Thomas Nagel’s Natural Theological Argument?

Since I should be studying right now and not writing philosophy, I want to make this a very quick post. This is astonishing, in my view, as I think I have found atheist Thomas Nagel making a natural theological argument (or, less provocatively (and more accurately) supporting a natural theological argument) in his book The Last Word (1997).

Consider the following argument:

1. It is more probable than not that on theism than naturalism consciousness (mind) exists, that is, whre “Pr” is “The probability that”, “G” God exists, “N” “naturalism” and C “Consciousness existing” Pr (C|G) > .5 and Pr (C|N) < .5.

J.P Moreland’s two arguments in support of this: (1) Scientific theory virtues apply here and make theism more probable: (i) Naturalness, (ii) Ontological Basicality and (iii) Simplicity and (2) naturalism’s “Grand Story” or “History of the Universe” is necessarily and radically materialistic (which precludes mind at all—only Nagel would perhaps deny this with his teleological account of natural laws (which is still vague and purely speculative (and in this respect ad hoc))).

2. Consciousness exists.

William Lane Craig has pointed out that denying this self-contradictory i.e., an illusion of consciousness (intentional state) is to be in a conscious (intentional) state (basically).

3. Therefore, theism is true.

Thomas Nagel furthers this argument from reducing the problem of “actuality” (of mind/consciousness) to “possibility”: “Since it [ourselves (which includes reason, consciousness and mind] did happen [was actualized], it must have been possible”.[1]

So, here are some new premises:

4. If theism is true, there is an account of the actuality and possibility of consciousness.

(Here are a few stories the theist could tell: (1) There is a set of all possible worlds in the mind of God (on theistic platonism) and God actualizes one that will eventually result in consciousness, (2) God chooses one possible world, makes it actual and eventually performs special intervention in the natural order to bestow consciousness on human persons, (3) God, from eternity past, knows He will create a world and that world will include consciousness (so there is no “set” of all possible worlds, there is just one world God will create from eternity past). These are all accounts of God’s actualizing consciousness/mind on finite creatures; for an account of possibility, this is rather simple: God could withhold creating anything at all and timelessly (or infinitely throughout time) does not create but could, counterfactually, bring a universe (with human persons who have consciousness/mind) into being at will–there is no contradiction in this and therefore this is at least possible).

5. If naturalism were true, it must account for the actuality and possibility of consciousness.

(Suppose it could not explain possibility and actuality but only actuality; theism would be preferable because it is a more complete explanation—and much simpler, to my mind ref. Moreland’s “Simplicity” requirement).

6. Naturalism cannot explain the actuality of consciousness. (From (1)-(3)).

7. Suppose that naturalism could explain the actuality of consciousness (through probabilities).

8. The possibility of the actuality of consciousness has to be explained.

(What Van Inwagen calls a “metaphysical axiom” that “what is actual is minimally possible” And Nagel agrees ref. above quote).

9. If it is not possible on naturalism that consciousness exists (there is a contradiction i.e., matter -> mind), then naturalism cannot explain the possibility of consciousness.

10. If naturalism cannot explain the possibility of consciousness, naturalism is false or must leave out something to be explained.

11. It would be ad hoc to deny the ontology of something because it falsifies one’s worldview.

12. Naturalism cannot explain the possibility of consciousness.

(There is a contradiction: matter only creates matter, not mind (Moreland’s argument that out of matter only matter comes; if mind came, it is logically equivalent to getting something from nothing—Locke agrees to the former half)).

13. Therefore, naturalism is false.

This is a very interesting argument (and I think this 13 line long argument is really three arguments: (1) consciousness is more probable on theism than naturalism, (2) naturalism must explain the actuality and possibility of consciousness and (3) naturalism cannot explain the actuality and possibility of consciousness and therefore naturalism is false). I wonder what people make of this—to me this is deeply problematic for the naturalist.

[1] Thomas Nagel’s The Last Word (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 138.

What is the Counterpart of Bioethical Ignorance?

