For complete papers, where available, click on the blue links…
Arcadi. Divine Omnipresence: A View from Jewish Philosophical Theology
Classical theists of the western philosophical traditions have tended to hold that among the various “omni-“ attributes, God possesses the attribute of being omnipresent. On an Anselmian perfect being conception of God, where God is said to (a) possess those qualities or attributes that it would be better to have than not and (b) God possesses them to a maximal degree, one can easily come to a rational appreciation of God’s omnipresence. Would it be better for God to be here or there? Would it be better for God to be both here and there? If it would be better for God to be both here and there, it would seem it would be best for God to be every “where.” Yet the conception of God being present at all locations runs into potential conflict with another standard, classical conception of God, that of God being immaterial. If, “location” denotes a specific region of space (or spacetime), and space is a material entity, then it might seem impossible for God to be in any real sense related to a, or any, location. We might call this the “immateriality puzzle” and this has been the main worry that has troubled philosophers in the tradition and in the recent literature.
However, it seems as though there is another puzzle in the neighborhood, one based upon the experience of the faithful practitioners of the religions. For the faithful occasionally report God as being more in certain places and at certain times in a manner of greater intensity than his presence at other places and at other times. For instance, the shrines of saints are a popular site of devotion for Christians, the Temple Mount is a significant location for prayer for Jews, the Kaaba is the quintessential pilgrimage location for Muslims. These places are locations where for the faithful God “shows up,” so to speak, where God’s presence is felt more intensely, where God is. But if God is everywhere, how can it be that God could be more any “where”? Let us call this the “intensity puzzle.”
Beary. Eternity and Omnipresence: A Response to Leftow
In his paper “Eternity and Simultaneity,” Brian Leftow argues against Stump and Kretzmann’s interpretation of the relationship between time and eternity. After criticizing their approach, Leftow offers his own, which can be described as an attempt to cast a Boethian account of eternity in terms of special theory of relativity. In this paper, I argue that Leftow’s proposed explanation of the time-eternity relationship is not successful. To demonstrate this, I will explicate Leftow’s account, identify its key premises, and show that we have good reasons to reject some of these. I will conclude by raising a general worry about the special theory of relativity’s usefulness for articulating the relationship between eternity and time.
Bergen. Speaking the Unspeakable: God-Language after the Critique of Pure Reason
This paper investigates the depiction of God as a transcendental idea in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Rather than a supporting a fundamental agnosticism or atheism, the first Critique attempts to save theological discourse by moving it into the realm of faith: the empirical significance of God is retained but must become a systematizing, rather than constituting, force, and theological language must become heuristic. This paper argues that in so doing, the God presented by the first Critique becomes subject to revisions based on its effectiveness at systematizing phenomena. We find that Kant himself has revised the concept of God in just this manner, and thus models for us the pattern of transcendental theology. In this vein, scholars such as Wood argue for a non‐theistic transcendental theology, which brings to light the importance of argumentation about regulative ideas for theistic apologetics in the post‐Kantian world.
Bernier. Notes on a Neglected Virtue: Analyzing the Nature and Norms of Hope
abstract not available
Boyle. A Catholic Philosophical Response to Anti-Natalism and Adoption
Pregnancy is traditionally seen as a cause for celebration and joy. But it can also exacerbate the harm caused by the rapidly growing number of humans on the planet, the strain this puts on the Earth’s resources, and the denial of potential parents to children waiting for adoption. Because of these reasons, some argue that pregnancy, specifically gestating one’s own baby, is morally impermissible and that people should adopt rather than procreate. This view is known as anti-natalism pro-adoption, or ANPA for short. Though Travis Rieder does not accept that we have an obligation to adopt, he argues that people generally do not have excellent reasons for gestating and can be morally judged for doing so. Both the integrity objection against ANPA and Rieder’s allowances fail to take into account the theological dimension of marriage and gestation. This means that the circle of people who have legitimate “gestational projects” widens. Furthermore, Rieder’s view of gestation’s moral worth is purely consequentialist, which does not take into account the possibility that gestation might have an inherent value. In this paper I will explain Rieder’s objections to ANPA and his view on gestation. Then I will introduce a theological dimension to the concept of “gestational project” and argue that more people have a genuine gestational project than Rieder acknowledges. I will also point out the consequentialist dimension of ANPA and Rieder’s perspectives on gestation and show how this leaves room for criticism.
Brandt. Acedia and the End of Religion
Among the seven capital vices, acedia—often translated as sloth—has been the most neglected by modern scholarship. The early desert monks were well acquainted with the vice, and referred to it as “The Noonday Demon,” highlighting its role in causing monks to abandon their posts in the face of bodily fatigue. When addressed today, it is often equated with laziness or lethargy, which has led to widespread misconceptions concerning the nature of acedia. For instance, Evelyn Waugh has called it the “most amiable of weaknesses.”
Recently, there has been renewed interest in this obscure vice and its place in the Christian tradition. One prominent example is Rebecca DeYoung, who champions St. Thomas Aquinas’ view of acedia. She interprets Aquinas as characterizing acedia in terms of resistance to the demanding nature of the believer’s relationship with God. While DeYoung’s position is an important step in the right direction, I argue that her account of the object of acedia is inaccurate. Her emphasis on effort obscures the true nature of the vice, as Aquinas conceived it. I present an alternative, on which the object of acedia is the believer’s very relationship with God.
