This is the seventh installment of a series of interviews I am conducting with academic philosophers about their religious practices. In this series of interviews, I ask philosophers about their religious practices and the influence on their philosophical work. Follow the links for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. The contributors are in various stages of their career, tenured and untenured. Interviews were conducted through e-mail and responses are not edited.
This interview is with Terence Cuneo, Professor at the University of Vermont.
I’ve recently been wondering whether atheism – the belief that God does not exist – could be properly basic. By that, I mean whether it could be a belief that is not based on arguments, but nonetheless formed by a reliable mechanism that is truth-oriented.
I doubt whether atheism could be properly basic. If I am right, then, in order for atheism to be warranted (or maybe even merely rational; see below), atheism has to be based on arguments—whereas, perhaps, such a thing is not required for theism.
Now, here’s my line of thought. It seems we need to consider two mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive scenarios: one in which God exists and one in which he does not.
We can be rather short about the first scenario. If God exists, then it seems impossible that humans have a truth-oriented reliable mechanism that produces the basic belief that God does not exist. Such a mechanism could never be both truth-oriented and reliable, for all of its deliverances – each instance of the basic belief that God does not exist – would be false.
This is the third installment of a series of interviews I am conducting with academic philosophers about their religious practices (see here and here for previous installments). In this series of interviews, I ask philosophers about their religious practices and the influence on their philosophical work. I have interviewed (and am in the course of interviewing) agnostics, theists and atheists, hopefuls and skeptics. The contributors are in various stages of their career, tenured and untenured. Interviews were conducted through e-mail and responses are not edited, except for some occasional shortenings (indicated by ellipses)
The third interview is with H.E. Baber, who is a full professor at the University of San Diego.
[cross-posted at The Philosophers’ Cocoon] This is the first installment of a series of interviews I am conducting with academic philosophers about their religious practices. Curiously, there’s relatively little attention for religious practices, with most work in philosophy of religion strongly focusing on beliefs (this is changing thanks to excellent work by Terence Cuneo, Howard Wettstein, Sarah Coakley and others, but this work is still decidedly in the minority).
In this series of interviews, I ask philosophers who are religious practitioners—they go to church or temple, pray, utter blessings, engage in stoic meditation, read the Torah, serve in the capacity of priest—about their religious practices and the influence on their philosophical work. I have interviewed (and am in the course of interviewing) agnostics, theists and atheists, hopefuls and skeptics. The contributors are in various stages of their career, tenured and untenured. Interviews were conducted through e-mail and responses are not edited, except for some occasional shortenings (indicated by ellipses)
The first interview is with Marcus Arvan, who is an assistant professor at the University of Tampa. Arvan self-identifies as a hoping Agnostic and attends Catholic mass weekly.
There is widespread belief that compatibilism + theism cannot offer a credible solution to the logical problem of evil. Why does anyone believe that? I think they’re reasoning this way: if compatibilism is true, then, necessarily, God can actualize a morally perfect world. That’s of course true, and it entails that the free will defense fails. But then they reason, if, necessarily, God can actualize a morally perfect world, then, necessarily, God does actualize a morally perfect world. It is then observed that, obviously, there is evil. So, compatibilism + theism is incoherent; it cannot solve the logical problem.
Many of you will know that I’m sympathetic to modal realism; I think it solves many more problems than it causes, especially for theists. I want to address here what I think is a mistaken objection to modal realism: the so-called problem of indifference. The objection is originally formulated in Robert Adams.
Indeed, if we ask, “What is wrong with actualizing evils, since they will occur in some other possible world anyway if they don’t occur in this one?”, I doubt that modal realism can provide an answer which will be completely satisfying ethically (Theories of Actuality, 1974).
If Lewisian modal realism is true, then, just as we exist and our worldmates exist, so does every other individual and person inhabiting every other world. They all exist even though they are not all actual; they all exist, though they are not all our worldmates; they all exist though they do not all exist in our world. And these existing, non-actual persons are all as concrete, sentient, caring, and rational as we are. What Adams is calling attention to is that, if all of these beings exist in the same sense that we do, then they all matter morally, just as much as you and I do. But if we consider (literally or unrestrictedly, now) every existing sentient being in deliberating about what we should do, Adams complains, we will always reach the conclusion that it just doesn’t matter what we do.
