Skeptical theists purport to undermine evidential arguments from evil by appealing to the fact that our knowledge of goods, evils, and their interconnections is significantly limited. Michael J. Almeida and Graham Oppy have recently argued that skeptical theism is unacceptable because it results in a form of moral skepticism which rejects inferences that play an important role in our ordinary moral reasoning. In this reply to Almeida and Oppy’s argument we offer some reasons for thinking that skeptical theism (...) need not lead to any such objectionable form of moral skepticism. (shrink)
Christian Theism and the Problems of Philosophy begins by presenting Plantingas essay, and the chapters that follow address issues in three traditional areas of interest to philosophers: epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics.
In the first section, I characterize skeptical theism more fully. This is necessary in order to address some important misconceptions and mischaracterizations that appear in the essays by Maitzen, Wilks, and O’Connor. In the second section, I describe the most important objections they raise and group them into four “families” so as to facilitate an orderly series of responses. In the four sections that follow, I respond to the objections.
Skeptical theists purport to undermine evidential arguments from evil by appealing to the fact that our knowledge of goods, evils, and their interconnections is significantly limited. Michael J. Almeida and Graham Oppy have recently argued that skeptical theism is unacceptable because it results in a form of moral skepticism which rejects inferences that play an important role in our ordinary moral reasoning. In this reply to Almeida and Oppy's argument we offer some reasons for thinking that skeptical theism (...) need not lead to any such objectionable form of moral skepticism. (shrink)
This collection of papers is from the Ninth European Conference on the Philosophy of Religion held at the University of Aarhus, Denmark in August 1992. The theme of the conference was theism and its modern alternatives. Why alternatives? There is no agreement on the answer to that question. Before outlining the nature of the disagreements, there is a need to distinguish theism, where it means some belief in God, and theism as a certain kind of philosophical response (...) to that belief. If theism is to be spoken of in both contexts, the following question arises -- is philosophical theism an adequate response to religious theism? (shrink)
This chapter traces how theism was developed by leading 19th and 20th century figures (Schleiermacher, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Rahner, and Tillich) responding to Kant’s Copernican revolution in philosophy. Part one deals with the ontological nature of subjectivity itself and what it reveals about the conditions of the possibility of a subject’s relation to the Absolute. Part two explores the role of subjectivity and interiority in the individual’s relation to God, and part three takes a look at the theme of (...) the “unhappy consciousness,” how its development led to important attacks on theism, and the resources available to theology in countering these attacks. (shrink)
This chapter centers around the question of whether theism is rational. We begin by discussing different theories of rationality, and introducing some importantly related epistemic concepts and controversies. We then consider the possible sources of rational belief in God and argue that even if these provide some positive support, the fact of religious disagreement defeats the rationality of theism.
Interpreting John Paul II's message ca the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the context of the new scientific discoveries concerning the mitochondrial DNA, one can argue that the human species emerged in Africa some 200,000 years ago. The very problem of the emergence of the human soul in the process of biological evolution represents a subject outside the cognitive competence of science. Attempts can be undertaken to explain this issue in the epistemological perspective of philosophy and theology. In traditional versions (...) of evolutionary theism, God's interaction in nature was interpreted in causal categories when deterministic dependence were stressed in the process of evolutionary growth. In new proposals, God's presence in an evolving nature has been explained in categories of potentialities and propensities built by God into an evolving Nature. Consequently, in this approach God could be conceived not as a Paleyan designer but rather as a composer unfolding the possibilities hidden in His creation. The future of the evolutionary process depends not only on cosmic physical determinants; it depends to a large excent on the quality of cooperation of human actions with the influence of the Divine Creator. Accordingly, the shape of human culture, as well as the state of moral consciousness of Homo sapiens, should be taken into consideration to discuss the future evolution of the human species. (shrink)
