Archive for ‘Metaphysics’

March 28, 2012

The Laws of Nature and the Metaphysical Multiverse

by Max Andrews

Regularity theory (RT) attempts to account for laws in a descriptive manner contra the necessitarian position (NT), which expresses the laws of nature as nomic necessity.  According to the RT the fundamental regularities are brute facts; they neither have nor require an explanation.  Regularity theorists attempt to formulate laws and theories in a language where the connectives are all truth functional.  Thus, each law is expressed with a universal quantifier as in [(x) (Px ⊃ Qx)].[1]  The NT states that there are metaphysical connections of necessity in the world that ground and explain the most fundamental regularities.  Necessitarian theorists usually use the word must to express this connection.[2]  Thus, NT maintains must-statements are not adequately captured by is-statements (must ≠ is, or certain facts are unaccounted for).[3]

The role of counterfactuals serves to make distinctions in regularities.  Concerning the RT and counterfactuals the regularist may claim that laws do not purport what will always occur but what would have occurred if things were different.  NT claims that it is difficult for RT to account for certain counterfactual claims because what happens in the actual world do not themselves imply anything about what would have happened had things been different.[4]  This is only a mere negative assertion on behalf of NT and carries no positive reason to adopt the NT position.  However, RT does have a limited scope in explanation. C.D. Broad argued that the very fact that laws entail counterfactuals is incompatible with regularity theory.[5]  He suggests that counterfactuals are either false or trivially true. If it is now true that Q occurs if P causally precedes Q then the regularist may sufficiently account for past counterfactual claims.  Given the present antecedent condition of P at tn and P implies Q at tn and it was true that P implied Q at tn-1 then using P as an antecedent for R at hypothetical tn-1’ then R is true if P was a sufficient condition R at tn-1’. Thus, RT accounts for past counterfactuals, but this is trivially true.  However, in positive favor of the NT, there is no reason to expect the world to continue to behave in a regular manner as presupposed by the practice of induction.  Consider Robin Collins’ illustration of this point:

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March 25, 2012

What if God Commanded You to do Something Wrong?

by Max Andrews

While at the VT Debate on the existence of God one of the atheists’, in passing, briefly mentioned the Euthyphro dilemma. Does God command something because it’s good or is it good because God commands it?  The first horn makes goodness apart from God and the second makes goodness arbitrary. This came up in the Q&A as well.  What if God commanded you to strap a bomb to your chest and blow other people up or rape others?  As an advocate of divine command theory the response to this question is a bit more nuanced then any prima facie answer. (Also, see my moral argument I presented at this debate).

The proponent of divine command theory (DCT) claims that whatever God commands to any moral agent becomes a moral obligation.  Formulations of the commands are given symbolic form by David Efird as:[1]

(RIGHT)                      ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)

(WRONG)                   ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)

(PERMITTED 1)            ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)[2]

(PERMITTED 2)            [(∃ϕ☐Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐Cg~ϕ)] ∙ [(∃ϕ☐~Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐~Cg~ϕ)]

*∀= for all…, ☐=necessarily, ◊=possibly.  For instance, RIGHT is read as for all actions, ϕ, ϕ is right if and only if God commands ϕ.

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January 26, 2012

Theology Thursday: William Hasker

by Max Andrews

Theology Thursday is a new feature on the blog, which gives a brief introduction to a theological person of significance.

Theologian: William Hasker (Contemporary)

General summary of his theology: Hasker is an open theist and has focused his research in two major areas: omniscience and the mind-body problem.  In this post I’m only going to focus on the latter.  Whatever theory we adopt about mind and body, and their interaction, there is still mystery (whether it be physical, immaterial, or a combination of the sort). The issue of one of transcendence:  how can an embodied being such as humans, transcend their physicality and have mind-like awareness of oneself (when the body is not a mind)?  Hasker says it is not enough to choose theory M (say, materialism) over D (say, dualism) simply by showing that dualism has seemingly insurmountable problems. One should take the speck out of one’s eye first:  one must examine objections to M, too, for these may be even more severe than those against D.  A healthy reminder that having reasons against ~p is not the same as having reasons in favor of p.  [Epistemic principle here:  just because P and Q are logically not co-possible; and you have (non-decisive) evidence against P; it doesn’t follow that you have (decisive, or even non-decisive, perhaps) evidence for Q (cf. Islam and Buddhism, say)].

