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I've just listened to a BBC radio discussion of the ontological argument. I'm

I've just listened to a BBC radio discussion of the ontological argument. I'm puzzled as to why the following objection was not even mentioned: - The concept of "something than which nothing greater can be conceived" necessarily includes the attributes of being all good and all powerful. Something all good and all powerful would not allow suffering. Suffering exists, therefore the concept cannot exist in reality. The counter-argument that suffering is part of God's plan for us to work out our own salvation only reinforces the original objection by admitting that God is not great enough to come up with a better plan. This argument is well known in philosophy in general, so why would it not be considered relevant to the validity of the ontological argument? God may still exist, but if He can't be all good and all powerful, the ontological argument for His existence is a non-starter. I had the impression from the radio programme that the ontological argument is still entertained by some philosophers. How...

True confessions: like Charles, I accept the Ontological Argument. But it must be said that a response to the Argument based on "the problem of evil" is something of a mistake. The reason is that the problem of evil is a problem for all arguments for theism, and offers nothing specific for us to learn about the ontological argument, particularly its logic, which is where almost all the interesting issues are.

Is teaching young children religion child abuse? Should a child's mind be

Is teaching young children religion child abuse? Should a child's mind be programmed from birth based upon a parents blind faith in something? Shouldn't a child be allowed to eventually grow into their own religion as opposed to being automatically grouped into one based on the geographical location of the hospital they were born in.

The term "child abuse" is loaded enough that I'm going to set it aside. And I'm going to restrict myself mainly to one point.

You seem to assume that religion is always a matter of "blind faith" and that if parents bring their children up in a religious tradition, this is inevitably a matter of "programming." But why think that? Isn'tit possible that perhaps you've been a bit indoctrinated (not to say brainwashed) on that point yourself?

Some beliefs are blind. That applies to some cases of religious belief and to a good many other kinds of belief as well. But not all beliefs about matters that go beyond the facts need be blind, and this is as true for religion as it is for anything else. The great religious traditions include traditions of argument, reflection, weighing of considerations, and discernment. Not all believers cling to their beliefs for dear life; not all believers believe that they're bound for hell if they have questions or doubts. In fact, for some serious religious people, detailed beliefs about difficult matters of metaphysics aren't what matters for them.

Are some forms of religious belief regrettable or worse? No doubt. The same goes, of course, for some political, ideological and moral beliefs. Do some people hold their religious views mainly out of habit? Indeed. Are some afraid to question what they've been told? Unfortunately true. Bringing up a child so that her beliefs are of that sort is a bad thing, whether the beliefs are specifically religious or not. But an unprejudiced look at the religious landscape will make clear that religion needn't be that way and frequently isn't.

Would an omnipotent and omniscient being be bound by the laws of logic? If so,

Would an omnipotent and omniscient being be bound by the laws of logic? If so, to what degree?

Yes. Completely. The tricky question is why. It's tempting to answer that necessarily everything is bound by the laws of logic because the alternative -- the claim that something isn't bound by the laws of logic -- is necessarily false. But, as I suggested in my reply to Question 4837, no sense can be attached to the claim that something isn't bound by the laws of logic. So the claim can't be false, strictly speaking. Perhaps all we can assert is a wide-scope negation: it's not the case that something isn't bound by the laws of logic, just as it's not the case that @#$%^&*. Necessarily everything is bound by the laws of logic because the alternative is literally nonsense? I wish I had a better explanation!

Recently someone asked a question about the existence or non existence of god

Recently someone asked a question about the existence or non existence of god and miracles. Basically they were asking how, if an event occurs in space time, could we ever consider that event a miracle, since being in space time the event would have an identifiable cause and therefore could not be considered a miracle. The answer to me seems to be readily apparent, and I wanted to see what you thought. That is, a miracle by analytic reasoning seems to me to be something that does not occur in space time. So the problem is solved simply by observing that if an event occurs in space time then analytically and a priori we know it is not a miracle, just as a married man is analytically and a priori not a bachelor. Of course a better answer would simply be to point out that the use of metaphors like "miracle" may just be a quite ineffective use of words, since it tempts us to hypothesize about objects that can never be given in experience and that, I agree with Kant, is the ultimate no-no! :)

An interesting question, but I'm not quite sure I can go along with your suggestion.

