A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion
Quinn (Philip L.) & Taliaferro (Charles)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Cover Blurb

  1. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy: This outstanding student reference series offers a comprehensive and authoritative survey of philosophy as a whole. Written by today's leading philosophers, each volume provides lucid and engaging coverage of the key figures, terms, topics, and problems of the field. Taken together, they provide the ideal basis for course use, representing a vital work of reference for students and specialists alike.
  2. "A superb collection! The topics are just right: from the religions of the world and currents in recent philosophy of religion to the theistic conception of God and the justification of theistic belief.... The writing is authoritative, but also lively and stimulating. This book will be a valuable reference resource for years to come."
    … Professor Robert L. Arrington, Georgia State University
  3. "It is very comprehensive — bringing in the different religious traditions of the world and their philosophies, the history of the philosophy of religion, and some of its most modern developments.... It is very readable, and the various articles will serve as useful introductions to topics for students, it is a very valuable resource."
    … Professor R. G. Swinburne, Oriel College, Oxford
  4. In 78 newly commissioned essays, this outstanding volume provides a comprehensive and authoritative guide to contemporary philosophy of religion.
  5. Written by many of today's leading figures in the field, the volume surveys philosophical issues in the religions of the world, philosophical thought about religion in Western history, and important currents in twentieth-century philosophy of religion.
  6. Theism is treated systematically in discussions of religious language, the concept of God, arguments for and against theistic belief, and its relations to other aspects of culture, such as science and values. A final section on new directions in philosophy of religion explores feminism, religious pluralism, and comparative philosophy of religion. Taken together, the volume is an unparalleled work of reference, and will stand for many years to come as the standard reference resource for students and specialists alike.
  7. Philip L. Quinn is John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and was previously William Herbert Perry Faunce Professor of Philosophy at Brown University, Rhode Island. He is author of Divine Commands and Moral Requirements (1978), and of numerous articles in philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, theoretical physics, religious ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, value theory, political philosophy, and philosophy and literature. He has served as editor of the journal Faith and Philosophy (1990-5); as President of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association (1994-5); and as Chair of the National Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association (1995-9) .
  8. Charles Taliaferro is Associate Professor of Philosophy at St Olaf College, Minnesota. He was Visiting Scholar at Oriel College, Oxford, and has taught at Brown University, The University of Massachusetts, and the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He is the author of Consciousness and the Mind of God (1994) and Contemporary Philosophy of Religion (Blackwell, 1997), and numerous papers in philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and ethics.

Contents
    Acknowledgments – xii
    List of contributors – xiii
    Introduction – 1
    … Philip L. Quinn and Charles Taliaferro
    PART I: PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES IN THE RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD
  1. Hinduism – 7
    … Ninian Smart
  2. Buddhism – 15
    … Paul J. Griffiths
  3. Chinese Confucianism and Daoism – 25
    … Chad Hansen
  4. African religions from a philosophical point of view – 34
    … Kwasi Wiredu
  5. Judaism – 43
    … Lenn E. Goodman
  6. Christianity – 56
    … William J. Wainwright
  7. Islam – 64
    … Azim A. Nanji and Aziz A. Esmail
    PART II: PHILOSOPHICAL THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION IN WESTERN HISTORY
  8. Ancient philosophical theology – 73
    … Kevin L. Flannery, SJ
  9. The Christian contribution to medieval philosophical theology – 80
    … Scott MacDonald
  10. The Islamic contribution to medieval philosophical theology – 88
    … David Burrell, CSC
  11. The Jewish contribution to medieval philosophical theology – 95
    … Tamar Rudavsky
  12. Early modern philosophical theology – 103
    … Derk Pereboom
  13. The emergence of modern philosophy of religion – 111
    … Merold Westphal