Buhler. The Cosmic Question
Abandoning the search for objective, natural final causes is one of the harbingers of modern science. Bacon believed that science could study natural formal causes but not natural final causes. Yet has this hypothesis been tested and found wanting? Contemporary scientists and philosophers have observed the persistence of teleological talk in sciences like biology, psychology, and economics; yet many fear that a full-blown acceptance of natural teleology would somehow sully nature with divinity. Thomas Nagel’s recent offering deflates the pretensions of anti-teleological naturalism and defends an alternative, secular, teleological naturalism he calls naturalized Platonism or Aristotelianism. The fact that his alternative is compatible with both atheism and theism should commend it to both kinds of philosophers. However, his alternative is not “Platonic” nor “Aristotelian” but simply Nagalian.
Carey. Spiritual, But Not Religious
‘Spiritual, but not religious’ has become a common phrase describing a certain outlook on traditional religion and it’s role in life, common enough to receive its own acronym (SBNR) in the sociology of religion. Defenders and detractors of traditional religion have, naturally, debated the meaning and the merits of the label. More to the point here, some have raised doubts about its very coherence – could there even be such a thing as a non-religious spirituality? Though I will argue that the answer to this question is a qualified ³yes², a satisfying answer requires that we be more clear about what spirituality is, as well as what religion is. In this paper, I try to give an account of the nature of spirituality and of religion, and then close with some thoughts on the prospects for a non-religious spirituality.
ChanR. The Problem of Self-Transformation
Much of the literature on transformative experience focuses on the epistemic uncertainty of transformative experience and the difficulties that uncertainty presents for standard decision-making procedures. In this paper, I argue that even when epistemic uncertainty is removed, a problem for standard decision-making procedures remains. Agents who undergo personal transformation don’t just gain new knowledge about what they are like post-transformation, they actually transform. This creates what I call the ‘problem of self-transformation.’ It arises in virtue of the potential for the agent to become radically different—so different that from the current perspective of the agent, the potential future self is alien. In what follows, I lay out the problem of self-transformation (a). I then connect this framework to issues relevant to the religious life (b). In the full length paper, I’ll also offer a solution to the problem.
ChanBH. Kripke’s Account of Proper Names, and the Problem of Naming the Same God
I wish to show that Saul Kripke’s account of proper names allows that adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can refer to the same God by the name ‘God’. I will do this by also using Alvin Plantinga’s account of properly basic beliefs of God, showing that Jews, Christians, and Muslims can have experiences today which give them properly basic beliefs of God, which experiences are a key part of a kind of Kripkean “baptism” of the name ‘God’. This name can even be passed further in the tradition and religious community. One peripheral but interesting implication of this conclusion is that if the Christian Bible claims that adherents of other religions can refer to the same God using the same name, then the Christian should prefer Kripke’s account over an account (such as Frege’s or Searle’s) in which the description(s) of a name determine(s) its reference.
Cunningham. Rehabilitating the Popular Response to the Problem of Free-Will and Foreknowledge
A perennially popular response to arguments for the incompatibility of free will and divine foreknowledge asserts that God’s foreknowledge does not cause me to act as I do. This response is typically dismissed as irrelevant to incompatibility arguments, since these do not depend on assumptions about what causes my action. But I contend that the popular response may be seen as representing a forceful objection to incompatibility arguments. According to this objection, although God’s foreknowledge that I will do x at t does entail that it is impossible that I will do otherwise, the species of impossibility legitimately claimed here—unlike causal impossibility—does not license the intended conclusion that I am unable to do otherwise. I spell out this objection in Part I, then in Part II I deploy it against an incompatibility argument due to William Hasker.
Cyr. Immortality Cynicism
Despite the common-sense and widespread belief that immortality is desirable, many philosophers demur. Some go so far as to argue that immortality would necessarily be unattractive (these have been called ³immortality curmudgeons²), but there is logical space for a more modest position, which I hereby dub ³immortality cynicism,² according to which certain goods would be precluded by immortality and the loss of these goods would not be outweighed by any goods that would persist in an immortal life. In addition to calling attention to this logical space, this paper aims to evaluate two recent arguments (given by Martha Nussbaum and Samuel Scheffler) that could be used in defense of immortality cynicism. Ultimately, I argue, neither argument is sound. Nussbaum identifies one item of value (or perhaps a cluster of valuable items) that an immortal life must lack, but there is no reason to think that such an absence would render immortality undesirable (by outweighing the many other items of value that would be present). Scheffler argues that an immortal life would not contain a recognizably human way of valuing, but I argue that Scheffler¹s argument cannot succeed. Even granting their claims about the goods that would be precluded by immortality, neither establishes that the loss of these goods would not be outweighed by any goods that would persist in an immortal life.
DeLaTorre. Freud on Religion
Sigmund Freud’s theory on religion coincides with the need that we as humans all feel, the desire to be love and protected, and the production of wish fulfillments as a manner in which we can achieve somewhat of an escape from reality. With the current decline in religiosity throughout the United States, however, we can see how individuals can find and create different outlets in place of religion, in particular through humanism.
Deweer. Persons Without Religion
My conclusion is that Ricoeur’s late hermeneutical phenomenology of Oneself as Another (Ricoeur 1992) enables us to breathe new life into an important Christian perspective in continental philosophy. If the US is indeed catching up with Europe with regard to secularization, Ricoeur’s philosophy sends a message of hope. The decline in religiosity does not necessarily mean the end of relevant Christian philosophy, although it does challenge Christian philosophers to find a discourse that connects with contemporary mainstream philosophy while keeping faith at the horizon.
The move to secularity is afoot. It can happen at any age, but the big surge is currently coming from our youth. The younger and better educated, the less they identify with religion of any kind. They seem to be too busy identifying with the wide world around them.