Many know about contemporary debates concerning euthanasia (or at least one side of the debate, as is most often what happens). While on this blog I try to make my posts as philosophically analytic as possible, I think there is a peculiar moral intuition that is often captured not merely by arguments, but by real world events which “hit the heart”, so to speak, of human beings on a deep, phenomenological and existential level. Today I received an email from my former philosophy teacher Paul Coates entitled “Another Euthanasia First”; the contents, however, were much to my surprise and distress. It is to this end that I want to display the email contents in full and make a few comments on what exactly is being said.

Here is the post by Michael Cook in full from BioEdge:

“Today is a landmark, of sorts. It marks the first time that a child has been euthanised under contemporary euthanasia laws. Of course, euthanising infants is relatively common, but not children who are old enough to be asked if they really want to die. The death occurred last week in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, although it was announced today by Belgium’s euthanasia supremo, Wim Distelmans. His words were very sober and solemn, as befits the occasion, but I suspect that he and his colleagues are quietly happy to see the boundaries of euthanasia spread even further.

Ultimately this is a triumph for out-and-out nihilism, not just Belgium’s inventive euthanasia lobby. Nihilism is a philosophical fad which seems to catching on. Below we feature a report on three American bioethicists who argue the case for population control to fight climate change and a defense of infanticide by a Finnish bioethicist. I’ve also just discovered a new book by South African philosopher David Benatar. In it he argues that procreation is morally wrong because life’s a bitch and then you die (I am over-simplifying, of course.) He concludes his book with these cheerful thoughts:

Every birth is a future death. Between the birth and the death there is bound to be plenty of unpleasantness … Inflicting serious harm—or even the risk of it—on one person, without his or her consent, in order to benefit others, is presumptively wrong.

If I’m right, euthanising a child is not an terminus for Belgian euthanasia, but just a bus stop en route to pure nihilism. What its supporters are trying to eliminate is not just pain, but life itself. What do you think?”[1]

There is a lot to be unpacked here. So, let me make three entry ways as follows:

(1) The relationship between bioethical conceptualization and action

(2) Socio-phenomenological apathy

(3) Nihilism, Moral Nihilism and Bioethical Nihilism

I think that (1)-(3) are ways in which we might approach this post. Indeed, I suspect that these are the most appropriate entry points if the real content of the post is to be interacted with and fully understood. So, let me begin with (1).

The relationship between bioethical conceptualization and action is manifestly easy to detect. If one thought that life is ultimately valueless, one might make no prescriptive moral judgements on oneself or others, and conclude that any action—no matter what socio-political laws might be in place—is inherently amoral, that is, without any moral quality whatsoever. This person might conclude with Dostoevsky with the death of God results in everything being permissible, with Sartre that without God there is absurdity and facticity, with Camus that life is absurd, with Beckkett that “life as meaningful” might be no more than a good joke, with Freud that aggression is the preferable state of human beings for happiness, with Nietzsche that without God the foundation of all goodness and wrongness is thrown into the abyss.[2] One can see that moral prescriptions like “love thy neighbor” on this view is not even wrong—but inherently meaningless. On the other hand, if one sees persons as ends-in-themselves, enriched and infused with intrinsic moral worth, then the way we treat them is valuable as it might—as Christians, for instance—think that moral actions are necessary reflections of God’s holy and loving nature. Clearly, on the former view anything goes. It is here that we bring to mind central passages of the post: “In it [David Benatar’s book] he argues that procreation is morally wrong because life’s a bitch and then you die (I am over-simplifying, of course.)”. It is rather interesting that the following argument is made:

(1) Life is hard.

(2) Therefore, having children is bad. (1).

At first glance, this isn’t even an argument (or at any rate it is just a really bad argument). It simply doesn’t follow that just because life is hard, bringing children into this world is wrong. As my pro-life friends like to point out, when asked “who is your favorite role model?”, a pro-choicer will most often say someone who has struggled and conquered their obstacles and trials. It makes that person a good, hard-working, stoic and archetypal person. Analogously, just because pain is hard to go through, does not mean it is always bad (sometimes we have great lessons to learn from painful experiences). A rather disturbing literary example of this exact point is to be found in the wonderful novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Clearly this argument does not work.