    PART III: SOME CURRENTS IN TWENTIETH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
  14. American pragmatism – 121
    … Nancy Frankenberry
  15. Personalism – 129
    … Patricia A. Sayre
  16. Process theology – 136
    … David Ray Griffin
  17. Phenomenology and existentialism – 143
    … Merold Westphal
  18. Wittgensteinianism – 150
    … John Hyman
  19. Thomism – 158
    … Ralph McInerny
  20. The reformed tradition – 165
    … Nicholas Wolterstorff
  21. The Anglican tradition – 171
    … Brian Hebblethwaite
  22. The Jewish tradition – 179
    … Robert Gibbs
  23. The Orthodox tradition – 186
    … Paul Valliere
    PART IV: THEISM AND THE LINGUISTIC TURN
  24. Religious language – 197
    … Janet Soskice
  25. The verificationist challenge – 204
    … Michael Martin
  26. Theological realism and antirealism – 213
    … Roger Trigg
    PART V: THE THEISTIC CONCEPTION OF GOD
  27. Being – 223
    … J. F. Williams
  28. Omnipotence – 229
    … Joshua Hoffman and Gary Rosenkrantz
  29. Omniscience – 236
    … Gorge I. Mavrodes
  30. Goodness – 243
    … Paul Helm
  31. Simplicity – 250
    … Elonore Stump
  32. Eternity – 257
    … Brian Leftow
  33. Necessity – 264
    … William E. Mann
  34. Incorporeality – 271
    … Charles Taliaferro
  35. Beauty – 279
    … Patrick Sherry
  36. Omnipresence – 286
    … Edward R. Wierenga
  37. Foreknowledge and human freedom – 291
    … Linda Zagzebski
  38. Divine action – 299
    … Thomas F. Tracy
  39. Creation and conservation – 306
    … Hugh J. McCann
  40. Immutability and impassibility – 313
    … Richard E. Creel
    PART VI: THE JUSTIFICATION OF THEISTIC BELIEF
  41. Ontological arguments – 323
    … Clement Dore
  42. Cosmological arguments – 331
    … William L. Rowe
  43. Teleological and design arguments – 338
    … Laura L. Garcia
  44. Moral arguments – 345
    … C. Stephen Evans
  45. Pragmatic arguments – 352
    … Jeffrey Jordan
  46. Miracles360
    … George N. Schlesinger
  47. Religious experience – 367
    … Keith E. Yandell
  48. Fideism – 376
    … Terence Penelhum
  49. Reformed epistemology – 383
    … Alvin Plantinga
    PART VII: CHALLENGES TO THE RATIONALITY OF THEISTIC BELIEF
  50. The problem of evil – 393
    … Michael L. Peterson
  51. Naturalistic explanations of theistic belief – 402
    … Kai Nielsen
  52. The presumption of atheism – 410
    … Antony Flew
    PART VIII: THEISM AND MODERN SCIENCE
  53. Theism and physical cosmology – 419
    … William Craig
  54. Theism and evolutionary biology – 426
    … William Hasker
  55. Theism and the scientific understanding of the mind – 433
    … Robert Audi
  56. Theism and technology – 442
    … Frederick Ferre
    PART IX: THEISM AND VALUES
  57. Divine command ethics – 453
    … Janine Marie Idziak
  58. Natural law ethics – 460
    … Robert P. George
  59. Virtue ethics – 466
    … Jean Porter
  60. Narrative ethics – 473
    … Robert C. Roberts
  61. Agapeistic ethics – 481
    … Gene Outka
  62. Theism, law, and politics – 489
    … Paul J. Weithman
  63. Theism and medical ethics – 497
    … James F. Childress
  64. Theism and environmental ethics – 505
    … Gary L. Comstock
  65. Theism and toleration – 514
    … Edward Langerak
    PART X: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION ON CHRISTIAN FAITH
  66. Trinity – 525
    … David Brown
  67. Incarnation – 532
    … Ronald J. Feenstra
  68. Sin and original sin – 541
    … Philip L. Quinn
  69. Atonement, justification, and sanctification – 549
    … John E. Hare
  70. Survival of death1 – 556
    … Stephen T. Davis
  71. Heaven and hell – 562
    … Jonathan L. Kvanvig
  72. Providence and predestination – 569
    … Thomas P. Flint
  73. Petitionary prayer – 577
    … Eleonore Stump
  74. Revelation and scripture – 584
    … William J. Abraham
  75. Tradition – 591
    … Basil Mitchell
    PART XI: NEW DIRECTIONS IN PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
  76. Feminism – 601
    … Sarah Coakley
  77. Religious pluralism – 607
    … John Hick
  78. Comparative philosophy of religion – 615
    … Paul J. Griffiths
    Resources for further study – 621
    Index – 623



"Dore (Clement) - Ontological Arguments"

Source: Quinn (Philip L.) & Taliaferro (Charles) - A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion, Chapter 41 (pp. 323-330)


Full Text
  1. Arguments from the concept of a supremely perfect being to the existence of such a being (called the "ontological argument" by Kant) were first expounded by St. Anselm in his Proslogion and Response to Guanilo. John Duns Scotus, St Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, and Immanuel Kant have all made major contributions to the historical literature on ontological arguments. Morover, in the twentieth century we have important contributions from Charles Hartshorne, Norman Malcolm, James Ross, and Alvin Plantinga (see the Bibliography).
