Research Items (24)
This chapter aims to develop an argument in support of the basic mentality thesis. A “counting” argument is constructed in the chapter that poses a problem for the identity thesis. Then, the chapter extends the “counting” argument in a way that exposes a problem for the dependence (mind grounded in physical) thesis. The basic strategy of a counting argument is to show that there is a greater quantity of members of the one category than of some other. To illustrate, the chapter considers the categories integers and reals. These categories both have infinitely many members. To further illustrate the categorical difference between the physical and nonphysical, it also considers building a Lego tower. The divide between physical and nonphysical properties involves much more than a mere difference with respect to complexity of psychological content. Next, the chapter justifies the basic mentality thesis by considering the main arguments for standard physicalism (reductive or nonreductive).
- Jan 2018
A necessary being is a concrete entity that cannot fail to exist. An example of such a being might be the God of classical theism or the universe of necessitarians. Necessary Existence offers and carefully defends a number of novel arguments for the thesis that there exists at least one necessary being, while inviting the reader to a future investigation of what the neccessary being(s) is (are) like. The arguments include a defense of a classic contingency argument, a series of new modal arguments from possible causes, an argument from abstract objects, and a Gödelian argument from perfections. Furthermore, arguments against the possibility of a necessary being are critically examined. Among these arguments are old and new arguments from conceivability, a subtraction argument, problems with causation, and an argument from parsimony. Necessary Existence also includes a defense of the axioms of S5 modal logic, which is a framework for understanding several arguments for necessary existents.
We develop and knit together several theodicies in order to find a more complete picture of why certain forms of (nonhuman) animal suffering might be permitted by a perfect being. We focus on an especially potent form of the problem of evil, which arises from considering why a perfectly good, wise, and powerful God might use evolutionary mechanisms that predictably result in so much animal suffering and loss of life. There are many existing theodicies on the market, and although they offer helpful resources, we combine and further develop several proposals to produce a composite theodicy that avoids certain shortcomings of the individual theodicies. An important element of our project is locating a role for randomness in cosmic and biological evolution. In particular, we show how randomness might enhance or enable certain goods, including everlasting goods, at the risk of temporary evils.
- Nov 2017
- Modal Epistemology After Rationalism
I offer a new technique for extending our knowledge of what is possible. The surest way to know that something is possible is to know that it is actually so. Yet it is notoriously more difficult to tell whether a state of affairs that has never obtained could obtain. To help us deal with such cases, I offer “continuity” principles that can extend our modal vision beyond the clear cases. These principles, if true, imply that certain “neighbors” of possible states of affairs are probably also possible. I then showcase some intriguing applications of these extension principles: I show how the principles can help us with ancient questions about the foundations of reality and with recent questions about parts and wholes.
I apply developments in modal reasoning to the question of whether God has necessary existence. My larger task is to assess the main reasons to think that God is not a metaphysically necessary being. I consider Hume’s conceivability-based argument, and then I pay attention to more recent arguments, including Swinburne’s neo-Humean argument and the subtraction argument. I show that such arguments face a ‘parity’ problem, since the very reasoning that gets them off the ground also launches parallel arguments for an opposite conclusion. In my closing section, I sketch an argument schema designed to illustrate a new, general strategy for deducing the necessary existence of God by building upon recent modal cosmological arguments.
Arguments for substance dualism—the theory that we are at least partly nonmaterial beings—abound. Many such arguments begin with our capacity to engage in conscious thought and end with dualism. Such are familiar. But there is another route to dualism. It begins with our moral value and ends with dualism. In this article, we develop and assess the prospects for this new style of argument. We show that, though one version of the argument does not succeed, there may yet be a deep problem for standard physical accounts of our nature.
- Jul 2015
In this paper we bring to light several ways randomness—i.e., undetermined and unintended events—may contribute to our understanding of God's providence and personality. We begin by making clearer a certain problem that randomness has been thought to pose to theism. We then discuss recent criticisms of certain contemporary solutions to this problem that emphasize the value of an autonomous creation. From there, we propose a fresh way of understanding the value of a semi-autonomous creation that does not succumb to these recent critiques. Our end goal is to explore new reasons God might have to value randomness. In particular, we highlight two plausible, interrelated candidate values: (1) There are certain aesthetic properties that a partially random, self-forming creation enjoys; and (2) Such a creation grants God and creatures certain pleasures, such as wonder, anticipation, curiosity, surprise, and appreciation. In articulating our version of the autonomy defense, we position it within two opposing accounts of divine providence, specifically open theism and simple foreknowledge.