Consider a sub-point: “euthanising infants is relatively common, but not children who are old enough to be asked if they really want to die.” There might be a host of questions to this: What is a non-arbitrary minimum age requirement for a person to consent to their death by lethal injection which is constructed in a framework capturing our moral intuitions? Why is euthanasia so widely accepted, based on obvious, more productive and moral alternatives i.e., palliative care? Why should we think that a child (or even fully grown adult) has the moral ability to choose when they want to die? Does this not presuppose subjectivism, a self-referentially incoherent standpoint? These questions, I think, are not even half-addressed in policy making concerning these issues. Obviously policy makers are not bioethicists, but a good Platonic question is manifest to come out here—should they be?

I have always defined “socio-phenomenological apathy” as an orientation in the world which is apathetic to valuable and meaningful questions i.e., God’s existence. It is rather unsurprising then that this should come up in the context of bioethics because unlike in philosophy of religion, even if one’s arguments are bad, socio-phenomenological apathy is so pertinent to Western culture’s “autonomous” lifestyle, that bioethical questions are of second-order importance and ultimately without conclusive answers. While I regard this is mistaken, many do not agree and think that “science has shown that the unborn aren’t people” or that “life does not have meaning”. While both these claims are false (and the latter metaphysically impossible), it is important to see here the consequences of apathy generally. Apathy requires one to give up their presuppositions and regard any presupposition or proposition as without value. It is not valuable, says the apathetic, to go on in the world worrying about trivial questions i.e., bioethical questions. While this is, of course, problematic (morally and existentially), the consequences are felt when death is the result. Instead of inquiring into the meaning of life, one says “who cares”, and policy makers make policies which allow children to die. Not merely to suffer, but to cease to exist on earth. There is no way to put this philosophically—one must have, genuinely, a cold heart to turn their eyes away from this injustice. But this apathy has a deeper root, namely, nihilism.

Nihilism, moral nihilism and bioethical nihilism all need defining. Nihilism is view that life has no objective and subjective meaning, moral nihilism the view that there are no moral truths and bioethical nihilism is the conjunction of nihilism and moral nihilism (life and morality being worthless). Obviously nihilism is part in parcel of atheistic and naturalistic worldviews—or from their propositions, not always proponents. Since we life in a secular culture, it is no surprise that this is the dominant philosophy of the West. In one form or another, the void of meaning people experience is a reflection of their inner inability to come to terms with reality, that is, the objective reality of value, meaning, morality and so on. Take the following passage, for instance: “What its supporters are trying to eliminate is not just pain, but life itself.” This is an admission of the fact that on atheistic and naturalistic worldviews, since there are no values, pleasure is the best method of achieving a well-lived life (one can see Benthamian and Millian roots here); and, therefore, once pain is all there is left, life is meaningless. This is, I suggest, a reason why bioethical questions have been disregarded, and consequently dying by choice is now legally permissible. It is because our inability to conceptualize deeply into the nature of human persons, their intrinsic value and so on, that we have turned our attention away to those who will now pay the price of our ignorance.

If, like me, one is disturbed by the story given, it is not enough to write and conceptualize—one must put their conceptualizations into action; it is not merely intellectually rewarding, but life saving.

[1] Accessed September 17th, 2016: http://www.bioedge.org/tools/newsletter2013/

[2] All references (in full) can be provided upon request. But to be brief: Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov, Nietzsche, The Gay Science; Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism; Beckett, Endgame; Freud, Civilization and its Discontents; Camus, Myth of Sisyphus.

Can the Objectivity of Morality Be Grounded in Phenomenal Consciousness?

In this paper I will argue that phenomenal consciousness is not sufficient to ontologically ground morality. [1] I will make two arguments for this thesis. First, I will argue that the thesis in question is logically improbable; secondly, I will use the deductive closure principle to make a short argument against phenomenal consciousness as constitutive of objective morality, and thereafter conclude that theism, since highly probable, involves this thesis to be false.