  2. It would be impossible even to begin to do justice to these thinkers within the scope of this article. Rather, I shall discuss a version of the ontological argument which was advanced by Descartes in the seventeenth century. Though it is very succinct, it captures, I think, the essence of all ontological arguments.
  3. In Meditation V, Descartes argues that "there is not any less repugnance to our conceiving a God (that is to say a Being supremely perfect) to whom existence is lacking (that is to say to whom a certain perfection is lacking), than to conceive of a mountain without a valley." And he draws the conclusion that "existence is inseparable from Him and, hence, that He really exists." (Descartes responded to a critic that by "a mountain without a valley," he meant an uphill slope without a downhill slope.)
  4. The following is an elaboration on this argument.
    • (1) The concept of a supremely perfect being is, in part, the concept of a person who has all those properties which are such that it is better than not that a person jointly possesses them. Wisdom and power are examples. (I say “jointly” because, for example, power without wisdom is not a perfection.)
    • (2) The concept of existence is the concept of such a property.
      So
    • (3) It is a conceptual truth that a supremely perfect being possesses the property of existence.
      Hence
    • (4) A supremely perfect being exists.
  5. Since Kant, many philosophers have rejected arguments of this sort, on the ground that existence is not a property of persons. But it is also widely agreed that Gottlob Frege was right in supposing that existence is a property of concepts, namely, the property of being instantiated (see Article 27, BEING). And my interpretation of Descartes's argument (call it "OA1") can be reformulated with that in view:
    • (1) The concept of a supremely perfect being is the concept of a being who has all supreme perfection-making properties.
    • (2) The concept of the concept of such a being being instantiated is the concept of a supreme perfection-making property (one that is necessary, though not sufficient, for supreme perfection).
      So
    • (3) It is a conceptual truth that the concept of a supremely perfect being is instantiated.
      Hence
    • (4) The concept of a supremely perfect being is instantiated, i.e. a supremely perfect being exists.
  6. However, for verbal economy, I shall continue to say simply that the concept of existence simpliciter is the concept of a property which is such that it is better than not that a supremely perfect being possesses it.
  7. Another objection to OA1 is this: "It is analogous to the following argument:
    • (a) The concept of a centaur is the concept of a being with the torso of a human being and the normal hindparts of a horse.
    • (b) The concept of the normal hindparts of a horse is, in part, the concept of something which has a tail.
      So
    • (c) It is a conceptual truth that centaurs have tails. Hence
    • (d) Centaurs have tails
  8. "It is as clear as can be that all that step (c) warrants is the conditional proposition that if there are any centaurs, then they have tails. For surely steps (a) through (c) (all of which are true) do not entitle us to conclude that there are in fact centaurs.
  9. "But now, by parity of reasoning, all that steps (1) through (3) of OA1 warrant us in concluding is that if a supremely perfect being exists, then a supremely perfect being exists. And this is a far cry from being able to conclude that there actually is a supremely perfect being."
