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Epistemology

The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology

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The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology contains nineteen previously unpublished chapters by today’s leading figures in the field. These chapters function not only as a survey of key areas, but as original scholarship on a range of vital topics. Written accessibly for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professional philosophers, the Handbook explains the main ideas and problems of contemporary epistemology while avoiding overly technical detail. “This is an extensive collection of well-chosen papers on a wide range of topics in current mainstream epistemology, all of which are written by international experts and published here for the first time. Most papers do not require any specialist knowledge in epistemology, although there are exceptions to this general rule. As my own teaching confirms, this book is ideal as an introductory text for a wide range of graduate students in epistemology, philosophy of science, and the epistemology of ethics.” ~ Erik J. Olsson, Theoria

Scientific Explanation and Religious Belief

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The science-and-religion dialogue has become an established part of the wider cultural conversation about the respective roles of science and religion within democratic societies. By reflecting on the matrix of science, religion and politics, this volume constitutes a major contribution to the science-and-religion dialogue. It is not only required reading for philosophers, scientists and theologians, but will be of interest to all those engaged in the larger cultural conversation about the relationship between science and religion. ~ Product Description

True to Life

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Why does truth matter, when politicians so easily sidestep it and intellectuals scorn it as irrelevant? Why be concerned over an abstract idea like truth when something that isn’t true — for example, a report of Iraq’s attempting to buy materials for nuclear weapons—gets the desired result — the invasion of Iraq? In this engaging and spirited book, Michael Lynch argues that truth does matter, in both our personal and political lives. Lynch explains that the growing cynicism over truth stems in large part from our confusion over what truth is. “We need to think our way past our confusion and shed our cynicism about the value of truth,” he writes. “Otherwise, we will be unable to act with integrity, to live authentically, and to speak truth to power.” True to Life defends four simple claims: that truth is objective; that it is good to believe what is true; that truth is a goal worthy of inquiry; and that truth can be worth caring about for its own sake—not just because it gets us other things we want. In defense of these “truisms about truth,” Lynch diagnoses the sources of our cynicism and argues that many contemporary theories of truth cannot adequately account for its value. He explains why we should care about truth, arguing that truth and its pursuit are part of living a happy life, important in our personal relationships and for our political values. ~ Product Description (Gold Award Winner for Philosophy in the 2004 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards)

Introspection Vindicated

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In a naive sense it seems that there could be nothing simpler than to "know thyself" yet a philosophical elucidation of the process by which one comes to know oneself is quite elusive. In this book Gregg Ten Elshof deals with the epistemology of introspection; whether and to what extent self-knowledge can appropriately be thought of as a species of perception. Assessing the suggestion that we, at least sometimes, come to acquire significant knowledge about ourselves, by observation, in very much the same way that we sometimes come to know things about the external world; this book explains the perceptual/observational model of introspection and contrasts it with its more prominent competitors. Ten Elshof examines in detail rival conceptions of the epistemology of self-knowledge such as those proposed by Searle, Dennett and Lyons yet concludes by insisting that the arguments levelled against the perceptual/observational view have not been decisive and that it deserves to be taken seriously as a viable competing model. ~ Product Description

John Courtney Murray on Holding Certain Truths

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The whole premise of the public argument, if it is to be civilized and civilizing, is that the consensus is real, that among the people everything is not in doubt, but that there is a core of agreement, accord, concurrence, acquiescence. We hold certain truths, therefore we can argue about them. It seems to have been one of the corruptions of intelligence by positivism to assume that argument ends when agreement is reached. In a basic sense the reverse is true. There can be no argument except on the premise, and within a context, of agreement. Mutatis mutandis, this is true of scientific, philosophical, and theological argument. It is no less true of political argument.

D. Z. Phillips on Theories of Everything

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What kind of theory is a theory about the structure of the world? If by “the world” one wants to mean “everything”, there is no such theory. Certainly, science has no such theory, nor could it have. “Everything” is not the name of one big thing or topic, and therefore, there can be no theory concerning a thing or topic of this kind. To speak of a thing is to acknowledge the existence of many things, since one can always be asked which thing one is referring to. Science is concerned with specific states of affairs, no matter how wide the scope of its questions may be. Whatever explanations it offers, further questions can be asked about them. It makes no sense to speak of a last answer in science, one that does not admit of any further questions. Science is not concerned with “the structure of the world”, and there are no scientific investigations which have this as their subject.

