This paper develops a challenge to theism. The challenge is to explain why the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god should be considered significantly more reasonable than the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil god. Theists typically dismiss the evil-god hypothesis out of hand because of the problem of good–there is surely too much good in the world for it to be the creation of such a being. But then why doesn't the problem (...) of evil provide equally good grounds for dismissing belief in a good god? I develop this evil-god challenge in detail, anticipate several replies, and correct errors made in earlier discussions of the problem of good. (shrink)
Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism aims to show that naturalism is, as he puts it, ‘incoherent or self defeating’. Plantinga supposes that, in the absence of any God-like being to guide the process, natural selection is unlikely to favour true belief. Plantinga overlooks the fact that adherents of naturalism may plausibly hold that there exist certain conceptual links between belief content and behaviour. Given such links, natural selection will favour true belief. A further rather surprising consequence of the existence of (...) such links is this: even if semantic properties are epiphenomenal, unguided evolution will still favour true belief. (shrink)
Skeptical theism is a leading response to the evidential argument from evil against the existence of God. Skeptical theists attempt to block the inference from the existence of inscrutable evils to gratuitous evils by insisting that given our cognitive limitations, it wouldn’t be surprising if there were God-justifying reasons we can’t think of. A well-known objection to skeptical theism is that it opens up a skeptical Pandora’s box, generating implausibly wide-ranging forms of skepticism, including skepticism about the external world and (...) past. This paper looks at several responses to this Pandora’s box objection, including a popular response devised by Beaudoin and Bergmann. I find that all of the examined responses fail. It appears the Pandora’s box objection to skeptical theism still stands. (shrink)
This article argues that it is a mistake to assume that atheism entails naturalism, that naturalism is what leads someone to embrace atheism, and that atheists must sign up to a ‘naturalistic world-view’.
Over the centuries, many philosophers have written about injustice. More recently, attention has turned to a previously little-recognized form of injustice – epistemic injustice. The philosopher Miranda Fricker coined the phrase ‘epistemic injustice’ – an example being when your credibility as a source of knowledge is unjustly downgraded (perhaps because you are ‘just a woman’ of the ‘wrong’ race). This interview with Miranda explores what epistemic injustice is, and why it is important.
This paper distinguishes five key interpretations of the argument presented by Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations I, §258. I also argue that on none of these five interpretations is the argument cogent. The paper is primarily concerned with the most popular interpretation of the argument: that which that makes it rest upon the principle that one can be said to follow a rule only if there exists a 'useable criterion of successful performance' (Pears) or 'operational standard of correctness' (Glock) for its (...) correct application. This principle, I suggest, is untrue. The private language argument upon which it rests therefore fails. (shrink)
Skeptical theism is a popular - if not universally theistically endorsed - response to the evidential problem of evil. Skeptical theists question how we can be in a position to know God lacks God-justifying reason to allow the evils we observe. In this paper I examine a criticism of skeptical theism: that the skeptical theists skepticism re divine reasons entails that, similarly, we cannot know God lacks God-justifying reason to deceive us about the external world and the past. This in (...) turn seems to supply us with a defeater for all our beliefs regarding the external world and past? Critics argue that either the skeptical theist abandon their skeptical theism, thereby resurrecting the evidential argument from evil, or else they must embrace seemingly absurd skeptical consequences, including skepticism about the external world and past. I look at various skeptical theist responses to this critique and find them all wanting. (shrink)
The vast majority of Biblical historians believe there is evidence sufficient to place Jesus’ existence beyond reasonable doubt. Many believe the New Testamentdocuments alone suffice firmly to establish Jesus as an actual, historical figure. I question these views. In particular, I argue (i) that the three most popular criteria by which various non-miraculous New Testament claims made about Jesus are supposedly corroborated are not sufficient, either singly or jointly, to place his existence beyond reasonable doubt, and (ii) that a prima (...) facie plausible principle concerning how evidence should be assessed—a principle I call the contamination principle—entails that, given the large proportion of uncorroborated miracle claims made about Jesus in the New Testament documents, we should, in the absence of good independent evidence for an historical Jesus, remain sceptical about his existence. (shrink)
This paper presents an extension of Putnam's account of how substance terms such as ‘water’ and ‘gold’ function and of how a posteriori necessary truths concerning the underlying microstructures of such kinds may be derived. The paper has three aims. I aim to refute a familiar criticism of Putnam's account: that it presupposes what Salmon calls an ‘irredeemably metaphysical, and philosophically controversial, theory of essentialism’. I show how all of the details of Putnam's account—including those that Salmon believes smuggle in (...) such essentialist commitments—can be squared with a rejection of any such essentialist metaphysics. I aim to reveal why Steward is wrong to suppose that, by helping himself to the claim that ‘H2O’ is a rigid designator of a substance, Kripke, too, presupposes something controversially ‘metaphysical’. I aim to show how my proposed account also sidesteps a variety of objections raised by Needham and others who argue that Kripke's and Putnam's accounts of how ‘water’ and.. (shrink)
Do we have free will? In this interview, Helen Steward explains part of her very distinctive approach to the philosophical puzzle concerning free will vs determinism. Steward rejects determinism, but not because she denies that we are not material beings (because, for example, we have Cartesian, immaterial souls that have physical effects). Her reasons for rejecting determinism are very different.