  10. The following is a reply to this objection: Sentences of the form "s is p" express a conceptual truth if and only if the explanation of the fact that they express a truth lies entirely in the concept of s and the concept of p. Thus, the explanation of the fact that “Centaurs have tails" expresses a conceptual truth lies entirely in the concept of a centaur and the concept of having a tail. But it is false that the explanation of the concept of "If a supremely perfect being exists, then he exists" lies entirely in the concept of a supremely perfect being and the concept of existence. The concept of a supremely perfect being has no bearing whatever on the truth which is expressed by that sentence, since it would continue to express a true proposition, no matter what syntactically correct substitutions for "supremely perfect being" we might make in it. The same does not hold true for the sentence, "If centaurs exist, then they have tails."
  11. But now (1) and (2) appear to have the same kind of epistemic bearing on (3) as do (a) and (b) on (c), i.e. it looks as if (1) and (2) entail that it is in fact a conceptual truth that a supremely perfect being exists. However, as we have just seen, "A supremely perfect being exists" does not express a conceptual truth if it means "If a supremely perfect being exists, then he exists." It looks, then, as if OA1 really does establish the existence of God.
  12. But here my critic may wish to continue as follows: "All conceptual truths are analytic. Thus, it is a conceptual truth that centaurs have tails because 'centaur' means ‘creature with the normal hindparts of a horse and the torso of a human being,’ and the latter means in part ‘creature with a tail.' And all analytic statements are reducible to ontologically insignificant conditions. For let ‘x-centaur' mean ‘an existent centaur.' Then ‘An x-centaur exists' is analytic. But unless it is equivalent to an ontologically insignificant conditional, namely, 'If an x-centaur exists, then it exists,' then a mere stipulative definition has existential significance.
  13. ”But now it must be the case that the reason that it is conceptual truth that a supremely perfect being exists is that ‘supremely perfect being' means in part ‘a being which exists,' so that ‘A supremely perfect being exists' is reducible to ‘A being which is supremely powerful, and which exists, exists.' And this latter plainly has no more existential clout than does ‘An x-centaur (i.e. an existent centaur) exists.’”
  14. However, this argument (call it "the analyticity argument") can be seen to be a failure. For let "x has actual existence" mean "The sentence, ‘x exists' (1) expresses a truth and (2) is not equivalent in meaning to an ontologically insignificant conditional sentence." Then we can advance the following argument (call it “OA2”):
    • (1) The concept of a supremely perfect being is the concept of a being who has all supreme perfection-making properties.
    • (2) The concept of having actual existence is the concept of a supreme perfection-making property.
      So
    • (3) It is a conceptual truth that a supremely perfect being has actual existence.
      Hence
    • (4) A supremely perfect being has actual existence, i.e. the sentence, "A supremely perfect being exists," expresses an ontologically significant proposition.
  15. Now suppose that my critic maintains, as against OA2, that since it is, indeed, a conceptual truth that a supremely perfect being has actual existence, it must be true that "supremely perfect being" means, in part, "being which has actual existence," so that "A supremely perfect being has actual existence" means “A being who is supremely powerful, etc., and who has actual existence, has actual existence." It is clear that the latter sentence is strongly analogous to "x-centaurs (existent centaurs) exist," so that if all that OA2 warrants is the envisaged conclusion, then it is ontologically defunct.
  16. But now consider the following definition. Let "x has real, actual existence” mean "'x has actual existence' (1) expresses a truth and (2) is not equivalent in meaning to any ontologically insignificant conditional sentence." Then we can set out the following argument (call it "OA3"):
    • (1) The concept of a supremely perfect being is the concept of a being who has every supreme perfection-making property.
    • (2) The concept of having real, actual existence is the concept of a supreme perfection-making property.
      So
    • (3) It is a conceptual truth that a supremely perfect being has real, actual existence.
      So
    • (4) A supremely perfect being has real, actual existence, i.e. "a supremely perfect being has actual existence" expresses an ontologically significant proposition, i.e. the conclusion of OA1 is ontologically significant.
