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Showing posts from May, 2008

A Curious Move in Robin Collins' Defense of the Fine-Tuning Argument

I recently skimmed Robin Collins' chapter on the fine-tuning version of the design argument in The Rationality of Theism (Ed. Paul Copan). I had read it before about a year or so ago, but I didn't catch a problem I noticed this time around. The worry is this. In a section defending the argument against the "Who Designed the Designer" criticism, Collins uses Swinburne's reply that, roughly, an explanatory posit y can explain some phenomenon x even if y is itself complex-yet-unexplained. However, when Collins discusses the "Many Universes" criticism of the fine-tuning argument, he argues that such a hypothesis is implausible, on the grounds that the mechanism that would be required to produce the universes on that hypothesis is complex and functional, and thus would itself require a designer.

In short, Collins seems to accept the following principle when he responds to the "who designed the designer?" criticism of the design argument:

(*) A the…

Notes on Peter van Inwagen's Criticisms of the Cosmological Argument in Metaphysics

Notes on Peter van Inwagen's Criticisms of the Cosmological Argument in Metaphysics

1. Two versions of PSR:
1.1 Unrestricted PSR: For every object and state of affairs, there is a sufficient reason for why it exists or obtains
1.2 Restricted PSR: For every object, there is a sufficient reason for why that object exists

2. Problems for PSR
2.1 Unrestricted PSR is absurd
2.1.1 If Unrestricted PSR is true, then every fact of the universe had to obtain of logical necessity (for the details, see van Inwagen's chapter on the cosmological argument in his Metaphysics)
2.1.2 But that's absurd: some events are surely logically contingent (e.g., my typing this post).
2.1.3 So, not-Unrestricted PSR
2.2 Restricted PSR is plausible, but it won’t help in demonstrating that there is a necessary being
2.2.1 If Restricted PSR is true, it doesn’t have the absurd consequence that every fact in the universe had to obtain of necessity
2.2.2 However, we can only use Restricted PSR to demonstra…

Notes on Mackie's Criticisms of the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument in The Miracle of Theism

Mackie’s Criticisms:

1. Criticism of the notion of a necessary being:
1.1 We have no good reason to believe that there can be such a thing: For any object, one can conceive of it failing to exist.
1.2 Conceivability is prima facie evidence of possibility (or more weakly: the conceivable non-existence of x undercuts the justification for belief that x is a necessary being)
1.3 So, prima facie, for every object, it's possible for it to fail to exist (but see the weaker reading mentioned above)
1.4 But if so, then we have prima facie, defeasible evidence against the possibility of necessary beings (but see the weaker reading mentioned above)
1.5 And if so, then this severely weakens our basis for thinking that contingent beings need an explanation in terms of necessary beings. For then it is dubious that there could possibly be a necessary being (or more weakly: our justification for thinking there could be such things is undercut).

2. Criticisms of PSR:
2.1 PSR isn’t a necessary truth (o…

Revised Notes on Paley's Design Argument

The Design Argument, Part I: The Classical (“Old School”) Design Argument

1. Preliminaries:
1.1 Our current topic: the design argument for the existence of a god
1.2 Defining ‘design’:
1.2.1 What do we mean when we say that something is designed? We mean, roughly, that a person of some kind intentionally made or altered something for a purpose.
1.2.2 A word that is often associated with the notion of design is ‘teleology’ and its derivatives, such as ‘teleological’.
1.2.3Etymology: telos: end, purpose
1.2.4 ‘Teleological’: exhibiting or relating to design or purpose, especially in nature
1.2.5 Thus, the design argument is often called the teleological argument
1.3 The design argument has often been called the most rationally compelling and intuitive argument for the existence of God.
1.3 It attempts to provide strong reason for believing that the universe, or at least parts of it, is the product of an exceedingly intelligent being, viz., God.
1.4 The basic idea:
1.4.1 Many of the features of …

Notes on Peter van Inwagen's Critique of Clifford's The Ethics of Belief

Notes: Van Inwagen’s “Is it Wrong Always, Everywhere, and for Anyone to Believe Anything on Insufficient Evidence?”