First, miracles. Suppose that the story of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth occurred just as described in the Gospels. (We're not inquiring here into how likely this is; just suppose for argument's sake that it happened.) By any reasonable use of the word, that would count as a miracle. (If it's not miraculous enough, add your own extra bells and whistles.) Briefly, it would be an event that wouldn't occur as the laws of nature ordinarily run, and it would have a clear religious significance. Most every user of the word "miracle" would agree that it would be a miracle, so it's hard to see how we could know otherwise analytically.

Your friend's objection is that the event, being in space and time, must have an identifiable cause, and therefore can't be a miracle. But this isn't clear either.

First, we could question the assumption that everything occurring in space and time must have an identifiable cause. For my own part, I don't know whether this is true and in fact suspect that it isn't. The fact that a radium atom decayed at a particular instant, for example, is something I suspect has no cause, even though it occurred in space and time.

However, set that aside for the moment. The more important point is this: no one I know of thinks that miracles, if such there be, have no causes. What they think, rather, is that the cause of a miracle is not some ordinary space-time event. People who believe in miracles believe that when they occur, God intervenes in the created world, suspending the usual laws of nature. In short, the cause of a miracle is a divine intervention. In fact in his essay "Of Miracles" (arguably the most important essay in the history of the debate) Hume characterizes a miracle as "a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity." If we take that point of view, a miracle, if there are any, has a cause; just not a natural cause.

What about space and time? On one common view, God is not in space. In fact, this is the orthodox view in Christianity, and I believe the same goes for Judaism and Islam, not to mention various others. On this understanding we can say: a miracle would be an event in space and time whose cause -- an act of divine volition -- is not in space.

At this point, your friend might say that causes are the sorts of things that have to be in space. And if we go a step further, as at least parts of many traditions do, and say that God is outside space and also outside time, then we end up even further away from what we usually mean by "cause"; a "cause" that's entirely outside space and time, the objection might go, is not recognizably a cause at all.

Suppose we agree. (Leave aside whether we really should.) Where does that leave us?

As we already pointed out, the claim that events in space and time must have causes, let alone spatio-temporal causes, is far from being a priori true, let alone analytic. That said, purely chance events (like radioactive decay) won't count as miracles. But if we insist that "cause" only applies to things in space and time, the believer in miracles still has a move. A miracle would be an event in space and time that has no "cause" in this sense, and that departs from the usual laws of nature, but whose explanation is that it is in accord with "a particular volition of the Deity." To put it another way: a miracle is an event that can't be explained by appeal to the usual laws of nature, but that happened because God willed it. [NOTE: "because" is much broader than "caused by."]

At this point, there's still a good deal to argue about. (To mention one point: some people have tried to argue that laws of nature can by definition have no exceptions. However, that's ultimately a way of begging the question in favor of naturalism.) What's important is that we're well beyond what we can settle by appeal to supposed analytic truths; we're in the realm of metaphysics and philosophical theology. Perhaps the notion of "miracle" is ultimately incoherent. But that's not something that any short, snappy argument can show.

Of course, even if there is a coherent notion of miracle, it wouldn't follow that there actually are any. Needless to say, however, that's yet another question.

How can a theist respond to the problem of evil in the specific case of mental

How can a theist respond to the problem of evil in the specific case of mental illness? If God is omniscient and omnipotent, he knows that mental illness causes suffering, and is able to prevent it, but chooses not to. For an omniscient, omnipotent, morally-perfect god to exist, there must be a morally justifying-reason to permit this suffering. The usual theistic responses to the problem of evil do not seem to apply in the specific case of mental illness. The free will defence fails because mental illness actually suppresses free will; therefore, if God really valued free will, he would prevent mental illness. The soul-making theodicy fails because mental illness actually deprives sufferers of their ability to comprehend their existence in relation to God and His creation; therefore, if God really valued spiritual growth, He would prevent mental illness. It also won't do to say that the suffering of the mentally ill gives others the chance to be morally good, because the pharmaceutical companies...