Here is the first argument:

  1. Phenomenal consciousness involves the what-its-like of experience.
  2. Objective morality is experience-independent.
  3. There is no such thing as phenomenal consciousness independent of experience.
  4. Therefore, nothing which can ground morality can be based on experience. (2)
  5. Therefore, phenomenal consciousness cannot be constitutive of objective morality. (1)-(4).

Here is a second argument:

  1. Theism is highly probable. [2]
  2. If theism is highly probable, phenomenal consciousness does not constitute the objectivity of morality (God does).
  3. Deductive closure principle: if S knows P and P->Q, then S knows Q.
  4. Therefore, if theism is true, and theism entails phenomenal consciousness as insufficient to ground the objectivity of morality, it follows that phenomenal consciousness is insufficient to ground the objectivity of morality. (1)-(4).

These are just two reasons I regard this attempt to save the objectivity of morality on naturalism to be unpromising. (Consider as a side argument the following: phenomenal consciousness is more probable on theism than naturalism; theism entails God as constitutive of objective morality, not phenomenal consciousness; therefore, phenomenal consciousness points towards its own inability to be constitutive of objective morality and the truth of theism).

[1] Arguing for phenomenal consciousness as constitutive of objective morality is usually an attempt to save objective morality on naturalism i.e., those denying a reductive ontology. (This is rather strange, though, as most naturalists reject, ontologically, morality).

[2] This second argument is tailored for the person who accepts theism (whereas the first is universal); I do this to reach both audiences (secular and non-secular alike).

Rape is Wrong, Therefore Abortion is Wrong

The following is an argument for the following subjunctive conditional: if rape is wrong, abortion is also wrong. Now, abortion is not wrong if and only if rape is wrong, since the entailment would be too strong. (One can think of a multitude of reasons why abortion is morally wrong). All that I claim is that if rape is wrong on a particular ground i.e., that human beings are ends-in-themselves, then abortion, for a particular reason i.e., financial difficulty, is necessarily wrong. On Monday, January 25th 2016, during a Lifeline (Western’s pro-life club) meeting, I thought of this argument and so sent it to an executive member of the club afterwards that evening. ( “[x] is someone’s name, made hidden by me). Here is what I thought of:

Hey,

So during our meeting today I thought of a neat little philosophical argument worth exploring (whether or not it is a good one I am sure you will be able to detect). If you would like you can send it to i.e., [], if you think it worth exploring. It is a way in which one can move from the proposition:
1. Rape is wrong.
to
2. Therefore, abortion is wrong.
Here is the argument (constructed as a thought experiment):
Suppose that you encounter a person who argues that abortion is right if and only if rape is the reason for pregnancy.
You can concede the point (that rape is wrong) and argue as follows:
1. Rape is wrong.
2. Rape is wrong because 1) it violates a woman’s autonomy, 2) does not reflect the correct moral responsibility towards her and 3) uses her as a means to an end.
The last reason (3) might be an area that the pro-lifer and objector might agree on; namely, that human persons are ends-in-themselves. (Philosopher Kant and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) argue this point). Now, if the objector concedes the proposition:
4. Human persons are ends-in-themselves
then it follows that
5. Rape is wrong
However, it also follows that
6. Any action whatsoever which uses a person as a means to some desired end is wrong
and given that aborting a fetus because he/she is inconvenient i.e., financially, mentally et cetera, is inconsistent with (4), it follows that the person who says ‘it is morally permissible to abort an unborn child if and only if the child was conceived from rape (rape, being wrong because it is using the woman as a means to an end)’ must also concede that aborting the unborn child is itself using a person as a means to an end (i.e., killing the child for selfish reasons i.e., an easier life). Therefore, if rape is wrong so is abortion. (This might only apply to a person who accepts 1) humans are ends-in-themselves, 2) rape is wrong, 3) murdering the unborn is morally acceptable if and only if it was from rape and 4) the unborn is a person–since it seems normal to assume that (3) and (4) are inconsistent, the argument above might serve as a way in which this inconsistency can lead a person from ‘rape is wrong, therefore abortion is wrong.’
Something I thought of.
Feel free to let me know what you think,
Rashad.
Post-Script
To my mind, this argument is sound and valid. However, I am aware that many will reject one or more of my premises and therefore will not see the argument as sound (validity I think is on the safe side). So, this argument, if used in pro-life apologetics, must be understood restrictively since, while it works, only works for people who will accept certain premises i.e., the ones outlined in the aforementioned paper.