Jonah Goldberg on a Mysterious God

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So let me answer the question even though I find it distasteful. Yes, I believe in God. But I suppose I would emphasize my belief that He is a mysterious God — a very mysterious God — and that the best way we have to understand Him is through metaphors which we will, and almost always should, find wanting. God may be able to make a boulder too heavy for Him to lift, but even He couldn’t do better than “I am that I am.”/ “I am Who am.” Or He could, but we wouldn’t understand it.

A History of Half-Truths

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Jef Raskin, one of the originators of the Macintosh, writes an interesting lament at what often passes for the history of its development. “Holes in the Histories” is instructive for its catalogue of how the telling of history can be corrupted by the use of secondary sources, by oversimplification, by misrepresentation, by an affection for celebrity, by relying on appearances, and by a general lack of interest in the truth of the matter. Every day, each of us hears countless reports, studies, and comments about the way of things and Raskin’s article is a welcome reminder to be wary of taking such claims at face value. It is also a call to avoid such carelessness about truth in our own words. We are especially vulnerable to being taken in by fictions when we are inclined to agree with their source for other reasons. David C. Wise’s Creation/Evolution page (link expired) is a sobering account of ways in which the “Creation Science” movement has been incorrigibly guilty of many of the sins of scholarship that Raskin describes. For example, see his article “Moon Dust” (link expired).

Moral and Epistemic Virtues

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Whilst virtue ethics has long been a focus for discussion in moral philosophy, it is only recently that an analogue virtue-based theory has come to the fore in the field of epistemology. This volume brings together papers by some of the leading figures working on virtue-theoretic accounts in both ethics and epistemology, including Guy Axtell, Julia Driver, Antony Duff, Miranda Fricker, John Greco, Christopher Hookway, Michael Slote, Lawrence Solum and Linda Zagzebski. It is the first volume to combine papers on virtue ethics and virtue epistemology. This volume brings together papers by some of the leading figures working on virtue-theoretic accounts in both ethics and epistemology. A collection of cutting edge articles by leading figures in the field of virtue theory including Guy Axtell, Julia Driver, Antony Duff and Miranda Fricker. The first book to combine papers on both virtue ethics and virtue epistemology. Deals with key topics in recent epistemological and ethical debate. ~ Product Description

Anthony Kenny on Humility and Agnosticism

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Humility is a virtue which concerns one’s assessment of one’s own merits and defects in comparison with others. The virtues, as Aristotle taught us, concern particular passions; they assist reason to control these passions. The relevant passion in this quarter is the raging tempest of self-love: our inclination to overvalue our own gifts, overesteem our own opinions and place excessive importance on getting our own way. Humility is the virtue that counteracts this prejudice. It does so not by making the judgment that one’s own gifts are lesser than others, or that one’s own opinions are falser than others — for that, as St Thomas says, would often lead to falsehood. It does so, rather, by making the presumption that others’ talents are greater, others’ opinions more likely to be right. Like all presumptions, the presumption of humility is rebuttable; it may be that for a particular purpose one’s own gifts are more adapted than those of one’s neighbours; on a particular topic it may be that one is right and one’s neighbour wrong. But only by approaching each conflict of interest and opinion with this presumption can one hope to escape the myopia that magnifies everything to do with oneself by comparison with everything to do with others.

Richard Carrier on Logical Laws

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For logical laws are just like physical laws, because physical laws describe the way the universe works, and logical laws describe the way reason works — or, to avoid begging the question, logical laws describe the way a truth-finding machine works, in the very same way that the laws of aerodynamics describe the way a flying-machine works, or the laws of ballistics describe the way guns shoot their targets. The only difference between logical laws and physical laws is the fact that physical laws describe physics and logical laws describe logic. But that is a difference both trivial and obvious.

The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding

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Jonathan Kvanvig argues that epistemology cannot ignore the question of the value of knowledge. He also questions one of the most fundamental assumptions in epistemology, namely that knowledge is always more valuable than the value of its subparts.Taking Platos’ Meno as a starting point of his discussion, Kvanvig tackles the different arguments about the value of knowledge and comes to the conclusion that knowledge is less valuable than generally assumed. Clearly written and well argued, the book will appeal to students and professionals in epistemology.

Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview

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What is real? What is truth? What can we know? What should we believe? What should we do and why? Is there a God? Can we know him? Do Christian doctrines make sense? Can we believe in God in the face of evil? These are fundamental questions that any thinking person wants answers to. These are questions that philosophy addresses. And the answers we give to these kinds of questions serve as the foundation stones for constructing any kind of worldview. In Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig offer a comprehensive introduction to philosophy from a Christian perspective. In their broad sweep they seek to introduce readers to the principal subdisciplines of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, ethics and philosophy of religion. They do so with characteristic clarity and incisiveness. Arguments are clearly presented, and rival theories are presented with fairness and accuracy. Philosophy, they contend, aids Christians in the tasks of apologetics, polemics and systematic theology. It reflects our having been made in the image of God, helps us to extend biblical teaching into areas not expressly addressed in Scripture, facilitates the spiritual discipline of study, enhances the boldness and self-image of the Christian community, and is requisite to the essential task of integrating faith and learning. Here is a lively and thorough introduction to philosophy for all who want to know reality. ~ Synopsis

The Rationality of Theism

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This book is a collection of thirteen essays which, in one way or another, defend the thesis that a personal God exists. I disagree with the notion that these essays are “brand new” in that much of the material in several of the essays (e.g., Craig on the Kalam cosmological argument, Moreland on the argument from consciousness, and Collins on the teleological argument) has been published elsewhere, whether in books or academic philosophy journals. Thus, I think the description overly hypes the book. Moreover, given that an essay on aparticular topic will, pretty much necessarily, not approach the depth and rigor that a book-length treatment of a given topic would, there is a danger that a person who reads only these essays will be left with a more or less truncated picture of what a robust defense of theism on any particular front looks like. Again, the back cover statement that the book, “[aims] to offer comprehensive theistic replies to the traditional arguments against the existence of God…” seems a bit overblown. Nonetheless, this books makes an important contribution to the analytic philosophy of religion in at least two ways. First, it gives the reader a feel for what kinds of arguments for theism are currently being presented. Second, it benefits the non-expert in that it brings together under one cover a collection of material that would otherwise only be found by those already familiar with the relevant literature. Both of these are very good things, I think. ~ J. Wisdom at Amazon.com

Philosophy of Religion: Second Edition

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Is there any basis in reality for a religious experience? Is there any basis in reason for belief in God? Is it even possible to speak meaningfully of a transcendent being? And how does one account for evil? The authors answer these questions, representing the four most important issues in the philosophy of religion, in a comprehensive way and “form the perspective of classical theism.” They support this position with in-depth argumentation, taking into account both classical and contemporary writers. ~ Wipf and Stock

Donald W. Shriver, Jr. on America and Its Past

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Ominously for some Euro-Americans, analogous discussions are now gathering in the United States. We are not done with the evil legacy of Euro-American treatment of African slaves and native Indians. How a future-oriented culture such as America’s gets propelled into serious moral re-examination of the dark sides of its history is a subject worthy of much future consultation between historians, social scientists, and theological ethicists in America. Already the ferment of new visits to our own ignoble versions of administrative massacres may signal a new openness in our culture to hearing the simmering angry memories of those whose ancestors suffered those events. As he left Atlanta recently to return to South Africa, Desmond Tutu remarked, ‘The United States needs a truth and reconciliation commission.’ African Americans and Native Americans are likely to agree; but, as both the histories of trials and truth commissions described in this essay vividly suggests, every country, with its unique history, must craft its own unique way of reckoning with that history. No one measure will suffice for the making and remaking of a public conscience. Installing negative history in public memory is a multi-dimensional project that has to circle back again and again to old facts from new perspectives.

Donald W. Shriver, Jr. on Postmodern History

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Post-modernists know many ways to disparage and eliminate claims to truth in all of these dimensions. If history (as assessment of what actually happened) is infinitely malleable at the behest of the powerful, if moral suppositions about what histories are important to recover, are arbitrary, if personal experience has nothing to do with collective acknowledgment of truth, if human suffering is not accessible to moral judgement at the moment or post facto, and if the facts of history cannot be attributed in some tangible way to human agency, then both judicial institutions and truth commissions are philosophically illegitimate. Such illegitimacy would spell the demise of Christian ethics, of course, for the discipline, with Christian theology, has a stake in the truths of history, in vital distinctions between just and unjust suffering, and in the obligations which persons and societies owe to identify, curb, and remedy wrongs suffered by any of our neighbours.

Philosophical Skepticism: From Plato to Rorty

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Philosophical Skepticism provides a selection of texts drawn from the skeptical tradition of Western philosophy as well as texts written by opponents of skepticism. Taken together with the historical introduction by Landesman and Meeks, these texts clearly illustrate the profound influence that skeptical stances have had on the nature of philosophical inquiry. 1) Draws a selection of texts from the skeptical tradition of Western philosophy as well as texts written by opponents of skepticism. 2) Spans centuries of skeptical and anti-skeptical arguments, from Socrates to Rorty. 3) Includes essays by Plato, Cicero, Diogenes Laertius, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Russell, Quine, Nagel, and many others.

