The distinguished philosopher Robert M. Adams presents a major work on virtue, which is once again a central topic in ethical thought. A Theory of Virtue is a systematic, comprehensive framework for thinking about the moral evaluation of character, proposing that virtue is chiefly a matter of being for what is good, and that virtues must be intrinsically excellent and not just beneficial or useful.
Renowned scholar Robert Adams explores the relation between religion and ethics through a comprehensive philosophical account of a theistically-based framework for ethics. Adams' framework begins with the good rather than the right, and with excellence rather than usefulness. He argues that loving the excellent, of which adoring God is a clear example, is the most fundamental aspect of a life well lived. Developing his original and detailed theory, Adams contends that devotion, the sacred, grace, martyrdom, worship, vocation, faith, and other (...) concepts drawn from religious ethics have been sorely overlooked in moral philosophy and can enrich the texture of ethical thought. (shrink)
Legendary since his own time as a universal genius, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) contributed significantly to almost every branch of learning. One of the creators of modern mathematics, and probably the most sophisticated logician between the Middle Ages and Frege, as well as a pioneer of ecumenical theology, he also wrote extensively on such diverse subjects as history, geology, and physics. But the part of his work that is most studied today is probably his writings in metaphysics, which have been (...) the focus of particularly lively philosophical discussion in the last twenty years or so. The writings contain one of the great classic systems of modern philosophy, but the system must be pieced together from a vast and miscellaneous array of manuscripts, letters, articles, and books, in a way that makes especially strenuous demands on scholarship. This book presents an in-depth interpretation of three important parts of Leibniz's metaphysics, thoroughly grounded in the texts as well as in philosophical analysis and critique. The three areas discussed are the metaphysical part of Leibniz's philosophy of logic, his essentially theological treatment of the central issues of ontology, and his theory of substance (the famous theory of monads). (shrink)
Robert Merrihew Adams has been a leader in renewing philosophical respect for the idea that moral obligation may be founded on the commands of God. This collection of Adams' essays, two of which are previously unpublished, draws from his extensive writings on philosophical theology that discuss metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical issues surrounding the concept of God--whether God exists or not, what God is or would be like, and how we ought to relate ourselves to such a being. Adams studies the (...) relation between religion and ethics, delving into an analysis of moral arguments for theistic belief. In several essays, he applies contemporary studies in the metaphysics of individuality, possibility and necessity, and counterfactual conditionals to issues surrounding the existence of God and problems of evil. (shrink)
The paper is an interpretation and defense of Kant's conception of things in themselves as noumena, along the following lines. Noumena are transempirical realities. As such they have several important roles in Kant's critical philosophy (Section 1). Our theoretical faculties cannot obtain enough content for a conception of noumena that would assure their real possibility as objects, but can establish their merely formal logical possibility (Sections 2-3). Our practical reason, however, grounds belief in the real possibility of some noumena, and (...) even knowledge of the noumenal reality of a free will (Section 4). Section 5 defends Kant's conception of noumena as a good piece of philosophy, particularly with respect to its distinction between logical and real possibility. Are noumena numerically identical with experienced (phenomenal) objects? Kantian principles yield the answers that human selves are, God isn't, and it's harder to say about bodies (Section 6). (shrink)
I have argued elsewhere that there are facts, and possibilities, that are not purely qualitative. In a second paper, however, I have argued that all possibilities are purely qualitative except insofar as they involve individuals that actually exist. In particular, I have argued that there are no thisnesses of nonactual individuals (where the thisness of x is the property of being x, or of being identical with x), and that there are no singular propositions about nonactual individuals (where a singular (...) proposition about an individual x is a proposition that involves or refers to x directly, perhaps by having x or the thisness of x as a constituent, and not merely by way of x's qualitative properties or relations to other individuals). I am also inclined to believe that there are not yet any thisnesses of individuals that will exist but do not yet, nor any singular propositions about future individuals--and, hence, that all possibilities are purely qualitative except insofar as they involve individuals that already do exist or have existed (counting timeless individuals, if any, as already existing). This thesis about the relation of time to thisness is the subject of the present paper, in which the conclusions of my previous papers will be presupposed. (shrink)
