In the first part of Theism and Ultimate Explanation Timothy O’Connor provides a compact survey of the metaphysics and epistemology of modality, defending modal realism and a priorism. In the book’s second half he defends a Leibnizian-style cosmological argument for an absolutely necessary being. He seeks to answer four questions: Is the idea of a necessary being coherent? In what way is the postulation of such a being explanatory? Does the assumption of necessary being commit us to denying the (...) very contingency of mundane things which it is meant to explain? What are the implications of necessary being for theology? In this review I highlight a few of the obscurities and apparent weaknesses of this otherwise commendable book. (shrink)
The objective probability of every physical event is fixed by prior physical events and laws alone. (This thesis is sometimes expressed in terms of explanation: In tracing the causal history of any physical event, one need not advert to any non-physical events or laws. To the extent that there is any explanation available for a physical event, there is a complete explanation available couched entirely in physical vocabulary. We prefer the probability formulation, as it should be acceptable to any physicalist, (...) though some reject the explanation formulation.) (3) Causal Exclusion. (shrink)
Twentieth-century analytic philosophy was dominated by positivist antimetaphysics and neo-Humean deflationary metaphysics, and the nature of explanation was reconceived in order to fit these agendas. Unsurprisingly, the explanatory value of theist was widely discredited. I argue that the long-overdue revival of moralized, broadly neo-Aristotelian metaphysics and an improved perspective on modal knowledge dramatically changes the landscape. In this enriched context, there is no sharp divide between physics and metaphysics, and the natural end of the theoretician’s quest for a unified explanation (...) of the universe is God, an absolutely necessary, transcendent, and personal source of all contingent reality. (shrink)
As good a definition as any of a _philosophical_ conundrum is a problem all of whose possible solutions are unsatisfactory. The problem of understanding the springs of action for morally responsible agents is commonly recognized to be such a problem. The origin, nature, and explanation of freely-willed actions puzzle us today as they did the ancients Greeks, and for much the same reasons. However, one can carry this ‘perennial-puzzle’ sentiment too far. The unsatisfactory nature of philosophical theories is a more (...) or less matter, and some of them have admitted of improvement over time. This, at any rate, is what we self-selecting metaphysicians tend to suppose, and I will pursue that high calling by suggesting a few improvements to a theory of metaphysical freedom, or freedom of the will. (shrink)
This provocative book refurbishes the traditional account of freedom of will as reasons-guided "agent" causation, situating its account within a general metaphysics. O'Connor's discussion of the general concept of causation and of ontological reductionism v. emergence will specially interest metaphysicians and philosophers of mind.
One familiar affirmative answer to this question holds that these facts suffice to entail that Descartes' picture of the human mind must be mistaken. On Descartes' view, our mind or soul (the only essential part of ourselves) has no spatial location. Yet it directly interacts with but one physical object, the brain of that body with which it is, 'as it were, intermingled,' so as to 'form one unit.' The radical disparity posited between a nonspatial mind, whose intentional and conscious (...) properties are had by no physical object, and a spatial body, all of whose properties are had by no mind, has prompted some to conclude that, pace Descartes, causal interaction between the two is impossible. Jaegwon Kim has recently given a new twist to this old line of thought.(1) In the present essay, I will use Kim's argument as a springboard for motivating my own favored picture of the metaphysics of mind and body and then discussing how an often vilified account of freedom of the will may be realized within it. (shrink)
Let me begin with what I take to be the two most significant features of this collection. First, it addresses an area that is woefully under-discussed: the intersection of virtue epistemology and philosophy of religion. Each is a massively influential and important field in its own right, so bringing the two into dialogue makes tremendous sense. This collection accomplishes much in this regard but also underscores the amount of work that needs to be developed. Bringing together virtue epistemology, philosophy of (...) religion, testimony, analyses of trust/faith, disagreement, etc. makes the volume of interest to philosophers working in a wide variety of fields. Second, each contributor is an extremely capable philosopher on the cutting edge of his/her field. The list is a murderer’s row of epistemologists and philosophers of religion, and their contributions will accordingly provide fodder for continued work regarding all of the topics discussed.W. Jay Wood begins with the necessity of fait .. (shrink)