I develop a new theory of times. I show how to analyze times as tenselessly describable “abstract” (causally-inert) entities. Some philosophers make use of ersatz times, which are abstract entities such as maximal states of affairs that bear earlier than and later than relations to one another. Although these times are normally thought to exemplify A-properties (such as being present) that cannot be expressed in a purely tenseless language, I explain how a tenseless theory can accommodate abstract times. I do this by (1) defending Rasmussen’s tenseless presentism against a recent objection, and (2) getting on the table a new theory of time that combines eternalism with a B-series of genuine, abstract times. The result is a new way to think about a familiar category: time.
I bring to light a set-theoretic reason to think that there are more (identifiable) mental properties than (identifiable) shapes, sizes, masses, and other characteristically “physical” properties. I make use of a couple counting principles. One principle, backed by a Cantorian-style argument, is that pluralities outnumber particulars: that is, there is a distinct plurality of particulars for each particular, but not vice versa. The other is a principle by which we may coherently identify distinct mental properties in terms of arbitrary pluralities of physical properties. I motivate these principles and explain how they together imply that there are more mental properties than physical properties. I then argue that certain parody arguments fail for various instructive reasons. The purpose of my argument is to identify an unforeseen “counting” cost of a certain reductive materialist view of the mind.
We introduce three arguments for the thesis that time cannot exist prior to an original creation event. In the first argument, we seek to show that if time doesn't depend upon creation, then time is infinite in the backwards direction, which is incompatible with arguments for a finite past. In the second and third arguments, we allow for the possibility of backwards-infinite time but argue that God could not have a sufficiently good reason to refrain from creating for infinitely many moments - either in a world void of created things (argument two) or in the actual world prior to creation (argument three). Our end goal is to help clarify connections between time and divine action.
I propose a new guide for assessing claims about what is possible. I offer examples of modal claims that are, in a certain intuitive respect, ‘continuous’ with one another. I then put forward a general, defeasible principle of modal continuity that can account for our intuitions about those examples. According to this principle, statements that differ by a mere quantitative term don't normally differ with respect to being possibly true. I offer a precise statement of the principle, and then I consider exceptions in an effort to find a more nuanced continuity principle that is more reliable and still sufficiently general. Next, I offer a possible explanation of why modal continuity tends to hold and why exceptions occur where they do. Although my primary purpose is to introduce a new technique for modal reasoning, I showcase the power of the principle by applying it to a philosophical dispute concerning parts and wholes: the principle, if true, reveals a new cost of the thesis that composition is restricted. Furthermore, I point out examples of other philosophical inquiries (in philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and philosophical cosmology) that may benefit from a principle of modal continuity. The principle gives us a new tool for assessing a wide variety of modal claims.
I develop a new theory of the nature of aboutness. I begin by presenting an “aboutness” puzzle that exposes a problem for many theories of aboutness. I then develop the components for a theory of aboutness that can help us solve the puzzle. The theory of aboutness I offer depends upon a theory of propositions as ordered complexes of properties. I develop this theory of propositions and show how it relates to, or builds upon, some of the most recent theories of propositions in the literature. My end goal is to deepen our understanding of how the things we say and think relate to the things we say and think about.
Theists typically think the freedom to choose between right and wrong is a great good (hence, the free will defense). Yet, they also typically think that the very best being-God-and inhabitants of the very best place-heaven-lack this kind of freedom. The question arises: if freedom to choose evil is so good, then why is it absent from the best being and the best place? I discuss articulations of this question in the literature and point out drawbacks of answers that have been proposed. I then propose a new answer by showing how freedom to do evil could result in certain good situations even if it does not contribute to the intrinsic greatness of a certain being or place.
Counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (CCFs) are notoriously puzzling. One puzzle has to do with truth-making: we wonder how any CCFs could be true prior to the existence of all creatures. Another, less addressed puzzle has to do with truth-explaining: what antecedent conditions or facts might explain a given CCF? The usual answer to the ‘explanation’ question is that true CCFs are brute: nothing explains them. We motivate an alternative answer by arguing that there can be an explanation of CCFs if there can be an explanation of free actions. Our argument reveals that theoretical frameworks, such as Molinism, that make use of CCFs do not automatically carry an explanatory cost.
Many have thought that there is a problem with causal commerce between immaterial souls and material bodies. In Physicalism or Something Near Enough, Jaegwon Kim attempts to spell out that problem. Rather than merely posing a question or raising a mystery for defenders of substance dualism to answer or address, he offers a compelling argument for the conclusion that immaterial souls cannot causally interact with material bodies. We offer a reconstruction of that argument that hinges on two premises: Kim’s Dictum and the Nowhere Man principle. Kim’s Dictum says that causation requires a spatial relation. Nowhere Man says that souls can’t be in space. By our lights, both premises can be called into question. We’ll begin our evaluation of the argument by pointing out some consequences of Kim’s Dictum. For some, these will be costs. We will then present two defeaters for Kim’s Dictum and a critical analysis of Kim’s case for Nowhere Man. The upshot is that Kim’s argument against substance dualism fails. KeywordsJaegwon Kim–Pairing problem–Substance dualism–Physicalism
- Jun 2011
I present a new argument for the thesis that there is a necessarily existing, causally powerful entity—a necessary being. The outline of the argument is this: (i) necessarily, every beginning of a certain sort S (which I'll specify) can have a cause; (ii) a beginning to the existence of all non-necessarily existing things would be of sort S; (iii) such a beginning can obtain; (iv) such a beginning cannot be caused unless there is a necessary being; therefore, (v) there is a necessary being. The argument uses a causal principle that is more modest than causal principles previously used in arguments for a necessary being.
- Sep 2010
Cosmological arguments from contingency attempt to show that there is a necessarily existing god-like being on the basis of the fact that any concrete things exist at all. Such arguments are built out of the following components: (i) a causal principle that applies to non-necessary entities of a certain category; (ii) a reason to think that if the causal principle is true, then there would have to be a necessarily existing concrete thing; (iii) a reason to think that the necessarily existing thing would be god-like. In this essay, I discuss various ways of developing each of these components to produce an argument from contingency, and I point out classic objections and replies along the way. I also make note of some of the most recent developments in arguments from contingency and point out avenues for future research.
I develop new paths to the existence of a concrete necessary being. These paths assume a metaphysical framework in which there are abstract states of affairs that can obtain or fail to obtain. One path begins with the following causal principle: necessarily, any contingent concrete object possibly has a cause. I mark out steps from that principle to a more complex causal principle and from there to the existence of a concrete necessary being. I offer a couple alternative causal principles and paths, too. The paths marked out rely on relatively modest causal principles and avoid many obstacles that traditional cosmological arguments face. KeywordsStates of affairs-Cosmological argument-Necessary being-Causal principle
- Aug 2008
Not a lot of work on theistic arguments has been devoted to drawing connections between a necessary being and theistic properties. In this paper, I identify novel paths from a necessary being to certain theistic properties: volition, infinite power, infinite knowledge, and infinite goodness. The steps in those paths are an outline for future work on what William Rowe (The Cosmological Argument, 1975, p. 6) has called “stage II” of the cosmological argument.
- Dec 2004
An important question raised in the Molinist debate is, ‘Given God's access to counterfactual knowledge, could God create a world in which free creatures always refrain from evil?’ An affirmative answer suggests that God cannot possess counterfactual knowledge since such knowledge would allow God to create seemingly more desirable worlds than the actual world. However, Alvin Plantinga has argued that it is at least possible that every possible person is transworld depraved – meaning that each person would perform some wrong actions if any world in which that person is morally free were actualized. I argue that, given an infinite number of possible persons, the probability that everyone is transworld depraved is exceedingly low. In addition, I investigate whether there are enough possible persons vis-à-vis the number of moral choices per person so that God could create worlds like the actual world, except lacking in moral evil.