The nature of persons is a perennial topic of debate in philosophy, currently enjoying something of a revival. In this volume for the first time metaphysical debates about the nature of human persons are brought together with related debates in philosophy of religion and theology. Fifteen specially written essays explore idealist, dualist, and materialist views of persons, discuss specifically Christian conceptions of the value of embodiment, and address four central topics in philosophical theology: incarnation, resurrection, original sin, and the trinity.
Peter van Inwagen's brand of materialism leads him to speculate that God actually removes the deceased at the moment of death and replaces the corpse with a simulacrum that decays or is cremated. DeanZimmerman offers an account of resurrection that is loyal to Peter van Inwagen's commitment to a materialist metaphysics, with its stress on the earlier life processes of an organism immanently causing its later ones, while maintaining that resurrection is possible without (...) involving God in any ‘body snatching’. My contention is that Zimmerman's account is metaphysically impossible. His alleged ‘solution’ is at odds with the principles governing the ways in which an organism can assimilate new parts. Instead of providing a scenario where we can be resurrected, Zimmerman has merely sketched a scenario where we are duplicated. An alternative materialist account of resurrection is offered, one in which immanent causation is not necessary. (shrink)
It is not easy to be a materialist and yet believe that there is a way for human beings to survive death. Peter van Inwagen identifies the central obstacle the materialist faces: Namely, the need to posit appropriate “immanent-causal” connections between my body as it is at death and some living body elsewhere or elsewhen. I offer a proposal, consistent with van Inwagen’s own materialist metaphysics, for making materialism compatible with the possibility of survival.
We present a criterion for the use of thought experiments as a guide to possibilia that bear on important arguments in philosophy of religion. We propose that the more successful thought experiments are closer to the world in terms of phenomenological realism and the values they are intended to track. This proposal is filled out by comparing thought experiments of life after death by Peter van Inwagen and DeanZimmerman with an idealist thought experiment. In terms (...) of realism and values we contrast an exemplary thought experiment by Iris Murdoch with one we find problematic by William Irwin. (shrink)
_This is an account of his present thinking by an excellent philosopher who has been_ _among the two or three foremost defenders of the doctrine that determinism and_ _freedom are incompatible -- that logically we cannot have both. In his 1983 book,_ _An Essay on Free Will_ _, he laid out with unique clarity and force a fundamental_ _argument for this conclusion. What the argument comes to is that if determinism is_ _true, we are not free, since our actions are (...) effects of causal circumstances in the_ _remote past, and those circumstances are certainly not up to us. To that line of_ _thought, in the article below, by way of the supposition of a world of angels, he adds_ _something new. This is a fundamental difficulty with the freedom that we cannot_ _have if determinism is true. The difficulty, indeed a mystery, is one having to do with_ _the opposite of determinism -- indeterminism._. (shrink)
Defenders and critics of the evidential argument from evil typically agree that if theism is true, no gratuitous evil occurs. But Peter van Inwagen has challenged this orthodoxy by urging that for all we know, given God's goals, it is impossible for God to prevent all gratuitous evil, in which case God is not required do so. If van Inwagen is right, the evidential argument from evil fails. After setting out this striking and innovative move, I examine (...) three responses found in the literature, and show that none of them defeats van Inwagen's argument. I then offer a novel criticism: I show that van Inwagen implicitly relies on the claim that God can sensibly be thought to satisfice, and I argue that this is seriously under-motivated. Accordingly, van Inwagen's objection to the evidential argument from evil is, at best, incomplete. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen famously offers a version of the luck objection to libertarianism called the ‘Rollback Argument.’ It involves a thought experiment in which God repeatedly rolls time backward to provide an agent with many opportunities to act in the same circumstance. Because the agent has the kind of freedom that affords her alternative possibilities at the moment of choice, she performs different actions in some of these opportunities. The upshot is that whichever action she performs in the (...) actual-sequence is intuitively a matter of mere chance. I explore a new response to the Rollback Argument. If there are true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom, then the agent performs the same action each time she is placed in the same circumstance, because that is what she would freely do in that circumstance. This response appears to negate the chancy intuition. Ultimately, however, I argue that this new response is unsuccessful, because there is a variant of the Rollback Argument that presents the same basic challenge to the libertarian on the assumption that there are true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom. Thus, true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom do not provide the libertarian with a solution to the Rollback Argument. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen's book Material Beings is centered on the special composition question: the question of when some simples constitute a complex object. Van Inwagen's answer to this question is that simples only constitute a complex object when they constitute an organism. I argue that van Inwagen's reasoning in favor of this conclusion is unconvincing, and also that the significance of the special composition question itself is doubtful.