  17. Now if my critic maintained at this point that "supremely perfect being" means "being who is supremely powerful, etc., and who has real, actual existence," so that all that OA3 entitles us to conclude is the ontologically insignificant proposition that a being who has real, actual existence has real, actual existence (i.e. that if such a being exists, then he has real, actual existence), then I would reply by introducing the concept of actual, real, actual existence; and, as we progressed it would become more and more incredible that "supremely perfect being" has such a grotesquely bloated meaning. (This is not a double-edged sword. Indeed, my meta-proofs are intended to show that the conclusions of the immediately preceding proofs are not analytic, but, rather, synthetic, conceptual truths.)
  18. But is it the case that, say, "A supremely perfect being has real, actual existence" differs in meaning from, say, "A supremely perfect being has actual existence"? If not, then my rebuttal is a failure. But the answer is that they do differ in meaning, inasmuch as they refer to different sentence types and tokens. “A supremely perfect being has actual existence" ascribes the property of ontological significance to the sentence (type and token), "A supremely perfect being exists,” whereas "A supremely perfect being has real, actual existence" ascribes ontological significance to a different sentence (type and token), namely, "A supremely perfect being has actual existence." And so on for "A supremely perfect being has actual, real, actual existence," etc.
  19. It should be stressed that we are not confronted by an unacceptable regress here, since once my critic grows weary, there are no further sentence tokens to enter into the regress; and surely sentence types do not exist in the absence of corresponding sentence tokens.
  20. But is it not the case that there are no other instances of conceptual truths which are not clearly essentially conditional truths? And does that not render my arguments suspect? The answer to the former question is "no." For it is far from clear that, say, "It is a conceptual truth that the whole number between the number eight and the number ten is odd" means the same as "It is a conceptual truth that if there is a whole number between the number eight and the number ten, then it is odd" or "If the number eight and the number ten exist and there is a whole number between them, then it is odd." And such examples can, of course, be multiplied indefinitely.
  21. Another reply to my critic is now available. Not only must he reject OA1, but an indefinitely large number of meta-proofs, until he grows weary. He, on the other hand, has only one argument on behalf of his position, namely, the argument that there are no other instances of non-conditional conceptual truths. And, as we have just seen, that is far from clearly cogent.
  22. Here my critic may wish to argue that, none the less, it has some cogency, and, since it refutes OA1, it ipso facto refutes all of the envisaged meta-proofs; so that my multiplying the latter results in no epistemic gain. But, as every philosopher knows, one person's modus ponens is another person's modus tollens. And I submit that it is incredible that the envisaged argument refutes all of the meta-proofs, and, hence, that it is incredible that it refutes OA1.
  23. But don't the envisaged arguments establish, not just the existence of one supremely perfect being, but the existence of an indefinitely large number of supremely perfect beings? And isn't that a good reason to suppose that something is wrong with them? The answer is that since the concept of a supremely perfect being is, among other things, the concept of a being who is the uncreated creator of everything else, it is a conceptual (necessary) truth that any supremely perfect being there may be is the uncreated creator of everything else, and, hence, positing two or more supremely perfect beings commits one to the logically absurd conclusion that there are beings who are both created and uncreated (see Article 39, CREATION AND CONSERVATION).
  24. Let me elaborate. Let us individuate the envisaged supremely perfect beings by naming them. Call one of them "God1" another "God2" and yet another "God3," and so on. And suppose that God1, is necessarily an uncreated creator of everything else. Then God2 and God3, etc., are both created (by God1) and yet, qua supremely perfect beings, uncreated by anyone else. Hence, they are logically impossible. And what is logically impossible is surely not something with respect to which existence is a perfection, i.e. the concept of a logically impossible state of affairs is not such that the concept of its obtaining is the concept of a perfection relative to that state of affairs. Logically impossible states of affairs are such that it is better than not that they do not obtain. The reason is this: a necessarily false proposition entails every proposition. So if a logically impossible state of affairs obtained, then the world would be intolerably chaotic.
