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PHILOSOPHY 203 (STOLZE) Notes on Charles Taliaferro, Philosophy of Religion
Three Practices Proposed by Taliaferro The Golden Rule in Philosophy = “one should treat other philosophies as one would like one’s own to be treated” (p. x) Philosophical Good-Samaritanism = “the practice of going to someone’s aid when in need” (p. xi) “Find a friend (or two) who welcomes arguments and good-humored, open-ended dialogue” (p. xii)
What is the “Philosophy of Religion”? Philosophy = “love of wisdom” Religion = “what binds us together”
Taliaferro’s Two-fold Definition of Philosophy “To have a philosophy is simply to have a view of reality and value” (p. 1) “[T]o practice philosophy is to do what Socrates and Confucius did: to investigate the ways in which reason and experience justify views about justice, the divine, the meaning of birth, life, and death, and so on... to engage in disciplined inquiry” (pp. 1-2)
Six Possible Definitions of Religion Beliefs/practices in the supernatural Beliefs/practices in general symbols Beliefs/practices that obstruct clear, rational reflection Beliefs/practices in an ultimate reality Defined by example (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism) “A body of teachings and prescribed practices about an ultimate, sacred reality or state of being that calls for reverence or awe and guides its practitioners into what they describe as a saving, illuminating, and emancipatory relationship to this reality through a personally transformative life of prayer, realized ritualized meditations, and/or moral practices like repentance and moral and personal regeneration” (p. 15).
Religions as Worlds and Worldviews Taliaferro argues that “exploring a religion is very much like exploring a world…a convert to a religion may be understood as entering a new world” (p. 16). If religions are like worlds, then the task of philosophy is to provide “a clear account of the beliefs and practices making up such a world and to inquire into reasons for thinking that such a world is actually true” (p. 17).
Truth and Meaning in Religion Social Constructivism Realism
Features of Monotheism God is one God exists necessarily not contingently God is a substantial reality God has the following attributes: perfectly good, all-powerful, present everywhere, all-knowing, and eternal
The Three Monotheistic (Abrahamic) Religions Judaism Christianity Islam
The “Maximally Excellent” Divine Attributes Necessary or non-contingent existence Incorporeality Omnipotence Essential Goodness Omniscience Eternity
An Objection to God’s Omnipotence 1. An omnipotent being is a being able to do any act. 2. If God is omnipotent, God can create a stone so heavy that no one can lift. 3. If God is omnipotent, God can lift any stone. 4. But if God can lift any stone, then God cannot create a stone so heavy that no one can lift it. 5. And if God can create a stone so heavy that no one can lift it, then there could be a stone that not even God could lift. 6. There is at least one act that God cannot do. 7. Hence, God is not omnipotent. 8. But God must be omnipotent to be God. 9. Therefore, God does not exist.
An Objection to God’s Essential Goodness 1. An omnipotent being is able to do any logically possible act. 2. An essentially good being is not able to do evil. 3. Doing evil is a logically possible act. 4. Because God is essentially good, God cannot do any logically possible act. 5. Therefore, God is not omnipotent.
God vs. Moloch 1. If God is essentially good, then God is not able to do evil. 2. There could be a being, Moloch, with all God’s properties except essential goodness. 3. If Moloch exists, Moloch can do any act God can do, plus any evil act. 4. In this case, Moloch would be more powerful than God. 5. Therefore, God is not essentially good or God is not unsurpassable in power or—more radically—there is no God.
God’s Omniscience and Human Freedom: Some Options Divine knowledge undermines human freedom Divine knowledge doesn’t undermine human freedom Divine “middle knowledge” Divine knowledge doesn’t cover future free contingents (open theism) Concept empiricism
Two Kinds of Theology (“God-Talk”) Cataphatic theology = makes positive claims about God Apophatic theology = makes negative claims about God
The God of Philosophy vs. the God of Revelation Perfect being theology Richard Dawkins’ critique of the Biblical God as “vain” and “jealous” (http://youtu.be/DMqTEfeqvmM)http://youtu.be/DMqTEfeqvmM Progressive Revelation Divine (Im)passability
A Possible Response to Dawkins Emphasize God’s essential goodness
The Limits of God-Talk Use and mention of the word “God” Need for the loving and worship of God Distinction between claiming that “God is more than or greater than our best terms and concept” and claiming that “God is not less than our best terms and concepts” (p. 47).
