- Metaphysics (15) : What is Real
- Epistemology (81) : What and How We Know
- Faith & Reason (127) : Faith and/or Reason
- Truth? (44) : True vs. "true"
- Ethics (57) : Good & Evil, Right & Wrong
- Arts & Letters (62) : Art, Beauty, Interpretation
- Being Human (54) : The Human Condition
- Society & Culture (37) : Living Together
- Origins & Science (83)
- Worldviews (23) : Paradigms & Metanarrative
- God? (41) : God's Existence and Nature
- Jesus (62) : On the Person and Teachings
- Religion (41) : Religion Under the Lens
- Christianity (29) : Beliefs, Practices, History
Benedikt Paul Gocke, ed. (University of Notre Dame Press: Jun 15, 2012), 376 pages.
Although physicalism has been the dominant position in recent work in the philosophy of mind, this dominance has not prevented a small but growing number of philosophers from arguing that physicalism is untenable for several reasons: both ontologically and epistemologically it cannot reduce mentality to the realm of the physical, and its attempts to reduce subjectivity to objectivity have thoroughly failed. The contributors to After Physicalism provide powerful alternatives to the physicalist account of the human mind from a dualistic point of view and argue that the reductive and naturalistic paradigm in philosophy has lost its force. The essays in this collection all firmly engage in a priori metaphysics. Those by Uwe Meixner, E. J. Lowe, John Foster, Alvin Plantinga, and Richard Swinburne are concerned with ways to establish the truth of dualism. Essays by William Hasker, A. D. Smith, and Howard Robinson deal with the relation between physicalism and dualism. Benedikt Paul Göcke argues that the “I” is not a particular and Stephen Priest that “I have to understand myself not as a thing but as no-thing-ness.” In the final essay, Thomas Schärtl argues that there are limits to dualism as indicated by the concept of resurrection. By including two classical essays by Plantinga and Swinburne, the volume conveniently brings together some of the best and the newest thinking in making the philosophical case for dualism.
Richard Swinburne (Oxford University Press: Mar 1, 2013), 288 pages.
Mind, Brain, and Free Will presents a powerful new case for substance dualism (the idea that humans consist of two parts--body and soul) and for libertarian free will (that humans have some freedom to choose between alternatives, independently of the causes which influence them). Richard Swinburne argues that answers to questions about mind, body, and free will depend crucially on the answers to more general philosophical questions. He begins by analyzing the criteria for one event being the same as another, one substance being the same as another, and a state of affairs being metaphysically possible; and then goes on to analyze the criteria for a belief about these issues being justified. Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them. Swinburne claims that no result from neuroscience or any other science could show that interaction does not take place; and illustrates this claim by showing that recent scientific work (such as Libet's experiments) has no tendency whatever to show that our intentions do not cause brain events. He goes on to argue for agent causation, and claims that — to speak precisely — it is we, and not our intentions, that cause our brain events. It is metaphysically possible that each of us could acquire a new brain or continue to exist without a brain; and so we are essentially souls. Brain events and conscious events are so different from each other that it would not be possible to establish a scientific theory which would predict what each of us would do in situations of moral conflict. Hence given a crucial epistemological principle (the Principle of Credulity) we should believe that things are as they seem to be: that we make choices independently of the causes which influence us. According to Swinburne's lucid and ambitious account, it follows that we are morally responsible for our actions.
Charles Taliaferro, Victoria Harrison, and Stewart Goetz, eds. (Routledge: Sep 25, 2012), 752 pages.