Great question, and I feel sure that what I will suggest in response will not strike you as adequate, but let me offer seven things to bear in mind in assessing the force of the challenge you are raising for traditional theists who believe God to be all good, omniscient, and omnipotent::

First, a very minor point, not all of what we call "mental illness" involves the subject suffering. Someone with an illness involving severe cognitive impairment might even have less suffering that most mentally healthy persons.

Second, when we consider cases of illness that do involve undeserved suffering it is not clear to me why this stands out as a special case from other instances of undeserved suffering. Is it worse to be born or develop bi-polar disorder through no fault of one's own than for a healthy, mentally fit child to be killed in an auto accident, etc...? Or consider the suffering of non-human animals whose suffering is not out of their sin or mis-use of freedom, and the like.

Third, on the afterlife, religions that recognize God / Allah as good believe that for the innocent and those redeemed, the afterlife involves a place of healing and transformation both physical and mental. If a blind person dies, these theists do not believe the person will be blind for eternity, and the same would be true for someone mentally ill.

Fourth, on the notion of "morally justifying reasons," and allowing mental illness or not preventing it, I suggest one needs to distinguish what counts as good and evil from the standpoint of God as a creator and sustainer of the cosmos versus a creature, a fellow human and his/her responsibilities. It seems clear that a human being who intentionally does not heal a person with all sorts of illness and suffering when she/he could do so, is in some ways deeply suspect. And as it happens, all the theistic religions I know that involve belief that God is all good, believe that it is a divinely willed command that we do relieve suffering, care for the poor, feed the hungry.... And, for those of us who are Christians, we actually believe that God did heal disorders of severe mental and physical disease (though the Bible portrays some of the accounts of Christ in terms of the exorcising of demons). One might naturally ask: well, if Christ was God (as well as man) and he did such cures, why not more curing prior to and after the incarnation as the Triune, all good God? At this point, I think there is some justice in distinguishing what is permissible for God to endure (allow) as Creator versus what is permissible for a human to endure or allow. So, I am inclined to see the problem of evil in comprehensive terms from the standpoint of creation. Consider the following question which I will put in Christian terms::

Is it compatible with the goodness of God, if God creates and conserves a cosmos containing great goods, laws of nature, animal and plant life, the emergence of conscious beings with reason, emotions, agency, and moral, aesthetic sensibility and yet the cosmos also includes suffering (sometimes deserved, but often undeserved when the person suffering did not bring this on her or himself wrongfully), premature violent deaths, and so while there is the great good of romantic love, raising children loving the world and each other, art and creativity, friendship, there are also the great horrors of murder, rape, torture, betrayals, birth defects...All these horrors are against the will and nature of God and count as crimes or damage to the great sacredness of life. In this world, persons have duties to prevent such horrors. Into the midst of this cosmos God works through earth's history (and perhaps in the history of indefinitely more planets with life) to redeem those victims and wrong-doers in this life through miracles, prophets, and even an incarnation in which God endures the suffering of others and perhaps even mental illness (during the agony of the cross). And in this act, Christ testifies to the wrongness of torture and draws our attention to the needs of the poor and ill, and then through the resurrection God promises an opportunity of redemption for all through confession, repentance, personal transformation, and more in this life and the next.

I could have filled this out much more, but I am trying to at least suggest that from this broader perspective, the point of view of a Creator rather than a fellow-creature, matters (I believe) shift. The above approach will seem nonsense if one already thinks (on conceptual grounds) there could no more be a God, let alone a good God, than a square circle. But if one is open to the existence of a good God, and perhaps even impressed by some positive reasons for thinking God exists (imagine one has been convinced that theism may be true based on the argument from religious experience developed so well in Kai-Man Kwan's The Rainbow of Experiences, Critical Trust, and God (Continuum Press, 2011), I can see thinking that it may indeed be compatible for a good God to create a cosmos such as ours.

