An Argument for Counterpart Theory

June 3, 2008

[I have no idea if the following is at all novel or plausible.  Any feedback would be sweet!]

Here’s a puzzle.  David Lewis (1986) has argued for the following thesis:

L. Self-identity is not constituted, even in part, by having certain qualities.

Kit Fine (1994) argued for the following thesis:

F. An essential property of an object is any property that, in part, constitutes what it is to be that object.

Combining these two theses would seem to imply the following somewhat troubling thesis:

T. Objects do not have any qualities essentially.

I say that this thesis is troubling because, after all, it would seem to be part of, say, my essence that I have the quality of being human.[1] But how can it be both that I have no essential qualities and that being human is part of my essence? Let’s assume for the moment that we don’t want to reject either Lewis’s thesis or Fine’s thesis (I for one have been convinced by both authors). How then might we get out of trouble? Read the rest of this entry »

Religion and Problems of Scope

November 5, 2007

Certain theistic stories seem to have some problems of scope. Melville, in his “Moby Dick” (ch.10) presents one of them.

“What is worship? –to do the will of God- that is worship. And what is the will of God? –to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me – that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator.”

Some theistic stories seem to have this problematic principle, also known as “The Golden Rule”, according to which one should do onto others what one wants them to do upon oneself. The sheer existence of different, incompatible, theistic stories, adds another problematic element: not everyone, even among theists, share the same story. But that is not all, there’s a third problematic element: theistic stories tend to be universal in scope. They intend to be true of everything everywhere.

These three elements, golden rule, incompatible theistic stories, and universality, get theists into trouble. The latter makes it so that no other, incompatible, story can be true. This, in turn, makes it desirable (when not necessary) to evangelize the mislead believers without, of course, misleading yourself. This evangelical obligation, however, conflicts with the golden rule. It seems as if it is inherent to the evangelical purposes that believers are not created equal: some are correct and some are mistaken. How can we fix these theistic stories?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Argument from Error

September 6, 2007

(surely this has already been thought by someone else, if so, excuse it)

In the Meditations Descartes says “if it were repugnant to the goodness of Deity to have created me subject to constant deception, it would seem likewise to be contrary to his goodness to allow me to be occasionally deceived; and yet it is clear that this is permitted.”

This made me think of an epistemological version of the problem of evil. I will present the argument, say some things abut it, and then wait for you to tell me whether you find it ridiculous or not. The argument goes like this.

P1 If (summing up) there is a three-O God then it cannot be that humans are constantly deceived.
P2 Humans are constantly deceived (by their senses, reasoning, intuitions, etc.)
C There is no three-O God.

If I remember properly, the usual reply to the “Problem of Evil” argument is that of Free Will. It is obvious that the same argument will not work here. The Free Will argument requires the possibility (or actual instances) of Evil, but not of error (or deception). One might be omniscient and still be free to take the dark side. So there is at least something attractive about the “Problem of Error” argument.

Read the rest of this entry »

Plantinga on Whether Belief that God Exists is Properly Basic

August 13, 2007

Alvin Plantinga argues for the following two claims (Warranted Christian Belief, 186-190):

(1) If God exists, then basic belief that God exists is probably properly basic.

(2) If God does not exists, then basic belief that God exists is probably not properly basic.

Let’s assume that he’s right about (1) and (2). However, from (1) and (2) Plantinga infers that

(3) To answer the question of whether basic belief that God exists is properly basic, we must answer the question of whether God exists.

Here is what Plantinga says when he makes the inference:

And this dependence of the question of warrant or rationality on the truth or falsehood of theism [the dependence stated in 1 and 2] leads to a very interesting conclusion. If the warrant enjoyed by belief in God is related in this way to the truth of that belief, then the question whether theistic belief has warrant is not, after all, independent of the question whether theistic belief is true. So the de jure question we have finally found [of whether basic belief that God exists is properly basic] is not, after all, really independent of the de facto question [of whether God exists]; to answer the former we must answer the latter. (191, bold added)

There seem to be two importantly different readings of (3)—and, similarly, the bolded line above. On the first reading, (3) is unimportant. On the second, the inference from (1) and (2) to (3) is fallacious. Read the rest of this entry »

Peter van Inwagen on Clifford’s Principle

May 17, 2007

While preparing for the philosophy of religion course I’m teach this summer, I just came across Peter van Inwagen’s essay “Quam Dilecta”. The essay appears in God and the Philosophers (1994, Thomas Morris, ed.), a collection of autobiographical essays where the authors (professional philosophers of varying distinction) explain

how they personally see the relationship between the spiritual and the philosophical in their own lives, or else [show] with their own stories how a person of faith can grapple with some of the problems and prospects of religious belief from a philosophical point of view. (p. 4)

At the end of his essay, van Inwagen presents his reasons for trusting “the Church” rather than “the Enlightenment”. There is much (much) one could say about these reasons, but, there is no need to, since van Inwagen himself admits that he believes what he does on the basis of “insufficient evidence”. However, prior to giving his (insufficient) reasons for “trusting the Church”, van Inwagen dedicates a section of his essay to explaining why he rejects the demand for sufficient evidence. This is the section of his essay I’d like to say just a little about here. Read the rest of this entry »

Dawkins’ “ultimate Boeing 747” argument

March 10, 2007

In his recent best seller “The God Delusion”, Richard Dawkins seems to understand his “ultimate Boeing 747 argument” (henceforth, the “UBA”) as an argument against God’s existence. I think, however, that it is best understood as a refutation of an argument for God’s existence—namely, the design argument. If so, and if the design argument is the only argument for God’s existence which has prima facie plausibility, then the UBA is an argument against God’s existence only in so far as showing that we don’t have reason to believe that x exists is showing that we have reason to believe that x doesn’t exist (which is probably pretty far).

Here is how Plantinga (in his review) seems to think the UBA goes:

P1) Any being capable of designing and creating the world as we know it is as at least as complex and organized as the world as we know it.

P2) If God exists, then God designed and created the world.

From (P1) and (P2) it follows that

C1) If God exists, then God is at least as complex and organized at the world as we know it.

Now we add two more premises

P3) The world is extremely complex and organized.

P4) The probability of a things existence is inversely proportional to its level of complexity and organization.

From (C1), (P3), and (P4) it follows that

C2) The probability of God’s existence is extremely low.

I believe Plantinga is wrong in his interpretation of the UBA. Instead I propose the following. Read the rest of this entry »