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Showing posts from 2010

Quote of the Day

"We saw earlier that Swinburne claims that most contemporary theists need an adequate total theodicy in order to rationally believe that God exists. This is a claim about rationality in the subjective sense (p. 16).[1] Swinburne also holds that no adequate total theodicy except his own is available. Presumably, this means that theists who believe they have such a theodicy are guilty of at least objective irrationality. Furthermore...very few theists will agree with all or even most of the many metaphysical and axiological claims upon which the success of his theodicy depends and so will not, if Swinburne is correct, have an adequate total theodicy in the relevant sense. The surprising implication is that, if everything Swinburne says in his book is true, then most theistic belief is irrational in at least one of Swinburne’s two senses and will remain so no matter how many theists read and understand his book! Further, though additional argument would be required to establish this…

Craig's Replies to My Criticisms of the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

(Note: I have since offered a longer reply to Craig)

It's been brought to my attention that someone has plagiarized used some of my criticisms of the Leibnizian cosmological argument in a Q and A with Craig. Here is the link.

I hope to give a proper reply at some point, but for now I'll say that his reply is illustrative of the sort of illicit burden of proof shifting that characterizes much of his apologetic work.[1]

Reminder: If you refer to my posts, please abide by the fair use rules indicated in the Creative Commons license for this blog.

[1] Wes Morriston is one of the few philosophers who has called him on illicitly shifting the burden of proof. See, for example, p. 291 of this paper.

Liberal Naturalism and the Defeat of the Theistic Hypothesis


I think there is a version of naturalism that seems to explain the relevant range of data better than theism. To be a tad more precise: there is a prima facie viable version of naturalism that (a) explains the data appealed to in theistic arguments at least as well as theism, and (b) there is a range of other data that is better explained by this version of naturalism than by theism. Below I will provide a brief sketch of the sort of view I have in mind, as well as some considerations in its favor vis-a-vis theism.

Thus, consider the following hypothesis, which I'll call 'Chalmersian Liberal Naturalism' (in honor of the contemporary philosopher David Chalmers, who appears to accept a view somewhat similar to it. Call the view 'CLN' for short):

(CLN) There are both abstract objects and concrete objects. The abstract objects are eternal, necessary beings. All concrete objects are composed of just one kind of substance, and its essence has both physical and p…

Interesting Recent Paper on Expressivism and Divine Command Ethics

Unwin, Nicholas. "Divine Hoorays: Some Parallels Between Expressivism and Religious Ethics", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research LXXVII No. 3 (November 2008), pp. 659-684.

Here's the abstract:
Divine law theories of metaethics claim that moral rightness is grounded in God’s commands, wishes and so forth. Expressivist theories, by contrast, claim that to call something morally right is to express our own attitudes, not to report on God’s. Ostensibly, such views are incompatible. However, we shall argue that a rapprochement is possible and beneficial to both sides. Expressivists need to explain the difference between reporting and expressing an attitude, and to address the Frege-Geach problem. Divine law theorists need to get past the Euthyphro dilemma, and to avoid moral externalism. This paper shows how a combined theory helps us to achieve this.

Psychedelic Furs - "The Ghost In You"

Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, Vol. 3 set to come out in April 2011. As with the previousvolumes in the series, it looks to be an excellent collection of new papers. Here is the table of contents:

Table of Contents
1. Theistic Modal Realism? , Michael Almeida
2. The Argument from Miracles , Daniel Bonevac
3. Omnipresence and Tough Choices , E. J. Coffman
4. Darwin, God, and Chance , Phil Dowe
5. Intelligent Design and Selective History: Two Sources of Purpose and Plan , Peter J. Graham
6. A Puzzle about Hypocrisy , Frances Howard-Snyder
7. The Argument from Consciousness Revisited , Kevin Kimble and Timothy O'Connor
8. Prolegomena to Any Future Physics-Based Metaphysics , Bradley Monton
9. O'Connor's Cosmological Argument , Graham Oppy
10. Evolution without Naturalism , Elliott Sober
11. Geachianism , Patrick Todd

One of the authors was my dissertation advisor, so I'm especially looking forward to reading this volume.