There are deep and pervasive disagreements today in universities and colleges, and popular culture in general, over the credibility and value of belief in God. This has given rise to an urgent need for a balanced, comprehensive, accessible resource book that can inform the public and scholarly debate over theism. While scholars with as diverse interests as Daniel Dennett, Terry Eagleton, Richard Dawkins, Jürgen Habermas, and Rowan Williams have recently contributed books to this debate, "theism" as a concept remains poorly understood and requires a more thorough and systematic analysis than it has so far received in any single volume. The Routledge Companion to Theism addresses this need by investigating theism's history as well as its relationship to inquiry in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and to its wider cultural contexts. The contents are not confined within the philosophy of religion or even within the more expansive borders of philosophy. Rather, The Routledge Companion to Theism investigates its subject through the lens of a wide variety of disciplines and explores the ramifications of theism considered as a way of life as well as an intellectual conviction. The five parts of the volume indicate its inclusive scope: I. What is Theism?; II. Theism and Inquiry; III. Theism and the Socio-Political Realm; IV. Theism and Culture; V. Theism as a Way of Life. The result is a well ordered and thorough collection that should provide a wide spectrum of readers with a better understanding of a subject that's much discussed, but frequently misunderstood. As the editors note in their Introduction, while stimulating and informing the contemporary debate, a key aim of the volume is to open new avenues of inquiry into theism and thereby to encourage further research into this vital topic. Comprised of 54 essays by leading scholars in philosophy, history, theology, religious studies, political science, education and sociology, The Routledge Companion to Theism promises to be the most useful, comprehensive resource on an emerging subject of interest for students and scholars.
Mark Galli on Being Sick or Dead said...
"The Troubled State of Christian Preaching", ChristianityToday.com (Jan 21, 2013).
In the New Testament era, by contrast, the big problem was the scandal of the Cross. It's not hard to see why. Among the many things the Cross says is this: We're as dead as Jesus. He hangs there as the true human, the sign of all humanity, dead to the world, dead to the future, and especially dead to God, who it seems has forsaken us. The situation is so bad that only the sacrifice of Another—again Jesus, who hangs there as true God — can remedy it. For people like us, who imagine we're not so much dead as suffering a cold, and that if we take our vitamin C and will ourselves out of bed, we can make a go of it — well, this verdict can sound unnerving. Worse, to be told we can do nothing to revive ourselves, that we are left completely at the mercy of this Other—well, this doesn't sit well in any culture, let alone in a culture that prizes individual initiative and heroic effort.
Religion and Philosophy in Germany (1834), quoted in Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2010: Thomas Nelson), p. 115.
Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. This talisman is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals. ... Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder ... comes rolling somewhat slowly, but .. its crash ... will be unlike anything before in the history of the world. [W]hen you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world's history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.
Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (May 2012, interviewed 1995), 1:08 mark.
Ask yourself, "What is a hippie?" I mean, this is an old word that has a lot of connotations. Remember, the sixties happened in the early seventies. That's sort of when I came of age. So I saw a lot of this. A lot of it happened right in our backyard here. To me, the spark of that was that there was something beyond what you see every day. There is something going on here in life beyond just a job and a family and two cars in the garage and a career. There is something more going on. There is another side of the coin, that we don't talk about much. We experience it when there are gaps. When everything is not ordered and perfect, when there's a gap, you experience this inrush of something. And a lot of people have set off throughout history to find out what that was. Whether it's Thoreau, whether it's some Indian mystics, or whoever it might be. The hippie movement got a little bit of that and wanted to find out what that was. And of course the pendulum swung too far the other way and it was crazy, but there was a germ of something there.
Michael I. Meyerson (Yale University Press: June 2012), 384 pages.
The debate over the framers’ concept of freedom of religion has become heated and divisive. This scrupulously researched book sets aside the half-truths, omissions, and partisan arguments, and instead focuses on the actual writings and actions of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and others. Legal scholar Michael I. Meyerson investigates how the framers of the Constitution envisioned religious freedom and how they intended it to operate in the new republic. Endowed by Our Creator shows that the framers understood that the American government should not acknowledge religion in a way that favors any particular creed or denomination. Nevertheless, the framers believed that religion could instill virtue and help to unify a diverse nation. They created a spiritual public vocabulary, one that could communicate to all — including agnostics and atheists — that they were valued members of the political community. Through their writings and their decisions, the framers affirmed that respect for religious differences is a fundamental American value. Now it is for us, Meyerson concludes, to determine whether religion will be used to alienate and divide or to inspire and unify our religiously diverse nation.
