According to the much-discussed argument from divine hiddenness, God's existence is disconfirmed by the fact that not everyone believes in God. The argument has provoked an impressive range of theistic replies, but none has overcome the challenge posed by the unevendistribution of theistic belief around the world, a phenomenon for which naturalistic explanations seem more promising. The confound any explanation of why non-belief is always blameworthy or of why God allows blameless non-belief. They also cast doubt on the existence of (...) a sensusdivinitatis: the awareness of God that Reformed epistemologists claim is innate in all normal human beings. Finally, the demographics make the argument from divine hiddenness in some ways a better atheological argument than the more familiar argument from evil. (shrink)
Why is there something rather than nothing? Apparently many people regard that question as a challenge to naturalism because they think it’s too fundamental or too sweeping for natural science to answer, even in principle. I argue, on the contrary, that the question has a simple and adequate naturalistic answer: ‘Because there are penguins.’ I then diagnose various confusions underlying the suspicion that the question can’t have such an answer and, more generally, that the question, or else some variant of (...) it, can’t have a naturalistic answer at all. (shrink)
People in many parts of the world link morality with God and see good ethical values as an important benefit of theistic belief. A recent survey showed that Americans, for example, distrust atheists more than any other group listed in the survey, this distrust stemming mainly from the conviction that only believers in God can be counted on to respect morality. I argue against this widespread tendency to see theism as the friend of morality. I argue that our most serious (...) moral obligations -- the foundations of what can be called “ordinary morality ” -- remain in place only if God doesn’t exist. In recent years, some atheists have reacted to society’s distrust of them by claiming that atheism accommodates ordinary morality just as well as theism does. The truth is even stronger: only atheism accommodates ordinary morality. Logically speaking, morality is not common ground between theists and atheists. Morality depends on atheism. (shrink)
I present a "moral argument" for the nonexistence of God. Theism, I argue, can’t accommodate an ordinary and fundamental moral obligation acknowledged by many people, including many theists. My argument turns on a principle that a number of philosophers already accept as a constraint on God’s treatment of human beings. I defend the principle against objections from those inclined to reject it.
I reply to Jason Marsh's discussion of my article 'Divine hiddenness and the demographics of theism'. For several reasons, Marsh's inventive Molinist explanation of the lopsided worldwide distribution of theistic believers does not threaten the conclusion I argued for originally: theistic explanations of that distribution are implausible on even their own terms and in any case less plausible than naturalistic ones.
Skeptical theism claims that the probability of a perfect God’s existence isn’t at all reduced by our failure to see how such a God could allow the horrific suffering that occurs in our world. Given our finite grasp of the realm of value, skeptical theists argue, it shouldn’t surprise us that we fail to see the reasons that justify God in allowing such suffering, and thus our failure to see those reasons is no evidence against God’s existence or perfection. Critics (...) object that skeptical theism implies a degree of moral skepticism that even skeptical theists will find objectionable and that it undermines moral obligations that even skeptical theists will want to preserve. I discuss a version of the first objection and defend a version of the second. (shrink)
Why is there anything, rather than nothing at all? This question often serves as a debating tactic used by theists to attack naturalism. Many people apparently regard the question—couched in such stark, general terms—as too profound for natural science to answer. It is unanswerable by science, I argue, not because it’s profound or because science is superficial but because the question, as it stands, is ill-posed and hence has no answer in the first place. In any form in which it (...) is well-posed, it has an answer that naturalism can in principle provide. The question therefore gives the foes of naturalism none of the ammunition that many on both sides of the debate think it does. (shrink)
According to Michael Almeida and Graham Oppy, adherents of skeptical theism will find their sense of moral obligation undermined in a potentially ‘appalling’ way. Michael Bergmann and Michael Rea disagree, claiming that God’s commands provide skeptical theists with a source of moral obligation that withstands the skepticism in skeptical theism. I argue that Bergmann and Rea are mistaken: skeptical theists cannot consistently rely on what they take to be God’s commands.
Some of the most enduring skeptical arguments invoke stories of deception -- the evil demon, convincing dreams, an envatted brain, the Matrix -- in order to show that we have no first-order knowledge of the external world. I confront such arguments with a dilemma: either (1) they establish no more than the logical possibility of error, in which case they fail to threaten fallible knowledge, the only kind of knowledge of the external world most of us think we have anyway; (...) or (2) they defeat themselves because they must grant us empirical knowledge or justified beliefs of the very kind they must also entirely deny us. Either way they pose no significant threat. (shrink)
Skeptical theism combines theism with skepticism about our capacity to discern God’s morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil. Proponents have claimed that skeptical theism defeats the evidential argument from evil. Many opponents have objected that it implies untenable moral skepticism, induces appalling moral paralysis, and the like. Recently Daniel Howard-Snyder has tried to rebut this prevalent objection to skeptical theism by rebutting it as an objection to the skeptical part of skeptical theism, which part he labels “Agnosticism” (with an intentionally (...) capital “A”). I argue that his rebuttal fails as a defense of Agnosticism against the objection and even more so as a defense of skeptical theism. (shrink)
According to global skepticism, we know nothing. According to local skepticism, we know nothing in some particular area or domain of discourse. Unlike their global counterparts, local skeptics think they can contain our invincible ignorance within limited bounds. I argue that they are mistaken. Local skepticism, particularly the kinds that most often get defended, cannot stay local: if there are domains whose truths we cannot know, then there must be claims outside those domains that we cannot know even if they (...) are true. My argument focuses on one popular form of local skepticism, ethical skepticism, but I believe that the argument generalizes to cover other forms as well. (shrink)
Since antiquity, philosophers have struggled to describe the instant of change in continuous time in a way that is both consistent with classical logic and also objective rather than arbitrary. A particularly important version of this problem arises, I argue, for substantial change, that is, any case in which a metaphysical substance comes into or goes out of existence. I then offer and defend an analysis of the instant of substantial change in continuous time that is consistent with classical logic (...) and objective rather than arbitrary. My key assumption is that, necessarily, every substance ages at every instant at which it exists, from which I conclude that no substance has a first or a last instant of its existence if time is continuous. I also suggest that my solution offers some support for endurantism about substances. (shrink)
Could our observations of apparently pointless evil ever justify the conclusion that God does not exist? Not according to Stephen Wykstra, who several years ago announced the “Condition of Reasonable Epistemic Access,” or “CORNEA,” a principle that has sustained critiques of atheistic arguments from evil ever since. Despite numerous criticisms aimed at CORNEA in recent years, the principle continues to be invoked and defended. We raise a new objection: CORNEA is false because it entails intolerable violations of closure.
