Books & Bibliography
Nomy Arpaly (Princeton University Press: Jul 2006), 158 pages.
Perhaps everything we think, feel, and do is determined, and humans — like stones or clouds — are slaves to the laws of nature. Would that be a terrible state? Philosophers who take the incompatibilist position think so, arguing that a deterministic world would be one without moral responsibility and perhaps without true love, meaningful art, and real rationality. But compatibilists and semicompatibilists argue that determinism need not worry us. As long as our actions stem, in an appropriate way, from us, or respond in some way to reasons, our actions are meaningful and can be judged on their moral (or other) merit. In this highly original work, Nomy Arpaly argues that a deterministic world does not preclude moral responsibility, rationality, and love — in short, meaningful lives — but that there would still be something lamentable about a deterministic world. A person may respond well to reasons, and her actions may faithfully reflect her true self or values, but she may still feel that she is not free. Arpaly argues that compatibilists and semicompatibilists are wrong to dismiss this feeling — for which there are no philosophical consolations — as philosophically irrelevant. On the way to this bittersweet conclusion, Arpaly sets forth surprising theories about acting for reasons, the widely accepted idea that "ought implies can," moral blame, and more.
Wassily Kandinsky (MFA Publications: July 1, 2006), 192 pages.
Wassily Kandinsky was one of the most influential painters of the twentieth century, and this text, in which he laid out the tenets of painting as he saw them and made the case for nonobjective artistic forms, is universally recognized as an essential document of Modernist art theory. A brilliant philosophical treatise and an emphatic avant-garde tract, it provides the theoretical underpinnings for Kandinsky's own work and that of his associates in the Blaue Reiter movement. While Michael Sadlerís masterful translation has been available and authoritative since its original publication in 1914, what hasnít been published until now is the significant correspondence between the translator and the artist, who followed the progress of his bookís transformation closely, and who offered numerous insights into and explanations of its meanings. These letters, from the archives of Tate Britain, have here been appended to Kandinskyís text to provide the first comprehensively annotated edition of this seminal work. This volume, which supersedes any previous edition, includes the letters, Kandinskyís prefaces and prose poems relating to the period in which the book was written and Sadlerís selected writings on art. It is more than an expanded edition--it is a major event, the first full account of a remarkable literary collaboration.
Keith Ward (Oneworld Publications: June 2006), 224 pages.
In Pascal's Fire, Keith Ward reflects on the relationship between faith and the findings of modern science, treating topics such as — among others — chance and necessity, quantum physics and the mechanistic universe, the evolution of order in the universe, leading to life and ultimately to self-awareness and responsibility, the origin and future of the cosmos etc. The existence of an ultimate mind who chose to create a rationally intelligible universe which functions through laws that can be expressed in mathematical terms, but who also freely intervenes in the context of an otherwise autonomous progress of self-organisation of the universe, for which it was originally set up and by which it reaches goals of intrinsic value, are presented — and, in my view, convincingly so — as a rational and coherent explanation for the universe. In other words, the observation of the universe suggests such a mind. The argument progresses to show that this ultimate mind can also be viewed as personal, loving and compassionate, though in a way far beyond anthropomorphic projections. A purely scientific approach, however, is blind to the personal side of God, Ward argues — this is where personal experience, feeling and intuition come in, and may legitimately be taken seriously. All in all, Keith Ward's holistic approach, integrating faith and reason in his intellectual quest, is inspiring and reminded me of the "two wings" of faith and reason by which man strives toward the truth, of which John Paul II wrote. ~ Xiangmao at Amazon.com
Andrew Fisher and Simon Kirchin, eds. (Routledge: July 2006), 621 pages.
Arguing about Metaethics collects together some of the most exciting contemporary work in metaethics in one handy volume. In it, many of the most influential philosophers in the field discuss key questions in metaethics: Do moral properties exist? If they do, how do they fit into the world as science conceives it? If they don’t exist, then how should we understand moral thought and language? What is the relation between moral judgement and motivation? As well as these questions, this volume discusses a wide range of issues including moral objectivity, truth and moral judgements, moral psychology, thick evaluative concepts and moral relativism. The editors provide lucid introductions to each of the eleven themed sections in which they show how the debate lies and outline the arguments of the papers. Arguing about Metaethics is an ideal resource text for students at upper undergraduate or postgraduate level.