Emergence and reduction in context: Philosophy of science and/or analytic metaphysics Content Type Journal Article Category Survey Review Pages 1-16 DOI 10.1007/s11016-012-9671-4 Authors Michael Silberstein, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA 17022, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Over the last several years, a number of philosophers have advanced formal versions of certain traditional arguments for the incompatibility of human freedom with causal determinism and for the incompatibility of human freedom with infallible divine foreknowledge. Common to all of these is some form of a principle governing the transfer of a species of alethic necessity (TPN). More recently, a few clear and compelling counterexamples to TNP (and a variant of it) have begun to surface in the literature. These (...) attacks on TNP are developed along somewhat different lines (and were apparently worked out independently of each other). I will show that despite the differences in presentation, however, all of the compelling counterexamples that have been offered turn on a common (and overlooked) basic feature. Once this feature is recognized, I suggest, one is naturally led to restrict the principle in a way that renders it immune to these counterexamples. (I further argue that the restriction I suggest has independent justification.) I then go on to consider two further attempts to show the invalidity of TNP for power necessity, ones that would not be forestalled by my restriction on TNP, and I argue that they are unsuccessful. In a final section, I compare my modified version of TNP for power necessity with a principle suggested in Ginet (1990). (shrink)
It is a commonplace of philosophy that the notion of free will is a hard nut to crack. A simple, compelling argument can be made to show that behavior for which an agent is morally responsible cannot be the outcome of prior determining causal factors.1 Yet the smug satisfaction with which we incompatibilists are prone to trot out this argument has a tendency to turn to embarrassment when we're asked to explain just how it is that morally responsible action might (...) obtain under the assumption of indeterminism. Despair over the prospect of giving a satisfactory answer to this question has led some contemporary philosophers to a position rarely, if ever, held in the history of philosophy: free, responsible action is an incoherent concept.2. (shrink)
“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. Which sort is the free will sort is what all the fuss is about. (And what a fuss it has been: philosophers have debated this question for over two millenia, and just about every major philosopher has had something to say about it.) Most philosophers suppose that the concept of free will is very (...) closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility. Acting with free will, on such views, is just to satisfy the metaphysical requirement on being responsible for one's action. (Clearly, there will also be epistemic conditions on responsibility as well, such as being aware—or failing that, being culpably unaware—of relevant alternatives to one's action and of the alternatives' moral significance.) But the significance of free will is not exhausted by its connection to moral responsibility. Free will also appears to be a condition on desert for one's accomplishments (why sustained effort and creative work are praiseworthy); on the autonomy and dignity of persons; and on the value we accord to love and friendship. (See Kane 1996, 81ff. and Clarke 2003, Ch.1.). (shrink)
This essay will canvass recent philosophical discussion of accounts of human (free) agency that deploy a notion of agent causation . Historically, many accounts have only hinted at the nature of agent causation by way of contrast with the causality exhibited by impersonal physical systems. Likewise, the numerous criticisms of agent causal theories have tended to be highly general, often amounting to no more that the bare assertion that the idea of agent causation is obscure or mysterious. But in the (...) past decade, detailed accounts of agent causation have been offered (chiefly by Randolph Clarke and Timothy O’Connor), and they have occasioned more specific objections in turn. These recent accounts and objections to them will be my primary focus in what follows. But first I will identify two distinct motivations that have been advanced for adopting an agent causal approach to human agency and the ontological and metaphysical commitments common to any version of this approach. (shrink)
