I examine the ways in which the theological and philosophical debate surrounding transhumanism might profit by a detailed engagement with contemporary biology, in particular with the mainline accounts of species and speciation. After a short introduction, I provide a very brief primer on species concepts and speciation in contemporary biological taxonomy. Then in a third section I draw out some implications for the prospects of our being able intentionally to intervene in human evolution for the production of new species out (...) of Homo sapiens. In a fourth section Account of Human Nature? And Where Does This Leave Transhumanism?”) I bring in the debate over the proper relationship between biological and theological conceptions of human nature, laying out the major options available and considering their possible implications for our understanding of transhumanism. In a fifth section several concrete examples are drawn out pertaining to particular subdisciplines within theology. I conclude by briefly laying out some suggestions for future work, focusing on tasks that theologians specifically ought to pursue. (shrink)
If God exists, why isn't His existence more apparent? In recent analytic philosophy this longstanding question has been developed into an argument for atheism typically referred to as the 'problem of divine hiddenness'. My goal here is to put forward a new reply. The basic idea is that there is some reason to think that for many of us, our moral conduct would not improve even if God's existence were not subject to doubt. However, immoral conduct in such a state (...) of affairs would be even more immoral, and hence justly subject to greater punishment, than it is in a state of affairs in which God's existence is subject to doubt. As such, God mercifully remains 'hidden' in order to limit our moral culpability. (shrink)
Intrinsic biological essentialism (INBE) is the view that biological taxa have fixed identity conditions, conditions which consist at least in part of intrinsic properties. After a long period of near universal rejection within both philosophy of biology and theoretical biology, INBE is making a comeback. Here I attempt to support this revival by clarifying the nature of INBE, developing a new argument on its behalf, and addressing an important anti-essentialist critique.
J. L. Schellenberg’s “problem of divine hiddenness” has generated much discussion. Swinburne has replied with his “responsibility argument,” according to which God allows some nonresistant nonbelief in order to foster the good of human responsibility, with some people tasked with leading others to belief in God. Schellenberg has supplied detailed replies to Swinburne. My goal is to provide a new formulation of the responsibility argument that defuses Schellenberg’s objections.
Laws of nature are properly (if controversially) conceived as abstract entities playing a governing role in the physical universe. Dispositionalists typically hold that laws of nature are not real, or at least are not fundamental, and that regularities in the physical universe are grounded in the causal powers of objects. By contrast, I argue that dispositionalism implies nomic realism: since at least some dispositions have ceteris paribus clauses incorporating uninstantiated universals, and these ceteris paribus clauses help to determine their dispositions' (...) ranges of manifestation, there are indeed abstracta which play a governing role in the physical universe. After addressing several objections (including the objection that such ‘laws’ lack sufficient independence/externality from the dispositions to count as genuinely governing), I go on to consider some broader implications of this conclusion for other debates in metaphysics and the philosophy of science.1. (shrink)
Contemporary physics and cosmology have accumulated a great deal of empirical evidence for the claim that in order for our universe to contain life, an array of incredibly precise laws, constants, and specific initial conditions had to be in place. The minuscule odds of this happening purely by chance have prompted some Christian thinkers to suggest that this can be seen as novel evidence that the universe was fine-tuned specifically to give rise to biological life. And yet some Christian thinkers (...) also wish to make the case that molecular biology provides new evidence to the effect that life could not have arisen naturally in our universe, but rather that the origin of life required additional special divine intervention. There is at least a prima facie tension between these two ideas. Relatedly, some have raised the question of why, if the universe were fine-tuned for life, it was also set up in such a way that the origin of life was preceded by more than 10 billion years of lifelessness. If life was the whole point, why the seeming delay? In this paper I suggest a way Christian thinkers might address both issues: namely, the cosmos was not fine-tuned for life, but merely for the possibility of life. Perhaps God wanted a universe in which biological organisms were possible but in which their non-existence was also a live possibility. I develop this solution in dialogue with related ideas arising from the demonologies of St. Augustine, Boethius, and St. Anselm. (shrink)