Playing the mystery card -- "But it fits!" -- Going nuclear -- Moving the semantic goalposts -- "But I just know!" -- Pseudo-profundity -- Piling up the anecdotes -- Pressing your buttons -- Conclusion -- The Tapescrew letters.
Here is a brief introduction to Ayer's radical criticism of religious belief. According to Ayer, a sentence like ‘God exists’ doesn't assert something false; rather, it fails to assert anything at all.
Here's an overview of one of the more ingenious attempts to criticize religious belief. Antony Flew argues that if the religious won't allow anything to count as evidence against what they believe, then they don't actually believe anything. The religious aren't making false claims; rather, they're not making any claims at all.
Brian Loar believes he has refuted all those antiphysicalist arguments that take as their point of departure observations about what is or isn't conceivable. I argue that there remains an important, popular and plausible-looking form of conceivability argument that Loar has entirely overlooked. Though he may not have realized it, Saul Kripke presents, or comes close to presenting, two fundamentally different forms of conceivability argument. I distinguish the two arguments and point out that while Loar has succeeded in refuting one (...) of Kripke's arguments he has not refuted the other. Loar is mistaken: physicalism still faces an apparently insurmountable conceptual obstacle. (shrink)
From Descartes to designer babies, The Philosophy Gym poses questions about some of history's most important philosophical issues, ranging in difficulty from pretty easy to very challenging. He brings new perspectives to age-old conundrums while also tackling modern-day dilemmas -- some for the first time. Begin your warm up by contemplating whether a pickled sheep can truly be considered art, or dive right in and tackle the existence of God. In this radically new way of looking at philosophy, Stephen Law (...) illustrates the problem with a story, then lets the argument battle it out in clear, easily digestible and intelligent prose. This perfect little mental health club is sure to give each reader's mind a great workout. (shrink)
This is an article that explores the question "what is the meaning of life?" particularly with respect to humanism and theism. It defends a humanist position, and refutes a number of arguments for the conclusion that a meaningful human existence requires the existence of God.
The year is 2100. Geena is the proud new owner of Emit, a state-of-the-art robot. She has just unwrapped him, the packaging strewn across the dining room floor. Emit is designed to replicate the outward behaviour of a human being down to the last detail . Emit responds to questions in much the same way humans do. Ask him how he feels and he will say he has had a tough day, has a slight headache, is sorry he broke that (...) vase, and so on. Geena flips the switch at the back of Emit's neck to ‘on’. Emit springs to life. (shrink)
Thinking Tools is a regular feature that introduces pointers on thinking clearly and rigorously. In this installment, we focus, not on faulty reasoning per se, but on an example of how we can be led astray or manipulated without our even realizing what is going on. Our critical faculties are entirely sidestepped!
This volume presents cutting edge research by many of the leading researchers in the field of religious epistemology, a field that has seen major development in recent years. This book attempts to answer the questions of: how reasonable is belief in God? Can a good evidential case be made either for the existence of God, or against the existence of God? Does the existence of enormous suffering, or religious disagreement, provide significant evidence against the existence of God? How might we (...) best come to know God? What's required for religious belief to qualify as rational? All of the papers included in this volume aim to be accessible to the interested layperson. (shrink)
In a secular society, does Christmas mean anything anymore? As we stuff ourselves with plumped-up turkeys, unwrap the latest useless gadget, and gather round the family tree, what real relevance does the festive season have and why do we perpetuate it? The Philosophy of Christmas is designed to be a fun book but one underpinned by an exploration of serious philosophical issues. The way we celebrate Christmas says a lot about the way we relate to each other, our society and (...) values. For instance, did you know that Santa's outfit is only red and white because those are the colours of the Coca Cola company? Already a bestselling author, Stephen Law takes a look at such things as the virgin birth (David Hume's theories on miracles), Bertrand Russell's turkey, the existential angst of Santa, and peace on earth to produce a humourous, varied and thought-provoking collection. (shrink)