Interpreting John Paul II's message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the context of the new scientific discoveries concerning the mitochondrial DNA, one can argue that the human species emerged in Africa some 200,000 years ago. The very problem of the emergence of the human soul in the process of biological evolution represents a subject outside the cognitive competence of science. Attempts can be undertaken to explain this issue in the epistemological perspective of philosophy and theology. In traditional versions (...) of evolutionary theism, God* s interaction in nature was interpreted in causal categories when deterministic dependences were stressed in the process of evolutionary growth. In new proposals, God's presence in an evolving nature has been explained in categories of potentialities and propensities built by God into an evolving Nature. Consequently, in this approach God could be conceived not as a Paleyan designer but rather as a composer unfolding the possibilities hidden in His creation. The future of the evolutionary process depends not only on cosmic physical determinants; it depends to a large extent on the quality of cooperation of human actions with the influence of the Divine Creator. Accordingly, the shape of human culture, as well as the state of moral consciousness of Homo sapiens, should be taken into consideration to discuss the future evolution of the human species. /// Interpretando a mensagem do Papa João Paulo II à Academia Pontifícia das Ciências no contexto das novas descobertas científicas referentes ao DNA mitocondrial, o autor do artigo considera ser possível defender que a espécie humana surgiu em África há cerca de 200 000 anos. Mas o problema da emergência da alma humana no contexto do processo da evolução biológica representa um assunto que está fora da competência cognitiva da ciência. Contudo é possível realizar tentativas no sentido de explicar esta questão na perspectiva epistemológica da filosofia e da teologia. Nas versões tradicionais do teísmo evolutivo, a interacção de Deus com a natureza era interpretada segundo categorias causais quando as dependências deterministicas eram sublinhadas no processo do desenvolvimento evolutivo. No contexto de novas propostas interpretativas, a presença de Deus na ordem evolutiva tem sido explicada em termos das potencialidades e das propensidades induzidas por Deus na Natureza em evolução. Consequentemente, segundo esta abordagem Deus poderia ser concebido não como sábio projectista de que fala William Paley, mas antes como um compositor fazendo vir ao de cima as possibilidades escondidas na sua própria criação. O futuro do processo evolutivo depende não apenas das determinantes físicas do cosmos; ele depende em larga medida da qualidade da cooperação das acções humanas com a influência do Criador. Neste sentido, o artigo defende que a forma da cultura humana, bem como o estado da consciência moral do homo sapiens deve ser tido em consideração em ordem a se poder discutir a evolução futura da espécie humana. (shrink)
Recently there has been a good deal of interest in the relationship between common sense epistemology and Skeptical Theism. Much of the debate has focused on Phenomenal Conservatism and any tension that there might be between it and Skeptical Theism. In this paper I further defend the claim that there is no tension between Phenomenal Conservatism and Skeptical Theism. I show the compatibility of these two views by coupling them with an account of defeat – one that (...) is friendly to both Phenomenal Conservatism and Skeptical Theism. In addition, I argue that this account of defeat can give the Skeptical Theist what she wants – namely a response to the evidential argument from evil that can leave one of its premises unmotivated. In giving this account I also respond to several objections from Trent Dougherty (2011) and Chris Tucker (this volume) as well as to an additional worry coming from the epistemology of disagreement. (shrink)
In this paper I propose to give close attention to two recent discussions of the relation between theism and morality. It will be helpful first to sketch some of the considerations that have emerged from the many discussions of the relation between theism and morality and which form the background to the two recent contributions I shall discuss.
Physical cosmology purports to establish precise and testable claims about the origin of the universe. Thus, cosmology bears directly on traditional metaphysical claims -- in particular, claims about whether the universe has a creator (i.e. God). What is the upshot of cosmology for the claims of theism? Does big-bang cosmology support theism? Do recent developments in quantum and string cosmology undermine theism? We discuss the relations between physical cosmology to theism from both historical and systematic points (...) of view. (shrink)
Open theists have generally affirmed that God exercises general sovereignty, seeking to achieve an overall providential goal related to our freely choosing to love Him, though the path to that goal is uncertain. This understanding of God's relationship to the world has the implication that God risks failure in achieving His purpose, since His success ultimately depends upon our free choices. In this paper, I first outline some concerns about the risks involved in God's exercising general sovereignty, and then explain (...) how an alternative 'hopeful' view alleviates these concerns. I conclude that the hopeful view is a promising alternative that deserves further exploration. (shrink)
Skeptical theism is a popular response to arguments from evil. Many hold that it undermines a key inference often used by such arguments. However, the case for skeptical theism is often kept at an intuitive level: no one has offered an explicit argument for the truth of skeptical theism. In this article, I aim to remedy this situation: I construct an explicit, rigorous argument for the truth of skeptical theism.