According to many philosophical theologians, God is metaphysically simple: there is no real distinction among His attributes or even between attribute and existence itself. Here, I consider only one argument against the simplicity thesis. Its proponents claim that simplicity is incompatible with God’s having created another world, since simplicity entails that God is unchanging across possible worlds. For, they argue, different acts of creation involve different willings, which are distinct intrinsic states. I show that this is mistaken, by sketching an (...) adequate account of reasons-guided activity that does not require distinct intrinsic states of willing corresponding to each possible act of creation. (shrink)
Reid takes it to be part of our commonsense view of ourselves that "we" -- "qua" enduring substances, not merely "qua" subjects of efficacious mental states -- are often the immediate causes of our own volitions. Only if this conviction is veridical, Reid thinks, may we be properly held to be responsible for our actions (indeed, may we truly be said to "act" at all). This paper offers an interpretation of Reid's account of such agency (taking account of Rowe's recent (...) commentary), with particular attention to the issue of the causation of and responsibility for an agent's "causing" of his volition. (shrink)
All organised bodies are composed of parts, similar to those composing inorganic nature, and which have even themselves existed in an inorganic state; but the phenomena of life, which result from the juxtaposition of those parts in a certain manner, bear no analogy to any of the effects which would be produced by the action of the component substances considered as mere physical agents. To whatever degree we might imagine our knowledge of the properties of the several ingredients of a (...) living body to be extended and perfected, it is certain that no mere summing up of the separate actions of those elements will ever amount to the action of the living body itself. (shrink)
An expansive, yet succinct, analysis of the Philosophy of Religion – from metaphysics through theology. Organized into two sections, the text first examines truths concerning what is possible and what is necessary. These chapters lay the foundation for the book’s second part – the search for a metaphysical framework that permits the possibility of an ultimate explanation that is correct and complete. A cutting-edge scholarly work which engages with the traditional metaphysician’s quest for a true ultimate explanation of the most (...) general features of the world we inhabit Develops an original view concerning the epistemology and metaphysics of modality, or truths concerning what is possible or necessary Applies this framework to a re-examination of the cosmological argument for theism Defends a novel version of the Leibnizian cosmological argument. (shrink)
I have argued elsewhere that human free action is governed by objective probabilities. This view, I suggested, is strongly supported by our experience of motivated decision-making and by our having emerged from probabilistically-governed physical causes. Leigh Vicens criticizes these arguments. She also argues that an account of human freedom as probabilisticallyunstructured indeterminacy is less vulnerable to challenges to the plausibility of libertarian views of freedom. In this article, I explain why I am not persuaded by Vicens’s arguments.
In what follows, I will contend that the commonsense view of ourselves as fundamental causal agents - for which some have used the term “unmoved movers" but which I think might more accurately be expressed as “not wholly moved movers” - is theoretically understandable, internally consistent, and consistent with what we have thus far come to know about the nature and workings of the natural world. In the section that follows, I try to show how the concept of ‘agent’ causation (...) can be understood as a distinct species (from ‘event’ causation) of the primitive idea, which I’ll term “causal production”, underlying realist or non-Humean conceptions of event causation. In section III, I respond to a number of contemporary objections to the theory of agent causation. Sections IV-V are devoted to showing that the theory is compatible with ordinary reasons explanations of action, which then places me in a position to respond, in the final section, to the contention that we could never know, in principle, whether the agency theory actually describes a significant portion of human activity. (shrink)
Philosophical discussion of theistic arguments mainly focus on their first (existence) stage, which argues for the existence of something having some very general, if suggestive, feature. I shall instead consider only the second (identification) stage of one such argument, the cosmologic al argument from contingency. Taking for granted the existence of an absolutely necessary being, I develop an extended line of argument that supports the..
