Monday, July 3, 2017

A modal argument for God's existence - why it fails

Philosophers of religion out there - is there a version of a modal ontological argument which isn't vulnerable to the charge that the premise:

 1. It is possible God exists

just trades on the ambiguity between metaphysical and epistemic necessity/possibility? Maybe there is, but I have not spotted one yet given an admittedly brief survey.

Here is a simple modal argument for the existence of God:

1. It is possible God exists
2. If it is possible God exists, God exists at least one possible world
3. If God exists at one possible world he exists at all of them (being a necessary being)
4. Therefore God exists at every possible world
5. Therefore God exists at the actual world

Good argument?

Note first of all that if we have good grounds for supposing God does not exist at the actual world, then the logic of the above argument also requires that we have good grounds for supposing God does not exist at any possible world. That is to say, we have grounds for thinking it is impossible that God exists. And perhaps we do have such grounds - e.g. in the form of vast swathes of evil.

In response, theists may say: 'Ah but it is possible God exists, because I can imagine God existing - I can certainly imagine that the property of maximal greatness is instantiated, say.'

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Three key points to make when debating the existence of God

Three key points to make when debating the existence of God.

1. Defining God

First, in asking: Does God exist? It would be good to get some clarity about which God we are talking about.

I shall assume we are talking about a God that is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good:

Prof William Lane Craig defines God as a 'maximally great being' - which he says requires that God be morally perfect.

Prof Richard Swinburne similarly characterises God as 'a person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good'.


It suffices to establish atheism, then (given these guys' characterisations/definitions of theism), that I show beyond reasonable doubt that there's no being that is omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Who To Vote For?

Some of you may still be wondering whom to vote for. This piece explains one of the key reasons why I'll be voting Labour, not Tory.

The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, “cui bono?” (“To whose benefit?”)’ Cicero

In my opinion one of the best lenses through which to try to understand political party policy – including Tory policy – is the cui bono test. I wrote about this before here. Political rhetoric is one thing. But if you want to understand what the real agenda is, try asking ‘cui bono?’

It is hard, if not impossible, to find any economic or economy-impacting policy of the Tory Party that does not have the consequence that it benefits the very wealthy (top 1%) and big business. These are the same people who also contribute very significantly to Tory Party coffers, of course.

So consider the recent suggestion that Theresa May is now left leaning economically because she has recently said she rejects ‘the cult of selfish individualism’ and accepts that untrammelled free markets don’t necessarily deliver.

Applying the ‘Cui Bono?’ Test


However, if one applies the cui bono test and look at who benefits from May’s proposed policies, the answer is exactly the same as it’s always been.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

How to raise good citizens and avoid moral horrors? - Two approaches


Chapter (From Philosophy, Theology and The Jesuit Tradition: The Eye of Love)
Liberal and Authoritarian Approaches to Raising Good Citizens
Stephen Law

How do we raise good citizens? How do we raise people who will be morally decent, who will do the right thing, even when times are tough? Looking back over the twentieth century, we find great moral progress (especially in terms of our attitudes towards women, gay people, non-white people and other species), but also moral catastrophes – from the killing fields of Cambodia, to the Gulags, to Auschwitz, to the Rwandan genocide. If we wish to raise decent citizens who will stand up and do the right thing, who will exhibit significant immunity to the siren voices of these tempting them towards such horrors, what is the most effective approach?
I recommend a highly Liberal approach to moral and religious education. By a Liberal (with a capital ‘L’) approach, I mean an approach that emphasizes the importance of encouraging young people to think independently and make their own judgements on these important matters. Liberals believe young people should be helped to recognize that what is right or wrong, or true or false in any religion, is ultimately (and unavoidably) the responsibility of each individual to judge for him or herself. I recommend an approach to moral and religious education that emphasizes the importance of helping individuals develop the kind of intellectual and emotional maturity they will need to discharge this responsibility properly. A Liberal approach lies at the opposite end of the scale to what I term an Authoritarian (with a capital ‘A’) approach. Authoritarians place greater emphasis on encouraging an attitude of deference to external authority. Authoritarians suppose children should be raised to realize that what is right or wrong, religiously true or false, is not for them to judge – rather, they should defer to those who know.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Fib That The Tories Are Now Economically Left




uk politics, politics, election, Conservative Party, Tory

The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, “cui bono?” (“To whose benefit?”)’ Cicero

In my opinion one of the best lenses through which to try to understand political party policy – including Tory policy – is the cui bono test. I wrote about this before here. Political rhetoric is one thing. But if you want to understand what the real agenda is, try asking ‘cui bono?’

