In this brief post—based somewhat on a section of my book The Problem of Animal Pain: A Theodicy for All Creatures Great and Small—I defend the thesis that animals are created in the image of God. I will argue that the notion of bearing the imago dei is “graded.” That is, bearing the image is a property that comes in degrees, of, if it is not the same thing, there are many ways of bearing the image of God, which can be placed along a spectrum from triviality to very substantive.
I write from a Christian perspective, but won’t focus on the biblical data. However, it is very much worth noticing one feature of the Genesis narrative. One frequently hears—including in sermons—that the imago dei doctrine is taught in Genesis 2:7. Man “becomes a living being” when the “breath of life” is “breathed into his nostrils.” God had just said “Let us make man in our image” and nothing follows that is a better candidate for the imaging happening than the instilling of the breath of life. As with the Greek pneuma, the use of the Hebrew neshamah evokes a connection between breath and soul. And it is often thought that the soul, whatever else it is, is the locus of the image of God. But Genesis 1:30 had just abbreviated a long list of animals with the covering phrase “everything that has the breath of life” (1:30). And, like its cousin neshamah, nefesh—used here—is sometimes rendered “soul.” And, again, there is nowhere else in the creation narrative that is a plausible ground for the imago dei. Nowhere in Scripture is a premium put on abstract thought and there’s certainly nothing about it in the creation narrative. (It is perhaps there by implication in the act of speech in the naming of the animals by Adam, but that’s a bit obscure.) And speaking of abstract thought…
Once when presenting a paper at a regional meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Society in Western New York, I made reference to Sosa’s distinction between animal knowledge and reflective knowledge. A guy pointed out to me than “animal knowledge” might not be an apt phrase, since, in certain respects, apt belief (in Sosa’s sense) is more like God’s knowledge than human knowledge. The relevant respect was that animal knowledge is “direct” in a way that included being non-discursive but also included being “hooked up” to the world in a way that “skips” ratiocination involved in much human knowledge, especially Sosa’s reflective knowledge. This is inchoate, but it points the direction to a way in which animal cognition might be much more in the image of God’s cognition than distinctively human cognition. An extension of this is the fact that humans are plagued by doubt in ways most animals don’t seem to be.
Housed at Baylor University’s Philosophy Department, and supported by a grant from Templeton. The three-year project is co-directed by Jon Kvanvig, Dan Howard-Snyder, and Trent Dougherty.
These post-docs are 3-year positions, and the deadline for application is February 1.
Two Post-Doctoral Fellowship Positions
Department of Philosophy, Baylor University
On The Nature and Value of Faith
Funded by a grant from the Templeton Foundation
Applications are solicited for two three-year fellowships to work as part of a team of scholars, led by Jonathan L. Kvanvig, Daniel Howard-Snyder, and Trent Dougherty, on the nature and value of faith. The project will be housed in the Baylor University Department of Philosophy.
A collaborative effort, the project aims to address questions concerning the relationship between faith, hope, trust, belief, and acceptance. Fellows will have the opportunity to devote three years of research to issues that fall within the scope of the project, to participate in weekly discussions of these issues with the co-directors, and to participate in summer seminars with other scholars working on these issues.
In their application, applicants should explain how their intended research addresses the questions involved in the project. These questions include: whether faith is a cognitive state, an active state, or something else; how faith relates to belief, and to hope, and to various positive character traits the relationship between faith and rationality; whether faith is assessable in purely epistemic terms or in terms of practical rationality, or in other terms the relationship between faith and central epistemic goods such as knowledge and understanding; whether faith is necessary for either wisdom or understanding; whether faith is a virtue, and, if so, how faith compares with other virtues; whether there is a distinction between mundane faith and religious faith, and, if so, how the distinction is to be understood.
This list of questions and issues is not meant to exhaustive, but merely indicative of some of the types of issues that can fruitfully be pursued within the scope of the project.
The application consists of the following:
(i) a research proposal of no more than 10 pages, detailing a proposed research agenda for the year and relevant prior work related to it,
(ii) a curriculum vita,
(iii) three letters of recommendation
(iv) a cover letter.
The application deadline is February 1, 2014. The evaluation committee will consist of the co-directors of the project. The criteria for selection are (1) demonstrated expertise in philosophy of religion or theology and (2) evidence of the ability to undertake significant research that will contribute to the aims of the project. As a direct consequence of their involvement with the project, it is expected that the successful candidates will author several publications. Preferred candidates will have PhD in hand at the time of appointment.
Electronic applications are preferred, and may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Fellowship Application” in the subject line. Salary level is competitive, and includes standard fringe benefits; moving expenses provided as well. Start date is August 15, 2014, and successful candidates will have expenses paid to participate for all summer seminars associated with the project, beginning June 15, 2014. In addition, funding will be provided for participation in the annual conferences associated with the project.
Baylor is a Baptist University affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. As an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity employer, Baylor encourages minorities, women, veterans, and persons with disabilities to apply.
