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Philosophy of Religion and Intuitions
Posted: 21 June 2013 12:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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Scott Mayers - 20 June 2013 02:44 PM

Dom, I got the impression from the article you refer to that most philosophers of religion outside of RE don’t even waste time with them. It seems that the point of the article was to say that other philosophers of religion should take Plantiga’s challenge to argue even with his obvious poor logic to close the door on such people for good by challenging their perceptions of Biblical theology that their ‘basic’ beliefs are founded on.

Haha. Most philosophers of religion don’t waste their time with Plantinga? That would be as ridiculous as saying that most political philosophers don’t waste their time with John Rawls. Plantinga is by far the most important figure in analytic philosophy of religion today. 

What Gericke probably thinks is that analytic philosophy of religion is just pointless scholasticism that ignores all the important and interesting issues.

[ Edited: 21 June 2013 01:21 AM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 21 June 2013 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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It’s also possible that he’s just the most well known one in the American conscious. There’s a bigger world outside of the U.S.

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Posted: 21 June 2013 06:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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Scott Mayers - 21 June 2013 03:24 AM

It’s also possible that he’s just the most well known one in the American conscious. There’s a bigger world outside of the U.S.

 

No, in the English-speaking world as a whole he is the most important philosopher of religion. Listen to the interview with Oppy. He does a good job of explaining why in that interview. Back when I studied philosophy of religion as an undergraduate in the UK, Plantinga was definitely the main man, and people who’ve done postgraduate stuff in philosophy of religion tell me that you get even more Plantinga there. 

Continental philosophy of religion is a different matter, though. For all their faults, continental philosophers of religion do take history seriously. They will know a lot about church history, biblical studies, comparative religion and anthropology of religion, and they will use this in their philosophizing, and so views like those of Plantinga and Craig wouldn’t be taken seriously there.   

I guess philosophy of religion somehow needs to take the best of both continental and analytic philosophy of religion. It needs the rigor, clarity and logical precision of analytic philosophy, but it needs to combine this with a serious understanding of the history, psychology, anthropology and sociology of religion.

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Posted: 21 June 2013 07:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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Doug, as I’ve said time and time again, even though both Plantinga and Craig claim to be very biblical, the last thing they want to do is talk about and examine the Bible (and church history) in a serious way. It is just accepted on faith that the Bible is infallible and inerrant. They just will not compromise here. This is because they know that once they start to admit that there are errors and contradictions and immoral acts commanded by God in there, they will be on the slippery slope to liberal Christianity, or even complete relativism. If the Bible contains mistakes, then how can we be sure that any particular thing in there is true? The Bible is the one solid and stable rock we have in a constantly changing world, and without it we’re lost. This is why the fundamentalist has no choice but to demonize and caricature everybody working in modern critical biblical scholarship. One of their favorite lines is to say that they’re all coming at the Bible with ‘materialistic presuppositions’. But this is complete nonsense. It’s not true that these people are all atheists or materialists, but even if this were true, you would still need to engage with their arguments and look at the evidence rather than just attacking their worldview. 

On the question of evolution, Plantinga and Craig are very slippery and difficult to pin down. One this is certain, they are not young earth creationists. They have made this clear. They have accepted that the earth is billions of years old, and they think this can be made to fit with scripture. Other than that, though, I’m not really sure what their views are. They both seem to go for some kind of guided evolution, but I can’t really say any more than that.

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Posted: 22 June 2013 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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Dom1978 - 21 June 2013 07:40 PM

Doug, as I’ve said time and time again, even though both Plantinga and Craig claim to be very biblical, the last thing they want to do is talk about and examine the Bible (and church history) in a serious way. It is just accepted on faith that the Bible is infallible and inerrant. They just will not compromise here. This is because they know that once they start to admit that there are errors and contradictions and immoral acts commanded by God in there, they will be on the slippery slope to liberal Christianity, or even complete relativism. If the Bible contains mistakes, then how can we be sure that any particular thing in there is true? The Bible is the one solid and stable rock we have in a constantly changing world, and without it we’re lost. This is why the fundamentalist has no choice but to demonize and caricature everybody working in modern critical biblical scholarship. One of their favorite lines is to say that they’re all coming at the Bible with ‘materialistic presuppositions’. But this is complete nonsense. It’s not true that these people are all atheists or materialists, but even if this were true, you would still need to engage with their arguments and look at the evidence rather than just attacking their worldview. 

