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Philosophy

Paul Johnson on the Humbling Lessons of History

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The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false. It is sobering, too, to find huge and frightening errors constantly repeated; lesson painfully learnt forgotten in the space of a generation; and the accumulated wisdom of the past heedlessly ignored in every society, and at all times.

Simon Critchley on Progress in Philosophy

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People often wonder why there appears to be no progress in philosophy, unlike in natural science, and why it is that after some three millenniums of philosophical activity no dramatic changes seem to have been made to the questions philosophers ask. The reason is because people keep asking the same questions and perplexed by the same difficulties. Wittgenstein puts the point rather directly: “Philosophy hasn’t made any progress? If somebody scratches the spot where he has an itch, do we have to see some progress?” Philosophy scratches at the various itches we have, not in order that we might find some cure for what ails us, but in order to scratch in the right place and begin to understand why we engage in such apparently irritating activity. Philosophy is not Neosporin. It is not some healing balm. It is an irritant, which is why Socrates described himself as a gadfly.

Patrick J. Deneen on the Presuppositions of a Great Books Education

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Books were understood to be a storehouse of wisdom from the past, a treasury and repository of hard-won experience and knowledge of these limits. What these books taught was itself a justification for an education centered around them. Because the present and future were believed to be fundamentally identical to the past, the past was understood to be a source of wisdom about our condition as humans in a world that we do not command. An education in great books was itself a consequence of a philosophical worldview, and not merely an education from which we derived a worldview (much less sought an education in critical thinking).

Rowan Williams on Self-Defeating Determinism

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A determinist theory of human utterance has to be expressed in words; and such a theory amounts to saying that one group of noises (this particular theory) is and one group of noises isn’t reflective of what processes outside the self are ‘like’. The noises by which we purport to construct a comprehensive picture of causal necessity are saved from the bonfire which consumes the claims of all other utterances to show a state of affairs truthfully — whereas, in strict consistency, these noises would be as susceptible as any others to an analysis that correlated them with causal factors beyond themselves. It is the central and vitiating Cretan paradox of determinism — that I should have to be obliged to say that everything is determined, while necessarily implying thereby that nothing I say can be relied on to reflect extra-mental truth. If it is true that all my utterances are determined in a way that denies any connection between what I say and what is the case, at least one must also be truthful — that all my utterances are determined. And any supportive arguments for the truth of that utterance must likewise be exempted from the overall disconnection, if the claim is not to be wholly arbitrary. to five reasons for believing determinism is true is to undermine determinism. To articulate the evidence is to relativize it, because to assume that the noises I make in defending determinism have the property of causing you to believe it, or even disposing you to believe it, is manifestly unfounded, and dangerously near to being a flat contradiction of the warning not to assume that a state of belief can be caused by anything except a set of immediate physical causes.

The Possibility of Theological Statements

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Christianity, as a human activity, involves much more than simply believing certain propositions about matters of fact, such as that there is a God, that He created this world, that He is our judge. But it does involve believing these things, and this believing is, in a sense, fundamental; not that it matters more than the other things that a Christian does, but that it is presupposed in the other things that he does, or in the manner in which he does them. This is a fact, but it is in some ways an awkward fact, and for many years some theologians have tried to sidestep it. It is an awkward fact because, for example, if one professes certain beliefs, it seems that one ought to be willing to offer some kind of grounds for them. Yet we all know that it is difficult, and some think it is impious, to offer adequate grounds for the faith. Again — a requirement which has become more prominent with recent developments in philosophy — if one professes certain beliefs it seems that one ought to be willing to map out, roughly at any rate, the extent of the claims one is making by saying what is compatible and what is incompatible with them; and that again, in the case of religious beliefs, is something which is difficult to do, for reasons which will be considered in this chapter. Therefore some theologians have tried to sidestep these problems by denying that the Christian religion involves anything that may fairly be called factual beliefs about a transcendent being. That, it is said, is metaphysics , and religion has no interest in metaphysics. A simple-minded move, that has had its devotees, consists in saying that we do not believe that there is a God; we believe in God. More sophisticated apologists have urged that credal affirmations may, without significant loss, be treated as equivalent to recommendations of the behaviour and attitudes that are agreed on all hands to be their proper corollaries. ‘There is a God’ thus becomes equivalent, or nearly equivalent, to something like: ‘Treat all men as brothers, and revere the mystery of the universe.’ Beliefs are said to be merely the expression — the somewhat misleading expression — of an attitude of worship. ¶ But, in spite of the piety and wisdom of those who have been seduced by them, these expedients must be denounced as evasions. The distinction between believing that and believing in is, of course, valid; but it does not help us, for believing in is logically subsequent to believing that.

