TT Job at U St. Thomas (MN)
January 27, 2010 — 10:27

Author: Tim Pawl  Category: General News Teaching  Tags:   Comments: Off

The University of St. Thomas Philosophy Department was just approved to run a tenure-track search this Spring, for a job starting next fall (2010). The text for the ad is below. The ad will appear on the JFP within 48 hours. Our application site hasn’t yet added this position, but within 48 hours we should be up and receiving applications. The job ad is now up on the UST website, so we can now receive applications
Philosophy position at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul
The University of St. Thomas Philosophy Department invites applications for at least one tenure-track position to begin Sept. 2010, at the rank of assistant professor or instructor. AOS and AOC are open, but we seek individuals with strengths and interests that complement those of the current department members (we have 23 tenured/tenure-track lines). Applicants should have outstanding reasoning, teaching, and writing skills, and the virtues of collegiality. Ph.D. prior to appointment is preferred but not required. The department is committed to sustaining and developing the Catholic intellectual tradition; in this we are guided by the principles of Ex Corde Ecclesiae and Fides et Ratio. We seek candidates who share these commitments. The teaching load is six courses per year (semester system); there are standard non-teaching duties.
Established in 1885, the University of St. Thomas is located in the major metropolitan area of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and is Minnesota’s largest private university. Its 11,000 students pursue degrees in a wide range of liberal arts, professional, and graduate programs.
Inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition, the University of St. Thomas educates students to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good, and seeks to develop individuals who combine career competency with cultural awareness and intellectual curiosity. The successful candidate will possess a commitment to the ideals of this mission.
The University of St. Thomas has a strong commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion, to equal opportunity policies and practices, and to the principles and goals of affirmative action. In that spirit, the University welcomes nominations and applications from a broad and diverse applicant pool.
Applications should be submitted online at, and include 1) a cover letter that includes discussion of the candidate’s commitment to sustaining and developing the Catholic intellectual tradition, 2) a curriculum vitae, 3) a sample of philosophical writing, 4) evidence of teaching effectiveness, including data from student evaluations of recent courses if available, and 5) transcripts (unofficial versions are acceptable). In addition, candidates should arrange to have at least three letters of recommendation sent, either by email to (pdf format preferred) or by mail to: Philosophy Dept. Chair – JRC 241; University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Ave.; St. Paul, MN 55105-1096. To be guaranteed full consideration all application materials should be received by February 11. We expect to bring finalists to campus in early March. Review of applications will continue until the position is filled. Please direct any questions to

2010 Metaphysics and Philosophy of Religion Workshop
January 5, 2010 — 16:21

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: General  Comments: Off

You are cordially invited to attend the 2010 Metaphysics and Philosophy of Religion Workshop at the University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, April 9-10. If you’re interested in participating (chairing-moderating a session) please send me an email The [webpage]( for the workshop is now up, though not all of the papers have been posted. Be sure to “click” on the Participants and Moderators link. The workshop is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to read all of the posted papers. Please don’t hesitate to write, if you have any questions.

Best PR Books in Last Decade
December 24, 2009 — 15:14

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Books of Interest General Links  Comments: 40

Leiter‘s put up a “top ten philosophy books or articles in last decade” post on his blog, and other blogs are doing their own specialized versions. I thought it’d be fun to follow the trend. Basically, write what you think might qualify to be among the top ten books or articles in philosophy of religion in the last decade (starting at 2000) and some reasons why it is important and worth reading.
Warranted Christian Belief‘s left a big impact; it is probably the most thorough defense of the justification, rationality and warrant of both theistic and Christian belief. (W/r/t warrant, it argues that there is no good de jure argument apart from a good de facto argument against theistic or Christian belief; w/r/t justification and rationality, it argues that there is no good de jure argument simpliciter.) This defense, as far as I’ve seen, has had little by way of strong objection in the literature. The book also outlines a detailed model for how Christian belief can have warrant. In addition, the chapter on defeaters is a good contribution to epistemology, and the chapter on pluralism has some of the earliest and (in my opinion) some of the best work on the currently hot topic of epistemic disagreement (it includes the now standard charge of self-defeat that equal weight viewers have to deal with). There is also the valuable material on the problem of evil.

Nagel’s Review and Craig’s Debate With Ayala
December 12, 2009 — 15:30

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Existence of God General Links Religion and Life  Comments: 28

In case people missed it, Thomas Nagel gave a positive review of Stephen Meyer’s book defending intelligent design. Brian Leiter gives his response here, along with a number of helpful links to further criticisms. Bradley Monton is more sympathetic with Nagel.
Also, William Lane Craig recently debated Fransisco Ayala on the subject of intelligent design. Ayala is supposed to be a prominent anti-ID proponent. From a quick skim of the blogosphere, it looks like Craig thoroughly won the debate. Monton was the moderator and gives his thoughts here. He also provides some further links.

APA anti-discrimination policy
December 4, 2009 — 13:48

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: General  Comments: 48

We have a new APA anti-discrimination policy that attempts to settle it that schools that prohibit same-sex sexual activity are in violation of the policy. Here is a really serious problem with the policy. Suppose George is a member of Westboro Baptist Church (for those who don’t know about it, it’s a virulently anti-gay congregation–and that’s by far an understatement, as is indicated by their URL which I shall not reprint but which you can see if you google for them). George applies for the position of chair of a philosophy department at a state school, and expressly states during the interview that if appointed he would, under all possible circumstances, do his utmost to block the hiring of any gay faculty. It is clear that he ought to be dismissed as a candidate there and then, since he is committed to conduct that is unprofessional in the institutional context he is a candidate for. However the APA policy appears to prohibit dismissing George from one’s list of candidates.