The Challenge of Philosophical Naturalism Naturalism = “the view that the cosmos itself, or nature, is all that exists” (p. 48)
Two Forms of Naturalism Strict = “reality consists only of what is described and explained by the ideal natural sciences, especially physics” (p. 49) Broad = “grants that there may be thoughts, feelings, emotions, and perhaps even ethical truths” (p. 49)
The Presumption of Atheism “Some naturalists adopt what is called a presumption of atheism, according to which if there is no good reason to posit God, one should not do so” (p. 50).
Arguments for the Existence of God Ontological = “reflections on the idea and possibility of God’s existence provides a reason for thinking God actually exists” Cosmological = “it is reasonable to think that our contingent cosmos must be accounted for, in part, by the causal creativity of a necessarily existing being” Teleological = “our ordered, complex cosmos is better explained by theism than by naturalism” Religious Experience = “the widespread reports by persons across time and culture who experience a transcendent, divine reality provide grounds for thinking there is such a reality” (p. 51)
The Ontological Argument 1. God either exists necessarily or God’s existence is impossible. 2. God’s existence is possible. 3. Therefore, it is not impossible that God exists (from 1 and 2). 4. Therefore, God’s existence is necessary (from 1 and 3. 5. Therefore, God exists (from 4).
Two Objections to the Ontological Argument The Perfect Island The Possible Non-existence of God
An Argument for God’s Unicity or Uniqueness (*) 1. Define God as a “maximally excellent being.” 2. Assume that there are two maximally excellent beings, X and Y. 3. But only one of the following can be true: (a) X is the cause of Y. (b) Y is the cause of X. (c) Both X is the cause of Y and Y is the cause of X. (d) Neither X is the cause of Y nor Y is the cause of X. 4. If (a) is the case, then X is God. 5. If (b) is the case, then Y is God. 6. If (c) is the case, then X and Y are simply two descriptions of the same individual, namely, God. 7. If (d) is the case, then neither X nor Y is God, but instead Z, which is the cause of both X and Y, is God. (*) Not covered in Taliaferro.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument 1. If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a cause. 2. The universe began to exist. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. Watch a brief video overview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CulBuMCLg0&sns=em http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CulBuMCLg0&sns=em Also watch Prof. William Lane Craig debate Richard Dawkins (in an empty chair) regarding the Cosmological Argument: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUIFjxYKEAU&list=PL3gdeV4Rk9Ef6jhlYL -Pp1UwzvnL_kbqw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUIFjxYKEAU&list=PL3gdeV4Rk9Ef6jhlYL -Pp1UwzvnL_kbqw
Another Version of the Cosmological Argument 1.The universe is a dependent thing. It cannot exist by itself; it can exist only if it is sustained by something that is not dependent. 2.God, a necessary being, is the only thing that is not dependent. 3.Therefore, the universe is sustained by God.
Objections to the Cosmological Argument Why think the Necessary Cause is God? Why does the cosmos have only one Necessary Cause? If God’s creating is necessary, then it is not a free action and the cosmos is necessary and not contingent after all.
A Version of the Teleological Argument 1.Assume that something is good if it is worthy of pursuing, admiring, or praising. 2.The universe is good. 3.If naturalism is true, then the goodness of the universe is not part of why this universe exists. 4.If theism is true, then an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, and intentional being has a reason for creating a good universe. 5.The goodness of the universe appears to be the result of intentional activity. 6.Therefore, theism is true.
Objections to Teleological Arguments The objection from simplicity The objection from uniqueness The infinity objection The goodness objection
A Form of the Argument from Religious Experience 1. There are widespread reports by persons across time and culture who claim to have experienced a transcendent, divine reality 2. These persons couldn’t all be mistaken or lying about their experiences. 3. Therefore, there exists such a transcendent, divine reality.
Objections to the Argument from Religious Experience Religious experiences aren’t the same as perceptual experiences Religious experiences have naturalistic explanations
Evidence and Evidentialism Evidentialism = “the thesis that if some belief is warranted it must be based on evidence” (p. 83); vs. Reformed epistemologists = “challenge the idea that beliefs in general are only warranted if they are based on evidence” (p. 84)
Theodicy vs. Defense A “theodicy” provides a complete justification of God’s actions, whereas a “defense” only sketches out a possible explanation.
Genuine Evil There are at least some examples of what we could call “genuine evil.” In other words, these instances of evil are not illusory or simply mischaracterized as bad but are in fact cases of objective pain, suffering, or some other harm.