A Current Project

This past year I had the privilege of attending and lecturing orally my research paper “Theistic Explanations of the Ontology of Consciousness” under the title “Consciousness, Theism and Explanation”, at the Western Student Research Conference (2016) under the supervision of Dr. Pietro Pirani. In adjusting to first year of university, my time was necessarily limited as my primary goal was to “get the grades going.”

This year, however, I want to do something different.

Since there is no confirmation of acceptance into the Research Conference until one applies, I am not sure this project will be fully realized as I would like it to be. Nonetheless, I find myself content with the endeavor regardless.

I want to do the conference this year on a “minor” project, perhaps on theistic metaphysical systems i.e., William Lane Craig’s. Or perhaps on something like the work of Richard Swinburne (his recent “Mind, Brain and Free Will” (2013), particularly). Another project I am thinking of is reviewing Craig Keener’s 2. Vol. “Miracles.” If none of these, I am very interested in exploring Bryan Metcalfe’s doctoral thesis “Pedagogy of Mythos” (2013) much more in depth. Perhaps even Charles Taylor’s “A Secular Age.” (And of course I am open to suggestions from readers of this blog). Regardless, for this year I am looking to do a minor project.

But, for the following year (2017/2018), my third year in university, I want to write on analytic Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Why not this year? Simply this: His corpus is massive. His work on metaphysics, philosophy of religion, epistemology and modal logic is extensive. So, if I spend this year and the next focusing primarily on Plantinga, I think (i) I will have spent my time wisely and (ii) I will have developed enough acquaintance with his work to actually write on his work with a good standing on what he thinks.

So, now, I await a professor who will help me with this project and for my “minor” one this year. Blog posts, then, will follow the writings I am reading and thinking of (whereas before they were relatively all over the place–my usual method of thinking!).

As a side note, I am currently brainstorming a layout for a Bioethics Journal for a Western University club and a possible book based on a Teacher’s guide I co-wrote with Patrick Sullivan on his book “Four Monks Walk Into a Pub.” I would also like to take up a Dostoevsky University Syllabus (U of T’s, for instance), to read more of his stuff (and really committ myself to it). Thus, posting will be relatively infrequent, but I hope my work, while definitely now occupied by reading and studying, will be satisfactory.

An Anecdote from My Experience in Christian Apologetics

 

Given Canadian socio-phenomenological apathy regarding God’s existence, I was puzzled at a recent conversation I had with an interesting fellow. I was inside of a Value Villiage, and had the experience of doing Christian apologetics with a fellow in the “Literature” section. I will do my absolute best to re-print the conversation here, if for no other reason than the fact that I will eventually forget it, and many important lessons can be drawn from it. Obviously this is not a word for word transcript and I hope that the reader does not think I spoke this articulate in person (though, to be fair, I am not embellishing any point I reprint here—hopefully!). As a last warning, I hope anything I reprint from P (let P be person with whom I am conversing with), is as accurate as possible (I sincerely do not wish to mis-represent his opinions or make his claims less formal, vague and ill-constructed). So, here is the conversation:

[I see a fellow in the literature section browsing through a book]

“So, what sort of books are you interested in?” [beginning of the conversation]

P: “Mainly science fiction.”

“Interesting, you know, I know a writer who wrote some works in science fiction; his name is C.S Lewis.”

P: “Oh yeah? I see.”

“But I mainly read his Christian classics; they’re some of his finest works.” [1]

P: “Oh, he is a [Bible] thumper eh?”

“What do you mean?”

P: “He adheres to that religion [swear word]? You know its all [swear word].”

“Interesting you would say that, he is, actually, one of the most brilliant minds of the past.”

P: “That religion [swear word] is just ridiculous.”

