New Books in Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics – April 2012

* Philosophy and the Christian Worldview: Analysis, Assessment and DevelopmentDavid Werther and Mark D. Linville, eds (Continuum, Feb. 2012)

“The editors have aptly assembled an impressive array of Christian philosophers to honor Professor Keith Yandell’s remarkable contributions to the philosophy of religion. The contributors, along with Yandell himself, rigorously assess various truth claims pertaining to religious beliefs, and in so doing, provide some significant rational support for the truth of the Christian worldview.” –Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary.


* True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of AtheismTom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer, eds. (Patheos Press, March 2012)

“True Reason,” edited by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer, brings together a compendium of writers–philosophers, apologists, ethicists, theologians, historians–who look carefully at the best arguments atheism has and evaluate their validity, logic, assumptions, and naturalist conclusions.  Authors include noted philosopher William Lane Craig and popular apologist Sean McDowell, along with Gilson, Weitnauer, John DePoe, Chuck Edwards, Matthew Flannagan, Peter Grice, Randy Hardman, David Marshall, Glenn Sunshine, David Wood, and Samuel Youngs. Each chapter tackles a different atheist argument and brings reason fully into the discussion.”


* Equality, Freedom, and ReligionRoger Trigg (Oxford University Press, Jan. 2012)

“Roger Trigg looks at the assumptions that lie behind the subordination of religious liberty to other social concerns, especially the pursuit of equality. He gives examples from different Western countries of a steady erosion of freedom of religion. The protection of freedom of worship is often seen as sufficient, and religious practices are separated from the beliefs which inspire them. So far from religion in general, and Christianity in particular, providing a foundation for our beliefs in human dignity and human rights, religion is all too often seen as threat and a source of conflict, to be controlled at all costs. . . . Given the central role of religion in human life, unnecessary limitations on its expression are attacks on human freedom itself.”


* The Historical Jesus: An Essential GuideJames H. Charlesworth (Abingdon Press, 2008)

“Recent years have seen an explosion of talk about the historical Jesus from scholarly settings as well as media outlets (including sensational TV documentaries and national magazines). How is the student of the Bible to assess these various claims about Jesus? And what difference does knowledge of his time and place make for Christian faith, theological thinking, and historical research? James Charlesworth presents the solid results of modern study into the life and times of Jesus, especially regarding the role of the Essenes, the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the nature of messianic expectation, and much more. No one today is better equipped than James Charlesworth to lead students through the thickets of controversy that surround much of contemporary historical Jesus research.”


* Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly FalseThomas Nagel (Oxford University Press, Oct. 2012)

“In Mind and Cosmos Thomas Nagel argues that the widely accepted world view of materialist naturalism is untenable. The mind-body problem cannot be confined to the relation between animal minds and animal bodies. If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind-related aspects of reality, then we must abandon a purely materialist understanding of nature in general, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology . . . “

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Edmund Husserl

The photograph of German philosopher Edmund Hu...

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“Although not the first to coin the term, it is uncontroversial to suggest that the German philosopher, Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), is the ‘father’ of the philosophical movement known as phenomenology.  Phenomenology can be roughly described as the sustained attempt to describe experiences (and the ‘things themselves’) without metaphysical and theoretical speculations.

“Husserl suggested that only by suspending or bracketing away the ‘natural attitude’ could philosophy becomes its own distinctive and rigorous science, and he insisted that phenomenology is a science of consciousness rather than of empirical things. Indeed, in Husserl’s hands phenomenology began as a critique of both psychologism and naturalism.  Naturalism is the thesis that everything belongs to the world of nature and can be studied by the methods appropriate to studying that world (that is, the methods of the hard sciences). Husserl argued that the study of consciousness must actually be very different from the study of nature. . . . “ (continue article)

— Marianne Sawicki at Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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Consciousness Remains an Intractable Problem for Naturalism

I mentioned a few specific reasons for this in a recent post.  However, I think many people believe these objections to a naturalistic account of mind are the creation of Christian critics.  So, here are a few corroborating statements from those on the other side.

[P]hilosopher of mind . . . Ned Block . . . confesses that we have
no idea how consciousness could have emerged from nonconscious matter: “we have nothing—zilch—worthy of being called a research programme…. Researchers are stumped.”6

Berkeley’s John Searle says this is a “leading problem in the biological sciences.”7

Jaegwon Kim notes our “inability” to understand consciousness in an “essentially physical” world.8

Colin McGinn observes that consciousness seems like “a radical novelty in the universe”; 9  he wonders how our “technicolour” awareness could “arise from soggy grey matter.”10

David Papineau wonders why consciousness emerges: “to this question physicalists’ ‘theories of consciousness’ seem to provide no answer.”11

If, however, we have been made by a supremely self-aware Being, then the existence of consciousness has a plausible context.