Natural vs. Human-Caused Evil However, this distinction breaks down when we consider such apparently “natural” evils that (indirectly) result from human activities, for example: --birth defects due to toxic exposure in the workplace or community --chronic conditions like asthma that result from air pollution --deaths that result from extreme weather patterns (hurricanes, floods, and droughts) caused by global warming
Two Levels of Evil (*) Individual (e.g., limited or selective altruism, contempt or hatred for others deemed “inferior”: psychopathy, racial prejuduce, sexism, classism, ageism, homophobia, speciesism…) Structural (e.g., institutionalized group advantage/disadvantage: racist, heterosexist oppression, poverty, class exploitation, “world alienation” [Hannah Arendt]) NOTE: Structural evil may result from unintended or even well-intended actions by individuals, what Jean-Paul Sartre called “counter-finalities,” e.g. climate change (*) Not covered by Taliaferro
Evil as a Problem for Monotheism 1. God is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving being. 2. If God is all-powerful, then God could create a world without genuine evil. 3. If God is all-knowing, then God knows that there is genuine evil in the world. 4. If God is all-loving, then God would want there to be a world without genuine evil. 5. But there is genuine evil in the world. 6. So, God (at least as defined above) does not exist.
Arguments for and against the Existence of God based on the Problem of Evil The primacy of the good The free will defense Non-human animal suffering Comparing possible worlds The hiddenness of God objection Absolute wrongs The ethics of creature and creator
The Hiddenness of God Objection 1. We live in a world in which people persist in disbelieving God or having cruel views of God. 2. God does not appear to correct these states. 3. An all-good God would never allow a creature to seek God without finding God in an evident fashion. 4. Therefore, God does not exist. NOTE: Consider the plot of the 1950 movie, The Next Voice You Hear: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRxf9qS5PUkwww.youtube.com/watch?v=KRxf9qS5PUk
Darwin on the Problem of Natural Evil “That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes. Some have attempted to explain this in reference to man by imagining that it serves for his moral improvement. But the number of men in the world is as nothing compared with that of all other sentient beings, and these often suffer greatly without any moral improvement. A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe, is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient, and it revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the suffering of millions of the lower animals throughout almost endless time? This very old argument from the existence of suffering against the existence of an intelligent first cause seems to me a strong one; whereas, as just remarked, the presence of much suffering agrees well with the view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection.” (The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, edited by Nora Barlow [NY: Norton, 2005 (1958)], p. 75.)
Possible Theories of Life after Death Immortal Personal Soul (Socrates/Plato: http://www.iep.utm.edu/phaedo/; Bhagavad Gita: http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/)http://www.iep.utm.edu/phaedo/http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/ Quantum Entanglement (Vedanta: http://vedanta.org/; Stuart Hameroff: http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/)http://vedanta.org/ http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/ Emergent Materialist Self (Epicurus: http://www.epicurus.net/; Christoph Koch: http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~koch/)http://www.epicurus.net/http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~koch/ Soul Fragment (The Buddha: www.accesstoinsight.org; Thich Nhat Hanh: http://deerparkmonastery.org/, Stephen and Martine Batchelor: http://www.stephenbatchelor.org/index.php/en/); Douglas Hofstadter: http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/hofstadter/)www.accesstoinsight.org http://deerparkmonastery.org/ http://www.stephenbatchelor.org/index.php/en/ http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/hofstadter/ Bodily Resurrection (Paul of Tarsus: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+15&version=N IV; N.T. Wright: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fki5wq48fpc) http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+15&version=N IVhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fki5wq48fpc
A Materialist Objection to an Afterlife Human beings are simply bodies and, therefore, at death, they cannot survive but will just decompose like any other body.
Two Possible Theistic Replies Substance dualism Materialism
The Model Argument for Substance Dualism 1. If A is B, whatever is true of A is true of B. 2. If a person is his body, whatever is true of the person is true of his body. 3. It is possible that a person can exist without their body and it is possible that their body can exist without the person. 4. There is something true of a person but not true of their body. 5. Therefore, a person is not identical with their body.
A Substance Dualist Argument for an Afterlife 1. If a person is not identical with his or her body, then he or she will survive the death of his or her body. 2. By the model argument, a person is not identical with his or her body. 3. Therefore, a person survives the death of his or her body.
Objections to the Model Argument Begs the question Only about concepts First premise fails in some cases Can’t account for the evil of death
Materialist Models for an Afterlife Resurrection Replica Recreation Reconstitution
What is the Point of an Afterlife? Objection: It would be empty of meaning Three replies
The Afterlife as a Miracle A miracle = “an event brought about by God for a holy or divine purpose, an event that differs from God’s general creative activity of sustaining the world and its laws regulating organic decomposition and regeneration” (p. 133).