In this chapter, I consider personal and impersonal anti-theism and personal and impersonal pro-theism. I show that skeptical theism undermines arguments for personal anti-theism and impersonal anti-theism. Next, I show that (at least some) arguments for personal and impersonal pro-theism are not undermined by skeptical theism. This throws a wrench in debates about the axiology of theism: if skeptical theism is true, then it is very difficult to establish certain positions in (...) answer to the axiological question about God. (shrink)
In this essay, I investigate the implications for the discussion of theism in philosophy of religion for the beliefs of ordinary Christians and conclude that, in light of its historical development, those implications are minimal.
One of the most prominent objections to skeptical theism in recent literature is that the skeptical theist is forced to deny our competency in making judgments about the all-things-considered value of any natural event. Some skeptical theists accept that their view has this implication, but argue that it is not problematic. I think that there is reason to question the implication itself. I begin by explaining the objection to skeptical theism and the standard response to it. I then (...) identify an assumption that is prevalent in much of the literature concerning the problem of evil, and show that it is a factor in motivating commitment to the implication I mean to question. I argue that the assumption is false, and that once it is rejected there is room to endorse the skeptical theist's strategy in responding to some arguments from evil without endorsing the putative implication that objectors find unacceptable. (shrink)
According to classical theism, contingent beings find the ultimate explanation for their existence in a maximally perfect, necessary being who transcends the natural world and wills its acts in accordance with reasons. I contend that if this thesis is true, it is likely that contingent reality is vastly greater than what current scientific theory or even speculation fancies. After considering the implications of this contention for the extent of divine freedom, I go on to discuss its relevance to the (...) problem of evil as an obstacle to rational theistic belief. (shrink)
Arguments from evil purport to show that some fact about evil makes it (at least) probable that God does not exist. Skeptical theism is held to undermine many versions of the argument from evil: it is thought to undermine a crucial inference that such arguments often rely on. Skeptical objections to skeptical theism claim that it (skeptical theism) entails an excessive amount of skepticism, and therefore should be rejected. In this article, I show that skeptical objections to (...) skeptical theism have a very limited scope: only those who reject certain (apparently) popular epistemological theories will be threatened by them. (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)
Enric F. Gel has recently argued that classical theism enjoys a significant advantage over Graham Oppy's naturalism. According to Gel, classical theism – unlike Oppy's naturalism – satisfactorily answers two questions: first, how many first causes are there, and second, why is it that number rather than another? In this article, I reply to Gel's argument for classical theism's advantage over Oppy's naturalism. I also draw out wider implications of my investigation for the gap problem and Christian (...) doctrine along the way. (shrink)
Sceptical theists--e.g., William Alston and Michael Bergmann--have claimed that considerations concerning human cognitive limitations are alone sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil. We argue that, if the considerations deployed by sceptical theists are sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil, then those considerations are also sufficient to undermine inferences that play a crucial role in ordinary moral reasoning. If cogent, our argument suffices to discredit sceptical theist responses to evidential arguments from evil.
Theism is a metaphysical theory. But the typical adherent of a theistic religion does not hold theism as a theory, even though she is committed to various propositions that could enter into such a theory. Attention is given to the kind of theory theism is, when it is a theory. As far as religion is concerned, the main importance of the question as to whether theism is a theory concerns the issue as to whether the success (...) of theism as a theory is relevant to the justifiability of the beliefs of a theistic religion. I argue that there is such a relevance. But whether, more specifically, such beliefs are unjustified unless theism can provide an adequate explanation of evil depends on whether theism is responsible for providing such an explanation. I argue that it is not. (shrink)
Skeptical theism is the view that human knowledge and understanding are severely limited, compared to that of the divine. The view is deployed as an undercutting defeater for evidential arguments from evil. However, skeptical theism has broader skeptical consequences than those for the argument from evil. The epistemic principles of this skeptical creep are identified and shown to be on the road to global skepticism.
