The doctrine of divine simplicity, according to which God is devoid of physical or metaphysical complexity, is widely believed to be incoherent. I argue that although two prominent recent attempts to defend it fail, it can be defended against the charge of obvious incoherence. The defense rests on the isolation and rejection of a crucial assumption, namely, that no property is an individual. I argue that there is nothing in our ordinary concepts of property and individual to warrant the assumption, (...) and that once the assumption is rejected, the way is clear to viewing the divine attributes as self-exemplifying properties whose self-exemplification entails their identity with an individual. (shrink)
This article articulates and defends F. H. Bradley's regress argument against external relations using contemporary analytic techniques and conceptuality. Bradley's argument is usually quickly dismissed as if it were beneath serious consideration. But I shall maintain that Bradley's argument, suitably reconstructed, is a powerful argument, plausibly premised, and free of such obvious fallacies as petitio principii. Thus it does not rest on the question‐begging assumption that all relations are internal, as Russell, and more recently van Inwagen, maintain. Bradley does not (...) attack external relations in order to affirm a doctrine of internal relations, and his monism is not derived from the internality of all relations, but from the self‐contradictory nature of all relations. For Bradley, it is the “relational situation”as such that is ontologically defective. (shrink)
This article examines one of the sources of David Benatar’s anti-natalism. This is the view that ‘all procreation is [morally] wrong.’ (Benatar and Wasserman, 2015:12) One of its sources is the claim that each of our lives is objectively bad, hence bad whether we think so or not. The question I will pose is whether the constraints of metaphysical naturalism allow for an objective devaluation of human life sufficiently negative to justify anti-natalism. My thesis is that metaphysical naturalism does not (...) have the resources to support such a negative evaluation. Metaphysical naturalism is the view that causal reality is exhausted by nature, the space-time system and its contents. The gist of my argument is that the ideal standards relative to which our lives are supposed to be axiologically substandard cannot be merely subjective expressions of our desires and aversions; they must be (i) objectively binding standards that are (ii) objectively possible in the sense of concretely realizable. The realizability condition, however, cannot be satisfied on metaphysical naturalism; ergo, failure to meet these ideal standards cannot show that our lives are objectively bad. (shrink)
Does the cosmological argument (CA) depend on the ontological (OA)? That depends. If the OA is an argument “from mere concepts,” then no; if the OA is an argument from possibility, then yes. That is my main thesis. Along the way, I explore a number of subsidiary themes, among them, the nature of proof in metaphysics, and what Kant calls the “mystery of absolute necessity.”.
Analytic philosophy of existence in the 20th century and beyond has been dominated by two central claims. One is that existence is instantiation. The other is that there are no modes of existence. This article attempts to refute both claims.
In one of its versions, the principle of sufficient reason maintains that every true proposition has a sufficient reason for its truth. Recently, a number of philosophers have argued against the principle on the ground that there are propositions such as the conjunction of all truths that are ‘too big’ to have a sufficient reason. The task of this article is to show that such maximal propositions pose no threat to the principle. According to what is perhaps the most ‘popular’ (...) version of the principle to sufficient reason (PSR), every true proposition has a sufficient reason why it is true. Peter van Inwagen formulates the principle as follows: ‘for every truth, for everything that is so, there is a sufficient reason for its being true or being so.’ Like many contemporary philosophers, however, he rejects the principle. My purpose here is to show that the main philosophical argument against PSR rests on a mistaken assumption. There is also a ‘scientific’ argument against PSR that turns on considerations of quantum indeterminacy; but that argument lies beyond the scope of this discussion. (shrink)
Central to Buddhist thought and practice is the anattā doctrine. In its unrestricted form the doctrine amounts to the claim that nothing at all possesses self-nature. This article examines an early Buddhist argument for the doctrine. The argument, roughly, is that (i) if anything were a self, it would be both unchanging and self-determining; (ii) nothing has both of these properties; therefore, (iii) nothing is a self. The thesis of this article is that, despite the appearance of formal validity, the (...) truth of (i) is inconsistent with the truth of (iii). (shrink)