I conceive the Trinity doctrine as the proposition that there are three persons each of whom is God but just one being which is God. In two papers by Peter van Inwagen I distinguish three potential candidates for a reason that the Trinity doctrine is logically possible. First, a particular coǌunction entailing the Trinity doctrine is formally consistent in relative identity logic. Second, the coǌunction is formally consistent in the standard logic. Third, the coǌunction shares a form in (...) relative identity logic with another logically possible coǌunction. I explain how all these three reasons fail because of the distinction between logical possibility and formal consistency. In contrast to previous critiques, I dispense with epistemological and metaphysical assumptions about absolute and relative identity. Instead, I employ modal distinctions endorsed even by the inspirer of van Inwagen’s relative identity of the Trinity — the pioneering analytic scholastic Peter Geach. (shrink)
We often speak of an object being composed of various other objects. We say that the deck is composed of the cards, that a road is the sum total of its sections, that a house is composed of its walls, ceilings, floors, doors, etc. Suppose we have some material objects. Here is a philosophical question: what conditions must obtain for those objects to compose something? In his recent book Material Beings, Peter van Inwagen addresses this question, which he (...) calls the ‘special composition question’; his answer is:1 (1) For any material objects X , the X s compose something iff the activity of the X s constitutes a life, or there is only one of the Xs. Additionally, he accepts a simpler thesis that follows from (1):2 (2) Every material object is either a mereological atom or a living thing, where a mereological atom is an object lacking proper parts. (2) may seem radical. If it is true then there are no tables, chairs, planets, protons, galaxies, gas stations, etc. But van Inwagen does not hold it lightly— there are serious difficulties with alternate views. Moreover, he claims that.. (shrink)
"This is an important book, and no one interested in issues which touch on the free will will want to ignore it."--Ethics. In this stimulating and thought-provoking book, the author defends the thesis that free will is incompatible with determinism. He disputes the view that determinism is necessary for moral responsbility. Finding no good reason for accepting determinism, but believing moral responsiblity to be indubitable, he concludes that determinism should be rejected.