To be sure, unfortunately, there is plenty of work to be done still. In the U.S., one still has little chance to get elected to office, particularly the national variety, without professing some kind of supernatural belief. Individuals and families are still shunned by neighbors and fellow workers for lack of it – sometimes getting fired or driven out of town as reward. Individuals are excommunicated from their families with shocking regularity. People are afraid to talk of their non-belief. Children’s science education is under siege across the country by the religious, who are bringing lawsuits and stacking boards of education in order to keep their children stuck hundreds of years in the past.
Yet, as evidenced by our youngest generation, the Great Decline of religion continues. We should all, regardless of our beliefs, heartily encourage this (as many religious people do). The world is likely to be a far better place for it.
Elisher. Elisher. A Kierkegaardian Critique of Hume on Reason and Passion
There are a number of interesting parallels between Hume and Kierkegaard in their treatment of the passions or emotions, and the relation of emotion to reason and action. They both emphasize the importance of emotion in opposition to different strands of a rationalist tradition, which views emotions as distractions from and disruptive to the good life—the life directed by Reason.
In this paper, I try to discover if there is a way of appropriating their insights concerning the centrality of passions to character and the moral life, while doing justice to our common experience about the casual efficacy of reason. I argue that there is indeed, and that we can begin to articulate a powerful account of the relation between reason and emotion with a Kierkegaardian critique of Hume.
Fobean. Can One Be Moral Without God?
Restrictive morality has long been the status quo of the objective morality that provides the backbone of the Moral Argument for God. This is particularly true in the case of Divine Command Theory, which defines a morality within the dominant ethics (Religious belief in the Supreme Christian God); though, atheism is equally guilty of defining an equally restrictive morality against the dominant ethics. This essay runs through some of the variations on the Moral Argument, presented by Stephen Layman and Linda Zagzebski, from a Divine Command Theory perspective to illuminate some of the internal issues caused by the restrictive (negative) view of morality. I charge the Moral Argument in general with a backwards-negative conception of morality. Finally I conclude with a description of a positive view of morality that, far from excluding God entirely, merely excludes Divine Command and the restrictive morality it entails. True morality should be seen as a positive morality, an opening-up of the moral sphere rather than a limitation upon it. This is done with divine connection, which may be said to reveal morality rather than command it—but that is the topic of yet another paper.
Fuqua. Skeptical Theism and the Humean Argument from Evil
Draper argues that his Humean argument from evil is immune to skeptical theism. I demur, but offer new arguments for thinking that skeptical theism applies to Humean arguments from evil. Once skeptical theism is properly understood, it can be seen to be a higher-level, undercutting defeater for Draper’s key premise that the data of good and evil are less likely on theism than on some alternative hypothesis. Skeptical theism undercuts this premises by calling into question our ability to make such judgments. This application of skeptical theism to the Humean argument holds even if the argument doesn’t depend on a noseeum inference.
Ganssle. Starting Points in Atheistic Arguments
abstract not available
Ghelfi. Science Teaches Christianity:An Unlikely Mentor?
The Millennial exodus from the Christian church, and from organized religion in general, has recently stirred concern in Christian circles. Unlike previous dips in church attendance between high school graduation and parenthood, the most recent dips appear permanent—the Millennials who leave tend to go with no intention of returning. As with any large scale social phenomenon, discerning the causes and possible effects of the religiosity decline proves exceedingly complicated.
In this paper I suggest one factor contributing to the decline: the church’s widespread emphasis on non-essential dogmas—in a word, its generally uncritical acceptance and avowal of questionable propositions far removed from what seems most important to its mission. I explore some implications for this idea, if true, and argue that the church adopt a faith-stance more akin to science’s. That is, I urge Christians to pursue religious truth with due intellectual and moral humility, with radical openness to revision, and from a faith centered on Christ’s commandments to love one’s neighbor and one’s God rather than on more particular, more highly intelligible tenets and admonitions.
Graham. Religion and Spirituality: Adam Smith versus J-J Rousseau
Guthrie. Can Demons Do the Extraordinary or is it All in Your Head?
The mainstream Christian church supposes that demons are purely immaterial beings. But it also supposes that demons can enact extraordinary things such as materializing, causing diseases, manipulating nature, and even affecting cosmological changes. I argue that the demons’ power is likely very limited. The only way demons can interact with the world is through their interactions with human minds. In other words, I argue that all of their intra-worldly activity is all in your head. As such, they likely cannot do all of the things often attributed to them.
Hanschmann. Can Modal Realists Be Theists?
David Lewis’s theory of modal realism—the theory that our world is one among
many others that are spatiotemporally isolated yet on an ontological par—typically draws the incredulous stare. There are, however, some aspects of his theory that theists may find appealing. For example, the multiverse theodicy, which has been proposed as a solution to the problem of evil, involves concrete, spatiotemporally isolated worlds other than our own. Furthermore, modal realism entails S5, and S5 yields a valid ontological argument for God’s existence. In light of these promising implications, theists may be inclined to accept, or at least be open to, modal realism. Unfortunately, they should not accept modal realism, for—as I argue in this paper—modal realism and theism are incompatible.
Himelright. The Son of God as an Apocalyptic Prophet
Abstract not available
Irwin. Religious Toleration, Then and Now
Contemporary debates on religious toleration – where this includes mutual toleration of the religious and the secular, as well as toleration of the religious among themselves – often assume an Enlightenment conception of tolerance predicated on value‐neutral autonomy. This differs in important respects, however, from earlier conceptions of toleration, according to which religious toleration is supported by multiple different lines of argument, both value‐minimalist and value‐maximalist. The seventeenth century, in particular, offers us paradigms for religious toleration that appeal both to “the light of reason” – available to all rational agents – and to more robust (usually religious) conceptions of the good.