“Why do you think that?”

P: “There is just no evidence for that.”

“Okay, you do realize, though, that in calling “religion” a particular name, you have not falsified it?”

P: “Does not matter, its all [swear word].”

“In saying this, you realize that you are calling some of the finest academics people who adhere to a religion you think is worthless? For instance, Christopher Isham, a theist and quantum cosmologist, Francisco Ayala, a biologist and philosopher, John Lennox, mathematician; all these people you are saying are somehow irrational.”

P: “Do you think you are superior in telling me this? That you know it all?”

“No, I am sorry you had that impression. I do not think I am superior, I just think that since I know the truth I have an obligation of telling others about it. I was simply showing you that if you claim religion is without ground, you must engage with the finest minds of that religion [this was a rough memory of what I said here].”

P: “It does not matter, there is no evidence and it does not matter who you have read and who you know, it is all [swear word].”

“There is evidence [and here I use WLC’s model of apologetics, roughly]: God is the best explanation of the existence of the universe, consciousness, fine-tuning, moral values and duties [I listed a couple more, I think].” [2]

P: “Do you think you know everything?”

“No, not at all. I never said nor claimed it.”

P: “You act like you know everything and that you have seen everything.”

“I do not, I am sorry you think that.”

P: “How old are you?”

“I am 18.”

P: “Huh, interesting. You have a lot to learn.”

“I agree, I never said I knew everything. But regardless, I can have propositional knowledge without experiential knowledge.”

P: “Whatever, you list all these names and terms I can’t understand and then expect me to believe you.”

“If you need clarification, I am more than happy to clarify something.”

P: “You know what, you Bible believing people support ISIS because you believe stoning (it says it in the Bible), and you think that God made humans from primordial stuff.”

“Hmm. Where does it say that in the Bible? Could you show me if I brought you a Bible? There is a Bible in the “Religion and Spirituality” section I can get you?”

P: “No, I don’t study the Bible like you.”

“Well, then, as a matter of fact, you have been misinformed. Indeed, I am not sure at all where you heard both those claims. The story in Genesis is unlike the one you are thinking of, and the stoning part is probably not even existent [I think he might have been talking about the (almost) stoning of Mary Magdalene (but he interestingly missed the point of that narrative anyway)].” [3]

P: “You know what, I am doubting Thomas, really.”

“St. Thomas Aquinas? You realize that he wrote a 4000 page work called the Summa Theologica proving, in part, the existence of God, right?” [4] (I here mixed Doubting Thomas (from the New Testament) with St. Aquinas–an error on my part).

P: “You think you know everything, don’t you.”

“No, I did not say that. I am pointing something out to you.”

P: “It doesn’t matter.”

“Well, I cannot see why you reject theism then.”

P: “How could God allow ISIS, for instance, to kill and torture innocent people?”

“You are talking about the problem of evil and this is a separate topic but here is an answer: God loves our freedom. Free will is a great good and necessarily contains the possibility of evil for finite creatures like ourselves.” [5]

P: “So why doesn’t he stop it?”

“God probably has a morally sufficient reason for allowing the suffering in the world to exist, but why think you and I would be the first to know about it?” [6]

P: “See, you Christians don’t even answer the question.”

“How so? I told you that God probably has a morally sufficient reason and you reject this. And I have not heard a reason why you reject it—you need to give an explanation as to why my answer is insufficient.”

P: “You just say that He doesn’t even though he could.”

“Right, but you see if creatures have free will, a great good to have, then, while this permits evil, He will not stop what happens. Thus, if God is to genuinely respect our freedom He will not intervene. [If he didn’t change the topic, I would have said much more here]”

P: “Well, you know what, this [swear word] is just ridiculous and I don’t know why anyone believes it. You know what I think? I think that Alien’s came down and they explain the origin of life.”

“Interesting, you call religion without grounds, and then you make an assertion with no evidence.”

P: “It has more evidence than your religion.”

“I gave you arguments which you did not respond to.”

P: “I don’t care, I think you and your religion—which just makes you feel better—is [swear word].”