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January 20, 2012

A Response to the Problem of an ‘Evil God’ as Raised by Stephen Law

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Michael Rundle. Michael has a BA in Theology with Honors (PGCE).  His area of research is in the philosophy of René Descartes and twentieth century theology.


Stephen Law has suggested that arguments such as the cosmological and teleological arguments could serve equally well to support an evil god hypothesis.

He says:

The challenge is to explain why the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god should be considered significantly more reasonable than the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil god.”1

This reminds me of the evil demon in Descartes’ Meditations. However, whereas Descartes was introducing the evil demon hypothesis for epistemological reasons Law is raising the evil god hypothesis as a challenge to theism. His challenge is for theological reasons.

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January 17, 2012

William Lane Craig’s “J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument”–A Review

by Max Andrews

A Review of William Lane Craig’s “J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (2006): 565-584.

William Lane Craig formulates retort to J. Howard Sobel’s objection to kalam as he typically formulates it.[1] Premise 1 seems obviously true—at least, more than its negation.  To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quit doing serious metaphysics and is a premise that Sobel acknowledges to be true.  Sobel’s objection is with 2—that the universe began to exist.  This would then run into an infinite regress, which is philosophically and mathematically untenable.  Because an actually infinite number of things cannot exist, the series of past events must be finite in number and, hence, the temporal series of past, physical events is not without beginning.[2]

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January 17, 2012

Mark Nowacki’s “Assessing the Kalam Cosmological Argument”–A Review

by Max Andrews

Review of Mark Nowacki’s “Assessing the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” Philosophia Christi 12 (2010):  201-212.

Mark Nowacki’s article is in response to an ongoing dialogue between himself and Arnold Guminski.  Guminski had recently written critiques of Nowacki’s version of the kalam cosmological argument and Nowacki responds by clarifying misconceptions and elaborating on key premises to the argument.  Nowacki’s argument is based on the impossibility of an actual infinite magnitude [not multitude] with respects to temporal marks.

Nowacki begins by developing an account of modality called substantial modality with respects to substances that obtain in the actual universe.  Substantial possibility is a more restricted domain than logical possibility.  Substantial possibility is the domain of possibility that tracks what is causally open to substances as a function of the particular natures that those substances possess.  Anything that is substantially possible is logically possible, but the converse does not hold:  something maybe logically possible without being substantially possible.[1]  One substantially necessary feature for any physical body is that it possesses a definite shape.

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January 16, 2012

William Lane Craig’s “Reflections on ‘Uncaused Beginnings'”–A Review

by Max Andrews

Review of William Lane Craig’s “Reflections on ‘Uncaused Beginnings,’” Faith and Philosophy 27 (2010):  72-78.

In William Lane Craig’s reflections on Graham Oppy’s recent critiques of the cosmological argument[1], particularly kalam, Craig finds his arguments to lack serious considerations of a temporal order of causation and that the metaphysical theorizing of modality and causation are ambiguous and lack rigor.  Oppy’s argument is based on what an “initial state” of the universe is and its essential properties.  His initial state is ambiguous but Craig explicates Oppy later in his critique.

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December 22, 2011

Inferential Reasoning in Foundationalism and Coherentism

by Max Andrews

Logically prior to inferential reasoning is intuition.  These intuitions may be basic beliefs. The belief that this glass of water in front of me will quench my thirst if I drink it is not inferred back from previous experiences coupled with an application of a synthetic a priori principle of induction.  Though this example is not how we form our beliefs psychologically or historically, it can be formed via instances of past experience and induction in the logical sense.  However, when it does come to inferential reasoning R.A. Fumerton provides two definitions for what it means to say that one has inferential justification.[1]

D1 S has an inferentially justified belief in P on the basis of E. = Df.

(1) S believes P.

(2) S justifiably believes both E and the proposition that E confirms P.