Each person is perceived by others and by herself as an individual in a very strong sense, namely as a unique individual. Moreover, this supposed uniqueness is commonly thought of as linked with another character that we tend to attribute to persons (as opposed to stones or chairs and even non-human animals): a kind of depth, hidden to sensory perception, yet in some measure accessible to other means of knowledge. I propose a theory of strong or essential individuality. This theory (...) is introduced by way of a critical discussion of Van Inwagen’s and Baker’s ontologies of persons. Composition Theory and Constitution Theory are shown to be complementary, in their opposite strong and weak points. I argue that both theories have unsatisfactory consequences concerning personal identity, a problem which the proposed theory seems to solve more faithfully both to folk intuitions and the phenomenology of personal life. (shrink)
In this classic, exciting, and thoughtful text, Metaphysics , Peter van Inwagen examines three profound questions: What are the most general features of the world? Why is there a world? and What is the place of human beings in the world? Metaphysics introduces to readers the curious notion that is metaphysics, how it is conceived both historically and currently. The author's work can serve either as a textbook in a university course on metaphysics or as an introduction to (...) metaphysical thinking for the interested reader. This second edition, revised though not fundamentally changed, includes the basis of the first edition with a new chapter on the nature of time. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen has long claimed that he doesn’t understand substitutional quantification and that the notion is, in fact, meaningless. Van Inwagen identifies the source of his bewilderment as an inability to understand the proposition expressed by a simple sentence like “,” where “$\Sigma$” is the existential quantifier understood substitutionally. I should think that the proposition expressed by this sentence is the same as that expressed by “.” So what’s the problem? The problem, I suggest, is that (...) van Inwagen takes traditional existential quantification to be ontologically committing and substitutional quantification to be ontologically noncommitting, which requires that the two quantifiers have different meanings—but no different meaning for the substitutional quantifier is forthcoming. What van Inwagen fails to appreciate is that substitutional quantification is directed at a criterion of ontological commitment, namely, W. V. O. Quine’s, which is quite different from van Inwagen’s criterion. Substitutional quantification successfully avoids the commitments Quine’s criterion would engender but has the same commitments as existential quantification given van Inwagen’s criterion. The question, then, is whether the existential quantifier is ontologically committing, as van Inwagen believes. The answer to that question will depend on whether the ordinary language “there is/are,” which is codified by the existential quantifier, is ontologically committing. There are good reasons to doubt that it is. (shrink)
Each person is perceived by others and by herself as an individual in a very strong sense, namely as a unique individual. Moreover, this supposed uniqueness is commonly thought of as linked with another character that we tend to attribute\nto persons (as opposed to stones or chairs and even non-human animals): a kind of depth, hidden to sensory perception, yet in some measure accessible to other means of knowledge. I propose a theory of strong or essential individuality. This theory is (...) introduced by way of a critical discussion of Van Inwagen’s and Baker’s ontologies of persons. Composition\nTheory and Constitution Theory are shown to be complementary, in their opposite strong and weak points. I argue that both\ntheories have unsatisfactory consequences concerning personal identity, a problem which the proposed theory seems to solve\nmore faithfully both to folk intuitions and the phenomenology of personal life. (shrink)
In his recent book on the problem of evil, Peter van Inwagen argues that both the global and local arguments from evil are failures. In this paper, we engagevan Inwagen’s book at two main points. First, we consider his understanding of what it takes for a philosophical argument to succeed. We argue that while his criterion for success is interesting and helpful, there is good reason to think it is too stringent. Second, we consider his responses to (...) the global and local arguments from evil. We argue that although van Inwagen may have adequately responded to each of these arguments, his discussion points us toa third argument from evil to which he has yet to provide a response. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen, author of the classic book An Essay on Free Will, has established himself over the last forty years as a leading figure in the philosophical debate about the problem of free will. This volume presents eleven influential essays from throughout his career, as well as two new and previously unpublished essays, 'The Problem of Fr** W*ll' and 'Ability'. The essays include discussions of determinism, moral responsibility, 'Frankfurt counterexamples', the meaning of 'the ability to do otherwise', (...) and the very definition of free will, as well as critiques of writings on the topic by Daniel Dennett and David Lewis. An introduction by the author discusses the history of his thinking about free will. The volume will be a valuable resource for those looking to engage with van Inwagen's significant contributions to this perennially important topic. (shrink)