  25. It is, of course, true that since "a logically impossible state of affairs obtains" is itself a necessary falsehood, it entails as well that the world would not be intolerably chaotic. But, since it would be intolerably chaotic none the less, it is clearly better than not that no logically impossible state of affairs obtains, i.e. other things being equal, a world which is not intolerably chaotic simpliciter is better than a world which is both not intolerably chaotic and intolerably chaotic, or, at any rate, other things being equal, a world, in which only one supremely perfect being exists and is not intolerably chaotic simpliciter is better than a world, in which there is more than one supremely perfect being, and which is both not intolerably chaotic and intolerably chaotic.
  26. But now what about nearly supremely perfect beings — beings who have all of the perfections of a supremely perfect being except being the uncreated creator of everything else? The answer is that the concept of a supremely perfect being is the concept of a being who cannot possibly be surpassed or even rivalled with respect to the number and degree of his perfections, and, hence, that nearly supremely perfect beings are also logically impossible, so that it is not better not that they exist.
  27. But suppose that someone introduces the concept of minor deities, i.e. who possess some properties which are perfections relative to a supremely being, including existence, but far fewer and to a far less degree. How are we deal with this concept? The answer is that, on this definition, "Minor deities exist” means, in part, “Existent beings, who possess some of a supremely perfect being’s perfections, exist"; and that sentence would continue to express a truth under syntactically correct substitutions for "beings who possess some of a supremely perfect being's perfections." But vacuous truths of this sort are subject to translation into vacuous, ontologically sterile conditionals. Otherwise, sentences such "Existent centaurs (dragons, etc.) exist" would commit us to a distressingly bloated ontology. It follows that "Minor deities exist" is equivalent in meaning to the ontologically sterile conditional sentence, "If minor deities exist, then they exist." "Minor deities [thus defined] exist" is demonstrably and, indeed, intuitively, ontologically sterile.
  28. It would also be unacceptable to define "minor deities" as "beings who possess all properties (whatever they may be) which are perfections relative to a supremely perfect being, except ..." where "existence" is not a fill-in. For the concept of supreme perfection is such that the number of perfections which we would be able to fill in is a mere drop in the ocean with respect to the totality of the perfections of a supremely perfect being: it is physically impossible for us to fill in enough exceptions to render minor deities, defined in the envisaged manner, logically possible. This is because the number of perfections, which we could fill in, constitutes just a small percentage of the perfections of a supremely perfect being, and hence, any possible world, in which a supremely perfect being and a minor deity existed, would be a world in which the latter possessed a high percentage of the perfection of a supremely perfect being and there is no such possible world. But since, as we have seen, it is a conceptual truth that a supremely perfect being exists, and, hence, a supremely perfect being exists in every possible world, there is no possible world in which a minor deity exists. Minor deities, like nearly supremely perfect beings, are logically impossible, and so it is not better than not that they exist.
  29. If my arguments are sound, then "God exists" is intuitively an ontologically significant conceptual truth: it is intuitive that God exists necessarily. But if a proposition, p, is, if true, necessarily true, then p is, if false, necessarily false. For suppose that there is a possible world in which p is true. Then in that world it is necessarily true. And what is necessarily true in one possible world (e.g. “7 + 5 = 12") is necessarily true in the actual one. (There is no possible world in which what is a contingent proposition in the actual world, e.g. "Grass is green," is necessarily true.) It follows that if p is false, then it is not (even) possibly true.
  30. So we can construct an additional argument for God's existence:
    • (1) If God is not logically impossible, then God exists necessarily.
    • (2) God is not logically impossible.
      Hence
    • (3)God exists necessarily.
  31. Of course, this argument does not constitute an epistemic gain unless (2) is subject to defense. But in fact a defense is available:
    • (a) The concept of a supremely perfect being is the concept of a being which has all supreme perfection-making properties.
    • (b) The concept of the concept of such a being being logically coherent is the concept of a supreme perfect-making property.
      So
    • (c) It is a conceptual truth that the concept of a supremely perfect being is logically coherent.
      Hence
    • (d) The concept of a supremely perfect being is in fact logically coherent.
