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Showing posts from September, 2009

Baldwin and Thune's Recent Paper

Here's yetanotherexample of the relevance of the current epistemology of disagreement debate to issues in philosophy of religion. Erik Baldwin and Michael Thune offer a defeater for properly basic belief in God in "The Epistemological Limits of Experience-Based Exclusive Religious Belief", Religious Studies 44 (2008), pp. 445-455.[1]

Here's the abstract:

Alvin Plantinga and other philosophers have argued that exclusive religious belief can be rationally held in response to certain experiences – independently of inference to other beliefs, evidence, arguments, and the like – and thus can be ‘properly basic’. We think that this is possible only until the believer acquires the defeater we develop in this paper, a defeater which arises from an awareness of certain salient features of religious pluralism. We argue that, as a consequence of this defeater, continued epistemic support for exclusive religious belief will require the satisfaction of non-basic epistemic criteria…

Otte and Plantinga's Recent Exchange on the Free Will Defense

Richard Otte is a philosopher of religion at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work is characterized by applying the probability calculus to issues surrounding the rationality of belief in God. One can find links to many of his papers here.

Otte had an exchange with Plantinga on the latter's famous Free Will Defense (FWD) in a recent issue of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. In Otte's paper, he shows that Plantinga's definition of transworld depravity (TWD) is necessarily false(!). However, Otte goes on to offer an alternative notion that plays a similar role in Plantinga's FWD. Interestingly, Plantinga agrees with Otte's points.

Below are links to the papers:

Otte, Richard. "Transworld Depravity and Unobtainable Worlds", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78:1, pp. 165-177.

Plantinga, Alvin. "Transworld Depravity, Transworld Sanctity, and Uncooperative Essences", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78:1, pp. 178-191…

Neil A. Manson

Neil A. Manson is a philosopher at the University of Mississippi. One of his primary research interests is the design argument, especially the argument from fine-tuning. He is the editor of God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science, and is the author of a number of excellent articles on the topic. Interestingly, although he is now a critic of the argument from fine-tuning, he appears to have once been a proponent it. On this, see his dissertation, Why Cosmic Fine-Tuning Needs to be Explained.

One can find his articles on the argument at his department webpage. For those unfamiliar with the argument, perhaps the best point of entry is his paper on the design argument written for undergraduates. After that, take a look at his Introduction to the God and Design volume. It provides a very clear and helpful overview of the key issues involved in the debate over various versions of the design argument, including the fine-tuning argument. From there, move on to his paper,…

A Problem for Plantinga's Proper Functionalism

The Argument: If theism is true, then, probably, none of our beliefs have warrant. But surely many of our beliefs do have warrant; therefore, probably, theism is false.

The Argument Expanded: If theism is true, then Plantinga's account of warrant is probably correct. Now, roughly, Plantinga analyzes warrant in terms of beliefs formed by properly functioning, (successfully) truth-aimed cognitive faculties in congenial epistemic environments. However, he rejects naturalistic accounts of function, instead requiring essential appeal to intentional design in any adequate account of function.[1] However, he also thinks God is a person with cognitive faculties, and that his faculties weren't designed. Therefore, on his own account, they lack functions, in which case, a fortiori, they can't function properly. But if not, then on his own account, God's beliefs lack warrant. But if God's beliefs lack warrant, then it's hard to make intelligible the notion of God as a com…

The Devil's Lying Wonders

I just finished reading an interesting paper.

Assume, at least arguendo, that Humean arguments against the rationality of belief in miracles fail. Would it then be rational to believe that a given miracle is from God? John Beaudoin (Northern Illinois University) argues "no" in "The Devil's Lying Wonders" (Sophia 46:2 (2007), pp. 111-126). Here is the abstract:

That demonic agents can work wonders is a staple of much Judeo-Christian theology. Believers have proposed various means by which the Devil's work can be distinguished from the miracles wrought by God, primarily so that no one is led astray by the Devil's 'lying wonders. I consider the likelihood of our using the suggested criteria with any success. Given certain claims about the demonic nature and certain facts about the way theists often handle the problem of inscrutable evil, it seems unlikely that any of the criteria I examine can be relied upon.

In Memoriam: William P. Alston

I learned, via Prosblogion (and Leiter Reports), that William P. Alston passed away today. Alston was a leading philosopher of religion (see esp. his excellent book, Perceiving God), and also made outstanding contributions in epistemology (see, e.g., Epistemic Justification and Beyond "Justification") and philosophy of language (see, especially, Illocutionary Acts and Sentence Meaning). I have learned, and continue to learn, much from his excellent work.

Some Recent Critiques of Dembski's Work

Review of Wielenberg's Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe

John Cottingham (University of Reading, Emeritus) reviews the book for NDPR, here. Wielenberg's book is an excellent critique of the common apologetic argument that without God, value and meaning cannot be accounted for.

Btw, Cottingham has a new book out defending religious belief: Why Believe?. The recent book seems to be continuous with two of his previous books: On the Meaning of Life and The Spiritual Dimension.

More Lolcat Weekend Funnies

Lolcat Weekend Funnies

On Craig's Standard Reply to Mackie on the Kalam Cosmological Argument

(slightly revised and reposted)

Suppose one were to believe in the possibility of a beginningless past on the basis of the following inference:

1. Every finite subset of events in a beginningless past is traversable.
2. Therefore, the whole set of events in a beginningless past is traversable.

This is obviously a bad reason for that belief. For to infer (2) from (1) is to commit the fallacy of composition.

Interestingly, William Lane Craig attributes this fallacious inference to the late J.L. Mackie in reply to Mackie's criticism of the Kalam argument in the latter's The Miracle of Theism.[1] It's perhaps worth noting that Craig repeats this reply to Mackie's criticism in virtually all of his books and contributing chapters in which he defends the kalam cosmological argument. Furthermore, Mackie's is arguably the main criticism he raises to his argument in these writings.

I think Craig's characterization of Mackie's criticism of the kalam argument here is mista…

Lolcats Bible Translation Project

My favorite version of the Bible is the Lolcats Version, here. As the name suggests, it's a version of the Bible written completely in lolspeak. A couple of basic translations to help you on your way: Yahweh is denoted by 'Ceiling Cat', and the Devil is denoted by 'Basement Cat'. Here's a sampling from Genesis 1.

You're welcome.

UPDATE: Here is a list of arguments for and against the existence of God in lolspeak. Gold, pure gold.

UPDATE: Did you know you can follow Ceiling Cat on Twitter? Now you do.