The Missing Links – Sept. 9, 2011

Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King’s College London, takes listeners through the history of Western philosophy, “without any gaps.” Beginning with the earliest ancient thinkers, the series will look at the ideas and lives of the major philosophers (eventually covering in detail such giants as Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, Aquinas, Descartes, and Kant) as well as the lesser-known figures of the tradition.

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The purpose of this site is to set [the] contemporary ‘God Wars’ in their historical context, and to offer a range of perspectives (from all sides) on the chief issues raised by the ‘new atheists’. We hope this will encourage more informed opinion about the issues, discourage oversimplification of the debate, and deepen the interest in the subject.

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Edgar Andrews answers this question in an article written for the Christian Apologetics Alliance.

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Philosophy Word of the Day — Omnibenevolence

Whereas classical Greek religion ascribed to the gods very human foibles, theism from Plato onward has affirmed that God is purely good and could not be the author of anything evil (Republic). . . .

As to our knowledge of divine goodness, Aquinas separates the order of being from the order of knowing: all goodness derives from God but we understand divine goodness by extrapolating from the goodness of creatures. For Aquinas, this requires an analogical (as opposed to an equivocal) relationship between divine and human goodness. For Kant, divine goodness is known as a postulate of pure practical reason: God must be there to reward virtue and punish evil.

The greatest challenge to belief in divine goodness has been the fact that evil exists, or more recently, the amount and type of evil rather than the mere fact of it. The problem is lessened if it is acknowledged that divine goodness does not require that each creature always be made to experience as much happiness as it is capable of experiencing. Reasons may include, for example, that: it is impossible that all creatures collectively experience maximal happiness (e.g., because the maximal happiness of one precludes the maximal happiness of another), or that there is some higher good than the happiness of all creatures (e.g., John Hick’s view that maturity is that higher good, and acquiring it may entail some displeasure), or that some forms of good are manifested only when certain types of evil exist (for example, forgiveness requires wrongdoing . . . ); or because God’s favor is undeserved and not given in response to merit, it cannot be owed and God cannot be faulted for not giving it. (See full article)

— Brian Morley, “Western Concepts of God,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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Philosophy Word of the Day — Omnipotence

“Omnipotence is maximal power.  Some philosophers, notably Descartes, have thought that omnipotence requires the ability to do absolutely anything, including the logically impossible.  Most classical theists, however, understood omnipotence as involving vast powers, while nevertheless being subject to a range of limitations of ability, including the inability to do what is logically impossible, the inability to change the past or to do things incompatible with what has happened, and the inability to do things that cannot be done by a being who has other divine attributes, e.g., to sin or to lie.”

— Edward R. Wierenga, “Divine Attributes,” The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed., 240.

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Philosophy Word of the Day — Willard Van Orman Quine (1908–2000)

An image of Quine as seen on his passport.
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Willard Van Orman Quine (1908–2000) worked in theoretical philosophy and in logic. (In practical philosophy, ethics and political philosophy, his contributions are negligible.) He is perhaps best known for his arguments against Logical Empiricism (in particular, its use of the analytic-synthetic distinction). This argument, however, should be seen as part of a comprehensive world-view which makes no sharp distinction between philosophy and empirical science and thus requires a wholesale reorientation of the subject. . . .

Quine’s philosophical thought is remarkably consistent over the course of his long working life. There are, of course, developments, as he comes to appreciate difficulties in his view, or its implications, or distinctions that need to be made. Outright changes of mind, however, are relatively rare and mostly on relatively minor points. We can, for the most part, treat him as holding a single philosophical view; what he calls naturalism is fundamental to that view. This is not to say that his naturalism was self-conscious and explicit from the start. It was, rather, something that he became clearer about over the years. . . .

At one point, Quine describes naturalism as “the recognition that it is within science itself, and not in some prior philosophy, that reality is to be identified and described” (1981, 21). . . .

Many philosophers would no doubt accept that the methods and techniques of science are the best way to find out about the world. . . .  The distinctiveness of Quine’s naturalism begins to emerge if we ask what justifies this naturalistic claim: what reason do we have to believe that the methods and techniques of science are the best way to find out about the world? Quine would insist that this claim too must be based on natural science. (If this is circular, he simply accepts the circularity.) This is the revolutionary step, naturalism self-applied. There is no foundation for Quine’s naturalism: it not based on anything else. (Continue article)

– Peter Hylton in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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Update:  The following information on an upcoming conference on W. V.  Quine was helpfully provided by Douglas Quine:

The young researchers’ group APhEx (Analytical and Philosophical Explanation) has organized an international conference on W. V. Quine at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”: “Word and Object” 50 years later: Colloquium in Celebration of W.V.O. Quine May 28-29, 2010. Department of Philosophical and Epistemological Studies
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Via Carlo Fea, 2 – Villa Mirafiori, Rome, Italy. Details are available at the W. V. Quine website:  http://www.wvquine.org.