E. J. Lowe on Progress in Metaphysics and Philosophy

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There is a widespread assumption amongst non-philosophers, which is shared by a good many practising philosophers too, that ‘progress’ is never really made in philosophy, and above all in metaphysics. In this respect, philosophy is often compared, for the most part unfavourably, with the empirical sciences, and especially the natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry and biology. Sometimes, philosophy is defended on the grounds that to deplore the lack of ‘progress’ in it is to misconceive its central aim, which is to challenge and criticise received ideas and assumptions rather than to advance positive theses. But this defence itself is liable to be attacked by the practitioners of other disciplines as unwarranted special pleading on the part of philosophers, whose comparative lack of expertise in other disciplines, it will be said, ill-equips them to play the role of all-purpose intellectual critic. It is sometimes even urged that philosophy is now ‘dead’, the relic of a pre-scientific age whose useful functions, such as they were, have been taken over at last by genuine sciences. What were once ‘philosophical’ questions have now been transmuted, allegedly, into questions for more specialised modes of scientific inquiry, with their own distinctive methodological principles and theoretical foundations.

Stamatios Gerogiorgakis on Philosophy of Religion Traveling Widely

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Let me draw a parallel with aviation: future philosophers of religion take off, like all philosophers, by studying a wide variety of subjects from metaphysics to political philosophy, from epistemology to aesthetics, from ethics to philosophy of science. ¶ It is not in terms of taking off where philosophers of religion differ from their other colleagues in the discipline. It is rather in terms of landing. After studying metaphysics and ethics and epistemology etc. those who intend to land a career in philosophy of religion have to realize that the landing spot is too small. The horror disappears once they look to their right and to their left: the landing corridor is only a few yards “long”, but it is also several miles “broad”. In other words, philosophy of religion is no compact area in philosophy but rather a narrow path which goes through all areas of philosophy: from metaphysics to ethics and political philosophy and from epistemology and philosophy of science to aesthetics.

Michael Ruse on Good and Bad Arguments

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I won’t say I accept the ontological argument for the existence of God — the argument that derives God’s existence from his essence — but I do like it (it is so clever) and I am prepared to stand up for it when Dawkins dismisses it with scorn rather than good reasons. In part this is a turf war. I am a professional philosopher. I admire immensely thinkers like Anselm and Descartes and am proud to be one of them, however minor and inadequate in comparison. I am standing up for my own. In part, this is political. Religion is a big thing in America, and often not a very good big thing. I don’t think you are going to counter the bad just by going over the top, like in the Battle of the Somme. I think you have to reach out over no-man’s land to the trenches on the other side and see where we can agree and hope to move forward. ¶ I should say that my Quaker childhood — as in everything I do and think — is tremendously important here. I grew up surrounded by gentle, loving (and very intelligent) Christians. I never forget that. Finally, I just don’t like bad arguments.

David Baggett on Philosophy of Religion

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Philosophy should not rest content with merely verbal squabbles, technical debates among specialists, or games of intellectual gymnastics. Whether there’s a God, what God’s like if there is one, whether life persists beyond the grave, what life’s meaning is if one there be—these are the questions that often spur people to pursue the study of philosophy in the first place, and philosophy of religion indulges the chance to explore them. ¶ The questions are engaging even to children, but the difference between a child asking such questions and a philosopher is that the philosopher, in an effort to honor the wide-eyed childlike wonder of it all, has developed tools, strategies, and resources to answer such questions—or at least inch, however incrementally, toward answers. Philosophers do so by refining the questions themselves, ruling out certain answers, defending other answers against objections, revealing how various answers produce yet new questions. In the process they subject various proposals to critical scrutiny every step of the way, separating the wheat from the chaff, in an effort to make progress. It’s exploration predicated on assuming that reason and rationality, properly exercised, make for progress.