Here’s why. The relevant part of the policy is:

The American Philosophical Association rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age, whether in graduate admissions, appointments, retention, promotion and tenure, manuscript evaluation, salary determination, or other professional activities in which APA members characteristically participate. This includes both discrimination on the basis of status and discrimination on the basis of conduct integrally connected to that status, where “integrally connected” means (a) the conduct is a normal and predictable expression of the status (e.g., sexual conduct expressive of a sexual orientation) or (b) the conduct is something that only a person with that status could engage in (e.g., pregnancy), or (c) the proscription of that conduct is historically and routinely connected with invidious discrimination against the status (e.g., interracial marriage). (Emphases added. -ARP)

Thus, the policy prohibits discriminating against George for his adherence to the tenets of Westboro Baptistry or acting in ways that are “a normal and predictable expression” of his adherence. But it is extremely plausible that doing one’s best to block the hiring of gay faculty is “a normal and predictable expression” of being a Westboro Baptist (for the sake of my Baptist friends, I should note that I take it that “Westboro” is a non-factive modifier like “fake” or “ex-“). Therefore, the committee cannot discriminate against George on the basis of his unwillingness to comply with university policies that, we may suppose, prohibit discrimination against gays.

The irony is that the very conduct which the policy was intended to eliminate becomes protected by the policy.


Models of creation
September 28, 2009 — 9:53

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Divine Providence Existence of God General Problem of Evil  Tags: , , , , , ,   Comments: Off

God created the world to exemplify certain values. Someone who propounds
a design argument for the existence of God probably needs to have something
to say about these values.

Scientists often propound particular models that instantiate a more
general theory. These models are sometimes intended to be more realistic
and sometimes less, but the hope is that by studying them and by noting the
divergence, if any, between model and reality we will learn something
about the relevant phenomenon. Some realistic models will be empirically testable and others will not, and scientists of course have a preference for testable models. Thus, an evolutionary scientist might offer a
more or less realistic model of the evolution of wings. The model may well predict what kinds of fossils we will find. If the model’s predictions are not borne out, this does not in any significant way affect the probability of
evolution in general, but studying the model is helpful, and if the model’s
predictions–assuming it makes some–match observations, so much the better
for the underlying theory.


William P. Alston (1921-2009)
September 14, 2009 — 13:32

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: General  Comments: 7

I heard late last night about William P. Alston’s death earlier in the day, strangely not through any departmental channels but through a friend who never met him. He was one of the professors I’ve most respected in my entire academic career. He wrote his dissertation with Wilfred Sellars Charles Hartshorne on the work of Alfred North Whitehead but spent most of his career on philosophy of language, philosophy of religion, and epistemology. Along with Alvin Goldman and Alvin Plantinga, he helped spearhead the externalist/reliabilist revolution in epistemology, a tradition that I think took things in the right direction. He also was one of the most important figures in the revival of philosophy of religion in the last four decades from a point where it had become looked upon as a joke to a point where some of the most important philosophers today are Christians or other theists. Alston himself was not a Christian when he began his philosophical career, a path shared with several other notable Christian philosophers (Norman Kretzmann and Peter van Inwagen come to mind).

It was always encouraging to me to think about how successful he was in philosophy given his personality and philosophical temperament, which I think are similar to mine in a number of ways that I’m not like most of my philosophical colleagues. He wasn’t a system-builder. He wrote about what he had something to say about but wasn’t trying to put together a comprehensive philosophical view on every issue he could have something to say about.

Most of his work didn’t involve coming up with brilliant views on cutting-edge issues that no one had ever thought of before (although I think there are a few occasions of that in his work, especially in his most recent work in epistemology). He tended to favor traditional views, sometimes so traditional that the majority in philosophy had left the view so far behind that they considered it a joke until people like him came along to disabuse them of such notions by defending the views in novel ways. His defense of the Theory of Appearing is a good example of this.

Some of the most important philosophical figures are noteworthy for one or both of those reasons (system-building and novel views). Alston, however, filled a role of simply doing good philosophy, often in small but important details. He might see a fallacious argument that was nonetheless popular and apply an important distinction, perhaps one known to the medievals but often ignored by contemporary philosophers, to show why the argument fails. He found elements of competing views that might be compatible and explained why a moderating position might be better than either original view. He applied new arguments in epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, or metaphysics to some problem in philosophy of religion to show why a new trend in a completely different area makes Christian belief more favorable (e.g. his application of functionalism, a recent view in materialist philosophy of mind, to explain how language about God can be literally true even if not used in exactly the same sense as the same terms are used for us).


Blog Rank
July 5, 2009 — 22:31

Author: Kevin Timpe  Category: General  Comments: 6

Hopefully some of the rest of you can tell me what, if any, significance these rankings have, but according to this site here, Prosblogian is one of the top philosophy blogs on a number of different metrics.  Does anyone have an informed view of this data?

(I’ll also note the Alex’s personal blog scores pretty high as well.)

[HT: Feminist Philosophers]

Arguing About God?
May 18, 2009 — 19:00

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: General  Comments: 11

A nice, thoughtful, unharried interview with Alvin Plantinga [here]( and another with Richard Swinburne [here]( Both collected on [this]( terrific site with lots of other excellent entries featuring John Leslie, David Chalmers, Bede Rundle, Quentin Smith, Michael Tooley, Tom Flint, Peter van Inwagen, and many others.

Mark Murphy’s Letter to the APA
March 6, 2009 — 7:49

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: General Links News  Comments: 0

First we had the petition, then the counterpetition. Now Mark Murphy, of Georgetown University, has drafted a sedate and carefully argued draft letter to the APA, also opposing the original petition. Murphy is asking for comments and criticisms by March 31 by email (see the link at the bottom of his post), at which point he will freeze his draft and collect signatures. (I am not enabling comments on this announcement–comments should be directed directly to Mark Murphy.)