A Quick and Dirty Refutation of Divine Command Theories

Robert Adams has played a significant role in reviving divine command theories in ethics (DCT). According to Adams, and many before him, the most plausible construal of DCT entails that moral obligation depends on the expressed will of God, where these expressions are properly construed as commands.1 Call any such view a ‘command formulation’ of DCT. Recently, Mark Murphy has argued that command formulations of DCT are untenable, and that the most plausible formulation of DCT entails that moral obligation depends upon the will of God, whether or not it is expressed.2 Call any such view a ‘will formulation’ of DCT. In this paper, I will argue that, while Murphy-style arguments against command formulations are decisive, the arguments Adams advances against will formulations seem equally decisive. But the most salient implication of these results is not that their particular versions of will and command formulations of DCT - those of Adams and Murphy - are inadequate.…

Index: Assessing Theism in General and Christianity in Particular

Note: This is a work in progress.

0. Preliminaries:
0.1 On caring about and pursuing truth: here
0.2 On faith and reason: here and here.
0.3 On the theistic conception of God: here
0.4 On a Common Apologetic Strategy: here
0.5 On a Common Apologetic Fallacy: here
0.6 On Theism and the Burden of Proof: here.

1. Evaluation of Arguments for Theism
1.1 Cosmological arguments
1.1.1 The Leibnizian cosmological argument: part 1, part 2, part 3. Also: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.
1.1.2 The kalam cosmological argument: here, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, and here (scroll down to the comments), here.
1.1.3 Thomistic cosmological arguments (and others): here, here.
1.1.4 O'Connor's abductive cosmological argument: here.
1.2 Design arguments:
1.2.1 Paley-style versions and fine-tuning versions: Here, here, here, here, here. See also here, here, and here, here, here, here, here.
1.2.2 Behe's irreducible complexity ve…

Two New Critiques of Plantinga's Proper Functionalism

Both address Plantinga's proper functionalism, as well as Michael Bergmann's more recent version of it. Also, both are accessible (and currently free!) in the Online First sections of the relevant journal sites.

Johnson, Daniel M. "Proper Function and Defeating Experiences", Synthese (forthcoming).

Long, Todd R. "Mentalist Evidentialism Vindicated (and a Super-Blooper
Epistemic Design Problem for Proper Function Justification)", Phil. Studies (forthcoming)

Plantinga's New Paper on Naturalism, Theism, and Morality

In 2008, Alvin Plantinga got a research grant from the Ammonius Foundation to write a paper on naturalism and objective morality. The paper ("Naturalism, Theism, Obligation, and Supervenience") is now out in of Faith & Philosophy (vol. 27, no. 3 (2010)). Here is a link to the paper.

I'm too busy at the moment to give it a careful read, but it looks as though it employs the Common Apologetic Strategy, and thus falls prey to the problems inherent in such arguments.

Super Crazy Busy

Hi folks,

Sorry for the slow posting lately, but I have a lot on my plate at the moment (new philosophy job stuff, house buying stuff, family stuff, etc.). I hope to get back soon. In the meantime, play nice.

Also: I'll probably re-post some stuff to make it look like someone's home.

All the best,

Michael Della Rocca's New Defense of the Principle of Sufficient Reason

Della Rocca, Michael. "PSR", Philosopher's Imprint 10:7 (July 2010).