The perfect case study in this regard is Pierre Bayle, a seventeenth‐century philosopher who Enlightenment thinkers mined for his devastating skeptical arguments against religion. But Bayle was also a staunch defender of religious toleration. In his Philosophical Commentary (1686), Pierre Bayle offers three main arguments on toleration. First, Bayle argues that the “natural light” of reason reveals that intolerance is immoral; call this the natural light argument against intolerance. Since Bayle here understands intolerance as necessarily involving coercion, this argument supports a minimalist conception of religious toleration akin to that which underlies current debates on the nature and extent of religious toleration. Its implications are roughly coextensive with those of Mill’s harm principle.
Ivy. The Metaphysics of Leibniz: A Compatibilist Account of Contingency
The problem of contingency poses a serious threat to the structure of Leibniz’s metaphysics. In short, the problem arises from the assertion of a metaphysically necessary and morally perfect God in conjunction with the principle of sufficient reason. Although Leibniz claimed that possibility and thereby contingency was an aspect of his metaphysics, the two foregoing propositions appear to make such contingency impossible. Leibniz himself attempted to resolve the problem, yet as I argue in this paper, his proposed resolutions fall short of a sufficient establishment of contingency. There is yet hope for the consistency of Leibniz’s metaphysics without having to commit him to necessitarianism. The solution that I propose in this paper examines Leibniz’s arguments through a compatibilist framework of moral responsibility and free will. Such a framework allows God to remain a being of metaphysical necessity, yet it also provides room for possibility and contingency in a world commanded by the principle of sufficient reason. The indomitable will of God is free. Furthermore, it is in virtue of choosing the best of all that is possible that God can be said to be morally perfect.
Kirshenheiter. Kant, Hume, and the Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God
In this paper, I will first offer the Cosmological Argument for the existence of a necessary being, as understood by Kant. Next, I will offer Kant’s criticism of the argument, wherein he claims that the Cosmological Argument presupposes the Ontological Argument. Then I will defend the Cosmological Argument from Kant’s objection. In doing so, I will explain the benefits of Kant’s criticism, while ultimately rejecting it. Next, I will consider two different objections to the Cosmological Argument. In the course of explaining the second of these two objections, I will explain why we should reject the principle of Sufficient Reason. Finally, I will attempt to offer a weaker version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason that is immune to the criticisms of the stronger version.
Lenow. God’s Powers and Modality: A Response to Mullins on Modal Collapse
In its classical form, the doctrine of divine simplicity is the claim that there is no composition in God. This is not quite to say that there are no distinctions in God—one must, after all, reckon with the persons of the Trinity—but it is to say that the relational distinctions which constitute the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not such that we should understand the one God to be composed of the three persons as parts; and according to classical trinitarian orthodoxy, all other distinctions in God beyond the relational ones that define the triune persons are merely conceptual, having no purchase in God’s life itself. So, for example, we distinguish conceptually between the attributes of Goodness and Beauty in God, but according to divine simplicity, Goodness and Beauty exist incomprehensibly in God secundum modum altiorem (in higher way), and are identical both with one another and with God. Similarly, we distinguish between the will and intellect of God, but by simplicity, God’s will and intellect are held to be identical with one another and with God. But there seems to be a problem with this approach for the metaphysics of modality, one that Ryan T. Mullins (among others) has recently described as a problem of “modal collapse.”
Leon. Toxic Disagreement
The issue of toxic disagreement—that is, disagreement that no longer seeks resolution, but instead creates polarization—is a prevalent issue in our world today. How do we handle disagreement in a way that prevents it from becoming toxic? This paper explores two conciliatory answers to this issue of disagreement. In it, I will suggest that we must be wary of the suggestion that we come to a conclusion in the middle. Instead, I suggest that we suspend our disbelief when faced with an opposing viewpoint from an epistemic peer.
Lynch. A Buddhist Solution to Idolatry in Christian Practice
Jesus is the name of the historical figure to which the title Christ has been ascribed by proponents of Christian monotheism—here the word Christ comes from the Greek Christos, a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means anointed one. This identification of Jesus as Christ is in accordance with the messianic prophecy of Abrahamic monotheism. Identified as Christ, Jesus has been equated to God and become the object of worship in Christian practice. Criticisms of Christian religious practice include the claim of idolatry by comparing the worship of Jesus as Christ to the adoration of the golden calf by the Israelites when Moses returned from Mt. Sinai. The implication is that such practice is spiritually idle, as it does not worship the one true God but rather an object that represents God. A philosophical approach to the problem of idolization of Jesus can be clarified through an understanding of the Buddhist practice of Deity Yoga. In Buddhist philosophy the existence of God is not addressed, however deities exist as meditative symbols of enlightenment. Through careful and focused meditation upon these deities, practitioners aim to become more like the entity without regarding them as real objects of worship. Applying Deity Yoga toward the worship of Christ can help in distinguishing the difference between Jesus and his identity as Christ in order to avoid making an idol out of his physical being.