No matter what we do–whether we do good or evil–it does not matter to the overall value of the pluriverse (i.e. the overall value of all possible worlds). If we do good, some counterpart of ours in similar circumstances will opt to do evil. If we do evil, some counterpart of ours in similar circumstances will opt to do good. It will necessarily balance out; the pluriverse and all of it’s inhabitants will not be any better off, or any worse off, overall no matter what we do. The overall value of the pluriverse is unchangeable. So, what difference does it make what we choose to do? We are led to moral indifference.
The Herzl Institute, Jerusalem
December 20-23, 2015
Philosophers often describe theism as the belief in the existence of a “perfect being” — a being that is said to possess all possible perfections, so that it is all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, absolutely simple, and necessarily existent, among other qualities. However, there are reasons to question whether this conception of God’s nature is appropriate as a basis for Jewish theology, and indeed, for religious belief more generally. This conference seeks to bring together philosophers, theologians, scholars of Bible and scholars of rabbinic literature to take a fresh look at this notion of God as perfect being, asking whether it is consistent with Judaism’s foundational texts, or whether it needs to be revised or replaced by a theology that is better suited to Jewish thought.
When: December 4th‐5th 2015
Where: VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Organizers: Hans van Eyghen, Rik Peels, and Gijsbert van den Brink
Although Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) is still a rather young discipline, its main theories have been the subject of considerable debate. One main point of discussion is whether cognitive theories explain religion. The title of Pascal Boyer’s book Religion Explained (2002) signals that at least one goal of CSR is to explain religion. Many authors have interpreted ‘explaining’ as explaining away and have argued that CSR‐theories have not explained religion away because the truth of religion is compatible with the main theories in CSR.
Religious disagreements are conspicuous in everyday life. Most societies, except perhaps for theocracies or theocracy-like regimes, show a diversity of religious beliefs, a diversity that young children already are aware of. One emerging topic of interest in the social epistemology of religion is how we should respond to religious disagreement. How should you react if you are confronted with someone who seems equally intelligent and thoughtful, who has access to the same evidence as you do, but who nevertheless ends up with very different religious beliefs? Should you become less confident about your beliefs, or suspend judgment? Or is it permissible to accord more weight to your own beliefs than to those of others?
In November and December 2014, I surveyed philosophers about their views on religious disagreement. I was not only interested in finding out what philosophers think about disagreements about religious topics in the profession (for instance, do they consider other philosophers as epistemic peers, or do they take the mere fact of disagreement as an indication that the other can’t be right?), but also in the influence of personal religious beliefs and training. I present a brief summary of results below the fold; a longer version can be found here.
May 7-9, 2015 at the University of Notre Dame
Religious experience is central to religious faith and practice. It often serves as evidence for belief; it contributes to the development of doctrine; and it, or the desire for it, is often a major motivator for church attendance, meditation, commitment to spiritual disciplines, and other religious practices. Religious experience has received a great deal of attention within both philosophy and theology; but important questions remain unanswered. What is the nature of religious experience? What, exactly is (or should be) its relationship to religious belief and religious practice? If God exists and loves human beings, why aren’t vivid, unambiguous religious experiences more widely available? What can religious experiences tell us about the nature of God? Might religious experiences be the result, in part, of particular skills or virtues of the people who have them? The 2015 Logos Workshop will be devoted to addressing these and other philosophical and theological aspects of religious experience.
To have your paper considered for presentation at Logos 2015, please submit an abstract of the paper or the paper itself no later than October 15, 2014. Other things being equal, preference will be given to those who submit full papers by the deadline. We will let you know by December 1, 2014 whether your paper has been provisionally accepted. Full acceptance will be conditional on submission of the full reading version of the paper by April 1, 2015. It is expected that papers presented at the Logos workshop will be works in progress that can benefit from the group discussion. Consequently, we ask that authors not submit papers that will be published before the conference has ended.
Please send Abstracts or Full Papers to: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, please click here.