ABSTRACT: This paper presents an argument for the Principle of Sufficient Reason, the PSR, the principle according to which each thing that exists has an explanation. I begin with several widespread and extremely plausible arguments that I call explicability arguments in which a certain situation is rejected precisely because it would be arbitrary. Building on these plausible cases, I construct a series of explicability arguments that culminates in an explicability argument concerning existence itself. This argument amounts to the claim that the PSR is true. The plausibility of the initial cases in the series provides the basis of an argument for the PSR, an argument that can be rebutted only by drawing a line between the plausible early cases in the series and the apparently unacceptable later cases. I argue that no principled reason for drawing this line has been found and that one cannot draw an unpri…

Bryan Frances on the Problem of Gratuitous Evil

Bryan Frances (Fordham) is writing a short book on the problem of gratuitous evil: The Horrific Evil God Allows. A draft of the book can be found at his department webpage.

If you've read some of Frances' other work, you know his work is characterized by the following three virtues (among others): (i) it's written in a very clear, conversational style (ii) it's penetrating, and (iii) it exhibits a great sense of humor often lacking in analytic philosophy.

Announcement: The Society of Christian Philosophers Midwestern Conference

The Society of Christian Philosophers Midwestern Conference

February 24-26, 2011

Hope College

Holland, Michigan

Topic: Values and Virtues

Plenary speakers:

Robert C. Roberts (Baylor University)

Address: “Emotions in the Sense of Duty”

Eric Wielenberg (DePauw University)

Address: “Divine Deception”

Papers are especially encouraged on matters of virtue ethics, the
relation between religion and ethics, applied ethical topics
(especially as they might relate to the Christian tradition), or value
theory more generally. Papers on any topic of philosophical interest
will be considered. We welcome the submissions of both Christians and
non-Christians as presenters, commentators, and participants.
Submissions should be 3,000 words or less, prepared for blind review,
and saved in an accessible format (hard copy submissions will not be
accepted). Please indicate whether you would be willing to serve as a
commentator, should your paper not be accepted.

Deadline for submission: November 12, 201…

Announcement: Center for Philosophy of Religion Fellowships for 2011-2012

The Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame
announces up to five fellowships for the 2011 - 2012 academic year:
the Alvin Plantinga Fellowship ($60,000), awarded to a distinguished
senior scholar; up to two Research Fellowships ($40,000 - $50,000,
depending on rank); the Frederick J. Crosson Fellowship ($45,000)
reserved for foreign scholars and those outside the field of
philosophy; and one Visiting Graduate Fellowship ($20,000) awarded to
a graduate student in philosophy who is working on a dissertation in
the philosophy of religion and who would profit from spending a year
at the Center. All Fellows will receive up to $2,000 reimbursement for
moving expenses, as well as up to $2,000 for research-related
expenses. The Plantinga Fellow and the Research Fellows may have the
option of teaching one course in philosophy per semester as well.
Those who do teach receive up to an additional $7,500 annually.

To apply, please submit the following materials electronic…

Announcement: Templeton Research Fellowships on Evil and Skeptical Theism for 2011-2012

The Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame
announces up to four one-year residential Research Fellowships on the
topic of 'Evil and Skeptical Theism', open rank, funded by the John
Templeton Foundation. (Skeptical theism is an increasingly widely
discussed strategy for responding to the problem of evil.) Fellows
will be expected to spend the year in residence at the University of
Notre Dame. Each successful applicant will receive a total fellowship
award of $55,000 to $85,000. Stipend will depend on rank and
circumstances of the applicant, and up to $15,000 of each award may be
received as reimbursement for travel, re-location, or research-related

In addition, there will be funding available to invite outside
scholars of interest to the fellows for brief visits during the 2011 –
2012 academic year. There will also be funding available for a
workshop on the theme of skeptical theism in late spring of 2012.
(Details of the workshop are stil…

Announcement: The 2011 St. Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology

The 2011 St. Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of Religion and
Philosophical Theology

Recent PhDs and current graduate students are invited to apply to
participate in the 2011 St. Thomas Summer Seminar in Philosophy of
Religion and Philosophical Theology, a three-week long seminar
organized by Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers) and Michael Rota (University of
St. Thomas).