Debating Christian Theism

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Comprising groundbreaking dialogues by many of the most prominent scholars in Christian apologetics and the philosophy of religion, this volume offers a definitive treatment of central questions of Christian faith. The essays are ecumenical and broadly Christian, in the spirit of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and feature lucid and up-to-date material designed to engage readers in contemporary theistic and Christian issues. Beginning with dialogues about God’s existence and the coherence of theism and then moving beyond generic theism to address significant debates over such specifically Christian doctrines as the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus, Debating Christian Theism provides an ideal starting point for anyone seeking to understand the current debates in Christian theology. ~ Publisher’s Description

Probability in the Philosophy of Religion

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Probability theory promises to deliver an exact and unified foundation for inquiry in epistemology and philosophy of science. But philosophy of religion is also fertile ground for the application of probabilistic thinking. This volume presents original contributions from twelve contemporary researchers, both established and emerging, to offer a representative sample of the work currently being carried out in this potentially rich field of inquiry. Grouped into five parts, the chapters span a broad range of traditional issues in religious epistemology. The first three parts discuss the evidential impact of various considerations that have been brought to bear on the question of the existence of God. These include witness reports of the occurrence of miraculous events, the existence of complex biological adaptations, the apparent ‘fine-tuning’ for life of various physical constants and the existence of seemingly unnecessary evil. The fourth part addresses a number of issues raised by Pascal’s famous pragmatic argument for theistic belief. A final part offers probabilistic perspectives on the rationality of faith and the epistemic significance of religious disagreement.

Evidence for God

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There have always been challenges to belief in God as he is revealed in the Bible and each new year seems to add more questions to the doubter’s arsenal. In Evidence for God, leading apologists provide compelling arguments that address the most pressing questions of the day about God, science, Jesus, the Bible, and more, including: Is Intelligent Design really a credible explanation of the origins of our world? Did Jesus really exist? Is Jesus really the only way to God? What about those who have never heard the gospel? Is the Bible today what was originally written? What about recently publicized gospels that aren’t in the Bible? and much more. ~ Publisher’s Description

The Cambridge Companion to Christian Philosophical Theology

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This Companion offers an up-to-date overview of the beliefs, doctrines, and practices of the key philosophical concepts at the heart of Christian theology. The sixteen chapters, commissioned specially for this volume, are written by an internationally recognized team of scholars and examine topics such as the Trinity, God’s necessary existence, simplicity, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, goodness, eternity and providence, the incarnation, resurrection, atonement, sin and salvation, the problem of evil, church rites, revelation and miracles, prayer, and the afterlife. Written in non-technical, accessible language, they not only offer a synthesis of scholarship on these topics but also suggest questions and topics for further investigation. ~ Product Description

The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology

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Philosophical theology is aimed primarily at theoretical understanding of the nature and attributes of God and of God’s relationship to the world and its inhabitants. During the twentieth century, much of the philosophical community (both in the Anglo-American analytic tradition and in Continental circles) had grave doubts about our ability to attain any such understanding. In recent years the analytic tradition in particular has moved beyond the biases that placed obstacles in the way of the pursuing questions located on the interface of philosophy and religion. The result has been a rebirth of serious, widely-discussed work in philosophical theology. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology attempts both to familiarize readers with the directions in which this scholarship has gone and to pursue the discussion into hitherto under-examined areas. Written by some of the leading scholars in the field, the essays in the Handbook are grouped in five sections. In the first (“Theological Prolegomena”), articles focus on the authority of scripture and tradition, on the nature and mechanisms of divine revelation, on the relation between religion and science, and on theology and mystery. The next section (“Divine Attributes”) focuses on philosophical problems connected with the central divine attributes: aseity, omnipotence, omniscience, and the like. In Section Three (“God and Creation”), essays explore theories of divine action and divine providence, questions about petitionary prayer, problems about divine authority and God’s relationship to morality and moral standards, and various formulations of and responses to the problem of evil. The fourth section (“Topics inChristian Philosophy”) examines philosophical problems that arise in connection with such central Christian doctrines as the trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, original sin, resurrection, and the Eucharist. Finally, Section Five (“Non-Christian Philosophical Theology”) introduces readers to work that is being done in Jewish, Islamic, and Chinese philosophical theology. ~ Product Description