In what follows, I shall presuppose the ecumenical core of the causal powers metaphysics. The argument of this paper concerns what may appear at first to be a wholly unrelated matter, the metaphysics of free will. However, an adequate account of freedom requires, in my judgment, a notion of a distinctive variety of causal power, one which tradition dubs ‘agent-causal power’. I will first develop this notion and clarify its relationship to other notions. I will then respond to a number (...) of objections either to the possibility of a power so explicated or to its sufficiency for grounding an adequate account of human freedom. (shrink)
Many philosophers are persuaded by familiar arguments that free will is incompatible with causal determinism. Yet, notoriously, past attempts to articulate how the right type of indeterminism might secure the capacity for autonomous action have generally been regarded as either demonstrably inadequate or irremediably obscure. This volume gathers together the most significant recent discussions concerning the prospects for devising a satisfactory indeterministic account of freedom of action. These essays give greater precision to traditional formulations of the problems associated with indeterministic (...) accounts and to the range of theoretical avenues for pursuing resolutions. The first four essays set out different challenges (from both compatibilists and those skeptical of the possibility of free will) to the adequacy of standard indeterministic theories. The next seven essays meet one or more of these challenges. Each of the fundamental types of approach--simple indeterminism, causal indeterminism, and agent causation--is represented in these novel and sophisticated proposals. The collection finishes with two essays that debate whether compatibilism entails that freedom of choice is a comparatively rare phenomenon within an individual's life. Eloquently presenting some of the most compelling and accessible arguments surrounding this central philosophical issue, Agents, Causes, and Events makes a valuable contribution to courses in free will/action theory and metaphysics. (shrink)
Noel Hendrickson, in “Against an Agent-Causal Theory of Action” (this volume), carefully and intelligently probes aspects of the agent-causal account of free will I present in Persons and Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will. The central target of his criticism is my contention that agent-causal events, by their very nature, cannot be caused. Here, I respond to his argument on this point.
Many philosophers judge that typical agent-causal accounts of freedom improperly sacrifice the possibility of rational explanation of the action for the sake of securing control, while others judge that the reverse shortcoming plagues typical event causal accounts. (Of course, many philosophers make both these judgments.) After briefly rehearsing the reasons for these verdicts on the two traditional strategies, we undertake an extended examination of Randolph Clarke's recent attempt to meet the challenge by proposing an original, "integrated agent-causal" account of human (...) free action. We argue that Clarke's account fails. In a final section, we sketch a more promising route to integration. (shrink)
Freedom and moral responsibility have one foot in the practical realm of human affairs and the other in the esoteric realm of fundamental metaphysics—or so we believe. This has been denied, especially in the metaphysics-bashing era occupying the first two-thirds or so of the twentieth century, traces of which linger in the present day. But the reasons for this denial seem to us quite implausible. Certainly, the argument for the general bankruptcy of metaphysics has been soundly discredited. Arguments from Strawson (...) and others that our moral practices are too deeply embedded in human life to rest on anything as tenuous as a metaphysical doctrine far from the thoughts of ordinary people would seem to prove too much: we can easily imagine fantastic scenarios far from the thoughts of ordinary people—involving, say, alien manipulation or massive deception—that, if true, would clearly undermine claims to freedom and responsibility. For still other philosophers, the separation of the moral life from (some) metaphysical issues is prescriptive, not descriptive: it is a recommendation that we revise ordinary moral thought by severing its allegedly problematic links to metaphysics. (Some philosophers appear to hover undecided between such a prescriptive project and a Strawsonian descriptive claim.) We suspect that the prospects of retaining the binding force of ordinary moral thought, were such a reconceived moral practice widely embraced, are bleak. A transition to something closer to moral nihilism seems at least as likely. In any case, our interest here is in descriptive metaphysics, not revisionary. -/- To say as we do that freedom and moral responsibility have a partly metaphysical character is not to suggest that they can be had only if some highly specific version of a particular metaphysical framework is correct. Instead, we suggest in what follows, it is a broadly neo-Humean metaphysics that is not hospitable to freedom (for reasons distinctive to the metaphysics), while a broadly neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is. But we also think (and it is the main aim of our paper to show) that different versions of the neo- Aristotelian metaphysics lead to rather different metaphysical accounts of free and responsible action. Specifically, we will argue that (1) the most satisfactory account of human freedom within the broadly neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is agent-causal, but that (2) two different versions of the general metaphysics will lead to important differences in the agent-causal account of freedom. Adjust the details of your general metaphysics, and the details of your account of freedom are transformed in significant ways. Action theory cannot properly be pursued in isolation from general metaphysics. (shrink)