Richard Dawkins (Oxford University Press: May 25, 2006), 384 pages.
Inheriting the mantle of revolutionary biologist from Darwin, Watson, and Crick, Richard Dawkins forced an enormous change in the way we see ourselves and the world with the publication of The Selfish Gene. Suppose, instead of thinking about organisms using genes to reproduce themselves, as we had since Mendel's work was rediscovered, we turn it around and imagine that "our" genes build and maintain us in order to make more genes. That simple reversal seems to answer many puzzlers which had stumped scientists for years, and we haven't thought of evolution in the same way since. Why are there miles and miles of "unused" DNA within each of our bodies? Why should a bee give up its own chance to reproduce to help raise her sisters and brothers? With a prophet's clarity, Dawkins told us the answers from the perspective of molecules competing for limited space and resources to produce more of their own kind. Drawing fascinating examples from every field of biology, he paved the way for a serious re-evaluation of evolution. He also introduced the concept of self-reproducing ideas, or memes, which (seemingly) use humans exclusively for their propagation. If we are puppets, he says, at least we can try to understand our strings. ~ Rob Lightner of Amazon.com
Jules Lubbock (Yale University Press: May 22, 2006), 358 pages.
Recounting the biblical stories through visual images was the most prestigious form of commission for a Renaissance artist. In this book, Jules Lubbock examines some of the most famous of these pictorial narratives by artists of the caliber of Giovanni Pisano, Duccio, Giotto, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello and Masaccio. He explains how these artists portrayed the major biblical events, such as: the Sacrifice of Isaac, the Annunciation, the Feast of Herod and the Trial and Passion of Jesus, so as to be easily recognizable and, at the same time, to capture our attention and imagination for long enough to enable us to search for deeper meanings. He provides evidence showing that the Church favoured the production of images that lent themselves to being read and interpreted in this way, and he describes the works themselves to demonstrate how the pleasurable activity of deciphering these meanings can work in practice. This fascinating book is richly illustrated, and many of it's photographs have been specially taken to show how the paintings and relief sculptures appear in the settings, for which they were originally designed. Seen from these viewpoints, they become more readily intelligible. Likewise, the starting point and the originality of Lubbock's interpretations lies in his accepting that these works of art were primarily designed to help people to reflect upon the ethical and religious significance of the biblical stories. The early Renaissance artists developed their highly innovative techniques to further these objectives, not as ends in themselves. Thus, the book aims to appeal to students, scholars and the general public, who are interested in Renaissance art and to those with a religious interest in biblical imagery.
Gary L. Drescher (MIT Press: May 2006), 363 pages.
In Good and Real, Gary Drescher examines a series of provocative paradoxes about consciousness, choice, ethics, quantum mechanics, and other topics, in an effort to reconcile a purely mechanical view of the universe with key aspects of our subjective impressions of our own existence. Many scientists suspect that the universe can ultimately be described by a simple (perhaps even deterministic) formalism; all that is real unfolds mechanically according to that formalism. But how, then, is it possible for us to be conscious, or to make genuine choices? And how can there be an ethical dimension to such choices? Drescher sketches computational models of consciousness, choice, and subjunctive reasoning—what would happen if this or that were to occur?—to show how such phenomena are compatible with a mechanical, even deterministic universe. Analyses of Newcomb's Problem (a paradox about choice) and the Prisoner's Dilemma (a paradox about self-interest vs. altruism, arguably reducible to Newcomb's Problem) help bring the problems and proposed solutions into focus. Regarding quantum mechanics, Drescher builds on Everett's relative-state formulation—but presenting a simplified formalism, accessible to laypersons—to argue that, contrary to some popular impressions, quantum mechanics is compatible with an objective, deterministic physical reality, and that there is no special connection between quantum phenomena and consciousness. In each of several disparate but intertwined topics ranging from physics to ethics, Drescher argues that a missing technical linchpin can make the quest for objectivity seem impossible, until the elusive technical fix is at hand. ~ Product Description
Philip Graham Ryken (P&R Publishing: May 2, 2006), 64 pages.