When Athens Met Jerusalem

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Christian theology shaped and is shaping many places in the world, but it was the Greeks who originally gave a philosophic language to Christianity. John Mark Reynolds’s book When Athens Met Jerusalem provides students a well-informed introduction to the intellectual underpinnings (Greek, Roman and Christian) of Western civilization and highlights how certain current intellectual trends are now eroding those very foundations. This work makes a powerful contribution to the ongoing faith versus reason debate, showing that these two dimensions of human knowing are not diametrically opposed, but work together under the direction of revelation. ~ Product Description

The Love of Wisdom

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Philosophy is defined as the love of wisdom, and college students will certainly admire this Bible-informed introductory level textbook’s fun approach to an often heady subject. The Love of Wisdom is made distinct in its engaging style that includes humor and copious popular culture illustrations to heighten reader interest and clarify important concepts. The book even addresses two key topics often omitted by other texts: political philosophy and aesthetics (beauty and the arts). Students and teachers can also make great use of the study questions for each chapter, a glossary of terms, and further reading suggestions. ~ From the Publisher

Introducing Philosophy of Religion

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Does God exist? What about evil and suffering? How does faith relate to science? Is there life after death? These questions fascinate everyone and lie at the heart of philosophy of religion. Chad Meister offers an up-to-date introduction to the field, focussing not only on traditional debates but also on contemporary concepts such as the intelligent creator. Key topics, such as divine reality and the self and religious experience, are discussed in relation to different faiths. The wealth of textbook features, including tables of essential information, questions for reflection, summaries, glossary and recommendations for further reading make the book ideal for student use. Along with its accompanying Reader, this is the perfect introductory package for undergraduate philosophy of religion courses. ~ Product Description

Craig and Moreland on the Renaissance of Christian Philosophy

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The collapse of positivism and its attendant verification principle of meaning was undoubtedly the most important philosophical event of the twentieth century. Their demise heralded a resurgence of metaphysics, along with other traditional problems of philosophy that verificationism had suppressed. Accompanying this resurgence has come something new and altogether unanticipated: a renaissance in Christian philosophy. The face of Anglo-American philosophy has been transformed as a result. Theism is on the rise; atheism is on the decline. Atheism, although perhaps still the dominant viewpoint at the American university, is a philosophy in retreat.

Thomas Nagel on Cosmic Reconciliation

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Analytic philosophy as a historical movement has not done much to provide an alternative to the consolations of religion. This is sometimes made a cause for reproach, and for unfavorable comparisons with the continental tradition of the twentieth century, which did not shirk that task. That is one of the reasons that continental philosophy has been better received by the general public: It at least tries to provide nourishment for the soul, the job by which philosophy is supposed to earn its keep. ¶ Analytic philosophers usually rebuff the complaint by pointing out that their concerns are continuous with the central occupations of Western philosophy from Parmenides onward: metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and ethical theory. Those topics have been pursued in a great tradition of works that are often technical and difficult, and that are not intended for a broad audience. The aim of that tradition is understanding, not edification.

Jesus and Philosophy

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What, if anything, does Jesus of Nazareth have to do with philosophy? This question motivates this collection of new essays from leading theologians, philosophers, and biblical scholars. Part I portrays Jesus in his first-century intellectual and historical context, attending to intellectual influences and contributions and contemporaneous similar patterns of thought. Part II examines how Jesus influenced two of the most prominent medieval philosophers. It considers the seeming conceptual shift from Hebraic categories of thought to distinctively Greco-Roman ones in later Christian philosophers. Part III considers the significance of Jesus for some prominent contemporary philosophical topics, including epistemology and the meaning of life. The focus is not so much on how “Christianity” figures in such topics as on how Jesus makes distinctive contributions to such topics. ~ Product Description