Consider Rowe’s argument, which is essentially:
- E is an evil for which we have been unable to find a justifier despite serious investigation.
- Therefore, probably, E has no justifier.
- If some evil has no justifier, then theism is false.
- Therefore, probably, theism is false.
And then consider this anti-evolutionary argument:
- F is a major inheritable feature of an organism for which we have been unable to find an evolutionary explanation despite serious investigation.
- Therefore, probably, F has no evolutionary explanation.
- If some major inheritable feature of an organism has no evolutionary explanation, then evolutionary universalism is false.
- Therefore, probably, evolutionary universalism is false.
Here, evolutionary universalism is the claim that all major inheritable features of organisms have their presence explained by means of evolutionary explanations. (There are many ways of spelling out “major” that still leaves (5) plausible in some cases.)
It is an interesting sociological fact that many atheists think 1-4 is a good argument and 5-8 is a bad one, and that many creationists and intelligent design advocates think 5-8 is a good argument and 1-4 is a bad one.
But I think both are bad.
Continuing the recent theme of skeptical theism. It only recently occurred to me to puzzle over the fact that skeptical theism–at least for leading proponent Mike Bergmann–has nothing to do with theism. Of course, there’s the axiom ST —> T, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
What I mean is that skeptical theism’s skeptical thesis are just about the nature of the good. That seems a *bit* odd to me: there’s nothing theological motivating skeptical theism as Bergmann expresses it. It has nothing obvious to do with “God’s ways being greater than ours.” It’s just that we don’t understand goodness well enough.
And here’s another thing I noticed recently that bothered me–then I’ll put the criticism below the fold: It’s almost all deontolgical stuff. But I’m a virtue and value guy. As such, I think I have some insight into the *nature* of the good, which tells me something about *all* goods. This gives one more purchase than may be compatible with Bergmann’s versions of the “S” in “ST.”
Michael Ruse (of the SEP "Creationism" ruse (no, I never get tired of saying that)) has a new book forthcoming next month on Charles Darwin.
I like to read about Darwin, I find him a very interesting character, but what will really put this book on the map for the lovers of Dawkins, Dennet, and Co. is the penultimate chapter “The Origins of Religion”. A publishers squib states “Strongly supports Darwinism and fully explores modern naturalistic explanations of religion” and he somehow still has space in 352 pages to “Offer a comprehensive discussion of Darwinism and Christianity – including Creationism.” Wow, it’s a good thing he’s “one of the leading authorities in the field.” I didn’t realize that Darwinism and Christianity constitute a field. Apparently being a leading authority does not distribute over conjunction. :-)~
Pre-Script: Matt, thanks for all your hard work updating the site!
This is a *very* inchoate idea, but that should be what blogs are for. So I’ve been thinking about transubstantiation. I’m going to throw a bunch of stuff out there and then try to tie it together. It will be the most disorganized thing I’ve ever posted but I’ve still got a few MS deadlines (almost done for now tho!) and, again, this is a friendly blog (and I don’t think the post so hopeless as to be rude to post). It will largely consist in my affirming the possibility of various things, many of which might be pretty controversial in some quarters. Nevertheless, for those that share the affirmations there might be a way of understanding transubstantiation in the neighborhood.
Suppose you’re reading a novel and it says that a powerful wizard moved an object from one side of the planet to the other in an instant. You might worry about exactly what theory explains how that other object is the *same* object, but I don’t think there’s much reason to think the author has attributed the impossible to the magician. I don’t think even a philosopher with no off switch (me!) should be stopped in their tracks by such a story. I think it’s sufficient that it’s *that* object which the wizard decided to move *there*.
I think the same is true with time travel. Time travel stories involve no clear incoherencies. I think conceivability or apparent conceivability is defeasible evidence of possibility, and I’m aware of no clear arguments for the incoherence of time travel.
I think we need primitive thisness and primitive identity to solve various problems in metaphysics anyway (associated with Chisholm’s paradox) so I’m going to help myself to them if need be.
Finally, I think bilocation is possible (a species of multi-location where a usually one-one relation is one-many).
Finally finally, I think that the “accidents” or “secondary qualities” or whatever of substances are a result of the causal powers they have and that they have whatever causal powers God wills that they have at any given time.
So here’s the inchoate hunch/hope. God takes certain molecules of the body of Jesus and causes them to multi-locate across time and gives them new causal powers, one’s which mimic the normal causal powers of bread and wine.
I’m not claiming that this is original (maybe lots of people have already thought of something like this) or that it exhausts the doctrine (for example the “Soul and Divinity” part remains unexplained but I’m just trying to cover the material part). What I find interesting in this approach is that it seems to get us pretty close to the doctrine while making it clear what it commits us to and it’s surprisingly little (in my view since I hold all these views anyway, I get this view at *no* additional cost).
I have no doubt that Alex and Tim will let me know if I’ve run afoul of Catholic dogma (something I don’t want to do), but, again, I am not suggesting this as a definition of the doctrine but rather pointing out how far we can get towards it with such (relative) clarity and little cost.