  32. Once again, someone may claim at this point that all that (c) actually warrants the ontologically insignificant conclusion that if the concept of a supremely perfect being is instantiated, then that concept is logically coherent. But meta-proofs, which are analogous to the meta-proofs envisaged earlier, are available at this point. Thus let "The concept of x is actually logically coherent" mean "The sentence 'The concept of x is logically coherent,' (1) expresses a truth and (2) is not reducible to an ontologically insignificant conclusion." Then we can get a meta-proof of the envisaged sort simply by noting that the concept of its concept being actually logically coherent is the concept of a supreme perfection-making property. And until my critic grows weary, I can fall back on real, actual logical coherence; and so on indefinitely.


COMMENT: Hard copy filed in "Various - Heythrop Essays & Supporting Material (Boxes)".



"Quinn (Philip L.) & Taliaferro (Charles) - A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion"

Source: Quinn (Philip L.) & Taliaferro (Charles) - A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion


Introduction (Full Text)
  1. This Companion is a guide to philosophy of religion for non-specialists, but it will also engage specialists. It aims to provide the reader with a fairly detailed map of the territory covered by philosophical thought about religion in the English-speaking world. All philosophical thought is shaped by its cultural context. The volume therefore begins with three parts that discuss the main contexts in which English-speaking philosophers do their thinking about religion.
  2. The religions of the world are irreducibly diverse and likely to remain so. Part I surveys the plurality of philosophical issues to which this religious diversity gives rise. Much philosophical thought about religion in the English-speaking world focuses on problems specific to theism or distinctive of Christianity. However, it would be extremely parochial to suppose that these are the only problems of philosophical interest generated by religion. As cultural contacts among religions increase, philosophical thought about religion is acquiring a growing awareness of and sensitivity to both similarities and differences among the ways in which diverse religious traditions raise issues for philosophers to ponder.
  3. The philosophy of religion of the English-speaking world is the product of a long history of Western philosophical thought. Part II retraces some of the historical developments in philosophy that led up to the emergence of modern philosophy of religion. This history displays both continuities and discontinuities. Throughout it, some philosophical thought about religion has taken the form of philosophical theology, which is the attempt to reflect philosophically within a theistic perspective and is often described as faith seeking understanding. From the Enlightenment on, however, philosophy of religion increasingly took the form of philosophical reflection on religion as a cultural phenomenon from an external and sometimes highly critical point of view.
  4. In the twentieth century, philosophy of religion in the English-speaking world has been carried on in many different religious traditions and philosophical movements. Part III covers some of them. Philosophy of religion has been no exception to the general trend toward greater pluralism in philosophy. Rival traditions and movements in philosophy of religion have produced a rich array of approaches to the philosophical study of religion and of claims, sometimes complementary but often clashing, about religion.
  5. In short, the first three parts of the volume make it clear that philosophy of religion in the English-speaking world is practiced under conditions that have been shaped by the history of Western philosophy and in circumstances in which both religious diversity and philosophical pluralism are important factors. What do philosophers of religion actually accomplish under such conditions and in such circumstances? The remainder of the volume is devoted to answering this question.
  6. One thing philosophers of religion do is discuss language. It is often said that the linguistic turn has been the single most important development in twentieth century philosophy. The rise to prominence in the English-speaking world of philosophy of language was accompanied by a great increase of interest in religious language on the part of philosophers of religion. In the 1950s and 1960s a controversy over whether theistic language was cognitively meaningful occupied center stage in philosophy of religion. Although discussions of theistic language are no longer dominant to the extent they once were, work on religious language continues to play an important role in the field. Part IV surveys some of the issues that arise in such work.
