August 20, 2017

George Berkeley and the Power of Words

Today the OUP Author Blog features a post by me highlighting one of the main lines of argument from my book, Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World. The title is, "George Berkeley and the Power of Words."
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June 28, 2017

Newton and Berkeley on the Scope of Natural Philosophy

In the first two editions of the Principia, Newton makes two pronouncements about the scope of natural philosophy that appear to be in tension with one another. In the first (1687) edition Preface to the Reader, Newton writes, "the basic problem of [natural] philosophy seems to be to discover the forces of nature from the phenomena of motions and then to demonstrate the other phenomena from these forces" (Janiak 60). In the famous General Scholium added to the second (1713) edition, Newton writes, "to treat of God from the phenomena is certainly a part of natural philosophy" (Janiak 113). We...
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June 27, 2017

Newton's Rationalism

One of the problems for the traditional 'Rationalists and Empiricists' story of early modern philosophy is that it is surprisingly difficult to define 'rationalism' and 'empiricism' appropriately (see here for a previous discussion). One traditional way of drawing the distinction, derived from Locke, is over the existence of innate ideas. This distinction, however, does not capture what is of importance to many other early modern philosophers, and oddly excludes Malebranche and his followers from the rationalist camp. (Since Malebranche holds that no ideas are ever in the human mind—they are all in God—he holds that no ideas are innate to...
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June 10, 2017

Epistocracy and Theocracy

I was struck by a line in Thomas Christiano's recent NDPR review of Jason Brennan's Against Democracy. Brennan, a philosopher in the Georgetown Business School and frequent blogger at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, defends the superiority of 'epistocracy'—rule by those with knowledge—over democracy, in part on the basis of evidence that voters in democracy lack the knowledge they need to make responsible decisions. Brennan acknowledges that we have significant data on what actually happens in real-world democracies and it's better than the outcomes we get from a lot of alternative systems but, he says, epistocracy has never been tried and lacks...
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April 24, 2017

Idealism and Christian Theology: Concluding Thoughts and Table of Posts

Having finished commenting on every chapter of Idealism and Christian Theology, allow me here to offer some concluding thoughts on the book and its aims and scope. First, some comments regarding scope. The title 'idealism and Christian theology' allows for a very wide scope. In the design of a volume like this, a judgment must be made about how broadly or narrowly the title is to be interpreted. Here, the title bears a relatively narrow interpretation in two respects, only one of which is explicit in the introduction. The explicit restriction of scope is that the volume considers only Berkeleian...
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April 22, 2017

Airaksinen on Berkeley's Theological Ethics

The 11th and final chapter of Idealism and Christian Theology is "Idealistic Ethics and Berkeley's Good God" by Timo Airaksinen. This is a rich, complex, and careful treatment of Berkeley's ethical thought. It is the only essay in the volume that pays careful attention to Berkeley's own theological commitments. Further, by specific attention to the theological context of Berkeley's ethical thought Airaksinen is able to show that Berkeley's thought in this area is richer and more complex than philosophers have often supposed. The discussion is focused around Berkeley's Alciphron. Surprisingly little attention is paid to Passive Obedience, though good use...
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April 12, 2017

Arcadi on Idealism and the Eucharist

Chapter 10 of Idealism and Christian Theology is "Idealism and Participating in the Body of Christ" by James Arcadi. This article is very clearly written and handles both philosophy and theology well. However, I have some lingering concerns about the position defended. Arcadi begins with an admirably clear account of the spectrum of Christian positions on the metaphysics of the Eucharist. (I note, in passing, that during the Reformation and the early modern period, this was one of the most divisive questions in Christian theology, and differences over this question were at least as important as difference in soteriology in...
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April 11, 2017

Tan on Edwards' Christology

Chapter 9 of Idealism and Christian Theology is "Jonathan Edwards Dynamic Idealism and Cosmic Christology" by Seng-Kong Tan. The article addresses the relevance of Edwards' idealism to his accounts of the two central mysteries of the Christian faith, the Trinity and the Incarnation. Whereas most of the articles in this volume are primarily philosophical and deal with Christian theological commitments only at a rather basic level, this essay dives deep into the theology. Anyone not steeped in the history of these doctrines is likely to find it difficult to follow. I found it quite challenging myself, and will here only...
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April 6, 2017