There is certainly ample room within analytic philosophy for anyone to bring issues of history, psychology, anthropology, and sociology of religion to philosophy of religion discussions. Indeed, these (and more) are typically used in discussions of philosophy of mind. (E.g., see Dennett’s work). If it hasn’t been done in philosophy of religion, then I agree that someone should do it.

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Posted: 22 June 2013 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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dougsmith - 22 June 2013 05:14 AM
Dom1978 - 21 June 2013 07:40 PM

Doug, as I’ve said time and time again, even though both Plantinga and Craig claim to be very biblical, the last thing they want to do is talk about and examine the Bible (and church history) in a serious way. It is just accepted on faith that the Bible is infallible and inerrant. They just will not compromise here. This is because they know that once they start to admit that there are errors and contradictions and immoral acts commanded by God in there, they will be on the slippery slope to liberal Christianity, or even complete relativism. If the Bible contains mistakes, then how can we be sure that any particular thing in there is true? The Bible is the one solid and stable rock we have in a constantly changing world, and without it we’re lost. This is why the fundamentalist has no choice but to demonize and caricature everybody working in modern critical biblical scholarship. One of their favorite lines is to say that they’re all coming at the Bible with ‘materialistic presuppositions’. But this is complete nonsense. It’s not true that these people are all atheists or materialists, but even if this were true, you would still need to engage with their arguments and look at the evidence rather than just attacking their worldview. 

There is certainly ample room within analytic philosophy for anyone to bring issues of history, psychology, anthropology, and sociology of religion to philosophy of religion discussions. Indeed, these (and more) are typically used in discussions of philosophy of mind. (E.g., see Dennett’s work). If it hasn’t been done in philosophy of religion, then I agree that someone should do it.

I think this is the wrong way of approaching things. The point is that philosophers of religion MUST know a lot about comparative religion, biblical studies, and history/sociology/anthropology of religion and MUST use this in their philosophizing. It’s not an optional extra. I’m not saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if a few new philosophers of religion took these things into account when arguing with fundamentalists.” The main case against fundamentalism comes from these other disciplines, and not from abstract arguments like the problem of evil and divine hiddenness.

Now, as you say, this is difficult, because it’s impossible for any one person to have a really deep knowledge of all these disciplines. So for example we can’t expect philosophers of religion to learn Greek and become experts on the New Testament. They just need to have a good understanding of the mainstream views in these other disciplines, and this alone will be enough to make fundamentalism completely implausible.

There shouldn’t be any place for fundamentalist Christians or fundamentalist Muslims in philosophy of religion. If POR was doing its job properly, you would just have atheists, agnostics, mystics, liberal Christians and others arguing about why there’s something rather than nothing and about whether naturalism alone can explain everything in life. It is just bizarre that fundamentalists are still taken seriously in POR.

[ Edited: 22 June 2013 05:46 PM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 22 June 2013 05:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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Dom1978 - 22 June 2013 05:40 PM

There shouldn’t be any place for fundamentalist Christians or fundamentalist Muslims in philosophy of religion. If POR was doing its job properly, you would just have atheists, agnostics, mystics, liberal Christians and others arguing about why there’s something rather than nothing and about whether naturalism alone can explain everything in life. It is just bizarre that fundamentalists are still taken seriously in POR.

Well, the reason for this is that ad hominem is still a fallacy.

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Posted: 22 June 2013 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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dougsmith - 22 June 2013 05:53 PM
Dom1978 - 22 June 2013 05:40 PM

There shouldn’t be any place for fundamentalist Christians or fundamentalist Muslims in philosophy of religion. If POR was doing its job properly, you would just have atheists, agnostics, mystics, liberal Christians and others arguing about why there’s something rather than nothing and about whether naturalism alone can explain everything in life. It is just bizarre that fundamentalists are still taken seriously in POR.

Well, the reason for this is that ad hominem is still a fallacy.

It’s not ad hominem. It’s demonstrably false that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. It looks for all the world like it’s a human book written by human beings for human reasons. So if people like Craig and Plantinga believe these things, then they are both irrational, as we use the word ‘irrational’ in everyday life. And if you say they’re not irrational, then surely no one is irrational.