Moral arguments were the type of theistic argument most characteristic of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More recently they have become one of philosophy’s abandoned farms. The fields are still fertile, but they have not been cultivated systematically since the latest methods came in. The rambling Victorian farmhouse has not been kept up as well as similar structures, and people have not been stripping the sentimental gingerbread off the porches to reveal the clean lines of argument. This paper is (...) intended to contribute to the remedy of this neglect. It will deal with quite a number of arguments, because I think we can understand them better if we place them in relation to each other. This will not leave time to be as subtle, historically or philosophically, as I would like to be, but I hope I will be able to prove something more than my own taste for Victoriana. (shrink)
The problem of evil is one of the most discussed topics in the philosophy of religion. For some time, however, there has been a need for a collection of readings that adequately represents recent and ongoing writing on the topic. This volume fills that need, offering the most up-to-date collection of recent scholarship on the problem of evil. The distinguished contributors include J.L. Mackie, Nelson Pike, Roderick M. Chisholm, Terence Penelhum, Alvin Plantinga, William L. Rowe, Stephen J. Wykstra, John Hick, (...) and Diogenes Allen. Including an introductory essay and a selected bibliography, this comprehensive and completely up-to-date collection is an invaluable guide to current scholarship in this highly debated area of the philosophy of religion. Oxford Readings in Philosophy aims to bring together important recent writings in major areas of philosophical inquiry, selected from a variety of sources, mostly periodicals, which may not be conveniently available. (shrink)
It is argued here that we have good reason to aspire to be autonomous in certain ways that deserve a place in the theory of virtue, but not in some of the ways that have figured most prominently in theories of moral obligation. This grounds an argument that the sorts of autonomy to which we have reason to aspire need not be enemies of theological ethics. The focus is on the relation of autonomy to obligation in sections 1-4, and on (...) the relation of autonomy to love in section 5. (shrink)
This essay presents a version of divine command metaethics inspired by recent work of Donnellan, Kripke, and Putnam on the relation between necessity and conceptual analysis. What we can discover a priori, by conceptual analysis, about the nature of ethical wrongness is that wrongness is the property of actions that best fills a certain role. What property that is cannot be discovered by conceptual analysis. But I suggest that theists should claim it is the property of being contrary to the (...) commands of a loving God. This claim, if true, is a necessary but not an a priori truth. It also is a claim, not about the way in which some believers use the word 'wrong,' but about the wrongness that virtually everyone talks about. This position is distinguished from the author's previous views, and from a holistic development of the latter proposed by Jeffrey Stout. (shrink)
The focus of this paper is the virtual certainty that much of what we must prize in loving any human person would not have existed in a world that did not contain much of the evil that has occurred in the history of the actual world. It is argued that the appropriate response to this fact must be some form of ambivalence, but that lovers have reason to prefer an ambivalence that contextualizes regretted evils in the framework of what we (...) welcome in human life. (shrink)
In one of his precritical works, Kant defends, as “the only possible” way of demonstrating the existence of God, an argument from the nature of possibility. Whereas Leibniz had argued that possibilities must be thought by God in order to obtain the ontological standing that they need, Kant argued that at least the most fundamental possibilities must be exemplified in God. Here Kant’s argument is critically examined in comparison with its Leibnizian predecessor, and it is suggested that an argument combining (...) the strengths of both of them has much to be said for it. (shrink)
This chapter addresses the greatest fear about divine commands – that God may command something evil – focusing on a modernized version of Genesis 22, in which Abraham finds it difficult to reject any of the following jointly incompatible beliefs: whatever God commands is not morally wrong to do, God commands me to kill my son as a sacrifice, such human sacrifice is morally wrong. It argues that divine command theorists should not reject but that in any cultural and religious (...) context in which the dilemma can be taken seriously, is the belief to reject. (shrink)
Robert Adams gives a comprehensive philosophical account of a theistically-based framework for ethics. He draws on over twenty years of his published work to create this overarching framework, which is based upon the idea of a transcendent, infinite good, which is God, and its relation to the many finite examples of good in our experience. In giving this account, Adams explores ways in which a variety of philosophically unfashionable religious concepts can enrich the texture of ethical thought.