"Believe It or Not", in First Things (May 2010).
To use a feeble analogy, it is rather like asserting that it is inadequate to say that light is the cause of illumination because one is then obliged to say what it is that illuminates the light, and so on ad infinitum. The most venerable metaphysical claims about God do not simply shift priority from one kind of thing (say, a teacup or the universe) to another thing that just happens to be much bigger and come much earlier (some discrete, very large gentleman who preexists teacups and universes alike). These claims start, rather, from the fairly elementary observation that nothing contingent, composite, finite, temporal, complex, and mutable can account for its own existence, and that even an infinite series of such things can never be the source or ground of its own being, but must depend on some source of actuality beyond itself. Thus, abstracting from the universal conditions of contingency, one very well may (and perhaps must) conclude that all things are sustained in being by an absolute plenitude of actuality, whose very essence is being as such: not a “supreme being,” not another thing within or alongside the universe, but the infinite act of being itself, the one eternal and transcendent source of all existence and knowledge, in which all finite being participates.
"Steve Taylor on Blue Like Jazz and Christian Art", Interview by Josh Larsen at thinkchristian.net (April 12, 2012).
A lot of the church’s art in the last 50 years has become very sentimental and very earnest. And of course there’s nothing wrong with being earnest, but I don’t see that as a particularly Biblical way of communicating. We certainly don’t see that in the stories of the parables of Christ and even in the Old Testament prophets and how they communicated. … I don’t know what it is. It’s almost like … we’re defenders of the faith, like Christianity is going to come falling down unless we’re careful with how we present it. That’s not really how it works, you know? In fact, that’s really kind of arrogant. So yeah, we can afford to create movies that ask questions and certainly don’t have all the answers and use satire and all the different communication tools at our disposal.
Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, eds. (B&H Academic: April 1, 2012), 336 pages.
Come Let Us Reason is the third book in a series on modern Christian apologetics that began with the popular Passionate Conviction and Contending with Christianity’s Critics. The nineteen essays here raise classical philosophical questions in fresh ways, address contemporary challenges for the church, and will deepen the thinking of the next generation of apologists. Packed with dynamic topical discussions and informed by the latest scholarship, the book’s major sections are: Apologetics, Culture, and the Kingdom of God; The God Question; The Gospels and the Historical Jesus; Ancient Israel and Other Religions; Christian Uniqueness and the World’s Religions. Contributors include J. P. Moreland (“Four Degrees of Postmodernism”), William Lane Craig (“Objections So Bad That I Couldn’t Have Made Them Up”), Gary R. Habermas (“How to Respond When God Gives You the Silent Treatment”), Craig Keener (“Gospel Truth: The Historical Reliability of the Gospels”), and Paul Copan (“Does the Old Testament Endorse Slavery?”).
Where the Conflict Really Lies : Science, Religion, and Naturalism (2011-10-26: Oxford University Press), Preface.
Naturalism is what we could call a worldview, a sort of total way of looking at ourselves and our world. It isn’t clearly a religion: the term "religion" is vague, and naturalism falls into the vague area of its application. Still, naturalism plays many of the same roles as a religion. In particular, it gives answers to the great human questions: Is there such a person as God? How should we live? Can we look forward to life after death? What is our place in the universe? How are we related to other creatures? Naturalism gives answers here: there is no God, and it makes no sense to hope for life after death. As to our place in the grand scheme of things, we human beings are just another animal with a peculiar way of making a living. Naturalism isn’t clearly a religion; but since it plays some of the same roles as a religion, we could properly call it a quasi-religion.
Julian Simon (Wiley Blackwell: Jun 3, 2008), 704 pages.
This book provides a comprehensive and balanced assessment of the state of the Earth and its inhabitants at the close of the twentieth century. More than fifty scholars from all over the world present new, concise and accessible accounts of the present state of humanity and the prospects for its social and natural environment. The subjects range from deforestation, water pollution and ozone layer depletion to poverty, homelessness, mortality and murder. Each contributor considers the present situation, historical trends, likely future prospects, and the efficacy or otherwise of current activity and policy. The coverage is worldwide, with a particular emphasis on North America. The State of Humanity is a magnificent and eye-opening synthesis of cultural, social, economic and environmental perspectives. It will interest all those - including geographers, economists, sociologists and policy makers - concerned to understand some of the most pressing problems of our time.