David Hume’s Objection to Miracles Although miracles are not impossible, they are highly improbable.
Theistic Replies to Hume Hume begged the question Challenge Hume’s use of probability
Good, Evil, and the Afterlife The argument from love The problem of restitution
The Problem of Religious Diversity: One Path or Many? Possible philosophical positions: Naturalism/atheism = All religions are false. Relativism = All religions are true (with respect to their cultures or historical periods). Exclusivism = One religion is true, and the rest are false. Inclusivism/pluralism = All religions potentially contain truth, but extensive interfaith dialogue is required in order to develop a more adequate account of religious truth. NOTE: John Hick was one of the most thoughtful philosophical advocates for religious inclusion or pluralism.
Religion as a Cross-Cultural Phenomenon Religions have “family resemblances” just like sports or games. There are some basic questions that occur across religious traditions: What is the self? What is the best way to live? Where do we come from? What happens when we die?
Two Categories of Indian Sacred Texts Sruti: “revealed truths” Vedas Upanishads Smrti = “memory” Mahabharata Bhagavad Gita Ramayana
Astika = “affirmers” Nastika = “non-affirmers” Nyaya = the school of logic Vaisesika = the school of atomism Samkhya = the school of dualistic discriminations Yoga = the school of classical yoga Mimamsa = the school of Vedic exegesis Vedanta = the school based on the “end of the Vedas” or the Upanishads) Carvaka = the school of materialist and hedonist atheists Jaina = the school originating from the teachings of Mahavira Buddhist = the school originating from the teachings of the Buddha Nine Indian Philosophical Perspectives (Darśanas)
Ignorance In Indian philosophy ignorance is a principal source of suffering because it gives rise to the attachments that lead to rebirth.
Ontology in Indian Philosophy In the history of Indian Philosophy there have existed three broad approaches to ontology (the philosophical study of what exists and what is ultimately or fundamentally real): Pluralism (Nyaya/Vaisesika) = “reality is composed of an irreducible plurality of different kinds of object” Dualism (Samkhya/Yoga) = “reality is composed of two fundamentally different substances (matter and mind)” Monism (Advaita Vedanta) = “despite appearances to the contrary, at the most fundamental level only one thing is real”
Śankara on Three Levels of Reality Śankara (788-820? CE) argued for nondualism = Layer 1: Absolute reality. Nirguna Brahman, Qualityless Brahman, Brahman/Ātman. Layer 2: Absolute reality seen through categories imposed by human thought. Saguna Brahman, Brahman with qualities. Creator and governor of the world and a personal god (Īśvara). Layer 3: Conventional reality. The material world, which includes “empirical selves.”
Objections to Śankara By contrast, Rāmānuja (c. 1017-1137) defended only a qualified nondualism. He denied that Brahman could exist without qualities and argued that the qualities of Brahman are real in an absolute sense: According to Rāmānuja, the absolutely real is a trinity of Brahman (as a personal God), a plurality of selves and the material world. These three together form a unity in which selves and the material world are portrayed as Brahman’s body. Brahman is the cause of the existence of selves and the material world. However, in creating them Brahman has transformed itself into these things in an absolute sense. Hence, Brahman has become dependent upon them. Each of these items is thought of as ultimately real in the sense that none can be reduced to the others. Nor could any of them exist without each of the others.
Śankara vs. Rāmānuja on Liberation Liberation (mōksa) for Śankara is achieved when ātman realized that it was already united with qualityless Brahman, whereas Rāmānuja argues that liberation is a state of freedom from ignorance in which one is aware of one’s essential nature and of one’s relationship to Brahman. An underlying question: “Would you rather taste sugar or be sugar?”
Krisha Teaches Arjuna about the Self (Ātman) “The self is not born nor does it ever die. Once it has been, this self will never cease to be born again. Unborn, eternal, continuing from the old, the self is not killed when the body is killed…. Just as one throws out old clothes and then takes on other, new ones; so the embodied self casts out old bodies as it gets other, new ones. Weapons do not cut the self, nor does fire burn it, nor do waters drench it, nor does wind dry it. The self is not to be pierced, nor burned, nor drenched, nor dried; it is eternal, all-pervading and fixed— unmoving from the beginning. The self is not readily seen; by sight or mind; it is said to be formless and unchanging; so, when you have known this, you should not mourn.” (Excerpted from The Bhagavad Gita 2.20, 22-25, translated by Laurie L. Patton [New York: Penguin Books, 2008, pp. 21-25.)