A small book on a big topic is a dangerous proposition. It may show disrespect for its subject by bragging that it can be read in a short time, such as Kant in 90 minutes. (Kant in 90 minutes is not Kant at all.) On the other hand, a short book can thoughtfully introduce a profound subject worthy of further consideration; it may be a primer. Art for God's Sake is a worthy primer; it addresses the relationship of Christian faith and art in the hope of helping Christians "recover the arts." Philip Graham Ryken, Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and the author of several previous books, including Written in Stone (an insightful study of the Decalogue), has in sixty-four pages outlined a biblical view of art's place in God's world. Ryken is moved by the plight of the Christian artist whose calling and work is misunderstood or rejected by the church. He realizes that Christians may be suspicious of art because of their concern for idolatry and their repulsion toward much of contemporary art, which has abandoned the ideal of beauty and revels in the bizarre, the transgressive, and the outright ugly. Ryken also laments that Christians too often reduce art to utilitarian and evangelistic purposes that fail to honor art as art. Further, Christians often laud art that does not take the brokenness of life east of Eden seriously. Quite frequently, Christian art is little more than pious kitsch, which he aptly describes as "tacky artwork of poor quality that appeals to low tastes". ~ Douglas Groothuis
W.C. Campbell-Jack, Gavin J. McGrath, C. Stephen Evans, eds. (InterVarsity : April 30, 2006), 779 pages.
The New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics is a must-have resource for professors and students, pastors and laypersons — in short, for any Christian who wishes to understand or develop a rational explanation of the Christian faith in the context of today's complex and ever-changing world. Packed with hundreds of articles that cover the key topics, historic figures and contemporary global issues relating to the study and practice of Christian apologetics, this handy one-volume resource will make an invaluable addition to any Christian library. Editors Gavin McGrath and W. C. Campbell-Jack, with consulting editor C. Stephen Evans, have divided the dictionary into two parts: Part one offers a series of introductory essays that set the framework for the dictionary. These essays examine the practice and importance of Christian apologetics in light of theological, historical and cultural concerns. Part two builds on these essays to present numerous alphabetized articles on individuals, ideas, movements and disciplines that are vital to a rational explanation of the Christian faith. Both essays and articles are written by leading Christian philosophers and theologians. Together, they form an indispensable resource for Christians living in today's pluralistic age.
John Brockman, ed. (Random House, Inc.: 2006), 272 pages.
Writer and editor Brockman (What We Believe but Cannot Prove), who publishes the online magazine Edge, has assembled sixteen short essays by prominent scientists on current thinking about evolution. A few of the contributors, such as Jerry A. Coyne and Daniel C. Dennett, use close readings of Intelligent Design (ID) advocates' claims to argue that ID is a political or ideological movement without scientific legitimacy. These arguments are concise and persuasive, if sometimes familiar; strong evidence and wide acceptance in the scientific community have made evolution central to biology and related branches. The most fresh and interesting essays essentially ignore ID to explore aspects of evolutionary biology, including paleontologist Tim D. White considering evidence for Homo sapiens' evolution, psychologist Steven Pinker on the compatibility of evolution and ethics, and geologist Scott D. Sampson proposing primary science education that links evolution and ecology. As a whole, this sampler makes a powerful cross-discipline case for teaching evolution as an accepted biological consensus-as opposed to "teaching the debate"-and offers glimpses into how the science behind the theory continues to evolve in a range of fields. ~ Publishers Weekly
N.T. Wright (HarperSanFrancisco: Mar. 14, 2006), 256 pages.
Why do we expect justice? Why do we crave spirituality? Why are we attracted to beauty? Why are relationships often so painful? And how will the world be made right? These are not simply perennial questions all generations must struggle with, but, according to N. T. Wright, are the very echoes of a voice we dimly perceive but deeply long to hear. In fact, these questions take us to the heart of who God is and what He wants from us. For two thousand years, Christianity has claimed to solve these mysteries, and this renowned biblical scholar and Anglican bishop shows that it still can today. Not since C. S. Lewis's classic summary of the faith, Mere Christianity, has such a wise and thorough scholar taken the time to explain to anyone who wants to know what Christianity really is and how it is practiced. Wright makes the case for Christian faith from the ground up, assuming that the reader has no knowledge of (and perhaps even some aversion to) religion in general and Christianity in particular. Simply Christian walks the reader through the Christian faith step by step and question by question. With simple yet exciting and accessible prose, Wright challenges skeptics by offering explanations for even the toughest doubt-filled dilemmas, leaving believers with a reason for renewed faith. For anyone who wants to travel beyond the controversies that can obscure what the Christian faith really stands for, this simple book is the perfect vehicle for that journey. ~ Product Description
James W. Sire (InterVarsity: Mar 2006), 205 pages.
