Episode 045: What if God Were Really Bad?

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Here it is, the last podcast episode for 2011. This time I’m looking at “the “evil god challenge” as posed by Stephen Law in a fairly recent article by that name. Isn’t the evidence for a good God really no better or worse than the evidence that an evil god? In short, no. Here I explain why I think (as I suspect many may think) that the evil god challenges has major philosophical shortcomings, in spite of being an argument worthy of our attention.

 

Episode 044: What is Faith?

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This episode asks the question: “What is Faith”? Is it, as some maintain, just believing things for no good reason? When Christian thinkers over the years have spoken of having faith, what have they been talking about? Listen and find out!

At the end of this episode I ask listeners if they have any suggestions for scholars that I might interview in future episodes. Be sure to speak up if you have any ideas!

 

Episode 043: In Search of the Soul Revisited – Aristotle and Aquinas

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This episode is a very late addition to the series “In Search of the Soul,” looking at the various options that exist in philosophy of mind.

In the original five part series I was very conscious of the fact that I was leaving out the view of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, and this addendum is my penance for that fact. As promised in the episode, here are just a few suggestions for further reading, from authors who defend “hylemorphic dualism.”

David Oderberg, Real Essentialism

David Oderberg, “Hylemorphic Dualism” in Ellen Paul, Fred Miller and Jeffrey Paul (eds), Personal Identity

Edward Feser, Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner’s Guide

 

UPDATE: Here the whole series, now that it is complete: Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Revisited 

Episode 041: The Epistemological Objection to Divine Command Ethics

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In Episode 41, I address a common objection to divine command ethics: Does the fact that non-believers can still know moral truths and live moral lives somehow show that morality is not in any way grounded in God’s will or commands? Here I survey some crude versions of this argument and then offer some comments on a more recent presentation of the objection by Wes Morriston.

 

 

Episode 040: God and the Social Nature of Morality

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We’ve reached a milestone – 40 Episodes!

Episode 40 is an explanation of Robert Adams’ argument that the social nature of moral obligation supports the claim that morality is ultimately grounded in God.

 

 

Debate Review: William Lane Craig and Sam Harris

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On the evening of the 7th of April 2011 (the 8th of April here in New Zealand), Christian philosopher William Lane Craig debated Atheist author and speaker Sam Harris on the question Is Good from God? Brian Auten has made the mp3 audio of this debate available over at Apologetics 315.

What follows is my sketch of how the debate unfolded, along with my own analysis of the arguments used and how they contribute to an answer to the question in dispute. I emphasise that last aspect of my analysis, because It seemed to me that there was a tendency at points for comments and claims to be made which carried a certain degree of rhetorical flourish, but which, no matter how interesting they might be, drag the discussion off topic. This was the overriding impression that I got from much of what Dr Harris had to say in his rebuttal sections.

I won’t pretend that I don’t have a horse in this race. I have long believed that Harris is mistaken in his view that moral facts are simply scientific facts. His arguments in this debate, where they do address the subject of the debate, have been used before and carry all the same flaws that I have identified in the past. Conversely, I have long believed that William Lane Craig is largely correct in holding the position that he articulates in this debate (I say “largely” because I do have some foibles with one aspect of his position). Nonetheless, I self consciously try to advocate the positions that I do for good reasons, and I like to think that I advocate my position because of those reasons, rather than vice versa, and I have tried to evaluate the arguments used in this debate on the basis of the quality of the reasons that are given to accept them. The review is not intended to be in-depth. It is my assessment of how the debate went after listening to it twice (and replaying a few parts to make sure I understood what was being said). The review follows. Continue reading “Debate Review: William Lane Craig and Sam Harris”

Episode 039: Divine Command Ethics

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NOTE: In this episode I call it episode 40. It’s not. It’s episode 39.

The podcast is back. Actually, episode 39 was going to be on another topic, but then someone suggested this one to me, so as I already had a document called “episode 039” I called this “document 040.” And then when I started recording it I thought – “Hey, this is the 40th episode. Cool!” and I made a big deal of it in the recording. And then after I uploaded it I realised that since I skipped over the episode 39 that I’m writing, this isn’t really 40 at all, it’s episode 39! So that was an epic fail.

So no sooner do I release another podcast episode, I am making excuses for it! This episode is based on a lecture on divine command ethics that I gave a few years ago at the University of Otago. Enjoy!

 

Episode 037: Classical Liberalism and Natural Law

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This is the second time I have ever actually apologised for an episode. It’s long. It’s dry. You might fall asleep. I’m sorry. Go ahead and skip it. I would.

 

A simple explanation of the moral argument

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Recently there has been some discussion here about the moral argument for theism, with a couple of correspondents announcing with great certainty (but unfortunately little else) that the argument is just terrible. I beg to differ. Today I appeared on an episode of the Unbelievable? radio show, hosted by Justin Brierley (actually we did two shows), and the other guest was atheist Arif Ahmed.

I’ll have some more things to say about the show another time (these discussions always leave one wishing that more had been said, or “I wish I had thought of this reply at the time!”, plus there are the inevitable structures of the radio show itself). For now, however, I just want to present the version of the moral argument that I used. What follows is the “prepared” version, as though I were giving a presentation on the argument – a very simple presentation, intended for a radio audience consisting of laypeople. Of course, in a discussion style radio show it wasn’t presented as one continuous explanation like this, and plenty of parts were left out. Time is short on such occasions, so not everything gets said. But you get to read it anyway 🙂 Here it is: Continue reading “A simple explanation of the moral argument”

The Great Pumpkin Objection

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In the last podcast episode on Plantinga and properly basic beliefs, I briefly discussed the “Great Pumpkin Objection.” As it’s a subject worthy of a blog post of its own, and given that I know some people prefer things in writing, I thought I’d add a blog entry focused on that objection.

Alvin Plantinga has hammered out and defended the notion that if God (the Christian God that he believes in) really exists, then a Christian’s belief in God can be construed as properly basic. A properly basic belief is one that is rationally held and yet not derived from other beliefs that one holds (this is another way of saying that it is not justified by what is often called evidence). We hold many such beliefs, for example, the belief that the universe was not created just five minutes ago, any beliefs based on memory, belief that other minds exist, the belief that we are experiencing a certain colour, and so on. Set aside, for now, the fact that a lot of Christians think that they can produce decent evidence for the existence of God. Plantinga argued – successfully in my view – that even if that’s true, theism can be construed as properly basic and hence suitably justified even without such evidence. God created us in such a way that when we function properly we believe in him. The normal epistemic response to creation is to believe things like “God created this,” or more fundamentally, “God is real.” For more details, check out the podcast episode.

One bandwagon that anti-theists have jumped on is to claim that if theists can claim that their belief in God is basic, then just anybody at all can do this in regard to their belief in just anything. Here’s one popular version of that objection: In the comic strip Peanuts, the character Linus believes that there exists a Great Pumpkin who rises from the pumpkin patch every Halloween and rewards good children with presents. If Christians get to think that belief in God can be properly basic, then why couldn’t a person (like Linus) think that belief in the Great Pumpkin is properly basic, and so claim the right to believe it even though he cannot produce evidence for the belief’s truth? Continue reading “The Great Pumpkin Objection”