6. Ned Block, “Consciousness,” in A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, ed. Samuel Guttenplan (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1994), 211.
7. John Searle, “The Mystery of Consciousness: Part II,” New York Review of Books (Nov.16, 1995): 61.
8. Jaegwon Kim, “Mind, Problems of the Philosophy of,” s.v. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed. Ted Honderich (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 578.
9. Colin McGinn, The Mysterious Flame (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 14.
10. Colin McGinn, The Problem of Consciousness (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 10–11.
11. David Papineau, Philosopical Naturalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 119.

From Paul Copan, Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion, p. 105

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Introspection

Le Penseur, Musée Rodin, Paris

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Introspection, as the term is used in contemporary philosophy of mind, is a means of learning about one’s own currently ongoing, or perhaps very recently past, mental states or processes. You can, of course, learn about your own mind in the same way you learn about others’ minds—by reading psychology texts, by observing facial expressions (in a mirror), by examining readouts of brain activity, by noting patterns of past behavior—but it’s generally thought that you can also learn about your mind introspectively, in a way that no one else can. But what exactly is introspection? No simple characterization is widely accepted. Although introspection must be a process that yields knowledge only of one’s own current mental states, more than one type of process fits this characterization.

Introspection is a key concept in epistemology, since introspective knowledge is often thought to be particularly secure, maybe even immune to skeptical doubt. Introspective knowledge is also often held to be more immediate or direct than sensory knowledge. Both of these putative features of introspection have been cited in support of the idea that introspective knowledge can serve as a ground or foundation for other sorts of knowledge.

Introspection is also central to philosophy of mind, both as a process worth study in its own right and as a court of appeal for other claims about the mind. Philosophers of mind offer a variety of theories of the nature of introspection; and philosophical claims about consciousness, emotion, free will, personal identity, thought, belief, imagery, perception, and other mental phenomena are often thought to have introspective consequences or to be susceptible to introspective verification. For similar reasons, empirical psychologists too have discussed the accuracy of introspective judgments and the role of introspection in the science of the mind. (Continue article)

(Via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Consciousness

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Explaining the nature of consciousness is one of the most important and perplexing areas of philosophy, but the concept is notoriously ambiguous. The abstract noun “consciousness” is not frequently used by itself in the contemporary literature, but is originally derived from the Latin con (with) and scire (to know). Perhaps the most commonly used contemporary notion of a conscious mental state is captured by Thomas Nagel’s famous “what it is like” sense (Nagel 1974). When I am in a conscious mental state, there is something it is like for me to be in that state from the subjective or first-person point of view.

But how are we to understand this? For instance, how is the conscious mental state related to the body? Can consciousness be explained in terms of brain activity? What makes a mental state be a conscious mental state? The problem of consciousness is arguably the most central issue in current philosophy of mind and is also importantly related to major traditional topics in metaphysics, such as the possibility of immortality and the belief in free will. (Continue article)

(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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Quotable – John Searle on the Overriding Question in Philosophy

“‘There is exactly one overriding question in contemporary philosophy . . . . How do we fit in? . . . How can we square this self-conception of ourselves as mindful, meaning-creating, free, rational, etc., agents with a universe that consists entirely of mindless, meaningless, unfree, nonrational, brute physical particles?’

For the scientific naturalist, the answer is, ‘Not very well.’”

– J. P. Moreland in God is Great, God is Good (p. 34), quoting John Searle, Freedom & Neurobiology (pp. 4-5).

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Philosophy Word of the Day – The Knowledge Argument Against Physicalism

The knowledge argument is one of the main challenges to physicalism, the doctrine that the world is entirely physical. The argument begins with the claim that there are truths about consciousness that cannot be deduced from the complete physical truth [i.e., a complete physical description of the world]. For example, Frank Jackson’s Mary, learns all the physical truths from within a black-and-white room. Then she leaves the room, sees a red tomato for the first time, and learns new truths—new phenomenal truths about what it’s like to see red. The argument then infers that, contrary to physicalism, the complete physical truth is not the whole truth. The physical truth does not determine or metaphysically necessitate the whole truth about the world.

(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Yes, I’d wager there’s more going on inside of us than “accidental collocations of atoms.”


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