God and the Philosophers

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This witty and learned exploration of the many views of the nature and existence of God, as expressed by the major philosophers of the Western world from the medieval period to the present day, is the last work of noted philosopher Paul Edwards. In his unique tradermark style, laced with erudition and acerbic humour, Edwards addresses how the concept of God has changed over the centuries, in large part due to the analyses of such sceptical thinkers as David Hume, Thomas Paine, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell. A long-time critic of theistic arguments, Edwards demonstrates a masterful understanding of the ways in which the scientific revolution of the 17th century, the Enlightenment of the 18th century, the evolutionary materialism of the 19th century, and the rise of analytic and existentialist philosophies in the 20th century prepared the way for the growing role of atheism in the 21st century.This work is a tour-de-force – a master storyteller’s idiosyncratic evaluation of the views of dozens of Western thinkers on perennial topics in the philosophy of religion. Though not all of the philosophers discussed were non-believers or anti-religious, they can be considered to be – like Edwards himself – ‘freethinkers’. They pursued the cause of knowledge wherever their thinking led them, often to iconoclastic positions. Editor Timothy Madigan, who gave Edwards thoughtful feedback over the years on various drafts of this work and complied it for publication after Edwards’ death, has written an appreciative and informative introduction. ~ Product Description

Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion

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Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion is a new annual volume offering a regular snapshot of state-of-the-art work in this longstanding area of philosophy that has seen an explosive growth of interest over the past half century. Under the guidance of a distinguished editorial board, it will publish exemplary papers in any area of philosophy of religion. ~ Product Description Jonathan L. Kvanvig is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University, having held positions previously at the University of Missouri, Texas A&M University and the University of Notre Dame. His research areas include metaphysics and epistemology as well as the philosophy of religion. He has published to date six books, including The Knowability Paradox (OUP, 2006) and The Problem of Hell (OUP, 1994).

The Open Secret

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Alister McGrath’s The Open Secret provides nothing less than the foundations of a vigorous renewal of natural theology for our time. Theologians and others who have considered natural theology an exhausted topic will have second thoughts after reading this richly nuanced, scholarly, creative, and enjoyable book.” ~ John F. Haught, Georgetown University • “This is vintage McGrath: confident, capacious in scope, brisk in exposition, decisive in argument. Noone is better placed to make a case for a revisionary theology of nature; this book is sure to command a wide audience and to generate profitable debate.” John Webster, King’s College, Aberdeen • “For much of the twentieth century natural theology was regarded as intellectually moribund and theologically suspect. In this splendid new book, best-selling author and distinguished theologian Alister McGrath issues a vigorous challenge to the old prejudices. Building on the foundation of the classical triad of truth, beauty and goodness, he constructs an impressive case for a new and revitalized natural theology. This is a well-conceived, timely, and thought-provoking volume.” Peter Harrison, Harris Manchester College, Oxford “The book is learned, covering a great deal of historical ground. ~ First Things

C.S. Lewis as Philosopher

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What did C. S. Lewis think about truth, goodness and beauty? Fifteen essays explore three major philosophical themes from the writings of Lewis: Truth, Goodness and Beauty. This volume provides a comprehensive overview of Lewis’s philosophical reflections on arguments for Christianity, the character of God, theodicy, moral goodness, heaven and hell, a theory of literature, and the place of the imagination. Contributors include Victor Reppert, Dave Horner, Peter Kreeft, Russell Howell, and Michael Peterson. “There are three things that will never die: truth, goodness, and beauty. These are the three things we all need, and need absolutely. Our minds want not only some truth and some falsehood, but all truth, without limit. Our wills want not only some good and some evil, but all good, without limit. Our desires, imaginations, feelings or hearts want not just some beauty and some ugliness, but all beauty, without limit.” ~ Peter Kreeft, chp. 1

Theism and Ultimate Explanation

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An expansive, yet succinct, analysis of the Philosophy of Religion – from metaphysics through theology. Organized into two sections, the text first examines truths concerning what is possible and what is necessary. These chapters lay the foundation for the book’s second part – the search for a metaphysical framework that permits the possibility of an ultimate explanation that is correct and complete. A cutting-edge scholarly work which engages with the traditional metaphysician’s quest for a true ultimate; explanation of the most general features of the world we inhabit; Develops an original view concerning the epistemology and metaphysics of modality, or truths concerning; what is possible or necessary; Applies this framework to a re-examination of the cosmological argument for theism; Defends a novel version of the Leibnizian cosmological argument. ~ Product Description