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Posted: 23 June 2013 05:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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Dom1978 - 22 June 2013 08:17 PM
dougsmith - 22 June 2013 05:53 PM
Dom1978 - 22 June 2013 05:40 PM

There shouldn’t be any place for fundamentalist Christians or fundamentalist Muslims in philosophy of religion. If POR was doing its job properly, you would just have atheists, agnostics, mystics, liberal Christians and others arguing about why there’s something rather than nothing and about whether naturalism alone can explain everything in life. It is just bizarre that fundamentalists are still taken seriously in POR.

Well, the reason for this is that ad hominem is still a fallacy.

It’s not ad hominem. It’s demonstrably false that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. It looks for all the world like it’s a human book written by human beings for human reasons. So if people like Craig and Plantinga believe these things, then they are both irrational, as we use the word ‘irrational’ in everyday life. And if you say they’re not irrational, then surely no one is irrational.

It’s ad hominem to dismiss an argument put forward by someone simply because they are a fundamentalist. The reason Plantinga (in particular) is taken seriously in philosophy is that in fact he is a very good philosopher. That does not imply that every argument he makes is very good. Some of them are very bad. But that is true of virtually any philosopher you choose. The only difference with Plantinga is that many of his bad arguments are bad because he is a fundamentalist Christian rather than because of his being too convinced about some other topic of discussion. I can assure you that his being a fundamentalist is not a boon to his acceptance within academia, but many of the best academics at least try to be fair when considering arguments.

And if having false beliefs makes one irrational, then we are all irrational to some degree. If we only consider arguments put forward by demonstrably 100% rational people, we will have no arguments to consider.

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Posted: 23 June 2013 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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dougsmith - 23 June 2013 05:01 AM
Dom1978 - 22 June 2013 08:17 PM
dougsmith - 22 June 2013 05:53 PM
Dom1978 - 22 June 2013 05:40 PM

There shouldn’t be any place for fundamentalist Christians or fundamentalist Muslims in philosophy of religion. If POR was doing its job properly, you would just have atheists, agnostics, mystics, liberal Christians and others arguing about why there’s something rather than nothing and about whether naturalism alone can explain everything in life. It is just bizarre that fundamentalists are still taken seriously in POR.

Well, the reason for this is that ad hominem is still a fallacy.

It’s not ad hominem. It’s demonstrably false that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. It looks for all the world like it’s a human book written by human beings for human reasons. So if people like Craig and Plantinga believe these things, then they are both irrational, as we use the word ‘irrational’ in everyday life. And if you say they’re not irrational, then surely no one is irrational.

It’s ad hominem to dismiss an argument put forward by someone simply because they are a fundamentalist. The reason Plantinga (in particular) is taken seriously in philosophy is that in fact he is a very good philosopher. That does not imply that every argument he makes is very good. Some of them are very bad. But that is true of virtually any philosopher you choose. The only difference with Plantinga is that many of his bad arguments are bad because he is a fundamentalist Christian rather than because of his being too convinced about some other topic of discussion. I can assure you that his being a fundamentalist is not a boon to his acceptance within academia, but many of the best academics at least try to be fair when considering arguments.

And if having false beliefs makes one irrational, then we are all irrational to some degree. If we only consider arguments put forward by demonstrably 100% rational people, we will have no arguments to consider.

Of course I’m not saying that having false beliefs makes one irrational. I’m simply saying that a person who continues to believe in, say, young earth creationism or the inerrancy of scripture, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is irrational.

[ Edited: 23 June 2013 05:32 AM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 23 June 2013 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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Dom1978 - 23 June 2013 05:15 AM

Of course I’m not saying that having false beliefs makes one irrational. I’m simply saying that a person who continues to believe in, say, young earth creationism or the inerrancy of scripture, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is irrational.

Sure they are. So are people who believe in ghosts, astrology, or the Kennedy conspiracy. I had one professor of philosophy bring up the Kennedy conspiracy all the time during class. Perhaps he was making a big joke, but I am not at all convinced of that, and his seriousness re. that topic would not at any rate invalidate any other arguments he might have made during class. I had another colleague during grad school (now a professor of philosophy) who believed in astrology. The fact that she believed in astrology did not make her arguments re. philosophy of biology any worse. You may find it surprising, even insane, that a good philosopher of biology might believe in astrology, but such is human nature.

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Posted: 23 June 2013 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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dougsmith - 23 June 2013 05:31 AM
Dom1978 - 23 June 2013 05:15 AM

Of course I’m not saying that having false beliefs makes one irrational. I’m simply saying that a person who continues to believe in, say, young earth creationism or the inerrancy of scripture, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is irrational.