This book gathers together thirteen of Peter van Inwagen's essays on metaphysics, several of which have acquired the status of modern classics in their field. They range widely across such topics as Quine's philosophy of quantification, the ontology of fiction, the part-whole relation, the theory of 'temporal parts', and human knowledge of modal truths. In addition, van Inwagen considers the question as to whether the psychological continuity theory of personal identity is compatible with materialism, and defends the (...) thesis that possible states of affairs are abstract objects, in opposition to David Lewis's 'extreme modal realism'. A specially-written introduction completes the collection, which will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in metaphysics. (shrink)
This book discusses the philosophy of influential contemporary philosopher Peter van Inwagen. Looking at perennial philosophical problems from a modern point of view, Peter van Inwagen’s philosophy masterfully combines positions that have been considered irreconcilable: incompatibilism concerning free will, materialism, organicism, theism and realism concerning fictional entities. As readers will discover, his arguments are witty, surprising and deep. -/- The book includes Peter van Inwagen’s Münster Lecture of 2015 on free will, as well as (...) eleven papers from the Münster colloquium discussing central themes of his philosophy, and a reply to each paper by Peter van Inwagen himself. Introducing his philosophy and relating his work to other contemporary views, this book is of interest to graduate students and professionals in philosophy alike. (shrink)
In this paper I shall define a thesis I shall call ' determinism ', and argue that it is incompatible with the thesis that we are able to act otherwise than we do. Other theses, some of them very different from what I shall call ' determinism ', have at least an equal right to this name, and, therefore, I do not claim to show that every thesis that could be called ' determinism ' without historical impropriety is incompatible with (...) free will. I shall, however, assume without argument that what I call ' determinism ' is legitimately so called. In Part I, I shall explain what I mean by ' determinism '. In Part II, I shall make some remarks about 'can'. In Part III, I shall argue that free will and determinism are incompatible. In Part IV, I shall examine some possible objections to the argument of Part III. I shall not attempt to establish the truth or falsity of determinism, or the existence or nonexistence of free will. (shrink)
In this essay I present what is, I contend, the free-will problem properly thought through, or at least presented in a form in which it is possible to think about it without being constantly led astray by bad terminology and confused ideas. Bad terminology and confused ideas are not uncommon in current discussions of the problem. The worst such pieces of terminology are "libertarian free will" and "compatibilist free will." The essay consists partly of a defense of the thesis that (...) the use of these phrases by writers on the problem of free will can only generate conceptual confusion and partly of a formulation of the problem that does not make use of them. I contend that this formulation is neutral with respect to the historically important positions on free will (e. g., compatibilism and incompatibilism). (shrink)
The vast amount of suffering in the world is often held as a particularly powerful reason to deny that God exists. Now, one of the world's most distinguished philosophers of religion presents his own position on the problem of evil. Highly accessible and sensitively argued, Peter van Inwagen's book argues that such reasoning does not hold: his conclusion is not that God exists, but that suffering cannot be shown to prove that He does not.
This paper has two parts. In the first part, I concede an error in an argument I have given for the incompatibility of free will and determinism. I go on to show how to modify my argument so as to avoid this error, and conclude that the thesis that free will and determinism are compatible continues to be—to say the least—implausible. But if free will is incompatible with determinism, we are faced with a mystery, for free will undeniably exists, and (...) it also seems to be incompatible with indeterminism. In the second part of this paper, I will defend the conclusion that the concept of agent causation is of no use to the philosopher who wants to maintain that free will and indeterminism are compatible. I conclude that free will remains a mystery---that is, that free will undeniably exists and that there is a strong and unanswered prima facie case for its impossibility. (shrink)
Philosophers of mind have not in general been very attentive to metaphysics. This book is a salutary exception to this general observation. A philosopher of mind—at least the body of her very influential work would be classified by most philosophers as belonging to the philosophy of mind—attempts to ground a theory of the relation between human persons and their bodies in an extended essay on the metaphysics of the natural world. Baker is a materialist : in her book, you and (...) I and everyone we know is a material thing. But then how are we material persons related to our bodies, which are also material things? Unlike many materialists, she rejects the following answer to this question: We are identical with our bodies. The bulk of this review is no more than a summary of her answer to the “person-body question.” My summary will use language very different from hers, since it will rely heavily on the language of parthood, and she is extremely hostile to any attempt to use the concept “part” in connection with her theory. Nevertheless, the use I make of this concept is innocuous, and my representation of her answer to the person-body question is accurate. (shrink)