Lyons. The Role of Faith in Epistemology
There is a startling lack of consensus among Christian philosophers as to how faith relates to epistemology. And the problem is even less settled among Christians in general. Epistemologist Peter Boghossian seems attuned to this vulnerability, and uses it to undermine epistemic justification for religious faith. The disunity of response among Christian philosophers, unfortunately, only lends credibility to Boghossian’s thesis. I offer here a biblical model of faith that seeks unity among both my predecessors and my contemporaries. And I offer this model to two camps: non-Christians that argue for faith as a failed epistemology, and Christians that argue for faith as non-epistemological. I show that a properly-conceived, biblically-accurate model of faith is incredibly robust, and illumines misconceptions among non-Christians and Christians alike. I argue that 1) Faith is epistemic in nature, 2) Faith is active, 3) Faith is trust, 4) Faith can be virtuous, and finally, 5) Faith, as experienced in Divine encounter, is an adjunct avenue in acquiring knowledge.
Makin. The Essential Dependence Model of Eternal Generation
According to the doctrine of eternal generation, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father. Although the doctrine is enshrined in the Creed of Nicaea and has been affirmed by Christians for nearly 1700 years, many Protestants have recently rejected the doctrine, contending that it is philosophically incoherent and entails subordinationism. In this paper I propose a model of eternal generation and demonstrate how it avoids these objections. Eternal generation, I argue, can be understood as a form of essential dependence. To say that the Son is begotten of the Father is just to say that the Son essentially depends on the Father. The essence of the Son involves the Father, but not vice versa.
Massey. PC Religiosity: Can’t Agree to Disagree
In this paper, I argue that (i) where diversity of religion is accepted, political correctness must be limited and (ii) public philosophy is one way to protect religious diversity from political correctness. With respect to (i), religious diversity entails religious disagreement, and so, a threat to religious disagreement would threaten religious diversity.
McAllisterB. Reforming Reformed Epistemology: A New Take on the Sensus Divinitatis
Alvin Plantinga theorizes the existence of a sensus divinitatis—a special cognitive faulty or mechanism dedicated to the production and non-inferential justification of theistic belief. Following Chris Tucker, we offer an internalist-friendly model of the sensus divinitatis whereon it produces theistic seemings that non-inferentially justify theistic belief. We suggest that the sensus divinitatis produces these seemings by tacitly grasping epistemic support relations between the content of ordinary experiences and propositions about God. Our model boasts numerous advantages such as eliminating the need for a sui generis religious faculty, harmonizing the sensus divinitatis with prominent theories in the cognitive science of religion, and providing a superior explanation of how nature reveals God.
McAllister,I. Against the Possible Worlds Analysis of Counterfactuals
In this essay I argue against David Lewis’ possible world account of counterfactual logic by showing that the metalinguistic analysis of counterfactuals achieves the same truth-conditions as Lewis’ account, but with greater parsimony. The type of parsimony in question is not an ontological simplicity, but rather a theoretical simplicity that does away with many of the entities Lewis’ system requires. I begin by summarizing Lewis’ theory as it appears in his book Counterfactuals. Following this, I provide a version of the metalinguistic analysis that is a conglomerate of various other accounts given in assorted papers. In this presentation of the metalinguistic analysis, I show that its truth-conditions are the same as that of Lewis’ system by analyzing examples as well as deriving the metalinguistic analysis from Lewis’ semantics. Finally, I compare the quantity of entities used in each theory to show that the metalinguistic analysis is the more parsimonious of the two theories. Given that there is at least one non-Lewisian analysis of counterfactual logic that replicates Lewis’ truth conditions as well as reducing the complexity of the logic, I conclude by suggesting we turn our sights away from possible world semantics for counterfactuals and look elsewhere.
Meriwether. Vicarious Liability and Collective Divine Judgment.
One of the most difficult issues for those with a high view of scriptural authority is the many instances of collective judgment of cities, etc., throughout the Bible, as collective judgment appears to affect many who do not participate directly in the activity which brings about judgment. (That all mankind inherits the guilt of Adam is but one example.) However, the defense of collective moral responsibility is not unknown to contemporary philosophical reflection, and some of the insights from this literature can help explain vicarious guilt. In this paper, I evaluate and extend some of these insights.
Messina. Towards Secular Salvation
This paper lays the foundations for thinking about salvation within a secular framework. I motivate this project by considering myriad ways in which we evaluate our lives on the basis of factors that are beyond our control. That we might nevertheless hope to escape these features of our disposition suggests (I argue) that the search for salvation is a search that is demanded by common moral experience. Still, absent religious metaphysics, this search might seem to be in vain. I argue that things are otherwise: the search for salvation is reasonable even for committed atheists and agnostics.
Miller. Rule Consequentialism as a Principled Cultural Relativism
Many of those who have dissociated from religious institutions have done so for moral reasons, disturbed by the ways that scripture and the Christian faith have been, and continue to be, used to support and legitimize oppression. My primary concern in this paper is to consider whether transition costs – i.e. the costs involved in getting individuals and societies to replace their conventional moral code with an alternative code – should be included in Rule Consequentialism’s (RC’s) calculations of the value of a moral code. Rule consequentialists have tended to exclude them due to the concerns that including them would (a) result in a form of cultural relativism and (b) allow unjustified moral beliefs and attitudes of conventional morality to taint our evaluation of alternative codes. However, I will argue that excluding transition costs leads to serious practical difficulties for RC, and that the concerns raised over their inclusion are not as serious as they initially appear. A version of RC that includes transition costs would be a principled cultural relativism – one that is not vulnerable to the standard criticisms of naïve cultural relativism. Moreover, I contend that this form of RC offers an approach to normative ethics that could offer a theoretical underpinning for a more progressive approach to biblical hermeneutics than what prevails in American Christianity – one that would prevent scripture from being put to the use of legitimizing oppression.