Natural-kind essentialism faces an important but neglected difficulty: the problem of complex essences (PCE). This is the question of how to account for the unity of an instantiated kind-essence when that essence consists of multiple distinct properties, some of which lack an inherent necessary connection between them. My central goal here is to propose an essentialism-friendly solution to this problem. Along the way I also employ some points from that solution to argue for the necessary truth of essentialism (necessary, that (...) is, in all possible worlds in which there are material objects), and to support the essentialist ontology of laws over and against a major rival. (shrink)
Schellenberg’s hiddenness argument against the existence of God has generated a great deal of discussion. One prominent line of reply has been the idea that God refrains from making His existence more apparent in order to safeguard our moral freedom. Schellenberg has provided extensive counter-replies to this idea. My goal here is to pursue an alternate line of response, though one that still makes some reference to the importance of free-will. It will be argued that God may remain temporarily ‘hidden’ (...) to some people not merely in order to allow their free moral choice, but because His proper allowance of such choice has led to a great deal of suffering on the part of the victims of wicked choices. If His existence were constantly obvious to those victims, even in the midst of their victimization, many of them would be led to an attitude of enmity, even hatred, toward God. (shrink)
The problem of divine hiddenness has become one of the most prominent arguments for atheism in the current philosophy of religion literature. Schellenberg (Divine hiddenness and human reason 1993), one of the problem’s prominent advocates, holds that the only way to prevent completely the occurrence of nonresistant nonbelief would be for God to have granted all of us a constant awareness of Him (or at least a constant availability of such awareness) from the moment we achieved the age of reason. (...) Now, if that were the case, we might be faced with a difficult obstacle to the development of a proper, meaningful relationship with God: namely, since the experience of God would be so unutterably wonderful (at least for some), we could be at risk of coming to commune with God not from love of Him but for the amazing experience that that communion involves. In other words, given that mystical union with infinite perfection is, qua experience, inconceivably better than that of any drug, we might come to treat God as something analogous to a powerful narcotic, seeking the experience for the pleasure of the experience more than from any devotion. Since God wants to foster genuinely meaningful relationship with Him, He rightly delays granting us such awareness of Himself, even though that leaves open the risk that nonresistant nonbelief could arise. (shrink)
Abstract On Schellenberg’s formulation of the problem of divine hiddenness, a loving God would ensure that anyone capable of having a relationship with Him, and not resisting it, would be granted sufficient evidence to make belief in God rationally indubitable. And He would do this by granting a powerful religious experience to every person at the moment he or she reaches the age of reason. Here I lay out a new reason why God might delay revelation of himself, justifiably allowing (...) for some nonresistant nonbelief. Content Type Journal Article Category Article Pages 1-11 DOI 10.1007/s11153-012-9338-5 Authors Travis Dumsday, Department of Religious Studies, Livingstone College, 701 West Monroe St., Salisbury, NC 28144, USA Journal International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Online ISSN 1572-8684 Print ISSN 0020-7047. (shrink)
Extended simples are physical objects that, while spatially extended, possess no actual proper parts. The theory that physical reality bottoms out at extended simples is one of the principal competing views concerning the fundamental composition of matter, the others being atomism and the theory of gunk. Among advocates of extended simples, Markosian’s ‘MaxCon’ version of the theory has justly achieved particular prominence. On the assumption of causal realism, I argue here that the reality of MaxCon simples would entail the reality (...) of irreducible, intrinsic dispositional properties. The existence of dispositional properties in turn has important implications for another central debate in metaphysics, namely that between two major competing views concerning the ontology of laws: dispositionalism versus nomological necessitarianism. (shrink)
The problem of divine hiddenness has in the recent literature joined the problem of evil as one of the principal positive arguments for atheism. My chief goal here is to mine Aquinas’s metaphysics and natural theology for a distinctively Thomistic response, making particular use of a neglected text in which he considers a similar issue. Towards the end of the paper I also consider some resources provided by Aquinas’s interpretation of revealed theology.
There are four main theories concerning the ultimate constitution of matter: atomism version 1, atomism version 2, the theory of gunk, and the theory of extended simples. These four theories are usually seen as diametrically opposed. Here I take a stab at ecumenism, and argue that atomism version 1 and the theory of extended simples can be reconciled and rendered compatible by reference to the reality of dispositions.