Respondents to the argument from evil who follow Michael Bergmann’s development of skeptical theism hold that our failure to determine God’s reasons for permitting evil does not disconfirm theism at all. They claim that such a thesis follows from the very plausible claim that we have no good reason to think our access to the realm of value is representative of the full realm of value. There are two interpretations of ST’s strength, the stronger of which leads skeptical (...) theists into moral skepticism and the weaker of which fails to rebut the argument from evil. As I demonstrate, skeptical theists avoid the charge of moral skepticism while also successfully rebutting the argument from evil only by embracing an equivocation between these two interpretations of ST. Thus, as I argue, skeptical theists are caught in a troubling dilemma: they must choose between moral skepticism and failure to adequately respond to the argument from evil. (shrink)
In recent years skeptical theism has gained currency amongst theists as a way to escape the problem of evil by invoking putatively reasonable skepticism concerning our ability to know that instances of apparently gratuitous evil are unredeemed by morally sufficient reasons known to God alone. After explicating skeptical theism through the work of Stephen Wykstra and William Alston, I present a cumulative-case argument designed to show that skeptical theism cannot be accepted by theists insofar as it crucially (...) undermines epistemic license to the very theism it is invoked to defend. I also argue that attempts to defend a theism-friendly moderate version of skeptical theism either fail to halt the spread of damaging skepticism, or lack philosophical validity. (shrink)
Sceptical theism is supposed, by a number of philosophers, to undercut the evidential basis for the evidential problem of evil. In this paper, I argue that even ifsceptical theism succeeds, its success comes with a hefty epistemic price: it threatens to undermine a good deal of what we supposedly know. Call this the problem of epistemic evil. Thus, sceptical theism has a costly philosophical price of admission. In light of this, it seems that the evidential problem of (...) evil is harder to dislodge than it might have initially seemed; i.e. with sceptical theism, we trade the evidential problem of evil for the problem of epistemic evil. (shrink)
This book is a discussion of a wide range of topics that bear on the existence of God. For each topic, there is a chapter by one (or more) theists, and a chapter by one (or more) atheists. Topics: (1) Definition; (2) Method; (3) Logic; (4) Doxastic Foundations; (5) Religious Experience; (6) Faith and Revelation; (7) Miracles; (8) Religious Diversity; (9) Causation and Sufficient Reason; (10) A Priori; (11) Our Universe; (12) Human History; (13) Human Beings; (14) Ethics; (15) Meaning; (...) (16) Evil and Suffering; (17) Science; (18) Theories of Religion; (19) Prudential / Pragmatic Arguments; (20) Final Reckonings. (shrink)
Introduction -- Overview -- Theism, simplicity, and properly anthropocentric metaphysics -- Materialism and dualism -- The power, knowledge, and motives of the primordial God -- The existence of the primordial God -- God changes -- Understanding evil -- The Trinity -- The Incarnation -- Concluding remarks.
This article concerns primarily the concepts of God in process theism, especially as they appear in the later writings of A. N. Whitehead and in the works of Charles Hartshorne. The article concludes with a brief discussion of arguments for God's existence in process thought and a note on the historical influences on, and anticipations of, process theism.
