms of paranormal belief, styled 'religious paranormal beliefs' and 'classic paranormal beliefs'. Data provided by a sample of 143 undergraduate students in Northern Ireland and Wales, who completed the Francis (...) Scale of Attitude toward Christianity alongside the Tobacyk Revised Paranormal Belief Scale, demonstrated that conventional religiosity is positively correlated with religious paranormal beliefs, but independent of classic paranormal beliefs. These findings provide a clear framework within which previous conflicting evidence can be interpreted. It is recommended that future research should distinguish clearly between these two forms of paranormal beliefs and that the Tobacyk Revised Paranormal Beliefs Scale should be routinely modified to detach the four religious paranormal belief items from the total scale score. (shrink)