Next to the problem of evil, the problem of divine hiddenness has become the most prominent argument for atheism in the current literature. The basic idea is that if God really existed, He would make sure that anyone able and willing to engage in relationship with Him would have a rationally indubitable belief in Him at all times. But as a matter of fact we see that the world includes nonresistant nonbelievers. Therefore God doesn’t exist. Here I propose a reply (...) to the problem that shifts focus from the nonresistant nonbelievers to those who are resistant. I claim, Howard-Snyder, and others) that for many such people, having God’s reality forced upon them unwillingly might result in significant spiritual/moral harm, inhibiting their ability to develop a positive relationship with God. general critique of any strategy that references the notion of God’s proper non-revelation to the resistant.) If this is true, it could help explain why God refrains from revealing Himself in a rationally indubitable manner not only to the resistant, but even to the nonresistant. Why? Because it may be that under present circumstances God is actually more concerned about the welfare of the resistant than of the willing; and revealing Himself to all of the willing could actually result in the truth of theism being forced on the resistant. (shrink)
In both the historical and contemporary literature on the metaphysics of space, a core dispute is that between relationism and substantivalism. One version of the latter is supersubstantivalism, according to which space is the only kind of substance, such that what we think of as individual material objects are actually just parts of spacetime which instantiate certain properties. If those parts are ontologically dependent on spacetime as a whole, then we arrive at an ontology with only a single genuinely independent (...) substance, namely the entire spacetime manifold. This is monist supersubstantivalism. A view on which the parts of spacetime are ontologically prior to the whole has been called pluralistic supersubstantivalism. As currently formulated, supersubstantivalism carries significant advantages and encounters major difficulties. I argue that some of the latter motivate... (shrink)
Vigilantes are a staple of popular culture, from Charles Bronson’s 1974 classic Death Wish, and its parade of sequels, to the latest batch ofBatman films. Outside of the fictional sphere, society continues to wrestle with vigilantism, notably in the current debates over the prudence and ethics of the Minuteman civilian border patrol group. And though vigilantism has been the subject of speculation and debate among criminologists, historians, and legal scholars, it has unfortunately been given scant attention by philosophers. Surely a (...) topic of such prominence in popular culture, and continued relevance in real life, is ripe for treatment by applied ethicists. In this paper I seek to formulate a definition of vigilantism and then argue that there are conditions under which vigilantism is not only permissible but, at least for some, obligatory. (shrink)
Marc Lange and Ann Whittle have independently developed an important challenge to dispositionalism, arguing that dispositions are reducible to primitive subjunctive facts. I argue in reply that by pairing dispositionalism with a certain version of natural-kind essentialism, their objection can be overcome. Moreover, such a marriage carries further advantages for the dispositionalist. My aim is therefore two-fold: to defend dispositionalism, and to give the dispositionalist some new motivation to adopt natural-kind essentialism.
Is there a fundamental layer of objects in nature? And if so what sorts of things populate it? Among those who answer ‘yes’ to the first question, a common answer to the second is ‘atoms,’ where an atom is understood in the original sense of an object that is spatially unextended, indivisible, and wholly lacking in proper parts. Here I explore some of the ontological consequences of atomism. First, if atoms are real, then whatever motion they appear to undergo must (...) be discrete. The link between atomism and discrete motion goes back at least to Aristotle and is admitted by some atomists, but the full significance of that admission has been neglected. I argue that a commitment to discrete motion in turn entails significant and sometimes counter-intuitive results. I also examine the implications of these results for the philosophy of mind and for discussions of metaphysical naturalism. (shrink)
It is often assumed that the essence of a natural kind is complex, being such as to include multiple fundamental properties. For instance, perhaps the essence of the kind “electron” includes both negative charge and a precise rest mass, where neither of these is derivable from the other, nor derivable from some other foundational property. This assumption raises the ‘unity problem’: how to explain what unifies or holds together these properties. One important answer is developed by David Oderberg. His model (...) draws on insights from both analytic metaphysics and the Scholastic tradition. I provide a summary of his solution to the unity problem and point to a potential worry it faces. I conclude by adverting to an alternative solution that would still fit within Oderberg’s overall system. (shrink)
The problems of evil and of divine hiddenness are the two most prominent arguments for atheism in the contemporary literature on the philosophy of religion. But relatively little has been written on the possible relations between these two problems, and especially on whether a solution to one could shed light on a solution to the other. I explore this question here by arguing that a resolution to the hiddenness problem could help address the problem of evil, specifically by supplying a (...) new counter-argument to a common objection raised against the free-will defense. (shrink)
Drawing on principles relating to the duty of easy rescue, I argue that any atheist who is less than wholly certain of the non-existence of a God or gods will in some circumstances be morally obliged to pray.
The question of whether there could be a physical object that is necessarily constantly active has a long history, and it has recently arisen again in the literature on dispositions. I examine and critique two proposals for affirming the possibility of such an object. I then advocate a third option, one which is workable if paired with natural-kind essentialism. Finally I briefly outline three possible implications of this view for wider debates concerning the ontology of dispositions and natural kinds.