One sort of cosmological argument for the existence of God starts from the fact that the universe exists and argues to a transcendent cause of this fact. According to the Hume-Edwards objection to this sort of cosmological argument, if every member of the universe is caused by a preceding member, then the universe has an intemal causal explanation in such a way as to obviate the need for a transcendent cause. The Hume-Edwards objection has recently come under attack by atheists (...) and theists alike; if I am right, however, the real flaw in this objection lies deep and has yet to be isolated. This paper accordingly divides into two main parts. The fírst discusses three recent failed critiques of the objection. The second presents the beginnings of what I hope is a sound critique. I argue that there is no extant theory of causation according to which it could be true both that (i) each state of the universe is caused by a preceding state, and that (ii) each state is caused to exist by a preceding state. Here we go only part of the way in substantiating this ambitious thesis: we argue that no nomological theory of causation satisfies both (i) and (ii). (shrink)
This review article summarizes and in part criticizes Hugh J. McCann’s detailed elaboration of the consequences of the idea that God is absolutely sovereign and thus unlimited in knowledge and power in his 2012 Creation and the Sovereignty of God. While there is much to agree with in McCann’s treatment, it is argued that divine sovereignty cannot extend as far as he would like to extend it. The absolute lord of the natural and moral orders cannot be absolutely sovereign over (...) the conceptual and modal orders. (shrink)
The doctrine that there are no logically necessary connections in nature can be used to support both occasionalism, according to which God alone can be a cause, and 'anti-occasionalism', according to which God cannot be a cause. Quentin Smith has recently invoked the 'no logically necessary connections in nature' doctrine in support of the latter. I bring two main objections against his thesis that God (logically) cannot be a cause. The first is that there are good reasons to think that (...) there are irreducible dispositions in nature, and that where such dispositions are manifested, there are logically necessary causal connections. The second objection is that even if the 'no logically necessary connections in nature' doctrine is true, one is not forced to deny causal efficacy to God: with no breach in logical propriety, one may embrace occasionalism. (shrink)
The characteristic claim of Christianity, as codified at Chalcedon, is that God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, is numerically the same person as Jesus of Nazareth. This article raises three questions that appear to threaten the coherence of orthodox Chalcedonian incarnationalism. First, how can one person exemplify seemingly incompatible natures? Second, how can one person exemplify seemingly incompatible non-nature properties? Third, how can there be one person if the concept of incarnation implies that one person incarnates himself (...) as another person? The attempts of C. S. Lewis and T. V. Morris to deal with these difficulties are examined and found inconclusive. (shrink)
This review article explores in a critical spirit the differences between constituent and relational ontology as practiced by four contemporary Aristotelian philosophers, Michael J. Loux, E. J. Lowe, Lukáš Novák, and Stanislav Sousedík.
On traditional theism, God is not only a creator but also a conserver. The doctrine of conservation, however, appears to face a dilemma. Either conservation is continuous re-creation with consequences inimical to diachronic identity, or conservation is an operation upon a pre-existent entity, which, because it is pre-existent, is in no clear need of conservation. This article first makes a case for the dilemma, and then proposes a way between its horns. Safe passage is possible if we adopt presentist four-dimensionalism, (...) i.e. the conjunction of presentism, according to which temporally present items alone exist, and four-dimensionalism, the doctrine that individuals are not continuants but wholes of temporal parts. (shrink)
This is the sequel to Miller’s From Existence to God: A Contemporary Philosophical Argument. In that book, he presents a version of the cosmological argument for the existence of God that does not rely on the principle of sufficient reason in any of its forms. A central upshot of that argument is that God, as uncaused cause of the universe, must be Subsistent Existence, i.e., a being not distinct from its existence. The notion that anything could be non-distinct from its (...) existence is, of course, an exasperatingly difficult one, and is rejected as incoherent by many, along with the doctrine of divine simplicity of which it is an integral part. An ontologically simple God is a most unlikely God, since he is one in whom there is no real distinction between form and matter, act and potency, essence and existence, or individual and attribute. Since Miller’s theistic argument terminates in the affirmation of a simple God, it is essential to his overall project to show the coherence of the very idea of a simple God and to rebut the numerous objections that have been brought against it. That is the task of the book under review. (shrink)
