Beliefs are freely attributed to God nowadays in Anglo–American philosophical theology. This practice undoubtedly reflects the twentieth–century popularity of the view that knowledge consists of true justified belief . The connection is frequently made explicit. If knowledge is true justified belief then whatever God knows He believes. It would seem that much recent talk of divine beliefs stems from Nelson Pike's widely discussed article, ‘Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action’. In this essay Pike develops a version of the classic argument for (...) the incompatibility of divine foreknowledge and free will in terms of divine forebelief. He introduces this shift by premising that ‘ A knows X ’ entails ‘A believes X ’. As a result of all this, philosophers have increasingly been using the concept of belief in defining ‘omniscience’. (shrink)
One of the most influential analytic philosophers of the late twentieth century, William P. Alston is a leading light in epistemology, philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of language. In this volume, twelve leading philosophers critically discuss the central topics of his work in these areas, including perception, epistemic circularity, justification, the problem of religious diversity, and truth.
Divine Nature and Human Language is a collection of twelve essays in philosophical theology by William P. Alston, one of the leading figures in the current renaissance in the philosophy of religion. Using the equipment of contemporary analytical philosophy, Alston explores, partly refashions, and defends a largely traditional conception of God and His work in the world a conception that finds its origins in medieval philosophical theology. These essays fall into two groups: those concerned with theological language and those (...) that deal with the nature, status, and activity of God. In Part 1, Alston develops a conceptual scheme for discussing the topic of theological language. He also argues that there is a core of literal talk about God and even a core of predicates univocally applicable to God and creatures. Furthermore, he shows that God can be referred to directly as well as descriptively. In Parts II and III, the author sketches out a middle way between a classical conception of God exemplified by Aquinas and the more recent “process” or “panentheist” conception exemplified by Hartshorne. Alston argues that such a God can act so as to have real effects in the world and can enter into genuine dialogue and otherwise interact with human beings. In addition, he defends the idea that God provides a foundation for morality. The first collection of Alston's ground breaking work in the philosophy of religion, Divine Nature and Human Language will be welcomed by scholars and students of the philosophy of religion, metaphysics, theology, and religious studies. (shrink)
In this clear and provocative account of the epistemology of religious experience, William P. Alston argues that the perception of God—his term for direct experiential awareness of God—makes a major contribution to the grounds of religious belief. Surveying the variety of reported direct experiences of God, Alston demonstrates that a person can be justified in holding certain beliefs about God on the basis of mystical experience.
Justification, or at least ‘justification’, bulks large in recent epistemology. The view that knowledge consists of true-justified-belief has been prominent in this century, and the justification of belief has attracted considerable attention in its own right. But it is usually not at all clear just what an epistemologist means by ‘justified’, just what concept the term is used to express. An enormous amount of energy has gone into the attempt to specify conditions under which beliefs of one or another sort (...) are justified; but relatively little has been done to explain what it is for a belief to be justified, what that is for which conditions are being sought. The most common procedure has been to proceed on the basis of a number of obvious cases of justified belief, without pausing to determine what property it is of which these cases are instances. Now even if there were some single determinate concept that all these theoriests have implicitly in mind, this procedure would be less than wholly satisfactory. For in the absence of an explicit account of the concept being applied, we lack the most fundamental basis for deciding between supposed intuitions and for evaluating proposed conditions of justification. And in any event, as philosophers we do not seek merely to speak the truth, but also to gain an explicit, reflective understanding of the matters with which we deal. We want to know not only when our beliefs are justified, but also what it is to enjoy that status. True, not every fundamental concept can be explicated, but we shall find that much can be done with this one. (shrink)
What is it for a sentence to have a certain meaning? This is the question that the distinguished analytic philosopher William P. Alston addresses in this major contribution to the philosophy of language. His answer focuses on the given sentence's potential to play the role that its speaker had in mind, what he terms the usability of the sentence to perform the illocutionary act intended by its speaker. Alston defines an illocutionary act as an act of saying something with (...) a certain "content." He develops his account of what it is to perform such acts in terms of taking responsibility, in uttering a sentence, for the existence of certain conditions. In requesting someone to open a window, for example, the speaker takes responsibility for its being the case that the window is closed and that the speaker has an interest in its being opened. In Illocutionary Acts and Sentence Meaning, Alston expands upon this concept, creating a framework of five categories of illocutionary act and going on to argue that sentence meaning is fundamentally a matter of illocutionary act potential; that is, for a sentence to have a particular meaning is for it to be usable to perform illocutionary acts of a certain type. In providing detailed and explicit patterns of analysis for the whole range of illocutionary acts, Alston makes a unique contribution to the field of philosophy of language—one that is likely to generate debate for years to come. (shrink)
1. A Historical Look at Unity 2. Field Guide to Modern Concepts of Reduction and Unity 3. Kitcher's Revisionist Account of Unification 4. Critics of Unity 5. Integration Instead of Unity 6. Reduction via Mechanisms 7. Case Studies in Reduction and Unification across the Disciplines.
