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3/08/2018 5:18 pm  #51


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

DanielCC wrote:

Two general points:

It seems clear that no one (least of all myself) in this thread is that interested in the problem of evil. This though is popularly considered one of the major justifications of atheism, even if - as I suspect - it’s post hoc.

The Logical Problem is not considered such a major issue any more (though Smith and others have presented important new variations) so the debate centred on the Probabilistic version and whether Sceptical Theism is an adequate solution. I’d be interested in people’s thoughts on this.

The other thing is that though the atheist ought to be seeking alternative explanations in non-theistic necessarily beings I suspect a significant number of them will attempt to well poison, by trying to keep up sceptical dirt and the loss of metaphysics or philosophy as an explanatory venture in general.

It's tricky but I think skeptical theism might work, though I find it deeply unsatisfying personally, perhaps because I've not found any theodicy especially compelling. Whatever the case, it's difficult to overcome the initial intuitive plausibility of the notion that at least some evils could be eliminated without losing a correlated greater good.

I think some arguments from divine hiddenness are interesting too, especially those that narrow the issue to 'reasonable unbelief' or w/e they call it.

 

3/08/2018 5:43 pm  #52


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

I agree (as I have said elsewhere) that the Problem of Evil ultimately boils down to a question about the PSR.

The absolute worst problem for theists, or at least classical theists, is the extrinsic properties objection to Divine Simplicity. Most responses just involve a hand waving invocation of ‘Cambridge Properties’, a which is fundamentally implausible, at least with the definitions currently accepted. The more in-depth one’s are honest that this will require a very externalist account of belief but unfortunately never get very far in spelling this out.

On the other hand I don’t agree that the renewed interest in the POE has came about as a result of forgetting ‘classical argument’ - rather it came about as a natural counter-point to the revival of philosophy of religion. Once it became apparent that there were indeed rational arguments for Theism atheists had to scramble for rational arguments against it. So when we got renewed versions of the old arguments for we also got renewed versions of the arguments against.

 

3/08/2018 7:03 pm  #53


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

DanielCC wrote:

I agree (as I have said elsewhere) that the Problem of Evil ultimately boils down to a question about the PSR.

The absolute worst problem for theists, or at least classical theists, is the extrinsic properties objection to Divine Simplicity. Most responses just involve a hand waving invocation of ‘Cambridge Properties’, a which is fundamentally implausible, at least with the definitions currently accepted. The more in-depth one’s are honest that this will require a very externalist account of belief but unfortunately never get very far in spelling this out.

On the other hand I don’t agree that the renewed interest in the POE has came about as a result of forgetting ‘classical argument’ - rather it came about as a natural counter-point to the revival of philosophy of religion. Once it became apparent that there were indeed rational arguments for Theism atheists had to scramble for rational arguments against it. So when we got renewed versions of the old arguments for we also got renewed versions of the arguments against.

 
When I mentioned the interest in POE I wasn't limiting it to the philosophy of religion. In this sense I think it has Received renewed interest because knowledge of classical arguments has declined. When POE was discussed in the past, it was generally not as an "argument for atheism" but more as a coherence issue for theism, or about specific attributes. For instance, the Socinians thought God was not omniscient because of it. Leibniz was arguing against such opinions, not "atheism". And that's because back then the existence of God was typically not called into question; this only started happening rather recently, because (at least in academia, I believe) people have lost contact with natural theology and atheism came to be seen as a viable candidate.

There has been a revival of natural theology in the philosophy of religion; many of the classical arguments have been defended again, or modified and presented in different versions; new arguments have been made. This put pressure on atheists. The problem is that this revival has never left the philosophy of religion; ask your typical analytical philosopher who works only with ethics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, language, etc. and they're very likely to dismiss God as a ridiculous idea, in complete ignorance of natural theology and also the more recent developments.

     Thread Starter
 

3/08/2018 11:15 pm  #54


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

If the theist has good, independent arguments for equating God with goodness then I don't think the PoE even gets off the ground. The atheist is then in the position of suggesting the greatest isn't good enough. I think he'd then need a very good argument for why the existence of evil, or any particular evil, is incompatible with God's existence for the theist to take him seriously. And I don't think these exist.