5th For filling out the above, see The Image in Mind by myself and Jil Evans in the book The Image in Mind. In that text, we also compare naturalist accounts of evil with theistic accounts, argument that the former are more reasonable.

6th One might take the position of Robert Audi in his recent Cambridge book, Reason and Religious Commitment and argue that even if belief in an all good God in light of evil is not justified, one is justified in having a rational hope that this God exists, for that allows for the redemption of victims and evil-doers.

Finally, one might take Brian Davies approach. He has multiple books in which he argues on Christian and philosophical grounds that the God of Christianity is not a moral agent. He is a professor at Fordham University and a google search should turn up multiple books for you to engage.

Thank you for your impressive challenging question and the presentation of the problem of evil with a focus on metal illness. Speaking personally, there has been mental illness in my family and this is deeply vexing but many in my family have also pledged their lives for the care and healing of the mentally ill. For some of us, this has stemmed from our belief in a God who cares for the mentally ill. For all of us, the important question has not been a speculative philosophical worry about whether it is justified for mental illness to exist, ours has been concerned with using all our strength to understand and help treat the ill and pray that God might redeem them and us all. Sorry this is turning more testimonial than detached philosophical inquiry, but I intuited (perhaps wrongly) that the question you pose might be based on some exposure to the plight of the mentally ill, and I wanted to share with you that the panelist who replied to your challenging question is not doing so from an ivory tower with no exposure to mental illness. If you or anyone reading this (whether a theist or atheist or agnostic or none of the above) wish to donate to some of the work with the mentally ill, may I suggest giving to Spring Lake Ranch in Vermont. It is not itself religiously affiliated as you will see by its website, but such work is of religious importance (in my view) as well as from the standpoint of secular humanism, and the more attention it can get as a need (I think) the better.

I am wondering if there is a flaw in the following reasoning:

I am wondering if there is a flaw in the following reasoning: If an event occurs, then that event now becomes possible and able to reoccur. If the event can reoccur, then the event is not "super natural" nor is the event a "miracle". Therefore, there is no possibly way for the "supernatural" or "miracles" to exist. If there are no "supernatural" things or "miracles" that exist, then there is no God. I find that the argument is weird because the criteria eliminates the possibility of what is in question in the first place: the "supernatural" or the "miracle". Basically if something does not fit into the science mold the arguer won't allow the conversation to continue. I can ask "What would God have to do to convince you he exists?" The honest answer I received was "He can't do anything to prove himself!" The reason is because as soon as God acts in a physical way, there is a scientific explanation. So if God were to levitate the entire state of Texas in the sky 15,000 feet for 7 days this is not...

Your argument and questions are excellent. Some things to consider: I do not think any religions that acknowledge that God acts miraculously (that is, God brings about events of religious significance that would not have occurred if God had not acted) entails that miraculous events could not be repeated. There is nothing conceptually odd given the concept of a miracle if God were to miraculously lift the state of Texas 15,000 feet every Monday in December, though perhaps the event would seem to fall short in terms of other factors: such a feet would seem pointless and scary and perhaps make people think God is more like Zeus or a clown or a Texan than a God of justice, love, and goodness.

Still, there is an interesting issue in play if God were to repeatedly and comprehensively act to bring about something that would not occur by "nature" alone or without God's will. Some Christians believe that the emergence of consciousness in each person is partly due to God's willing that when biological organisms reach a certain level of complexity and composition, the consciousness comes into being / emerges. This is a fascinating case in which we might say that there is not observable distinction between recognizing that consciousness emerges under certain conditions due to the laws of nature (perhaps as willed by God?) or that such emergence constitutes an everyday miracle.

As for comparing scientific and religious explanations, I highly recommend Alvin Plantinga's book on science and religion; where the real conflict lies. It was praised by the (at least currently) atheistic philosopher Thomas Nagel is a recent New York Review of Books. Plantinga argues that science actually needs theism or something like theism in order not to undermine its own practice. I must also recommend the outstanding recent publication of The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity ed by J.B. Stump and Alan Padgett (Blackwell, 2012) and the Routledge Companion to Theism.

