The universe has a personal cause, since God created the universe and God is personal. But does the “principle of determination” demonstrate that the cause of the big bang must be personal, or must we rely on other reasons for maintaining this? I’m currently (although tentatively) inclined towards the latter. Continue reading “Does the principle of determination show that the universe had a personal cause?”
Richard Dawkins isn’t stupid. He’s a bright spark. This makes me think that his muddle-headedness about arguments for God’s existence can’t be written off as a dullard’s inability to understand. The confusion must surely be an intentional tactic to confuse matters, giving his fans the impression that arguments for God’s existence are just a bit of a mess. The (possibly kinder) alternative is that Dawkins exhibits an inexcusable laziness and hubris, pontificating about arguments that he has never taken the time to understand because he just knows that religious beliefs are a load of nonsense.
At a public event to discuss his recent book about himself this month, Dr Dawkins was asked what he considers to be the best argument for God’s existence. Naturally, he prefaced his answer with a reminder that he doesn’t believe in God or that there are any good arguments for God’s existence. But if pressed for the best argument out there, here is what he says:
If I reject the argument from consciousness for dualism, do I also have to reject the kalam cosmological argument?
As I have noted elsewhere at the blog and in the podcast series called “In Search of the Soul” back in 2009, some dualists say that materialism (the view that we are material creatures without an immaterial soul added) has a problem because materialists cannot explain conscious experience. How can matter be “aware”? In reply, I have said that if the argument is driven by the fact that materialism lacks an explanatory account of how consciousness arises, then dualism should be rejected too, because it doesn’t have an explanatory account of how consciousness arises either. Saying that we have a soul does not explain how consciousness arises. In fact we should reject all philosophies of mind! But they can’t all be false, since here we are with minds! Since the objection proves too much, it must prove nothing at all. We don’t have to know how a view of human nature offers an explanatory account of consciousness in order for it to be true after all. (As an aside, a dualist might opt for the line of argument that there is no explanation, consciousness is just a brute fact of what souls are like. If this is the way to go, then he surrenders his argument about explanatory accounts.)
But when I first decided that this was the case, a parallel issue and potential problem occurred to me, and today my friend Hugh raised it. Curses, I was hoping nobody would spot this! (I jest.) The parallel issue is this: Does this mean we have to reject the kalam cosmological argument? How is this a parallel issue? In the following way: The kalam cosmological argument is that since whatever begins to exist must have a cause and the universe began to exist, it follows that the universe has a cause. The universe, so the argument goes, cannot be self-caused since this is incoherent. Rather, the cause of the universe is God, who brought the universe into being out of nothing. Continue reading “The Argument from Consciousness and the Kalam: An interesting parallel”
A few years ago my article “The Epistemological Objection to Divine Command Ethics” was published. In it, I address a particular objection to a divine command theory of ethics. That objection is as follows: If the property of being morally required is the same as the property of being commanded by God, then people who do not believe in God cannot know that they have moral obligations, since they do not know that they have been commanded by God. But it’s part of the nature of moral obligations that people understand why they have them. So let’s reject a divine command theory of ethics. An epistemological argument is one that is concerned with what a person knows (or whether or not they can know something) and how they know it. In the process of making the argument I name a few philosophers who have made variants of this argument, but I focus mostly on Wes Morriston’s argument due to its detail and care.1
I don’t think this argument is compelling and in the article I explain why. Rather than rehearse the arguments here, I invite the reader to read the article.
One of my favourite atheist writers on meta-ethics and all-round nice guy, Erik Wielenberg alleges that I miss the point of Morriston’s argument (so much for being a nice guy, jerk). He says that I miss the point of Morriston’s argument, “mistakenly construing Morriston’s argument as an epistemological objection to divine command theory.”2 Really, says Wielenberg, Morriston does not offer an epistemological objection, but a metaphysical objection according to which reasonable non-believers would not even have moral obligations if a divine command theory were correct. Continue reading “Erik Wielenberg on the Epistemological Objection to a Divine Command Theory”
- Wes Morriston, “The Moral Obligations of Reasonable Non-believers: A special problem for divine command metaethics,” International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 65 (2009), 1-10. [↩]
- Wielenberg, Robust Ethics: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Godless Normative Realism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 79. [↩]
If you’re a Christian, you should hold a divine command theory of ethics, and I’m going to tell you why.
As I’ve indicated before, I hold a Divine Command Theory of ethics. That’s the view (or family of views) in which what is right or wrong is what God commands (or forbids). I hold it tentatively in that I don’t think I have anything personally invested in holding this view. I don’t have to hold this view and I really would give it up if I thought the objections to it were any good. As best I can tell, they are not. I’m going to commit the philosophical sin of peering into other people’s motives, but I think that most non-religious criticisms of divine command ethics are really motivated by the critics’ rejection of religious beliefs, and since a divine command theory involves religious beliefs, it must be false (in the critic’s view). Continue reading “Why a Christian should accept a Divine Command Theory, part 1”
Occasionally, when somebody first hears about divine command ethics (the view that what is right or wrong is what God commands or forbids), the response is one of incredulity: “What? You believe THAT?! So if God commanded you to kill that person over there, you would do it? Really?” And right there, whether the critic realises it or not, there is almost certainly a double standard at work. Read on to see why.
This is the first in a new category of blog – Q and A. Every now and then I get an email or a message via Facebook with a question related to something that somebody has just read at the blog or in an article, or heard in a podcast episode – or maybe just a question out of the blue about an issue in theology, philosophy or biblical studies. I haven’t answered every such question and I can’t do so in future either – not because I don’t appreciate being asked, but sometimes I’ve got a pile of emails sitting there and I just can’t justify replying to all of them, nor could I necessarily do so even if I tried. I’m really sorry if you’re one of those people who I haven’t replied to. This is what I do in my spare time.
The Q and A category is one of the avenues I’m going to use to reply to some of these questions as best I can, albeit briefly. I especially welcome questions that are related to material in the blog or podcast, or material that I’ve had published somewhere. That’s just because I’m more likely to be able to answer the question if it’s in a subject I’ve dealt with before. But I’m open to any questions you have. At least every two weeks (maybe more often, depending on what time allows) I’ll publish one of those questions at the blog in the Q and A category along with my response. You can view previous Q and A blog entries by viewing the Q and A subject in the Subject drop down box over on the right, or by clicking on the Q and A button.
I don’t promise to be able to respond to every email (in fact I can promise that I won’t), but we’ll see how this goes!
The very first question in this series comes from Paulo in Indiana.
“I wonder, what is your view on privation theories of evil? Do you see certain limitations or weaknesses in these types of explanations?”
Thanks for the question Paulo. Talk about starting with a big one! A really satisfying answer to this would require a book length response (and I’m sure I will find myself saying this in reply to a lot of questions), but here are some summary thoughts. Continue reading “Q and A 01: The privation view of evil”
What do we mean when we say that God is good? If I’m right, we shouldn’t mean that God is morally good.
In Episode 46 of the podcast, I explain why it’s best not to think of God as morally good, and why it’s also best to maintain a clear distinction between moral and non-moral goodness, and in doing so deflate some objections to divine command ethics.