You gave it your best shot. You made the best case you knew how, and your friend still wasn't persuaded to follow Christ. Why is it that solid, rational arguments for the Christian faith often fail? For over fifty years James Sire, noted author and public defender of the Christian faith, has asked himself that question. Sometimes, of course, the arguments themselves just aren't that good. How can we make them better? Sometimes the problem has to do with us and not the arguments. Our arrogance, aggressiveness or cleverness gets in the way, or we misread our audience. Sometimes the problem lies with the hearers. Their worldview or moral blindness keeps them from hearing and understanding the truth. With wisdom borne of both formal and informal experience, Sire grapples with these issues and offers practical insight into making a more persuasive case for Christ. Includes an annotated bibliography of resources for framing effective arguments. ~ Product Description
Richard Joyce (MIT Press: February 2006), 283 pages.
Moral thinking pervades our practical lives, but where did this way of thinking come from, and what purpose does it serve? Is it to be explained by environmental pressures on our ancestors a million years ago, or is it a cultural invention of more recent origin? In The Evolution of Morality, Richard Joyce takes up these controversial questions, finding that the evidence supports an innate basis to human morality. As a moral philosopher, Joyce is interested in whether any implications follow from this hypothesis. Might the fact that the human brain has been biologically prepared by natural selection to engage in moral judgment serve in some sense to vindicate this way of thinking — staving off the threat of moral skepticism, or even undergirding some version of moral realism? Or if morality has an adaptive explanation in genetic terms — if it is, as Joyce writes, "just something that helped our ancestors make more babies" — might such an explanation actually undermine morality's central role in our lives? He carefully examines both the evolutionary "vindication of morality" and the evolutionary "debunking of morality," considering the skeptical view more seriously than have others who have treated the subject. Interdisciplinary and combining the latest results from the empirical sciences with philosophical discussion, The Evolution of Morality is one of the few books in this area written from the perspective of moral philosophy. Concise and without technical jargon, the arguments are rigorous but accessible to readers from different academic backgrounds. Joyce discusses complex issues in plain language while advocating subtle and sometimes radical views. The Evolution of Morality lays the philosophical foundations for further research into the biological understanding of human morality. ~ Product Description
Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier, eds. (Prometheus Books: Feb 6, 2006), 432 pages.
A growing number of powerful arguments have been formulated by philosophers and logicians in recent years demonstrating that the existence of God is improbable. These arguments assume that God's existence is possible but argue that the weight of the empirical evidence is against God's actual existence. This unique anthology collects most of the important arguments for the improbability of God that have been published since the mid-1900s. The editors make each argument clear and accessible by providing a helpful summary. In addition, they arrange this diverse collection of arguments for the improbability of God into four thematic groups: Part 1 contains cosmological arguments based on the weight of the evidence relative to the origin of the universe; Part 2 presents teleological arguments based on the weight of the evidence relative to the order in the universe; Part 3 deals with inductive evil arguments based on the weight of the evidence relative to the widespread and horrendous evil in the world; and Part 4 contains nonbelief arguments based on the weight of the evidence relative to the widespread nonbelief or the reasonable nonbelief in the world. The list of distinguished authors includes William Rowe, Theodore Drange, Quentin Smith, Victor Stenger, J. L. Schellenberg, and Michael Martin, among others. With this new anthology as a companion to their earlier anthology, The Impossibility of God (2003), Martin and Monnier have created an indispensable resource in the philosophy of religion.
Alexander R. Pruss (Cambridge University Press: Mar 20, 2006), 350 pages.
The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) says that all contingent facts must have explanation. In this volume, the first on the topic in the English language in nearly half a century, Alexander Pruss examines the substantive philosophical issues raised by the Principle Reason. Discussing various forms of the PSR and selected historical episodes, from Parmenides, Leibnez, and Hume, Pruss defends the claim that every true contingent proposition must have an explanation against major objections, including Hume's imaginability argument and Peter van Inwagen's argument that the PSR entails modal fatalism. Pruss also provides a number of positive arguments for the PSR, based on considerations as different as the metaphysics of existence, counterfactuals and modality, negative explanations, and the everyday applicability of the PSR. Moreover, Pruss shows how the PSR would advance the discussion in a number of disparate fields, including meta-ethics and the philosophy of mathematics.