“I am not sure if you realize, but you committed the genetic fallacy by trying to invalidate my belief by showing how I (falsely) came to hold it. Even if that were true my belief isn’t falsified in that account.”

P: “Even your body language suggests that you are backing down now; do you study human nature? Physiology? You should!”

“I am not sure what that has to do with truth-claims. No I have not studied physiology, but you also need to realize that I am backing away from the conversation because you are not engaging with what I am saying, you are calling my arguments and viewpoints names and not really doing anything to assess what I am saying.”

P: “Its just a religion of thumpers, I don’t see why it matters. My wife is a Christian, I don’t know why. [Turns towards his wife] He is a thumper too!”

“Okay, clearly this is conversation is finished. I hope you have a nice day.”

Fins.

Unfortunately, this was the conversation I engaged in. I say unfortunately very tentatively—perhaps I may have “shot an arrow of sunlight”, as I believe C.S Lewis put it—but at any rate the conversation made many things manifest to me and I have a lot to learn from this conversation (especially regarding methods of talking to people, evangelizing and so on). If there is something I have learned, though, from these conversations, is that the socio-phenomenological problem of apathy towards God’s existence should reflect on a deeper point of Christian apologetics, namely, that prayer cannot be separated from doing Christian apologetics. If, as Patrick Sullivan says, people are “His [God’s] little ones” and “not projects or experiments” [7], then prayer is a necessary part of good Christian apologetics–if the fight is over souls and not mere arguments.

[1] For readers interested in the works of C.S Lewis’ here, see especially his Signature Classics. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. 2002. Print.

[2] For William Lane Craig’s apologetics model (and more), visit reasonablefaith.org.

[3] For the story of creation (of the world and human beings) see (Genesis 1) and for the story of Mary Magdalene (John 8 1-11).

[4] For those interested in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, here is a basic introductory text: Ralph McInerny, Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings. England: Penguin Books. 1998. Print.

[5] For a full picture of the free will defense, see Alvin Plantinga’s seminal God, Freedom and Evil. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1974. Print.

[6] Plantinga has made this (somewhat ironical) point formally and informally. Here is a link to him saying it—relatively—informally in his segment on “Closer to Truth”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VOMrozCISA Accessed July 25th 2016.

[7] Patrick Sullivan says this in his Dare to be an Evangelist available here: https://www.evangoinstitute.org/shop/dare-evangelist-book/.

Two Introductions for Two Possible Essays

I am thinking of writing two essays, but do not know where to begin. My intuitions suggest that they are both worth writing, but in all humility I feel unable to do so with as much rigor and precision as I would like. I think, then, that after reading much more literature for both essays, I will write them. Maybe sooner, maybe later. Here are both introductions:

(1) Why I Read (and Not Write) Continental Philosophy

In this short paper, I want to share reasons why I regard continental philosophy as important, but not the most truth-apt method (style or tradition) of doing philosophy. By ‘truth-apt’, I mean a way of doing philosophy which is aimed (more successfully than not) at truth. Since I do myself accept the analytic/continental split in philosophy—even if my only justification is aesthetic and not historical, philosophical or geographical—I regard, for instance, Jean-Paul Sartre’s phenomenological ontology, distinct and different from Peter van Inwagen’s (hyper?) analytic philosophy of religion and metaphysics—not merely in virtue of content, but of method and style as well. While I do not dismiss the importance and utility of continental philosophy (it is, indeed, a pleasure to read), I regard it as inferior, philosophically speaking, to analytic philosophy. In this essay, then, I want to give three reasons why I believe analytic philosophy is superior, philosophically, to continental philosophy. If my conception of continental philosophy is faulty and I am not engaging with it seriously, I still believe my critique—aimed at continental philosophy summarized as “obscure, imprecise and emotive”[1]—applies to any conception of philosophy which does not aim itself at truth, clarity and epistemic virtues. First, I will argue that analytic philosophy enjoys the virtue of clarity; while this is in concreto not always true, the ideal aim is clarity. The continental tradition, however, reads like literature—as Richard Swinburne and William Lane Craig argue [2]. Secondly, I will argue that since analytic philosophy uses the resources of science, whereas continental philosophy does not (it is mainly dominated by, instead, phenomenology and existentialism), science is depreciated in helping to understand human existence; to display this, I shall give a natural theological example. Thirdly, analytic philosophy emphasizes the importance of piecemeal philosophy, that is, philosophy which emphasizes the importance of working with individual concepts and problems and grasping them prior to analyzing them clearly; contrastively, continental philosophy aims, generally, at, as Alvin Plantinga says, novelty in ideas rather than truth [3]. To be perfectly clear: I do not depreciate continental philosophy (and philosophers in that tradition)—indeed, I always enjoy reading Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Camus—but, if possible, I avoid writing in that style.