The seminar will be held at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul,
Minnesota, from June 13th to July 1st, 2011. Participants will receive
a stipend of $2900, as well as room and board. The deadline for
receipt of applications is December 1, 2010.

Topics and speakers:


Robin Collins (Messiah College)
John Hawthorne (Oxford)
Bradley Monton (Colorado-Boulder)
Luke Barnes (Dept of Physics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology,


Justin Barrett (Oxford)
Jesse Bering (Queen's University)

Announcement: The 2011 Purdue Summer Seminar on Perceptual, Moral, and Religious Skepticism

The 2011 Purdue Summer Seminar on Perceptual, Moral, and Religious Skepticism (June 8-24)

Recent PhDs and ABD graduate students in philosophy, theology, psychology, or cognitive science are invited to apply for the 2011 Purdue Summer Seminar on Perceptual, Moral, and Religious Skepticism to be held at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN from June 8th to June 24th, 2011. The seminar will be directed by Michael Bergmann (Purdue) and the guest speakers will be Justin Barrett (Oxford) and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke).

The topics of the seminar are:

EPISTEMOLOGY: The epistemology of perceptual, moral, and religious belief

SKEPTICISM: Responses to skepticism about perceptual, moral, and religious belief

DISAGREEMENT: Moral and religious disagreement as grounds for unbelief

EVOLUTION: Evolutionary accounts of moral and religious belief as reasons for skepticism

Participants will receive a stipend of $5,000 from which they will pay for their travel, food, and lodging. The deadline fo…

Announcement: Templeton Dissertation Fellowships

The Templeton Dissertation Fellowships program in Evil, Pain, and
Contemporary Philosophy of Mind, hosted by the Center for Philosophy
of Religion at the University of Notre Dame, will provide up to three
one-year residential fellowships for the 2011 – 2012 academic year.,
with the possibility of a second year renewal in 2012. These
Fellowships fund research focused on the biological and psychological
nature and utility of pain and suffering, and/or the relations between
pain and suffering and the problem of evil.

Fellows will be expected to spend the year in residence at the
University of Notre Dame. Each successful applicant will receive a
$25,000 fellowship award, plus up to $5,000 for relocation, travel and
research. In addition, fellows will have joint access to funding to
bring in outside speakers and visitors for short periods during their
tenure, under the oversight of the fellowship directors (Logistical
and administrative details will be handled by the Center’s

Discussion of the Value of Analytic Philosophy of Religion at Jerry Coyne's Blog

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne (author of the best-selling book, Why Evolution is true) has started a thread on the value of analytic philosophy of religion. The comments are often terrible or uninformed (inclusive 'or' here), and so the discussion would be greatly helped if more philosophers would jump in (looks at readers).

Thanks to J.L. Schellenberg for calling my attention to this.

Thomas Senor's Critical Review of Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief

Senor, Thomas. "A Critical Review of Alvin Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief", International Philosophical Quarterly 42:3 (September 2002), pp. 389-396. Senor proposes a counterexample to Plantinga's analysis of warrant on pp. 393-396. We've mentioned some of the counterexamples that others have proposed here and here.

Wandering in Darkness

Eleonore Stump's magnum opus on the problem of evil, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering, is due out this month with Oxford University Press. Here's the blurb:

Only the most naïve or tendentious among us would deny the extent and intensity of suffering in the world. Can one hold, consistently with the common view of suffering in the world, that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good God? This book argues that one can.

Wandering in Darkness first presents the moral psychology and value theory within which one typical traditional theodicy, namely, that of Thomas Aquinas, is embedded. It explicates Aquinas's account of the good for human beings, including the nature of love and union among persons. Eleonore Stump also makes use of developments in neurobiology and developmental psychology to illuminate the nature of such union.
Stump then turns to an examination of narratives. In a methodological section focused on epistemological issues, t…

Phenomenal Conservatism and the Epistemology of Religious Belief

A "hot" view in epistemology at the moment is a version of evidentialism called "phenomenal conservatism", the view that if it seems or appears to one that P, then one thereby has at least some defeasible evidence that P. Variations of the view have been around for a long, long time, but the recent popularity of the view traces to at least two works by Michael Huemer (University of Colorado, Boulder): (i) Skepticism and the Veil of Perception, and (ii) "Compassionate Phenomenal Conservatism", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2007), pp. 30-55.