Crisp on Edwards on the Incarnation

Chapter 8 of Idealism and Christian Theology is "Jonathan Edwards, Idealism, and Christology" by Oliver Crisp. This is the second of the two previously published essays, having appeared in another edited volume in 2011. The first part of the essay provides an admirably clear overview of Edwards' distinctive metaphysical views, particularly as they relate to God and creation. Crisp then goes on to draw out some consequences for Christology and defend the orthodoxy of Edwards' position. Crisp enumerates 11 Edwardsian positions he takes to be relevant, but it seems to me that there are really just three that are of...
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April 1, 2017

Cortez on Edwards on the Resurrection

Chapter 7 of Idealism and Christian Theology is "Idealism and the Resurrection" by Marc Cortez. Like the preceding article by Hamilton, this is an excellent piece of work directly addressed to the central issues of this volume. Cortez begins by noting that idealism, from the perspective of Christian theology, faces the problem of explaining the reality and importance of the body, and a particular example of this is the claim that there will be a bodily resurrection in the eschaton. In this respect, Cortez observes, Jonathan Edwards is a particularly interesting case since he is an idealist but also places...
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March 30, 2017

Mark Hamilton on Idealism and Fallenness

Chapter 6 of Idealism and Christian Theology is "On the Corruption of the Body: A Theological Argument for Metaphysical Idealism" by S. Mark Hamilton. This is easily the best essay in the collection so far, and the most directly focused on the central issues the volume purports to address. Hamilton provides a carefully documented account of the ways in which mind-body dualism is presupposed by theologies of our post-lapsarian state of corruption in Reformed dogmatics from Calvin to the early 20th century. Jonathan Edwards, he shows, is an outlier with respect to this tradition. Hamilton enumerates a number of theological...
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March 27, 2017

Farris on Edwards on the Imago Dei

Chapter 5 of Idealism and Christian Theology is "Edwardsian Idealism, Imago Dei, and Contemporary Theology" by Joshua Farris. This is an interesting article that directly and constructively addresses one of the central theological issues raised by metaphysical idealism of the Berkeley/Edwards variety. However, I was left with some confusion about what the paper's overall lesson was meant to be. Farris frames the central question here as how, given Edwards' idealism, he can understand the imago dei doctrine in a way that does not devalue the body. Edwards is said to be drawing on but 'reconceiving' the prior tradition of Reformed...
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March 26, 2017

Yandell on Berkeley and Creation

The fourth chapter of Idealism and Christian Theology is "Berkeley, Realism, Idealism, and Creation" by Keith Yandell. This is an interesting paper on Berkeley which, unless I missed something, did not turn out to be about Christian theology at all. I say purposely that it did not turn out to be about Christian theology, because it sounds at the beginning as if it is going to be. Yandell begins by noting that Berkeley's position is rare among Christian thinkers (p. 73), and discussing a particular threat to Christianity from those who take the creation of matter to be impossible (p....
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March 24, 2017

Recent and Forthcoming Publications and Lecture

There's been a lot of exciting stuff going on recently! Here are a few things: The official UK release of Language and Structure was yesterday! This means that if you are in Europe and ordered direct from OUP, your copy should be on the way. Also, it means that e-book versions are now available from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Google, and Barnes and Noble. The paper book will be available in the rest of the world in May. "How Berkeley's Gardener Knows his Cherry Tree" will appear in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. "Berkeley on Unperceived Objects and the Publicity of Language"...
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March 18, 2017

Wessling on 'Idealistic Panentheism'

The third essay in Idealism and Christian Theology is "Idealistic Panentheism: Reflections on Jonathan Edwards's Account of the God-World Relation" by Jordan Wessling. The essay is avowedly not interpretive, but rather aims at an evaluation of a certain view in philosophical theology, dubbed 'idealistic panentheism,' which has been attributed to Edwards. This view takes the whole created world—including human minds—to be ideas in the mind of God. It is idealistic insofar as it takes reality to be fundamentally mental. It is panentheistic in a literal and straightforward sense: the created world exists in God's mind. However, it is not pantheistic...
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