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Accident

“A feature or property of a substance (e.g., an organism or artifact) without which the substance could still exist.  According to a common essentialist view of persons, Socrates’ size, color, and integrity are among his accidents, while his humanity is not.  For Descartes, thinking is the essence of the soul, while any particular thought a soul entertains is an accident.  According to a common theology, God has no accidents, since all truths about him flow by necessity of his nature. . . . Issues about accidents have become peripheral in this century because of the decline of traditional concerns about substance.  But the more general questions about necessity and contingency are very much alive.”

– Steven J. Wagner, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed., 5.

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Universals

“Universals are a class of mind independent entities, usually contrasted with individuals (or so-called “particulars”), postulated to ground and explain relations of qualitative identity and resemblance among individuals. Individuals are said to be similar in virtue of sharing universals. An apple and a ruby are both red, for example, and their common redness results from sharing a universal. If they are both red at the same time, the universal, red, must be in two places at once. This makes universals quite different from individuals, and controversial.

Whether universals are in fact required to explain relations of qualitative identity and resemblance among individuals has engaged metaphysicians for two thousand years. Disputants fall into one of three broad camps. Realists endorse universals. Conceptualists and Nominalists, on the other hand, refuse to accept universals and deny that they are needed.

Conceptualists explain similarity among individuals by appealing to general concepts or ideas, things that exist only in minds. Nominalists, in contrast, are content to leave relations of qualitative resemblance brute and ungrounded. Numerous versions of Nominalism have been proposed, some with a great deal of sophistication.

Contemporary philosophy has seen the rise of a new form of Nominalism, one that makes use of a special class of individuals, known as tropes. Familiar individuals have many properties, but tropes are single property instances. Whether Trope Nominalism improves on earlier Nominalist theories is the subject of much recent debate. In general, questions surrounding universals touch upon some of the oldest, deepest, and most abstract of philosophical issues.” (Continue article)

— Mary C. MacLeod and Eric M. Rubenstein, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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Philosophy Audio and Video on the Web – Updated

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Given that it’s a new year, I wanted to bring this list up to date by adding resources and streamlining what was already there.  As I find more, I’ll continue to add to the collection.

If you know of other good audio or video resources in philosophy, especially philosophy of religion, please leave a comment.

(Updated January 2010)


Courses

  • ConsciousnessMP3s here – Susan Stuart, University of Glasgow
  • DeathDownload Course – Shelly Kagan, Yale
  • Existentialism in Literature & FilmiTunesFeed – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
  • HeideggeriTunesFeedMP3s – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
  • Heidegger’s Being & TimeFeedMP3s – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
  • Introduction to Practical Reasoning and Critical Analysis of Argument, iTunes – Daniel Coffeen, UC Berkeley
  • Kant’s EpistemologyiTunes – Dr Susan Stuarts, University of Glasgow.
  • Man, God and Society in Western LiteratureiTunesFeed – Hubert Dreyfus, UC Berkeley
  • The Examined LifeiTunes – Greg Reihman, Lehigh University
  • Ancient PhilosophyiTunesFeedStream – David Ebrey, UC Berkeley
  • Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?YouTube –  Michael Sandel, Harvard
  • Introduction to Political Philosophy – YouTube – iTunes – Download Course, Steven B. Smith, Yale
  • Philosophy for BeginnersiTunes – Marianne Talbot, Oxford
  • Proust & PhilosophyFeed – Johns Hopkins
  • The Examined LifeiTunes – Greg Reihman, Lehigh University

Podcasts

  • Philosophy Bites iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A British podcast featuring interviews of top philosophers that delves into some essential philosophical questions — what is the meaning of life? what is the nature of reality? what is evil?, etc.
  • Philosophers’ Cafe Feed Web Site
    • Comfortable surroundings for vibrant street level discussions on burning issues of the day. No formal philosophy training required; real life experience desired. Come early, stay late. Presented by Simon Fraser University.

(HT: Open Culture)

Philosophy of Religion and Christian Ethics

Courses

  • Paul Copan’s five-session course in philosophy of religion is available free from Reclaiming the Mind Ministries.
  • Ron Nash’s History of Philosophy and Christian Thought is available at biblicaltraining.org (which has nearly an entire seminary curriculum on mp3 available to download).
  • Ron Nash’s Christian Ethics Course is also available at biblicaltraining.org.

Interviews

  • Closer to the Truth has a great collection of video interviews with Christian and non-Christian philosophers on topics in philosophy of religion.  The interviews are streaming video and don’t appear to be available for download.