Munzer. Against Bonhoeffer on Temptation
The New Testament provides at least three ways of thinking about temptation. First, temptations come from our own desires. (James 1:13-15) Second, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our power to resist. (1 Cor. 10:13). Third, those who follow Christ should pray not to be led into temptation (Lord’s Prayer, Matt. 6:13 and Luke 11:4). In addition to these possibilities, some would urge that the relevant Greek word peirasmoi should be translated as “trials” or “tests” rather than “temptations.”
This paper concentrates entirely on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s influential article on “Temptation.” I argue against his views on the following points:
P1: It is not certain that either what he calls the “natural man” or what he calls the “moral man” seeks to be tested by temptation.
P2: 1 Cor. 10:13 is inconsistent with his claims (a) that in temptation the Christian is abandoned by all his powers, by all other persons, and by God and (b) that God will allow each person to be tempted to the maximum of his or her strength.
P3: Bonhoeffer’s treatment of “And lead us not into temptation” is puzzling insofar as he thinks of Satan as an independent adversary of God, for it is unclear why persons should pray to God not to do something that is peculiarly Satan’s activity.
P4: Bonhoeffer quotes approvingly from James 1:13-15 but slides quickly from “temptation” to “the guilt of temptation” because of our evil desires; this slide requires us to distinguish between two models of temptation: the not-yet-sin model and the sin model.
Niederkorn. Religion in the Service of Democracy: What Manner of Religion in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
Tocqueville’s Democracy in America intends to give direction to men and women within democratic states concerning the maintenance of their freedom. While many of his prescriptions are clear, Tocqueville’s view of religion is easily misquoted and misunderstood. On one hand, he undoubtedly prescribes religion to a democratic people, but on the other hand, his prescription lacks the theological punch of a redemption-based religion. My paper recognizes the ostensible tension in the text while demonstrating that what Tocqueville holds in mind is unambiguously Christian. I do this by discussing the possible relationships between religion and politics, which then allows me to show that for Tocqueville the Gospel holds a distinct advantage over the other monotheistic religions. I then consider two challenges to my interpretation of Tocqueville’s prescription, that he does not care about men’s souls, and that he only cares about moral action. The key to removing the apparent tension in Tocqueville’s religious prescription is to recognize that the tension is not between a salvific religion and a merely civil religion, but rather that the tension is purely political. As a political scientist, Tocqueville’s concern is different than that of the theologian, thus the true tension in Democracy, which is only present for the Christian, is between classical liberalism and theocracy. Thus, once properly understood, Tocqueville’s prescription is seen as the only possible relationship between religion and politics in a democracy.
Pendergraft. An Aristotelian Version of Pascal’s Wager
abstract not available
Rickabaugh. Emergence Cannot Save the Soul
One reason for rejecting substance dualism is that it somehow fails to account for the neurological dependence of mental states on brain states. In response, Dean Zimmerman and William Hasker, among others, have argued that the doctrine of emergence can save substance dualism from this problem, which they call emergent dualism. Accordingly, the human soul is naturally emergent from and dependent on the structure and function of a living human brain and nervous system.
Focusing on Hasker’s detailed development of emergent dualism, I raise two objections: (i) a sorites argument, and (ii) a type of combination argument similar to those raised against panpsychism. It seems implausible that the brain, a mereological aggregate, gives rise to a soul that has no separable parts. I then combine these two problems into a further objection. The unity of an aggregate, such as the brain, is one in which the relations among the parts are external relations. However, the unity of the soul is such that any differentiation of faculties or powers within the soul must stand in internal relations to the soul itself. In turn, this raises a new way to look at both the sorites and combination problems together. It is implausible that by adding a single atomic simple we get a new whole (the soul) constituted by internal relations from a subvenient structured object (the brain) constituted by external relations.
But what if we consider the inverse? If the soul is more fundamental than the body and the body is not a mereological aggregate, then the problems I raise vanish. I suggest such a view, a neo-Aristotelian thesis available to substance dualism. Accordingly, the human body is a mode of the human soul, an ensouled physical structure. The parts of the body are inseparable parts standing in internal relations to each other and to the essence of the soul. It is the internal essence of the soul that informs the teleology and development of the body according to a series of law-like developmental events. The strong integration of soul and body is preserved and therefore avoids the neurological dependence problem.
Rooney. Being as Iconic: Aquinas on ‘He Who Is’ as Name for God
There is a common misunderstanding of the position Thomas Aquinas takes in regard to his doctrine of divine names. Aquinas claims that “He Who Is” is the most proper of the names we have for God. But this attempt to “describe” God with a philosophical concept like “being” can seem dangerously close to creating a false conception based on our limited understanding – an idol. When we consider that all of our concepts are derived from what we know of created things, we could be deceiving ourselves with our own ideas rather than entering into pure relationship with God. The criticism is that any attempt to use “being” to describe God will inevitably make Him merely some object in our ontology alongside other beings – and this serves to unacceptably mitigate God’s radical transcendence and otherness. However, I will argue that Aquinas has a unique answer to this charge. Instead, “being” is the only concept that can ensure we do not draw God under some particular creaturely limit and use divine names to create an “idol.” Thus, we can make a compelling case that “being” is the best term to preserve humility in our attempts to name God.
Salzillo. On the Use of Certain Dilemmatic Thought Experiments in Ethics
In this essay I will raise worries about the class of thought experiments that use extreme and often fantastic ethical dilemmas to argue for broadly consequentialist conclusions. My thesis will be that if we admit such thought experiments to our philosophical methodology we put ourselves in danger of moral corruption. Thought experiments are often said to “pump” our intuitions by pushing us to make judgments about imaginary cases that can be generalized to cover real cases where our intuitions may not be so clear. The main thesis of this paper is that there are some ways in which those intuitions ought not to be pumped. This thesis is inspired by the work of G.E.M. Anscombe and I will draw heavily on her thought. Although I am not primarily concerned with Anscombe exegesis, I do think there is good reason to believe that Anscombe herself held a view like the one that I will argue for here.
