Ph.D. Positions in Philosophy at VU University Amsterdam
December 3, 2012 — 6:53

Author: Matthew Mullins  Category: News  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 0

The Faculty of Philosophy at VU University Amsterdam (the Netherlands) is advertising four fully funded four year Ph.D. positions in epistemology / philosophy of science.
The positions are embedded in a research project entitled ‘Science Beyond Scientism’, which aims to clarify the relations between scientific knowledge and other sources of knowledge, esp. in relation to knowledge of free will, morality, rationality, and religion.
More details the positions and information about how to apply can be found through the following link:
More background on the project is available here:
For further inquiries, please contact the project’s principal investigator, René van Woudenberg, at or +31 20 59 86678. The deadline for applications is January 2nd, 2013.
The project has been made possible by a generous grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation.

“Critical Thinking” and Theism, contra SA
May 3, 2012 — 11:37

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Religious Belief  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 16

UPDATE: I want to clarify one thing here. My principle target was not the authors of the study (which I have no intention to read, as I judge that doing so has negative expected utility). Rather, my principle target was the editors of SA. The author of the article is a minor target (its bad reporting) but she probably gave the editors what she had every right to expect they wanted. Here is what I would have said in a calmer moment:
“People have been implying that the content of this article casts aspersons on the rationality of religious belief. I assert that that is false and confused. I dare (double dog dare) anyone to construct a cogent argument from the content of this article which casts aspersions on the rationality of religious belief. I assert that it cannot be done. I also find the article greatly misleading in multiple ways and perhaps culpably so.”
I still think it is worth recording my initial reaction, though, so that friends who posted this article in ways that implied that it did cast aspersions on the rationality of religious belief–there were too many to write individually–can see the palpable frustration with which such misdirection causes people like me: Christions living in a very secularized environment where people they really like often say or do things very hurtful (though not intentionally, of course). There are many ways in which it is not easy to be a Christian in academic philosophy. Being an unprotected minority is frustrating, anxiety-inducing (I received threats as a result of this post), and sometimes deeply discouraging. [Any other Christians who feel this way should redouble their efforts to reach out to other minorities and simply set aside in good faith the fact that those minorities have advocates in a way that we do not, for we have our own Advocate.]
That venerable publishing outlet of the Secular-Industrial Establishment the Scientific American at least once had decent journalism and intelligent writing. That started to slide at least a decade ago, and though there are still some occasional gems, there is also plenty of tripe. To wit: this article called–utterly misleadingly–“How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises.
Rarely have I been so annoyed as by this piece. And it is a token of a type that is all too prevalent. I judge, and hope I do not regret it, that the removal of the snarkiness would not be worth the effort. I don’t like being drawn into such rhetoric, but it is not irrelevant that the piece made me *angry*. Anger is an emotion that can be appropriate or inappropriate and upon reflection, I think anger is an appropriate emotional response to this nonsense. #notproofread #lateforconference


Ross’s Theory of Omnipotence Entails Double Predestination
January 27, 2012 — 0:56

Author: Kenny Pearce  Category: Concept of God Divine Providence  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 9

Let E (for ‘election’) be the proposition which says de re of each person who will in fact be saved that he or she will be saved. That is, E is the longest conjunction of the form ‘John will be saved, and Mary will be saved, and Lois will be saved…’ which is true. Let R (for ‘reprobation’) be the proposition which says de re of each person who will in fact be damned that he or she will be damned.
The doctrine of predestination is the doctrine that God, from eternity, has issued an efficacious decree of election – that is, God, from eternity, effectively chose that E should be true. The doctrine of double predestination states that in addition to the decree of election, God also issued a decree of reprobation – that is, in addition to effectively choosing that E should be true, God effectively chose that R should be true.
Double predestination is much more contentious among Christians than predestination (although predestination is not entirely uncontroversial – for instance, open theists will have to deny it). Many Christians would rather have single predestination, holding that all people are, on their own, bound for hell, and God intervenes to save those he wishes to save, and just leaves the rest alone.
In his Philosophical Theology (1969), James F. Ross proposes the following analysis of omnipotence:

S is omnipotent if and only if for every logically contingent state of affairs, p, whether p or ~p is the case is logically equivalent to the effective choice, by S, that p or that ~p (respectively). (p. 211)

This analysis appears to have the consequence that, if God is omnipotent, then double predestination is true. Both E and R are true contingent propositions, so if God is omnipotent then God effectively chooses that the corresponding states of affairs should be the case.


Sometimes It’s Rational to Act Arbitrarily
February 11, 2011 — 22:16

Author: Kenny Pearce  Category: Problem of Evil  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 10

In the middle sections of his 12th chapter, Sobel goes through a series of adjustments to his deductive argument from evil designed to get around various versions of the Free Will Defense and other tactics attempted by theists. For reasons mentioned earlier, I am not happy with Sobel’s formal treatment of these arguments, so I’m going to reconstruct the substance of the argument somewhat differently. Consider the following:

  1. If there were a perfect being, it would take a best course of action available to it in creating the world
  2. If a perfect being took the best course of action available to it in creating the world, the result would be very different from what we observe.
  3. But the world is as we observe it to be.
  4. There is no perfect being.


Being better off than the God of Open Theism
April 21, 2007 — 21:31

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Open Theism  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 19

Suppose Open Theism (OT) holds. There is a possible world where a demon is better off doxastically than God in respect of future free actions of creatures. On some views of inductive knowledge, there is a possible world where a demon is better off epistemically than God in respect of future free actions of creatures. Hence OT is false. This may be all old hat. But, hey, it's fun to reinvent the wheel–the thrill of discovery, of seeing it roll, etc. Now I need to argue for my above claims.