1. The Naturalistic Turn in Philosophy of Science 2. The Framework of Mechanistic Explanation: Parts, Operations, and Organization 3. Representing and Reasoning About Mechanisms 4. Mental Mechanisms: Mechanisms that Process Information 5. Discovering Mental Mechanisms 6 . Summary.
Immediate knowledge is here construed as true belief that does not owe its status as knowledge to support by other knowledge (or justified belief) of the same subject. The bulk of the paper is devoted to a criticism of attempts to show the impossibility of immediate knowledge. I concentrate on attempts by Wilfrid Sellars and Laurence Bonjour to show that putative immediate knowledge really depends on higher-level knowledge or justified belief about the status of the beliefs involved in the putative (...) immediate knowledge. It is concluded that their arguments are lacking in cogency. (shrink)
Internalism restricts justifiers to what is "within" the subject. two main forms of internalism are (1) perspectival internalism (pi), which restricts justifiers to what the subject knows or justifiably believes, and (2) access internalism (ai), which restricts justifiers to what is directly accessible to the subject. the two forms are analyzed and interrelated, and the grounds for each are examined. it is concluded that although pi is both unacceptable and without adequate support, a modest form of ai might be defended.
This paper distinguishes and interrelates a number of respects in which persons have been thought to be in a specially favorable epistemic position vis-A-Vis their own mental states. The most important distinction is a six-Fold one between infallibility, Omniscience, Indubitability, Incorrigibility, Truth-Sufficiency, And self-Warrant. Each of these varieties can then be sub-Divided as the kind of modality, If any, Involved. It is also argued that discussions of self-Knowledge have been hampered by a failure to recognize these distinctions.
William P. Alston's book, Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience , challenges the contemporary view that religious experience is purely subjective. He theorizes that a direct experiential awareness of God can produce immediately justified beliefs about God. Accordingly, this dissertation critically assesses the problem of subjectivism thought to taint Alston's epistemology of religious experience. ;Upon disclosing the prevalence of subjectivity, and identifying the potential for objectivity in religious experience, this treatise produces a viable resolve for objectivity in mystical (...) perception. It accomplishes this task through several considerations. ;Through an historical analysis of evidentialism's influence in empiricism and analytic philosophy of religion, we can determine the extent to which Alston's epistemology succumbs to this influence. Although finding evidentialism to be prevalent, Alston's theory of "reliabilism," namely the reliability of sensory perception, attempts to overcome evidentialism's predilection toward subjectivism. Nevertheless, it will be demonstrated that the object of consciousness in the perceptual act is still a mental entity. Thus subjectivism persists. Having identified that Alston's phenomenology of perception in particular, does very little to overturn the verdict of subjectivism, this study proceeds to identify an alternative phenomenology. ;Merleau-Ponty's "primacy of perception" seems a likely candidate for providing a richer phenomenological description of perception than Alston's. Once issues of relevancy have been satisfactorily addressed, it will be proposed that Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, i.e. "reversibility thesis," accentuates a "genuine" objective moment in perception. One in which we are able to appropriate to Alston's concept of mystical perception. This phenomenological revision to Alston's epistemology of religious experience does much to counter the charge of subjectivism. ;The above proffering is rendered in six chapters. Chapter I provides a close reading of Perceiving God. Chapter II succinctly puts forth what exactly Alston's epistemology responds to in classical British empiricism and analytic philosophy of religion. Chapter III places Alston in the contemporary discussion in analytic epistemology. Chapter IV points to where Alston's epistemology of religious experience is vulnerable to the charge of subjectivism. Chapters V and VI provide an alternative phenomenology based on Merleau-Pontian insights, which are applied to Alston's epistemology of religious experience. (shrink)
First there is some preliminary clearing of the deck. I argue against Verificationism, and against Wittgensteinians. Then I turn to the main topics and the reference of “God.” Descriptive and direct reference are contrasted; it is held that both figure in religious discourse. The other main topic is the interpretation of the predicates of statements about God. It is inevitable that the basic theological predicates from which all others are derived are borrowed from elsewhere, primarily talk about human persons. So (...) the crucial question is how their senses in theological use are related to their senses in “secular” discourse. After rejecting the univocity position and the claim that they are all used metaphorically in application to God, reasons are explored for rejecting even partial univocity. The remaining alternative is an analogy between theological and anthropomorphic senses, an analogy that cannot be completely spelled out. For if we could, that would amount to partial univocity. (shrink)
