Coherentism is a theory of epistemic justification. It implies that for a belief to be justified it must belong to a coherent system of beliefs. For a system of beliefs to be coherent, the beliefs that make up that system must “cohere” with one another. Typically, this coherence is taken to involve three components: logical consistency, explanatory relations, and various inductive (non-explanatory) relations. Rival versions of coherentism spell out these relations in different ways. They also differ on the exact role of coherence in justifying beliefs: in some versions, coherence is necessary and sufficient for justification, but in others it is only necessary.
(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Coherentism, as mentioned above, is usually contrasted with the theory of epistemic justification known as foundationalism:
Foundationalism is any theory in epistemology (typically, theories of justification, but also of knowledge) that holds that beliefs are justified (known, etc.) based on what are called basic beliefs (also commonly called foundational beliefs). Basic beliefs are beliefs that give justificatory support to other beliefs, and more derivative beliefs are based on those more basic beliefs. The basic beliefs are said to be self-justifying or self-evident, that is, they enjoy a non-inferential warrant (or justification), i.e., they are not justified by other beliefs. Typically and historically, foundationalists have held either that basic beliefs are justified by mental events or states, such as experiences, that do not constitute beliefs (these are called nondoxastic mental states), or that they simply are not the type of thing that can be (or needs to be) justified.
Hence, generally, a Foundationalist might offer the following theory of justification:
- A belief is epistemically justified if and only if (1) it is justified by a basic belief or beliefs, or (2) it is justified by a chain of beliefs that is supported by a basic belief or beliefs, and on which all the others are ultimately based.
A basic belief, on the other hand, does not require justification because it is a different kind of belief than a non-foundational one.
It’s good to see some podcasts emerging in this area. NT Gateway lists the ones below. NT Pod especially has some interesting topics (e.g., “What is Redaction” and “Resurrection and After-Life in Paul”).
By Mark Goodacre. Regular podcast by the editor of this (NT Gateway) site on the New Testament and Christian Origins. Each podcast is a bite-sized 5-8 minutes long.
5 Minute Bible
By Tim Bulkeley. Five minute podcasts on the Bible, with special reference to the Old Testament, with archives going back to 2007. Many bite-sized blogs on a variety of themes from one of the pioneers of online academic Biblical materials.
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean
By Phil Harland. 25-30 minute podcasts from Philip Harland of York University, Toronto, in several series, including Paul and his Communities (2007-8), Early Christian Portraits of Jesus (2008) and Diversity in Early Christianity: “Heresies” and Struggles (2009).
By Matt Page. 5-10 minute podcasts offering reflections on several major Jesus films. From Matt Page of the Bible Films Blog.
The lecture “The Resurrection Evidence that Changed a Generation of Critical Scholars” was given at the 2009 European Leadership Forum. The audio is available on iTunes here or for streaming online here.
The forum also has many good lectures available from past meetings here (choose the menu under “Quick Access”).
If you’re married, how many times has your spouse saved you from making a bad decision? I’ve lost count. Good words here from author and counselor Dr. Gary Chapman on making decisions in marriage. This one is addressed to men, but it works both ways. Both husbands and wives need each other’s perspectives to make good decisions.
Most counselors agree that one of the greatest problems in marriage is decision making. Visions of democracy dance in the minds of many young couples, but when there are only two voting members, democracy often results in deadlock. How does a couple move beyond deadlock? The answer is found in one word: love.
Love always asks the question, “What is best for you?” Love does not demand its own way. Love seeks to bring pleasure to the one loved. That is why Christians should have less trouble making decisions than non-Christians. We are called to be lovers. When I love my wife, I will not seek to force my will upon her for selfish purposes.
The biblical idea of the husband being the head of the wife has been one of the most exploited concepts of the Bible. Christian husbands, full of self-will, have made all kinds of foolish demands of their wives under the authority of “The Bible says….” Headship does not mean that the husband has the right to make all the decisions and inform the wife of what is going to be done.
She is called to be a “helpmate”. The word means “helper”. How can she be a helper if she has no opportunity to share her ideas? “Two are better than one,” the Scriptures say. That is certainly true in decision making. Why would a husband want to make a decision limited to his own wisdom when God has given him a helper?
Normative theory that human conduct is right or wrong because of its tendency to produce favorable or unfavorable consequences for the people who are affected by it. The hedonistic utilitarianism of Bentham, Mill, and Sidgwick maintains that all moral judgments can be derived from the greatest happiness principle. The ideal utilitarianism espoused by G. E. Moore, on the other hand, regarded aesthetic enjoyment and friendship as the highest ethical values. Contemporary utilitarians differ about whether the theory should be applied primarily to acts or rules.
(Via Philosophical Dictionary)
It strikes me that utilitarianism is only half of a moral theory. In order to determine what counts as a favorable or unfavorable consequence, it seems to me you need another theory of what’s actually right and wrong. Especially, in this context, a theory of what is good for a human being, what makes a human being flourish – what the proper telos is for a person (or group or society).
Without knowing that, how could you begin to decide what counts as a favorable or unfavorable consequence for an individual person? Only if you know what’s good for a human being, can you decide what will work to that human being’s favor. So, it seems we need some moral guidelines before we can calculate the possible consequences of actions.
Michael Hyatt, CEO of publisher Thomas Nelson, described in a blog post today a survey Thomas Nelson did recently asking readers to vote on a new Nelson logo that would appear on the spines of their books.
He commented about the survey,
Prior to this research, our internal position was that the publisher’s name and logo didn’t matter to the consumer. According to this view, consumers were primarily focused on the author’s name and the book’s title or subject matter.