I'm aware of many arguments attempting to prove or disprove or make probable or

I'm aware of many arguments attempting to prove or disprove or make probable or improbable the existance of a God. However, I don't know of any attempts by recent academic philosophers to explain why religion is such a ubiquitous phenomenon historically and at present among humans. It seems remarkable to me me that no early human civilization developed without some kind of supernatural deity/agency. There's some overlap here with psychology/sociology/anthropology, but Im more interested in philosophical analysis that is informed by the social sciences. Im uncertain of the probably of the existance of a God based on the traditional arguments, and I find the moral implications of the Judeo/Christian God troubling (how could hell be just?), but why do so many humans seem to need religion? As a nonreligious person I feel that even my own life is lacking something without belief in something sublime/transcendent. I'd appreciate book recommendations also.

Thank you for this inquiry! I believe an excellent book to check out is The Believing Primate published by Oxford University Press and edited by Jeff Schloss and Michael Murray. There is a great deal of material there on the projects of accounting for the emergence and continuation of religion and the philosophical presuppositions of these projects and their philosophical implications. You also might enjoy The Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion which considers the study of religion from different scientific (including the social sciences) points of view and it includes a chapter on the philosophical investigation of religion (a second edition is in the works), edited by Robert Segal. Three is also a fascinating book just published called The Routledge Companion to Theism which is a massive, impressive work that includes reflections on the sciences and cross-cultural philosophical work on theism and its alternatives. You may (like a number of others) find the moral implications of the Judeo-Chritian God troubling, but on that front I think God has gotten some undeserved bad press of late! For a more balanced perspective, I highly recommend Keith Ward's book Is Religion Dangerous? and Paul Copan's Is God a Moral Monster?

I'm confused by the saying "God transcends time" . To me it seems time is change

I'm confused by the saying "God transcends time" . To me it seems time is change ( thoughts, actions , and any other form of change ) So transcending time doesn't make any sense as you would need to change in some way to create the universe ,because To be timeless ( due to transcending time not making sense )would mean to be forever timeless if there is no form of change to cause you to change yourself. With this in mind wouldn't god creating the universe mean god exists within time? This would restrict god with the question of "where did it come from" due to it also being a timed being with a required beginning to initiate change. So what i'm trying to ask is, am i missing something? is it just that i'm not taking something into account that lead me to deduce this as impossible? I'm only 17 and i always hear this from many adults who have faith in god and i just ponder in my head how they could think this to be true. I'm not stating no god exists, nor that one does, i simply think this idea of...

Great observations and great questions! There are three views that are defended today by philosophers in the theistic tradition (the tradition that holds that there is a God who exists necessarily, is all good, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and the creator and conserver of the whole cosmos). On a traditional view (going back to Boethius and Aquinas) God is eternal in the sense that there is not before, during, or after for God. God's creating the cosmos as well as all God's acts are timelessly willed. On this model, God timelessly wills successiveness (the origin and sustaining of a changing cosmos) but God does not successively will (God wills at one time to do X and then do Y). This position is defended by many philosophical theists such as Brian Leftow at Oxford University. He is the author of the book Time and Eternity, which you might check out. Then there is the view called Open Theism which holds that God is in time God is present throughout all the created order NOW and is everlasting (that is, God has no beginning and no end). I do not think that if something is in time, it follows that it had a beginning or origin. I bet this sounds crazy to you, but some philosophers (like myself) think there are abstract objects like numbers that exist necessarily and never had an origin and will have no end. There is a third view championed by W.L. Craig which is quite interesting: he holds that God was timelessly eternal until creation, after which God is temporal. You can do a google to find Craig's home page in which he has posted various papers on this and other topics.

I want to encourage you in your questions and inquiry!!!!!!!! The intersection of the philosophy of time and philosophy of God is fascinating. You might look to the free Stanford Encyclopedia entry on philosophy of religion and entries on time.

Does an Omniscient God contradict Free Will?

