Can the issue of how important it is whether or not there is a God be decided prior to deciding whether or not there is a God? In this paper, I explore some difficulties that stand in the way of answering this question in the affirmative and some of the implications of these difficulties for that part of the Philosophy of Religion which concerns itself with assessing arguments for and against the existence of God, the implications for how its importance (...) may best be defended within secular academe. (shrink)
Some philosophers have thought that life could only be meaningful if there is no God. For Sartre and Nagel, for example, a God of the traditional classical theistic sort would constrain our powers of self-creative autonomy in ways that would severely detract from the meaning of our lives, possibly even evacuate our lives of all meaning. Some philosophers, by contrast, have thought that life could only be meaningful if there is a God. God and the Meanings of Life is interested (...) in exploring the truth in both these schools of thought, seeking to discover what God could and couldn't do to make life meaningful (as well as what he would and wouldn't do). Mawson espouses a version of the 'amalgam' or 'pluralism' thesis about the issue of life's meaning – in essence, that there are a number of different legitimate meanings of 'meaning' (and indeed 'life') in the question of life's meaning. According to Mawson, God, were he to exist, would help make life meaningful in some of these senses and hinder in some others. He argues that whilst there could be meaning in a Godless universe, there could be other sorts of meaning in a Godly one and that these would be deeper. (shrink)
‘The Meaning of Life’ and ‘The Philosophy of Religion’ have meant different things to different people, and so I do well to alert my reader to what these phrases mean to me and thus to the subject area of this review of recent work on their intersection. First, ‘The Meaning of Life’: within the analytic tradition, an idea has gained widespread assent; whatever the vague and enigmatic nature of the phrase ‘the meaning of life’, we may sensibly speak of meaningfulness (...) in a life as a particular, positive, normative feature that some individuals’ lives may well have, and this feature is to be distinguished from, though closely related to, other positive features – satisfaction, wellbeing, virtue and so forth. There has been much work done on these assumptions in recent years. An excellent summary of this work up to its date of publication is given by Thaddeus Metz (in his 2007 a). Many – though by no means all – philosophers retain an instinctive scepticism toward the phrase ‘the meaning of life’ and a reluctance to engage with it, for it seems to connote vague and/or impossible-to-fulfil cosmic expectations. (See Thomson , chapter 11 and Seachris 2009 for attempts to engage with it nonetheless.) But philosophers are not generally now so sceptical about talk of meaningfulness in life and thus not so sceptical about the phrase ‘the meaning of life’ if it is taken to be referring merely to this. And that is how I shall be taking it. Secondly, ‘The Philosophy of Religion’: in the analytic tradition, this has usually been taken to be philosophical reflection on the rational acceptability or otherwise of classical theism and on what God's existence, should He exist, entails ontologically, metaphysically, metaethically and so forth. Therefore, I shall be talking about recent reflection in the analytic tradition on the relationship between the God of classical theism's existence (or lack of it) and meaningfulness (or lack of it) in human lives. (shrink)
Monotheism and the Meaning of Life explores the role of God, and the relationship to the question 'What is the meaning of life?' for adherents of the main monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Exploring the various senses of 'meaning' and 'life', Mawson argues that there are various questions implicit in the notion of the meaning of life and that the God of monotheistic religion is central to the correct answers to all of them.
In this paper, I argue that atheists who think that the issue of God's existence or non-existence is an important one; assign a greater than negligible probability to God's existence; and are not in possession of a plausible argument for scepticism about the truth-directedness of uttering such prayers in their own cases, are under a prima facie epistemic obligation to pray to God that He stop them being atheists.
In this journal Steve Maitzen has recently advanced an argument for atheism premised on theodical individualism, the thesis that God would not permit people to suffer evils that were underserved, involuntary, and gratuitous for them. In this paper I advance reasons to think this premise mistaken.
I argue that Open Theism leads to a retreat from ascribing to God ‘complete omniscience’. Having surrendered this ground, the Open Theist cannot but retreat from ascribing to God complete omnipotence; the Open Theist must admit that God might perform actions which He reasonably expected would meet certain descriptions but which nevertheless do not do so. This then makes whatever goodness (in the sense of beneficence, not just benevolence) God has a matter of luck. Open Theism is committed to a (...) partially ignorant God, one who is subject to the vagaries of luck for the efficacy of at least some of His actions and for His goodness. (shrink)
In recent ”secular’ Epistemology, much attention has been paid to formulating an ”anti-luck’ or ”safety’ condition; it is now widely held that such a condition is an essential part of any satisfactory post-Gettier reflection on the nature of knowledge. In this paper, I explain the safety condition as it has emerged and then explore some implications of and for it arising from considering the God issue. It looks at the outset as if safety might be ”good news’ for a view (...) characteristic of Reformed Epistemology, viz. the view that if Theism is true, many philosophically unsophisticated believers probably know that it’s true. A sub-conclusion of my paper though suggests that as safety does not by itself turn true belief into knowledge, the recent focus on it is not quite such good news for Reformed Epistemologists as they may have hoped: it’s not that safety provides a new route by which they can reach this sort of conclusion. But safety is still good news for their view at least in the sense that there is no reason arising from considering it to count these philosophically unsophisticated believers as not knowing that there’s a God. I conclude by reflecting that good news for Reformed Epistemology is perhaps bad news for the discipline of Philosophy of Religion more generally, as there’s a possible ”reflection destroys knowledge’-implication to be drawn. Those who have been led to their religious beliefs in at least some philosophically unsophisticated ways seem to enjoy much safer religious beliefs than those who have been led to their religious beliefs by philosophical reflection, so the discipline as a whole will be adversely affected if safety is eventually accorded the role of a necessary condition for knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper, I aim to discuss not the issue of whether or not we do in fact have reasons to suppose that there is or that there is not a God, but rather an issue which looks at first glance like it might have a certain methodological priority, the issue of what is the right ‘ethics of belief’ for belief in God: should one believe in God only if one has positive reasons in favour of doing so or is (...) it permissible to believe in Him without such reasons? In this paper, I want to see what can be done to decide which of the various options for an ethics of belief in God is right prior to deciding whether or not God exists . Let's start then by getting these options out onto the table. One of them is as follows: 1) We should believe in God only if we have positive reasons to do so. (shrink)
Knowledge of God takes the form of a debate between Alvin Plantinga and Michael Tooley. Plantinga opens the batting with a seventy-page laying out of his case ‘that theism has a significant epistemic virtue: if it is true, it is warranted; this is a virtue naturalism emphatically lacks’ . Indeed, Plantinga argues that ‘if naturalism were true, there would be no such thing as knowledge’ . It will be recalled [e.g. Plantinga and Plantinga ] that Plantinga's position is that warrant, (...) understood as whatever it is that needs to be added to true belief to …. (shrink)
The title of T. J. Mawson's article was incorrectly given as “God's creation of mortality” on the Contents page and cover. The publishers would like to apologise to the author and their readers for this error.