Philosophy Word of the Day – Defeaters in Epistemology

The concept of epistemic defeat or defeasibility has come to occupy an important place in contemporary epistemology, especially in relation to the closely allied concepts of justified belief, warrant, and knowledge. These allied concepts signify positive epistemic appraisal or positive epistemic status. As a first approximation, defeasibility refers to a belief’s liability to lose some positive epistemic status, or to having this status downgraded in some particular way.

For example, a person may be epistemically justified in believing some proposition p at one time, but then the belief might become less justified or even unjustified at some later time. Moreover, beliefs may also be prevented from having or acquiring some positive epistemic status in the first place. So more generally, defeasibility refers to a kind of epistemic liability or vulnerability, the potential of loss, reduction, or prevention of some positive epistemic status. A defeater is, broadly speaking, a condition that actualizes this potential.

(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

It’s also possible to have defeaters for your defeaters.  As Alvin Plantinga points out, given the instigation of the Holy Spirit in an individual’s life, moving them to accept the great things of the gospel, the strength of these resulting beliefs is strong enough to defeat all other potential defeaters of belief in God or the great things of the gospel (e.g., justification by faith, atonement, etc.).

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Get Textbooks on Your iPod

My current iPhone 'desktop'
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If you get your textbooks from CourseSmart, you can now access them on your iPhone or iPod.  U. S. News & World Report shares the details:

CourseSmart, a California company that has already made more than 7,000 digitized textbooks from 12 publishers available to its subscribers through their computers, recently added E-textbooks for the iPhone to its offerings. Users can download the application that allows them to read the new iPod-friendly texts for free through Apple’s App Store, but users are required to pay for the textbooks themselves at a fee that is about 60 to 75 percent of a traditional book’s cost.

PC World writer Todd Weiss points out that there are some drawbacks to this new offering:

First, we’re talking about reading a large textbook on a small iPhone or iPod Touch screen. It may be neat to imagine, but it may not be so easy to use, especially when you are looking for information and you just can’t seem to locate it on the device’s small screen. How likely is it that students will actually want to do this and will find it as productive as reading a traditional paper book? And what happens when your Internet connection is down and you can’t access your books? Believe me, this will happen sometimes. (Continue)

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Gifford Lectures Available Online

The Glasgow University Union's historic buildi...
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Wikipedia has this brief explanation of the Gifford Lectures:

The Gifford Lectures were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford (died 1887). They were established to “promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term — in other words, the knowledge of God.” The term natural theology as used by Gifford means theology supported by science and not dependent on the miraculous. The lectures are given at the Scottish universities: University of St Andrews, University of Glasgow, University of Aberdeen and University of Edinburgh.

A Gifford lectures appointment is one of the most prestigious honors in Scottish academia. They are normally presented as a series over an academic year and given with the intent that the edited content be published in book form. A number of these works have become classics in the fields of theology or philosophy and their relationship to science.

Much obliged to Nick Norelli for passing on this fine resource.

I just came across The Gifford Lectures online.  I don’t know how it is that I’ve not come across this resource before but I’m glad to have discovered it now!  Here’s a brief description from the website:

“The online Gifford Lectures database presents a comprehensive collection of books derived from the Gifford Lectures. In addition to the books, the Web site contains a biography of each lecturer and a summary of the lecture or book. The Web site also contains a biography of Adam Lord Gifford, a copy of his will bequeathing money to the four major Scottish universities to hold the lectures, a brief description of natural theology, an introduction to each of the four universities and news about forthcoming Gifford-related events.”

There’s over 100 years of material on this site and a quick browse through the books turned up plenty of notable works like:

Unfortunately not all of the lectures are currently available online (e.g., Henry Chadwick and Jarislov Pelikan’s) but there’s more than enough there to keep you reading for a good while.

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"The Spiritual Blessings of the Gospel Represented by a Feast" – Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards
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I currently have the pleasure of editing a series of five books on Jonathan Edwards that are forthcoming from Moody Publishers, which I’m excited about.  I believe they will be a good and accessible introduction to Edwards’s life (one book is a biography) and work (the other four are topical studies) from two scholars who know him well – Dr. Douglas Sweeney and Owen Strachan.

I’m finding some great quotes along the way and I’ll share a few here from time to time.  This quote is from a sermon mentioned in the title above, in which Edwards compares the blessings of life in Christ to a great feast.

There is every kind of thing dispensed in Christ that tends to make us excellent and amiable, and every kind of thing that tends to make us happy. There is that which shall fill every faculty of the soul and in a great variety. What a glorious variety is there for the entertainment of the understanding! How many glorious objects set forth, most worthy to be meditated upon and understood! There are all the glorious attributes of God and the beauties of Jesus Christ, and manifold wonders to be seen in the way of salvation, the glories of heaven and the excellency of Christian graces. And there is a glorious variety for the satisfying the will: there are pleasures, riches and honors; there are all things desirable or lovely. There is various entertainment for the affections, for love, for joy, for desire and hope. The blessings are innumerable.

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