Podcasts

Talks/Lectures

  • William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith Podcasts (iTunes) contain Dr. Craig’s commentary on issues in philosophy and theology and his answers to questions posted on his Reasonable Faith website.
  • The Veritas Forum website contains dozens of talks and debates by Christian scholars and thinkers on topics that range across every academic discipline.  Among the notable speakers are Alvin Plantinga, Dallas Willard, William Lane Craig, and J. P. Moreland.

Apologetics

Podcasts

General Philosophy

Podcasts

  • Apologetics 315 Logical Fallacies Podcasts
  • Philosopher’s ZoneRadio interviews with philosophers covering all branches of philosophy.
  • In Our TimeThis BBC radio program focuses on the history of ideas and often includes discussion of important philosophers and topics in philosophy.
  • Oxford University Philosophy Podcasts – Links to the annual John Locke lectures, the “Interviews with Philosophers” series, and Marianne Talbot’s “Philosophy for Beginners” (also linked to above).

Talks/Lectures

  • Nietzsche on Mind and Nature – These 7 lectures were given at the international conference “Nietzsche on Mind and Nature” held at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, on 11-13 September, 2009, organized by the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford. (iTunes)

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Maimonides (1135-1204)

Moses ben Maimon [known to English speaking audiences as Maimonides and Hebrew speaking as Rambam] (1138–1204) is the greatest Jewish philosopher of the medieval period and is still widely read today. The Mishneh Torah, his 14-volume compendium of Jewish law, established him as the leading rabbinic authority of his time and quite possibly of all time. His philosophic masterpiece, the Guide of the Perplexed, is a sustained treatment of Jewish thought and practice that seeks to resolve the conflict between religious knowledge and secular.

Although heavily influenced by the Neo-Platonized Aristotelianism that had taken root in Islamic circles, it departs from prevailing modes of Aristotelian thought by emphasizing the limits of human knowledge and the questionable foundations of significant parts of astronomy and metaphysics. Maimonides also achieved fame as a physician and wrote medical treatises on a number of diseases and their cures. Succeeding generations of philosophers wrote extensive commentaries on his works, which influenced thinkers as diverse as Aquinas, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Newton. (Continue article)

“You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes.” Maimonides

(Via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Personalism

Although it was only in the first half of the twentieth century that the term personalism became known as a designation of philosophical schools and systems, personalist thought had developed throughout the nineteenth century as a reaction to perceived depersonalizing elements in Enlightenment rationalism, pantheism, Hegelian absolute idealism, individualism as well as collectivism in politics, and materialist, psychological, and evolutionary determinism.

In its various strains, personalism always underscores the centrality of the person as the primary locus of investigation for philosophical, theological, and humanistic studies. It is an approach or system of thought which regards or tends to regard the person as the ultimate explanatory, epistemological, ontological, and axiological principle of all reality, although these areas of thought are not stressed equally by all personalists and there is tension between idealist, phenomenological, existentialist, and Thomist versions of personalism.

[ . . . ]

Personalists hold personhood (or “personality”) to be the fundamental notion, as that which gives meaning to all of reality and constitutes its supreme value. Personhood carries with it an inviolable dignity that merits unconditional respect. Personalism has for the most part not been primarily a theoretical philosophy of the person. Although it does defend a unique theoretical understanding of the person, this understanding is in itself such as to support the prioritization of moral philosophy, while at the same time the moral experience of the person is such as to decisively determine the theoretical understanding. . . . Stressing the moral nature of the person, or the person as the subject and object of free activity, personalism tends to focus on practical, moral action and ethical questions. (Continue)

(Via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Voltaire (1694–1778)

Voltaire en 1718.
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François-Marie d’Arouet (1694–1778), better known by his pen name Voltaire, was a French writer and public activist who played a singular role in defining the eighteenth-century movement called the Enlightenment. At the center of his work was a new conception of philosophy and the philosopher that in several crucial respects influenced the modern concept of each. Yet in other ways Voltaire was not a philosopher at all in the modern sense of the term. He wrote as many plays, stories, and poems as patently philosophical tracts, and he in fact directed many of his critical writings against the philosophical pretensions of recognized philosophers such as Leibniz, Malebranche, and Descartes.

He was, however, a vigorous defender of a conception of natural science that served in his mind as the antidote to vain and fruitless philosophical investigation. In clarifying this new distinction between science and philosophy, and especially in fighting vigorously for it in public campaigns directed against the perceived enemies of fanaticism and superstition, Voltaire pointed modern philosophy down several paths that it subsequently followed.

(Via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

“If God did not exist, He would have to be invented.” But all nature cries aloud that he does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it.

  • Voltaire quoting himself in his Letter to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (177011-28), translated by S.G. Tallentyre, Voltaire in His Letters, 1919.

Every sensible man, every honorable man, must hold the Christian sect in horror.

(Via Wikiquote)

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