Skowronski. Inductive Reasoning in Naturalism and Supernaturalism
In “God, Science, and Naturalism,” Paul Draper argues on behalf of a modest methodological naturalism. Additionally, Draper thinks that the success of the natural sciences supports metaphysical naturalism. I contend that similar inductive reasoning can be used to argue for the first premise of the Kal?m cosmological argument (i.e. everything that began to exist was caused to exist). Any who think that such reasoning is problematic for the Kal?m should also think that such reasoning is problematic for a similarly constructed naturalistic argument. If the remaining premises of the Kal?m are true, then there is good reason for thinking that supernaturalism is true. Thus if Draper’s use of inductive reasoning is permitted, similar reasoning can be used to argue for supernaturalism. Furthermore, the argument for supernaturalism undermines the support for naturalism.
Silverman. How the Practical Effects of Agapic Love Improve Pascal’s Wager
Pascal’s Wager has long been an important argument for belief in Christianity. Roughly, the wager claims the skeptic should embrace Christianity because faith offers the possibility of a massively disproportionate reward of infinite eternal happiness while risking only a moderate finite loss to earthly happiness. Therefore, the ‘expected practical results’ of faith in Christianity are so disproportionately favorable that if there is even a small likelihood that Christianity is true one would be justified in embracing it based on prudential concerns.
Elsewhere I have argued that possessing the virtue of Christian agapic love benefits the lover in four distinct ways, typically advances the earthly happiness of the loving person overall, and is a prudentially wise disposition to develop. If these claims are correct then the self-beneficial aspects of Christian love will have two positive implications for the Pascal’s Wager. First, the self-beneficial aspects of Christian love lower the risks of losing Pascal’s Wager by improving the expected result if the wager is unsuccessful. Second, agapic love is more likely to be self-beneficial in a universe where Christianity is true. Therefore, it also increases the odds that Christianity is true thereby making the infinite reward a more likely outcome of taking Pascal’s Wager. I proceed by outlining the components in Pascal’s Wager, summarizing the self-beneficial aspects of possessing the virtue of agapic love, and I will conclude by arguing that the self-beneficial aspects of agapic love improve Pascal’s Wager in two distinct ways.
Smith. Hope and the Good Life
Michael Bishop’s 2015 book, The Good Life, offers a philosophically informed theory of positive psychology. Bishop proposes the “network theory,” according to which there are real natural kinds in human psychology, homeostatic property clusters, and that positive psychology studies a certain subset of such clusters, namely “positive” ones. Rather than explore Bishop’s controversial definition of “positive,” which entails an equally controversial explication of “well-being,” this paper uses Bishop’s network theory to gain insight into the virtue of hope.
Stevens. On the Existence of Moral Evil
A critique of the generally accepted views on the existence of moral evil, which delves into the metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas, the ethics of Aristotle, and the teachings of St. Augustine. Calling into question the widely accepted theory that evil is the privation of a quality, namely a privation of good. And, in doing so, positing that evil is not a mere privation of a quality; rather, evil is the essence of vice, and has its being necessarily in order for volitionally free creatures to have their freedom. And, suggesting that evil is an essence, and exists in constant potentiality due to the nature of freedom of will, and is actualized/individualized through free, imperfect choice.
Strand. The Apparent Immorality of Being a Satisfied Atheist
This paper will present an argument according to which it is immoral to be a (psychologically/emotionally) satisfied atheist…Arguably, something is amiss with such a person. It seems to be a correct ethical principle that, one should feel good about what is good, and feel bad about what is bad, roughly proportionally to how good or bad it is. Given the evil in world, then, people who deny the existence of any ultimate salvation or redemption should feel very badly indeed.
Moreover, when a person’s feelings do not conform appropriately to a situation, there is good reason to believe that something is amiss with that person’s desires. One should want what is good, and “diswant” what is bad, roughly to the extent that it is good or bad. Our psychological satisfaction, moreover, is heavily influence by the extent to which our beliefs and desires ‘agree’ with each other. If a person knows that things bad, then, but doesn’t feel badly about it, he almost certainly doesn’t want very much for those bad things not to be the case. In that case, however, there is something wrong with that person’s desires…Such an atheist’s feelings do not conform appropriately to the situation, and his desires do not conform appropriately to the good.
Sutton. Was Marx a No-Self Theorist?
The writer and revolutionist Karl Marx is widely known for deeming religion as “the opium of the people.” Presumably this criticism would also include Buddhism with its fundamental no-self theory. Yet an examination of Marx’s own writings suggests that he shared a commitment to no-self theory similar to the early Buddhist teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Marx’s view that human beings lack an essential nature is like the Buddhist revelation that there is no permanent individual self or atman. So, was Marx’s work contradictory? Is his thought about the self another opiate? Although Marx was not a no-self theorist in the Buddhist sense, I think he was a no-self theorist in a wider sense. Marx and Gautama simply departed in how they identified human adversity and its solution.