Michael W. Austin and Douglas Geivett, eds. (Eerdmans: Dec. 20, 2011), 296 pages.
In this volume university professors — experts in theology and philosophy — explore what Being Good looks like on a practical level. Coming from a distinctively Christian perspective, the authors all believe that every Christian should try to embody the moral and intellectual virtues that Christ alone perfectly displayed. The chapters — on faith, open-mindedness, wisdom, zeal, hope, contentment, courage, love, compassion, forgiveness, and humility — include several discussion questions. Contributors: Michael W. Austin, Jason Baehr, Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, R. Douglas Geivett, David A. Horner, William C. Mattison III, Paul K. Moser, Andrew Pinsent, Steve L. Porter, James S. Spiegel, Charles Taliaferro, David R. Turner.
Douglas Coupland on Emoticons said...
Microserfs (HarperCollins: 2008), p. 127.
Mom wrote this one, saying, "They're called emoticons — I read about them in USA Today. They're like sideways happy faces." We all ganged up on her: "We hate those things!" Everyone except for Bug who, as it turns out, loves them. And then Susan 'fessed up that she liked some of them. And then Todd. And then Karla. I guess emoticons are like Baywatch — everyone says they don't watch it, but they really do.
Darrell Huff (Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc: Oct 28, 1993; orig. 1954), 142 pages.
There is terror in numbers," writes Darrell Huff in How to Lie with Statistics. And nowhere does this terror translate to blind acceptance of authority more than in the slippery world of averages, correlations, graphs, and trends. Huff sought to break through "the daze that follows the collision of statistics with the human mind" with this slim volume, first published in 1954. The book remains relevant as a wake-up call for people unaccustomed to examining the endless flow of numbers pouring from Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and everywhere else someone has an axe to grind, a point to prove, or a product to sell. "The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify," warns Huff. Although many of the examples used in the book are charmingly dated, the cautions are timeless. Statistics are rife with opportunities for misuse, from "gee-whiz graphs" that add nonexistent drama to trends, to "results" detached from their method and meaning, to statistics' ultimate bugaboo — faulty cause-and-effect reasoning. Huff's tone is tolerant and amused, but no-nonsense. Like a lecturing father, he expects you to learn something useful from the book, and start applying it every day. Never be a sucker again, he cries! "Even if you can't find a source of demonstrable bias, allow yourself some degree of skepticism about the results as long as there is a possibility of bias somewhere. There always is." Read How to Lie with Statistics. Whether you encounter statistics at work, at school, or in advertising, you'll remember its simple lessons. Don't be terrorized by numbers, Huff implores. "The fact is that, despite its mathematical base, statistics is as much an art as it is a science." ~ Therese Littleton
Alvin Plantinga (Oxford University Press: Dec 9, 2011), 376 pages.
This book is a long-awaited major statement by a pre-eminent analytic philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, on one of our biggest debates — the compatibility of science and religion. The last twenty years has seen a cottage industry of books on this divide, but with little consensus emerging. Plantinga, as a top philosopher but also a proponent of the rationality of religious belief, has a unique contribution to make. His theme in this short book is that the conflict between science and theistic religion is actually superficial, and that at a deeper level they are in concord. Plantinga examines where this conflict is supposed to exist — evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion — as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. Plantinga makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science. On the other hand, science can actually offer support to theistic doctrines, and Plantinga uses the notion of biological and cosmological "fine-tuning" in support of this idea. Plantinga argues that we might think about arguments in science and religion in a new way — as different forms of discourse that try to persuade people to look at questions from a perspective such that they can see that something is true. In this way, there is a deep and massive consonance between theism and the scientific enterprise. ~ Book Description
John Stott on Basic Christianity said...