The interest and longevity of philosophical positions and arguments often seem to be an inverse function of the clarity with which these positions and arguments are articulated. Frequently, the most interesting positions are those pregnant with ambiguity and ever teetering on the brink of incoherence. Examples are not hard to find in the history of philosophy. Kant’s philosophy is full of them: the role and status of the Ding an sich; the proof-structure of the transcendental deduction of the categories; the (...) nature and function of the transcendental unity of apperception. Or recall the endless controversies over the unity of Aristotle’s metaphysics. Relativism seems no exception: its interest seems the greater the more obvious its flirtation with absurdity, and the more promiscuous its connection with other claims in the neighborhood. (shrink)
This paper examines a famous argument for the Buddhist doctrine of anatta ("no self) according to which nothing possesses self-nature or substantial reality. The argument unfolds during a debate between the monk Nagasena and King Milinda (Menandros). Nagasena's challenge to the King is that he demonstrate the substantial reality of the chariot in which he arrived at their meeting when said chariot is (i) not identical to any one of its proper parts, (ii) not identical to the mereological sum of (...) its proper parts, and (iii) not identical to anything wholly distinct from its parts. After presenting the argument and defending it against a plausible objection, I argue that it cannot be taken to show that persons lack self-nature. (shrink)
This article responds to Quentin Smith's, ‘The Reason the Universe Exists is that it Caused Itself to Exist’, Philosophy 74 (1999), 579–586. My rejoinder makes three main points. The first is that Smith's argument for a finitely old, but causally self-explanatory, universe fails from probative overkill: if sound, it also shows that all manner of paltry event-sequences are causally self-explanatory.The second point is that the refutation of Smith's argument extends to Hume's argument for an infinitely old causally self-explanatory universe, as (...) well as to Smith's two ‘causal loop’ arguments. The problem with all four arguments is their reliance on Hume's principle that to explain the members of a collection is ipso facto to explain the collection. This principle succumbs to counterexamples. The third point is that, even if Hume's principle were true, Smith's argument could not succeed without the aid of a theory of causation according to which causation is production (causation of existence). (shrink)
According to Quine, the ontological question can be posed in three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: “What is there?” But if we call this the ontological question, what shall we call the logically prior question: “What is it for an item to be there?” Peter van Inwagen has recently suggested that this be called the meta-ontological question, and more importantly, has endorsed Quine’s answer to it. Ingredient in this Quinean answer to the meta-ontological question are several theses, among them, “Being is the same (...) as existence”; “Being is univocal”; and “The single sense of being or existence is adequately captured by the existential quantifier of formal logic.” This articleexamines the last of these theses, which van Inwagen claims “ought to be uncontroversial.” But far from having this deontic property, the thesis in question ought to be not only controverted, but rejected. (shrink)
Since physicalism is fashionable nowadays, one should perhaps not be too surprised to find a growing number of theistic philosophers bent on combining theism with physicalism. I shall be arguing that this is an innovation we have good reason to resist. I begin by distinguishing global physicalism (physicalism about everything) from local physicalism (physicalism about human beings). I then present the theist who would be a physicalist with a challenge: Articulate a version of local physicalism that allows some minds to (...) be purely material and others to be purely immaterial. After examining the main versions of local physicalism currently on offer, among them, type-type identity theory, supervenientism, emergentism and functionalism, I conclude that none of them can meet the challenge. (shrink)
Suppose we say that a deductive argument is probative just in case it is valid in point of logical form, possesses true premises, and is free of informal fallacy. We can then say that an argument is normatively persuasive for a person if and only if it is both probative and has premises that can be accepted, without any breach of epistemic propriety, by the person in question. If the premises of a probative argument would be accepted by any reasonable (...) person, I will call such an argument demonstrative. (shrink)
Is there room for a metaphysics of existence above and beyond the logic of ‘exists’? This paper defends an affirmative answer. It takes its point of departure from a recent polemic of Paul Edwards against Heidegger. According to Edwards, following Frege and Russell, Heidegger mistakenly assumes that existence belongs to individuals. I argue that although Heidegger does indeed make this assumption, he is not mistaken in so doing. My main concern, however, is neither to defend Heidegger nor to reply to (...) Edwards; it is to vindicate the metaphysics of existence against the most damaging objection it faces. (shrink)
In my (2020), I criticize how Meinertsen in Metaphysics of States of Affairs treats the main ‘internal’ problem of his state of affairs ontology: the problem of unity. In this note, I consider instead some questions about Meinertsen’s approach to one of his important ‘external’ problems: the problem of non-substantial change.