Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Logical Consistency
November 26, 2008 — 18:06

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Concept of God Existence of God  Comments: 6

Here’s an old chestnut I haven’t thought about in awhile but had reason to re-visit tonight.
It’s an argument for the incompatibility of omnipotence and omniscience by Richard LaCroix (Analysis 33:5, April 1973).
Consider a being B which has the following properties:
(1) B is finite
(2) B does act A.
(3) B is the only being in existence who knows that (2) is true.
He says that if “x is omnipotent” entails the following
(4) x can create any finite being y, provided that (i) y has properties such that the statement that y has those properties is neither self-contradictory nor entails a contradiction and (ii) there is no being z such that the statement that z and y exist is either self-contradictory or entails a contradiction.
then an omnipotent being can create a being with (1)-(3).
Since “x is omniscient” entails
(5) For any finite being B and act A, if B does A then x knows that B does A.
it follows that omnipotence so conceived is inconsistent with omniscience.
I’ll put my response below the fold to see if we come to the same conclusion.

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Book Review of Philosophers without Gods
October 9, 2008 — 20:03

Author: Robert Gressis  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Books of Interest  Comments: Off

Over at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, George Mavrodes has a very nice, rather involved (at least, compared to what is typical at NDPR) review of the Louise Anthony-edited volume, Philosophers without Gods.

Open Theism and Divine Freedom
August 26, 2008 — 21:35

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Concept of God Divine Foreknowledge Free Will Open Theism  Comments: 15

[Cross-posted at Parableman] Open theists distinguish between two different varieties of their view. There are actually a number of ways to divide up open theism into varieties, but one particular division that open theists make among themselves is between the following two positions:
1. There is no such thing as a future to be known, and that’s why God doesn’t know the future exhaustively. It’s not a limitation on God that he doesn’t know everything that will happen. There’s nothing to be known, so God can’t know it. So God is omniscient in knowing all the facts about the future. There just aren’t very much such facts yet.
2. God could know the future, but it would prevent our freedom, so God chooses to limit his knowledge, knowing that knowledge about what we would choose to do would make us unfree. God doesn’t know all he could know metaphysically, but he does know all he could know given his choice not to know future free choices.
I’m not really sure these are distinct views.

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Reading Group Week 8: Tooley’s Closing Statement and Response to Plantinga’s Comments
August 18, 2008 — 9:00

Author: Tim Pawl  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Books of Interest Existence of God Problem of Evil Religious Belief  Comments: 34

This is the last installment of the Prosblogion Reading Group. I’ve found reading these posts and comments edifying, and I hope the rest of the readers have as well. I’d like to thank Matthew for setting this up, and for the other participants–both posters and commenters–for their great thoughts.
Below I discuss Tooley’s response to Plantinga’s response to Tooley. Or, put another way, Tooley’s “Yes way!” to Plantinga’s “No way!” To keep my comments at a manageable length I’ve referred back to Trent and Andrew’s posts, rather than presenting the whole dialectic here. But I’ve tried to summarize the dialectic briefly in most places. For more detail on the original argument or Plantinga’s response, be sure to see the discussions of the last two weeks.

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Tooley’s Main Entry – The Problem of Evil
August 4, 2008 — 14:47

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Afterlife Atheism & Agnosticism Books of Interest Existence of God  Comments: 20

Sorry for the delay in posting this, but I wanted to go over my post with my summer Philosophy of Religion class here at Rochester.
First a preview for those who have carefully read the chapter, then I’ll lay out the core argument for those who have or have not, finally I’ll detail the objections in the preview.
PREVIEW
1. Premises (12) and (15) are more controversial than he lets on. It is hard to evaluate apart from the probability for one of God’s existence.
2. re: Premise (16). There are oddities and worries about it–including the fact that the probability judgements seem utterly inscrutable. But the assumptions about properties are not unreasonable. I do think, however, that the a posteriori probability after taking into account the frequency of the tokens is different and relevant (he considers this objection but doesn’t address it (at least not in my section).
3. (Most seriously) I don’t think the extension from one evil to many (many) evils does much. For either they don’t compound because they are not independent–due to being consequences of a common cause–or they do but not much comes from it due to the fact that if there is a defense/theodicy for one there is one for all.