Quine has called the question, ‘What is there?’ the “ontological question.” But if we call this question by that name, what name shall we use for the question, ‘What are we asking when we ask “What is there?”’? I shall call it ‘the meta-ontological question’. I shall call the attempt to answer the meta-ontological question ‘meta-ontology’ and any proposed answer to it ‘a meta-ontology’. In this essay, I shall briefly sketch a meta-ontology. The meta-ontology I shall present is broadly Quinean. (...) I am, in fact, willing to call it an exposition of Quine’s meta-ontology. (shrink)
In this paper, the author defends Peter van Inwagen’s modal skepticism. Van Inwagen accepts that we have much basic, everyday modal knowledge, but denies that we have the capacity to justify philosophically interesting modal claims that are far removed from this basic knowledge. The author also defends the argument by means of which van Inwagen supports his modal skepticism, offering a rebuttal to an objection along the lines of that proposed by Geirrson. Van Inwagen argues (...) that Stephen Yablo’s recent and influential account of the relationship between conceivability and possibility supports his skeptical claims. The author’s defence involves a creative interpretation and development of Yablo’s account, which results in a recursive account of modal epistemology, what the author calls the “safe explanation” theory of modal epistemology. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen is a philosopher who became a Christian at the age of forty. His conversion was not a return to the religion of his childhood, but, on the contrary, consisted of the adoption of beliefs that had been held in explicit contempt by the Unitarian Sunday school teachers of his youth, the philosophers responsible for his professional training, and his colleagues in the philosophy department where he had been teaching for ten years at the time of (...) his conversion.This collection of classic writings represents van Inwagen’s attempts to answer the philosophical objections to Christianity that he encountered in these intellectually hostile environments. They include reflections on the charge that religious belief is belief that is unsupported by evidence, on arguments that purport to show that the doctrine of resurrection is metaphysically impossible, on the problem of evil, and on Hume’s famous argument against belief in miracles. (shrink)
How does an object persist through change? How can a book, for example, open in the morning and shut in the afternoon, persist through a change that involves the incompatible properties of being open and being shut? The goal of this reader is to inform and reframe the philosophical debate around persistence; it presents influential accounts of the problem that range from classic papers by W. V. O. Quine, David Lewis, and Judith Jarvis Thomson to recent work by contemporary philosophers. (...) The authors take on the question of persistence by examining three broad approaches: perdurantism, which holds that change over time is analogous to change over space; exdurantism, according to which identity over time is analogous to identity across possible worlds; and endurantism, which holds that ordinary objects persist by enduring. Each of these approaches appears to be coherent, but each also has its own metaphysical problems. Persistence includes papers that argue for perdurantism, exdurantism, or endurantism, as well as papers that explore some metaphysical difficulties challenging each account. In this way the collection allows readers to balance the trade-offs of each approach in terms of intuitiveness, theoretical attractiveness, and elegance.Contributors:Yuri Balashov, William Carter, Graeme Forbes, Sally Haslanger, Katherine Hawley, H. S. Hestevold, Mark Hinchliffe, Mark Johnston, Roxanne Marie Kurtz, David K. Lewis, Ned Markosian, D. H. Mellor, W. V. O. Quine, Theodore Sider, Richard Taylor, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Peter van Inwagen, DeanZimmerman. (shrink)
The article analyzes and criticizes the assumptions of Peter Van Inwagen’s argument for the alleged contradiction of the foreknowledge of God and human freedom. The argument is based on the sine qua non condition of human freedom defined as access to possible worlds containing such a continuation of the present in which the agent implements a different action than will be realized de facto in the future. The condition also contains that in every possible continuation of the present (...) state of affairs, the same propositions about the ‘present past’ (the past before the present moment) are true as are true in the present state of affairs. The paper argues that Van Inwagen’s reasoning is inconclusive, it contains the type of mistake of confusing conditional impossibility with unconditional and presents a methodologically wrong method of solving a philosophical problem. It is because in the very construction of the problem determining the available solution. The article points to the possibility that the human freedom of some action is not excluded by the fact that specific past facts logically entail that this event will occur. (shrink)