Basic Christianity (InterVarsity Press: 2005; First Edition, 1958), pp. 10-12
Our starting point is the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth. He certainly existed. There is no reasonable doubt about that. His historicity is vouched for by pagan as well as Christian writers. ¶ He was also very much a human being, whatever else may be said about him. He was born, he grew, he worked and sweated, rested and slept, he ate and drank, suffered and died like other men. He had a real human body and real human emotions. ¶ But can we really believe that he was also in some sense "God"? Is not the deity of Jesus a rather picturesque Christian superstition? Is there any evidence for the amazing Christian assertion that the carpenter of Nazareth was the unique Son of God? ¶ This question is fundamental. We cannot dodge it. We must be honest. If Jesus was not God in human flesh, Christianity is exploded. We are left with just another religion with some beautiful ideas and noble ethics; its unique distinction has gone. ¶ But there is evidence for the deity of Jesus — good, strong, historical, cumulative evidence; evidence to which an honest person can subscribe without committing intellectual suicide. There are the extravagant claims which Jesus made for himself, so bold and yet so unassuming. Then there is his incomparable character. His strength and gentleness, his uncompromising righteousness and tender compassion, his care for children and his love for outcasts, his self-mastery and self-sacrifice have won the admiration of the world. What is more, his cruel death was not the end of him. It is claimed that he rose again from death, and the circumstantial evidence for his resurrection is most compelling. ¶ Supposing Jesus was the Son of God, is basic Christianity merely an acceptance of this fact? No. Once persuaded of the deity of his person, we must examine the nature of his work. What did he come to do? The biblical answer is, he "came into the world to save sinners." Jesus of Nazareth is the heavensent Savior we sinners need. We need to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with the all-holy God, from whom our sins have separated us. We need to be set free from our selfishness and given strength to live up to our ideals. We need to learn to love one another, friend and foe alike. This is the meaning of "salvation." This is what Christ came to win for us by his death and resurrection. ¶ Then is basic Christianity the belief that Jesus is the Son of God who came to be the Savior of the world? No, it is not even that. To assent to his divine person, to acknowledge man's need of salvation, and to believe in Christ's saving work are not enough. Christianity is not just a creed; it involves action. Our intellectual belief may be beyond criticism; but we have to translate our beliefs into deeds. ¶ What must we do, then? We must commit ourselves, heart and mind, soul and will, home and life, personally and unreservedly to Jesus Christ. We must humble ourselves before him. We must trust in him as our Savior and submit to him as our Lord; and then go on to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible citizens in the community. ¶ Such is basic Christianity...
"An American Myth" in The Democracy of the Constitution: And Other Addresses and Essays (C. Scribner: 1915), pp. 208-9.
Every one who has studied history is familiar with the myths which crowd its pages. I do not mean by this the frankly mythical tales which tell of gods and goddesses, of the divine founders of nations, tribes, and families, or those in which the Middle Ages delighted and which were replete with angels and devils, with witches and sorcerers, with magic and miracles. The myths to which I refer are those which masquerade as history, which are moden as well as ancient, which make no pretence to the supernatural, but which, being either pure invention or a huge growth from some little seed of fact, possess all the characteristics of their great namesakes which have rejoiced the world for centuries, awakened almost every emotion of which the human heart is capable, and from which the historian and the man of science have been able to learn innumerable lessons as to the toughs and beliefs, the hopes and fears, of primitive man. These historical myths grow up silently. Some of them reign for centuries. Modern research has exposed many of ancient lineage and long acceptance, has torn away the mask and revealed them in their true character. Yet the historical myth rarely dies. No exposure seems able to kill it. Expelled from every book of authority, from every dictionary and encyclopedia, it will still live on among the great mass of humanity. The reason for this tenacity of life is not far to seek. The myth, or the tradition, as it is sometimes called, has necessarily a touch of the imagination, and imagination is almost always more fascinating than truth. The historical myth, indeed, would not exist at all if it did not profess to tell something which people for one reason or another, like to believe, and which appeals strongly to some emotion or passion, and so to human nature.
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