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)

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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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