In the current issue of this journal, Scott Hill critiques some of my work on the “is”-“ought” controversy, the Hume-inspired debate over whether an ethical conclusion can be soundly, or even validly, derived from only non-ethical premises. I’ve argued that it can be; Hill is unconvinced. I reply to Hill’s critique, focusing on four key questions to which he and I give different answers.
Newcomb's problem supposedly involves your choosing one or else two boxes in circumstances in which a predictor has made a prediction of how many boxes you will choose. We argue that the circumstances which allegedly define Newcomb's problem generate a previously unnoticed regress which shows that Newcomb's problem is insoluble because it is ill-formed. Those who favor, as we do, a ``no-box'' reply to Newcomb's problem typically claim either that the problem's solution is underdetermined or else that it is overdetermined. (...) We are no-boxers of the first kind, but the underdetermination we identify is more radical than any previously identified: it blocks the very set-up of the problem and not just potential solutions to the problem once it has been set up. The defect is subtle, but it cripples every genuine version of the problem, regardless of variations in such things as the predictor's degree of reliability, the basis on which the prediction is made, or the amount of money in each box. The regress shows that, surprisingly enough, no one can understand Newcomb's problem, and so no one can possibly solve it. (shrink)
For at least several decades, and arguably since the time of Descartes, it has been fashionable to offer scientific or quasi-scientific arguments for skepticism about human knowledge. I critique five attempts to argue for skeptical conclusions from the findings of science and scientifically informed common sense.
The Knower Paradox has had a brief but eventful history, and principles of epistemic closure (which say that a subject automatically knows any proposition she knows to be materially implied, or logically entailed, by a proposition she already knows) have been the subject of tremendous debate in epistemic logic and epistemology more generally, especially because the fate of standard arguments for and against skepticism seems to turn on the fate of closure. As far as I can tell, however, no one (...) working in either area has emphasized the result I emphasize in this paper: the Knower Paradox just falsifies even the most widely accepted general principles of epistemic closure. After establishing that result, I discuss five of its more important consequences. (shrink)
On the basis of Chapter 15 of Anselm's Proslogion, I develop an argument that confronts theology with a trilemma: atheism, utter mysticism, or radical anti-Anselmianism. The argument establishes a disjunction of claims that Anselmians in particular, but not only they, will find disturbing: (a) God does not exist, (b) no human being can have even the slightest conception of God, or (c) the Anselmian requirement of maximal greatness in God is wrong. My own view, for which I argue briefly, is (...) that (b) is false on any correct reading of what conceiving of requires and that (c) is false on any correct reading of the concept of God. Thus, my own view is that the argument establishes atheism. In any case, one consequence of the argument is that Anselmian theology is possible for human beings only if it lacks a genuine object of study. (shrink)
In "Ordinary Morality Implies Atheism" (2009), I argued that traditional theism threatens ordinary morality by relieving us of any moral obligation to prevent horrific suffering by innocent people even when we easily can. In the current issue of this journal, Jerome Gellman attempts to rescue that moral obligation from my charge that theism destroys it. In this reply, I argue that his attempted rescue fails.
According to divine-command metaethics (DCM), whatever is morally good or right has that status because, and only because, it conforms to God’s will. I argue that DCM is false or vacuous: either DCM is false, or else there are no instantiated moral properties, and no moral truths, to which DCM can even apply. The sort of criticism I offer is familiar, but I develop it in what I believe is a novel way.
At least since Cardinal Newman's Grammar of Assent , Anglo-American philosophers have been concerned with the role of certitude, or subjective epistemic certainty, in theistic belief. Newman is himself famous for holding that certitude is an essential feature of any sort of genuine belief, including in particular religious belief. As one recent commentator, Michael Banner, notes, for Newman.
On the basis of Chapter 15 of Anselm’s Proslogion, I develop an argument that confronts theology with a trilemrna: atheism, utter mysticism, or radical anti-Anselmianism. The argument establishes a disjunction of claims that Anselmians in particular, but not only they, will find disturbing: God does not exist, no human being can have even the slightest conception of God, or the Anselmian requirement of maximal greatness in God is wrong. My own view, for which I argue briefly, is that is false (...) on any correct reading of what conceiving of requires and that is false on any correct reading of the concept of God. Thus, my own view is that the argument establishes atheism. In any case, one consequence of the argument is that Anselmian theology is possible for human beings only if it lacks a genuine object of study. (shrink)