The risk of stroke for a child with SCD is many times greater than that of a healthy child without SCD or heart disease. There is a technique that allows the identification of the children with SCD who have high risk even within this relatively high-risk group. And there is a highly effective preventive treatment. While this would on the surface appear to be a straightforward medical decision, it is not. One must weigh the benefits of preventing permanent brain damage (...) against the risks of infection from transfused blood, iron overload, which is the result of the frequent transfusions, and rare transfusion reactions. (shrink)
We have noted some fundamental distinctions between types of goodness or value. There is usefulness, or merely instrumental goodness, the value that something may have as a means to something else that is good or that is valued. Usefulness has an obvious importance, and connects with significant philosophical issues about instrumentality and probability; but more fundamental issues for ethical theory are posed by the goods or ends that the useful is to serve. Within the realm of what is good for (...) its own sake, and not just instrumentally good, most contemporary ethical thought focuses mainly on well-being or welfare-that is, on the nature of human flourishing or what is good for a person. The theory developed here, however, gives a primary place to excellence-the type of goodness exemplified by the beauty of a sunset, a painting, or a mathematical proof, or by the greatness of a novel, the nobility of an unselfish deed, or the quality of an athletic or a philosophical performance. It is the goodness of that which is worthy of love or admiration, honor or worship, rather than the good (for herself) that is possessed by one who is fortunate or happy, as such (though happiness may also be excellent, and worthy of admiration). (shrink)
Wenn Präsident Kennedy nicht erschossen worden wäre, hätte er dann Nordvietnam bombardiert? Das weiß Gott allein. Oder doch nicht? Weiß wenigstens Er, was Kennedy getan hätte? ... Die Jesuiten behaupteten unter anderem, daß viele menschliche Handlungen in dem Sinne frei seien, daß die Ausführenden nicht logisch oder kausal gezwungen seien, sie auszuführen. („Frei“ wird im vorliegenden Aufsatz stets in diesem Sinne verwendet werden.) Wie behält Gott dann die Kontrolle über die menschliche Geschichte? Nicht dadurch, daß Er menschliche Handlungen kausal determiniert, (...) wie die Dominikaner geglaubt zu haben scheinen , sondern indem Er Umstände herbeiführt, von denen Er weiß, daß wir in ihnen freiwillig Seinen Plänen entsprechend handeln werden. (shrink)
Some theists believe that the moral rightness and wrongness of actions consists in agreement and disagreement, respectively, with God's commands. And even theists who do not hold this meta-ethical view do generally believe that all right action is commanded by God and should be done in obedience to him. 1 I wish to respond here to one of the commonest objections to this belief - the objection that it is incompatible with a proper regard for the virtue of autonomy. 2.
The following theses are defended. Conflict has importantly valuable functions, but we obviously need to limit its destructiveness. The efficacy of reasoning together in resolving or restraining conflict is limited; it needs to be supplemented by procedures such as negotiation, compromise, and voting. Despite the urgency of justice, when the resolution or limitation of a conflict needs to be negotiated, the best attainable outcome will often not seem completely just to all parties, and some claims of justice, as seen by (...) the parties, may need to be subordinated to other moral considerations. (shrink)
Divine command metaethics is one of those theories according to which the nature of obligation is grounded in personal or social relationships. In this paper I first try to show how facts about human relationships can fill some of the role that facts of obligation aresupposed to play, specifically with regard to moral motivation and guilt. Then I note certain problems that arise for social theories of obligation, and argue that they can be dealt with more adequately by an expansion (...) of our vision of the social dimension of ethics to include God as the most important participant in our system of personal relationships. (shrink)
Versions of this paper have been read to philosophical colloquia at Occidental College and California State University, Fullerton. I am indebted to participants in those discussions, to students in many of my classes, and particularly to Marilyn McCord Adams, Van Harvey, Thomas Kselman, William Laserow, and James Muyskens, for helpful comment on the ideas which are contained in this paper (or which would have been, had it not been for their criticisms).
The essay is about the “Preliminary Expectoration” of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. It argues that “the absurd” there refers primarily to the practical paradox that in faith (so it is claimed) one must simultaneously renounce and gladly accept a loved object. In other words it is about a problem of detachment as a feature of religious life. The paper goes on to interpret, and discuss critically, the views expressed in the book about both renunciation (infinite resignation) and the nature of (...) faith. (shrink)