In his recently published two-volume work in epistemology,1 Alvin Plantinga rounds out the discussion (in characteristic fashion) with a subtle and ingenious argument for a striking claim: in this case, his conclusion is that belief in evolutionary naturalism is irrational. Now this claim is not of itself so very surprising; the tantalizing feature here lies rather in the nature of the argument itself. Plantinga contends that taking seriously the hypothesis of evolutionary naturalism [hereafter, N&E] ought to undermine one's confidence in (...) the reliability of our basic cognitive faculties. And if one withholds belief in cognitive reliability, it seems that one ought to likewise refrain from believing propositions that are the output of such faculties. And, for evolutionary naturalists, one such output is belief in evolutionary naturalism itself. Hence, quite apart from comparative evidential considerations that might lead one to prefer theism (or one of its competitors) to N&E, but rather owing to a sort of internal inconsistency (in a suitably broad sense), belief in N&E is shown to be epistemically defective. A bold and intriguing suggestion indeed. Let us take a closer look. (shrink)
Is religious faith consistent with being an intellectually virtuous thinker? In seeking to answer this question, one quickly finds others, each of which has been the focus of recent renewed attention by epistemologists: What is it to be an intellectually virtuous thinker? Must all reasonable belief be grounded in public evidence? Under what circumstances is a person rationally justified in believing something on trust, on the testimony of another, or because of the conclusions drawn by an intellectual authority? Can it (...) be reasonable to hold a belief on a topic over which there is significant, entrenched disagreement among informed inquirers, or should such disagreement lead all parties to modify or suspend their own judgments? Is there anything about faith that exempts it from measurement against such epistemic norms? And if we would so evaluate it, how exactly should we understand the intellectual commitments faith requires? The volume's introduction provides a roadmap of the central issues and controversies as currently discussed by philosophers. In fourteen new essays written to engage nonspecialists as well as philosophers working in religion and epistemology, a diverse and distinguished group of thinkers then consider the place of intellectual virtue in religious faith, exploring one or more of the specific issues noted above. (shrink)
We explain the thesis that human mental states are ontologically emergent aspects of a fundamentally biological organism. We then explore the consequences of this thesis for the identity of a human person over time. As these consequences are not obviously independent of one's general ontology of objects and their properties, we consider four such accounts: transcendent universals, kind-Aristotelianism, immanent universals, and tropes. We suggest there are reasons for emergentists to favor the latter two accounts. We then argue that within such (...) ontologies, emergentism about properties pushes one to the stronger claim that there are emergent individuals, though not individuals which are dual to person's bodies—substance emergentism, but not substance dualism. (shrink)
I briefly defend the following claims in response to my critics: (1) We cannot make a principled division between features of contingent reality that do and features that don’t "cry our for explanation." (2) The physical data indicating fine-tuning provide confirmation of the hypothesis of a personal necessary cause of the universe over against an impersonal necessary cause, notwithstanding the fact that the probability of either hypothesis, if true, would be 1. (3) Theism that commits to God’s necessary existence makes (...) more sense than theism that denies it. (4) God is likely to have created an infinity of universes, and this conclusion helps with (though does not solve) the many problems of evil. (shrink)
I Introduction The question of this paper is, what would it be to act with freedom of the will? What kind of control is inchoately in view when we speak, pretheoretically, of being ‘self- determining’ beings, of ‘freely making choices in view of consciously considered reasons’ (pro and con) - of its being ‘up to us’ how we shall act? My question here is not whether we have (or have any reason to think we have) such freedom, or what is (...) the most robust account of our freedom compatible with late twentieth-century science. Many contemporary philosophers are all too ready to settle for a deflationary account of freedom and declare victory, with some brief remarks reminding us that we were created a little lower than the angels. I am not so sanguine about the ability of such accounts to leave reasonably intact our judgments about human autonomy, dignity, and responsibility. But, as I’ve said, that’s not my concern here. Instead, I want to revisit the question of what exactly ‘self-determination’, on our ordinary conception, comes to. (shrink)