One question asked repeatedly in the history of Christology is the following: given that the incarnation was God’ s chosen method of redeeming us, why did God become human by the cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Why not just create a human body and soul ex nihilo and simultaneously with that creation have God the Son assume this new instance of human nature? In answer, Augustine for instance argues that the latter option would have been a legitimate means of (...) incarnation, but that it was not as fitting as the method actually employed. Aquinas agrees. By contrast, John of Damascus seems to think that the ex nihilo option would not have constituted a genuine assumption of human nature, such that redemption required the cooperation of the Theotokos. I argue that insights provided by contemporary biology support St. John’s perspective, insofar as modern biological taxonomy suggests that lineal descent is a necessary condition for belonging to a species. As such, to take on a genuinely human nature God had to enter into the existing human lineage; creating a new ‘human’ body and soul ex nihilo would not have sufficed. (shrink)
If God exists, and if our ultimate well-being depends on having a positive relationship with Him (which requires as a first step that we believe He exists), why doesn't He make sure that we all believe in Him? Why doesn't He make His existence obvious? This traditional theological question is today much-used as an argument for atheism. In this paper I argue that the answer may have something to do with God's character, specifically God's humility.
What accounts for the linkage of seemingly diverse and inherently separable fundamental properties, such that they are regarded as properties of a single thing? Multiple answers to this question have been put forward in both the historical and current literature, especially from competing substance ontologies and competing theories concerning the metaphysics of natural kinds. Here I lay out and critically assess two ways in which dispositionalism might contribute to the discussion.
The problem of divine hiddenness has become one of the most prominent arguments for atheism in contemporary philosophy of religion. The basic idea: we have good reason to think that God, if He existed, would make Himself known to us such that His existence could not be rationally doubted . And since He hasn’t done so, we can be confident that He does not actually exist. One line of response that has received relatively little attention is the argument that God (...) justly refrains from granting us all a rationally indubitable belief in Him because we are unworthy of such belief, and in fact deserve exclusion from communion with God. John Schellenberg dubs this the “Just Deserts Argument.” Here I consider several possible versions of the argument and subject one of them to further development and defense. (shrink)
Historically it has been common for theologians to understand demons as basically on a par with angels in terms of intelligence and access to knowledge. Yet on this point Origen dissents, suggesting instead that demons might be qutie ignorant, at least with respect to spiritual truths. I explore some of the justifications available to him for entertaining this idea, and consider whether it could contribute to current discussions concerning the theology of world religions. Specifically, I argue that Origen's account of (...) demonic ignorance provides the key ingredients for a plausible explanatory model of one root cause of religious diversity: paranormal and “religious” experiences delivering incompatible propositional content. (shrink)
The debate between relational versus constituent substance ontology is longstanding and ongoing. In the contemporary literature it is mostly taken for granted that any version of hylomorphism must count as a constituent substance ontology. Here I argue that a certain sort of relational substance ontology could also legitimately be labeled hylomorphic, and in fact that relational substance ontologists have some good reasons to affirm this version of hylomorphism.
Eschatological issues have received a great deal of attention in recent analytic philosophy of religion. Most of that attention has revolved around the metaphysics and ethics of heaven, hell, and bodily resurrection; this is unsurprising, as these doctrines are universally affirmed among theologically orthodox Christians. By contrast, the doctrine of purgatory is not the subject of universal affirmation. Nevertheless it boasts a growing literature. After an introduction to the doctrine and its place in historical theology, I proceed to survey this (...) recent literature. I conclude by providing some suggestions for future research. (shrink)
Very little has been published on the topic of vigilantism within recent applied ethics. Part of this dearth may be due to a perception that the issue lacks historical moorings, with little in the way of precedent in prior philosophical literature. However such a perception would be inaccurate; in fact there are interesting discussions of vigilantism in the history of philosophy. By way of illustration, this article examines an early treatment of the topic by the influential thirteenth-century Franciscan thinker, Alexander (...) of Hales. Hales’ perspective reflects what would become a fairly general mediaeval consensus against the permissibility of vigilantism. His discussion is interesting on its own account, but the main goal of this study is to help spur further historical inquiries – and perhaps by extension to prompt further interest in vigilantism within current applied ethics. (shrink)