The Rotation Argument 1. I could have been Spinoza. 2. Ted Stolze could not have been Spinoza. 3. Therefore, “I” is not the same as “Ted Stolze.”
An Objection to the Rotation Argument The thought experiment has no intuitive plausibility.
The Three Jewels of Buddhism Buddha = a title not a personal name (“Awakened One”) especially Siddhartha Gautama (born c. 563 BCE in Lumbini, modern Nepal; died c. 483 BCE [or 411-400 BCE] in Kushinagar, modern Uttar Pradesh, India) Dharma = teaching about the way things are (from linguistic root dhr = “to fasten, support, or hold”) Sangha = the community of Buddhists, especially monks and nuns For an excellent overview of the Three Jewels (and the historical development of Buddhism), watch the BBC documentary Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQRCGBeXiow&feature=youtu.be www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQRCGBeXiow&feature=youtu.be
Buddhist Ontology: Three Signs/Marks of Existence Anitya/Anicca = “impermanence” Anatman/Anatta = “not-self” Dukkha = “suffering, unsatisfactoriness, distress”
The Four Noble Truths Dukkha (= suffering, unsatisfactoriness, distress) The Cause of Dukkha (= thirst, craving, attachment, excessive desire) The Cessation of Dukkha (= Nirvana/Nibbana, “blowing out”) The Way leading to the Cessation of Dukkha (= The Noble Eightfold Path)
The Noble Eightfold Path Wisdom Right Understanding Right Thought Right Speech Virtue Right Action Right Livelihood Meditation Right Effort Right Mindfulness Right Concentration
The Buddha’s Theory of Anātta or “Not-Self” According to the Buddha, every human being is composed of physical and non-physical components that can be categorized as belonging to one of the following five categories or “aggregates”: Body Feelings Perceptions Mental Formations/Dispositions/Tendencies Consciousness
The Buddha’s Argument for Not-Self 1. If any of the five aggregates (body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, or consciousness) were (an aspect of) a permanent self, then it could be controlled, and so it would not lead to suffering. 2. But none of these aggregates can be controlled, and so each of them does lead to suffering. 3. Therefore, none of the five aggregates is (an aspect of) a permanent self. 4. But every individual human being is comprised of nothing but a combination of these five aggregates. 5. Therefore, no individual human being has a permanent self.
Language and the Sacred: Three Options in Asian Philosophy Retain the identity and difference regarding the sacred and stress the difference between contradictions and contraries (Hinduism). Philosophy is a tool that can lead us beyond the world of appearances (Buddhism). Philosophy should cultivate reverential silence before the sacred (Taoism).
God and Morality Strong divine command theory Moderate divine command theory Platonic theism
The Strong Divine Command Theory X is morally wrong = God prohibits X. Y is morally right = God commands Y. Z is morally neutral = God neither commands nor prohibits Z.
The Good Atheist Objection “Aren’t there atheists who grasp moral rightness and wrongness and act accordingly?” (p. 174)
The Moderate Divine Command Theory X is morally right = an essentially good God commands X.
Platonic Theism “The objectivity of morality…is not derived from God, but the existence of a universe of moral beings is itself purposively willed by God. Morality and values have a teleological structure: their very existence and the ultimate function of the pursuit of values are part of God’s intentional will” (p. 176)
Ethics with or without God Bertrand Russell’s naturalistic rejection of cosmic purpose: “from the standpoint of the cosmos, human and other forms of life count for zero” (pp. 177-78). By contrast, most theistic religious traditions “affirm that God works to redeem or save that which is good in this world and beyond” (p. 178).
Divine Ownership of the Cosmos and Ethics “God owns the cosmos and, as such, God is within God’s rights to direct the lives of creatures” (p. 180)
Objections to Divine Ownership Aren’t humans are turned into God’s slaves? Shouldn’t there exist a separation between religious and political authorities?
An Ideal Observer Theory of Morality Ideal observer theory (IOT) = “moral reflection can... be understood as our seeking a God’s eye point of view” (p. 188).
Objections to IOT It is a view from nowhere. It wrongly upholds detachment and disinterest. Impartiality is not an attainable ideal. Can’t adjudicate contrary moral claims.
Ethics and Evidence What counts as sufficient evidence when assessing rival philosophical and religious worldviews? A thought experiment: The Reckless Ship Owner (p. 194)
Three Domains of Value in Religious Ethics Ritual Cross-generational Non-violence