Well, the thesis of phenomenal conservatism is fast becoming a "hot" application topic in philosophy of religion (in particular, in supporting the rationality of theism). For a top-notch example, see Chris Tucker's paper, "Phenomenal Conservatism and Evidentialism in Epistemology", forthcoming in VanArragon, Raymond and Kelly James Clark (eds.). Evidence and Religious Belief. Oxford…

Langtry's Reply to Gale

Bruce Langtry (University of Melbourne) has kindly posted a helpful overview (including chapter summaries) of his recent book, God, the Best, and Evil. You can also find his reply to Richard Gale's criticisms of the book at his department webpage.

P.S., Perhaps it's worth noting that he critiques Plantinga's Free Will Defense in the current issue of Faith and Philosophy. See his paper, "The Prospects for the Free Will Defense", Faith and Philosophy 27:2 (2010)

Faith and Philosophy Table of Contents Online

Having recently found the table of contents for the current and past issues of Faith & Philosophy, I've updated the link to F&P in my list of philosophy of religion specialty journals, and have added an RSS feed in the column on the right.

P.S., If you would like to do so, you can add this blog to your Google Reader (or to another blog aggregator), by clicking the "Subscribe to: Posts" button at the top of the column on the right.

Online Papers from Baylor's 5th Annual Philosophy of Religion Conference

Baylor University hosts an important annual philosophy of religion conference. Here is the link to the one that occurred earlier this year. From there, you can find links to many of the papers that were presented. Here is the link to their previous conferences.

My favorite paper from this year's conference is Nathan L. King's "We're Not Very Good at This: Dealing With Evidence of Unreliability". King is a recent PhD from Notre Dame, and is an up-and-comer in the epistemology of disagreement debate. Those interested in the debate about the problem of reasonable religious disagreement shouldn't miss his recent paper, "Religious Diversity and its Challenges to Religious Belief", Philosophy Compass (2008)

Quote from Mackie on Design Arguments

"The argument from design, therefore, can be sustained only with the help of a supposedly a priori double-barrelled principle, that mental order (at least in a god) is self-explanatory, but that all material order not only is not self-explanatory, but is positively improbable and in need of further explanation...this double-barrelled principle is recognizable as the core of the cosmological argument...The argument will not take us even as far as Kant seems to allow without borrowing the a priori thesis that there is a vicious metaphysical contingency in all natural things, and, in contrast with this, the 'transcendental' concept of a god who is self-explanatory and necessarily existent. It is only with the help of these borrowings that the design argument can introduce the required asymmetry, that any natural explanation uses data which call for further explanation, but that the theistic explanation terminates the regress. Without this asymmetry, the design argument canno…

Keith Parsons No Longer Doing Philosophy of Religion

... on the grounds that he no longer finds theism sufficiently credible to warrant devoting further time to research in that field. You all knew that (if not, go here and here), but now Brian Leiter has started a discussion on the topic at his blog. Here is the link.

For the record, my own sentiments about the value of philosophy of religion, and the current state of the field, are captured perfectly by J.L. Schellenberg's comment in the thread at Prosblogion.

UPDATE: Parsons has since left the following comment in the thread of his original announcement at The Secular Outpost:

Thanks again for the many kind and generous comments. I do certainly agree that those who have the stomach for it should continue to subject theistic apologetics to stringent critique. I would especially like for somebody to debunk stuff like that by Robin Collins and John Leslie in the last issue of Philo.