The problem of divine hiddenness is, along with the problem of evil, one of the two principal arguments for atheism in the current literature. Very roughly: If God really existed, then He would make His reality rationally indubitable to everyone. Since that hasn’t happened, God does not exist. Among the many replies made to this argument, a basic distinction might be drawn between those made from within generic theism, and those made from within a definite faith tradition and employing the (...) distinctive doctrinal resources of that tradition. That same division is apparent in the literature on the problem of evil, and among faith-specific work on that problem, one idea occasionally entertained is that the reality of evil spiritual beings may play a role in a defence or theodicy. Heretofore no one has imported that idea into the debate over hiddenness. In this paper I try out several versions of this strategy, eventually arguing that for those branches of Christianity with a doctrinal commitment to the reality of fallen angels, novel responses to the hiddenness problem are thereby made available. It is clearly a response unlikely to persuade atheists, but for Christians willing to consider the problem from within a distinctively Christian perspective it may carry some force. It may likewise be of use to those less concerned about countering atheism and more concerned with simply answering the longstanding theological question of why God might properly permit rational doubt in His reality. (shrink)
The four principal competing substance ontologies are substratum theory, bundle theory, primitive substance theory, and hylomorphism. Both historically and in the recent literature, most arguments pertaining to these four theories have been developed under the assumption that only one of them can be true. However there is room in this debate for various forms of pluralism: mild pluralism here refers to the view that while only one of these four theories is true of our world, there is at least one (...) other possible world in which a different substance ontology obtains; moderate pluralism refers to the view that while only one of these four theories is true of our world, there is at least one other possible world in which multiple substance ontologies obtain ; and extreme pluralism refers to the view that our own actual world contains substances belonging to different substance ontologies. In this paper I lay out a novel argument for a version of extreme pluralism. (shrink)
Panentheism is among the most influential variations on classical theism found within nineteenth and twentieth century theology, a prominent perspective in the recent religion and science dialogue, and is increasing in prominence within analytic philosophy of religion. Existing works on the history of panentheism understandably focus primarily on proponents of the view and their arguments in its favor. Less attention has been given to the history of arguments against it, and in particular little has been written on mediaeval Scholastic critiques. (...) Here, I summarize the criticisms leveled by an important thirteenth-century Franciscan, Alexander of Hales. I also assess the enduring value of his critique, arguing that it helps bring to the fore the importance of panentheism’s link with a further metaphysical debate: that between spacetime relationism versus substantivalism. (shrink)
While most discussions in natural theology focus on the existence and nature of God, recently the axiological implications of theism have been taken up by such authors as Kahane, Kraay and Dragos, Davis, McLean, Penner and Lougheed, and Penner. Rather than asking whether God exists, they ask whether God’s existence would be a good thing or a bad thing. That general question breaks down into more precise sub-questions, with a wide variety of possible positions resulting. Here, I argue that one (...) of these positions is possibly true, and that this possibility provides for a new defence against one of the most prominent arguments for atheism in the current literature: the problem of divine hiddenness. (shrink)
The deep differences between E. J. Lowe’s ontology of dispositions and that maintained by other prominent dispositionalists have received relatively little attention in the existing literature on his work. Here I lay out some of these differences, along the way attempting to clarify whether Lowe’s ontology can properly be termed ‘dispositionalist.’ I then argue that the unique features of his ontology allow it to avoid some well-known worries facing standard dispositionalism, while at the same time opening his view to novel (...) objections. My overall aim here is neither to defend nor attack Lowe’s theory, but rather to assess some of its pros and cons and to consider its sometimes surprising implications. (shrink)
Religious experiences come in a variety of types, leading to multiple taxonomies. One sort that has not received much attention as a distinct topic is what I will call ‘evidentially compelling religious experience’ (ECRE). The nature of an ECRE is such that if it actually occurs, its occurrence plausibly entails the falsity of metaphysical naturalism. Examples of ECREs might include visions / auditions / near-death experiences conveying information the hearer could not have known through natural means, later verified; unambiguously miraculous (...) healings; fulfilled prophecy; supernatural rescues; inter-subjective religious experiences (e.g., multiple people simultaneously having the same vision of the Virgin Mary), etc. After presenting a representative set of published case studies of ECREs, I argue that for most settled metaphysical naturalists (though not all), the combination of a settled metaphysical naturalism with an awareness of the relative commonality of testimony to ECREs is either irrational or immoral. This is because that conjunction entails either an unjust and uncharitable judgement on a great many of those testifying to ECREs (namely that they are liars), or an irrational refusal to acknowledge this entailment. (shrink)
Substratum theory remains a key competitor in the substance ontology literature. Here I argue that an internal worry for the theory gives rise to an interesting dilemma: Either the substratum theorist should abandon the theory in favor of hylomorphism, or she can keep substratum theory but must add to her ontology a powerful causal agent or agents able to operate outside the laws of nature.
I argue that two components of Thomistic philosophy of nature (specifically, hylomorphism combined with a relational ontology of space) entail a core claim of big-bang cosmology. I then consider some implications of this fact for natural theology.