It is hard, if not impossible, to find any economic or economy-impacting policy of the Tory Party that does not have the consequence that it benefits the very wealthy (top 1%) and big business. These are the same people who also contribute very significantly to Tory Party coffers, of course.

So consider the recent suggestion that Theresa May is now left leaning economically because she has recently said she rejects ‘the cult of selfish individualism’ and accepts that untrammelled free markets don’t necessarily deliver. That May is now economically left-leaning is a line that’s now even being repeated and endorsed by folk at The Guardian. The BBC says that May is now ‘targeting mainstream Britain‘...

Continues here at Conatus News.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Eulogy for my Dad, Bill Law


Dad

I thought I'd say something about my Dad's legacy and his influence on me.

He was a huge influence on me, not because he pushed me in any particular direction, but because he encouraged me to expand my horizons and find my own direction.

Even when I took some spectacularly wrong turns in life - and I really did - both my Mum and Dad were nothing but supportive and encouraging.

Dad could be difficult. But he was also warm, witty, and genuine. Dad was interested in other people - in how their lives went. He loved reading biographies. But above all Dad was interested in the potential of young people - in how their lives could go.

The potential of the young always fascinated Dad, and he devoted his life to bringing it out.

Dad had great intellectual honesty and integrity. He was willing to follow where he believed reason led, rather than use reason to try to justify going to some destination he'd already settled on.

Perhaps the most spectacular illustration of this involves religion.

Dad started out his adult life as a very religious man - he went to Bible College intending to be a religious minister - but he actually thought his way out of religious belief. Here we are at a humanist funeral, at his request.

Friday, May 12, 2017

I am speaking at Conference on Religion and Atheism - at Heythrop 14 June


 

HIRS SUMMER CONFERENCE 14 JUNE 2017

RELIGION AND ATHEISM: BEYOND THE DIVIDE


09.30 Arrivals/Coffee

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A 'cumulative case' for the existence of God? No.


Many Theists (believers in an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God)  try to make a 'cumulative case' for the existence of their God. However, what they call a 'cumulative case' is often misleadingly described as such.

A cumulative case can be a powerful thing. You often find cumulative cases in a court of law. Suppose Jones is accused of murdering Smith. The prosecution might offer a whole string of arguments for Jones guilt: Jones' lack of an alibi, Jones' opportunity, Jones' clear motive, fibres from Jones' clothing otherwise inexplicably found at the crime scene, an eyewitness of Jones committing the murder, Jones' admission of the crime to a cell mate, and so on.

The real strength of such a cumulative case is this: while any one component argument or piece of evidence for Jones' guilt might turn out to be no good, what remains can still be more than sufficient to convict him. Even if the defence can show, for example, that Jones' admission to his cellmate was faked, the other evidence in combination might still be more than enough to put Jones behind bars.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Why do religious believers and non-believers see one another as irrational?


Why do religious believers and non-believers see one another as irrational?
Stephen Law



How reasonable is it for the religious to believe the central tenets of their respective religions? According to many atheists: not very. Atheists usually suppose it is in each case unreasonable for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Bahá'ís, Quakers, Mormons, Scientologists, and so on to believe what they do.

The religious person usually takes a different view of at least their own religious belief. They suppose science and reason do not significantly undermine, and may indeed support, the core tenets of their own faith. The same is true of non-religious theists. They consider their brand of theism is reasonably, or at least not unreasonably, held even if no particular religion is. Indeed, many consider atheism unreasonable.

Even when participants in discussions between atheists on the one hand and defenders of some variety of religious or theistic belief on the other include intelligent, philosophically sophisticated and well-informed people striving to think carefully and objectively, they still often arrive at strikingly different conclusions regarding the reasonableness of their respective beliefs. Consider this hypothetical discussion between Peter and Ada, which I take to represent fairly standard views on either side.