-Clifford’s Principle: It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on
insufficient evidence.

-‘Sufficient evidence’: by ‘sufficient evidence’ philosophers commonly take Clifford to mean ‘evidence that would persuade any reasonable person who is capable of assessing it’.

-Some philosophers have used the following argument against religious belief that relies on Clifford’s Principle:

1) No one is justified in believing any proposition unless they have sufficient evidence.
2) No one has sufficient evidence for the proposition that God exists.
3) Therefore, no one is justified in believing that God exists.

-The argument is valid, but is it sound?

-Some context:
-When philosophers advance this argument, they don’t usually mean to imply that there are no valid arguments for the existence of a god when they say that “there isn’t sufficient evidenc…

Reposted: Craig and Moreland on the Case Against Beginningless Traversals

I haven't seen this argument made explicit by Moreland or Craig, but I believe the materials for the following dilemma can be gleaned from their writings:

The Dilemma:
If a traversal of an infinite past is possible, then either the traversal requires a starting point or it doesn't. If it does, then the traversal could never get going, as one could never get a foothold in the beginningless series to begin the traversal (for there are an infinite number of moments before every day in such a past, and so to start at any point, you would have already had to have traversed an infinite number of moments to get to it). But if it doesn't, then the traversal should always be finished, for an infinite number of moments exist before every day in such a past, and thus all the time needed to complete the traversal exists before every day. Therefore, either the beginningless traversal can never get going or it's always completed. But both implications are absurd or otherwise unaccepta…

Notes on Mackie's Criticisms of the Design Argument in The Miracle of Theism

Mackie’s (and Hume’s) Criticisms of the Design Argument

1) The analogy between the universe (and biological organisms and their parts) and human artifacts is weak: they don’t resemble each other very well

-objection: this point only applies to the analogical version of the design argument; not the best explanation version.

-reply: Mackie agrees (see p. 137). But then he argues that if we treat intelligent design as an inference to the best explanation, this is weak. For the hypothesis doesn’t have the predictive and explanatory virtues of normal scientific hypotheses.

2) There are rival hypotheses that explain apparent design equally well

-evolution explains the apparent design of biological organisms and their parts

-natural laws and processes, and the constants of nature explain why evolution is possible

3) The same features that lead the theist to infer design imply that the designer’s mind requires a designer

-Theist’s reply #1: The designer’s mind doesn’t need a designer, even thou…

Notes on Peter van Inwagen's Discussion of the Fine-Tuning Design Argument

Van Inwagen’s Criticisms of the Design Argument
-Note: Van Inwagen only discusses the design argument from the fine-tuning of the universe.

-Objection 1: Chance
-Every possible combination of values for the fundamental constants of nature is equally improbable.
-But, given that there is a universe, some combination or other had to obtain.
-It’s just that, by chance, the values of the constants of the actual universe allow life to arise.
-So we shouldn’t be surprised that the actual combination obtained.

-Van Inwagen’s reply:
-It is unreasonable to say that something obtained by chance whenever (i) it is just one among a large number of possibilities, (ii) there is a possible explanation for why it obtained that would be a good one if true, and (iii) no parallel good explanation exists for any of the other possibilities.
-But this is true of the values of the fundamental constants of nature in the actual universe!
-The combination of values of the actual constants of nature is just …

Revised: Notes to Help Assess the Problem(s) of Evil

Introduction to the Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil

Earlier, we discussed the most popular and intuitive argument for thinking there is a god: the design argument. That argument appealed to our ordinary observations of the intricacy and orderliness of the universe as evidence of a divine Designer. The present argument is the “evil twin” of the design argument: the problem of evil. It’s the most popular and intuitive argument for thinking there is no god. Like the design argument, it appeals to our ordinary observations, but in this case, the observations are of disorder of various sorts – in particular, evils.