Also, if we assume the position that our realm of being, what the Platonists call the corporeal world, is by its nature a world of generation and corruption, and we assume evil is the privatisation of the good, it seems a little silly to me to ask why one particular act of suffering couldn't be averted. It is in the nature of the corporeal that things live and die, grow and decacy, if God intervenes to stop bambi getting eaten one time, then why not the next? And the next? But going down that road would eventually take away the whole possibility of corporeal existence. If our world is ultimately good, as surely the classical theist thinks, both because he equates goodness and being and likely because he does think there is more beauty, goodness, and worth in it than their opposites, then the PoE surely can't touch him.

And let's not forget that, at least for the Platonically inclined classical theist, it isn't as if corporeal existence exhausts creation, far from it. Our world is but, metaphorically speaking, a miniscule part of created existence. There are ideal or angelic, imaginal or psychic realms that, metaphorically dwarf our world, and in all (or almost all) of these, privatisation does not lead not equal suffering.

 

3/08/2018 11:33 pm  #55


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

DanielCC wrote:

The absolute worst problem for theists, or at least classical theists, is the extrinsic properties objection to Divine Simplicity. Most responses just involve a hand waving invocation of ‘Cambridge Properties’, a which is fundamentally implausible, at least with the definitions currently accepted. The more in-depth one’s are honest that this will require a very externalist account of belief but unfortunately never get very far in spelling this out.

Hmmm. Do most academic classical-theist philosophers of religion respond to the extrinsic properties objection by invoking Cambridge properties, or are you thinking just of me frequently bringing Cambridge properties up on this forum (citing Barry Miller, who gets the notion of Cambridge change from Peter Geach)?

I've been 'round and 'round with John West and others on the topic. My discussions could hardly be called hand-waving, especially relative to the rest of the "online philosophy discussion" genre; much less Miller's. We usually get around to an externalist account of belief and agency. I am not sure why this'd be thought the "absolute worst" problem for classical theism. It's not as though the classical theist is forced into an uncomfortable dilemma. It's not as though he's changing his view; it is easy to translate Aquinas into this idiom. The classical theist bit all of the bullets before the objection was even formulated with the neat name "extrinsic properties objection". If experience serves, the objector will eventually come to say that he just can't accept an external account of beliefs, to which the classical theist is free to shrug; he was not claiming that it had motivation independent of natural-theological considerations, anyway.

(Part of what would go toward making the reply seem less obscure would be having an account of analogy. I think it'd be more accurate that the most serious problem for the classical theist is to have an account of analogy sufficiently developed that it doesn't just seem like a goalpost-moving scheme. But I find it difficult to see how the force of the extrinsic properties objection does not simply reduce to that.)

 

3/09/2018 4:38 am  #56


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

Greg wrote:

DanielCC wrote:

The absolute worst problem for theists, or at least classical theists, is the extrinsic properties objection to Divine Simplicity. Most responses just involve a hand waving invocation of ‘Cambridge Properties’, a which is fundamentally implausible, at least with the definitions currently accepted. The more in-depth one’s are honest that this will require a very externalist account of belief but unfortunately never get very far in spelling this out.

Hmmm. Do most academic classical-theist philosophers of religion respond to the extrinsic properties objection by invoking Cambridge properties, or are you thinking just of me frequently bringing Cambridge properties up on this forum (citing Barry Miller, who gets the notion of Cambridge change from Peter Geach)?

I've been 'round and 'round with John West and others on the topic. My discussions could hardly be called hand-waving, especially relative to the rest of the "online philosophy discussion" genre; much less Miller's. We usually get around to an externalist account of belief and agency. I am not sure why this'd be thought the "absolute worst" problem for classical theism. It's not as though the classical theist is forced into an uncomfortable dilemma. It's not as though he's changing his view; it is easy to translate Aquinas into this idiom. The classical theist bit all of the bullets before the objection was even formulated with the neat name "extrinsic properties objection". If experience serves, the objector will eventually come to say that he just can't accept an external account of beliefs, to which the classical theist is free to shrug; he was not claiming that it had motivation independent of natural-theological considerations, anyway.