Does an Omniscient God contradict Free Will? Yes, a very age-old question, with many answers. The problem seemed to arise when we thought that if God knows what we will do or "choose" then it's metaphysically necessary for us to choose or do that, because what God knows IS true, thus it's true event A will happen if God knows it will. There's no Free Will because there's no chance that event A can NOT happen, in this view Free Will is just an illusion. But! Some Philosophers have objected by saying that God's knowledge is from or depends on our choice, it's formed by the choices we genuinely (freely?) make for ourselves, because God's omniscience is "logically simultaneous" with our choices. So God's knowledge doesn't write out history, history writes out God's knowledge. (By the way doesn't this make god a contingent being? Thus precluding God from "working" as an answer for the modal ontological and cosmological argument, since God is not a non-contingent being?) But I've never been convinced by...

First, I don't think it matters for the answer to your question whether the omniscient God is or is not the creator of the beings whose conduct He foresees. Thus suppose the rats are created not by God but by some fairy. God observes the rats and, knowing of each whether it is smart or dumb, foresees whether it will end up rewarded or punished. Can this new wrinkle in the story -- that the rats are created by some fairy rather than by God -- possibly make a difference to whether the rats have free will or not? I cannot see a reason for believing this.

(To be sure, the wrinkle makes a difference to God's responsibility: if He creates dumb rats Himself, then he is actively responsible for the suffering they predictably undergo in the punishment zone. If He's merely an onlooker, then He is at most passively responsible insofar as He could but fails to protect the dumb rats from pain.)

Second, I don't understand why there should be felt a tension between foreseeability by others and free will. The only way your conduct can be unforeseeable is for it to be indeterminate: ruled from moment to moment by quantum events, for example. Surely, that's not a good example of free will. On the contrary, I would think that good examples of your free will are quite predictable behaviors. Those who know you know certain things about your future behavior. They know, let's say, that you are deeply committed to stand by your sister. You have carefully thought about this commitment, fully embraced it, adjusted your other values and commitments to it, built your life around it. You and others assume that you could cut your sister loose if you so chose, but you and they (and she) know that you won't. Here the firmness of your commitment seems quite compatible with the freedom of your will (and others' foreknowledge is based on your commitment and not the other way around).

Returning briefly to the first point, suppose now that your firm commitment to your sister was part of a plan your mother hatched before giving birth to you. Knowing of her daughter's frailty, she deliberately had a second child who would stand by her first one. When you were old enough to understand, she explained all this to you and helped you appreciate the wonderful difference you could make to your sister's life. Your mother correctly foresaw that you would be moved by this appreciation and would become committed to standing by your sister. Again, I don't see how adding in this additional information about the history of your commitment to your sister undermines the initial judgment that your foreseeable loyalty to your sister is compatible with your free will.

The difficulty of the free-will problem seems to be not specific to certain scenarios (e.g., free will in a world with an omniscient creator god), but quite general: how to make sense of it at all.

A friend of mine self identifies as a Christian but rejects the concept of a

A friend of mine self identifies as a Christian but rejects the concept of a personal anthropomorphic god. It appears to me that a person who rejects that concept of god seems to have much more in common with an atheist than a Christian since it seems that many Christians subscribe to the view of god which my friend rejects. Does it make sense to identify with the Christian tradition when one is rejecting-it appears to me- a fundamental part of the religion?

Good question. Today it seems that there are versions of Christianity which are very heterodox, treating the incarnation more as a saving metaphor rather than a real event and so on. On the traditional concept of God in Christianity, I think few Christians would describe God as "anthropomorphic." Yes, the Bible and Christian creeds refer to God as a creator, a being who has power, knowledge, super-abundant goodness, and one might think of this as anthropomorphic insofar as humans are also creators and have power, knowledge, and some of us are good (!), but the attributes of God in traditional Christianity God is omnipresent, eternal or everlasting, Triune, not just knowing but omniscient and this seems to amount to thinking of God as quite distinct from an anthropomorphic deity such as we find in Greco-Roman contexts of Zeus / Jupiter, etc...

A more vexing issue today is over the question of whether the God of Christianity should be thought of as personal or as three persons (in the Triune Godhead). One Christian philosopher, Brian Davies, at Fordham University thinks of God in terms of being, and not in terms of what I think he calls person theism.

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