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Seeing that Material Objects Can’t Think
July 13, 2008 — 12:01

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism  Comments: 11

Of Plantinga’s three anti-naturalist arguments in this chapter, I found his argument against materialism the most persuasive (for me). Perhaps it is because I very much strongly share the intuition he is expressing. Consider the works of philosophers of mind like Colin McGinn (on cognitive closure), Joseph Levine (explanatory gap), Ned Block (the China argument), and John Searle (the Chinese room argument). It seems to me that the intuition that Plantinga is pointing us to is what is driving many of the arguments of these philosophers of mind, and I find that this intuition compels me against materialism.
The crux of Plantinga’s argument against materialism, I think, is in this passage (where, in talking about contents, he’s talking about belief-contents):

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Plantinga’s Hitler Case
July 3, 2008 — 13:00

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Existence of God  Comments: 17

Suppose Hitler won the war. Furthermore, there were certain nonAryans who had a mutation such that everything they saw was tinted green and caused a harsh pain. Let ‘G’ denote this new property of their eyes. Hitler enjoyed this suffering, so he allowed these nonAryans to survive. After a few generations, nonAryans with eyes like ours died out, and the nonAryans with these mutated eyes continued to survive. This mutation spread throughout the population.
Consider one such creature, m. Plantinga asks, “But wouldn’t it be wrong (not to mention crazy) to say that m’s visual system is functioning properly? Or that its function is to produce both pain and a visual field that is uniformly green? Or that the resistance medical technicians who desperately try to repair the damage are interfering with the proper function of the visual system?” (p. 26) This example seems to work against any evolutionary theory of proper function.
Here’s one worry for this example.

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Mirza, EAAN, and the TuQuoQue Objection
June 14, 2008 — 21:12

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism  Comments: 49

Omar Mirza has a forthcoming paper in Phil. Studies (available in SpringLink in the ‘OnlineFirst’ section) where he (among other things) examines three standard objections to EAAN, shows that Plantinga’s responses are faulty, and then provides his own responses. (For other Prosblogion discussion of EAAN, see here, here, and here. For Plantinga’s most important paper on it, see here.)
I want to examine his response to the tu quo que objection. Now it’s dangerous to reach into the middle of a complicated dialectic and pull out relevant little bits for discussion, but that’s what I’ll try to do! (There is a possibility that I will make hermeneutical errors; I take full responsibility and am open to correction!)

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God, Morality, and Accountability
May 30, 2008 — 19:07

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Divine Command Existence of God Links  Comments: 36

Here’s a link to a recent debate between William Lane Craig and Louise Antony on whether or not God is necessary for morality. It was interesting for me since reading Craig’s debates and apologetics works helped get me into philosophy, and Antony was one of my professors when I was an undergraduate at The Ohio State University. Both are moral realists and affirm that there are objective moral truths. I didn’t find Craig’s arguments that God is necessary for morality to be convincing.
However, here’s one of his arguments which has some intuitive appeal and that I’d like to explore. He points out that if God does not exist, then there is no ultimate moral accountability. People will not ultimately get what they deserve, whether this be reward for a life well lived or punishment for horrendous evils. This seems to me to be correct. If naturalism is true, then even if there are objective moral truths, people will not ultimately get what they deserve.
But is there any reason to think the following?
1) If there are objective moral truths, then there will be some ultimate moral accountability.
There is no doubt something less satisfying (at least emotionally) with the naturalistic worldview, but I don’t know if I can think of any good reasons to believe that (1) is true. And if (1) is false, there is no problem for the naturalist.
Could we defend (1) just by appealing to intuition? Do most humans have a deep intuition that wrongs must be righted and vice versa? But this intuition is weak at best. I would hope for some more argument. Any suggestions?

Many Universes and Possibilism
May 9, 2008 — 17:12

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Existence of God  Comments: 9

So there’s the theistic explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe and the many-universes atheistic explanation. One of the criticisms that theists have made of the many-universes atheistic explanation is that there is no independent evidence that such universes exist. I was wondering if anybody’s put forth the idea that all of David Lewis’ reasons for believing in concrete possible worlds are reasons to believe in many universes. With Lewis’ possibilism in place, we have a response to this criticism. (I’m sure that’s not the only response; anyway, this is the response I’m interested in.) Does anybody know if anyone has written on the connection between Lewis’ possible worlds and the many-universes hypothesis?