However, more than 500 people actually left a comment on the survey. Many of them reported that “Thomas Nelson” did mean something positive to them, and they wanted to see it more prominently displayed on the spine.
I’m curious how you all think about that. Does the publisher’s name play a role in whether you choose to buy or browse a book? Or is the author and topic most important?
Based on the survey results, Nelson decided to go with this look and logo (see the post for a larger image) for the spine.
I’ve mentioned philosophy professor Win Corduan’s series on modern theologians before, and he’s now helpfully collected all of the posts in one place for easy reading. These are nice introductions to these theologians’ ideas and works, and he also points out where their ideas intersect with philosophy.
For example, writing on Wolfhart Pannenberg,
Pannenberg’s doctorate was in philosophy, but when the opportunity came for him to teach theology he quickly had to “throw together” a habilitation thesis (to qualify for university teaching) in theology. This “hastily” produced book, Jesus-God and Man (1968) , turned out to be a huge hit and will probably remain the one for which he is best known. In this book he attempted to construct a Christology “from below,” which means that he started with the man Jesus and then showed that this man was (is) God incarnate.
Crucial to this argument is the resurrection of Christ, and Pannenberg went to great lengths to show that it was a historical event. He also calls it a mystery, but when I asked him about using that term, he explained that he had in mind the fact that ultimately the very natures of death and life are mysterious to us. He did not mean to whittle back on the historicity of the resurrection. That assertion caused a bit of consternation among the Bultmannians in the audience.
Now, the crucial term to understand Pannenberg’s theology is “proleptic.” That term means that something is not yet here, but we are already benefiting from it. Thus, Pannenberg argued that the Kingdom of God is not yet here, but it is already present among us proleptically, as guaranteed by the resurrection. How is this different from what [Jurgen] Moltmann was saying?, you might ask. Pannenberg does not resort to equivocal language. In keeping with the Scotist roots to which we alluded above, the hope to which he refers has actual biblical content.
The posts are nice, short summaries of the theologians’ most important ideas and writings.
An informative interview by Christianity Today with the new director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (CBHD), Paige Cunningham. The CBHD website has a great collection of resources on bioethical issues from an evangelical perspective.
Here’s an excerpt:
What new bioethical challenges are you considering?
We’ve been talking with people from India and Africa about issues like the black market in organ transplantation. Crossing animals and humans has been approved in the U.K. There is a shortage of human eggs, so they want to use animal eggs. The reality is that these bioethical issues are not just an American or a Western concern; they are significant frontline issues around the world.
We recently saw news that New York will begin paying women to donate eggs for research.
People who are outside evangelicalism share real concerns about the impact on women’s health and the potential exploitation of women. It’s an irony that a young, white, smart, beautiful Ivy League college student can get up to $50,000 to donate her eggs, but in New York State, the limit is $5,000. They’re not really interested in the eggs for their genetic qualities. They just want eggs to create embryos. The issue shows real potential for exploitation of women who are trying to pay off a credit card bill or a mortgage. She’ll get one-tenth of what the Ivy League woman gets, and she may risk serious impact on her health.
What are other bioethical issues Christians need to be better educated about?
Adult stem cell research, which is using stem cells from anything other than embryos, is very successful. There are people walking around today who are alive because they had an adult stem cell treatment, using their own stem cells. There are also other alternatives to produce embryonic stem cell lines that don’t involve the destruction of an embryo: Altered Nuclear Transfer, which is still in active research, and IPS, Induced Pluripotent Stem cells. If Christians were going to pick one to be well informed on, stem cell research is probably the one I would encourage them to spend a little time with. (continue)
Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, and regarded by some as the most important since Immanuel Kant. His early work was influenced by that of Arthur Schopenhauer and, especially, by his teacher Bertrand Russell and by Gottlob Frege, who became something of a friend. This work culminated in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the only philosophy book that Wittgenstein published during his lifetime. It claimed to solve all the major problems of philosophy and was held in especially high esteem by the anti-metaphysical logical positivists. The Tractatus is based on the idea that philosophical problems arise from misunderstandings of the logic of language, and it tries to show what this logic is.
Wittgenstein’s later work, principally his Philosophical Investigations, shares this concern with logic and language, but takes a different, less technical, approach to philosophical problems. This book helped to inspire so-called ordinary language philosophy. This style of doing philosophy has fallen somewhat out of favor, but Wittgenstein’s work on rule-following and private language is still considered important, and his later philosophy is influential in a growing number of fields outside philosophy.
On religion and ethics:
Wittgenstein had a lifelong interest in religion and claimed to see every problem from a religious point of view, but never committed himself to any formal religion. His various remarks on ethics also suggest a particular point of view, and Wittgenstein often spoke of ethics and religion together. This point of view or attitude can be seen in the four main themes that run through Wittgenstein’s writings on ethics and religion: goodness, value or meaning are not to be found in the world; living the right way involves acceptance of or agreement with the world, or life, or God’s will, or fate; one who lives this way will see the world as a miracle; there is no answer to the problem of life–the solution is the disappearance of the problem.
(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
I just discovered this nice-looking resource on the blogroll of A Time to Think – the Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology. According to the site, it “contains articles written mainly by students of Boston University Modern Western Theology seminars.”
There’s a great list of articles on important figures in theology such as Augustine, Barth, Jonathan Edwards, Carl Henry, and Niebuhr, as well as significant topics like evangelical theology, Protestant liberalism, Pietism, and the social gospel movement.
Some important figures in philosophy make the list too: John Hick, Kierkegaard, John Locke, Richard Swinburne, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.
Looks like a fine resource for and by students of theology.