Why People Believe Weird Things

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In this age of supposed scientific enlightenment, many people still believe in mind reading, past-life regression theory, New Age hokum, and alien abduction. A no-holds-barred assault on popular superstitions and prejudices, with more than 80,000 copies in print, Why People Believe Weird Things debunks these nonsensical claims and explores the very human reasons people find otherworldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing. In an entirely new chapter, "Why Smart People Believe in Weird Things," Michael Shermer takes on science luminaries like physicist Frank Tippler and others, who hide their spiritual beliefs behind the trappings of science. Shermer, science historian and true crusader, also reveals the more dangerous side of such illogical thinking, including Holocaust denial, the recovered-memory movement, the satanic ritual abuse scare, and other modern crazes. Why People Believe Strange Things is an eye-opening resource for the most gullible among us and those who want to protect them. ~ Book Description

Human Knowledge

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Offering a unique and wide-ranging examination of the theory of knowledge, the new edition of this comprehensive collection deftly blends readings from the foremost classical sources with the work of important contemporary philosophical thinkers. Human Knowledge: Classical and Contemporary Approaches offers philosophical examinations of epistemology from ancient Greek and Roman philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Sextus Empiricus); medieval philosophy (Augustine, Aquinas); early modern philosophy (Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, Reid, Kant); classical pragmatism and Anglo-American empiricism (James, Russell, Ayer, Lewis, Carnap, Quine, Rorty); and other influential Anglo-American philosophers (Chisholm, Kripke, Moore, Wittgenstein, Strawson, Putnam). Organized chronologically and thematically, Human Knowledge features exceptionally broad coverage and nontechnical selections that are easily accessible to students. An ideal text for both undergraduate and graduate courses in epistemology, it is enhanced by the editors’ substantial general introduction, section overviews, and up-to-date bibliographies. The third edition offers expanded selections on contemporary epistemology and adds selections by Thomas Reid, Richard Rorty, David B. Annis, Richard Feldman and Earl Conee, Ernest Sosa, Barry Stroud, and Louise M. Antony. Human Knowledge offers an unparalleled introduction to our ancient struggle to understand our own intellectual experience. ~ Product Description

On Pascal

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On Pascal, like other titles in the Wadsworth Philosopher’s Series, offers a concise, yet comprehensive, introduction to this philosopher’s most important ideas. Presenting the most important insights of well over a hundred seminal philosophers in both the Eastern and Western traditions, the Wadsworth Philosophers Series contains volumes written by scholars noted for their excellence in teaching and for their well-versed comprehension of each featured philosopher’s major works and contributions. These titles have proven valuable in a number of ways. Serving as standalone texts when tackling a philosophers’ original sources or as helpful resources for focusing philosophy students’ engagements with these philosopher’s often conceptually daunting works, these titles have also gained extraordinary popularity with a lay readership and quite often serve as “refreshers” for philosophy instructors. ~ Publisher’s Description

Naturalism Defeated?

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Almost a decade ago, Alvin Plantinga articulated his bold and controversial evolutionary argument against naturalism. This intriguing line of argument raises issues of importance to epistemologists and to philosophers of mind, of religion, and of science. In this, the first book to address the ongoing debate, Plantinga presents his influential thesis and responds to critiques by distinguished philosophers from a variety of subfields. Plantinga’s argument is aimed at metaphysical naturalism or roughly the view that no supernatural beings exist. Naturalism is typically conjoined with evolution as an explanation of the existence and diversity of life. Plantinga’s claim is that one who holds to the truth of both naturalism and evolution is irrational in doing so. More specifically, because the probability that unguided evolution would have produced reliable cognitive faculties is either low or inscrutable, one who holds both naturalism and evolution acquires a "defeater" for every belief he/she holds, including the beliefs associated with naturalism and evolution. Following Plantinga’s brief summary of his thesis are eleven original pieces by his critics. The book concludes with a new essay by Plantinga in which he defends and extends his view that metaphysical naturalism is self-defeating. ~ Book Description

J. P. Moreland on Epistemological Particularism

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According to methodism, one must know how one knows before one can know and if one cannot answer the skeptical question of how one knows, then one is defeated by the skeptic. By contrast, epistemological particularism is the view that there are some particular items of knowledge (or justifiable belief) that one can know (justifiably believe) without knowing how one knows them, without the need for criteria for knowledge. According to the particularist, the skeptical question of how people know what they know is a heuristic guide for insight, for extending knowledge from clear paradigm cases to borderline cases. This is done by surfacing from clear cases certain criteria for knowledge (which are justified from prior knowledge of the clear cases and not vice versa), and employing these criteria to borderline cases in order to extend knowledge.