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Ward - Naturalism and Metaphysics

(Text as at 18/12/2010 19:58:05)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)


  1. Keith Ward provided a hand-out ("Ward (Keith) - God and Metaphysics"), but made a lot of ad hoc replies to Snowdon1 as he went along. These comments are fairly full notes I made during the talk. Any footnotes are my own comments.
  2. Ward was appreciative of the non-hostility from the Naturalist camp – in marked contrast to other Oxonians!
  3. He denied that we have to start from T-Naturalism. Experiences that are natural to us are not necessarily those of T-Naturalism. Eg. those of Platonists with numbers.
    • Some cosmologists refer to “this universe”; where this space-time arises from outside. Quantum-cosmologists are happy talking about the supernatural. T-Naturalism only applies to “this” space-time – we don’t know the character of other space-times.
    • Superstring theory posits a 10-dimensional universe – this is not “natural”.
    • The truths of mathematics are not “in” space-time.
    • So, naturalism is not where Ward starts from – it’s not “natural” for him to do so.
  4. Theists think that space-time depends on something outside of space-time. Their interpretive scheme includes God, a mind-like being who wills things and knows all things intuitively. Could there be such a mind? It would be queer, but a non-physical mind is not necessarily incoherent. There could be such a mind that only knows – so all this mathematical truth is in the mind of God – semi-Platonism re mathematics – better than Penrose’s claim2 that mathematical objects exist, but not in a mind.
  5. If there is such a being, then it can’t be physically identified, and it can’t be known by science even in principle, because the claim is that God is not known by the senses.
  6. Commitment: the universe has a goal or purpose. There is no direction in evolution. It is difficult to find purpose in T-Naturalism – there is no “final causality” in nature. So – what is the evidence? Does the universe look as though it has a purpose? Ayer originally denied that his question was meaningful, but then changed his mind3.
  7. So, the existence of evil is a counter-argument to theism. But it doesn’t follow from theism that all will be good. There could be some reason for evil ... not everything that occurs is directly willed by God. Does chance play a major part? The lottery is nice, except if you lose. Do we have the world a rational mind would choose?
  8. Transcendental deduction of the nature4) of value.
      G. E. Moore: Non-Natural facts5.
    • Beautiful : good; ugly : bad – depends on a valuing mind, depends on someone making a decision.
    • But, aren’t distinctions between good & bad discoveries, rather than decisions?
    • Consciousness is a necessary condition for value; plus the ability to anticipate the future; Plus feeling – gives a reason for choice of pleasure over pain; a ranking.
    • Value is not arbitrary taste – and intelligent being would make the same choice.
  9. So, if the universe has a value, it depends on a mind valuing it (over other possible universes).
  10. Purpose: involves value, process, and consciousness. That at which the universe aims. The purpose of the universe is the emergence of conscious beings (Philippa Foot6).
  11. God can only know some things if they are actual, rather than potential – this is Ward’s controversial (and anti-Aquinas) claim. Otherwise (?) we have an argument for modal realism.
  12. Ward does see value – dependent on T-Naturalism, but not T-Naturalism; a way of being in the world as seeing purpose behind it. That’s the way most people see the world – they are supernaturalists (though not necessarily theists – cf. the Chinese).
  13. We are all “sinners” – alienated from the source of our being. Have to be told they need good arguments – quote from some philosopher7 who – in relation to the “other minds” problem – said he didn’t want “inferred friends”.
  14. Those who experiment with prayer are misled – God objects to being experimented on.
  15. Plato – appearance and reality – a theistic empiricist?



In-Page Footnotes:

Footnote 2: Where is this claim made?

Footnote 3: Where – on both counts? Try "Ayer (A.J.) - Language, Truth and Logic", possibly in the (later) "Ayer (A.J.) - Language, Truth and Logic; Introduction" for the recantation.
Alternatively, somewhere in "Hahn (Lewis Edwin), Ed. - The Philosophy of A.J. Ayer", possibly in "Ayer (A.J.) - Still More of My Life" or in "Ayer (A.J.) - My Mental Development".

Footnote 4: Or notion?

Footnote 5: Presumably see "Moore (G.E.) - Principia Ethica".

Footnote 6: Where? And what about the heat death, or big crunch, after which there will be no conscious beings in the universe. Does this undermine its purpose?

Footnote 7: Looks like H.H. Price in Philosophy 13 : 425-456 (1938) “Our Evidence for the Existence of Other Minds”


Printable Versions:



Table of the Previous 7 Versions of this Note:

Date Length Title
21/06/2010 12:28:48 4455 Ward - Naturalism and Metaphysics
21/06/2010 10:29:17 2197 Ward - Naturalism and Metaphysics
21/06/2010 10:19:12 1317 Ward - Naturalism and Metaphysics
21/06/2010 09:36:00 1090 Ward - Naturalism and Metaphysics
20/06/2010 19:56:38 954 Ward - Naturalism and Metaphysics
20/06/2010 14:05:17 872 Ward - Naturalism and Metaphysics
18/06/2010 14:54:14 16 Ward - Naturalism and Metaphysics



Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
18/12/2010 19:58:05 None available Heythrop - Religion and Naturalism Conference

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Snowdon - Naturalism and Metaphysics        

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.




Summary of Note Links to this Page

Heythrop - Religion and Naturalism Conference Snowdon & Ward - Naturalism and Metaphysics - Q&As      

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.




References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Ayer (A.J.) Language, Truth and Logic Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Ayer (A.J.) - Language, Truth and Logic Yes
Ayer (A.J.) Language, Truth and Logic; Introduction Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Ayer - Language, Truth and Logic, Introduction Yes
Ayer (A.J.) My Mental Development Paper - Cited Hahn - The Philosophy of A.J. Ayer No
Ayer (A.J.) Still More of My Life Paper - Cited Hahn - The Philosophy of A.J. Ayer No
Hahn (Lewis Edwin), Ed. The Philosophy of A.J. Ayer Book - Cited Hahn (Lewis Edwin), Ed. - The Philosophy of A.J. Ayer No
Moore (G.E.) Principia Ethica Book - Cited Moore (G.E.) - Principia Ethica No
Ward (Keith) God and Metaphysics Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Religion and Naturalism, Heythrop College, 12 July 2010 Yes



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