J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler (NavPress: Jan. 17, 2006), 224 pages.
Starting from the American "pursuit of happiness," Moreland (a philosophy professor at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University) and Issler (a Christian education and theology professor, also at Talbot) connect with a widely felt desire. Yet they immediately take readers into deeper reflection of the very content of the happiness we pursue, arguing that our consumerist culture has replaced the more satisfying content of true happiness with a poor substitute. Moving smoothly into a discussion of discipleship, they focus on spiritual disciplines as the key to true happiness in life. Subsequent chapters explore how the spiritual disciplines can be used to improve many areas of our lives–emotions, thoughts, risk taking and the development of a more mature faith during difficult times. They end with a convincing chapter on the importance of spiritual friendships. Although exploring some deep topics, this will still be accessible to most readers and very useful for study groups, particularly with the excellent discussion questions at the end of each chapter. The practical suggestions and creative exercises throughout will be particularly helpful for those new to spiritual disciplines. ~ Publishers Weekly
Sharon Crowley (University of Pittsburgh Press: Mar 2, 2006), 256 pages.
Examines how, in the current political climate, Americans find it difficult to discuss civic issues frankly and openly with one another. Because America is dominated by two powerful discourses — liberalism and Christian fundamentalism, each of which paints a very different picture of America and its citizens' responsibilities toward their country — there is little common ground, and hence Americans avoid disagreement for fear of giving offence. Sharon Crowley considers the ancient art of rhetoric as a solution to the problems of repetition and condemnation that pervade American public discourse. She investigates the cultural factors that lead to the formation of beliefs, and how beliefs can develop into densely articulated systems and political activism. Crowley examines numerous current issues and opposing views, and discusses the consequences to society when argumentative exchange does not occur. She underscores the urgency of developing a civil discourse, and through a review of historic rhetoric and its modern application, provides a foundation for such a discourse. ~ Product Description
James F. Sennet and Douglas Groothuis (InterVarsity Press: Nov 30, 2005), 336 pages.
The shadow of David Hume, the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher, has loomed large against all efforts to prove the existence of God from evidence in the natural world. Indeed from Hume's day to ours, the vast majority of philosophical attacks against the rationality of theism have borne an unmistakable Humean aroma. The last forty years, however, have been marked by a resurgence in Christian theism among philosophers, and the time has come for a thorough reassessment of the case for natural theology. James F. Sennett and Douglas Groothuis have assembled a distinguished team of philosophers to engage the task: Terence Penelhum, Todd M. Furman, Keith Yandell, Garrett J. DeWeese, Joshua Rasmussen, James D. Madden, Robin Collins, Paul Copan, Victor Reppert, J. P. Moreland and R. Douglas Geivett. Together this team makes vigorous individual and cumulative arguments that set Hume's attacks in fresh perspective and that offer new insights into the value of teleological, cosmological and ontological arguments for God's existence. ~ Product Description
Scott B. Rae (Zondervan Publishing House: December, 1995)
This Christian introduction to ethics familiarizes both seminary and secular university students with basic processes of ethical decision-making. Updated with a new chapter on the ethical issues involved in genetic technologies.
Hilary Putnam (Harvard University Press: November 2005), 176 pages.
In this brief book one of the most distinguished living American philosophers takes up the question of whether ethical judgments can properly be considered objective — a question that has vexed philosophers over the past century. Looking at the efforts of philosophers from the Enlightenment through the twentieth century, Putnam traces the ways in which ethical problems arise in a historical context. Hilary Putnam's central concern is ontology — indeed, the very idea of ontology as the division of philosophy concerned with what (ultimately) exists. Reviewing what he deems the disastrous consequences of ontology's influence on analytic philosophy — in particular, the contortions it imposes upon debates about the objective of ethical judgments — Putnam proposes abandoning the very idea of ontology. He argues persuasively that the attempt to provide an ontological explanation of the objectivity of either mathematics or ethics is, in fact, an attempt to provide justifications that are extraneous to mathematics and ethics — and is thus deeply misguided. ~ Product Description