(Part of what would go toward making the reply seem less obscure would be having an account of analogy. I think it'd be more accurate that the most serious problem for the classical theist is to have an account of analogy sufficiently developed that it doesn't just seem like a goalpost-moving scheme. But I find it difficult to see how the force of the extrinsic properties objection does not simply reduce to that.)

Greg, in all honesty I did not even remember those debates. The ‘hand waving’ accusation was against the likes of Feser and Davies.

I am not convinced by Miller in general though (again if classical Theism requires the Thomist Real Distinction let along the Analogical theory of language then we are in trouble). If anything I think the answer lies in a different; probably weaker theory of Simplicity.

It may be that divine beliefs are just different to our beliefs, something that would be unsatisfying but epistemically possible. An advanced account of what externalism about beliefs amounts to is required however (if ‘Cambridge properties’ commits one to such a substantial thesis theists should be made aware of it what it entails).

 

3/09/2018 11:06 am  #57


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

DanielCC wrote:

I am not convinced by Miller in general though (again if classical Theism requires the Thomist Real Distinction let along the Analogical theory of language then we are in trouble). If anything I think the answer lies in a different; probably weaker theory of Simplicity.

Miller-in-general and Miller-on-Cambridge-properties are two distinct things.

I don't have a determinate theory of analogy, but I don't mind being committed to it, since I think something like analogical predication is essential for the philosophy of language generally. Or, at least, what seem to be reasons for objecting to analogy would seem also to be reasons for objecting to the general messiness of ordinary language, which is inescapable but also benign.

DanielCC wrote:

It may be that divine beliefs are just different to our beliefs, something that would be unsatisfying but epistemically possible. An advanced account of what externalism about beliefs amounts to is required however (if ‘Cambridge properties’ commits one to such a substantial thesis theists should be made aware of it what it entails).

I suppose I am not sure what you're looking for. Divine beliefs are different from our beliefs.

Presumably, for instance, even a weakened divine simplicity will hold that God is changeless, but even that requires that God's beliefs are just different from our beliefs. For the notion of a human belief is the notion of a capacity. You can have a belief without any occurrent mental activity, though the capacity underwrites the belief's being entertained and expressed when it is. But God's beliefs about creation presumably have to do with his eternally thinking about creation. It is not open to say that God's beliefs are capacities but always expressed. For the expression of a belief in thought or talk is not itself the belief; I believe the Eiffel Tower is in France, but my calling that to mind is not the belief. (This is shown by the nonsensical character of sentences like "He is believing/knowing that the Eiffel Tower is in France".)

 

3/09/2018 12:23 pm  #58


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

DanielCC wrote:

I am not convinced by Miller in general though (again if classical Theism requires the Thomist Real Distinction let along the Analogical theory of language then we are in trouble). If anything I think the answer lies in a different; probably weaker theory of Simplicity.

As I argued elsewhere [1], the Real Distinction is required to give an explanation of the Incarnation/Hypostatic Union at the philosophical level. In contrast, according to the account by Scotus, who denies the Real Distinction, it sounds as if the Word assuming a human nature amounts to His declaration: "From now on, this human nature is Mine.", whereas the Word "giving up" or "laying aside" an assumed human nature would amount to His declaration: "From now on, this human nature is no longer Mine."

I recently commented on this issue in probably the best Scotist blog, "The Smithy". The reply from the blogger shows that I'm not the only one who has noticed this [2]:

Lee Faber wrote:

This issue has come up in the comments on this blog several times in the past, often in conjunction with Cross' interpretation. I also receive private emails on the topic from time to time.

So, if you want to go from mere theism to Christianity, the Real Distinction may indeed be required.

DanielCC wrote:

It may be that divine beliefs are just different to our beliefs, something that would be unsatisfying but epistemically possible. An advanced account of what externalism about beliefs amounts to is required however (if ‘Cambridge properties’ commits one to such a substantial thesis theists should be made aware of it what it entails).