There are two broad kinds of evil the argument appeals to as evidence of the non-existence of a god: moral evil and natural evil. Moral evil is “person-on-person evil” – evil committed by persons against other persons (or by a person against themselves). Moral evils run the gamut from such horrendous wickedness as genocide, slavery, torture, murder, and rape to the more mundane occurrences of “small” lies an…

Notes: Hume's Version of the Problem of Evil in Part X of the Dialogues

-The usual, natural way in which people come to belief in God: they seek refuge from the unrelenting misery and uncertainty in the world in a Being that transcends it, hoping for relief from it in this life and an afterlife.

-The “War of Nature”: the whole realm of biological organisms is at war, competing with each other to survive.

-Humans can escape much of this war by combining to form societies, and thus protect themselves against it.

-However, once they escape it in this way, they immediately create new forms of misery.

-the misery they create with superstitious beliefs

-the misery of interpersonal conflict

-Furthermore, there are other forms of misery that the human race can’t escape:

-psychological misery: remorse, shame, fear, anxiety, etc.

-misery from mental and physical sickness and disease

-These forms of misery are constant and universal

-Furthermore, all of the goods that life has to offer combined barely make life worth living

-And the lack of any one of them makes life unhappy


Notes on B.C. Johnson on the Problem of Evil

Johnson on the Problem of Evil

0. The setup:
1.1 A 6-month-old baby that dies painfully in a house fire.
1.2 God had the ability to save the baby, but didn’t
1.3 If God is good, then there is a legitimate excusing condition for his not saving the baby

1. First try: The baby will go to heaven.

1.1 First criticism: if it wasn’t necessary for the baby to suffer, then it was wrong to allow it – compensation in the afterlife for being wronged in this life is a separate issue

1.2 Second criticism: was it necessary then for the baby to suffer? If so, then we need an explanation for why it was necessary, as its necessity isn’t apparent

2. Second try: the baby’s painful death will have good results in the long run; so it is permissible to allow it (if it wasn’t, God wouldn’t have allowed it)

2.1 First criticism:
2.1.1 This answer assumes that whatever evils actually occur in the world have result in overall good in the long run
2.1.2 If so, then causing or permitting them is always ri…

Notes on Mackie's "Evil and Omnipotence"

0. Introduction
0.1 Mackie argues that the problem of evil proves that either no god exists, or at least that the god of Orthodox Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, does not exist. His argument is roughly the same version of the problem of evil that we’ve been considering.
0.2 Mackie thinks that one can avoid the conclusion that God does not exist only if one admits that either God is not omnipotent (i.e., not all-powerful), or that God is not perfectly good. 0.3 However, he thinks that hardly anyone will be willing to take this route. For doing so leaves one with a conception of a god that isn’t worthy of worship, and therefore not religiously significant.
0.4 After his brief discussion of his version of the problem of evil, he considers most of the main responses to the problem of evil, and concludes that none of them work.

1. First Response and Mackie's Reply
1.1 Response: Good can’t exist without evil; evil is a necessary counterpart to good.
1.2 Mackie’s reply:
1.2.1 this see…

Notes on Hick's "Evil and Theodicy"

Notes on Hick’s “Soul-Making Theodicy”


Theodicy vs. Defense:
Defense: An attempt to show what God’s reason could be – as a bare logical possibility --for allowing evil to exist.

-the goal of a defense is a modest but important one: to show that God’s existence is logically compatible with the existence of evil.

-Alvin Plantinga offered a defense.

Theodicy: An attempt to explain what God’s reason actually is for allowing evil to exist.

-the goal of a theodicy is more ambitious and important: to provide a plausible explanation as to why God actually permits evil that in our world.

-John Hick is offering a theodicy.

Two major strands of theodicy:
Augustinian theodicies involve the notion of a “fall” of God’s creatures from a state of moral perfection, which in turn leads to the “disharmony of nature” (302).