(3) S believes P because he believes both E and the proposition that E confirms P.

(4) There is no proposition X such that S is justified in believing X and that E&X does not confirm P.

D2 S has an inferentially justified belief in P on the basis of E. = Df.

(1) S believes P.

(2) E confirms P.

(3) The fact that E causes S to believe P.

(4) There is no proposition X such that S is justified in believing X and that E&X does not confirm P.

Given the explications of such definitions, both D1 and D2, there seems to be good grounds for believing that P must be inferentially justified.  It is most certainly that case that D2 is more amenable to having scientific knowledge in the sense that both (2) and (3) are confirmatory.  D2-(3) is certainly difficult to substantiate without begging the question.  Having E cause S to believe P is difficult to distance from some form of transitive relation.  Inferential justification may also be expressed probabilistically or determined probabilistically.[2]

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November 6, 2011

What if God Commanded Rape? A Look at Divine Command Theory

by Max Andrews

If the Divine Command Theory (DCT) proponent is to defend his position he must demonstrate the necessary falsehood of the counterfactual:  If God did command rape then there would be a moral obligation to rape.  There will be an assumption of ethical realism since ethical anti-realism is argued for and against in completely different arguments.  The ethical realist objector [to DCT] claims that it is possible for God to command rape in some possible world, or in an impossible world close to the actual world, making it obligatory for all moral agents, whereas rape is still morally bad in that same world, thus, making DCT arbitrary and is defeated.

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October 13, 2011

Is Heisenberg a Defeater for an Evidentialist Epistemology?

by Max Andrews

(For further context on my epistemology see Einstein’s Impact on the Epistemic Method.  I would consider myself a moderate evidentialist.)

Scientific theology takes Einstein’s knowing and being and his understanding of reality as a whole and applies this method of theology in Christian theology.  If the world is indeed the creation of God, then there is an ontological ground for a theological engagement with the natural sciences.  It is not an arbitrary engagement, which regresses back to Newtonian engagement, but it is a natural dialogue, grounded in the fundamental belief that the God about whom Christian theology speaks is the same God who created the world that the natural sciences investigate.[1]

A major problem that presses my theory of knowledge is the Heisenberg Principle.  This principle states that an observer changes the current state of affairs being observed.  For instance, if I am measuring the velocity of a particle I cannot know the position of the particle and vise versa.  This is called uncertainty.  How this comes into the epistemic process is whether or not this principle is epistemic or ontic.  This uncertainty creates an epistemic limit.

If this principle is epistemic then what relationship does the nature of reality have on our epistemic faculty?  Heisenberg himself believed that this uncertainty was not merely epistemic but it was ontic. Back to the example of velocity and position, if Heisenberg’s ontic uncertainty is true then if an object that is not in an eigenstate[2] of position then the object does not have a position.  Position then becomes a potential property.  When the observer measures the position it is then actualized.[3]

If this principle is ontic then this may potentially be a defeater for my position.  By way of realism, there is a certain element of reality that truly is uncertain.  Causation is even worse than what Hume told us.  That is still not to say that causation does not occur, it must, but this ontic uncertainty may affect more than just the quantum world.  If all of reality is composed of particles then there is a certain extent to which properties of particle can be extrapolated to a set aggregate of particles.  It’s easy to see how this can affect evidence and meeting sufficiency for belief.  I do not believe that ontic uncertainty makes reality unknowable since, intuitively, there are some propositions that we do know to be true such as the reality and existence of the external world.  So, even if it were the case that there is an element to ontic uncertainty it would not affect my epistemic theory in a capacity that would render it void and untenable.  There may be minor nuances to my theory that would render this theory questionable but given epistemic charity or probability one may still be justified in believing any proposition that is onticly uncertain as true as long as it meets the criteria for sufficiency.

            [1] Both the natural sciences and Christian theology are to engage with the nature of reality—not deciding this in advance, but exploring and establishing it through a process of discovery and encounter.  Alister E. McGrath, The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004),  21-22.

            [2] An eigenstate is a state corresponding to a fixed value of a physical variable.

            [3] Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality:  Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2009), 250-251.