Doesn't the very notion of divine beliefs pressupose open theism? Because in classical theism God knows, for every possible universe, all possibilities and "facts" (= facts if the respective possible universe is created). Talking about divine beliefs in classical theism just does not make sense. Consider e.g. this passage by Alexander Pruss [3]:

Alexander Pruss wrote:

The last problem is what God believes differs between possible worlds: in one world he believes that there are horses and in another that there are no horses. But it seems that believing that p is an intrinsic property of the believer, and hence again that God has a contingent intrinsic property.

The correct statement is: God knows that in possible universe U1 there cannot be horses (because of U1's physical laws and constants), that in possible universe U2 there can but will not be horses (because evolution in U2 follows another path), and that in possible universe U3 there can and will be horses. God decides to create U3.


[1] http://classicaltheism.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?pid=7606#p7606

[2] http://lyfaber.blogspot.com/2018/01/pini-edition-of-scotus-metaphysis.html

[3] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9a64/1ddae015c3541007886355744198ac6bd486.pdf

 

3/09/2018 9:58 pm  #59


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

Playing off the contingent truths / divine simplicity issue, are there any solid solutions to the prima facie problem between God's simplicity, necessary existence, and (for the libertarian) contingent choice?

 

3/09/2018 11:34 pm  #60


Re: Is there any hope for atheism as a philosophical position?

Johannes wrote:

DanielCC wrote:

It may be that divine beliefs are just different to our beliefs, something that would be unsatisfying but epistemically possible. An advanced account of what externalism about beliefs amounts to is required however (if ‘Cambridge properties’ commits one to such a substantial thesis theists should be made aware of it what it entails).

Doesn't the very notion of divine beliefs pressupose open theism? Because in classical theism God knows, for every possible universe, all possibilities and "facts" (= facts if the respective possible universe is created). Talking about divine beliefs in classical theism just does not make sense. Consider e.g. this passage by Alexander Pruss [3]:

Alexander Pruss wrote:

The last problem is what God believes differs between possible worlds: in one world he believes that there are horses and in another that there are no horses. But it seems that believing that p is an intrinsic property of the believer, and hence again that God has a contingent intrinsic property.

The correct statement is: God knows that in possible universe U1 there cannot be horses (because of U1's physical laws and constants), that in possible universe U2 there can but will not be horses (because evolution in U2 follows another path), and that in possible universe U3 there can and will be horses. God decides to create U3.

I think talking about God's beliefs is odd and unnecessary, since to call them beliefs seems to leave open the possibility that they are false. That need not be the case, though; one might think that knowledge is just a kind of belief. In any case, the problems discussed in discussing God's beliefs arise also about God's knowledge and cognition.

Your own solution is that because God knows all possibilities, God can have the same knowledge in every possible world. Unfortunately, that does not distinguish God's knowledge of what's actual from what's merely possible; he knows the actual world only in so far as it's a possible world. You'd lack knowledge, for instance, if everything you knew about the actual world were knowledge of a possibility, if your knowledge did not go further than that possibly you left your keys on the counter, that possibly there are tigers, that possibly the Eiffel Tower is in Paris, etc. So far as you've specified, that is the kind of knowledge that God has of the actual world. There is a further problem in that you have a priority to God's knowing these possibilities to his deciding to actualize one of them. This seems to compromise God's simplicity.

In Aquinas' picture, God's knowledge of possibilities is different from his knowledge of actualities. God knows what is actual through causing it; it is practical knowledge, akin to the knowledge that an architect has of what he builds. He knows what he knows about creation in knowing himself. (What is supposed to reconcile his knowledge of creation with the contingency of creation is that the identity condition of his act of knowing, which is identical to him, is its principal object, himself. It is the same act, and his essence is consequently the same, in possible worlds in which he creates something else and therefore has different knowledge about creation.) God's knowledge of possibilities is a matter of his knowledge of what could cause them (himself and/or creatures). Part of the point of such a picture as this is that there is no succession; God does not know possibilities before willing that one of them be actual, nor does he will that something be actual and then 'observe' it to acquire knowledge about it. His knowledge is the cause of what it understands.

 

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