Iranean theodicies don’t involve – or at least don’t essentially involve -- the notion of a fall; instead, they involve “the creation of humankind through the evolutionary proc…

Notes on Swinburne, "On Why God Allows Evil"

Notes on Swinburne’s “Why God Allows Evil”

1. The kinds of goods a theistic god would provide: deeper goods than just “thrills of pleasure and times of contentment” (p. 90). For example:
1.1 Significant freedom and responsibility
1.1.1 for ourselves
1.1.2 for others
1.1.3 for the world in which they live
1.2 Valuable lives
1.2.1 being of significant use to ourselves
1.2.2 being of significant use to each other

2. Kinds of evil
2.1 Moral evil: all the evil caused or permitted by human beings, whether intentionally or through negligence (e.g., murder, theft, etc.)
2.2 Natural evil: all the rest: evil not caused or permitted by human beings (e.g., suffering caused by hurricanes, forest fires, diseases, animal suffering, etc.)

3. The gist of Swinburne’s answer to the problem of evil: God cannot – logically cannot -- give us the goods of significant freedom, responsibility and usefulness without thereby allowing for the possibility of lots of moral and natural evil. This is why he has al…

Notes on Ch. 7 of Rowe's Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Evil, Part Two

Notes on Rowe’s Ch. 7 – The Problem of Evil, Part Two

0. Preliminaries
0.1 We’ve distinguished two versions of the problem of evil: the logical and evidential problems of evil
0.2 We’ve seen that the logical problem of evil may well be a failure. For evil may be justified in cases in which the possibility of evil is logically necessary to obtain a greater good. The example we gave was contained in the free will defense
0.3 Now we’re considering the evidential problem of evil.
0.4 The main response we’ve looked at is Wykstra’s skeptical theism
0.5 We will now consider a new type of response to the evidential problem of evil, viz., a theodicy
0.6 A theodicy is an attempt to give an actual explanation that would justify a good God in allowing evil to occur
1. Another Response to the Evidential Problem of Evil: Hick’s Soul-Making Theodicy
1.1. Like the free will defense, it argues that allowing evil to occur is logically necessary to obtain great goods that outweigh such evil – He ca…

Notes on Rowe's Philosophy of Religion, Ch. 7: "The Problem of Evil", Part One

Notes on Rowe’s Ch. 7 – The Problem of Evil, Part One

0. Preliminaries:
0.1 The basic idea: There is a massive amount of evil in the world. But, at least on the face of it, this can’t be if the God of classical theism exists. For such a being would want to prevent evil (since he’s supposed to be perfectly good), and would be capable of preventing evil (since he’s supposed to be all-knowing and all-powerful). Therefore, the existence of evil is powerful evidence that the God of theism does not exist.
0.2 Kinds of evil
0.2.1 moral evil: “person against person” evil: murder, theft, dishonesty, etc.
0.2.2 natural evil: suffering caused by nature: people killed by hurricanes, animals killed by a forest fire, diseases, etc.
0.3 Versions of the problem of evil
0.3.1 the logical problem of evil this version is a deductive argument it attempts to show that the existence of God is logically incompatible the existence of evil – the existence of either one en…

Some Great Philosophy Podcasts

Need something to listen to while exercising or commuting? Interested in philosophy? Own an iPod (or some other sort of MP3 player)? Then check out the podcast Philosophy Bites, with Nigel Warburton. He has nice, short interviews with leading philosophers that offer helpful, accessible discussions of central philosophical arguments and figures.

Two other philosophy podcasts worth listening to are Philosophy: The Classics and Ethics Bites. The latter is what you'd expect: similar to Philosophy Bites, but more narrowly focused on ethical issues, theories, and arguments. The former offers clear, quick summaries of the key ideas and lines of argument in the central classical philosophical texts, concluding with a discussion of their strengths and weaknesses. Can't recommend these fun and stimulating podcasts enough!

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