Thornton. Petitionary Prayer: Wanting to Change the Mind of the Being Who Knows Best
Petitionary prayer is a kind of request made of God, an attempt to make a difference to what God will do. As such, it faces the challenges that trying to make a difference to what God will do faces: if God is—as standard theisms suggest—impassible, immutable, and (infallibly) knowledgeable of all propositions about the future, making a difference to God seems to involve affecting the impassible, changing the immutable, or making false what someone infallibly knows to be the case. These challenges raise doubts about whether God has the ability to answer our prayers. In this paper I raise a different problem, a novel problem, for petitionary prayer. The problem is not that it seems God can’t answer petitionary prayer, but rather that it seems incoherent to want him to.
Tomaszewski. Divine Hiddenness: Why Mere Non-Resistence Is Insufficient
Schellenberg (1993, 2015) has argued that Divine hiddenness in light of nonresistant nonbelief is evidence against the existence of God. Arguably, the most important premise in Schellenberg’s argument is NONRESISTANCE-SUFFICIENCY: if there is a perfectly loving God, He would provide evidence to every nonresistant human person sufficient to place His existence beyond rational doubt. In this paper, two arguments against NONRESISTANCE- SUFFICIENCY are given. The first argument is that the problem of Divine hiddenness is a species of the problem of evil. I defend this argument against objections to it posed by Schellenberg himself. From this, I conclude that since there are viable solutions to the problem of evil on which God can justifiably and lovingly allow all the evils we see in the world, it follows a fortiori that He can also justifiably and lovingly withhold evidence from those who are nonresistant to His will but nevertheless do not actively search for reasons for belief in Him. The second argument is from the nature of love. I argue that if we understand love as the intending of a person’s good for her own sake, then God’s perfect love for human persons suffices only to guarantee a certain kind of evidence, namely the evidence already available to us from natural theology.
Valentine. Divine Love and Divine Omnipotence: Three Challenges Arising from the Use of Three-Self Trinitarian Models
Trinitarian models are utilized to defend the logical coherence of the doctrine of the Trinity. Proponents of three‐self Trinitarian models argue when we affirm “God in three persons” we are affirming God exists as three selves. A good three‐self model must successfully avoid the heresy of polytheism. Developers of three‐self models have focused on this challenge almost exclusively. Here I consider two additional challenges that arise when we affirm the existence of multiple divine selves. Why are exactly three divine selves necessarily existent and how can one divine self be fully omnipotent without compromising the omnipotence of another divine self? I will present a revision of Richard Swinburne’s three-self Trinitarian model arguing it successfully faces all three of these challenges while defending the logical coherence of the doctrine. This presentation will also provide insight into the nature of divine love and divine omnipotence.
Vander Laan. The Paradox of the End without End
Much Christian thinking about the ultimate human end has followed broadly Aristotelian lines. A thing’s telos is its good, and a thing’s ultimate telos is its highest attainable good. It must be attainable, since only an attainable good can be one at which something is aimed. It must be the highest such good, since otherwise it would not be the most choiceworthy good. It is, as Aristotle says, complete, which is to say that it would be superfluous to add other goods to it. It is an even more central feature of Christian thought that those who find ultimate fulfillment will enjoy “the life everlasting,” in the words of the Apostle’s Creed. Unending life is often explicitly treated as an element of the human telos, as in the Westminster Catechism’s characterization of the “chief end of man” as “to love God and enjoy Him forever.”
Taken together, however, these ideas are paradoxical. Hereafter, let’s use the word ‘telos’ for the ultimate human end. Suppose that the telos is a state that can be completed in a finite period of time. For example, we might take the telos to be a vision of the divine essence, understood as a state that a human person might be said to enjoy at a given time. In this case, it would seem that continuing to be in that state would be better than being in it only at the time in question, which is to say that this state is not the highest attainable good after all. On the other hand, suppose that the telos is an everlasting state; the goal is not merely to possess some good but to possess it forever. In this case, the telos will never be reached, and indeed can never be reached. No one can reach the end of an endless future, and so the goal of doing anything forever is unattainable.
Vitz. What is a Merciful Heart?
In this paper, I argue (contra a commonly accepted Kantian view) that Christ’s second love command prescribes not only that one’s volitions and actions be Christlike but also that one’s affections be Christlike. More specifically, I argue that the command implies that people have aretaic obligations to have a merciful heart— one that, in the words of St. Isaac of Syria, is “on fire” and gripped by “strong and vehement mercy” such that it “offers up tearful prayer continually.
Walsh. Choice and Timelessness: A Problem for Creation
Gottfried Leibniz championed the argument that God must create the best possible world. One natural objection to this claim is that there might not be a best possible world either because there is an infinite sequence of better and better worlds or because there is a set of equally good ‘best’ worlds. This generates worries about how God might choose a world to create. I argue that there is another worry here; if time does not exist prior to creation, can God even choose?
Wright. No Soft Doctrine: Royce on the Problem of Evil
Typically, the problem of evil is formulated as a puzzling conjunction: “God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving” and “evil exists”, which seems to imply that either God does not have the properties ascribed or does not exist. This apparent dilemma presents one of the most serious challenges to the Abrahamic conception of God. However, evil affects everyone whether or not they believe in the Abrahamic conception of God. Because of the ubiquity of evil, religious systems, which aim to influence the way we live our lives, must answer three questions: what is evil, why does evil exist, and how can we eliminate, or at least manage, evil? Call this the broad problem of evil, as opposed to the typical, narrow problem of evil. In his later works on the philosophy of religion, Josiah Royce presents a novel answer to the broad problem of evil. I reconstruct that answer in the second section of this paper. I argue that Royce’s answer to the broad problem of evil merits a response from philosophers in the Abrahamic traditions because, while it is theistic—and even teleological—in nature, it does not presuppose the Abrahamic conception of God, nor does it suffer from the deficiencies of some traditional theodicies.