Theism is one of the major types of metaphysics and cosmology is the general theory of the whole wide world. Must the world have an over-worldly source, or any source? Would "space" crumble unless God perpetually sustained it by his brooding omnipresence? Is all power, properly understood, divine power? These large questions, never out of date, are examined by Professor Laird in the light of contemporary philosophy. This seminal work, originally published in 1940 is a lucid and profound discussion (...) in theological philosophy. (shrink)
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)
Guy Kahane holds that theism has unattractive consequences, since it threatens both privacy and autonomy. Here, I suggest that Kahane’s position echoes that of Dostoevsky’s famous Underground Man. But the Underground Man is ensnared in difficulties that resemble the problem of absurdity as developed by Thomas Nagel. Dostoevsky’s own solution to that problem involves love—but love naturally invites compromises with respect to privacy and autonomy. Perhaps the best way to solve the problem of absurdity is to make precisely the (...) opposite of Kahane’s axiological judgment— which would recommend pro-theism over anti-theism. (shrink)
In this paper I develop a novel challenge for sceptical theists. I present a line of reasoning that appeals to sceptical theism to support scepticism about divine assertions. I claim that this reasoning is at least as plausible as one popular sceptical theistic strategy for responding to evidential arguments from evil. Thus, I seek to impale sceptical theists on the horns of a dilemma: concede that either (a) sceptical theism implies scepticism about divine assertions, or (b) the sceptical (...) theistic strategy for responding to evidential arguments from evil fails. An implication of (a) is that sceptical theism is at odds with any religious tradition according to which there are certain claims that we can know to be true solely in virtue of the fact that God has told us that they are true. This result will render conceding (a) unattractive to many sceptical theists. (shrink)
Skeptical theism seeks to defend theism against the problem of evil by invoking putatively reasonable skepticism concerning human epistemic limitations in order to establish that we have no epistemological basis from which to judge that apparently gratuitous evils are not in fact justified by morally sufficient reasons beyond our ken. This paper contributes to the set of distinctively practical criticisms of skeptical theism by arguing that religious believers who accept skeptical theism and take its practical implications (...) seriously will be forced into a position of paralysis or "aporia" when faced with a wide set of morally significant situations. It is argued that this consequence speaks strongly against the acceptance of skeptical theism insofar as such moral "aporia" is inconsistent with religious moral teaching and practice. In addition, a variety of arguments designed to show that accepting skeptical theism does not lead to this consequence are considered, and shown to be deficient. (shrink)
Skeptical theism (ST) may undercut the key inference in the evidential argument from evil, but it does so at a cost. If ST is true, then we lose our ability to assess the all things considered (ATC) value of natural events and states of affairs. And if we lose that ability, a whole slew of undesirable consequences follow. So goes a common consequential critique of ST. In a recent article, Anderson has argued that this consequential critique is flawed. Anderson (...) claims that ST only has the consequence that we lack epistemic access to potentially God-justifying reasons for permitting a prima facie “bad” (or “evil”) event. But this is very different from lacking epistemic access to the ATC value of such events. God could have an (unknowable) reason for not intervening to prevent E and yet E could still be (knowably) ATC-bad. Ingenious though it is, this article argues that Anderson’s attempted defence of ST is flawed. This is for two reasons. First, and most importantly, the consequential critique does not rely on the questionable assumption he identifies. Indeed, the argument can be made quite easily by relying purely on Anderson’s distinction between God-justifying reasons for permitting E and the ATC value of E. And second, Anderson’s defence of his position, if correct, would serve to undermine the foundations of ST. (shrink)
Following Hume’s lead, Paul Draper argues that, given the biological role played by both pain and pleasure in goal-directed organic systems, the observed facts about pain and pleasure in the world are antecedently much more likely on the Hypothesis of Indifference than on theism. I examine one by one Draper’s arguments for this claim and show how they miss the mark.
Inductive arguments from evil claim that evil presents evidence against the existence of God. Skeptical theists hold that some such arguments from evil evince undue confidence in our familiarity with the sphere of possible goods and the entailments that obtain between that sphere and God’s permission of evil. I argue that the skeptical theist’s skepticism on this point is inconsistent with affirming the truth of a given theodicy. Since the skeptical theist’s skepticism is best understood dialogically, I’ll begin by sketching (...) the kind of argument against which the skeptical theist’s skepticism is pitched. I will then define ‘skeptical theistic skepticism’, offer a precise definition of ‘theodicy’, and proceed with my argument. (shrink)
Skeptical theism is a family of responses to the evidential problem of evil. What unifies this family is two general claims. First, that even if God were to exist, we shouldn’t expect to see God’s reasons for permitting the suffering we observe. Second, the previous claim entails the failure of a variety of arguments from evil against the existence of God. In this essay, we identify three particular articulations of skeptical theism—three different ways of “filling in” those two (...) claims—and describes their role in responding to evidential arguments of evil due to William Rowe and Paul Draper. But skeptical theism has been subject to a variety of criticisms, several of which raise interesting issues and puzzles not just in philosophy of religion but other areas of philosophy as well. Consequently, we discuss some of these criticisms, partly with an eye to bringing out the connections between skeptical theism and current topics in mainstream philosophy. Finally, we conclude by situating skeptical theism within our own distinctive methodology for evaluating world views, what we call “worldview theory versioning.”. (shrink)