When I helped found Philo, I expressed my chagrin that there were so very few replies to the theistic…


For those interested in the current debate about the problem of reasonable religious disagreement, don't miss this important collection of papers on the epistemology of disagreement, which is due out this month.

Stephen Hawking's Recent Remarks on God and Creation

Here. It's basically a plug for his new book, The Grand Design (due out September 7th!). It looks like the basic idea is that M-Theory is probably true, and that it explains the existence and fine-tuning of our universe.[1] Hey, that's pretty much my view, too![2]
[1] Objection: "But I can imagine the fundamental stuff posited in the M-theory multiverse failing to exist. And since conceivability is sufficient evidence for possibility, it's possible for the fundamental stuff posited in the M-Theory multiverse to fail to exist, in which case we have reason to doubt that such stuff is metaphysically necessary, in which case it can't provide an ultimate explanation of the existence of our contingent universe. On the other hand, theism can explain such data. For it ultimately grounds the existence of our contingent universe in a factually or metaphysically necessary being, viz., God. Therefore, the hypothesis of a naturalistic M-theory multiverse f…

Paul Draper's Upcoming Plantinga Lecture

Paul Draper (Purdue), my favorite philosopher of religion, is currently a Plantinga Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion. He will be giving the ninth annual Plantinga Lecture in October, which will be on the problem of evil. Here is the content of the announcement:

The Ninth Annual Plantinga Lecture is scheduled for October 1, 2010 at 3:00pm in the auditorium of the Eck Visitors' Center. The 2010 - 2011 Plantinga Fellow, Paul Draper, Professor of Philosophy, Purdue University, will deliver a lecture entitled " God and Evil: A Philosophical Inquiry." Reception in the atrium immediately following. All are welcome.

Presumably, Draper will be presenting material from his forthcoming monograph on the evidential problem of evil. It thus looks like it'll be a way to get a sneak peak at his main line of argument.

Forthcoming Book on Divine Evil

In my view, the strongest version of the problem of evil is (what David Lewis called) the problem of divine evil, i.e., evil directly caused or mandated by the God of Abrahamic faiths (according to scripture). And as many readers of this blog know, the problem of divine evil is currently a hot topic in philosophy of religion (recall, for example, the recent conference at Notre Dame that was devoted to the topic, as well as theserecentjournalarticles).

Well, a new collection of papers on the topic is scheduled to come out in November: Bergmann, Murray, and Rea (eds) Divine Evil? The Moral Character of the God of Abraham (Oxford University Press). I imagine it will be required reading for those researching the issue. Here's the blurb:

Adherents of the Abrahamic religions have traditionally held that God is morally perfect and unconditionally deserving of devotion, obedience, love, and worship. The Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scriptures tell us that God is compassionate, merciful,…

More Troubles for Molinism

On another occasion, we noted Dean Zimmerman's powerful critique of middle knowledge. Here's another: Keith DeRose's new paper, "The Conditionals of Deliberation", Mind 119 (Jan. 2010). Here is the link. For a more explicit connection between the paper and the problems it poses for middle knowledge, see this related ancestor to the paper. This of course raises problems for Plantinga's specific version of the free will defense (although not necessarily for other versions).

The Waning of Materialism?

A piece of news I forgot to mention at the appropriate time: Robert Koons' edited volume with OUP, The Waning of Materialism, came out in April. As the title suggests, it's an evaluation of materialism, or what I have elsewhere called 'Conservative Naturalism'. I'm especially looking forward to reading the papers from Burge, Horgan, Jubien, Almog, and De Caro, which offer explorations and defenses of Moderate and Liberal forms of naturalism.

My guess is that some apologists will use some of the points in the volume to employ the Common Apologetic Strategy to argue from non-materialism to theism.

P.S., Perhaps it's worth noting that (Christian philosopher) Koons previously contributed to a volume similar to the one he has edited here. Why does he want to put out another one? The cynical side of me is tempted to think he did it primarily to have another book available for Christian apologists to appeal to in their books and in other apolo…