Sure they are. So are people who believe in ghosts, astrology, or the Kennedy conspiracy. I had one professor of philosophy bring up the Kennedy conspiracy all the time during class. Perhaps he was making a big joke, but I am not at all convinced of that, and his seriousness re. that topic would not at any rate invalidate any other arguments he might have made during class. I had another colleague during grad school (now a professor of philosophy) who believed in astrology. The fact that she believed in astrology did not make her arguments re. philosophy of biology any worse. You may find it surprising, even insane, that a good philosopher of biology might believe in astrology, but such is human nature.

 

Ah, but we’re talking about philosophy of religion here. In POR the whole point of the debate is meant to be about whether Plantinga’s Christian beliefs are rational. No one denies that he’s made great contributions in modal logic and epistemology, and yes indeed it is perfectly OK for a fundamentalist Christian or a 9/11 conspiracy theorist to do good work in logic or epistemology. That’s not the issue here. My whole point is that Plantinga’s Christian beliefs should not be respected in philosophy of religion, but as we’ve seen with the Oppy interview, and with the fact that he’s taken very seriously by pretty much all atheist philosophers of religion, his Christian beliefs are apparently rational. He is, as he’s always said, perfectly rational to go on believing these things, since atheist philosophers have failed to show them to be logically incoherent.

[ Edited: 23 June 2013 06:25 AM by Dom1978 ]
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Posted: 23 June 2013 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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Dom1978 - 23 June 2013 05:39 AM

Ah, but we’re talking about philosophy of religion here. In POR the whole point of the debate is meant to be about whether Plantinga’s Christian beliefs are rational. No one denies that he’s made great contributions in modal logic and epistemology, and yes indeed it is perfectly OK for a fundamentalist Christian or a 9/11 conspiracy theorist to do good work in logic or epistemology. That’s not the issue here. My whole point is that Plantinga’s Christian beliefs should not be respected in philosophy of religion, but as we’ve seen with the Oppy interview, and with the fact that he’s taken very seriously by pretty much all atheist philosophers of religion, his Christian beliefs are apparently rational. He is, as he’s always said, perfectly rational to go on believing these things, since atheist philosophers have failed to show them to be logically incoherent.

Well, you’ve shown that Oppy apparently doesn’t think them irrational, though as I say I can’t see why he thinks that. I am not convinced from this one example that there are no analytic philosophers of religion who argue convincingly that he is irrational. (AFAIK Mackie would have).

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Posted: 23 June 2013 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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Also, to be fair to Oppy, all I have heard from him is that he doesn’t think it’s irrational to believe in God, since (he believes that) there is no knock-down argument against God’s existence. This does not imply anything about it being (e.g.) irrational to believe in the literal truth of the Bible, etc. For all we know, Oppy may think—and even argue—that Plantinga is irrational on that account.

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Posted: 23 June 2013 08:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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dougsmith - 23 June 2013 07:22 AM

Also, to be fair to Oppy, all I have heard from him is that he doesn’t think it’s irrational to believe in God, since (he believes that) there is no knock-down argument against God’s existence. This does not imply anything about it being (e.g.) irrational to believe in the literal truth of the Bible, etc. For all we know, Oppy may think—and even argue—that Plantinga is irrational on that account.

Yeah, that’s probably correct. Oppy probably thinks it’s not irrational for Plantinga, Swinburne and Craig to believe in an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God, whereas earlier philosophers like Russell and Mackie would have said that it is irrational to believe in such a being because of the problem of evil and divine hiddenness. So this again just shows how important Plantinga has been in changing analytic philosophy of religion. 

Still, though, we have the point that virtually nobody in real life gives a damn about whether some perfect abstract philosophical God exists or not. But Plantinga is too smart to try to make philosophical arguments for the truth of Christianity. He knows it can’t be done, and he’s said as much on many occasions.

So philosophy of religion is really quite a strange beast. Nobody is really arguing for or against Christianity or Islam. They’re just arguing about very abstract logical and conceptual points.

But is this what philosophy of religion should be doing? After all, it is called philosophy of religion, and not philosophy of God. Maybe it would be a good idea to focus more on real religions that real people actually believe in.

[ Edited: 23 June 2013 09:06 AM by Dom1978 ]
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