Sellars is well known for his critique of the “myth of the given” in his “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind”. That text does not make it unambiguous just how he understands the “myth”. Here I take it that whatever else may be involved, his critique is incompatible with the view that there is a nonconceptual mode of “presentation” or “givenness” of particulars that is the heart of sense perception and what is most distinctive of perception as a type of (...) cognition. A critical examination of Sellars’ arguments, particularly those directed at the Theory of Appearing, results in the conclusion that he has failed to eliminate the above view of perception. Moreover, though Sellars is clearly opposed to the view that perceptual experience cannot provide justification for beliefs about perceived objects, I argue that Sellars has failed to shake the intuitive plausibility of that view. (shrink)
This paper defends cognitive neuroscience’s project of developing mechanistic explan- ations of cognitive processes through decomposition and localization against objections raised by William Uttal in The New Phrenology. The key issue between Uttal and researchers pursuing cognitive neuroscience is that Uttal bets against the possibility of decomposing mental operations into component elementary operations which are localized in distinct brain regions. The paper argues that it is through advancing and revising what are likely to be overly simplistic and incorrect decompositions (...) that the goals of cognitive neuroscience are likely to be achieved. (shrink)
This book is the culmination of almost forty years of writing and thinking about speech acts and the use theory of meaning. Chapter 1 sets out and defends a version of the Austin-Searle trichotomy of a sentential act, i.e., uttering a sentence or surrogate, an illocutionary act, i.e., uttering a sentence with a certain "content" as reported by indirect speech, and a perlocutionary act, i.e., producing an effect on an audience by an utterance. Chapter 2 poses the question: what condition (...) C will turn an SA into an IA: F? Perhaps adding a perlocutionary intention to the effect that "U asserts that p only if U utters p with the intention of getting H to believe that p" will meet condition C. Alston argues, contra Schiffer, that it will not. Chapter 3 objects to Searle's analysis of sincere and non-defective promising, on the one hand, because there are too many ways a promise can be defective and, on the other hand, because some of Searle's conditions are not necessary for promising simpliciter. Alston proposes. (shrink)
It is no part of my purpose in this paper to advocate Minimal Foundationalism. In fact I believe there to be strong objections to any form of foundationalism, and I feel that some kind of coherence or contextualist theory will provide a more adequate general orientation in epistemology. Will and Lehrer are to be commended for providing, in their different ways, important insights into some possible ways of developing a nonfoundationalist epistemology. Nevertheless if foundationalism is to be successfully disposed of (...) it must be attacked in its most defensible, not in its most vulnerable, form. Although Will and Lehrer reveal weaknesses in historically important forms of foundationalism, it has been my aim in this paper to show that their arguments leave untouched the more modest and less vulnerable form I have called ‘Minimal Foundationalism’, a form approximated to by the most prominent contemporary versions of the position. It is to be hoped that those who are interested in clearing the decks for an epistemology without foundations will turn their critical weapons against such modest and careful foundationalists as Chisholm, Danto, and Quinton. (shrink)
P. T. Geach, notoriously, holds the Relative Identity Thesis, according to which a meaningful judgment of identity is always, implicitly or explicitly, relative to some general term. ‘The same’ is a fragmentary expression, and has no significance unless we say or mean ‘the same X’, where ‘X’ represents a general term (what Frege calls a Begriffswort or Begriffsausdruck). (P. T. Geach, Mental Acts (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957), p. 69. I maintain that it makes no sense to judge whether (...) things are ‘the same’, or remain ‘the same’, unless we add or understand some general term - ‘the same F’. (P. T. Geach, Reference and Generality, third Edition (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1980), pp. 63f. I am arguing for the thesis that identity is relative. When one says ‘x is identical with y’, this, I hold, is an incomplete expression; it is short for ‘x is the same A as y’, where ‘A’ represents some count noun understood from the context of utterance - or else, it is just a vague expression of a half-formed thought. (P. T. Geach, ‘Identity,’ Review of Metaphysics 21 (1967-8), p. 3.) One of the ways Geach seeks to support this is by tying it to the well nigh universally admired Fregean thesis about cardinality. (shrink)