  7. Philosophers of religion also reflect upon the theistic concept of God. They ask: what sort of being is God supposed to be? Attempts to answer this question frequently take the form of specifying a list of divine attributes, that is, properties theists have traditionally wanted to attribute to God. But puzzles arise almost as soon as one begins to think seriously about the traditional divine attributes. Can God make a stone so heavy that even God cannot lift it? Whichever way this question is answered, it seems that there is at least one thing that God cannot do. What sense, then, can be made of the claim that God is almighty or omnipotent? Philosophers of religion typically respond to such puzzles by proposing analyses of the concepts of divine attributes in terms of which the puzzles can be solved and the attributes can be seen to be internally coherent and mutually compatible. To the extent that such efforts succeed progress is made toward a consistent theistic conception of God. There has been much work along these lines recently. It is particularly noteworthy for the way in which philosophers of religion have made fruitful use of work in other areas of philosophy such as metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of mind and action theory to address problems in their own area. Part V contains discussions of the chief divine attributes on which attention has been focused in recent years.
  8. Of course theists would not be content to know merely that a consistent conception of God exists. They also want to know whether such a conception applies to anything, whether the God whom they believe to exist actually does exist. Thus questions in religious epistemology naturally arise. Is theistic belief justified? Is it rational to believe that God exists? Part VI is devoted to considerations that have been taken to provide evidential support for theistic belief; they include arguments for the existence of God or for the rationality of belief in God, miracles and religious experience. It also discusses views according to which theistic belief does not need evidential support from such considerations.
  9. If one is to arrive at a fair assessment of the epistemic status of theistic belief, both the considerations that count against it and those that count for it must be taken into account. So Part VII gives the case against the rationality of theistic belief its day in court.
  10. As they have traditionally been understood, the theistic religions make claims about the way the world is, and such claims can apparently conflict with the claims of modern science. Cases of such conflict are to be found in the condemnation of Galileo's views by the Roman Catholic Church and the rejection of Darwin's views by some theists who hold that evolution is inconsistent with the biblical story of creation. Such conflicts have sometimes been described as episodes in the warfare of science with religion. Even if this description is somewhat exaggerated, there seems to be a certain amount of tension between some of the claims made on behalf of the world view of modern science and some varieties of theism. Hence it is not surprising that philosophers wonder whether traditional theistic belief can be reconciled with, or even derive some support from, the results of the scientific investigation of nature. Part VIII explores this issue. It also addresses the question of how theists should respond to the vast powers that have been placed in human hands by the technologies derived from modern science.
  11. The theistic religions are not, however, merely bodies of doctrine, even though they do contain doctrines. They are also ways of life. They make claims about the nature of human flourishing and the ethical norms that should guide the conduct of life. They propose distinctively religious ethical theories and have implications for applied ethics and politics. Part IX provides an overview of theistic perspectives on several important topics involving human values.
  12. Although problems that arise from generic theistic belief are often at the center of philosophical discussion, generic theism is not a living religion. Each of the major monotheisms — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — has traditions and doctrines that the other two do not share. Christians alone, for example, believe that the one God consists of three distinct divine persons and that one of them, God the Son, became incarnate as the man, Jesus of Nazareth, who was therefore both human and fully divine. These doctrines are sources of much philosophical perplexity. One of the most dramatic developments in philosophy of religion since the 1970s has been the attention devoted to such doctrines in the work of Christian philosophers and others. Part X presents the results of recent work on distinctively Christian doctrines.
  13. Philosophy of religion is not static. It will no doubt change in unpredictable ways in the coming years, but some promising new directions for growth can be identified without much difficulty. Part XI explores three of them. Feminism, religious pluralism, and comparative philosophy of religion offer strong prospects for philosophical insights into religion and are also likely to spark the sort of controversy that is the lifeblood of philosophy.
  14. To return to the cartographic metaphor, the many distinguished contributors to this volume have collectively drawn a better map of the territory of philosophy of religion in the English-speaking world than any single philosopher could produce on his or her own. But the map is not the country. We hope that reading the map will stimulate in many readers a desire to explore the country. The bibliographies to the articles should help such readers to get started. We have provided a brief discussion of resources for further study to give them additional help.
    … Philip L. Quinn
    … Charles Taliaferro



"Trigg (Roger) - Theological Realism and Antirealism"

Source: Quinn (Philip L.) & Taliaferro (Charles) - A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion, pp. 213-220



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