(2)

Axioms in Logic, Metaphysics and Meta-Ethics: A Rough Critique at Contemporary Meta-Ethical Discourse

In this paper, I want to explain the importance of axioms in logic, metaphysics and ethics to foundation my critique of some contemporary meta-ethical viewpoints and their axiomatic foundations. The term ‘axiom’ is used to denote, in ordinary language, a first-principle with which one begins, and which begets implications (whether they be contingent or necessary). [1] Often, many perspectives in philosophy—especially philosophy of mind, religion and metaphysics—revolve around implicit and presupposed axioms. To give a logical example, self-reference (x=x) implies that there is an ‘x’—where here questions of the existential quantifier being ontologically committing/non-ontologically committing is unimportant. In other words, by asserting that x is the same as x, it must be the case that x (if only logically, not concretely). But, suppose that self-reference was denied—different entailments follow. This essay explores the function of axioms, predominantly in logic and metaphysics, and their extension, similarity and relevance to axioms in ethics. It seems that many ethical views i.e., abortion is morally wrong, terrorism is morally good, are reliant upon axioms, that is, conditions such that, when realized the view in question obtains the property ‘true.’ Indeed, while I do not endorse the epistemological view foundationalism, I am committed to the view that many beliefs—specifically meta-ethics—rely on axioms which are often presupposed without warrant/justification. So, in this essay I want to do three things. First, I want to give concrete examples of axioms in logic and metaphysics to show how axioms often work. Secondly, I want to show why the axioms matter and how they can be problematic for philosophical systems of thought. Thirdly, I want to show that ethical views are—ontologically—fraught with axioms and why making them explicit is truth-conducive and helpful in reconsidering beliefs based on the foundations upon which they’re built. [2] Ultimately, I want to make clear the truth-aptness of true axioms and why they matter for philosophical viewpoints—especially in meta-ethics. [3]

[1] The word ‘axiom’ as I am using it is synonymous with ‘presupposition’. The reason I prefer ‘axiom’ is because of its mathematical application and connotation. Mathematically, if a certain axiom holds (say, the Peano axioms), then what follows holds i.e., 2+2=4. But, with presuppositions, it is often the case that the presupposition and the view at hand are inconsistent (where with axioms this cannot occur because “everything follows from inconsistent axioms” (Alex Pruss)). Perhaps I am wrong on this point, but I still think the mathematical formalism of the term ‘axiom’ makes it clear(er) what I am talking about.

[2] As I wrote this sentence, I thought of Rene Descartes who tried to, instead of being skeptical about some beliefs, was skeptical about all beliefs. I do not endorse global skepticism nor any heavy-weight form of skepticism generally—otherwise I’d be skeptical of skepticism and thus not be a skeptic! Rather, my perspective here is that (often) the foundation F of some view V is such that if F is false V is also false. Or, rather, if V is false, then if F asserts V, F is false. (This example only works for logically necessary entailments; often many beliefs are held without a prior presupposition i.e., properly basic beliefs). The point here is that many views are true/false iff the axioms are true/false.

[3] This essay might be summarized simply as follows: if a view is based upon something else, and that ‘something else’ is wrong, then the view is wrong. So, one must evaluate the ‘something else’ if the view is to be put through. (This does not work the other way around (p->q, q, p) since it would commit the fallacy—in propositional logic—of affirming the consequence).